Tell locals in Hawaii that you're going to the island of Niihau, and they invariably exclaim, "No way!" Or, "Do you know the Robinsons?"

Yes, way, and I do not know the Robinsons.

And even though I've now been to Niihau, I can't really say I know this Hawaiian island.

But I do know that there are few places that I have anticipated visiting for as long and from which I've come away so changed.

Since my days as a child on Oahu, I've known Niihau as the Forbidden Island. It has been privately owned since 1864, when Elizabeth Sinclair bought it from King Kamehameha V. Her descendants, the Robinsons (brothers Bruce and Keith), continue to own it.

The 72-square-mile Niihau is everything the major Hawaiian islands Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and its neighbor Kauai are not. It has 130 residents, give or take, and they live in the tiny town of Puuwai. They don't have running water, and electricity is produced by the sun or by a generator. There are few cars. The people live off the land, hunting, fishing, growing their own fruit and vegetables. Sunday is reserved for church. Smoking and drinking are not allowed here. "Ohana" family is the center of life.

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What do you think of this as a destination?