Hey there, traveler! Planning to visit the marvelous islands of Hawaii but don’t know where to go and where to start?
While most people think Hawaii is one large island, Hawaii is made up of five main islands and one smaller one: Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Hawaii (Big Island), Molokai, and Lanai.
Find out which island is best for you and your trip, or plan out an itinerary if you’d like to go island hopping on the spectacular and iconic Hawaiian Islands.
- Oahu — The Heart Of Hawaii
- Kauai — The Garden Island
- Maui — The Beverly Hills Island
- Hawaii — The Big Island
- Two Smaller Islands — Molokai And Lanai
Oahu — The Heart Of Hawaii
Harboring Hawaii’s capital city, Honolulu, the island of Oahu is best known as the “Gathering Place” and “Heart of Hawaii.” You won’t run out of things to do during your vacation on this island as it is a hotspot for shopping, dining, nightlife, and surfing – without breaking the bank.
The east side of the island is home to pristine and gorgeous beaches which offer a stunning view of the Mokulua Islands and their crystal clear waters. Here, outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike can partake in activities such as kayaking and exploring the twin islands off the coast of Lanikai Beach or heading to the town of Kailua for shopping and dining.
Meanwhile, the north shore boasts the famous and renowned surf break, Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and Turtle Bay. With a relaxing atmosphere perfect for a weekend retreat, the north side of Oahu is filled with waterfall hikes and lush scenery. Don’t forget to stop by the quaint village of Haleiwa, famed for the best shaved ice in all of Hawaii.
The west shore’s coasts lined with resorts and shopping centers are the best place to visit if you’re looking for some solitary downtime. Drop by at the Ko Olina for some golf, go for a swim at one of its beach coves, or sip some drinks at the oceanfront cocktail bars. If that isn’t enough, head to the Nanakuli or Makaha Beach and fall in love with its mountain ridges.
Waikiki And Honolulu
Located south of the island, Waikiki and Honolulu are the most popular places to visit because of their vibrant nightlife, scenic palm trees, and ocean-blue water juxtaposed in an urban seaside setting.
Cultured travelers will find delight in these locations as these are also the island’s cultural and historical hotspots. Visitors can tour these cultural and historical centers via a guided tour, but self-paced tours could be done as well.
Shop to your heart’s content in the high-end indoor and outdoor shopping malls of Pearl City, Ala Moana, and the Waikiki Strip, or have the time of your life in the majestic Waikiki Beach where you can go from snorkeling, diving and swimming, to partying and dining like a royal.
Kauai — The Garden Island
Hawaii’s northernmost and oldest island, Kauai, better known as The Garden Island, is the ideal spot for a peaceful retreat with your family, a significant other, or just by yourself self.
At the south of Kauai, you will find the best snorkeling sites for divers and majestic beaches for beach lovers. Its coast is lined with numerous hotels and resorts such as the Koa Kea Hotel and the Grand Hyatt Kauai.
More than its beaches, the west of the island also houses several tin-roofed museums about sugar cane mills, which was Kauai’s oldest agriculture industry. Small, local towns on the west shore of Kauai, such as Hanapepe, the island’s largest “little town,” are proudly filled with art galleries, restaurants, and boutiques.
Moreover, visitors can visit the famed Banana Patch Studio, where you can watch the hand painting of Hawaiian tiles and pottery of local artists which you can buy as a souvenir or memorabilia.
The West And The North Sides
It’s important to remember that the island’s only airport is found on the eastern side, in the town of Lihue. This town is the perfect go-to spot for visitors who want a taste of everything the island offers, from river kayaking, hiking, shopping, dining, and partying.
Over at the north side, it is secluded and quiet but features breathtaking landscape. Filled with beaches bordered by rainforests and streams running across the roads and streets, the northern part of the Kauai is a must-see for those wanting an intimate and friendly vibe.
Go snorkeling and hiking at the Na Pali Coast, or camp at the Anini Beach and collect pretty Kahelelani shells to create your Hawaiian royalty jewelry. If you’re one to surf, head to Hanalei and catch some pretty big and challenging waves!
