Choosing the Best Island to Visit in Hawaii

Do you dream about visiting Hawaii but aren’t sure where to go? Keep scrolling to find out how to choose the best island to visit in Hawaii for your next trip!
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Hawaii is a beautiful place with amazing beaches, green scenery, and colorful culture. It’s made of different cool islands.

Each island offers its own special attractions and experiences, from the bustling city of Honolulu on Oahu to the peaceful landscapes of Molokai.

Choosing the best island to visit in Hawaii isn’t a one-size-fits-all decision – it depends on your personal interests and what you’re looking for in a vacation.

Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a history buff, or simply looking for relaxation, there’s an island in Hawaii that’s perfect for you.

In this blog post, we’ll help you discover which island is your ideal match based on your vacation goals.

What Are The Main Hawaiian Islands?


Oahu is often called the “Heart of Hawaii” and is the most visited island in the state. It’s a vibrant mix of natural beauty and modern conveniences, making it a great choice for first-time visitors to Hawaii.

The island is home to the state capital, Honolulu, where you can find a range of attractions, shopping, and nightlife options.

Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head

One of Oahu’s most famous landmarks is Waikiki Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand that is perfect for swimming, surfing, or just lounging in the sun. It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists and offers a variety of beach activities for all ages.

Nearby, you can visit the famous Diamond Head Crater for breathtaking views of the city and ocean.

Historical Sites

Oahu is also a hub for history enthusiasts. You can visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, where you can learn about the events of December 7, 1941, and the impact it had on the world.

Image of An American flag flys over the Arizona Memorial where the USS Arizona was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Oahu Hawaii.
USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor on Oahu.

The USS Arizona Memorial, USS Battleship Missouri, and other sites provide a moving experience for those interested in history.

Shopping and Nightlife

Shopping on Oahu is a delight, with everything from luxury brands in the Ala Moana Center to unique local shops in the historic Chinatown district.

In the evening, the island comes alive with a range of nightlife options, including lively bars, nightclubs, and live music venues.

Oahu offers a diverse range of experiences and is a great choice for first-time visitors, beachgoers, history buffs, shoppers, and those looking for a lively nightlife scene.

With its blend of natural beauty and modern amenities, Oahu has something for everyone.


Maui, known as the “Valley Isle,” is the second-largest island in Hawaii and is famous for its diverse landscapes and laid-back vibe.

It’s a fantastic destination for nature lovers, couples looking for a romantic getaway, and those interested in scenic drives and water sports.

Haleakala National Park

The island is home to the majestic Haleakalā National Park, where you can watch the sunrise from the summit of the dormant Haleakalā volcano.

Image of Beautiful sunrise scene  on  Haleakala volcano, Maui island, Hawaii
Haleakala is a popular Maui sunrise spot.

The park is a haven for nature lovers, offering beautiful hiking trails through diverse ecosystems, from lush rainforests to volcanic landscapes. It’s also a great place to see native Hawaiian plants and animals.

Romantic Getaway

Maui is a prime destination for romantic getaways, with stunning beaches, luxurious resorts, and breathtaking sunsets.

Couples can enjoy a romantic dinner by the ocean or take a scenic drive along the famous Road to Hana, a winding road that offers stunning views of waterfalls, rainforests, and dramatic cliffs.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Water sports enthusiasts will find plenty to do on Maui, from snorkeling and scuba diving to surfing and paddleboarding.

The island’s crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life make it a perfect destination for underwater adventures.

Popular snorkeling spots include the Molokini Crater and Turtle Town, where you can swim with sea turtles.

If you’re looking for a scenic drive, the Hana Highway offers a breathtaking journey through Maui’s lush rainforests, past waterfalls, and along the rugged coastline.

With its diverse natural beauty and romantic atmosphere, Maui is an excellent choice for nature lovers, couples, and those interested in scenic drives and water sports.

Big Island

The Big Island, also known as Hawaii Island, is the largest and most diverse of the Hawaiian islands.

It offers a unique blend of landscapes and attractions that make it a top destination for adventure seekers, volcano enthusiasts, stargazers, and those interested in exploring unique landscapes.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

One of the Big Island’s main attractions is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to two active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

Image of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at sunset
Check out an active volcano on the Big Island.

Visitors can explore the park’s lava fields, steam vents, and volcanic craters, and even witness the stunning spectacle of molten lava flowing into the ocean. This park is a must-visit for anyone interested in volcanoes and the raw power of nature.

