You'll Never Believe These Places Are in America

Think America isn't exotic? Then you haven't thought about the 50th state.

Hawaii's relationship to the United States is a strange one, from a traveler's perspective anyway. On one hand, the fact that it's technically part of the country makes it automatically seem less exotic, to the extent that you might forget it when planning your next trip. On the other hand – and this is especially true if you've been there – Hawaii is so wild and bizarre that it seems completely separate from the rest of the country, its island geography notwithstanding.

The island of Maui, in particular, is full landscapes that are nothing if not completely alien. It's difficult to believe some of them are on the island – and technically speaking, in America.

  • 01 of 05

    Mt. Haleakala

    Haleakala Sunrise
    ••• America's most epic sunsrise. Ewen Roberts via Wikimedia Commons

    The good news? You don't need to be extraordinarily fit to hike to a respectable height along the slopes of Mt. Haleakala, a volcano that towers about 10,000 feet over Maui's shores. The better news? Haleakala is dormant, which will put to rest any fears you have about it erupting during your visit. The only thing explosive will be your Facebook feed when your friends and family see your epic sunrise and sunset selfies!

  • 02 of 05

    Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm

    Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm
    ••• Provence or Maui?. Kristina D.C. Hoepnner via Flickr

    When you think of rolling fields of lavender, you think of France's Provence region – or, if you've never been there, the idyllic storefronts of mall retailer L'Occitâne en Provence. To be sure, the landscapes that surround Maui's Ali'i Kula Lavender farm are more tropical than anything you'll find in the foothills of the French Alps, to say nothing of how odd the scent of lavender seems paired with palm trees and black sand beaches – odd in the most wonderful way, of course. 

  • 03 of 05

    Ohe'o Gulch Pools

    Ohe'o Gulch
    ••• Do you understand now why these pools are known as "sacred"?. David Fulmer via Flickr

    Let's be honest: It's kind of strange to stay in a hotel on the ocean, only to swim in the hotel's pool instead of said ocean. But what if you could swim in a natural pool that shields you from the waves and sand of the beach? If you visit Maui's Oheo's Gulch, which is also known by the name "Seven Sacred Pools," you can have the best of both worlds, particularly if you camp there and take the time to explore all seven sacred pools.

  • 04 of 05

    Iao Valley State Park

    Iao Needle
    ••• Skyscrapers, eat your heart out. Michael Oswald via Wikimedia Commons

    The bad news? Maui has no skyscrapers or any skyline to speak of, for that matter. The good news? With attractions like the aptly-named Iao Needle, a limestone karst that towers more than 1,200 feet above the island, who needs high rises? No concrete jungle on Earth can compete with the with jungle you see in Iao Valley State Park, which covers more than 4,000 beautiful acres in the center of Maui. 

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Makena Beach

    Makena Beach
    ••• Enough said. Fiuchris via Wikimedia Commons

    The amazing thing about Makena Beach is not the fluorescent turquoise color of its water, nor the palm forest that rises behind it, nor the mountains that tower over it, but rather the fact that it hasn't been complete overrun with development like certain other Hawaiian Beaches – we're looking at you, Waikiki.

    As you traipse along the shores of Makena Beach, whether you're on your way to an afternoon sunbathing session, or enjoying a morning hike after a game of golf near your hotel in Wailea, you might feel like you're much further afield in the South Pacific.