Hawaii’s beaches tend to get all of the attention, but that can often equate to fighting with crowds for the perfect place to lay your towel. If that's not your scene, try seeking out one of these six gorgeous swimming holes – some complete with cascading waterfalls – tucked away in secluded spots across Hawaii’s collection of islands.
Ahalanui Hot Pond
Who says you have to pay to go to the spa? Hawaii's Ahalanui Hot Pond is heated naturally by geothermal activity, making it the perfect place to soak your skin in warm, still waters on a cool or stormy day. Located just off the beach, the view also beats what even the best spa can offer, with the combination of ocean and river water reflecting the emerald green of the trees around it. To get there, simply follow Highway 137 until it narrows, stopping between the 10 and 11 mile markers to gain access to the pools. Once there, you can snorkel to see all the fish that have washed in with the tides, or simply sit back and enjoy those ocean views.
Chutes and Ladders
Chutes and Ladders isn’t just a quintessential childhood game, it’s also a picturesque swimming hole that makes you work to find it. Surrounded by a rocky slope on one side and the ocean on the other, you'll have to hold on to some ropes along the way, meaning you can skip leg day after the climb. Considering the walk there and back can be slippery, it's also best to save the flip flops for another time. As for the swimming hole itself, it's fairly deep and utterly gorgeous. Fair warning, the pool’s proximity to the ocean means you need to watch for waves — if they're too big, you could be swept out to sea.
Hali’I Falls looks like something straight out of Jurassic Park. The definition of secluded, the falls are only reachable by a hike through marshes and a bamboo forest, so it’s all too easy to imagine yourself in prehistoric times. The water of these falls spill over a series of tiered rocks and into an idyllic pool, and if the epic hike isn’t enough to sate your craving for adventure, you can actually zip line over the waterfalls.
‘Ohe’o Gulch is a series of pools perfect for swimming. Also referred to as the Seven Sacred Pools, they don’t actually have any sacred value, but it is an enviable moniker. This particular swimming hole is located in the heart of Maui’s Haleakalā National Park, so watch for signs directing you where to go. The gulch has a series of waterfalls that tumble down into the pool, so while you’re swimming you can admire the dramatic backdrop of steep stone walls and towering palm trees.
At Queen’s Bath on Kauai, you can spend the day swimming around like royalty. The blue-green waters of this swimming hole collect a tidal pool formed from volcanic rock on the coast of Kauai. Since it's filled by ocean water, you'll notice there's a number of sea creatures, but that just makes snorkeling that much more fun. To get there, you'll need to hike past a waterfall and over the rocky coast, but once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by crystal clear waters. Just keep in mind that the proximity to the ocean means you’ll need to watch for the danger of big waves.
Kauai's Wailua River tumbles over a cliff, forming the Uluwehi Falls. As you might expect for a spot nicknamed the Secret Falls, the trip there isn’t a short one — you'll need to hike for nearly a mile or approach via kayak and then continue on foot. That said, there is a small sign marking the path, so keep a close eye or you'll miss it. Also keep in mind, the water levels of the swimming hole might be low during the summer months, but when the pool is full, swimmers could not imagine a more beautiful paradise.
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