Hawaii’s lesser-known islands

Island hopping is at the top of all Hawaii to do lists. Each island is unique in its own way, from the shrimp truck culture of Oahu’s North Shore, to the Big Island with its 8 different climate zones. The 4 biggest islands (Hawaii, Oahu, Maui and Kauai) are most widely visited due to the developed resorts and infrastructure, but to get the most authentic Hawaii Island experience, lesser-known Hawaii is where you want to go.

The Hawaiian archipelago is much larger than most people imagine. Spreading out over 2,400-kilometres in the Pacific Ocean. Despite appearing to be floating independently of each other, the islands are all joined under the surface of the water; and are actually all just the tips of a huge underground mountain range called the Hawaiian–Emperor Seamount Chain. Created by violent volcanic activity thousands of years ago, some of which still occurs today, changing the landscape ever so slightly each time.

In total there are 137 islands, islets and atolls, 7 of which are inhabited. The 4 lesser-known, inhabited islands of Hawaii are:

Molokaʻi “The Friendly Isle”

Long and thin, The Friendly Isle measures 61-kilometres by 16-kilometres. Hawaii’s 5th biggest island has a fascinating history; over the years it has played host to sugar refineries, cattle ranches and leper colonies. Perhaps the island’s most well-known legacy is the invention of the Hula, an iconic Hawaiian dance performed by islanders. Island hopping to Molokaʻi is easy and there is a range of rental apartments available as well as a hotel on the island. Plus there are daily direct flights to Lānaʻi, Oahu and Maui.

Lānaʻi “The Pineapple Isle”

Famed for being the place that Bill Gates got married, Lānaʻi is the smallest of the public islands of Hawaii. Stretching just 29-kilometres at its widest point and hosting a population of approximately 3,100 people, Lānaʻi is entirely exclusive, with just 2 luxury hotels on the island. Named The Pineapple Island for its former life as a pineapple plantation, the island is easy to reach with daily direct flights to and from Oahu and Molokaʻi.

Niʻihau “The Forbidden Isle”

The Forbidden Isle has a population of just 170 people. It got its name due to only allowing family members of residents and US Navy Officials to visit. Privately owned since 1864, the island has been passed down through the Robertson family from generation to generation. Although you can’t actually stay on the island, you can go on a snorkeling day trip to Niʻihau from Kauai.

Kahoʻolawe “The Target Isle”

Although no longer inhabited, due to the tough living conditions with limited fresh water, this island once had a community of roughly 170 people living on it. Used at one stage as a training ground and bombsite for the US armed forces, the island has now been reclaimed as a nature reserve by the indigenous Hawaiian people.


For more information and to book your dream Hawaii island experience, contact our Hawaii Holiday Experts today!

By Sarah Tayler

Sarah is an avid traveller. When not writing for My Hawaii, she can be found gallivanting around the globe. Sarah has a soft spot for Barcelona because she’s a sucker for Gaudi and tapas! She’s also a big fan of leisurely river cruising and loves nothing more than stopping off along the banks of the Loire Valley for a spot of wine tasting, visiting Bordeaux for the history and amazing French food.