Niihau is the smallest among the inhabited islands in Hawaii and has no hotels, no restaurants, or roads. The island is situated about 20 miles on the western side of Kauai Island. Access to Niihau is extremely limited to only the 300 residents living there. Being a private island, visits by outsiders/ foreigners are generally not allowed. However, helicopter tours are offered from Kauai which includes a picnic, beach visits, snorkeling, and the exciting hunting safaris. The island has been nicknamed as the ‘Distant Island’ or the ‘Forbidden Island’ and covers an estimated area of about 72 sq miles. The main town on the island is Puuwai which is the business and cultural center.
The highest point in Niihau is at Mount Paniau and it is 1281 feet. The remote nature of Niihau earned the island the name of forbidden isle. Until recently, the island was a no go zone except for the family members and visitors could only be invited specifically. However, even though tourism on the island is still highly regulated, foreigners are at least allowed to visit the Niihau even without any special invitation. Since the 1860s, Niihau Island has been owned by the Robinson family. Visitors can now tour the island thanks to the presence of guided tours and day trips. The focus of these day trips vary greatly and include hunting, hiking, and diving. However, residents and visitors to Niihau are not permitted to engage themselves in hunting activities which are specifically reserved for Robinson family members.
A significant portion of Niihau’s permanent population which comprises of native Hawaiians lives in the main town of Puuwai on the island. Since the island is largely isolated from the rest of Hawaii, it is the only one where the primary language of communication is Hawaiian. Even though the residents do not engage in tourism as the major source of revenue, the locals are well known for the jewelry they make from pupu shells. Besides the jewelry, residents of Niihau are mainly engaged in farming activities where they grow their food. While visiting Niihau, you must plan well in advance and visit the official tourism website of the island.
Overnight trips to Niihau are not possible and visitors can ride to Niihau from Kauai by riding in a helicopter. There are some deserted beaches where tourists can spend a few hours enjoying a sunbath. You will also find it enjoyable to hunt for stones and shells in the sand as you go swimming at the offshore with fish. If you are lucky, you can partake in an enjoyable hunting expedition on the island.
The main game for hunting includes a feral sheep breed and Polynesian boar. Just as you would expect, life on Niihau Island is quite simple, blissfully uneventful, and tranquil. Since most of the parts in Niihau are dry and low, the island is not conducive for cultivation as it is too arid. The Robinsons’ ranch is home to different breeds of cattle and worthy a visit.