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The Hawaiian Islands are renowned worldwide for their stunning natural beauty, unique culture, and near-perfect weather. Two of Hawaii’s most famous islands are Maui and Oahu, each boasting world-class beaches, lush rainforests, and iconic sights. But when it comes to size, which Hawaiian island reigns supreme – Maui or Oahu?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Maui is the second largest Hawaiian island after the Big Island of Hawaii. At 727.2 square miles, Maui is about 20% larger than Oahu, which measures 597.1 square miles.

Geographic Overview of Maui and Oahu

Location and facts about Maui

Maui is one of the most popular islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. It is located in the central Pacific Ocean and is the second-largest island in the chain. With a land area of approximately 727 square miles, Maui offers a diverse range of landscapes, from pristine beaches to lush rainforests and towering volcanic peaks.

The island is known for its stunning natural beauty and is often referred to as the “Valley Isle” due to its unique geography, which features a central valley surrounded by two massive volcanoes, Haleakala and the West Maui Mountains.

Maui is home to numerous attractions and landmarks, including the famous Road to Hana, a scenic drive that winds along the island’s rugged coastline and offers breathtaking views of waterfalls, cliffs, and tropical vegetation.

The island is also renowned for its world-class surfing spots, such as Honolua Bay and Jaws, which attract surfers from around the globe.

Location and facts about Oahu

Oahu is the third-largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago and is situated in the central Pacific Ocean. With a land area of approximately 597 square miles, Oahu is smaller than Maui but is the most populous island in Hawaii, with the state capital, Honolulu, located on its southeastern coast.

Oahu is known for its vibrant city life, stunning beaches, and historical sites. Waikiki Beach, located in Honolulu, is a world-famous tourist destination, offering visitors a mix of beautiful sandy shores, luxury resorts, and a lively nightlife scene.

The island is also home to iconic landmarks such as Diamond Head, a volcanic tuff cone, and Pearl Harbor, which played a significant role in World War II.

Due to its smaller land area and high population density, Oahu can sometimes feel more crowded compared to Maui. However, the island’s diverse range of attractions, including hiking trails, cultural events, and shopping districts, make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a mix of urban and natural experiences.

Comparing the Total Land Area

Maui’s total size

Maui, known as the “Valley Isle,” is the second-largest Hawaiian island in terms of land area. It spans approximately 727 square miles (1,883 square kilometers).

The island is renowned for its diverse landscapes, ranging from lush rainforests and cascading waterfalls to pristine beaches and volcanic peaks. With its stunning natural beauty, Maui attracts millions of visitors each year, making it one of the top tourist destinations in Hawaii.

Oahu’s total size

Oahu, often referred to as the “Gathering Place,” is the third-largest Hawaiian island in terms of land area. It covers about 596 square miles (1,545 square kilometers).

Oahu is home to the state capital, Honolulu, and is the most densely populated island in Hawaii. This bustling island offers a mix of urban cityscapes, historical sites, and beautiful beaches, making it a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike.

Maui is much larger than Oahu

When comparing the land area of Maui and Oahu, it is evident that Maui is significantly larger. With an area of 727 square miles, Maui surpasses Oahu’s 596 square miles.

However, it is important to note that size does not necessarily dictate the popularity or allure of an island. Both Maui and Oahu have their own unique charms and attractions that make them special in their own right.

Population Density Comparison

Maui’s population density

When it comes to population density, Maui is known for its more laid-back and relaxed lifestyle compared to the bustling city of Oahu. With a land area of approximately 727 square miles, Maui has a population of around 167,000 residents, resulting in a population density of about 230 people per square mile.

This means that there is plenty of space for residents and visitors to enjoy the island’s stunning natural beauty without feeling crowded or overwhelmed.

Oahu’s population density

Oahu, on the other hand, is the most densely populated island in Hawaii. With a land area of around 597 square miles, Oahu is home to approximately 953,000 residents, giving it a population density of about 1,594 people per square mile.

The island’s capital city, Honolulu, is located on Oahu and is a major economic and cultural hub. The higher population density on Oahu is due to its urbanization and the presence of various industries and amenities.

Oahu is far more densely populated

As we can see, Oahu is far more densely populated than Maui. The higher population density on Oahu is primarily attributed to the island’s urbanization and economic opportunities.

While Maui offers a more serene and tranquil environment, Oahu provides a vibrant and bustling atmosphere with a wide range of activities, attractions, and job opportunities.

It’s important to consider these factors when deciding which island to visit or live on, as the population density can greatly impact the overall experience.

