Choosing the Perfect Hawaiian Island to Visit – A Guide for Travelers.

Travel Destinations

By Felicity Long

When it comes to planning a trip to Hawaii, one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is which island to visit. Each island offers its own unique charm and attractions, making it a tough choice for many travelers. Whether you’re looking for stunning beaches, lush rainforests, or vibrant nightlife, Hawaii has something to offer for everyone.

One of the most popular islands to visit in Hawaii is Oahu. Known as “The Gathering Place,” Oahu offers a mix of natural beauty and modern amenities. Here, you’ll find the famous Waikiki Beach, bustling with tourists and lined with high-rise hotels. In addition to the beaches, Oahu is also home to Pearl Harbor, a must-visit historical site.

If you’re looking for a more laid-back experience, Maui may be the perfect island for you. With its stunning landscapes, including the famous Road to Hana and Haleakala National Park, Maui is a paradise for nature lovers. Don’t forget to visit the charming town of Lahaina, known for its art galleries and restaurants. Maui truly offers a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

For those seeking adventure and outdoor activities, the Big Island of Hawaii is a great choice. Here, you’ll find Volcanoes National Park, where you can witness the power of an active volcano up close. The island is also known for its black sand beaches, perfect for snorkeling and sunbathing. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some sea turtles during your visit.

The Best Islands to Visit in Hawaii

Hawaii is home to a variety of stunning islands, each with its own unique beauty and attractions. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, there’s an island in Hawaii that’s perfect for you. Here are some of the best islands to visit in Hawaii:

1. Oahu: Oahu is the most populous island in Hawaii and is home to the capital city of Honolulu. It’s known for its iconic Waikiki Beach, bustling nightlife, and historical landmarks like Pearl Harbor. Oahu offers a perfect blend of city life and natural beauty with its stunning beaches and lush hiking trails.

2. Maui: Maui is often referred to as the “Valley Isle” and is known for its breathtaking landscapes. From the iconic Road to Hana to the Haleakala National Park, Maui offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. Don’t forget to visit the beautiful beaches of Kaanapali and Wailea while you’re there.

3. Kauai: Known as the “Garden Isle,” Kauai boasts stunning natural beauty with its lush rainforests, towering cliffs, and picturesque waterfalls. Explore the breathtaking Na Pali Coast or take a helicopter tour to see the stunning Waimea Canyon. Kauai is the perfect destination for nature lovers.

4. Big Island: The Big Island, also known as Hawaii Island, is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It’s famous for its active volcanoes, including the Kilauea volcano, which offers a unique opportunity to witness lava flowing into the ocean. Explore the dramatic landscapes of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or relax on one of the island’s beautiful beaches.

5. Molokai: If you’re looking to escape the crowds and experience a more laid-back atmosphere, Molokai is the perfect choice. This quiet island is known for its unspoiled beauty, secluded beaches, and rich Hawaiian culture. Visit the Kalaupapa National Historical Park or embark on a mule ride along the towering sea cliffs.

Whichever island you choose to visit in Hawaii, you’re guaranteed to be surrounded by natural beauty, warm hospitality, and a unique aloha spirit that will make your trip unforgettable. So pack your bags and get ready for an incredible adventure!

Oahu: The Heart of Hawaii

Oahu is often referred to as the “Heart of Hawaii,” and for good reason. As the third largest Hawaiian island, Oahu offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural landmarks, and vibrant city life.

One of the highlights of Oahu is its stunning beaches. Waikiki Beach, in particular, is famous for its golden sands and crystal-clear waters. It’s the perfect place to soak up the sun, go for a swim, or try your hand at surfing. For a more secluded beach experience, head to Lanikai Beach, known for its calm turquoise waters and breathtaking views.

Beyond the beaches, Oahu is home to several iconic landmarks. Pearl Harbor, for instance, is a must-visit for history buffs. Here, you can pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial and learn about the events that took place during World War II. The Diamond Head Crater is another famous landmark that offers a challenging hike and panoramic views of the island.

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture, Oahu has plenty to offer. The Polynesian Cultural Center is a popular attraction where you can learn about traditional Hawaiian customs and experience authentic Polynesian performances. The Bishop Museum is another cultural gem, housing a vast collection of artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of Hawaii’s rich history and heritage.

