How to Find the Perfect Hawaiian Island For Your Next Vacation

Each Hawaiian island offers a unique and memorable experience, and no two are the same. Like many visitors to the islands, you’re probably wondering, “Which island, or islands, should I visit during my vacation?”

It’s a tricky question to answer — every island is special and worth a visit! But, there are key differences between Hawaii’s four most frequently visited islands, and knowing what to expect will help you choose the best island for the type of vacation you want to have.

Oahu: A little bit of everything

Many first-time visitors find themselves on Oahu, and it’s easy to see why. There’s something for everyone in the “Heart of Hawaii,” including the bustling capital city of Honolulu, unforgettable natural beauty (including many idyllic beaches and forests) and rich cultural history.

If you’re looking for a dynamic fusion of Hawaiian culture, city life, and nature, Oahu is a great choice. Some of the most beloved attractions and destinations here include Waikiki Beach and Downtown Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head,  Nuuanu Valley, Waimea Bay, and the North Shore.

Hawaii: The Big Island

The Island of Hawaii, aka the Big Island, is the largest and youngest of the Hawaiian islands. Since it’s home to the archipelago’s only active volcano, this is the island to visit if you want to see lava flows.

Lava isn’t the only sight worth seeing here, though. Stargazing from the top of Mauna Kea offers some of the darkest skies in the world, and you might even see snow. The wildlife viewing is also excellent, and lucky visitors can see Hawaiian green sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins, different types of forest birds, and other native wildlife. The stunning Kohala Coast, on the island’s North Shore, has dramatic sea cliffs, lush rainforests, mesmerizing waterfalls, and so much more. It’s a popular destination that also provides an amazing backdrop for a scenic helicopter tour of the Big Island.

The Big Island is a wonderful spot for your Hawaii vacation, and its sheer size means everyone in your group is sure to find something to love. However, while there are top-notch beaches here, serious beach-lovers may prefer islands like Maui and Kauai.

Maui: Relaxation and adventure

When people dream of Hawaii, images of Maui’s legendary scenery comes to mind. The second-largest island, Maui is full of lush rainforests and valleys, majestic volcanic craters, towering seaside cliffs, and postcard-perfect beaches. 

The island’s diverse landscapes and well-developed tourism infrastructure mean there’s an endless number of activities and adventures to enjoy, like the scenic Road to Hana for waterfall viewing, sunrises at Haleakalā National Park, surfing, hiking, and so much more.

For help planning a trip to Maui, be sure to save these two helpful articles from the Blue Hawaiian blog:

  • The Top 7 Adventure Activities For Your Maui Vacation
  • 5 Must-See Waterfalls on Maui

Kauai: Rugged tranquility

The oldest and smallest of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is an excellent choice for vacationers who prefer less development and fewer crowds… without being too far away from civilization. It’s an ideal spot for nature lovers, beach bums, and bird watchers, too. Even if you don’t head into the rainforest searching for birds, you’re bound to run into some local chickens roaming the roads.

Kauai is also known for its famous admirers, and several celebrities have made the island their second home. With the island’s laid back charm and contrasting landscapes, it’s no surprise it has enchanted so many people. You can experience unmatched scenery in spots like Waimea Canyon, aka the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” where cascading waterfalls dot the landscape. There’s also the green valleys and dramatic, 3,000-foot sea cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, Mt. Wai’ale’ale (the second wettest places on earth), and so much more.

There’s plenty to explore on land, though it’s worth noting that much of Kauai can’t be reached via roads or trails. The best way to see the island’s dense green forests, jagged cliffs, soaring peaks, and other remote terrain is on a helicopter tour.

Explore the stunning Manawaiopuna Falls, also known as “Jurassic Park” falls, wedged in between the emerald green mountaintop of the Hanapepe Valley. Then, Kauai’s magical North Shore reveals the sculpted green valleys and 3,000-foot sea cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, the pristine turquoise-blue waters of Hanalei Bay and the Princeville Resort area.


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