They call it the “Forbidden Island” or the “Mystery Isle” or the “Distant Isle.”

Niihau, the smallest of Hawaii’s inhabited islands, is planted southwest of the westernmost “major” island, Kauai. Mysterious through its obscurity alone, Niihau simply is privately owned, having been purchased from Kamehameha V in 1864, and the owners haven’t been inclined to turn it into a tourist destination. You certainly won’t see it promoted as such. The privacy has led some of the few Hawaii visitors who become aware of the island to imagine hostile “natives” armed and ready to drive off any intruders. Hardly.

It’s certainly beautiful enough. It embraces Hawaii’s only natural lake, Lake Halulu, lazy monk seals bask on the immaculate beaches, reef fish browse in calm waters and glass balls still wash up on the shore.

If you like the idea of venturing where few others have ever been, there actually are escorted day tours to Niihau via helicopter or catamaran. Usually, the tour will take you past the spectacular Na Pali coast of Kauai, then cross the channel and land you on one of those great Niihau beaches, where you can picnic for breakfast and/or lunch, swim, snorkel and relax in unimagined seclusion.

You can even go hunting! A helicopter will take you, you’ll be fed lunch, and you can get permission to shoot a boar and a sheep.


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