Oahu is also known for its buzzing city life. In Honolulu, the state capital, you’ll find a vibrant mix of shops, restaurants, and nightlife venues. Take a stroll down Kalakaua Avenue, known as the “Rodeo Drive of the Pacific,” and indulge in luxury shopping and dining. For a taste of the local cuisine, head to the Ala Moana Center, where you can sample everything from poke bowls to malasadas.

Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or cultural exploration, Oahu has it all. With its stunning beaches, iconic landmarks, and vibrant city life, it truly is the heart of Hawaii.

Maui: Paradise on Earth

Lush greenery, breathtaking beaches, and a vibrant culture make Maui a perfect destination for travelers seeking a piece of paradise. Located in Hawaii, Maui offers a variety of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, Maui has it all.

One of the highlights of Maui is its stunning beaches. From the golden sands of Kaanapali Beach to the black sands of Waianapanapa State Park, there is a beach for every type of traveler. Snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing are popular activities, and you may even spot some sea turtles or humpback whales if you’re lucky.

In addition to its beaches, Maui is home to a diverse landscape. The island is known for its lush rainforests, awe-inspiring waterfalls, and dramatic cliffs. Take a scenic drive along the Road to Hana and you’ll see some of the most spectacular views in Hawaii. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, hiking through the Haleakala National Park or taking a helicopter tour are must-do activities.

Maui also has a rich cultural heritage that can be explored through its historic sites and local traditions. Visit the town of Lahaina to learn about its whaling history and wander through its charming streets filled with art galleries and shops. Don’t miss the chance to attend a traditional luau and experience the vibrant music, dance, and cuisine of the Hawaiian people.

With its natural beauty, outdoor activities, and cultural experiences, Maui truly is a paradise on earth. Whether you’re a beach lover, an adventure seeker, or a history buff, Maui has something to offer everyone. So why wait? Start planning your trip to Maui and get ready to experience the beauty and wonder of this tropical paradise.

Kauai: Nature’s Playground

When it comes to natural beauty, Kauai is truly unparalleled. Known as the “Garden Island,” Kauai is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. With its lush rainforests, towering waterfalls, and vibrant wildlife, it’s no wonder why Kauai is often referred to as nature’s playground.

One of the highlights of Kauai is its magnificent Waimea Canyon, often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Spanning over 10 miles long and 3,000 feet deep, this awe-inspiring natural wonder offers breathtaking views of majestic cliffs, vibrant red rock formations, and lush green valleys. Hiking trails allow visitors to explore the canyon up close and personal, immersing themselves in the island’s natural splendor.

Kayaking along the Wailua River is another unforgettable experience on Kauai. As you paddle through the tranquil waters, you’ll be surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and hear the melodic sounds of native birds singing. You can even stop at the famous Fern Grotto, a natural lava rock cave adorned with hanging ferns and tropical plants, where you can take in the peaceful ambiance of this natural sanctuary.

No visit to Kauai would be complete without exploring the Na Pali Coast. This rugged and dramatic coastline stretches for 17 miles and is dotted with towering sea cliffs that rise straight from the ocean. Many visitors choose to hike the Kalalau Trail, which offers sweeping views of the coastline and hidden beaches along the way. Others opt to take a boat tour to experience the majestic beauty of the Na Pali Coast from a different perspective.

For nature enthusiasts who are seeking a more immersive experience, camping in one of Kauai’s state parks is a must. Whether you choose to camp near the beach or in the heart of the rainforest, you’ll have the opportunity to fall asleep to the soothing sounds of the ocean or the chirping of birds while being surrounded by the island’s natural beauty.

From its awe-inspiring canyons to its breathtaking coastlines, Kauai is truly nature’s playground. Whether you’re hiking through lush forests, kayaking along tranquil rivers, or camping under the stars, you’re sure to be captivated by the island’s untouched beauty at every turn.

Big Island: Adventure Awaits

The Big Island of Hawaii is the largest of the Hawaiian islands and offers an abundance of adventures for visitors to enjoy. From exploring volcanoes to hiking through lush rainforests, the Big Island has something for everyone.

One of the main attractions on the Big Island is Volcanoes National Park, home to the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea. Visitors can hike through the park and witness the incredible power and beauty of lava flowing into the ocean. The park also features scenic drives, lava tubes, and numerous hiking trails.