Stargazing at Mauna Kea

For stargazing enthusiasts, the Big Island is home to Mauna Kea, one of the best places on Earth to observe the night sky. The mountain’s high altitude and clear, dry air make it an ideal spot for astronomy.

You can visit the Mauna Kea Observatory to get a closer look at the stars and learn more about the universe.

Diverse Landscapes

The Big Island also offers a wide range of landscapes, from lush rainforests and waterfalls in the Hilo region to the black sand beaches of Punalu’u and the stunning Waipio Valley.

Adventure seekers can explore the island’s diverse terrains through hiking, snorkeling, and horseback riding.

The Big Island’s unique combination of volcanic landscapes, clear night skies, and diverse natural beauty makes it an excellent choice for adventure seekers, volcano enthusiasts, stargazers, and those interested in exploring one-of-a-kind landscapes.

Whether you’re hiking through lava fields or gazing at the stars, the Big Island offers unforgettable experiences for every type of traveler.


Kauai, often referred to as the “Garden Isle,” is a paradise for nature lovers, hikers, and those seeking stunning scenery and tranquility.

With its lush landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and pristine beaches, Kauai offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Na Pali Coast

One of Kauai’s most iconic attractions is the Nā Pali Coast, a rugged coastline featuring towering cliffs, hidden beaches, and cascading waterfalls.

Image of Beautiful aerial view of spectacular Na Pali coast, Kauai, Hawaii
The Na Pali Coast can be experienced via boat, foot, or helicopter.

Hikers can explore the area on the challenging Kalalau Trail or take a boat tour to witness the coast’s breathtaking beauty from the water.

Waimea Canyon

Another popular hiking destination is Waimea Canyon, known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” This impressive canyon features colorful rock formations, lush vegetation, and stunning vistas, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.

Outdoor Activities

In addition to its natural beauty, Kauai offers numerous outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. You can kayak along the Wailua River, snorkel in the crystal-clear waters of Poipu Beach, or explore the island’s hidden caves and waterfalls.

Kauai is also home to several botanical gardens, where you can immerse yourself in the island’s lush vegetation and tropical flora.

Kauai’s laid-back atmosphere and stunning natural beauty make it the perfect destination for hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, and those seeking tranquility.

Whether you’re exploring the Nā Pali Coast, hiking in Waimea Canyon, or simply relaxing on the beach, Kauai offers a peaceful escape from the demands of modern life.

Come discover the Garden Isle’s unique charm and experience the serene beauty of Kauai.


Molokai, often referred to as “The Friendly Isle,” offers visitors an authentic Hawaiian experience and a chance to truly connect with the culture and spirit of Hawaii.

Molokai is the fifth-largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago and is known for its untouched natural beauty, rich cultural history, and warm hospitality.

Cultural Sites

Molokai is home to some of the most significant cultural sites in Hawaii.

The Kalaupapa National Historical Park preserves the history of the leper colony that once existed on the island, offering a glimpse into a unique chapter of Hawaiian history.

The Halawa Valley, with its stunning waterfalls and lush vegetation, is one of the oldest inhabited areas in Hawaii, with a rich cultural heritage dating back over a thousand years.

Natural Wonders

One of Molokai’s most unique attractions is Papohaku Beach, one of the largest white-sand beaches in Hawaii. With its three miles of pristine shoreline, this beach is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the island’s natural beauty.

Molokai is also home to the Kamakou Preserve, a nature reserve that protects rare and endangered Hawaiian plants and offers stunning views of the island’s landscapes.

If you’re looking for a truly authentic Hawaiian experience, Molokai is the island for you.

Its rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and relaxed atmosphere make it the perfect destination for cultural experiences, a taste of authentic Hawaiian life, and a chance to unwind and relax.

Discover the charm of Molokai and immerse yourself in the spirit of aloha.


Lanai, known as the “Pineapple Island,” is a tropical paradise offering a unique and luxurious experience for visitors.

As the smallest inhabited Hawaiian island, Lanai boasts an exclusive and intimate atmosphere, making it the perfect destination for travelers seeking luxury, secluded beaches, and upscale resorts.

Hulopoe Bay

One of the top attractions on Lanai is Hulopoe Bay, a picturesque beach with crystal-clear waters, perfect for snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing.

