July 15, 2020 Last updated October 25th, 2021 2,429 Reads share

Which Hawaiian Island Should You Visit?

Image Credit: DepositPhotos

Thanks to software developers like those at BairesDev, numerous apps can help you get along in Hawaii. DaBus2 provides accurate transportation information, Hawaii Revealed offers no-nonsense reviews, and Hawaii Happy Hours tells you where and when to get the best deals on food and drinks.

But no app can tell you in advance which Hawaiian island you might like best. Each one is delightful in its own way but they’re all different. If a tropical trip sounds great to you right about now, review the following considerations before flying off to your perfect island destination.


Known as The Big Island, Hawai’i is the largest and newest of the islands. It contains ten of the world’s 14 microclimates. The area of all the other islands combined would fill less than half its landmass, but Hawai’i is home to only 13% of the state’s population. On this island, you can find a range of places to stay, from large resorts to eco-friendly B&Bs.

Things to See and Do:

  • Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with its two active volcanoes, Kilauea (which started erupting in 1983) and Mauna Loa (the largest subaerial volcano in the world)
  • Explore waterfalls, rainforests, and botanical gardens near Hilo
  • Snorkel and dive with manta rays off Kona
  • Stargaze at Mauna Kea Observatories
  • Indulge in modern takes on classic Hawaii cuisine at beachhouse at the moana which currently serves a three- or four-course menu with a variety of choices for each.

Consider Hawai’i if you’re an outdoorsy adventure traveler interested in wildlife and a variety of landscapes. Keep in mind that Hawai’i is big, so it can take a long time to get around the island.


The Valley Isle, as Maui is known, is the second largest and second most visited island. Volcanoes at its center block rain, making the west side dry and barren. The east side, in contrast, is lush and filled with waterfalls. You can choose from many resorts, hotels, condos, and home rentals.

Things to See and Do:

  • Snorkel with sea turtles among lava arches in Molokini Crater
  • Drive the famous Road to Hana, a narrow winding coastal route taking you past red and black sand beaches, bamboo forests, and dozens of waterfalls
  • Take a whale watching trip to see humpbacks migrating from Alaska to mate and give birth
  • Spend the day golfing, shopping, or at a spa in the major resort areas

Maui is a great choice for adventure seekers, honeymooners, and families with kids. While the island is less crowded than O’ahu, you’ll still find many tourists there.


O’ahu, known as The Gathering Place, is the most visited of the islands, receiving almost half of all annual tourists. It is home to the capital and largest city, Honolulu, as well as the majority of the state’s population. You can stay at big resorts or smaller vacation rentals, though there are no major accommodations on the eastern coast.

Things to See and Do:

  • Tour the Pearl Harbor museum and memorial, one of the most visited historic sites in the world
  • Enjoy big city nightlife or a luau with hula and fire dancers
  • Check out shopping, dining, theaters, and concerts in Honolulu
  • Go surfing on the North Shore, the legendary birthplace of big wave surfing

O’ahu is a good fit if you love big cities and want a mix of action and relaxation. It also works well for travelers on a budget. If you don’t like big crowds of tourists, O’ahu may not be a good choice for you.


The oldest and northernmost of the islands, Kaua’i is home to Waialeale, the second wettest spot on the planet. On this island, known as The Garden Isle, only 20% of the area is accessible by foot or road, while 80% is dense jungle, rugged cliffs, and mountain peaks. You can choose from many different hotels and resorts.

Things to See and Do:

  • Check out lookout points and hiking trails in Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”
  • See albatrosses and red boobies at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
  • Enjoy water activities at Hanalei Bay

You’ll enjoy Kaua’i if you’re a nature lover, birdwatcher, hiker, or beach bum, though getting to the sights can be somewhat challenging.


Moloka’i, known as The Friendly Isle, is home to mostly Native Hawaiians. So, it can give you a more authentic Hawaiian experience, with a slower pace and no high-rise hotels or big resorts. In fact, there are no brand accommodations.

Things to See and Do:

  • Visit Kalaupapa National Historical Park, the former leper colony founded by Saint Damian in 1873
  • Take a guided hike through Halawa Valley to see ancient temples and waterfalls

If you’re an outdoorsy traveler who enjoys both natural and cultural sights, Moloka’i is a good choice. Be ready to forego a lot of infrastructure and organized tours.


Lana’i, with only 3,100 residents, is the driest of the islands. Known as The Pineapple Isle, it was the largest pineapple plantation in the world for most of the 20th century. Now it is primarily owned by billionaire Larry Ellison, and the only places to stay are two luxury resorts.

Things to See and Do:

  • Explore Kaunolu, a sacred place with remains of shrines and petroglyphs
  • Snorkel and free dive at Pu’u Pehe Beach and tide pools

Lana’i is for you if you want remote beaches and have the money to spend on a luxury resort, though you can also visit as a day trip from Maui. Most roads on Lana’i are unpaved and require a jeep.

Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe

These two islands are off-limits for tourist stays. You can take a helicopter ride to Ni’ihau, which has a few residents but no roads, stores, or electricity. Kaho’olawe has no residents due to a lack of fresh water, but you can apply to volunteer on a restoration project there.

In Summary

If you give some thought to what you want from your Hawaiian vacation, whether it’s snorkeling and surfing, shopping and dining, or hiking and whale watching, you’ll be able to pick the perfect island for you.

Oahu, Hawaii -DepositPhotos

Malcom Rogers

Malcom Rogers

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