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With six major islands to choose from, deciding on which Hawaiian island to visit can be overwhelming. But don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to pick the perfect island for your Hawaiian getaway.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Maui is often considered the best island for first-time Hawaii visitors. It offers stunning beaches, epic drives, and a good mix of activities.

In the sections below, we’ll cover key factors like the unique highlights, best activities, climate and crowds on each major Hawaiian island. We’ll also offer sample one week itineraries to help showcase the best of what each destination has to offer. Use this guide to match an island’s offerings with your own travel style, interests and budget. With the right information, you’re guaranteed to choose the best Hawaiian island for your ideal tropical escape!

How to Decide Which Hawaiian Island is Best For You

Consider the Unique Highlights & Activities on Each Island

When choosing which Hawaiian island to visit, it’s important to consider the unique highlights and activities that each island has to offer. For example, if you’re interested in exploring active volcanoes and lush rainforests, the Big Island of Hawaii would be a great choice. On the other hand, if you’re looking for world-class surfing and vibrant nightlife, Oahu might be the island for you. Each island has its own distinct attractions, so take the time to research and prioritize the activities that align with your interests.

Factor in the Vibe, Culture & Crowds on Each Island

The vibe, culture, and crowds on each Hawaiian island can vary significantly. Oahu, for instance, is known for its bustling city life and vibrant nightlife, while Maui offers a more laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. If you’re seeking a quieter and more secluded experience, consider visiting Kauai or Molokai. It’s also worth noting that some islands, like Maui and Oahu, tend to attract larger crowds due to their popularity as tourist destinations. Think about what kind of atmosphere you prefer and choose an island that aligns with your desired vibe.

Compare the Climate & Geography Across the Islands

The climate and geography of each Hawaiian island can play a significant role in your decision-making process. While all the islands generally have a tropical climate, there are variations in rainfall and temperature. For example, the Big Island experiences more rainfall on the Hilo side, while the west side is drier and sunnier. If you prefer a drier and sunnier climate, consider visiting Maui or the Kona side of the Big Island. Additionally, each island has its own unique geography, ranging from pristine beaches to dramatic cliffs and waterfalls. Consider what kind of natural landscapes you’re most drawn to when making your decision.

Evaluate Travel Budget & Logistics to Each Island

When planning your trip to Hawaii, it’s important to evaluate your travel budget and the logistics of getting to each island. Keep in mind that airfare and accommodation prices can vary depending on the island and the time of year. For example, flying to Maui or Oahu may be more affordable compared to the more remote islands like Lanai or Molokai. Additionally, consider the transportation options available on each island and how easy it is to navigate between attractions. Take into account the time and cost of inter-island flights or ferry rides if you plan on island-hopping. By evaluating your travel budget and logistics, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your financial considerations.

Overview & Highlights of the 6 Main Hawaiian Islands

Kauai – The Garden Isle

Kauai, known as “The Garden Isle,” is a paradise for nature lovers. With its lush green landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and stunning waterfalls, it’s no wonder this island is a favorite among visitors. The Na Pali Coast is a must-see attraction, offering breathtaking views of towering cliffs and sparkling blue waters. Explore the picturesque Waimea Canyon, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” and take a hike along its scenic trails. Don’t forget to visit the stunning Wailua Falls, which cascades down 80 feet into a pool below.

Oahu – The Heart of Hawaii

Oahu, also known as “The Heart of Hawaii,” is the most populous island and home to the state capital, Honolulu. This vibrant island offers a perfect blend of city life and natural beauty. Visit the iconic Diamond Head State Monument, where you can hike to the top and enjoy panoramic views of Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean. Explore the historic Pearl Harbor and pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial. For some relaxation, head to the world-famous Waikiki Beach and soak up the sun.

Maui – The Valley Isle

Maui, known as “The Valley Isle,” is renowned for its stunning beaches, vibrant marine life, and picturesque landscapes. Drive along the scenic Road to Hana and marvel at the breathtaking waterfalls, lush rainforests, and panoramic ocean views. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness the sunrise from the summit of Haleakala National Park, an unforgettable experience. Explore the pristine beaches of Kaanapali and snorkel in the crystal-clear waters to discover a vibrant underwater world.

Molokai – The Friendly Isle

Molokai, known as “The Friendly Isle,” offers a glimpse into the authentic Hawaiian way of life. This lesser-known island is perfect for those seeking tranquility and a deeper connection with nature. Explore the untouched beauty of Kalaupapa National Historical Park, accessible only by a mule ride or hiking down the towering cliffs. Immerse yourself in the rich Hawaiian culture by visiting the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center, where you can learn about the island’s history and traditions.

