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The Best Island To Visit In Hawaii


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Raynell Glasser



Welcome to the beautiful islands of Hawaii, a tropical paradise nestled in the Pacific Ocean. Known for its stunning beaches, lush landscapes, and vibrant culture, Hawaii offers a unique and unforgettable vacation experience that attracts millions of visitors each year. With a total of eight main islands, each with its own distinct charm and attractions, choosing which island to visit can be a daunting task. In this article, we will explore the best islands to visit in Hawaii, providing you with valuable insights to help you make an informed decision on which island suits your preferences.


From the bustling city life of Oahu to the serene beauty of Kauai, each island offers a different experience, ensuring that there is something for everyone. Whether you are seeking adventure, relaxation, cultural immersion, or simply a getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Hawaii has it all.


As you embark on your journey through the Hawaiian islands, be prepared to be greeted by warm smiles, the spirit of aloha, and a rich heritage that is deeply rooted in the Polynesian culture. From the traditional Hawaiian hula dance to delicious local cuisine, the islands offer a plethora of experiences that will leave you in awe.


It is important to note that while each island is unique, they all offer breathtaking natural beauty. From pristine beaches with turquoise waters to lush rainforests and volcanoes, Hawaii’s landscapes are a true feast for the eyes. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the details of the best islands to visit in Hawaii.



Oahu, often referred to as “The Gathering Place,” is the third-largest island in Hawaii and home to the state capital, Honolulu. This vibrant island offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and urban sophistication.


One of the main attractions on Oahu is the iconic Waikiki Beach, known for its golden sand, vibrant nightlife, and stunning sunsets. Visitors can enjoy various water activities such as surfing, paddleboarding, and snorkeling. For those seeking history and culture, a visit to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial is a must. This poignant landmark commemorates the lives lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor, a pivotal moment in U.S. history.


For a taste of local culture, head to the North Shore, where you can witness world-class surfing competitions during the winter months. The laid-back atmosphere, charming small towns, and delicious food trucks make it a favorite spot among locals and visitors alike.


Oahu is also home to a vibrant arts and entertainment scene. The neighborhood of Chinatown in Honolulu is known for its galleries, theaters, and trendy restaurants. The Honolulu Museum of Art showcases a diverse range of artwork, while the Polynesian Cultural Center offers a glimpse into the islands’ rich heritage and traditions.


If you’re looking to escape the city buzz, a drive to the eastern coast will lead you to the stunning landscapes of the Kualoa Ranch. This private nature reserve offers guided tours where you can explore lush valleys, ancient Hawaiian fishponds, and famous filming locations of movies like Jurassic Park.


Of course, no trip to Oahu would be complete without indulging in the local cuisine. From fresh poke bowls to mouthwatering plate lunches, Oahu offers a wide array of culinary delights to satisfy any palate. Don’t forget to try the beloved shave ice, a refreshing treat made of finely shaved ice topped with colorful syrup flavors.


Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a mix of both, Oahu promises to deliver an unforgettable Hawaiian experience. From the buzzing city life of Honolulu to the serene beaches and breathtaking landscapes, this island truly has it all.



Maui, also known as “The Valley Isle,” is the second-largest island in Hawaii and offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and luxury. With its stunning beaches, picturesque landscapes, and charming towns, Maui is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers.


One of the highlights of Maui is the famous Road to Hana. This scenic drive takes you through lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and dramatic coastal cliffs. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to stop at various viewpoints, swim in natural pools, and explore the quaint town of Hana.


Maui is also home to the Haleakala National Park, where you can witness a breathtaking sunrise above the clouds from the summit of Haleakala volcano. For more adventurous souls, a downhill bike ride from the volcano’s summit is a thrilling way to experience the island’s diverse landscapes.


When it comes to beaches, Maui offers a wide variety to suit every preference. Popular spots like Kaanapali Beach and Wailea Beach are known for their pristine sand and crystal-clear waters, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. If you’re looking for a more secluded beach, head to the remote and beautiful Hamoa Beach or the black sand beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park.


In addition to its natural beauty, Maui is also known for its luxury resorts, world-class golf courses, and upscale shopping and dining options. The town of Lahaina offers a glimpse into Maui’s rich history with its historic waterfront, art galleries, and charming shops.


