You did it! You’ve decided that Hawaii is going to be your next vacation destination. But what island are you going to visit? Contrary to assumption, the 50th U.S. state is not one big land mass like the other 49; rather it is a collection of dozens of islands, each with its own vibes and scene. Of these, there are only six main islands that you can choose from for your vacation - Oahu, the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, and Lanai. Keep reading to see which one is right for you!
OAHU: The most populated of all of the islands, Oahu is home to the State’s capital of Honolulu. This island is the center of Hawaii’s economy - and it’s hard not to see why given ~70% of the state’s population lives here. Oahu boasts the iconic Pearl Harbor, Waikiki Beach, as well as a lot of kid-friendly activities such as the Waikiki Aquarium, the Honolulu Zoo, water-parks, and, for the history buffs, tours of WWII submarines and air carriers. If you are looking for a family friendly (or Instagram friendly) option, with bustling beaches, shopping / entertainment, and a robust nightlife, then Oahu is the right island for you!
THE BIG ISLAND: The second-most populated island (~14% of the state’s population), the Big Island of Hawaii is home to Kilauea, the most active volcano in the entire world! The island also boasts Volcanoes National Park, so if your bucket list includes a trip to all of the Nation’s national parks, then a stop at the Big Island is necessary. The sheer size of the Big Island (~4,000 sq ft) is also impressive; I’ve read that it can comfortably fit all of the other Hawaiian islands with room to spare! The island has about 11 different climate zones and there are countless options to get off the beaten trail to visit volcanoes, pristine beaches, and rain-forests. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are also on the island for astronomy fans! If you are looking for natural beauty, pristine beaches with scuba and snorkeling opportunities, and volcanic views (basically a little bit of everything), then the Big Island is the right island for you!
MAUI: Maui, wowie! If you’ve heard this phrase before, you’re definitely “in the know.” Locals describe Maui as “no ka oi”, meaning “the best!” The island is the second largest in size, behind the Big Island, and about similarly populated. Maui has a plethora of restaurants and some nightlife to choose from (only rivaling Oahu), but its quaint villages make it seem like that remote paradise you think of when you think of Hawaii. Maui is home to Haleakala (a dormant volcano) and I can tell you from personal experience that sunrises here are some of the most *magical* in the entire world! The famed “Road to Hana” is also found along the Maui coast. If you are looking for a romantic getaway, filled with golf and luxury, then Maui is the right island for you!
KAUAI: This is my personal favorite of the islands I’ve visited! Kauai just stole my heart with the abundant hiking opportunities in Waimea Canyon, remote, lush beaches, and the gorgeous Na Pali Coast. Only 10% of the island is inhabited (90% is not!) and you guys, it’s so easy to see why movies like Jurassic Park and South Pacific were filmed here! Kauai is called the “Garden Isle” because of how much rainfall it gets - in fact, the wettest spot in the world is found on Kauai! If you are looking for a romantic, secluded getaway with pristine beaches then Kauai is the right island for you!
MOLOKAI: Molokai is sparsely populated, literally only around 7,000 inhabitants, most of whom are native Hawaiians. It is generally thought of as the last “real” Hawaii and if you go, you can get a glimpse of life as it was 50 or 60 years ago. Kind of a more somber tidbit of the island is that it was home to a leprosy exile-colony (the facilities are still standing). Most tourists generally only take a day trip here (we did a helicopter tour from Maui), and generally speaking Molokai is not oriented towards a tourist industry. If you want to experience untouched Hawaii, then Molokai is the right island for you!
LANAI: If you truly, truly want to get away from IT ALLLLLLLLL, then take a trip to Lanai! The majority of the island is privately owned, and there are only two resorts (run by the Four Seasons) so this island feels like you’re at the ends of the world. If you have some money to spend, and you are yearning for the ultimate seclusion, then Lanai is the right island for you!
We hope this quick summary of the different islands has been helpful to you! Come back next Tuesday for an in-depth look at our favorite island, Kauai ♡