Beaches & Islands - 26 min read

BEST Islands To Visit In Hawaii (To Enjoy The Beach, Food, & Culture)

Jessica Langille

Jessica Langille, Updated October 12, 2022

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Hawaii is one of the best destinations in the US for a tropical vacation. It consists of 8 islands, which are all fascinating in their own way. Before you plan a Hawaiian vacation, you’ll need to choose one of the islands to visit. So, what is the best island to visit in Hawaii?

Six of the eight islands in Hawaii are great tourist destinations. Oahu is the best island for a beach vacation. It has several developed beaches that are easy for travelers to access. Maui is the best island for activities and events. It’s popular for snorkeling, kiteboarding boat tours, and more. Kauai is one of the best islands for exploring.

The best island in Hawaii for your vacation ultimately depends on what you want to do and see. Today, we’re going to discuss which Hawaiian islands are best for popular activities and attractions. Keep reading to narrow it down to which island in Hawaii is the best choice for your next vacation.

How To Choose The Best Island In Hawaii

To choose the best island in Hawaii, you need to think of what you want to do while on vacation. Make a list of the things that are important to you for having a good vacation. 

Every traveler has a different experience in mind. Some people want to spend their days lounging by the beach. Other travelers want to explore every site and attraction on the island. Finding a family-friendly area is essential to some visitors, while others want a destination with exciting nightlife.

There are a few other things that you should consider before you choose an island.

  • What is your travel budget?
  • What type of lodging accommodations do you prefer?
  • How are you going to get there? Is there a direct flight? (Tip: If you’re traveling from the US, it’s easier to find direct flights to Maui and Oahu.)
  • What attractions do you want to see?
  • What activities or events do you want to enjoy?

Best Island in Hawaii For A Relaxing Vacation

Lanai is one of the best islands in Hawaii for a relaxing vacation. Many travelers love the quiet vibe of this island. It gets the fewest number of tourists each year, so it’s the place to visit if you want to avoid crowds.

One of the things that stands out to visitors about Lanai is the slow pace. They never feel rushed when they are visiting local attractions. It’s one island where they can take their time and feel the sand beneath their toes.

Lanai is also a good island to indulge in. Travelers can enjoy the peaceful setting at one of the luxury resorts. There are also spas, golf courses, and many great restaurants in the area. 

Best Island in Hawaii To Enjoy The Beaches

Do you want to spend most of your vacation at the beach? Oahu has some of the best beaches in Hawaii. This island is known for having the most developed beaches in the state. There are plenty of places that are easy to access and safe for swimming. 

Oahu is the home of Lanikai Beach, which is the nicest beach in Hawaii. This lake is known for being quiet with crystal clear water. Many travelers find that the water is ideal for swimming. It’s warm year round and it stays calm.

When it comes to Hawaii, every island has stunning beaches. You can’t go wrong with any of them if you want to spend some time on the beach. Water activities are some of the main attractions in Hawaii. While Oahu is best for swimming, some of the other islands are ideal for different water activities.

Best Island in Hawaii For Snorkeling

Maui is the best island in Hawaii for snorkeling. There are several reasons why people prefer this island when they want to go snorkeling on their vacation. 

One of the top reasons why is that Maui has more protected bays than other islands. Bays make excellent snorkeling locations. Another thing that makes Maui unique for snorkelers is that there are coves to check out. It’s even possible to find a cove in a bay here.

There are several beaches in Maui for snorkeling, with activities for all skill levels. They typically aren’t crowded, giving visitors more time to enjoy their snorkeling adventures. 

There’s one more reason why Maui is the best island in Hawaii for snorkeling. In Maui, you have more opportunities to spot marine life. This is a popular location for spotting sea turtles. Humpback whales can be found 20 miles away from the island. Snorkelers can often hear their whale songs. 

Best Island in Hawaii For Surfing 

Oahu is the best island for surfing in Hawaii. Surfers prefer this island because the beaches on the north side have the best waves. Beginners also have the option to hire professional surf guides to stay safe on the waves in Oahu.

One thing you should always consider before planning a trip to Oahu is your surfing skill level. If you’re a beginner, you should visit during the summer months. This is because the waves are tamer, making it easier for you to adjust.

