Hawaii is without a doubt paradise on Earth. An archipelago of seven gorgeous islands, but only six can be visited. Ni’ihau, “The Forbidden Isle” is generally off-limits to all but relatives of the island’s owners, U.S. Navy personnel, government officials, and invited guests. But no worries, there are six stunning islands that will welcome you with open arms and take your breath away. Let’s help you choose the perfect island for your unique getaway!
Best Hawaiian Islands | How to Choose an Island
Kauai: Named “The Garden Island”, Kauai is the oldest and northernmost island in the Island chain. It is graced with dramatic, natural beauty.
This is where you will find the lush, green folding towering sea cliffs of Na Pali Coast, where you can hike or kayak your way to Kalalau Beach, a gorgeous secluded beach.
Outdoor adventures and romantic escapades flourish on Kauai. Visit the colorful and awesome Waimea Canyon, “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. You will get on Kauai more beaches per mile of coastline than any other Hawaiian island.
Oahu: Home to the state capitol and the majority of Hawaii’s population, Oahu is a big luau. It’s got amazing restaurants and lively nightlife as well as white-sand beaches and knife-edged mountain ranges.
On Oahu, you can see pro surfers challenge the big winter waves of the legendary North Shore, relive American history at the memorials and museums of Pearl Harbor, or soak up the sun and take a surfing lesson on Waikiki Beach.
Molokai: Molokai is the least changed, most laid-back of the Islands. With almost half of its population being of Native Hawaiian ancestry, Molokai is an island that has preserved its connection to the past and its love for the outdoors.
Come to Molokai to ride a mule down a cliff to Kalaupapa Peninsula, and experience plenty of peace and quiet of Kamakou Preserve, a 2,774-acre wildlife refuge.
Step back in time to the sleepy town of Kaunakakai, admire the verdant flora in Halawa Valley, and learn about the works of Saint Damien at Kalaupapa National Historical Park.
Lanai: Without a single traffic light, Lanai is a perfect island getaway for luxury, romance, and privacy away from the crowds.
Get away from it all at Lanai’s upscale resorts in Hulopoe Bay and Lanai City, see the otherworldly barren landscape at Keahiakawelo, snorkel at the best spot on the island, Hulopoe Bay, once named America’s Best Beach, or 4-wheel drive amongst the pine trees along the Munro Trail.
Maui: A lot of people say Maui is the best, the most, the tops. The second largest island is home to what some believe are the best beaches in the world. The waters off of Maui are also some of the best places in the world to whale watch every winter.
Maui is the most diversified Hawaiian island, perfect for families with divergent interests. Wake up early to catch the Haleakala sunrise, stroll through the historic hot spot of Lahaina town, or drive the long and winding road to Hana for breathtaking scenery. Believe it or not, there are now Maui condo rentals extremely affordable. Just think, you could be sitting beachside taking in the sights.
Big Island: Larger than all of the other islands combined, Hawaii Island, or Hawaii, the Big Island, is vast enough to hold 11 of the world’s 13 climatic zones—from sandy beaches to snowcapped mountains. The Big Island has two faces, watched over by snow-capped Mauna Kea and steaming Mauna Loa.
See waterfalls, rainforests, lush flower farms and botanical gardens in Hilo, explore the calm and clear water off of Kona, or view Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Best Island in Hawaii for Warm Water and Soft Sand
Kauai has 50 miles of breathtaking white sand beaches, offering amazing spots for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. Many of these beaches provide intimate atmospheres away from the crowds.
Hanalei Bay Beach Park is the island’s best beach. Just east of Princeville in Hanalei Town, Hanalei Bay is a perfect, curved bay of incredible beauty known for the Hanalei Pier.
Poipu Beach Park is one of Kauai’s most popular beaches. With crystal clear turquoise waters and occasional Hawaiian monk seal appearances, Poipu also has a natural wading pool for young swimmers.
Best Island in Hawaii for Diving and Snorkeling
Maui is definitely a snorkeler’s dream! The island’s Molokini Crater is just 2 miles off the coast of Maui. The waters surrounding Molokini is amazingly clear, so visibility is excellent, often more than 150 feet. Molokini is a flourishing coral reef, where the shallow coral reef is teeming with a wide variety of colorful and fascinating fish and marine animals, including over 200 species of fish found only in Hawaii.
Exceptional Maui snorkeling is not limited to Molokini. Another incredible Maui snorkel location is Turtle Town, where you will have the opportunity to swim with the amazing Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.
