Which Is the Best Hawaiian Island to Visit?

A magical set of islands nestled in the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is a stunning tropical paradise that delivers breathtaking shorelines, a spectacular mountainscape and incredible volcanoes – all alongside a slower pace of life that is sure to have you relaxed in no time. With so much to offer, it is no wonder that this magnificent destination scores high on most people’s travel bucket lists. 

The archipelago is larger than you might think, encompassing 137 idyllic landmasses, each with its own special charm and attractions. With so much choice, it can be rather difficult to decide which Hawaiian island to visit. 

While some visitors opt to island-hop from one to the next, ticking off as many as they can along the way, others prefer to stick to focusing on exploring one to get a real feel for it. Whichever approach you’re leaning towards, it is important to work out which Hawaiian island is best suited to your interests and what you are looking for from your trip in order to have the most amazing vacation possible. 

To make it easier for you to choose which Hawaiian Island is the best to visit for you, we have rounded up some of the most incredible places in the archipelago that are sure to offer something for everyone. 

So, if you’re planning a trip to this beautiful set of islands, be sure to check out this list of the Best Hawaiian Islands to Visit.

1. Kauai

If you’re even the slightest bit interested in nature, you need to visit the wild landscapes of Kauai. Nicknamed ‘The Garden Island’ in honour of its flourishing verdant mountains and valleys, this amazing part of the world is a display of nature at its finest.

Despite being the third-largest Hawaiian island, Kauai is one of the less populated in the archipelago, so you can expect a slightly slower pace during your time here, allowing you to totally unplug from everyday stresses in favour of turning your attention to the beauty that surrounds you. In fact, a lot of the island can only be accessed by foot, so be sure to pack your walking boots and be prepared for lots of adventures!

This is definitely the best Hawaiian island to visit for the keen walkers, as it’s bursting with magnificent hiking trails that will take you across stunning unspoilt landscapes. Along with gorgeous coastal routes, you will be able to journey up the iconic Waialeale Mountain – an extinct volcano that is one of the wettest places on earth.

Don’t worry, this claim to fame certainly does not extend to the rest of the island! You are likely to experience a fair bit of sun along the beautiful coast. Home to some of the best Hawaiian island beaches that you will find, you will have a whale of a time swimming in their turquoise waters, chilling with some sunbathing or getting up to some paddle boarding, surfing or scuba diving.

2. Oʻahu

As the most populated of all the Hawaiian islands, O’ahu (is buzzing with fabulous food and outstanding nightlife. The city of Honolulu sits in the south of the island and is the most lively of the areas, complete with 5-star hotels and fine dining restaurants, so this is the best Hawaiian island to visit if you are looking for a thriving party scene.

Just a short distance from the city centre lies the famous Waikiki beach: a must-see for visitors exploring the area. Although the beach is likely to be rather busy, its waters are a beautiful cobalt blue and as it lies such a short distance from the city centre, you can easily take a break from the bustling golden shores.

Another popular activity for those on the island is visiting the famous Peal Harbour;  the site of a tragic World War II bombing that makes an interesting yet sobering place to visit. For more insight into the archipelago’s past, head to the Iolani Palace which sheds light on the indigenous Hawaiian cultures that have played a huge part in making the islands what they are today.

Honolulu also does not fall short when it comes to the food department, boasting restaurants and cafes from every corner of the world as well as native Hawaiian dishes for those looking to try some typical food from the region. When it comes to hustle and bustle and a buzzing atmosphere, O’ahu is pretty hard to beat and is an ideal spot for those wondering which Hawaiian Island to visit for the first time.

3. Maui

Offering a wonderful middle ground between the liveliness of O’ahu and the serenity of Kauai, Maui is a wonderful choice for those looking to have the best of both worlds. The island is commonly known as the Valley Isle in honour of its Sacred Iao Valley; a spiritual area of tropical beauty and historical significance towards the west of the island that is full of hiking and swimming opportunities. 

Famed for its idyllic beaches, Maui certainly boasts some of the most picturesque coastlines in the whole of the archipelago. With flawless golden sand and crystal clear waters spreading as far as the eye can see, you are sure to be left feeling like this is all part of a wonderful dream!

