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Which Islands for What? A Guide to the Most Popular Spots

So you’ve decided to head to Hawaii on your next trip. Excellent! Now the hard part begins. Which islands do you visit? Whether you ultimately decide on one, two or all of them, it can be a difficult process to go through, especially when you’re on a budget or have never been there. Here we offer up the most popular spots on each island and why it’s so popular. Hopefully this will help you plan your Hawaiian vacation.


As arguably the most popular island in the chain, Oahu features the famous Waikiki for surfing and Honolulu for shopping and nightlife. If you love being in the thick of things, bustling Oahu is your place. There’s something for everyone here to do, whether you want to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, Hanauma Bay, or the Bishop Museum. Of course, Honolulu is like any major city, so take advantage of all the tourist traps, shops, world-class dining, hotels and entertainment. If you visit the east coast, you will see some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. On the north shore, surfing is the name of the game in winter, with miles of shoreline to explore if you’d prefer to stay on the sand. In summer, the waters tend to be more calm here, perfect for small children. Honolulu is an hour away, so you can get plenty of respite and quiet on these beaches when you need it.


Coming second in terms of popularity is Maui, which is revered for its beaches and lush landscapes. Maui, like Oahu, is a bustling tourist area which can mean it’s quite busy year round. However, it also has the most to offer in terms of recreation for your family, including amazing snorkeling, diving, farm and garden tours, horseback riding, hiking, and helicopter flights. This is also where you’ll find many resort offerings such as tennis, golf and spas. Home to Lahaina, the Road to Hana in East Maui boasting bridges, waterfalls, and plantations, Haleakala National Park and Haleakala Crater which stands 10,000 feet tall in a majestic display of nature. The two main coasts are Ka’anapali/Kapalua at the west and Wailea/Kihei to the south.


For a quieter vacation, head to Kauai. While you’ll still get access to snorkeling, hiking and river ride trips, the atmosphere here is much more low-key. Natural wonders abound here, such as the Na Pali coastline featuring death-defying cliffs, Waimea Canyon and Poipu Beach. The lush rainforests here are gorgeous, but all that comes at a price: Kauai is a bit wetter than the other islands, but that’s part of the charm.

The Big Island

You won’t find miles of beaches here to stroll, but you will find Hawaii Volcanoes National Park featuring Kilauea Crater in the south, Hapuna Beach on the Kohala coast and Mauna Kea golfing. If you don’t get air sick, take a legendary helicopter flight soaring over the crater of this majestic volcano. There are plenty of scenic hikes to take and horseback trails to ride.

Make your Hawaii island vacation choice simple: visit them all!