Which islands are best for you?
So you’re going to Hawaii? Great! But there’s so much hype. Is it really that great? I’ve lived here more than thirty years, so I feel qualified to give you an insider/outsider’s evaluation.
One day when I was teaching English in Bangladesh, I showed my students a calendar with scenes of Hawaii. A bold student asked me, “Is it really that beautiful, or did someone photoshop that?”
I smiled and said, “Hawaii has some places that are so beautiful that, when you see them, you catch your breath,” and I caught my breath to demonstrate. “Then there’s the rest of Hawaii and that is more beautiful.”
It took them a moment to catch the joke. But it’s true. From every angle, Hawaii is gorgeous. The natural beauty does take your breath away.
Each island has its special flavor, its unique sights, so I’ll give you my opinions to help you decide what’s right for you.
What’s best about Kauai?
For sheer beauty, I choose Kauai. It’s a small island, but the Garden Isle is green. In fact, the wettest place on earth is on Kauai on Mount Waialeale (Wy-ah-lay-ah-lay). Its virtually impenetrable jungle has never been completely explored.
Waimea Canyon is a miniature Grand Canyon with hiking trails and cabins. The Na Pali Coast can be reached with overnight hiking or canoe. The whole island is a gem. www.gohawaii.com/kauai.
What’s best about the Big Island
Officially known as Hawaii Island, I’d choose it for drama. It sports two volcanoes (actually, all the islands are formed from volcanoes, but these two are spectacular and more recent). Mauna Kea is dormant and boasts astronomy observatories built and staffed by several nations.
Side cones of Mauna Loa have been dribbling lava many years, increasing the landmass as it explodes into the ocean. It has devoured several houses, but mostly it’s considered benign, moving slowly enough that people can get out of the way of the lava and avoid the noxious gases. The seismograph at Jagger Institute shows constant ground jiggles with an occasional bump over 3.0. www.gohawaii.com/big-island www.gohawaii.com/big-island
What’s best about Maui?
I enjoy watching Wheel of Fortune contestants dissolve into ecstasy when they win trips to Maui, and that island probably does offer all that the average tourist wants: the mountain Haleakala, Iao Valley, and beaches. Maui’s unique offering, though, is in the ocean: an abundance of humpback whales from November to May. They come to the islands to birth their calves. They raise them to be strong enough to swim back to Alaskan waters where they will grow fat. At Lahaina, several boats of various sizes are available to take tourists out on whale-watching tours, usually with informative docents. Some days, only a few whales are sighted. The day I went, I was blessed seeing mama whales and their calves, daddy whales breeching close to our boat, and youngsters leaping and diving under our boat, playing games with us. See www.gohawaii.com/Maui
What’s best about Oahu?
Before my husband and I moved here, we visited all the islands trying to choose where we wanted to buy a condo. While the other islands were beautiful, and each one had its own atmosphere, I preferred Oahu. www.gohawaii.com/oahu www.gohawaii.com/oahu
Don would have settled for any of them. Anything to get out of cold weather! Oh Oahu, we have more theaters, churches, nightlife, parades, and sports events than the other islands, and probably we have more musicians and hula dancers per capita than anywhere else in the world. There’s always something happening.
But they’re all good!
Every island has great beaches. Every island has more varieties of palm trees than you’ve ever heard of, flowers year-round, and a relaxed approach to life. When driving, put on your turn signal and within a car or two, someone will slow down and let you merge. Meanwhile, you’ll have a marvelous view and be only minutes away from the beach.
Of course, there’s a downside. Go to my next story, “Going to Hawaii? Here’s What’s Not-So-Good.”