The bay is home to vibrant marine life, including spinner dolphins and colorful tropical fish, offering an unforgettable snorkeling experience.

Luxury Resorts

Lanai is also famous for its upscale resorts, such as the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, where visitors can indulge in world-class amenities, including oceanfront dining, luxurious spa treatments, and championship golf courses.

The island’s natural beauty complements the resort experience, with scenic landscapes ranging from lush forests to volcanic formations.

Exploring Nature

For a unique and memorable adventure, take a ride on the Munro Trail, a 12.8-mile dirt road offering panoramic views of neighboring islands, lush valleys, and the island’s highest peak, Lanaihale.

Image of two women standing in the Garden of the Gods on Lanai
Garden of the Gods on Lanai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Along the trail, visitors can explore the Garden of the Gods, a stunning rock garden with otherworldly red rock formations.

Lanai is an excellent destination for luxury seekers, offering a secluded and tranquil atmosphere paired with top-tier amenities and breathtaking natural beauty.

With its pristine beaches, luxurious resorts, and unique attractions, Lanai provides a one-of-a-kind Hawaiian experience for travelers looking for an exclusive and indulgent escape.

Island Hopping in Hawaii

Island hopping in Hawaii is a fantastic way to explore the unique beauty and culture of each island.

With various options for inter-island travel and a little bit of planning, you can easily visit multiple islands during your Hawaiian vacation.

Options for Exploring Other Islands

The most common way to island-hop in Hawaii is by taking a short flight. Several airlines, such as Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest Airlines, offer frequent inter-island flights.

These flights are relatively short, usually lasting around 30 minutes to an hour. Be sure to book your flights in advance, as prices can rise closer to the departure date.

Another option for inter-island travel is by ferry. Currently, the only active ferry service is between Maui and Lanai. The ferry ride takes about 45 minutes and offers scenic views of the ocean and the islands.

Tips for Planning Your Multi-Island Vacation

Decide Which Hawaii Islands to Visit

Each Hawaiian island has its unique charm and attractions.

Oahu is famous for its iconic Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor. Maui offers scenic drives and romantic getaways.

The Big Island has active volcanoes and stargazing opportunities. Kauai is known for its stunning scenery and hiking trails. Molokai provides authentic cultural experiences, and Lanai is a haven for luxury seekers.

Decide which islands align with your interests and vacation goals.

Determine the Length of Your Stay

Depending on the time you have, you may want to spend a few days on each island. Generally, a stay of three to four days per island is recommended to experience the main attractions and relax.

Book Your Flights or Ferry Tickets

Once you’ve decided on the islands and the length of stay, book your inter-island travel. Don’t forget to consider the time it takes to check in, pass through security, and wait for boarding when planning your itinerary.

Plan Your Accommodations

Book accommodations on each island you’ll be visiting. Consider staying near the main attractions or in areas that provide easy access to transportation.

Rent a Car if Necessary

Public transportation options may be limited on some islands, so renting a car can be a convenient way to explore the islands at your own pace. Make reservations in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.

Create an Itinerary

Plan your activities and excursions for each island. Prioritize must-see attractions and leave room for spontaneous adventures. Remember to account for travel time between islands and activities.

The easiest way to do this is by grabbing one of my 7-day itineraries for Oahu, Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island.

Pack Light and Smart

Packing light makes it easier to move between islands. Consider using a carry-on bag and packing versatile clothing that can be worn for different activities.

Island hopping in Hawaii is an exciting way to experience the diversity and beauty of the Hawaiian islands.

With careful planning and consideration of your interests, you can enjoy a memorable multi-island vacation that will provide a lifetime of cherished memories.

How to Pick the Best Hawaiian Island

Choosing the best Hawaiian island to visit may seem like a daunting task, considering the unique beauty and attractions of each island.

However, a few factors can help you narrow down your options and select the perfect destination for your Hawaiian vacation.

Your Hawaii Budget

One of the first things to consider is your budget. Each island has a range of accommodations, dining options, and activities to fit various budgets.

Oahu and the Big Island generally offer more affordable options, while Maui, Kauai, Lanai, and Molokai can be pricier.

Remember to factor in costs like inter-island flights or ferry rides, car rentals, and excursions.

How Long to Stay in Hawaii

How long you plan to stay in Hawaii can also impact your decision.

If you have a week or less, it may be best to stick to one or two islands to avoid feeling rushed. For longer stays, you might consider exploring multiple islands.

