With picture-perfect beaches, stunning landscapes, and a laidback island vibe, Hawaii is often seen as an idyllic tropical paradise. However, not all of the Hawaiian Islands offer the same experience for visitors.
If you’re looking to avoid disappointment on your Hawaiian vacation, here are some of the worst islands for tourists.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The island of Molokai is typically considered the worst for tourists due to its ultra-remote location and lack of amenities and attractions.
In this article, we will explore Molokai and other Hawaiian islands in-depth, looking at why they fail to deliver an enjoyable vacation experience for most visitors. We will examine their lack of infrastructure and activities, difficult accessibility, and other potential downsides.
Why Molokai is Considered the Worst Hawaiian Island for Tourism
Molokai, one of the Hawaiian Islands, is often considered the worst option for tourists looking for a vacation destination. While the island has its own unique charm, there are several reasons why it may not be the ideal choice for travelers seeking a more typical Hawaiian experience.
Minimal Amenities and Infrastructure
One of the main reasons why Molokai is considered the worst Hawaiian island for tourism is its limited amenities and infrastructure.
Unlike other popular tourist destinations in Hawaii, Molokai lacks the large resorts, luxury hotels, and modern facilities that many travelers are accustomed to.
Visitors to Molokai will find a more rustic and authentic experience, with fewer options for accommodations, dining, and entertainment.
While some tourists may appreciate the simplicity and tranquility of Molokai, others may find the lack of amenities inconvenient and limiting. It’s important for travelers to be prepared for a more low-key and off-the-beaten-path experience when visiting this island.
Note: With only around 7,000 residents, Molokai has a very small population compared to other Hawaiian islands
Seclusion and Difficult Accessibility
Molokai is known for its seclusion and difficult accessibility, which can be a deterrent for many tourists. The island is less developed in terms of transportation infrastructure, making it challenging to reach compared to other Hawaiian islands.
There is no direct international flight to Molokai, and most visitors will need to take a connecting flight from another Hawaiian island.
Additionally, there are limited options for transportation once on the island, with no public transportation system and few taxis or rental car agencies available. This can make it difficult for tourists to explore and move around the island freely.
Note: Compared to lively spots on Oahu or Maui, Molokai has virtually no nightlife. There are no big resorts, bars, restaurants or other evening entertainment options that many tourists seek out.
Limited Activities and Attractions
Another reason why Molokai is considered the worst Hawaiian island for tourism is its limited activities and attractions.
While the island offers stunning natural beauty, including pristine beaches, lush valleys, and dramatic cliffs, there are fewer options for recreational activities and tourist attractions compared to other islands.
Molokai is known for its laid-back atmosphere and slower pace of life, which may not appeal to travelers seeking a more lively and action-packed vacation.
The island does offer opportunities for hiking, snorkeling, and cultural experiences, but these options may be limited compared to other Hawaiian islands.
Note: However, there are very few traditional tourist attractions like luaus, museums, whale watching tours, etc. Activities tend to revolve around nature hiking, fishing, kayaking, etc.
Lanai’s Seclusion Makes It Difficult for Tourists
If you are searching for a tropical paradise that is off the beaten path, Lanai might seem like the perfect destination. However, its seclusion can actually make it quite challenging for tourists. Here are a few reasons why Lanai may not be the best choice for your Hawaiian vacation:
Remote Location with Minimal Amenities
Lanai’s remote location is both a blessing and a curse. While it offers a sense of tranquility and untouched beauty, it also means limited access to amenities that most tourists expect.
The island has only a handful of hotels and resorts, which can make it difficult to find accommodation, especially during peak travel seasons.
Additionally, the lack of public transportation and limited options for car rentals can make getting around the island a hassle.
Lanai has under 3,000 full-time residents, making it very sparsely populated. This means fewer amenities and tourism infrastructure.
There are only 3 major hotels/resorts on Lanai. Two are luxury resorts catering to upscale travelers. Budget options are very minimal.
Rugged Terrain Not Ideal for Beach Vacation
When most people think of a Hawaiian vacation, they picture pristine beaches with soft sand and crystal-clear waters. Unfortunately, Lanai’s rugged terrain does not offer the same idyllic beach experience as some of the other Hawaiian islands.
