When we first looked at going to Hawaii on vacation, I wasn’t sold. I don’t like big resorts, fancy shops, feeling like a tourist or just sitting on a beach.
My preconceptions of Hawaii could not have been more wrong. Yes, there are lots of huge resorts and beaches to while away entire week-long vacations on. But Hawaii offers so much more.
Whether you want to hike, scuba dive, snorkel, compete in an Iron Man challenge, eat and drink your way around the islands or just sit on the aforementioned beach, Hawaii really does have something for everyone!
Of course, Hawaii has eight islands, and here I only mention the main four; Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and Hawaii. I hope to be able to add Lanai and Molokai on here at some point, but for now here are my tips for deciding which easily-accessible-from-the-mainland Hawaiian island you should visit!
Hawaii (Big Island)
Hawaii is probably the best island for intrepid adventurers. Where else can you stargaze, night-dive with majestic manta rays, hike on a live volcano or witness lava pouring into the ocean? In my experience, Hawaii also offers the most affordable accommodation options and range of island-grown produce (such as Kona coffee, Kona Brewing Company Beer, and pasture-raised beef).
To find out more, read my posts about Volcano’s National Park or snorkeling with manta rays!
Go to Hawaii if you like: Hiking, National Parks, nature, snorkeling, volcanoes!
Maui is a dream honeymoon destination. Stunning resorts lining white-sand beaches dot the coastlines, complete with infinity pools, spas, and award-winning restaurants. Although it would be easy to spend an entire trip to Maui becoming a dedicated beach bum, the island also offers one of the world’s most incredible one-day drives (The Road to Hana) and the opportunity to snorkel with sea turtles.
To find out more about what Maui has to offer, read my blog posts about Bitters & Bites at the Andaz and The Road to Hana.
Go to Maui if you like: Luxury resorts, diving, surfing, bodyboarding, beaches, snorkeling, wine & cocktails
World-famous Waikiki Beach needs no introduction. Everything here is bold, beachy, and big. Resorts are enormous. Designer shops flank the huge boulevards that run parallel to Waikiki Beach. Of course, the size of Honolulu and Waikiki beach means that the options for dining, drinking, and entertainment are second to none in Hawaii. The surf on the North Shore is also some of the best in the world.
Read more about my Waikiki Beach stay here.
Go to Oahu if you like: Huge resorts, lots of shopping, fine dining, surfing
I saved the best for last. Personally, my favorite island is Kauai. Perhaps it’s because it was also the first island I visited in Hawaii, but it could also be its dramatic beauty, stunning beaches, rugged scenery or the fact you feel like you’re in a movie set wherever on the island you end up (and chances are, you will be).
My highlights on Kauai included a helicopter ride, cycling Wailea Canyon, and hiking the Napali Coast, which you can read about here.
Go to Kaui if you like: Peaceful resorts, hiking, nature, relaxed menus
On both of my visits to Hawaii so far, I have visited two islands each time. If it’s possible (it might not be, due to time or budget constraints) I highly recommend doing this as each island has a different vibe and different reasons to visit! None will disappoint!
If you really can only visit one island (unless you have a strong desire to do an activity that is only available on one island, such as hiking on an active volcano, snorkeling with manta rays or hiking the Napali Coast), in my opinion Maui is the one that has a little bit of everything.
Maui allows you to experience amazing beaches and fancy restaurants (in Wailea), drive the wild and rugged Road to Hana, snorkel with sea turtles on amazing beaches, experience laid-back local Hawaii in Haiku, and see the stars from the top of Haleakala.
Wherever you end up in Hawaii, a good time is almost guaranteed!