Which Island to Visit in Hawaii
Tips for selecting which Hawaiian island to visit
when you don't have the time or money to visit
all of them. I enjoy visiting every island in Hawaii,
but some people fall in love with one and
visit the same island over and over. The best way
to select your island destination is to learn
about the attractions, activities, events,
accommodations, population, geography, and tourism
infrastructure on each of Hawaii's islands.
Eighty percent of Hawaii's population lives on Oahu
Island and most of Hawaii's visitors stay in Waikiki
on southeast coast of Oahu. There are
only two Oahu resort areas outside of Waikiki, the
Ko Olina Resort on the southwest coast of Oahu and
the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's north shore. Each
of those areas has one luxury hotel and several timeshare
and residential developments, and while they each have a
quieter atmosphere then Waikiki, they also have fewer
restaurants and visitor activities.
Two of Hawaii's most popular visitor attractions are on Oahu Island,
the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor and the
Polynesian Cultural Center on the northeast coast.
Oahu is also the home of Diamond Head Crater, Chinatown Honolulu,
the Bishop Museum, the Iolani Palace, the Honolulu
Zoo, the Waikiki Aquarium, Sea Life Park, big wave winter
surfing on the north shore, and Ala Moana Center, one of the
largest shopping malls in the world. Oahu has a great public transportation
system, many dining options, hotels in every price range, and
plenty of nightlife, shopping, and tourist activities.
Waikiki is a fun place to stay because it has plenty of action,
but it also has plenty of traffic, crowds, shopping centers,
and high rise hotels. If you don't find Waikiki's high energy
level appealing, you might be happier staying at the Ko Olina
Resort, the Turtle Bay Resort, or on one of Hawaii's other islands.
Maui will appeal to a mix of people because it has
busy resort areas on its northwest and southeast
shorelines, but it also has remote and beautiful
natural areas such as the long and winding
road to Hana and the 10,000 foot high Mount Haleakala
Resort areas on Maui Island include the
Lahaina, Kaanapali, Napili, Honokowai, and Kapalua
resort areas in West Maui, the Kihei,
Makena, and Wailea resort areas in South Maui,
and the Hana resort area in remote east Maui.
Maui's many condominium vacation rentals make it a popular
destination for families and college kids but Maui also
has the some of the most luxurious and expensive hotels
in Hawaii, especially at the exclusive Wailea and Kapalua
resorts. You will find more nightlife on Maui then on some of the
other outer islands, especially in the West Maui town of Lahaina
and South Maui town of Kihei.
Popular visitor activities and attractions on Maui include
the Mount Haleakala volcanic crater, driving the road to Hana,
the historic whaling town of Lahaina, the ranches of upcountry
Maui, the Iao Valley, the Maui Ocean Center, snorkeling trips to
Molokini Island, and the windsurfing beaches on Maui's north shore.
-East: Hilo, lush vegetation, lots of rain, "old Hawaii", Kapoho
-Kona: Kailua-Kona, black volcanic rock terrain, less rain
-Volcano: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. observatories,
Mauna Kea gets snow in winter. People ski.
-South Point: Southernmost tip of the United States
-Driving around Hawaii Island takes about 6 hours
-Things to do: water activities, explore Volcanoes,
hiking, horseback riding,
-Black sand beaches and a few white and green sand beaches.
Tropical rainforests, cattle ranches, coffee farms, observatories,
historic sites, golf courses, day spas, skiing,
-Population is about 140,000 and about 1 million
people visit every year.
-More driving is required on Hawaii Island because
things are farther apart then other islands
-Best beaches are on the west coast between
Kona and Kohala on the northwest tip of the island.
-Most of the Big Island's visitor-style nightlife is
in Kona. Hilo has more local-style nightlife,
but not much of that. There is nightlife on the Big Island,
but not as much as you'll find on Oahu and Maui.
-Natural beauty, seclusion
-About 70,000 people live on Kauai and about
1 million people visit every year.
-One of the best islands for hiking, canoeing, and other
-The wettest island. Northeast cost is lush and green.
-Southwest coast is dry.
-Top attractions: Na Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon, Hanalei Bay,
Wailea River Cruise
Lanai is the smallest of Hawaii's main islands
and one of the two least visited islands in Hawaii.
Lanai only has about 3000 residents and typically
about 100,000 visitors a year. It has only
three hotels, a small historic, plantation-style inn
in Lanai City, a luxury beach and golf resort on
at Manele Bay, and an upcountry, golf resort in
a pine forest near Lanai City.
Nobody visits Lanai for the nightlife because
there isn't any. There are also very few
shops, restaurants, lodging options, or organized
visitor activities. Lanai is a popular destination
for wealthy golfers and people who really want to get
away from it all. There are not many organized
activities or tours on Lanai, but there is plenty to
do if you enjoy outdoor activities such as golfing, water
sports, sunbathing, hiking, horseback riding,
hunting, and off-road jeep adventures.
You might have heard Lanai referred to as "The Pineapple Isle".
That is no longer an appropriate nickname for lanai because
except for a few fields grown for local consumption, there
are no more pinweapple plantations on Lanai. Lanai
was converted from a cattle ranch to the world's largest
pineapple plantation by James Dole but by the end of the
20th Century, growing pineapple in Hawaii became too expensive,
and most of its Pineapple plantations closed, including Dole's
-Very "old Hawaii". Very secluded.
-Larger population of Hawaiians then other islands
but resident population is only about 7000.
Visitor population is about 80,000 per year (less
then all of the other islands including Lanai)
-Kalaupapa Leprosy Colony, Father Damien's work,
huge cliffs, long empty beaches, Molokai Ranch (now gone),
Halawa Beach Park,
-Molokai is Very rural. Lots of empty beaches and other natural areas.
quiet and peaceful Biggest complain is "there's nothing
to do" but I don't find that true at all. It really
depends on what you like to do and how you want to spend
-Only one hotel since the two Molokai Ranch Hotels
shut down in the Spring of 2008, but there are several
condominium resorts with vacation rentals avaialble.
Best reason to go here is to experience
old Hawaii or to get away from it all. No nightlife.
-Molokai only has one golf course but I think it
closed when the Molokai Ranch closed.
Hawaii Travel Planner
Activities in Hawaii
Attractions in Hawaii
Islands of Hawaii
Hawaii for Visitors
A NOTE FROM KATHIE: If you have any corrections or updates to the information on
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