During the winter months, the waves are a lot rougher. It’s only recommended that advanced surfers attempt these waves. If you’re an experienced surfer, you might enjoy the challenge of surfing in Oahu in January.

Best Island in Hawaii For Whale Watching 

The #1 spot in Hawaii for whale-watching is Auau Channel. This body of water is located between Maui, Lanai, and Molokai. Not only is it the best place to spot whales in Hawaii, but it’s also been ranked as one of the best in the world.

However, almost every island in Hawaii has great locations for whale-watching. Maui is one of the best islands for spotting humpback whales. Kauai offers many locations for whale watching onshore, like Kapaa Overlook and Poipu Beach.

Kohola whales can be spotted in Oahu throughout the southern shore. Visitors may be able to see this rare breed from the lookouts along Leahi or Makapuu Lighthouse.  

Best Island in Hawaii For Fishing

Hawaii Island, also known as the Big Island, has the best fishing locations in Hawaii. There are several fishing grounds throughout this island for visitors to cast a line. However, Kailua-Kona is one of the top locations for fishing on this island. 

Many tourists prefer to book a fishing trip on a charter. The Big Island has many charters to choose from. Some of the top-rated charters include Kona Shoreline Fishing Adventure and Humdinger Sportfishing.

Are you wondering what fish you can catch from Hawaii Island? You might catch a bite from tuna, Mahi Mahi, or marlin.

Best Island in Hawaii For Sightseeing

Kauai is a top choice for many travelers for sightseeing. This island is very beautiful with many natural sights that are picture-perfect. If you want to go exploring on your Hawaiian vacation, this is the place to go.

There are several hidden beaches on this island First-time visitors have just as much fun discovering them as long-time travelers. The beauty of this island is severely underrated. There are several hiking trails that are lined with tranquil scenery.

Another reason Kauai is an excellent island for sightseeing is that it has the most coastline in Hawaii. Whether you want to fill your photobook or find seashells on the shore, Kauai offers some of the best locations in Hawaii. 

Best Island In Hawaii For A Family-Friendly Trip

Maui and Oahu are both excellent choices for a family-friendly vacation. Visitors will be able to find family-friendly resorts that their kids will enjoy on both of these islands. No matter which one of these islands you choose, your family will have a lot of fun.

Oahu has many kid-friendly attractions. Kids love Dolphin Quest, a place where visitors can swim with dolphins. The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is one of the best historic museums in the world. It’s one educational place that’s fun for kids to explore.

The Children’s Discovery Center is also located in Oahu. This location allows kids to enjoy hands-on fun as they learn. Another reason why kids love Oahu is the Disney Aulani Resort. 

Maui has a lot of water activities and programs that kids love. If you are traveling with toddlers or small kids, there are plenty of splash parks and playgrounds to enjoy. Older kids enjoy activities like snorkeling and canoe rides.

There are also several attractions that kids get excited about on this island. They can take lessons to swim like a mermaid or go on a Maui treasure hunt. There are also several farms to visit, like Surfing Goat Dairy and Maui Animal Farm.

Best Restaurants in Hawaii 

Many foodies will agree that Oahu has the best culinary scene in Hawaii. This island has often been described as a food paradise for people that enjoy trying new things to eat. Visitors can find a range of different restaurants on this island.

If you’re on the search for a great restaurant to eat at while staying in Oahu, you’re in luck. There are several restaurants throughout this island that have amazing reviews from previous guests. Let’s take a look at some of the top-rated restaurants in Oahu.

Senia (Honolulu)

Credit: Senia

Senia is one of the most popular restaurants in Oahu. This restaurant has very positive reviews because of the friendly atmosphere. It’s the type of place where strangers are treated just as well as regular guests.

On a regular night, guests can order off of the a la carte menu. This menu features dishes created by Chef Anthony Rush and the entire kitchen team. The food shows off the diversity of what can be created with local ingredients.

This restaurant also hosts an exclusive tasting menu. When this event is in action, there will only be 8 seats available. People who want to experience it need to act fast to reserve tickets when dates are announced. It features culinary creations with the highest quality ingredients.