Lanai – The Pineapple Isle

Lanai, known as “The Pineapple Isle,” is a secluded paradise with pristine beaches and luxurious resorts. Experience true relaxation at Hulopoe Beach, known for its crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life. Take a guided tour of the Garden of the Gods, a unique lunar-like landscape with fascinating rock formations. For a truly unforgettable experience, book a sunset sail along the coast of Lanai and admire the breathtaking views while enjoying a delicious dinner.

Big Island – The Orchid Isle

The Big Island, also known as “The Orchid Isle,” is the largest and most diverse of the Hawaiian Islands. Here, you can witness the power of nature at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to active volcanoes and lava fields. Explore the stunning black sand beaches of Punaluu and encounter sea turtles basking in the sun. Don’t miss the chance to stargaze at Mauna Kea Observatory, one of the best astronomical observation sites in the world.

Best Hawaiian Island for First-Timers

Planning a trip to Hawaii can be an exciting yet overwhelming experience, especially if it’s your first time visiting the islands. With so many stunning options to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which Hawaiian island is the best fit for you. However, if you’re a first-timer looking for a perfect introduction to the Aloha State, Maui should be at the top of your list.

Why Maui is a Great Intro to Hawaii

Maui offers a little something for everyone, making it an ideal choice for first-time visitors. From its breathtaking landscapes to its vibrant culture, this island truly captures the essence of Hawaii. One of the main reasons why Maui is a great introductory island is its accessibility. With direct flights from major cities, getting to Maui is a breeze. Once you arrive, you’ll find a wide range of accommodations, from luxury resorts to budget-friendly options, making it easy to find a place that suits your needs and preferences.

Another reason why Maui is a popular choice for first-timers is its diverse range of activities and attractions. Whether you’re looking to relax on pristine beaches, embark on an adventure-filled hike, or explore the island’s rich history and culture, Maui has it all. You can spend your days snorkeling with sea turtles at Molokini Crater, driving the famous Road to Hana, or catching a mesmerizing sunset at Haleakala National Park. The possibilities are endless!

Best Maui Highlights for First-Timers

When visiting Maui for the first time, there are a few must-see highlights that you shouldn’t miss. One of the most iconic landmarks on the island is the Road to Hana. This scenic drive takes you along the coastline, showcasing stunning waterfalls, lush rainforests, and breathtaking views. It’s a true adventure that will leave you in awe of Maui’s natural beauty.

If you’re looking for a beach day, make sure to visit Kaanapali Beach. With its soft white sand and crystal-clear waters, it’s the perfect spot for swimming, sunbathing, and even snorkeling. Don’t forget to catch the daily cliff diving ceremony at the nearby Black Rock, a tradition that dates back to the days of Hawaiian royalty.

For a unique cultural experience, head to Lahaina Town. This historic whaling village offers a glimpse into Hawaii’s past, with its charming shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Take a stroll down Front Street and immerse yourself in the local culture, or hop on a boat for a sunset cruise along the coast.

Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a taste of Hawaiian culture, Maui has it all. It’s no wonder why this island is often considered the best choice for first-time visitors to Hawaii. So pack your bags, grab your sunscreen, and get ready for an unforgettable Hawaiian adventure on the beautiful island of Maui!

Best Hawaiian Island for Families

When it comes to choosing the best Hawaiian island for a family vacation, Oahu is a top contender. Known as “The Gathering Place,” Oahu offers a wide range of family-friendly activities and attractions that are sure to keep everyone entertained. From stunning beaches to historical sites and exciting adventures, Oahu has something for every member of the family.

Why Oahu Works Well for Families

Oahu is the perfect Hawaiian island for families because it offers a diverse range of activities and attractions that cater to all ages. The island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, such as Waikiki Beach, where families can enjoy swimming, building sandcastles, and even learning how to surf. Oahu also boasts a number of family-friendly resorts and hotels that offer amenities and activities specifically designed for children, including kids’ clubs, pools with water slides, and supervised activities.

Aside from its natural beauty, Oahu is also rich in history and culture, making it an educational destination for families. Families can visit Pearl Harbor and learn about the events of World War II, or explore the Polynesian Cultural Center to discover the traditions and customs of the Pacific Islands. The island also offers hiking trails, botanical gardens, and interactive museums that are perfect for a family day out.

Top Oahu Activities for Kids & Families

There are plenty of activities on Oahu that will keep kids and families entertained throughout their vacation. One of the highlights is the Waikiki Aquarium, which features a wide variety of marine life and interactive exhibits. Families can also visit the Honolulu Zoo, home to over 900 different animals, including endangered species.