Best Island in Hawaii for Golfing
If you are looking for quality golfing, Lanai is your destination. Lanai features The Experience at Koele, an 18-hole championship course designed by legends Greg Norman and Ted Robinson. The signature 17th hole magnificently drops into a valley more than 200 feet below the tee box.
Along the southern coast, Jack Nicklaus created one of his most famous masterpieces, The Challenge at Manele. Set along sea cliffs, this target-style course offers unsurpassed views of the Pacific Ocean.
These two golf courses consistently rank among the best in the world by travel guides and publications.
Best Island in Hawaii for Nightlife
Honolulu, on Oahu, is the largest city in Hawaii and has superb restaurants and amazing nightlife. Because of Waikiki, a district of the city of Honolulu is where the majority of visitors stay on Oahu, it’s no surprise that there’s a huge variety of nightlife options to explore.
You’ll discover fine dining and live music at hotels and resorts throughout Waikiki. Club and bar venues like RumFire in the Sheraton Waikiki or The Yard House in the Waikiki Beach Walk and The Shack Waikiki are popular spots for locals and visitors alike.
Best Island in Hawaii for Staying Active
On Maui, you’ll have plenty of chances to experience a wide variety of outdoor adventures like never before. Watch your first humpback spout as you whale-watch from Kaanapali Beach. Snorkel the unforgettable sights in Molokini’s crystal clear waters and schools of fish. Or feel the rush of your first surf lesson off the shores of historic Lahaina.
On land, horseback ride atop Haleakala, Maui’s highest peak. You can even take your first helicopter ride to see breathtaking views of Maui’s pristine valleys and waterfalls. Or try Maui’s newest and longest zip line course, Flyin Hawaiian Zipline. This brand new course offers eight zip line experiences, including the longest and most amazing ride in Hawaii on their grand final line, a staggering 3,600 feet in length!
Best Hawaiian Islands for Staying on a Budget
If you don’t mind staying off the beach, the Big Island has plenty of lodges and guesthouses that can help you keep costs down. There are even hundreds of condo rentals in Kailua-Kona.
Oahu is also a good option if you are a budget traveler. Since it’s the most visited island, there is a lot of options to choose from, hostels to guesthouses and rentals too.
Best Hawaiian Islands for Luxury Travel
Kauai’s excellent resorts offer complete indulgence in a paradisiacal tropical setting. Kauai’s hotels and resorts offer fine dining, world-class amenities and ample opportunities for rejuvenation and wellness.
Luxury resort areas include the Princeville area on the North Shore, the Poipu area on the South Shore, and various resorts along the Lihue/Kalapaki area and the Coconut Coast. Kauai’s luxury resorts are also minutes from the island’s best beaches. This is where you will also find the perfect venue for your wedding or honeymoon.
Lanai also offers top class luxury resorts. In fact, Lanai has two world-class resorts, the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay overlooking beautiful Hulopoe Bay and the rustic Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele near Lanai City. Those two gorgeous luxury resorts are the perfect setting for your wedding or your vows renewal.
Best Island in Hawaii for Your Honeymoon
Maui is well known to be the perfect honeymoon destination. Since Maui offers myriad activities and both luxurious resorts and more reasonably priced condos, Maui is the best tropical retreat even if you and the love of your life don’t share the same interests.
Maui will provide you both with one lasting memory after another. Hike up to Haleakala, Maui’s highest peak, to see the sun rise over the clouds. Drive the road to Hana and count the waterfalls together on this amazing scenic journey. Dine on Maui’s sumptuous cuisine, then stroll hand-in-hand on a moonlit night across one of Maui’s serene white sand beaches.
Best Island in Hawaii for Amazing Food
Maui, again, is the best Hawaiian island if you want an incredible culinary experience. In the mid-1990s, Maui emerged as a gastronomic force, the birthplace of Hawaiian regional cuisine, and many of the original chefs involved in this movement still operate their own restaurants on the island.
Indulge in Maui’s famous cuisine, made from produce picked right from the farms and fish caught fresh from the sea. You can also try a traditional Hawaiian meal at a sunset luau or get off the beaten path to try some local favorites in small towns like Wailuku and Paia.
Whatever island you choose, you will without a doubt have the best trip of your life, and you will go back for more. Hawaii is a safe and secure destination for families and couples, but moreover, it is a super fun destination. You will go back home with no regrets, only amazingly good memories!