53 By The Sea (Honolulu)

Credit: 53 By The Sea / Facebook

53 By The Sea is one of Honolulu’s best brunch and dinner restaurants. This menu features cuisine that’s celebrated across Oahu. Guests can enjoy seasonal Hawaiian flavors, delicious sweets, and handcrafted cocktails. 

Another reason guests love this restaurant is for the breathtaking views. Guests can enjoy the view of Diamond Head and Waikiki while they dine.

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue (Honolulu)

Credit: L&L Hawaiian Barbecue

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue serves the comfort foods of the island. At this restaurant, you can enjoy classic Hawaiian favorites like a tantalizing bbq beef bowl, chicken katsu, or kalua pork. This is also one of the top spots to get an old-fashion barbecue cheeseburger.

Spam is a traditional food in Hawaii. If you want to try a dish made from spam, you need to visit L&L Hawaiian Barbecue. Spam Musubi is a best-selling menu item. It features spam and rice wrapped in seaweed. You can also try spam saimin, a noodle soup with spam.

Orchids Restaurant (Honolulu)

Credit: Orchids Restaurant

Orchids Restaurant is an elegant place with a stunning ocean view. This fine dining restaurant is a hit with many guests because of its celebration of Italian flavors. However, Chef Christian Testa puts his signature flair on every menu item.

This restaurant has been named Honolulu’s Best Sunday Brunch spot. It’s also famous for the chef’s lasagnette, which includes fresh homemade noodles.

Where To Stay In Hawaii

Every Hawaiian island has incredible places to stay whether you prefer a more private setting or you want to be close to the nightlife and restaurants. Once you have determined what island you will be visiting, then it’s time to start looking for the best accommodations for your trip.

Best Accommodations in Hawaii 

Oahu has the best selection of accommodations in Hawaii. However, that doesn’t automatically mean that it’s the best island for you to visit. The type of lodging you want to stay in will determine which island is best for you.

Best Island For Hotels 

In Hawaii, there are more resorts than hotels. Your best option for finding hotels is in Oahu. This is because ⅔ of the hotels in Hawaii are located on this island. Maui is another good island to consider if you’re looking for luxury hotels.

Best Island For Resorts 

Maui is home to some of the best-rated hotels in Hawaii. There are several 4 and 5-star luxury resorts on this island. If you want to relax and get pampered during your stay, Maui is the best island to visit. 

Hotel Wailea is one of the top-rated resorts in Hawaii. It has also been named as one of the most romantic resorts in the world. This resort is located in Wailea, Maui. This is an adults-only resort with a very relaxing atmosphere.

Four Seasons Resort Maui is also located in Wailea. It has a close-to-perfect rating from many happy guests. This resort has many premium rooms and suites that offer a luxurious experience. It also has many offers throughout the year to make sure guests have a memorable experience.  

Best Island For Camping 

Kauai is the best island in Hawaii for camping. On this island, you will find the best selection of campsites. There are also more options for camping activities, so visitors always enjoy their vacation. 

There is also a better selection of state parks in Kauai, where visitors can find campgrounds and lodging. If you want to be surrounded by nature but not stay in a tent, there is also a good selection of cabins and cottages to rent on this island.

If you visit Kalalau Beach on the north shore, you will find a very secluded campsite. In this area, visitors get an amazing view of the ocean and surrounding cliffs. It’s one of the most relaxing places to camp in Hawaii.

Best Island For Beachfront Lodging

If you use VRBO or Air BNB to book accommodations, you can find a great selection of beachfront lodging throughout Hawaii. However, out of all the islands, Maui has the best selection of beachfront rentals in Hawaii. 

There are several rentals that have direct access to Maalaea Bay. If you want to find a cozy rental with an amazing view in Maui, we suggest looking in Wailea, Lahaina, or Maalaea. You can also find rentals along Makena Beach.

What Island In Hawaii Is The Most Affordable To Visit?

Oahu is the most affordable island to visit in Hawaii. It’s no secret that a vacation in Hawaii can be pretty expensive. However, travelers can still make the most of their trip on a budget. 

Since Oahu is the most developed island in Hawaii, there are more opportunities for travelers to find discounts. Remember what we mentioned earlier about Oahu being home to ⅔ of the hotels in Hawaii? 

