Hawaii is a dream destination for many, and with good reason! The islands seem to have it all: beautiful weather, delicious food, tranquil beaches, and lush landscapes. Top all of that off with the warm hospitality of locals, and it’s no wonder why the state is held in such high regard. But with so many islands to choose from, it can be overwhelming to try to figure out where you want to go: we’ve put together a few highlights for each Hawaiian island, to help you get the most out of your trip to the Pacific!
Hawaii (Big Island)
The state’s namesake island, otherwise known as the Big Island, is perhaps most famous for its volcanic history. You can’t miss out on visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, an amazing preserve that displays the results of approximately 70 million years of eruption, migration, and land evolution. In addition to the plethora of hiking opportunities, you can take a drive around Crater Rim and stop to walk along scenic points such as the natural steam vents and the “lava tube,” a prehistoric tunnel created by hot lava rushing through millions of years ago. When you want a more relaxing day, check out some of the farmers markets the Big Island famous for. The markets in Hilo, Kona, and Volcano Village are particularly stunning, with fresh flowers, food, and unique gifts that are sure to draw you in. Quiet neighborhoods transform into beautiful open-air markets, where hundreds of people flock for good food, live music, and a taste of the “aloha spirit” Hawaii is known for.
Maui is often hailed as the favorite island of many who visit Hawaii, and it’s not unwarranted. For first-time Maui goers, the Old Lahaina Luau is a must-see! The luau, which prides itself on adhering to traditional Hawaiian customs, is a great introduction into Hawaiian culture. Devote an evening to watching skillful hula and fire dancing, all while dining on Hawaiian specialties like kalua pua’a, poi, and of course, fresh mahi-mahi. During the day, treat yourself to a relaxing day on one of Maui’s many enticing beaches, where the sand is soft and the ocean is crystal-clear.
Ask any local what to do in Molokai and they’ll likely point you in the direction of Kalaupapa National Park. The Kalaupapa peninsula used to be an isolated leper colony, before a cure for the disease was invented. Today, Kalaupapa is a beautiful national preserve, and a photographer’s dream with its towering sea-cliffs and expansive ocean views. For a unique experience on the island, you can take a guided tour down the 2,000 foot sea-cliffs on the back of reliable mule, and breathe in the gorgeous views from atop the cliff. The Halawa Valley hike is another special opportunity in Molokai: you’ll walk through a lush rainforest before reaching a spectacular waterfall that you can swim underneath.
Kahoolawe and Niihau
Unfortunately, the islands of Kahoolawe and Niihau are closed to the general public, so visits there are a little more rare. Kahoolawe was closed in order to increase conservation and restoration efforts, and visitors are only allowed for Hawaiian cultural, spiritual, or subsistence purposes. However, you can still sign up for a volunteer trip to the island, and work to protect the natural fauna of the area. Niihau, an island with a population of just 170 people, also offers limited tourist opportunities, but if you’re lucky enough to visit you’ll take a helicopter tour around the island, where you can spot reef sharks swimming in the bay. Once the helicopter lands, you’ll spend the day relaxing on one of the pristine beaches, sunbathing and snorkelling to your heart’s content.
Oahu is a particularly well-loved island, offering many unforgettable experiences for visitors. One of the best spots on the island is Hanauma Bay, a special conservation area and underwater park. Various lookout points offer spectacular panoramic views of the bay itself, but snorkelling is the real attraction. The calm, translucent waters are home to a variety of colorful marine life that you can swim with easily with just a snorkel and a pair of fins, making it an incredible opportunity for visitors of all ages! If you need a break from the many beaches of Oahu, take some time to visit a few of the important museums on the island: from the Polynesian Cultural Center to the Pearl Harbor Museum, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Hawaiian history and culture.
Lanai, a small island in the middle of the Hawaiian chain, is a nature lover’s dream. The island often goes forgotten by tourists, meaning it’s not heavily crowded. Lanai is home to all sorts of natural attractions, like the barren, mars-like terrain of the Garden of the Gods, the rainforests leading up to the towering Mount Lanaihale, or Hulopoe Bay, a secluded white sand beach frequented by dolphins and sea turtles. When you start craving a taste of civilization, head into Lanai City, the island’s only town and home to an eclectic, colorful assortment of cafes, boutiques, and local art.
Kauai is nicknamed “The Garden Isle” for the rainforest that dominates most of its landscape. The Napali Coast State Park is a must-see, as its dramatic cliffs provide some of the most stunning views of all the Hawaiian islands: from the Pacific Ocean to the lush Napali Valley to powerful waterfalls, it’s no wonder that the Napali Coast has been used as a backdrop in countless Hollywood films. During your stay in Kauai, you should also make time to see Waimea Canyon, otherwise known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The views will leave you breathless, and the earthy hues are complemented by the rainbows that frequently shine over the canyon!
We are pretty biased - but Hawaii is definitely a trip you need to add to your travel bucket list. Don't have time to plan a getaway to all of the islands? Let us do all of that for you
Blog Post Author: Hannah Hunt