Oahu is also known for its thrilling water activities. Families can enjoy snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, where they can swim alongside colorful fish and explore the coral reefs. For those seeking more adventure, a visit to the North Shore is a must. Here, families can watch professional surfers ride massive waves or even try their hand at surfing themselves.

Another popular family-friendly activity on Oahu is the Polynesian Cultural Center. This immersive experience allows families to learn about the diverse cultures of the Pacific Islands through interactive exhibits, traditional performances, and hands-on activities. Kids can even participate in hula dancing lessons or try their hand at coconut husking.

Best Hawaiian Island for Romance

When it comes to choosing the best Hawaiian island for a romantic getaway, Kauai stands out as a top choice. Known as the “Garden Isle,” Kauai offers a breathtakingly beautiful and serene atmosphere that is perfect for couples seeking a romantic escape. From its stunning landscapes to its secluded beaches, Kauai exudes romance at every turn.

Kauai’s Romantic Allure

Kauai’s natural beauty sets the stage for a truly romantic experience. The island is home to lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and breathtaking cliffs, providing a picturesque backdrop for couples to explore and enjoy. Whether you’re strolling hand in hand along the pristine beaches or embarking on a romantic hike through the Napali Coast, Kauai offers countless opportunities to create unforgettable memories with your loved one.

Most Romantic Destinations on Kauai

When it comes to romantic destinations on Kauai, there are several spots that shouldn’t be missed. One such place is the iconic Na Pali Coast. This rugged coastline is renowned for its dramatic cliffs, sea caves, and secluded beaches. Taking a boat tour or embarking on a scenic hike along the Kalalau Trail will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of this enchanting destination.

Another romantic spot on Kauai is the Waimea Canyon, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” The breathtaking views and vibrant colors of the canyon make it an ideal location for a romantic picnic or a leisurely hike with your partner.

If you’re looking for a more secluded and intimate experience, the Polihale State Park is the perfect choice. This remote and untouched beach offers miles of golden sand and stunning sunsets, providing the ideal setting for a romantic evening with your loved one.

For those seeking a touch of luxury and indulgence, the resorts in Poipu offer a range of romantic amenities and activities. From couples’ massages to private candlelit dinners on the beach, these resorts go above and beyond to create a romantic ambiance for their guests.

Best Hawaiian Island for Adventure

If you’re seeking non-stop excitement and thrilling experiences, the Big Island of Hawaii is the perfect destination for adventure enthusiasts. With its diverse landscape, the Big Island offers a wide range of activities and attractions to satisfy any adrenaline junkie.

Non-Stop Excitement on the Big Island

The Big Island is home to not one, but five stunning volcanoes, including the active Kilauea volcano. This provides a unique opportunity for visitors to witness the raw power of nature up close. You can hike to the summit of Mauna Kea and stargaze at the world-renowned observatory, or explore the otherworldly landscapes of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The island also boasts an impressive array of water activities. From snorkeling and scuba diving in crystal clear waters teeming with marine life, to surfing the legendary waves of the North Shore, the Big Island offers endless opportunities for aquatic adventure.

For those seeking a more exhilarating experience, you can try your hand at zip-lining through lush rainforests, or take a thrilling helicopter tour over the island’s dramatic coastlines and cascading waterfalls. The Big Island truly offers something for everyone.

Epic Adventures to Have on Big Island

One of the most epic adventures you can have on the Big Island is exploring the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Here, you can witness the awe-inspiring sight of molten lava flowing into the ocean, creating new land right before your eyes. The park also offers numerous hiking trails that take you through lush rainforests, ancient lava fields, and even to the summit of Mauna Loa, the world’s largest volcano.

If you’re a water lover, you won’t be disappointed on the Big Island. You can take a thrilling kayak tour along the stunning coastline, where you might encounter playful dolphins or even spot majestic humpback whales during the winter months. Snorkeling and diving enthusiasts can explore vibrant coral reefs and swim alongside tropical fish and turtles.

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the Big Island offers incredible opportunities for surfing, with some of the best waves in the world. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, you can find the perfect spot to catch a wave and experience the thrill of riding the ocean’s power.

So, if you’re looking for a destination that offers non-stop excitement and epic adventures, the Big Island of Hawaii should be at the top of your list. Start planning your adventure today and get ready for an unforgettable experience!

