You’ve heard about it, you’ve dreamed about it, and now you’re planning your visit to the Hawaiian Islands. The big question: which Hawaiian island (or islands) are you going to visit?
All of the larger islands (the Big Island, Maui, Oahu) have plenty of shopping, resorts, restaurants, and outdoor adventures. The question isn’t “which island is good?” because they’re all pretty fantastic. Instead, we’re here to help you figure out which island you’d like to spend your trip (or the bulk of your trip) visiting.
We’ve picked out some photos and highlights of each Hawaiian island to help you choose which ones you’d like to visit. Check it out!
Hawaii (The Big Island)
Hawai’i, more commonly known as “the Big Island,” is home to Kilauea, which has been continuously erupting since 1983 (Maunaloa last erupted in 1984). Most of the island’s hotels are located far from the volcano flow zones, but within a comfortable driving distance.
If you’d like to see lava flows and lava tubes on your vacation, make sure to visit the Big Island. It’s also got beautiful beaches, jungles, towns with shopping and restaurants, and the only mountain in Hawai’i that regularly receives snow.
There’s a reason the phrase goes “Maui No Ka Oi,” which translates to, “Maui is the best.” I might be biased (I grew up here, after all), but I think Maui is the best island for a first-time visit.
There’s a perfect balance between town and country, some of the very best beaches in the world, and incredible sightseeing all over the island.
If you’re visiting Hawaii for the very first time, this is a great island to start with. Some of the highlights on Maui include the Maui Ocean Center, Haleakala National Park, the Road to Hana, Lahaina Town (the former capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom), and Ka’anapali Beach.
Molokai is somewhat more populated than Lanai and has more activities, hotels, and restaurants (although it’s not nearly as full — or large — as Maui). Enjoy hiking through Kamakou Preserve or taking a helicopter tour and viewing the west end’s sea cliffs.
If you’d like to visit Molokai, but don’t want to spend your whole trip there, it’s a short flight over from one of the larger islands.
Lanai is the smallest of the main Hawaiian islands and (along with Molokai) is a part of Maui County. If you’d like to escape from the crowds and spend your vacation in peace and quiet, Lanai is a great place to do it.
The pace on Lanai is very slow (there aren’t any stoplights on the whole island), and there are limited activities. That being said, Lanai is beautiful and full of natural places to visit. One of the cooler things on island: the Lanai Cat Sanctuary. We’d recommend spending a day — or several — there after catching a boat or flight over from Maui or one of the other larger islands.
As with Molokai, it is very easy to spend a day on Lanai and have a great time, while spending the bulk of your trip on Maui. However, if rest and peace is what you’re looking for, Lanai is the place for you.
Oahu is home to Hawaii’s biggest city, Honolulu. Here, you’ll find Pearl Harbor and Iolani Palace, as well as the current seat of Hawaii’s government and many of the state’s best museums and night life.
There’s more to Oahu than just the city. Head out to the North shore and you’re in the small-town and rural Hawaii you’ve imagined.
As with all the islands, Oahu has plenty of great hikes and beaches, although it might take a little more work to escape the crowds.
Kauai is the favorite island of anyone trying to escape the hustle and bustle without sacrificing activities and modern comforts.
Slower in pace than Maui, Kauai is a great honeymoon destination and the perfect place to recharge. To put it another way, when Hawaii residents want to take a short retreat or vacation, more often than not, we head for Kauai.
Home to some of the world’s best surfing, Kauai is the island to visit if you want to get a sense of the Hawaii the world fell in love with in the movies.
All of the islands are within short flights of each other (sorry, no bridge, and with the exception of Lanai, no ferry). The flights are relatively inexpensive and it’s not uncommon to visit two or three islands during a two-week trip. Check out our blog on Island Hopping for more details.
We can’t wait to see you here!
What activities can I do in Hawaii?
All sorts! Browse the activities below by island and discover what you can get up to on each of the different Hawaiian Islands.