If you’re looking for a unique outdoor experience, the Big Island offers excellent opportunities for snorkeling and diving. With crystal clear waters and vibrant coral reefs, you can explore a whole new world under the sea. There are also plenty of fishing charters available if you prefer to try your hand at catching your own dinner.

For those who enjoy hiking, the Big Island offers a variety of trails that showcase its diverse natural beauty. From the lush Waipio Valley to the desert-like landscapes of Mauna Loa, there is a trail for every skill level. Don’t forget to pack your camera to capture the stunning views along the way.

If you’re a fan of water sports, the Big Island won’t disappoint. You can try your hand at surfing, paddleboarding, or kayaking in the calm waters of Hilo Bay. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can even take a helicopter tour to get a bird’s eye view of the island’s stunning coastline.

Adventure Details
Volcano Hiking Explore the unique landscape of Volcanoes National Park on foot.
Snorkeling and Diving Discover the underwater world of colorful coral reefs and tropical fish.
Hiking Trails Choose from a variety of trails showcasing the island’s natural beauty.
Water Sports Surf, paddleboard, or kayak in the calm waters of Hilo Bay.
Helicopter Tours Take a thrilling helicopter tour for a unique perspective of the island.

Whether you’re a nature lover, adventure seeker, or simply looking to relax on beautiful beaches, the Big Island of Hawaii has it all. Get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey filled with excitement and natural wonders.

Molokai: Off the Beaten Path

If you’re looking for an island in Hawaii that offers a truly unique and authentic experience, then Molokai is the place for you. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the more popular tourist destinations, Molokai remains a hidden gem waiting to be explored.

One of the main attractions of Molokai is its untouched natural beauty. With vast stretches of pristine beaches, lush valleys, and towering sea cliffs, this island is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking trails such as the Kalaupapa National Historical Park offer breathtaking views and a chance to connect with nature in a truly immersive way.

But Molokai isn’t just about the great outdoors. It also offers a rich cultural heritage that is deeply rooted in Hawaiian traditions. The island is home to a small population of locals who are known for their warm hospitality. You can immerse yourself in the authentic Hawaiian way of life by participating in local events and festivals, or by sampling traditional cuisine.

One of the highlights of a visit to Molokai is a trip to the Kalaupapa Peninsula. This remote area was once a leprosy colony, but today it serves as a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. You can take a guided tour of the peninsula and learn about its history, or you can choose to hike down the steep sea cliffs for a more adventurous experience.

If you’re in search of a truly off-the-beaten-path experience in Hawaii, then Molokai is the perfect island for you. With its untouched natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, this hidden gem offers a unique and authentic Hawaiian experience that you won’t find anywhere else.

Lanai: Luxury and Seclusion

If you’re looking for a luxurious and secluded getaway in Hawaii, Lanai is the perfect island for you. With an exclusive selection of high-end resorts and spas, Lanai offers a level of luxury that is hard to find elsewhere. You can indulge in world-class dining, rejuvenate with spa treatments, and relax in luxurious accommodations that offer stunning views of the ocean and surrounding nature.

What sets Lanai apart from other Hawaiian islands is its seclusion. With a small population and limited access, Lanai provides a serene and peaceful environment that is ideal for those seeking privacy and tranquility. You can explore pristine beaches, hike through breathtaking landscapes, and discover hidden waterfalls without the crowds that are often found on other more popular islands.

In addition to its luxury and seclusion, Lanai also offers a range of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. From world-class golf courses to adventurous off-road excursions, there is something for everyone to enjoy. You can go snorkeling in crystal-clear waters, try your hand at deep-sea fishing, or simply lounge by the pool and soak up the sun.

Whether you’re looking for a romantic escape or a peaceful retreat, Lanai is a hidden gem in Hawaii that offers both luxury and seclusion. Book your trip to Lanai and experience a truly unforgettable island getaway.


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Felicity Long

Felicity Long, a seasoned travel journalist with 15+ years of experience, specializes in exploring Europe, family travel, and skiing, as evident in her book "Great Escapes: New England" (The Countryman Press). She edits the Europe eNewsletter and contributes significantly to TravelAsker's destinations sections. Felicity has received esteemed awards, including the Cacique and Yo Leonardo Awards, in recognition of her outstanding international travel writing accomplishments.

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