For those seeking a deeper connection with Hawaiian culture, a visit to the Maui Ocean Center is a must. This state-of-the-art aquarium showcases the island’s marine life and provides educational exhibits about Hawaiian culture and conservation.


The island of Maui is also renowned for its annual humpback whale migration. From December to April, visitors can witness these majestic creatures up close on a whale-watching tour.


Whether you choose to explore its natural wonders, relax on its pristine beaches, or indulge in its luxury offerings, Maui promises an unforgettable experience that will leave you longing to return.



Kauai, known as the “Garden Isle,” is the oldest and fourth-largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. This lush and tropical paradise captivates visitors with its spectacular landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and enchanting beauty.


One of the most iconic landmarks on Kauai is the Na Pali Coast. This breathtaking coastline stretches 17 miles and is characterized by towering cliffs, hidden beaches, and cascading waterfalls. Exploring the Na Pali Coast by boat or helicopter offers unparalleled views and a chance to experience its untouched natural beauty.


Kauai is also home to Waimea Canyon, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” This awe-inspiring geological wonder stretches over 14 miles and offers panoramic views of deep red canyons, lush green valleys, and cascading waterfalls. Hiking trails in the area provide opportunities for adventurous explorations.


For beach lovers, Kauai offers a variety of picturesque options. The golden shores of Poipu Beach are perfect for swimming and snorkeling, while Hanalei Bay boasts a beautiful crescent-shaped beach backed by lush mountains.


Kauai is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering activities such as hiking, kayaking, zip-lining, and helicopter tours. The Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast is a popular choice for hikers, leading to secluded beaches and breathtaking viewpoints. Kayaking along the Wailua River takes you to the picturesque Fern Grotto, a natural amphitheater covered in lush ferns.


The laid-back and charming town of Hanalei offers unique shops, art galleries, and local eateries. Here, you can immerse yourself in the relaxed vibe of the island and enjoy live music and delicious Hawaiian cuisine.


For a glimpse into the island’s history and culture, a visit to the Kauai Museum in Lihue is recommended. The museum showcases artifacts and exhibits that highlight the island’s rich heritage and traditions.


With its untouched beauty and peaceful atmosphere, Kauai offers a serene and rejuvenating getaway for those seeking a true escape into paradise.


Big Island (Hawaii Island)

Big Island, officially known as Hawaii Island, is the largest and youngest island in the Hawaiian chain. It is a vibrant and diverse destination, offering a wide range of experiences for visitors to enjoy.


One of the main attractions on the Big Island is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Visitors can witness the raw power of nature as they explore the park’s lava fields, steam vents, and volcanic craters. A visit to the Jaggar Museum provides insightful information on the island’s volcanic activity.


The Big Island is also famous for its black sand beaches, which are a result of volcanic activity. Punaluu Beach, in particular, is known for its striking black sand and the chance to spot endangered green sea turtles basking in the sun.


For stargazing enthusiasts, a trip to Mauna Kea is a must. Located at an elevation of 13,796 feet above sea level, the summit is home to numerous observatories and offers unparalleled views of the night sky. Visitors can take a guided tour to learn more about the wonders of our universe.


Unique to the Big Island is its diverse climate zones, ranging from lush rainforests to arid lava fields. The Hilo side of the island receives more rainfall, resulting in its lush vegetation and stunning waterfalls, such as Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls. On the Kona side, the landscape is drier, ideal for exploring vast lava fields and enjoying the famous Kona coffee plantations.


If you’re looking for adventure, consider embarking on a snorkeling or diving trip to Kealakekua Bay, a pristine marine sanctuary teeming with colorful corals and tropical fish. For a dose of history and culture, a visit to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park offers a chance to learn about ancient Hawaiian traditions and explore historic sites.


The Big Island also hosts an array of annual festivals and events that showcase the island’s vibrant culture, such as the Merrie Monarch Festival, celebrating the art of hula, and the Kona Coffee Festival, highlighting the island’s renowned coffee industry.


With its breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and unique geological formations, the Big Island offers endless possibilities for exploration and discovery.



Molokai, often referred to as the “Friendly Isle,” is a hidden gem in the Hawaiian archipelago. This tranquil and unspoiled island offers a glimpse into the authentic Hawaiian way of life, free from the hustle and bustle of modern tourism.


