** going to Oahu? Save on Activities Here! or read my review
Which Hawaiian Island should you Visit?
and What are the Best Places to Visit in Hawaii?
Or keep reading for the answers to all your questions!
Hawaii might be a small state, but there’s still a lot to see and do on a too-short vacation.
Let me help you decided which island to visit for first-timers and for return visitors. Your best vacation ever starts here!
The Best Island in Hawaii – Lisa’s opinion on Which Hawaiian Island to Visit
My favorite islands to visit are in this order
Oahu – my favorite island even though it is over-crowded Maui – great all around island Kauai – very pretty and relaxing Big Island – exciting … but very big
Now those are my favorite islands – would they be right for you? Maybe …
People keep asking for me to recommend an island that they should visit – which one I think is the best for them. If I know a little about what they want from Hawaii, sometimes I can do it.
First, let me say there is no best Hawaii island, because each island is awesome in it’s own way. However, there are features on each island that can better match what you want or don’t want.
For example, if someone is really on a tight budget, I like to recommend Oahu, because Oahu is the best island to save money on. Or, if someone really wants to see the volcano, well they have to hit the Big Island, because that’s where it is.
Or, if someone wants an ultra-relaxing, not too many people around, lay on fantastic beaches all day vacation, then I would say Kauai or maybe even Molokai. If someone just wants a fantastic island experience but wants to avoid the crowds, then maybe they should consider Maui.
Visiting Hawaii for the First Time? Where Should You Go?
I like to recommend Oahu for a first time vacation to Hawaii. HOWEVER, Oahu is a very crowded island compared to the other islands and if that worries you, pick another island. Refer back to my favorite islands to visit here.
I like to recommend Oahu because I personally really like Oahu. I like Waikiki, I like the beaches, I like visiting Pearl Harbor, I like the waterpark, I like the hotels, I like how much money you can save on Oahu.
One reason I like to recommend Oahu is because I think that most people would recognize Oahu as what they think of when they think of Hawaii. Oahu is the most popular island to visit so the most pictures have been taken of Oahu and the most movies have been shot on Oahu. Almost everyone recognizes Waikiki beach, Diamond head, and the Arizona Memorial, even if they’ve never been there.
Another reason I like to recommend Oahu is because that’s where Pearl Harbor is, that’s where the North Shore is, that’s where Waikiki beach is, and that’s where a lot of the action and history of Hawaii is. If you’ve been to Hawaii, but you haven’t been to Oahu, you’re missing something.
One more reason I really like to recommend Oahu is because the island really is beautiful. The beaches are extraordinary; Waikiki beach, Lanikai beach, Kailua Beach, Waimanalo beach – these are truly amazing beaches. And, the hiking and the waterfalls are also amazing. Oahu is rivaled only by Kauai for the best hiking in Hawaii, in my opinion.
An older reason that I used to recommend Oahu was because it was the hub and in order to get to any other island you had to travel through Oahu. This is no longer the case. Now there are flights to most airports in Hawaii from the mainland . Sometimes it even costs less to fly to another island than to fly to Oahu. 10 years ago that was never the case.
Best Place and Places to Visit and See in Hawaii
Wow this is really a hard one – it’s super hard to pick the absolute best place in Hawaii because Hawaii is more than just a place. It’s an experience. It’s a collection of fabulous places to see plus amazing beaches and fantastic weather and great water activities.
However, if I had to pick just one place I would pick Waikiki Beach.
A lot of people would probably disagree with me but I love Waikiki beach. I think it’s amazing an amazing place. It can be super crowded and still be super fun. Waikiki beach is on Oahu.
