Which islands should I visit? (2024)

Above: Sweetheart Rock is Lanai's most recognizable landmark.

No doubt about it, there is something enticing about each one of the Hawaiian Islands. The big question is… which islands should you visit?

There are eight Hawaiian Islands and each one has its own distinct personality and charm. Some people enjoy the hustle and bustle of Oahu, which offers just about every activity under the sun. Others prefer the quiet solitude and raw beauty of Kauai. For a true Hawaiian experience, you really ought to visit more than one island to get a sense of Hawaii's unique variety. Yet with six spectacular islands to visit (excluding Niihau and Kahoolawe), you may have to narrow it down a bit.

To help you decide, consider these questions: What are your obligations; how many days can you be away? Would you describe yourself as an “outdoors” or “indoors” person? Do you like being physically active or do you prefer strolling through museums and art galleries? Are upscale resorts, gourmet dining and late-night entertainment musts or would you rather be low-key? Planning to be on the go all day, every day? Or do you want to escape your normally hectic pace of life?

The good news is that all of the islands are in close proximity of each other (approx. 30-60 minute flight time depending on your destination), so this allows for easy island-hopping. Take advantage of this travel-friendly archipelago and try to see as much as time permits. If you don't get to experience everything on your wish list, then save it for your next trip to Hawaii. With such great variety, there's always a reason to come back again.

Oahu Brings the Best of City Life and Country Living

Oahu is the most popular first stop for most visitors, due in part to the higher number of nonstop flights into Honolulu from international and Mainland U.S. cities. It’s home to the majority of Hawaii’s population; thus, expect crowds and rush-hour traffic in urban areas. That said, it truly offers something for everyone.

Honolulu, the state’s capital, is Oahu’s bustling hub with parks, museums, theaters, restaurants, shopping malls, cultural events and indoor and outdoor concerts. Waikiki is a small city in itself; most of the island’s hotels are there, along with bars, boutiques, shows and eateries that’ll satisfy whatever cravings you might have. Ocean activities abound on Waikiki Beach, from canoe paddling with beachboys to sailing on catamarans at sunset.

Oahu has a quiet, relaxed side, too. Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate its scenic hiking trails and the verdant valleys, farms and pastures that define its windward coast. During winter, international surfing competitions wake up the usually sleepy North Shore. Both sophisticated and unpretentious, Oahu can likely fulfill whatever you’ve jotted down as your dream itinerary.

Which islands should I visit? (1)

Above: Makapuu Beach, is one of the most scenic shorelines on Oahu.

Maui is Considered Heaven on Earth

Those who want a more laid-back vacation but still want to kick-start their day with a latte should consider Maui. The major resort areas of Wailea, Kapalua and Kaanapali provide all the pleasures discriminating travelers demand such as championship golf, fine dining, great shopping, trendy spas and first-class accommodations. From there, you can venture out for strolls through the former whaling port of Lahaina, glorious sunrises or sunsets at the summit of 10,000-foot Haleakala Volcano, concerts and exhibits at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center and sightseeing on the spectacular coastal road to Hana, which, with some 600 hairpin turns and 50-plus one-lane bridges, will surely test your driving skills.

If you’re a water baby, snorkeling at Molokini islet, sailing off Lahaina and windsurfing at Hookipa Beach are musts. And from November through May, you can embark on a whale-watching cruise. Magnificent humpbacks migrate from Alaska to Hawaii each winter to mate and bear their young, and the waters surrounding Maui are the best places to spot them.

Which islands should I visit? (2)

Above: One of Maui's most popular places to visit is Haleakala National Park.

Hawaii Island is for Volcano Lovers

Nicknamed the Big Island, Hawaii island is just that: big. Sprawling over 4,028 square miles, it’s larger than the seven other major Hawaiian Islands combined. You’ll find 10 of the 14 climate zones here, along with the largest (Mauna Loa) and tallest (Mauna Kea, when measured from its submarine base) mountains in the world.

Hawaii is also the only island with an active shield volcano. The current eruption of Kilauea started in 1983, and even though scientists can’t predict when it will end, there’s no cause for alarm. Volcanic activity is confined to a relatively small southeastern sector, far from the west-side Kohala Coast where most visitors stay. Even if Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is closed, there are plenty of other outdoor diversions to keep you occupied, including camping, birding, ziplining, horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, and exploring cultural sites such as Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, an ancient Hawaiian place of refuge dating back to the 15th century.

Which islands should I visit? (3)

Above: With cascading waterfalls and a black sand beach, Waipio Valley on Hawaii Island offers a glimpse of what it was like to live in old Hawaii.

Kauai is Nature at Its Finest

Kauai is known as the “Garden Island,” and rightly so. Green is everywhere—framing rivers and waterfalls; casting broad strokes across valleys, cliffs, mountains, meadows, farmland and taro patches; and coloring its many gardens, Na Aina Kai, Smith’s Tropical Paradise, Princeville Botanical Gardens and the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s Allerton, McBryde and Limahuli being the most notable.

Most of the hotels and vacation rentals are in Poipu in the south and Princeville in the north, but wherever you are, Nature is a constant companion. Kayak the Wailua River, sail along the Na Pali Coast’s 3,000-foot-high cliffs, hike the 45 miles of trails in Kokee State Park and bike down Waimea Canyon, nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”

Which islands should I visit? (4)

Above: The Hanalei Pier has been a gathering place for locals and visitors since it was abandoned for shipping in 1933. The iconic site is seen in the movie "South Pacific" and the town of Hanalei has long been a favorite of Hollywood movie producers.