Unique Geographic Features (Activities and Attractions)

Maui’s unique geographical landmarks and activities/attractions

Maui is home to many unique geographical landmarks and features that make it a one-of-a-kind destination. From volcanic landscapes to tropical rainforests, Maui has an incredibly diverse terrain.

Some of Maui’s most notable geographical landmarks include:

  • Haleakalā Volcano – This massive dormant volcano encompasses over 75% of the island. The crater at the summit is over 7 miles across and provides breathtaking views. Sunrise at the summit is an extremely popular activity.
  • Iao Valley State Park – This lush valley is home to the iconic Iao Needle, a 1,200 foot tall lava rock pinnacle rising up through the rainforest canopy. The valley also contains streams, gardens, and hiking trails.
  • Hana Rainforest – On Maui’s north shore, this dense tropical rainforest receives over 100 inches of rainfall annually. It contains numerous waterfalls, pools, and trails winding through giant ferns and vines.
  • West Maui Mountains – Maui’s western side is dominated by the West Maui Mountains, an extinct volcano range containing the islands highest peak – Pu’u Kukui at 5,788 feet. Lush valleys cut through the rugged peaks.

In addition to its natural landscapes, Maui also boasts world-class beaches, activities, and attractions:

  • Snorkeling at Molokini Crater – This crescent-shaped partially submerged volcanic crater sits off the coast of South Maui. Its pristine waters offer excellent snorkeling and scuba diving.
  • Road to Hana – This legendary winding coastal road takes you through rainforests, past waterfalls and scenic overlooks. The drive offers nonstop adventures.
  • Haleakalā National Park – Home to Haleakalā volcano, the park offers hiking, camping, and even bicycle rides down the volcano.
  • Whale Watching – Maui is one of the world’s best spots to see humpback whales from December to April as they migrate to breed in the warm island waters.
  • Surfing – With great surf beaches and conditions, Maui is a legendary surfing destination. Top spots include Honolua Bay and Hookipa Beach.

From volcanic moonscapes to lush jungles, Maui truly encapsulates Hawaii’s incredible diversity all in one island. It offers endless adventures, sights and activities for everyone.

Oahu’s unique geographical landmarks

Oahu, often referred to as the “Gathering Place,” is the third-largest of the Hawaiian Islands and is home to its capital, Honolulu. This vibrant island offers a diverse range of unique geographical landmarks that attract visitors from around the world.

Some of Oahu’s most notable geographical features include:

  • Diamond Head – This iconic crater is a tuff cone volcano that juts out along Honolulu’s coastline. The 0.75 mile hike to the summit offers panoramic views.
  • Koko Head – Oahu’s easternmost point, this craggy headland contains steep cliffs and the iconic Koko Head railway trail leading up to the summit.
  • Kaena Point – The westernmost tip of Oahu, Kaena Point is home to a nature reserve and rugged coastal scenery.
  • North Shore – Oahu’s famed north shore features renowned surf beaches like Pipeline, Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and the iconic Banzai Pipeline.
  • Ko’olau Range – A majestic mountain range that serves as the backdrop to Honolulu, rising up to almost 3,000 feet at the summit of Konahuanui.

In addition to its dramatic landscapes, Oahu offers iconic attractions and activities:

  • Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial – This historic site serves as a sobering reminder of the events that plunged America into WWII after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor. A visit here is a must.
  • Hanauma Bay – This marine embayment on Oahu’s southeastern shore is one of Hawaii’s most popular snorkeling spots, with abundant tropical fish and sea turtles.
  • Waikiki Beach – The most famous beach in Hawaii, Waikiki is the heartbeat of Oahu. This iconic stretch of sand pulses with energy and activities.
  • Polynesian Cultural Center – Immerse yourself in Polynesian culture, arts, food and performances at this popular theme park on Oahu’s north shore.
  • Surfing – Like the other islands, Oahu offers legendary surfing, especially on the North Shore which hosts surf competitions in the winter months.

From iconic landmarks to world-famous beaches, Oahu encapsulates much of Hawaii’s appeal all in one energizing island. It offers big city amenities and nonstop entertainment alongside tropical island adventures.


In conclusion, while Oahu may be far more populated and contain Hawaii’s capital and largest city Honolulu, Maui is the clear winner when it comes to sheer land size. Spanning over 700 square miles, Maui provides more room to roam through its expansive rainforests, volcanic landscapes, and miles of stunning beaches.

Whether you’re looking to escape crowds and find solitude in nature, or enjoy world-class resorts and activities, both islands have something unique to offer. But now you know the facts – Maui is definitively larger than Oahu when it comes to total land area.

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