Maui — The Beverly Hills Island
Gaining the nickname “The Beverly Hills Island” for its luxurious beach resorts, the island is a popular travel destination for first-time visitors to Hawaii. The valley isle of Maui is filled with incredible scenery, from volcanoes to rainforests and beaches that could all be visited by guided tours.
The west and south side of the Maui islands are home to Maui’s most popular destination spots. The Kaanapali Beach is a spectacular beach that offers snorkeling, surfing, and swimming on its various beaches, as well as shopping in the Whalers Village Shopping Center nearby.
The other town on the island’s west side is Lahaina, a culturally and historically rich town. It balances the development and preservation of its culture with a healthy mix of shopping malls, galleries, restaurants, and nightlife.
Families can also visit the Maui Ocean Center Aquarium, enjoy free hula shows at the Lahaina Cannery Mall, and visit the enormous Banyan tree, a park-like scenery where you can spend time with the kids on a quiet afternoon.
Kihei And Wailea
Over in the south are the towns of Kihei and Wailea, which are relatively quieter and less crowded but equally fun. The Oneloa Beach, referred to as “Big Beach” by the locals, is a great family location for beach and picnic trips.
The Palauea White Rocks Beach is also an excellent destination for some downtime and relaxation during your trip. The snorkeling and scuba spots are excellent as the place is relatively uncrowded and untouched.
Head to the La Perouse in the most southern parts of Maui with trails that you can explore as well sea estuaries. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the dolphins as this is one of their favorite places!
Hawaii — The Big Island
For travelers wanting to reconnect with nature and escape the busy urban life, The Big Island of Hawaii is a must-visit. The largest among the Hawaiian Islands, the Big Island’s size is twice the size of all other islands combined.
Located on the sunny western part of the island, The Kona is home to historic villages, dining, nightlife, beaches, and shops. You may be able to see dolphins and honu (turtles) while snorkeling on its beaches, but you can go a little more extreme and go scuba diving if you’re up for it.
Along the coast, you’ll find the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, where you can explore Hawaiian fishponds, sacred temples, and native wildlife. Don’t forget to visit the Kona Coffee Plantations, which you can explore via a guided tour or on your own.
The East Side
During the earlier times, the east side of the Big Island served as a farming and fishing community. It is home to several museums, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and the famous Hilo Farmers Market.
Other sights to see here include the Liliuokalani Gardens, with 30 acres of Japanese gardens filled with koi ponds, pagodas, and rock structures.
Meanwhile, the town of Puna is home to Akebono, Hawaiia’s oldest theatre. Now, it is open to the public with a full bar, dance floor, and performance stage that will surely delight and entertain locals and guests alike.
Two Smaller Islands — Molokai And Lanai
The island of Molokai is home to a large population of native Hawaiians. Thus, it is one of the islands where you can experience the authentic Hawaiian culture, lifestyle, and nature.
The Kapalua Bay is a magnificent and breathtaking view to behold, especially at sunset. Visitors can also marvel at the pink sky illuminating one of the oldest royal groves in Hawaii – planted in the 1860s by King Kamehameha V – over at the Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove.
Explore the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, once home to an isolated leper colony, and hike your way up the highest sea cliffs in the world, rising 3,000 feet above the ocean.
Lanai, the smallest of the six islands, is a private island owned by billionaire Larry Ellison. Lanai is known for being a secluded and remote island; the island has become a top destination for romantic getaways and honeymoons.
The luxurious Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay is a hit for travelers because of its cozy and comfortable accommodation. Visit the Sweetheart Rock, an 80-foot rock that legend says was the site of tragedy between two lovers. However, today, you can enjoy watching the sunrise from the rock and watch the stunning pink sky.
To get to Lanai, you can board a plane from Honolulu and get on a 35-minute direct flight to Lanai Airport. The place is truly a fantastic destination to spend a much-needed vacation with your significant other or to relax on your own and see the beauty of nature.
Hawaii is truly a place of wonder blessed with creations of nature, picturesque landscape, and breathtaking scenery. Its one-of-a-kind islands will bring delight to travelers seeking to create new experiences and adventures.