What is the Best Island in Hawaii to Visit?

The age-old question, which Hawaiian Island is the best for visitors?

It’s time for you to book your trip to Hawaiʻi, but you can’t pull the trigger of buying a ticket just yet. Why? Because you can’t decide on which of the gorgeous Hawaiian Islands you want to visit. They all demand your attention. Kauaʻi, with its verdant gardens and the stunning Napali Coast. Maui with its upcountry towns and the epic views of Haleakalā. Hawaiʻi Island—also known as the Big Island—has so much history and culture. And Oʻahu, of course, is a favorite amongst visitors for so many reasons. So, what is the best island to visit in Hawaiʻi? Well, the answer is really up to the traveler. 

First, Hawaiʻi visitors must determine what they want out of their island vacation. If you’re looking to get away from it all and find yourself on a nice, secluded beach without a person in sight, you probably want to travel to an island other than Oʻahu, which is known for its high visitor population. Instead, the Big Island may be your best bet. Since the island is so big—it’s bigger than all of the other major Hawaiian Islands combined—you can easily find nooks and crannies to temporarily call your own. There’s even spotty cellular service on the Big Island, which is great for the traveler who is truly looking to disconnect from the outside world, if only for a while.

Photo: Getty Images

If you don’t mind a little hustle and bustle, Maui and Oʻahu—more so Oʻahu—are great places to visit. The northern shores of both islands are thriving with locals and visitors all looking to enjoy some of the best beaches—Pāʻia Beach on Maui and Sunset Beach on Oʻahu, for example—and surf in the state. And if you’re looking for something to do at night, Oʻahu has some of the hottest clubs, bars and dives in the state. More importantly, they’re all open late—especially in Waikīkī—which isn’t often the case on other islands like Kauaʻi or the Big Island. 

Surfers can’t really go wrong with any island—however Big Island and Kauaʻi breaks are a little harder to find compared to Oʻahu or Maui. Also, the seven-mile-miracle on Oʻahu is known as the surf world’s mecca and is absolutely the place to go for surfers looking to test their skills in some of Hawaiʻi’s best waves. If you head there during the winter season, you may even share the lineup with world-class pro surfers who travel to Oʻahu for competitions.

Photo: Getty Images

Another important factor to consider is what it is exactly you want to see or visit on your trip. Haleakalā, for example, is probably the best place in the state to catch a sunrise but does require you to commit to Maui. Avid hikers will love the Napali Coast and the Kalalau Trail, but again, you’ll have to book your trip to Kauaʻi to enjoy its natural splendors. And geology buffs will adore Big Island’s Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, which is where you can find one of the only active lava lakes in Hawaiʻi as well as several other interesting and intriguing volcanic wonders. 

If you’re really having trouble deciding—since there is no clear answer on what the best Hawaiian island to visit is—consider island-hopping and splitting your vacation into two parts. For example, spending a week on Oʻahu to enjoy the city life and then cooling down for another week in the charming, remote communities of Hawaiʻi Island is a great way to plan your trip. Even staying a day or two on an island is enough to experience its biggest attractions. However, a week—if you can manage it—is just enough to truly get a feel and appreciation for the island that you’re visiting. 

So to finally answer the question, the best island to visit in Hawaiʻi is the one that fits you the most. With ample research and preparation, you should be able to make the call—albeit a very tough call—on which island has the most in store for your tastes and interests. If you can’t decide on one, try island hopping between two for the best of both worlds. 

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