With such an assortment of hotels to choose from, travelers have a choice. This means that hotels have to work harder to get their attention. More hotels will offer discounts to get noticed.

Honolulu in Oahu is a great spot to consider for a budget trip. Not only will you find cheaper lodging, but you will also be able to find cheaper activities and transportation. There is also a better selection of restaurants with value prices.

What Is The Prettiest Island In Hawaii?

Most travelers will agree that Kauai is the prettiest island in Hawaii. This is one of the best islands for hiking and exploring. If you get a chance to visit, it’s easy to see why. Kauai has lush greenery surrounding trails, with picture-perfect scenery everywhere you go.

Another reason Kauai is one of the most beautiful islands in Hawaii is that there are several waterfalls. If you want to see a beautiful waterfall on your trip, you should plan a hike to Wailua Falls, Uluwehi Falls, and Hanakoa Falls.

If you’re planning a trip to Kauai, there’s one thing you should know. The beautiful scenery comes at a price. That price is rain. This island is known for getting its fair share of heavy rainfalls. Visitors planning on traveling to Kauai should plan a longer trip to make up for rainy days. 

What Island In Hawaii Has The Best Events & Festivals?

Oahu has the best selection of events and festivals in Hawaii. There are several events and festivals that guests can look forward to in Oahu throughout the year. 

One of the biggest events is the Honolulu Festival, which is held annually in March. This festival is a 3-day event that celebrates the culture of Hawaii, the Pacific, and Asia. Entertainers from all over the world come to perform at this event. 

Aloha Festivals take place in September. Every year at this event in Oahu, there will be a re-enactment of the Hawaiian Royal Court process. This ceremony also features a range of fun activities, like live performances, arts & crafts, traditional food, block parties, and more.

King Kamehameha Festival takes place in June. One of the highlights of this festival is the extravagant parade. It starts at the Iolana Palace and travels to the foot of Diamond head. Thousands of people from all over the state visit Oahu for the event.  

Dukes Oceanfest is held annually in August. This event features a variety of watersports competitions. Visitors can either sign up to participate or spectate the events. Some of the activities at this event include surfing, volleyball, paddleboard races, swimming, water polo, and more.

What Is The Quietest Island In Hawaii?

The title of the quietest island in Hawaii can be split between Molokai and Lanai. These are the two best islands to consider if you want a peaceful vacation away from crowds. There is a lot to do on both of these islands, but most guests prefer to relax and enjoy the quiet ambiance. 

While visiting Molokai or Lanai, guests have the option to arrange private tours. This allows them to see some of the best spots on each island. The best part is, there’s no need to rush. You can enjoy every moment of your tour.

Since Molokai and Lanai are less developed than other tourist islands in Hawaii, they attract fewer crowds. However, these islands are beautiful for a visit. There are even several luxury resorts that pamper guests from the moment they arrive.

What Island In Hawaii Has The Friendliest People?

Molokai is home to the friendliest people in Hawaii. This island has been nicknamed The Friendly Isle. The people that live on this island believe it’s the best place in Hawaii. People living here have a slower-paced lifestyle, which could contribute to why they are so happy and friendly.

However, the entire state of Hawaii is known for the friendly people living there. No matter which island you choose to visit, you will likely come across many smiling faces. People in Hawaii are full of Aloha spirit. 

Aloha spirit means that a person will always extend friendship or offer assistance to someone in need. People in Hawaii are known to be very patient and empathetic with one another. It’s also the state with the lowest stress rate in the US. 

Which Island Has The Best Nightlife in Hawaii?

Oahu has the best nightlife in Hawaii. If you want to have fun when the sun goes down, Honolulu is one of the best spots to visit in Oahu. Visitors looking for a good party should check out the Waikiki neighborhood in Honolulu.

In this area, visitors can find an assortment of bars, lounges, and clubs. You can find live entertainment, good drinks, and plenty of people looking to make the most of the night. Let’s take a look at some of the best bars and clubs in Honolulu.

Bar 35

Bar 35 is an upscale bar that features over 150 different types of beer. These brews have been brought in from 20 different countries. The bar’s menu has beverages for all beer lovers to explore. It also includes sake and several other cocktails for people who don’t like beer.