Molokai is known for its pristine beauty and untouched landscapes. The Kalaupapa National Historical Park is a significant attraction, representing a dark period in Hawaii’s history when people afflicted with leprosy were sent to live in isolation. Today, visitors can explore the park and learn about the incredible stories of hope and resilience.


For outdoor enthusiasts, hiking the Halawa Valley is a must. This lush valley is home to stunning waterfalls, ancient taro fields, and cultural sites. A local guide can provide valuable insights into the history and traditions of this sacred place.


The island’s main town, Kaunakakai, offers a glimpse into the laid-back lifestyle of Molokai. Stroll along the charming main street and explore local boutiques, art galleries, and eateries. Don’t miss the chance to try traditional Hawaiian dishes like poi, a staple made from taro root.


Molokai is also known for its beautiful and secluded beaches. Papohaku Beach, one of the largest white sand beaches in Hawaii, stretches for three miles and offers a peaceful retreat for sunbathing, swimming, and romantic sunset walks. The small, protected bay of Kapukahehu Beach (aka Dixie Maru Beach) is another hidden gem, ideal for snorkeling and spotting marine life.


For a deeper immersion into the island’s culture, consider visiting the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center. Here, you can explore exhibits that showcase the island’s history, traditions, and the renowned craftsmanship of local artisans.


Molokai is also home to one of the world’s longest fringing coral reefs, making it a fantastic spot for snorkeling and diving. The pristine marine ecosystem teems with vibrant coral formations and a variety of tropical fish.


With its untouched beauty, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality, Molokai offers a serene and authentic Hawaiian experience that few other places can match.



Lanai, often called the “Pineapple Isle,” is a secluded and tranquil island that offers a peaceful and luxurious escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With its stunning beaches, luxurious resorts, and pristine landscapes, Lanai is the perfect destination for those seeking relaxation and privacy.


One of the main attractions on Lanai is Hulopoe Bay, a pristine marine preserve and one of Hawaii’s most beautiful beaches. The crystal-clear waters provide excellent snorkeling opportunities, and the chance to spot spinner dolphins and green sea turtles. The area also boasts scenic coastal hikes and a picturesque lighthouse.


Lanai is known for its world-class resorts, including the iconic Four Seasons Resort Lanai. These luxurious accommodations offer unrivaled amenities, spa treatments, and exquisite dining experiences. Guests can indulge in championship golf courses, explore vast gardens, or simply relax by the pool and enjoy the stunning ocean views.


The island is also home to the Garden of the Gods, a unique rock formation made up of red lava rocks contrasting against the vibrant greenery. Visitors can take a guided tour to learn about the ancient Hawaiian legends associated with the site.


Lanai City, the island’s small and charming town, offers a glimpse into the local lifestyle. Explore the historic Dole Park, visit the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center, and dine at local restaurants serving delicious farm-to-table cuisine.


For outdoor enthusiasts, Lanai offers opportunities for wildlife viewing and hiking. You can embark on a guided jeep tour to explore the rugged terrain, encounter native flora and fauna, and witness breathtaking views from elevated vantage points.


Off the coast of Lanai lies the uninhabited island of Molokai, which can be reached by guided boat tours. The waters between the two islands are known for their abundant marine life, including dolphins, whales (during the winter months), and colorful coral reefs.


In terms of relaxation and solitude, Lanai is truly unparalleled. With its pristine beauty, exclusive resorts, and serene atmosphere, this island is a haven for those seeking a luxurious and peaceful escape.



Niihau, often referred to as the “Forbidden Isle,” is a small and privately-owned island located just southwest of Kauai. Steeped in tradition and known for its preservation of Hawaiian culture, Niihau offers a unique and exclusive experience for those fortunate enough to visit.


Access to Niihau is extremely limited, and the island is mainly inhabited by Native Hawaiians. The residents of Niihau, known as the Robinson family, are committed to preserving the island’s cultural heritage and way of life. Visitors are only able to explore Niihau through guided tours or by invitation from the residents themselves.


One of the distinctive aspects of Niihau is its language. The residents primarily speak the Hawaiian language, ensuring the preservation of this important cultural element. Visitors have the rare opportunity to immerse themselves in the language and traditions of the island’s community.


Niihau is renowned for its exquisite craftsmanship, particularly the weaving of intricate shell leis and jewelry. The island is famous for its Niihau shell lei, which features small shells intricately woven together to create stunning pieces of art. These unique and precious creations make for extraordinary souvenirs.