Molokai and Lanai Offer a Laidback Getaway

Looking to unwind and get away from it all? Then easygoing Molokai or Lanai might be just the ticket. You won’t find crowds there (Molokai’s resident population is around 7,400; Lanai’s is 3,100). Nor are there malls, traffic lights, fast-food chains, big-box stores or nightlife.

Instead, great outdoor adventures beckon. Among Molokai’s highlights are Halawa Valley, Kamakou Preserve, Moomomi Preserve, Molokai Forest Reserve and Kalaupapa (now a National Historical Park), where people stricken with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) were once banished beginning in 1866. The only hotel on the island is modest Hotel Molokai.

In contrast, home base for most Lanai visitors is the luxe Four Seasons Resort Lanai. Scenic stops include the Munro Trail, Kanepuu Preserve, Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach), Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods) and Manele and Hulope bays, which have been designated a Marine Life Conservation District. Shops and restaurants are clustered in little Lanai City; if you’re lucky, there might be a concert, festival or farmers’ market happening there in the shade of lofty Cook pines at Dole Park.

Which islands should I visit? (5)

Above: Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai is located at the base of some of the highest sea cliffs in the world, rising 2,000 feet above sea level.

Island Hopping Gives You the Best Taste of Hawaii

As you can see, each of the Hawaiian Islands offers something uniquely different. With so many delightful choices, you’ll want to do your research to properly plan your vacation. Be sure to consider what fits your personality best and identify the type of travel you most enjoy. Ultimately, which islands you decide to visit will depend on how much time you have and what you’d like to do. If you still can’t make up your mind, plan to stay longer... or return again soon.

Which islands should I visit? (2024)


Which is the best island to go to? ›

Best Islands in the World for 2024
  • Palawan.
  • Sardinia.
  • Zanzibar.
  • Mauritius.
  • Santorini.
  • Madagascar.
  • Cyprus.
  • Tahiti.

What is the #1 island in the world? ›

Islands 100,000 km2 (38,600 sq mi) and greater
(sq mi)
1Greenland (main island)822,700
2New Guinea303,381
15 more rows

Which Caribbean islands are not worth visiting? ›

The Most Dangerous Caribbean Islands. On the basis of crime rates, some of the least safe Caribbean Islands to visit include Puerto Rico, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Is Bora Bora safe? ›

Crime. When it comes to crime, Bora Bora is a relatively safe place to visit. Because of the island's low crime rate, visitors are unlikely to run into any issues. However, it's always a good idea to take precautions to safeguard yourself and your valuables when visiting any new place.

Is Bora Bora the most beautiful island? ›

Bora Bora is considered to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The “Pearl of the Pacific,” as it is known, is an island paradise, with a crystal clear lagoon, superb coral reefs, vast stretches of white sandy beach and luxuriant forests of lush green tropical vegetation.

What island is no one allowed to visit? ›

All visits to North Sentinel are now strictly illegal and the Indian coast guard patrols around a buffer zone near the coast to prevent outsiders from coming too close.

What is the least safe Caribbean island? ›

The Most Dangerous Caribbean Destinations, According To Research
  • Haiti. Rotorhead 30A Productions/Shutterstock. ...
  • Trinidad and Tobago. Debralee Wiseberg/Getty Images. ...
  • Kingston, Jamaica. Photo Spirit/Shutterstock. ...
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica. ...
  • Georgetown, Guyana. ...
  • Nassau, Bahamas. ...
  • Tiger Beach, Bahamas. ...
  • Dominican Republic.
Mar 30, 2024

What is the least touristy Caribbean island? ›

Montserrat. Despite its French-sounding name, Montserrat is actually part of Britain. The United Nations World Tourism Organization listed Montserrat as one of the least visited countries in the world, making it the least visited island in the Caribbean.

What is the safest island to visit? ›

No worries though, there are plenty of safe Caribbean Islands such as:
  • Grenada.
  • Montserrat.
  • St. Barts (Saint-Barthélemy)
  • The British Virgin Islands.
  • Saint Lucia.
  • Turks and Caicos.
  • Sint Maarten (Saint-Martin)
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis.

What is the top most visited island? ›

Palawan is known as the most visited island in the world, with not just blue seas and white sand, but also stunning coral reefs, tropical jungles, and incredibly diverse ecosystems. Palawan is the biggest island in Palawan province and the fifth-largest island in the Philippine island country.

What is the number 1 tourist island in the Caribbean? ›

Dominican Republic. At the top of the list is the Dominican Republic (DR). In 2022, over 8.5 million tourists visited the island, making it not only the most popular destination in the Caribbean, but a top five tourist spot within North, Central, and South America.

What is the most luxurious Caribbean island to visit? ›

The Grenadines are undoubtedly some of the most luxurious islands to visit in the Caribbean, perfect for those planning a lavish break here. Canouan in particular is an excellent choice for travellers seeking impressive marine life, excellent watersports, unspoiled landscapes and much more.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Madonna Wisozk

Last Updated:

Views: 5652

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (68 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Madonna Wisozk

Birthday: 2001-02-23

Address: 656 Gerhold Summit, Sidneyberg, FL 78179-2512

Phone: +6742282696652

Job: Customer Banking Liaison

Hobby: Flower arranging, Yo-yoing, Tai chi, Rowing, Macrame, Urban exploration, Knife making

Introduction: My name is Madonna Wisozk, I am a attractive, healthy, thoughtful, faithful, open, vivacious, zany person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.