Rumfire

Rumfire is an upscale club that’s known for its friendly atmosphere. They feature a daily Happy Hour special where guests can enjoy live entertainment and drinks. A lot of visitors enjoy this place for its vintage rum collection.

Another reason that people enjoy Rumfire is the view. This nightclub features an amazing view of Waikiki Beach. It’s the perfect spot to relax with friends and have a drink while enjoying the atmosphere.

Surfer, The Bar

Surfer, The Bar is one of the top-rated bars in Oahu. This venue fits into the category of bar, nightclub, and restaurant, giving guests the best of the nightlife scene. It’s one of the best places for karaoke and live entertainment. The bar is also known for its Hawaiian-themed cocktails.

Fusion Waikiki

The party never stops at Fusion Waikiki, the most exciting gay bar in Oahu, if not all of Hawaii. It’s one of the best places on the island to get food late at night. They also host drink specials on a daily basis. 

Each week, there’s live entertainment at this bar. Visitors can catch a drag show at Fusion Waikiki a few nights each week. There’s also live music and performances often.

Zanzabar

Zanzabar is the best-decorated nightclub in Honolulu. It’s decorated with bold colors and high-end pieces. The club’s energy attracts a lot of visitors in Hawaii. Another reason people love this club is that it plays music from all genres. There’s something for everyone here.

Guests can also look forward to theme nights and events at Zanzabar. There’s everything from live comedy shows to dance lessons. There’s always something fun happening at this nightclub.

Best Island For Your First Trip To Hawaii

Are you still undecided about which island is right for your trip to Hawaii? One of the best islands to visit for your first time in Hawaii is Oahu. Since it’s the most developed island, it gives visitors more choices of what to do and where to stay. 

There are more tourist attractions on Oahu than on the other islands. This allows people to try all the traditional Hawaiian activities, like surfing, snorkeling, traditional dancing, and more. You will also have a bigger variety of restaurants and shops to choose from.

Some of the top tourist attractions in Oahu include Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, and Manoa Falls. There are also several tours that give people a closer look at sea life. Some of the best tours in Oahu are Waikiki Afternoon Glass Bottom Boat Tour and Turtle Canyons Snorkel Excursion.

Visitors can also book several types of tours to see more of what the island holds. There’s everything from full-day sightseeing tours to Honolulu Haunts, a guided ghost tour. 

Oahu is the most popular island in Hawaii. On average, it receives over 4.7 million tourists each year. More people are attracted to this island because it’s one of the best islands for tourism in Hawaii.

There are many attractions that people want to see, which is why they are likely to book a trip to Honolulu. Places like the Pearl Harbor Museum and Waikiki Beach draw in more crowds. 

Oahu is a great place to book a trip if you want to stay busy and meet new people. However, you should expect more crowds at popular attractions. It’s unlikely that you’ll get the beach to yourself here like you could in Lanai or Molokai.  

Which Island In Hawaii Has The Best Weather?

Hawaii Island, also known as the Big Island, gets the best weather in Hawaii. There’s nothing more disappointing for travelers when they want to soak up the sun, but it rains throughout their vacation. 

On the Big Island, there’s an average of 10 inches per year. This means that travelers are very likely to come across good weather for the majority of their trip, no matter when they visit.  

For the best weather on Hawaii Island, you should visit Kohala Coast. This area has the highest number of sunny days in Hawaii each year. 

Why You Should Visit Oahu 

You should visit Oahu because it has something for everyone. No matter what you have down on your Hawaii vacation bucket list, you can probably do it in Oahu. It’s a great place for visiting landmarks, soaking up the sun on the beach, or enjoying nature on a hike. 

In Oahu, visitors can swim with sea life. Spinner dolphins are common in Honolulu, and people are able to swim with them. You may also get to swim with sea turtles and different species of fish.

If you want a stunning view of Hawaii, you’ll find one hiking on Oahu. The Olomana Trail offers amazing views for experienced hikers. The Koko Head is another place where visitors can enjoy breathtaking views.

Visitors that want to learn more about Hawaii’s royal history should visit Oahu. The only royal state residence is in Honolulu, the Iolani Palace. This is a great place to learn more about the land’s royal past and view brilliant architecture. 