The island’s remote and untouched beauty is another reason why Niihau is so special. It offers a chance to escape from modern-day distractions and truly appreciate the natural wonders of Hawaii. Visitors can enjoy serene and secluded beaches, swim in crystal-clear waters, and witness breathtaking sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.


While access to Niihau is limited, neighboring islands such as Kauai offer boat tours that allow visitors to catch glimpses of Niihau’s coastline and the unique landscapes that make it so distinctive.


It’s important to approach Niihau with respect and a deep appreciation for the island’s cultural significance and the wishes of the Niihau community. This sacred island offers a rare opportunity to step back in time and experience the rich history and traditions of Hawaii in their purest form.



Kahoolawe, known as the “Sacred Isle,” is a small and uninhabited island located just southwest of Maui. Despite its size, Kahoolawe holds great cultural significance and has a compelling history that has shaped its identity.


For many years, Kahoolawe was used as a military training ground by the United States Navy. However, due to its cultural and historical importance, the island was returned to the State of Hawaii in 1994. Today, efforts are underway to restore and preserve the island’s natural and cultural resources.


Visitors to Kahoolawe are limited due to the island’s fragile ecosystem and the presence of unexploded ordnance. However, there are opportunities to participate in cultural and educational programs that provide insights into the island’s history, traditions, and ongoing conservation efforts.


Kahoolawe’s barren yet captivating landscape offers a unique experience. The island’s rugged coastline, coupled with its volcanic terrain, creates a dramatic and otherworldly atmosphere. Visitors can explore the island’s rocky shores, hike along its trails, and learn about the native plant species that are gradually being reintroduced.


One of Kahoolawe’s most significant cultural sites is the Ahupuaʻa o Kahoolawe, which showcases the ancient Hawaiian land division system. The Ahupuaʻa is a reminder of the rich cultural heritage of the island and offers a glimpse into the sustainable practices employed by the native Hawaiians.


While public access to Kahoolawe is limited, individuals passionate about environmental preservation and cultural restoration can volunteer to participate in cleanup efforts and restoration projects, contributing to the island’s revitalization.


Kahoolawe is a symbolic reminder of the importance of preserving Hawaii’s native culture and natural resources. It serves as a focal point for environmental activism and awareness, urging us all to respect and protect the land and its cultural heritage.



Hawaii, with its diverse array of islands, is a treasure trove of natural beauty, rich culture, and unique experiences. From the bustling streets of Oahu to the tranquil shores of Molokai, each island offers its own distinct charm and attractions that cater to different preferences and interests.


Oahu, the most populous island, entices visitors with its stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and historical landmarks. Maui, known for its breathtaking landscapes and luxurious resorts, provides a balance of adventure and relaxation. Kauai captivates with its lush rainforests, dramatic cliffs, and unspoiled beauty. The Big Island of Hawaii showcases its volcanic wonders, diverse climate zones, and vibrant marine ecosystem. Molokai offers a peaceful haven where you can immerse yourself in Hawaiian traditions and explore pristine beaches. Lanai provides an exclusive, luxurious retreat with its upscale resorts and serene atmosphere. Niihau, though largely inaccessible, holds a special place for those seeking an authentic and cultural experience. Kahoolawe, while restricted, signifies the importance of preserving Hawaii’s heritage and environment.


Each island in Hawaii presents a different facet of the Aloha spirit, welcoming visitors with warm hospitality and a sense of awe-inspiring natural wonders. Whether you are seeking adventure, relaxation, cultural immersion, or a combination of experiences, the islands of Hawaii have something for everyone.


As you plan your trip to Hawaii, it is important to consider your interests and preferences to choose the island that aligns with your desires. Whether you spend your days lounging on golden sands, exploring tropical rainforests, learning about ancient traditions, or experiencing luxurious accommodations, your time in Hawaii is sure to be unforgettable.


Remember to respect the land, its culture, and the local communities that call Hawaii home. Sustainable travel practices and a deep appreciation for the natural and cultural heritage of the islands will ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty and magic of Hawaii.


So, embark on your Hawaiian adventure and discover the island that speaks to your heart. Whether you choose to explore one or multiple, the islands of Hawaii promise a journey of discovery, rejuvenation, and enchantment that will leave you with cherished memories to last a lifetime.