If you’re planning a trip to the spectacular Hawaiian Islands for the first time, trying to figure out which island to visit can seem like an overwhelming task. Taking some time to research what each has to offer may result in the adventure of a lifetime you’ve always dreamed of.
There are six major islands that can be visited in Hawaii, but most head to one of the four more popular islands: Oahu, Hawaii, Maui or Kauai. Each is unique offering a distinct personality of its own, but your favorite will depend on what your idea of the perfect getaway is.
Kauai tends to be the most laid back of the islands, as the ultimate in a relaxing, tranquil destination while also answering the prayers of those who are seeking thrilling, adrenaline-filled activities. Known as the “Garden Isle,” it’s filled with lush, tropical rain forests, brilliant botanical gardens as well as some of Hawaii’s most picturesque white sand beaches.
The island is also home to the only navigable river in the state, Hanalei River, which can be explored by canoe or kayak – leading to one of Kauai’s hidden secrets, the breathtakingly beautiful “Secret Falls.”
If you enjoy spending your nights out on the town, Kauai is probably not the island for you. The island practically shuts down after sunset. It is for you if you’re all about the outdoors and stunning scenery.
Maui offers a good mix of daytime and nighttime action with your choice of accommodations that include the finest, upscale resorts. It also tends to be the most expensive of the islands to visit. While catering to the wealthy, there are still lodging options for everyone, including the budget conscious.
Some of the highlights here include the Road to Hana, a highway with some of the most stunning views on the planet that include numerous falls and emerald pools, an incredible variety of gorgeous beaches and the heavenly aroma of guava and ginger wafting through the air. Snorkeling at Molokini Crater is unsurpassed for underwater visibility, filled with thousands of tropical fish and marine animals along with a flourishing reef.
Foodies will love the variety of incredible foods found at Maui’s top eateries including grass-fed beef, fresh fish right off the boat and bountiful organic gardens that ensure the freshest, most delectable produce.
Maui is best for those who love to hike, spend time at the beach and enjoy dining on fine cuisine.
If you don’t mind crowds and want to enjoy plenty of nightlife, the choice is simple. Oahu offers the chance to visit trendy nightclubs and bars and experience live entertainment any night of the week. Waikiki Beach is where to go for people who want to see and be seen, while experiencing the center of energy in the Islands.
Airfare to Oahu is typically the cheapest and budget accommodations are easily found. If you hope to try your hand at surfing, there is no better place on the planet to try it; lessons guarantee you’ll be up on a board in minutes for just $40 an hour.
Hawaii, The Big Island
The Island of Hawaii, more often referred to as The Big Island, offers a little bit of what each island has to offer, from long white sand beaches, rain forests and waterfalls to colorful exotic flowers and brilliant birds. Here you’ll find a hiker’s paradise, the opportunity to become immersed in Hawaiian culture and plenty of wildlife including sea turtles, spinner dolphins and humpback whales in the winter.
While it’s difficult to come up with any drawbacks, flying directly to The Big Island is more expensive – it’s also the largest of the islands and with few gas stations it can be easy to run out of gas should you decide to venture too far without filling up.
K.C. Dermody is a freelance writer and a Featured Contributor for Travel. She has traveled to nearly all 50 states and many countries worldwide and has a passion for imparting what she has learned from her experiences to others.
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