The coastline is often rocky and the ocean currents can be treacherous, making swimming and snorkeling more challenging. While there are still some beautiful beaches on the island, they may not meet the expectations of those seeking a classic beach vacation.
Lack of Dining, Shopping, and Nightlife Options
If you enjoy exploring local cuisine, shopping for unique souvenirs, or experiencing vibrant nightlife, Lanai may not be the best fit.
The island has limited dining options, with only a handful of restaurants and cafes to choose from. Similarly, the shopping scene is quite limited, with only a few small boutiques and shops.
As for nightlife, Lanai is known for its peaceful and quiet atmosphere, which may not appeal to those looking for a lively and vibrant nightlife scene.
While Lanai’s seclusion may be appealing to some travelers seeking a truly remote and tranquil getaway, it can also pose challenges for tourists looking for a more well-rounded Hawaiian vacation experience. Consider these factors before planning your trip to Lanai and make sure it aligns with your travel preferences and expectations.
Downsides of Oahu for Some Tourists
Overcrowding at Popular Sites
When it comes to visiting Oahu, one of the biggest downsides for some tourists is the issue of overcrowding at popular sites. Oahu is the most populated and visited island in Hawaii, attracting millions of tourists each year. This popularity has led to overcrowding at iconic attractions such as Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, and Pearl Harbor.
Visitors may find themselves jostling for space and struggling to fully enjoy the experience with so many other people around. If you prefer a more serene and relaxed atmosphere, you might want to consider exploring some of the less crowded islands.
Popular beaches like Waikiki and North Shore often get packed, especially during peak seasons. This can detract from the island’s natural vibe.
Honolulu has notorious rush hour traffic jams. Getting around takes more time compared to less populated islands. Parking is also a headache in many areas.
Another downside of Oahu for some tourists is the notorious traffic congestion. With its vibrant city of Honolulu and numerous popular tourist destinations, Oahu experiences heavy traffic, especially during peak tourist seasons.
The H-1 freeway, which connects the east and west sides of the island, can become incredibly congested, leading to frustrating delays and long travel times.
If you plan to rent a car and explore the island, be prepared for potential traffic jams. Alternatively, you can consider utilizing public transportation or scheduling your activities to avoid rush hours.
Tourist Traps Like Waikiki
Waikiki, located in Honolulu, is often considered a tourist trap by some visitors. While it offers stunning beaches and a lively atmosphere, many find it to be overly crowded and commercialized.
The area is filled with high-rise hotels, chain restaurants, and souvenir shops, catering primarily to tourists. If you prefer a more authentic Hawaiian experience, you may want to venture outside of Waikiki and explore other less touristy areas of the island.
- Much of Oahu feels like a major modern city, lacking the lush rural charm of some other islands. Highrises dominate Honolulu’s skyline.
- Large resorts, busy attractions, and hordes of visitors give parts of Oahu a crowded, hectic atmosphere that some travelers wish to avoid.
- Finding isolated beaches or hikes away from crowds can be difficult compared to more remote islands.
- The Polynesian cultural experience feels more diluted and commercialized to some in busy Waikiki versus other Hawaiian locales.
- Due to demand, Oahu hotels and activities often cost more than comparable options on other islands.
Oahu, like many other highly populated islands, faces certain environmental challenges. The increased human activity and development have put a strain on the island’s ecosystems. Issues such as pollution, coral reef degradation, and invasive species are of concern.
Efforts are being made to address these environmental issues, but it’s important for tourists to be mindful of their impact on the island’s delicate ecosystem. By practicing responsible tourism, such as properly disposing of waste and respecting nature, visitors can help preserve the beauty and sustainability of Oahu.
Kauai’s Potential Shortcomings for Certain Travelers
While Kauai is often praised for its natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere, it may not be the ideal destination for every type of traveler. Here are some potential shortcomings that certain tourists should be aware of before planning their trip to the Garden Isle.
Note: Getting to Kauai involves longer travel times compared to other Hawaiian islands since it’s furthest from major hubs. There are also fewer direct flight options.