Allocate at least three to four days per island to fully enjoy the attractions and have some downtime.

Preferred Activities

Consider what you want to do during your vacation.

If you’re a beach lover, any Hawaiian island will do, but Oahu’s Waikiki Beach and Maui’s Kaanapali Beach are particularly popular.

For history enthusiasts, Oahu’s Pearl Harbor National Memorial is a must-visit.

Nature lovers may prefer the Big Island’s Volcanoes National Park or Kauai’s Waimea Canyon.

If you’re seeking a romantic getaway, the scenic drives on Maui or the secluded beaches of Lanai could be ideal.

Hawaii Attractions and Events

Research specific attractions and events on each island. Festivals, cultural performances, and seasonal activities can enhance your vacation experience.

For example, the Merrie Monarch Festival on the Big Island is a significant cultural event showcasing traditional Hawaiian hula. On Maui, the annual Whale Festival celebrates the return of humpback whales to Hawaiian waters.


Consider the ease of getting to and around the islands.

Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai have major airports with direct flights from the US mainland. Lanai and Molokai can be reached via inter-island flights or, in the case of Lanai, by ferry from Maui.

Once on the islands, public transportation options may be limited, so renting a car might be necessary for exploring.


Each Hawaiian island has its own vibe. Oahu is more bustling and cosmopolitan, with a mix of natural beauty and city life. Maui offers a balance of relaxation and adventure.

The Big Island is diverse, with volcanoes, waterfalls, and beaches. Kauai is lush and serene, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. Molokai is more laid-back and authentically Hawaiian, while Lanai offers luxury and seclusion.

Where to Stay in Hawaii

Think about where you’d like to stay. Each island has a range of accommodations, from budget-friendly hotels to luxury resorts. Consider the location, amenities, and proximity to attractions when booking your stay.

When choosing the best Hawaiian island to visit, it ultimately comes down to your preferences, interests, and budget.

By considering these factors and doing some research, you’ll be well on your way to planning the perfect Hawaiian vacation that suits your needs and offers unforgettable experiences.

Best Island to Visit in Hawaii FAQs

Is it worth visiting Oahu’s North Shore?

Yes, visiting Oahu’s North Shore is definitely worth it, as it is renowned for its world-class surfing, beautiful beaches, and laid-back atmosphere.

Can you swim with Hawaiian green sea turtles?

While you can snorkel and swim near Hawaiian green sea turtles, it is illegal to touch, harass, or chase them, as they are a protected species.

What can I do in North Shore Kauai?

In North Shore Kauai, you can explore scenic hiking trails, visit beautiful beaches like Hanalei Bay, and discover the stunning Na Pali Coast.

What are the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii?

Some of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii include Lanikai Beach on Oahu, Wailea Beach on Maui, Hapuna Beach on the Big Island, and Hanalei Bay on Kauai.

When can I go whale watching in Hawaii?

Whale watching in Hawaii is best from December to April, when humpback whales migrate to the islands’ warm waters to breed and give birth.

Where can I find a black sand beach in Hawaii?

You can find a black sand beach at Punalu’u Beach on the Big Island, formed by the interaction of hot lava and cold ocean water.

Are there snow-capped mountains in Hawaii?

Yes, there are snow-capped mountains in Hawaii, such as Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island, where snow can be seen at higher elevations during the winter months.

Where is the Polynesian Cultural Center?

The Polynesian Cultural Center is located on the North Shore of Oahu in Laie, showcasing the cultures of Polynesia through performances, exhibits, and interactive experiences.

Is there a national park in Hawaii?

Yes, there are several national parks in Hawaii, including Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island and Haleakalā National Park on Maui.

Best Hawaiian Island Worth Visiting Wrap Up

Each Hawaiian island has its own unique charm and attractions, making it a dream destination for many travelers.

Whether you’re seeking adventure on the Big Island, tranquility in Kauai, or a mix of culture and luxury on Oahu, there’s something for everyone in Hawaii.

Consider your interests, budget, and travel goals as you choose the island that’s perfect for you.

We hope this blog post has helped you understand the distinctive offerings of each island, and we encourage you to explore and create your ideal Hawaiian vacation. Aloha!

Looking for more Hawaii travel resources? Check out my tips for visiting Hawaii for the first time, the best time to visit Hawaii, the top attractions in Hawaii, and how to plan a trip to Hawaii!

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