Some of the other best places on Oahu are
- Pearl Harbor (history)
- anywhere sailHawaii.com goes (wild dolphin swim)
- the North Shore (big waves in winter, awesome snorkeling in summer)
- Manoa Falls (super easy rewarding tropical waterfall hike)
- any Waikiki Sunset sail (amazing sunsets – rival any in the world)
- Hanauma Bay (underwater nature preserve)
More best places in Hawaii on the other islands are
the lava flow on the big island
Puako on the big island (great snorkeling and scuba, great spot for a vacation rental)
Kealakekua Bay on the big island (underwater nature preserve)
Kaanapali beach on Maui (awesome beach – like a picture)
Hana and the road to Hana on Maui
Molokini crater on Maui
the Na Pali coast on Kauai
any beach on Kauai (seriously, kauai beaches are amazing)
Hawaii Island Differences
There are 7 major Hawaiian islands: These islands are all similar in that they are volcanic in origin, and generally have the same tropical temperatures with cooling ocean breezes and more rain on one side of the island, plus hot, dry weather on the other side.
But each island is very different in what it offers and how a vacation would be on it. Let me share what each island is most famous for and what makes it different from the other islands
Oahu – The Gathering place
Some famous places on Oahu are Honolulu, Waikiki beach, Pearl Harbor, the North Shore, and the Polynesian Cultural Center. Oahu is best known because its high population and very developed cities allow the island to offer many different sights, attractions, and cultural shows.
Oahu was the first island to develop tourism as an industry. About a million people live on Oahu and about 5 million visit Oahu each year. This can make the island a little crowded but it makes up for that with the sheer amount of choices of attractions for you to visit, from water sports to nature to restaurants to exhibits.
Oahu is a good choice for you if you don’t mind a lot of people and some traffic in order to be able to experience almost everything Hawaii has to offer on one island. More about Oahu
Kauai – The Garden Isle
Some famous places on Kauai are Lihue, the Na Pali coast, Waimea Canyon, and Hanalei Bay. Kauai is best known for its very beautiful and lush green valleys and the rugged, unspoiled Na Pali coastline.
About 70,000 people live on Kauai and about 1 million visit there each year. Kauai has really good beaches and plenty of watersports with a lot of local culture mixed in.
Kauai is a good choice for you if you want to see Hawaii at its greenest and prettiest but still want plenty of conveniences … like a fancy restaurant right around the corner.
Maui – The Valley Isle
Some famous places on Maui are Kahalui and Lahaina, Haleakala (a volcanic crater), and the road to Hana (and Hana itself). Maui is best known for its whale watching and its beaches.
About 100,000 people live on Maui and a little over 2 million visit each year. Maui is second only to Oahu with how many people visit each year and it is a very popular vacation spot for college students – so there may be a little partying going on around you -and the island balances this with great beaches, spectacular views, and a lot of nature attractions.
Maui is a good choice for you if you want a good balance of the beauty of Hawaii with the conveniences of the cities and don’t mind sharing the beach with a few people.
Hawaii – The Big Island
Some famous places on the Big Island are Kona and Hilo, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the active Kilauea Volcano, South Point, and Mauna Kea (a mountain that gets snow in the winter).
The island of Hawaii is mostly called “the Big Island” and is best known for its active volcano and its black sand beaches. About 140,000 people live on the Big Island and a little over a million visit each year. The Big Island has 11 different climates and three different colored sandy beaches (green, black, white).
The Big Island is a good choice for you if you want to really get into nature and see Hawaii at its newest without a lot of other people around – and if you don’t mind driving.
Molokai – The Friendly Isle
Some famous places on Molokai are Kauanakakai, Halawa beach park, and Molokai ranch. Molokai is best known for Kalaupapa (the leper colony) and Father Damien’s work there.
About 7,000 people live on Molokai and about 80,000 people visit there a year. Molokai is quiet, small, peaceful, and relaxing. It has long, empty, sandy beaches and pretty forests.
Molokai is a good choice for you if you want to get away from the rest of the world and relax all day long on the beaches or the golf courses.
Lanai – The Private Isle
Some famous places on Lanai are Shipwreck beach, the Garden of the Gods, and Manele Bay. Lanai is best known for its solitude. About 3,000 people live on Lanai and about 100,000 visit each year.
The only accommodations on Lanai are two Luxury Hotels … one on the ocean, and one on the mountain. You can hang out on the beach all day, or hike or golf without seeing hardly another person. Bill Gates rented the entire island for his wedding in 1994 for exactly that reason.