One Week Itineraries for Each Hawaiian Island

Sample 7 Day Kauai Itinerary

If you’re lucky enough to visit the beautiful island of Kauai for a week, you’re in for a treat. Kauai is known as the “Garden Isle” and offers stunning natural beauty and outdoor adventures. Here’s a sample itinerary to make the most of your time:

  • Day 1: Start your trip by exploring the breathtaking Na Pali Coast. Take a boat tour or hike along the Kalalau Trail for incredible views.
  • Day 2: Visit Waimea Canyon, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Experience the stunning vistas and hike the trails in the area.
  • Day 3: Spend a day relaxing at one of Kauai’s beautiful beaches, such as Poipu Beach or Hanalei Bay.
  • Day 4: Take a helicopter tour to see the island’s hidden waterfalls and lush landscapes from above.
  • Day 5: Explore the Wailua River and take a kayak tour to the iconic Fern Grotto.
  • Day 6: Discover the stunning Hanalei Valley and visit the picturesque Hanalei Pier.
  • Day 7: End your trip with a visit to the charming town of Hanapepe, known for its art galleries and quaint shops.

With this itinerary, you’ll get a taste of Kauai’s natural wonders, outdoor activities, and local culture.

Sample 7 Day Oahu Itinerary

Oahu, the most populous island in Hawaii, offers a perfect blend of stunning beaches, vibrant city life, and historical sites. Here’s a sample itinerary to help you make the most of your week-long trip:

  • Day 1: Start your trip with a visit to Pearl Harbor and pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial.
  • Day 2: Explore the iconic Waikiki Beach and enjoy water activities such as surfing or snorkeling.
  • Day 3: Take a hike to the top of Diamond Head for panoramic views of the island.
  • Day 4: Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center to learn about the diverse Polynesian cultures and enjoy a traditional luau.
  • Day 5: Explore the North Shore and watch professional surfers tackle the massive waves at Sunset Beach or Banzai Pipeline.
  • Day 6: Discover the natural beauty of Oahu’s eastern coast by visiting the stunning Lanikai Beach and the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail.
  • Day 7: End your trip with a visit to the bustling capital city of Honolulu. Explore the historic sites of Downtown Honolulu and enjoy shopping and dining in Waikiki.

This itinerary will give you a taste of Oahu’s historical significance, natural beauty, and vibrant city life.

Sample 7 Day Maui Itinerary

Maui, known as the “Valley Isle,” is famous for its stunning landscapes, beautiful beaches, and charming towns. Here’s a sample itinerary to help you plan your week-long trip:

  • Day 1: Start your trip with a visit to Haleakala National Park to witness the sunrise from the summit of the volcano.
  • Day 2: Explore the scenic Road to Hana and discover waterfalls, black sand beaches, and lush rainforests along the way.
  • Day 3: Relax and enjoy the beautiful beaches of Kaanapali or Wailea, and take a snorkeling or whale-watching tour.
  • Day 4: Visit the charming town of Lahaina and explore its historic sites, art galleries, and shops.
  • Day 5: Take a drive to the Upcountry region and visit the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm and the Maui Wine tasting room.
  • Day 6: Discover the picturesque Iao Valley State Park and hike to the iconic Iao Needle.
  • Day 7: End your trip with a relaxing day at one of Maui’s stunning beaches, watching the sunset and reflecting on your amazing week.

With this itinerary, you’ll experience Maui’s natural wonders, cultural heritage, and laid-back island lifestyle.

Sample 7 Day Big Island Itinerary

The Big Island of Hawaii, also known as Hawaii Island, is the largest and most diverse island in the archipelago. Here’s a sample itinerary to help you make the most of your week-long adventure:

  • Day 1: Start your trip with a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and witness the awe-inspiring power of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
  • Day 2: Explore the stunning beaches of the Kona Coast and enjoy snorkeling, swimming, or simply relaxing under the sun.
  • Day 3: Take a scenic drive along the Hamakua Coast and visit the breathtaking Akaka Falls State Park.
  • Day 4: Discover the unique cultural heritage of the island by visiting Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park and the Painted Church in Honaunau.
  • Day 5: Experience the beauty of the Waipio Valley by taking a guided tour or hiking down the steep trail.
  • Day 6: Visit the Mauna Kea Observatories and witness the stunning night sky from one of the world’s best stargazing spots.
  • Day 7: End your trip with a relaxing day at one of the island’s beautiful beaches, enjoying the crystal-clear waters and warm Hawaiian sun.

This itinerary will allow you to discover the diverse landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and unique geological wonders of the Big Island.


We hope this guide has helped shed light on the unique offerings of each Hawaiian island. While you really can’t go wrong with any of these tropical paradises, keeping your own interests and trip objectives in mind will ensure you choose the ideal island for your next Hawaiian vacation.

Wherever you decide to go, the spirit of aloha will greet you with open arms. The beautiful beaches, scenic hikes, tasty cuisine, and welcoming culture will quickly have you relaxing into island time. So start planning your Hawaiian adventure – you’ll be hanging loose with a mai tai in hand before you know it!

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