People plan a vacation to Hawaii usually 3-8 months in advance. One of the most difficult decisions to make while planning is choosing the island. But there’s no right or wrong answer, making it even harder to choose the best island in Hawaii to visit.
There are 4 most popular islands in Hawaii: Oahu, Kauai, Big Island, and Maui. Each island has amazing beaches, nature, and a lot to do. But from the landscapes to attractions and the overall feel, every Hawaiian island has its own vibe and identity. Some islands are better for sights and history, while others stand out for hiking or beaches.
In this article, we are going to dig deeper into the features of each island to make it easier to choose the best island in Hawaii to visit according to your travel preferences.
Oahu is the most popular island with 450,000-570,000 visitors each month! This island is a mix of natural and cultural wonders with a lot of entertainment and modern, luxurious amenities. It’s also the crowdest island in Hawaii; people chose Waikiki in Honolulu because of the vast variety of hotels, dining, entertainment, shopping and sightseeing.
The Highlights of Oahu:
- Kualoa Ranch – Visitors to the ranch can Zip Line, take a Hollywood Movie Sites Tour, and rent ATVs
- Pearl Harbor – History buffs must visit. One of the most popular tourist destinations in Hawaii
- North Shore – Legendary surf spots where you can watch surf competitions and the giant waves
- Nightlife and the best restaurants – The most popular bars, nightclubs and restaurants are located in Honolulu. Read our article about restaurants and bars on Oahu to learn more
- Hikes -There are around 238 hiking trails on Oahu. The length and difficulty vary from trail to trail
- Learn surf– You can find a variety of surf spots on Oahu for different levels. Moreover, there are plenty of surf schools and rental shops.
The biggest island in Hawaii with 100,000-175,000 arrivals each month! It’s a destination for those who love to explore. Moreover, this island has the most varied beaches including those with black, white, and even green sand. The Big Island is the best Hawaiian island to visit for outdoor adventure seekers and families with older children and teenagers.
The Highlights of Big Island:
- Historic Kailua-Kona Town – Historic seaside hot spot.
- Waipio Valley – Hawaii’s largest isolated inhabited valley.
- Downtown Hilo – Discover local treasures in the island’s capital city.
- Ka Lae – The southernmost point in the United States.
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Home of one of the world’s most active volcanoes and otherworldly scenery.
Tourists on Kauai range between 100,000-140,000 each month. Kauai has a gorgeous lush green landscape that stands out among the Hawaiian Islands. Likewise, there are many beautiful secluded beaches and hikes with unbelievable views. Moreover, Kauai has beaches, restaurants, cute towns, shopping, resorts, and more. Kauai is the best Hawaiian island for travelers who like hiking, relaxing, and a quieter vibe.
The Highlights of Kauai:
- Wailua Falls – Kauai’s most popular waterfall.
- Kalalau Trail – Spectacular coastal trail on Kauai’s North Coast.
- Poipu Beach – Voted one of America’s best beaches.
- Waimea Canyon – Nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”
Maui has over 215,000 visitors each month. West Maui is also home to resorts, shopping, restaurants, and the historic whaling town Lahaina. While East Maui is more rustic, with a few areas to camp as well as the ultra-popular Road to Hana route with waterfalls, beaches, hiking spots, and camping along the way.
The Highlights of Maui:
- Lahaina Town – Whale watch, shop, and dine in this historic hot spot.
- Makena Beach State Park – One of Maui’s largest beaches.
- Iao Valley State Park – Historic site home to the iconic Iao Needle.
- Haleakala National Park – Scenic home of Maui’s highest peak.
- Hana Highway – Famous for the scenery, twists, and turns on the way to Hana town