Hawaii - Off the beaten track
The sleepy, pineapple-plantation island of Lanai east of Maui, used to be visited only by hikers and independent travellers keen to escape the tourist scene on other islands, but it's rapidly being transformed into an exclusive resort. Despite the growing number of golf courses, it's still worth catching the boat from Maui (one hour) to snorkel at the beautiful, crescent-shaped, white-sand beach at Hulopoe.
The century-old leprosy settlement on Kalaupapa Peninsula is on the island of Molokai northwest of Maui. Backed by majestic cliffs and surrounded by water on three sides, Kalaupapa is both strikingly beautiful and strikingly lonely. This is where the admired Belgian priest, Father Damien, worked before succumbing to leprosy himself. The trip to the peninsula is accessible only by mule, on foot or by small plane. The peninsula is now a historical park and all visitors are required to join a guided tour - in itself an enlightening experience.
Kiholo Bay, north of Kona on the Big Island, is a pristine oasis surrounded by lava. A trail runs from the highway to the bay, passing through arid lava fields. Just to the north is a lovely, protected inlet fronted by black sand and palm trees where you may get to swim alongside a family of giant sea turtles.
This island has been closed to outsiders for so long that it has earned the nickname 'The Forbidden Island'. No other place in Hawaii has more successfully turned its back on change than Niihau, which has no paved roads, no island-wide electricity and no telephones. The island is a native Hawaiian reserve, with 230 residents, and it's the only island where Hawaiian is the primary language. The entire island, right down to the church, belongs to the non-Hawaiian Robinson family who run a huge ranch and are highly protective of the Niihau's isolation. The island is west of Kauai and accessible only on pricey helicopter tours.
Secret Beach is a gorgeous, 'undiscovered,' golden beach, backed by cliffs and jungle-like woods. It's popular with Kauai's 'alternative' community and nude sunbathers. The beach is near Kalihiwai, on Kauai's northern coast, but it's hard to find and requires navigating a dirt road and following a walking trail through jungle growth and ironwood trees. If you want to get away from it all, it's worth the effort in summer when swimming and snorkelling conditions are safe.