Lanai is a good choice for you if you are not on a budget and want a lot of peace and quiet.
Niihau – The forbidden Isle
Niihau is a small, privately-owned island with a population of about 300 Hawaiians. No one is allowed to visit unless they are invited by someone who lives there.
Unfortunately, in describing the physical attributes of the islands I neglected mentioning the people who live there. Once you visit you will see the spirit of Aloha that is shown by the residents of Hawaii and the fascinating Polynesian culture are two of the things that always draw visitors back to Hawaii.
When planning a trip to Hawaii, you can’t go wrong with any island, but if you research and choose an island according to your tastes, you can increase your enjoyment of Hawaii. I would also suggest visiting no more than 2 islands in a 7 day period to allow you to experience the most of each island.
Personally, I wouldn’t visit more than one island in 7 days if you can help it. All that packing and flying time can really eat into beach and relaxing time.
Some simple facts for all the islands:
The Nicest and Prettiest Hawaii Island, Hands Down
This one’s easy for me – the prettiest island is Kauai. Many people would probably say that Maui is the nicest island. I think Maui is nice – I like Maui, but I think Kauai is definitely prettier. Kauai is like nothing you’ve ever seen. Inland is very green and lush with sculpted mountains. The edges of the island are all long white beaches. It’s a beautiful place. Hard to describe, you just need to visit.
Which Hawaiian Island is the Cheapest?
This is also another very easy one for me. Oahu is the cheapest island easily. There are tons of hotels and they all compete with each other so you get lots of good deals on hotel rooms. There are also many activities that are competing with each other for your dollars.
This means that things like surf lessons are going to be the easiest to find and the absolute cheapest on Oahu. Boats too – just walk onto Waikiki beach and there’s a catamaran that you could take within an hour to two hours notice (and it’s going to be the least expensive boat sail in all of Hawaii – last time I checked it was $25) or surf lessons you could probably sign-up for within 15 minutes and pay half of what you would on another island. That’s Waikiki beach and it’s awesome.
The Hawaii entertainment book coupons are for all of the islands but most of them are for Oahu – probably something like 80%. The two-for-one deals practically guarantee that you could save 50% on all your food expenses and any of your activity expenses if there are is more than one of you going.
What is the Best Island for Families?
This is a hard one. I would say Oahu is a good place for her families with older kids that want to take surfing lessons or parasail or activities like that. I would say Maui is also good for families -I like the marriott in wailea – thats a good family hotel. The Hilton Waikoloa on the Big Island is an amazing hotel that is really good for families too.
I love the Hilton Waikoloa and when we lived out the big island we would stay there every couple of months both before we had kids and after. However other than that the big island is not great for kids because it’s so big it there is a lot of driving it all. To get from the Waikoloa to the lava flow takes two hours. Kauai can also be good for families because they have some nice playgrounds and beach parks that are set up for smaller kids.
So, I guess I would say any island would be good for families at people coming with kids – you just have to decide what you want in an island before you go and then see if you could find a good hotel that meets your needs on the island.
That’s how I like to recommend that you decide on an island anyway – decide what you want out of your vacation first, then choose the island based on that.
Which Island Has the active volcano?
The big island has the active volcano – it is called Kilauea volcano and it is on the Hilo side. The Hawaii Volcanoes national Park is in the middle of the island between Hilo and Kona. The lava flow is sometimes within the national Park and sometimes not.
What is the Best City to Visit In Hawaii?
Everybody has a different opinion on what is the best city to visit Hawaii. My first choice would be Waikiki. My second choice would be a tie between Lahaina on Maui, and Kona on the Big Island.
If you want to know what the strangest, most interesting cities are in Hawaii, then I pick Pahoa on the Big Island and Paia on Maui.
What is the Most Romantic Hawaii Island for Couples?
The most romantic Hawaii Island is probably either Maui or Kauai. Oahu is also good and the Big Island is also good but I think I would pick Maui or Kauai over either one of these.