Oahu is also one of the most kid-friendly islands in Hawaii. There are age-appropriate activities for the whole family. If you happen to be on vacation during a rainy day, there are plenty of shops, restaurants, and indoor attractions to keep everyone busy.

Why You Should Visit Maui

Maui has all the excitement of Oahu, without the crowds. This island has a beautiful selection of beaches, fun water activities, and some of the nicest resorts in Hawaii. There are also some fascinating historic sites, like Lahaina Historic Trail and Ka’ahumanu Church.

Among all the fun activities in Maui, whale-watching is one of the most popular. This is one of the best islands to find whale-watching tours. Another reason to consider Maui is the great selection of beaches. There are excellent locations for snorkeling surfing and other activities.

There are also some great hiking trails in Maui, especially along the Valley Isle. Many of them are kid-friendly as well. These trails lead people to waterfalls, bamboo forests, and other amazing discoveries. You can even explore a volcanic state park in Maui.

Maui is also a great island for foodies to visit. There are so many local fresh ingredients that restaurants use to give guests a real taste of Hawaii. This is one island where you can take your taste buds on an adventure.

Why You Should Visit Kauai

Kauai is the best island to visit if you want to enjoy Hawaii’s natural beauty. This island is smaller and less developed than other islands in Hawaii which attract tourists. For that reason, there’s more greenery and untouched land around to explore.

If you want to relax on the beach, Kauai is an excellent place to visit. It’s home to Poipu Beach, which has been named one of the best beaches in the world. It’s a shallow and protected beach that’s safe for swimming and water activities.

The hiking trails in Kauai are some of the best in Hawaii. It’s the best island for exploring, hiking, and cycling. Make sure you bring your camera because you will find a whole world of picture-perfect scenery here.

While Kauai has many wonderful attractions, there’s one more thing that makes it a great place to visit. It’s far less crowded than other islands. Most travelers head to Oahu, Big Island, and Maui. You’re more likely to enjoy a quiet day at the beach in Kauai. 

Why You Should Visit Molokai

The service industry in Molokai is incredible. Everywhere you go on this island, you will run into friendly people that want to make your vacation better. This island has a variety of luxury resorts that strive on pampering their guests. 

Molokai is excellent for sightseeing. It’s home to some of the largest sea cliffs in the world. The largest white sand beach in the world, Paohaku Beach, is also in Molokai. On top of that, the largest continuous fringing reef is also part of this island. 

This island has stayed true to its roots throughout the decades. The natives that live on this land want to preserve and continue to enjoy their traditional lifestyle. Most of the people that live on this island are native Hawaiin.

Visitors can enjoy an adventure when they travel to Molokai. They can enjoy a relaxing day on the beach. There’s also the option to book guided tours for hiking, horseback riding, and more.

Why You Should Visit Lanai

Lanai is the smallest island in Hawaii. It’s also the least visited. If you book a trip to Lanai island, you can avoid the crowds that are on some of the larger islands. Just because this island is small doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to do.

The best way to think of Lanai is by splitting it in two. On one end, you will have a luxurious place for a vacation. This includes 5-star resorts, fine ding restaurants, golf courses, and spas. On the other side, you will find nature untouched and at its finest.

There are many places throughout this island that are perfect for an off-road drive. It gives visitors the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure. 

While Lanai is a great vacation spot, this island is best suited for a relaxing adults-only vacation. 

Why You Should Visit Hawaii (The Big Island)

Visitors love Hawaii Island because of its diverse landscape. While it’s a very popular island for tourism, it doesn’t feel like it because of how big the island is. There’s more than enough room for everyone.

There are several beautiful beaches across this island. Papakolea Beach is the only beach in Hawaii with green sand. This beach is located on the Big Island and it takes a journey to get there. Visitors will need to drive up a cliff, then take a 20-minute hike to get to this beach. 

The Big Island also contains volcano soil. This allows farmers to grow coffee beans, avocados, vanilla, mushrooms, and more. Visitors can arrange to take tours of farms and plantations where these items grow.

We can’t talk about the Big Island without mentioning the adventures that people can have while they’re here. One of the most exciting activities to do while you’re here is ziplining. Hawaii Island is home to several gorges and waterfalls that you can freefall over.

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