Fewer Resorts and Nightlife
If you’re looking for a bustling nightlife scene and a wide selection of luxury resorts, Kauai may not be the best fit for you. Unlike some of the other Hawaiian islands, Kauai is known for its more peaceful and secluded vibe.
While there are still accommodations available, they tend to be smaller in scale and offer a more intimate setting. So, if you’re hoping for a vibrant nightlife experience, you may want to consider other islands like Oahu or Maui.
Kauai has very little nightlife, especially compared to Oahu. There are no big clubs or much after-hours entertainment.
Most lodging options are mid-range to luxury. Hostels and cheap hotels are hard to come by.
With rugged terrain and dangerous ocean conditions, Kauai is better suited for adults. Families with small children may struggle.
Less Dining Variety
While Kauai does offer a range of dining options, it may not have the same variety as some of the larger islands. If you’re a food enthusiast looking to explore a diverse culinary scene, you might find yourself limited in terms of options on Kauai.
However, the island does boast some fantastic local cuisine, such as fresh seafood and traditional Hawaiian dishes. So, while the variety may be lacking, the quality of the food is still exceptional.
Challenging for Those Wanting More Activity
If you’re someone who craves constant excitement and a wide range of activities, Kauai may not be the most suitable choice. While the island does offer plenty of outdoor adventures like hiking, snorkeling, and surfing, it may not have as many organized tours and attractions compared to other Hawaiian islands.
This can make it more challenging for those seeking a jam-packed itinerary. However, if you prefer a slower-paced vacation with plenty of opportunities for relaxation and immersing yourself in nature, Kauai may be the perfect destination.
Remember, these potential shortcomings should not deter you from visiting Kauai if its natural beauty and peaceful atmosphere align with your travel preferences. It’s essential to consider your personal preferences and what you value most in a vacation before deciding which Hawaiian island is the best fit for you.
Kauai’s sights skew toward nature. There are fewer Polynesian cultural sites compared to islands like Oahu.
Public transportation is dismal. A rental car is essential to getting around, adding to costs.
Factors Making Big Island Potentially Less Desirable
Requires Lots of Driving
One of the factors that can make the Big Island potentially less desirable for tourists is the amount of driving required to explore its attractions. With a land area of over 4,000 square miles, the Big Island is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, and getting from one end to the other can take several hours.
While some visitors enjoy the scenic drives and the opportunity to explore different parts of the island, others may find the long drives tiresome and prefer a more compact destination.
- Parts of the island can feel very remote or rural. Some travelers may prefer more populated areas.
- Due to geology, most Big Island beaches have rougher rock or coral instead of soft sand.
- While a highlight for many, Kilauea’s activity also brings potential for disruption like vog (volcanic smog).
- Hiking trails tend to be more strenuous. The rocky lava fields can be difficult to navigate in areas.
Unpredictable Weather Conditions
The Big Island is known for its diverse microclimates and unpredictable weather conditions. While some parts of the island may be sunny and warm, others can experience heavy rainfall or even snow on the mountain peaks.
This variability in weather can make it challenging for tourists to plan outdoor activities such as hiking or beach days. It’s important for visitors to be prepared for changing weather conditions and to have a backup plan in case their original plans are affected.
Can Be Too Laid-back for Some
The Big Island has a reputation for being more laid-back and less developed compared to other Hawaiian islands. While this can be appealing to some tourists seeking a more relaxed and authentic experience, it may not be ideal for those looking for a bustling nightlife or a wide range of shopping and dining options. The Big Island offers a slower pace of life and a closer connection to nature, which may not suit everyone’s preferences or expectations.
It’s important to note that these factors may not be deal-breakers for everyone. Some people may enjoy the freedom of driving around and exploring the island at their own pace, while others may appreciate the unique weather patterns and the tranquility of a less crowded destination.
Ultimately, it comes down to personal preferences and what each individual is looking for in their Hawaiian vacation.
While beautiful in their own right, Molokai, Lanai, Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii Island have characteristics that could make them less than ideal for certain types of travelers. Molokai stands out as the worst island for tourists due to its ultra-remote location and lack of infrastructure.
Of course, one person’s perfect island paradise is another’s idea of a vacation nightmare. Tourists should carefully research each island’s offerings to pick the one that best fits their interests, budget and desired activities.