In the tsunami zone and thus sparsely populated, the remote Waipio Valley… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)
No visitor to Hawaii should miss the compelling Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Kauai's Waimea Canyon and the Big Island's Volcanoes National Park. But some of the best things to see and do are less well known. Here are 10 of my picks for underrated attractions.
Waipio Valley, Hamakua Coast, the Big Island: In the tsunami zone and thus sparsely populated, the remote Waipio Valley is dotted with waterfalls and taro patches and framed by towering cliffs. There's a spectacular lookout above a black sand beach. Info: Among the best tour options are 2 1/2-hour guided horseback rides ($88.54) offered Mondays through Saturdays by Waipio Naalapa Stables, (808) 775-0419, http://www.naalapastables.com, or Waipio on Horseback, (808) 775-7291, http://www.waipioonhorseback.com. Reservations required. Age and weight restrictions.
Food, History and Culture Walking Tour, Honolulu: The two-hour guided tour of Honolulu's Chinatown includes a visit to a teeming marketplace, a noodle factory and a Chinese bakery. Info: Departs at 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays from the Hawaii Heritage Center, 1168 Smith St.; (808) 521-2749, http://www.hawaiimuseums.org/mc/isoahu-heritage.htm. Reservations not required. $5
Lyman Museum and Mission House, Hilo: The museum's Island Heritage Gallery houses a top-rated collection of Hawaiiana, including primitive tools and the trappings of Hawaiian royalty, while the restored 1839 mission house offers a glimpse into the lives of New England missionaries. Info: 276 Haili St., Hilo; (808) 935-5021, http://www.lymanmuseum.org. $10 admission (for out-of-staters) includes Mission House tour.
Lanai day trip: The passenger ferry trip from Lahaina, Maui, to the island of Lanai takes just an hour, and in winter, humpback whale sightings are common. On Lanai, options include snorkeling at Hulopoe Bay, lunch at one of the beautiful Four Seasons resorts and a stroll through little Lanai City. A hop-on, hop-off shuttle ($10 a day) meets all ferries and takes visitors to the hotels and town. Info: Expeditions, (800) 695-2624, http://www.go-lanai-com. The passenger ferry makes five daily trips (and returns) to Lanai; $30 each way.
Scenic drive, Molokai: The 56-mile round trip, on Molokai's narrow, winding Highway 450 between Kaunakakai and the Halawa Valley, passes ancient fishponds, uncrowded beaches and tiny St. Joseph Catholic Church (1876), where there's a statue of Father Damien, the Belgian priest who served Molokai's lepers. Manae Goods & Grindz, at Pukoo near Marker 16, serves breakfast and lunch. Info: Molokai Visitors Assn., (808) 553-3876, http://www.molokai-hawaii.com.
Architectural walking tour, Honolulu: The 2 1/2- hour tour of downtown Honolulu, led by a guide from the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, takes in such sites as Iolani Palace, the 1842 Kawaiahao Church and its portraits of Hawaiian royalty and the restored 1920 Beaux Arts Hawaii Theatre. Info: By reservation; tours are $10 a person and depart at 9 a.m. Saturdays from the AIA office, 119 Merchant St., Suite 402. Independent sightseers may buy an illustrated guide ($5) at the office. (808) 545-4242, http://www.aiahonolulu.org.
Fish auction, Pier 38, Honolulu: Wear a warm jacket and closed-toe shoes and be there when the brass bell rings at 5:30 a.m., Mondays through Saturdays, and restaurant owners and wholesalers begin bidding, fish by fish, on the day's catch of mahi-mahi and big eye tuna. Free. Afterward, enjoy a hearty breakfast at Nico's Pier 38. Info: United Fishing Agency, (808) 536-2148.
Hawaii's Plantation Village, Waipahu, Oahu: The homes and community buildings — some original, some replicas — depict the hard lives of sugar plantation workers who came from Asia, Portugal, Puerto Rico and the Philippines from the mid-1800s to the 1940s, bringing their traditions with them. Visits to the open-air museum are by docent-led tours offered on the hour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Info: 94-695 Waipahu St., Waipahu; (808) 677-0110, http://www.hawaiisplantationvillage-info.com (undergoing maintenance).
Old Hanapepe town, Kauai: In the early throes of gentrification, with galleries and shops, this sweet town — now billing itself as the Art Capital of Kauai — retains much of its early Hawaii charm with wooden storefronts and laid-back attitude. There are several lunch options. Gallery owners open their doors to visitors on Art Nights from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays. Info: (808) 335-5944, http://www.hanapepe.org
The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu: With eclectic exhibitions, a permanent David Hockney installation (being renovated) and a stunning garden with panoramic city view, this museum in the historic Cooke-Spalding House is a pleasant place to while away a few hours. There's a delightful gift shop and a small café for lunch. Info: 2411 Makiki Heights Drive; (808) 526-1322, http://www.tcmhi.org. Admission, $8. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.