Why not take to the waters for the marvellous adventure of trying to catch a glimpse of some of the ocean’s most magnificent inhabitants; whales. Maui is brimming with opportunities for whale-watching expeditions, with so many tours available that you will be left spoilt for choice.

There are also lots of other exciting activities to get up to, from underwater submarine tours to snorkelling adventures with the island’s colourful tropical fish species! Due to the variety of things on offer on Maui, it’s one of the best Hawaiian islands to visit with kids as there are plenty of exciting things to do that are sure to keep them entertained.

4. The Big Island of Hawaii

Only around 400,000 to 800,000 years old, The Big Island of Hawaii is the baby of the archipelago, but that certainly does not mean that it lacks an interesting past! Visitors regularly marvel at the surreal experience of being able to stand on the island and see the dramatic volcanoes that brought it into being.

One of the best things to do on the island is to pay a visit to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Here, you find two of the world’s most active volcanoes – Mauna Loa and Kīlauea. A truly spectacular place, visiting the park is a great way of witnessing the magnitude of the eruption that was required to create this incredible island. 

Although slightly quieter when it comes to nightlife, visiting The Big Island is a great opportunity to detach from everyday life and focus on the incredible sights of nature before you. A perfect destination for the explorers amongst us, this island is full of incredible hiking opportunities with some of the most magnificent trails taking you across the Hamakua Coast. 

You also should not pass up on the opportunity to pay a visit to the Big Island’s incredible shores as they are some of the most colourful in the archipelago; from black, to white to green sand – they are a marvellous sight to see. With colourful tropical fish and playful spinner dolphins known to frequent these waters, they are also a great place for going for a swim.

5. Molokaʻi

Known for providing a fascinating glimpse into Hawaii’s fascinating past, Moloka’i encaptures a much more traditional side of the archipelago and is an ideal choice for those looking to learn more about the archipelago’s Indigenous heritage.

A truly heavenly landscape with breathtaking sea cliffs and flawless sand beaches, be sure to pay a visit to the magnificent shores of Papohaku Beach; one of the largest and most secluded beaches in Hawaii. You’re guaranteed to have more than enough space to unwind in the sun with the comfort of knowing that you have one of the most stunning shorelines in the world almost entirely to yourself. 

As one of Hawaii’s smallest habitable islands and one of the least touristy, don’t expect to be luxuriating in 5-star resorts when visiting Moloka’i. Instead, you can unwind in the idyllic setting of its unspoilt landscapes. 

Moloka’i is a real treasure trove when it comes to natural gems; home to some of the highest cliffs in the world – known as the Kalaupapa Cliffs – as well as the longest fringing reef.

A visit to Moloka’i is not complete without a visit to Kalaupapa National Historical Park, a facility that works to preserve the memory of the 8,000 leprosy sufferers that were exiled to Moloka’i between 1866 and 1969. A truly beautiful peninsula with an interesting story to tell, a trip to this facility is a great way to start learning more about the archipelago’s past.

6. Lanai

One of the smallest inhabited islands in Hawaii, Lana’i is incredibly tranquil and feels very removed from day-to-day life. As you are unlikely to encounter many other souls on this secluded island, it is an ideal spot for those looking for a romantic getaway or some quality family time.

Formerly only used as a pineapple farm, Lana’i is locally known as the Pineapple Island, and you can even stop by the old plantation to learn all about its fruity past. With quite a subdued tourist scene, the island isn’t exactly jam-packed with things to do, but that’s all just part of its charm!

You should make the most of the island’s peacefulness by getting pampered at one of its many luxury resorts, playing a round of golf at one of the island’s two stunning courses or, of course, making the most of its flawless coastlines.

When it comes to quiet beaches where you can explore stunning blue waters in complete serenity, Lana’i certainly comes out top. Whether you want to bask in the glory of the sun’s rays or explore the local marine life, you are guaranteed to do so in peace and quiet on Lanai.

Summary

A trip to Hawaii is sure to be an incredible experience that will stay with you forever. Although every island is its very own tropical paradise, each one brings different things to the table that shape your time there in unique and special ways.