Planning a trip to Hawaii but not sure where to start? Torn between picking a single island or hopping around?
Wherever you travel around the Hawaiian Islands, fantastic beaches and good eats are almost guaranteed, but every island has a unique flavor. Here are the best islands for whatever you’re seeking.
Oʻahu – Best for beaches, food, culture
Big city, small island: O'ahu means 'the Gathering Place' and three-quarters of Hawaii residents this it home. The capital, Honolulu, is crowded – so everyone rubs elbows on the bus and sidewalks.
Yet miles of beaches and forest trails are just a short drive from the bustling city's museums and historical monuments.
An endless feast: If you do nothing else on O’ahu you should eat. And then eat more. Food trucks, farmers markets and fusion menus by Hawaii’s star chefs – they're all here, waiting to be enjoyed.
Multicultural modernism: O’ahu lets you take the pulse of multiracial Hawaii, which confounds census categories.
With influences from Indigenous Hawaiians, European explorers, American missionaries and Asian plantation-worker immigrants, this is one of the most multi-cultural communities on the globe.
Hawaiʻi the Big Island – Best for hiking, history, wildlife
Trail junkies, unite: Kilauea, Earth’s most active volcano, conjures up a dreamscape for hikers: emerald valleys, icy waterfall pools, the lava flows crashing against rainforest, and lofty summits.
Ancient history: On the Big Island, ancient history looms. The first Polynesians likely landed at Ka Lae (Southern Point). Kamehameha the Great, who unified the Hawaiian Islands, was born in Kohala.
Hula is deeply-rooted on the Big Island and Miloli'i on the Kona Coast is perhaps the last Hawaiian fishing village.
Wildlife: Spinner dolphins leap, sea turtles glide and coral gardens are packed with brightly colored fish. In winter humpback whales steal the show.
Maui – Best for beaches, hiking, food
Sun and surf: Famed for its glorious sands, Maui’s got a beach for every mood – kiteboarding meccas, calm snorkeling coves, hidden gems and some of the biggest surfable waves on the planet.
Trails galore: The island’s hiking trails wind through a bamboo forest, climb to lofty ridgetops, wander past waterfalls and crunch through cindery, volcanic Haleakalā National Park.
Locavore heaven: Grass-fed beef from Upcountry pastures, day-boat fish and organic gardens ensure Maui’s chef-driven restaurants have the ingredients to whip up Hawai'ian regional creations.