There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate links. If you click on any of these links, I might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you (which I really appreciate, thank you!) The full disclosure policy can be found here.
What is the best island to visit in Hawaii?
If you’re looking for the best island to visit in Hawaii, you’re in the right place!
Hawaii is home to beautiful mountains, an active volcano, stunning beaches in many colors, and some of the world’s most incredible waterfalls.
There are 137 officially recognized islands in Hawaii. Don’t worry; you don’t have 137 to choose from.
There are eight major islands in Hawaii, although one is uninhabited, and one is privately owned. There are six islands that you can visit, four of which are considered the primary islands for tourism.
Hawaiian Islands Overview
- Oahu – Home to the capital of Honolulu, famous Waikiki, and epic surfing on the North Shore.
- Maui – A honeymooner’s paradise with amazing beaches, waterfalls, and whale sightings.
- Kauai – Welcome to Jurassic Park. Home of the iconic Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon.
- The Big Island – Home of Kilauea volcano, black sand beaches, and 8 of the world’s 11 climate zones.
- Molokai – The “friendly isle” has no stoplights and is as real Hawaii as it gets.
- Lanai – If you truly want to get away, this is the place to go. Home to luxe resorts and amazing golf courses.
Before we get started, I recommend renting a car no matter which island you visit. Discount Hawaii Car Rentals offers the best rates on cars on all islands.
The best island in Hawaii
I want to start by saying that there isn’t a “best island in Hawaii.” All of the islands are amazing and unique in their own way. They all have differences, and they all have similarities.
Let’s start by talking about the things that all of the islands have. All of the islands have amazing beaches, epic hiking opportunities, upscale resorts, incredible golf courses, and a sense of tranquility and relaxation.
You really can’t go wrong when choosing which Hawaii island to visit, but it can be hard to choose.
If you’ve never been to Hawaii, choosing which island to visit can be challenging. Don’t worry; I’m here to help! First, let’s talk about the one most people think of first.
Is Oahu the best island to visit?
Oahu is the first island that you might consider when it comes to visiting Hawaii. This island is full of history, culture, and…people.
The most populated island in Hawaii, Oahu also has the only major city in Hawaii, Honolulu. You will likely find the best flight options to Oahu, just because so many planes fly on and off the island.
Oahu has many options for lodging. From small hotels to vacation condos to high-end resorts. There are even hostels on Oahu. If you love shopping, nightlife, and plenty of dining options, Honolulu is a great place to visit.
Is Waikiki the best place to visit in Hawaii
We can’t talk about Oahu without talking about the famous Waikiki. Swimming a Waikiki beach is a must, although you can find better (less crowded) beaches elsewhere. 😉
Waikiki also offers plenty of restaurants, shops, and hotels. You can also take a submarine tour, visit the Honolulu Zoo or Waikiki Aquarium, or relax on the beach.
For more things to do in Waikiki, check out the top 10 things to do in Waikiki.
The best Oahu resort for families
Traveling with kids (or maybe you’re a kid at heart?) Disney’s Aulani Resort is also on the Island of Oahu.
Located in Ko Olina, Aulani Resort is far enough from Honolulu to avoid heavy traffic and crowds, but close enough for convenience.
Even though it is a Disney resort, they have done a fantastic job of incorporating the local culture, customs, and traditions, all with a little Disney magic.
Is Oahu good for honeymoons?
If you’re a couple who is looking for a mixture of Big City things to do, plenty of historical and cultural activities, and beautiful natural attractions. Oahu has it all.
Yes, there are plenty of things to do. Lots of high-end shopping, more restaurants than you can imagine, the only island with real nightlife, and so much more.
Oahu also has many historical and cultural activities, from visiting Pearl Harbor to learning about Hawaiian culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
On the other side of that, Oahu also has traffic lots of traffic. It’s also filled with people, so if you’re looking for more of a secluded honeymoon, you should head to the North Shore or another island.
The North Shore is an entirely different world, so I strongly advise checking it out even if you do choose to stay in the hustle and bustle of Waikiki.
Check out the North Shore for some fantastic (and not as busy) beaches with incredible waves. For more things to do on the North Shore, check out things to do in Haleiwa.
Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s North Shore
The best Oahu Resorts for honeymoons
Turtle Bay Resort was the scene for a few movies set in Hawaii (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and is a beautiful resort with many amenities for honeymooners.
The Kahala Resort and Hotel is near Waikiki, but far enough away to be more secluded.
If you don’t mind spending $2500+ per night, ESPACIO, the Jewel of Waikiki, offers an ultra-exclusive and personalized experience.
Amenities include the use of luxury vehicles, butler service, a roof-top infinity pool, and more. ESPACIO is genuinely the best of the best in Waikiki.
Do you need a car in Oahu?
I’ve heard some people say that you don’t need a rental car to get around Oahu. I have to disagree. If you plan to stay in the Honolulu/Waikiki area strictly, then you might not need a car.
Oahu does have an excellent bus system, but if you would rather travel on your own time, I highly recommend a rental car.
I recommend renting a car on every island, but Oahu is the only island where you might be able to get away with not having one. Here’s why I recommend a rental car in Hawaii.
Discount Hawaii Car Rentals (as mentioned earlier) offers the best rates on cars, Jeeps, or any other type of vehicle in Hawaii.
Another important part of Oahu is history and culture. You can learn about Hawaii’s history at the Polynesian Cultural Center mentioned above.
You can also visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial. A must-see on the island.
Is The Big Island the best island?
The Big Island, also called “Hawaii,” is often confused with Oahu. They are two different islands. The Big Island is the youngest of the islands and also the biggest.
You could even fit all of the other islands into the Big Island! It’s still growing thanks to an active volcano.
Don’t let an active volcano scare you away! It’s very safe, even after the recent eruptions. The volcano eruptions only affected a tiny area of the Big Island.
The affected areas are nowhere near the resort areas of the Big Island.
Flying to the Big Island
The Big Island has airports in Kona and Hilo, but you’ll almost always fly into Kona. Most of the island’s resorts are in the Kona or Kohala area, which is north and south of the airport, respectively.
Hawaii Volcanos National Park opened again in September of 2018 and a must-see on the Big Island. I might be biased, but the Big Island is my favorite.
Did you know that the island of Hawaii has 8 out of the world’s 11 climate zones? This means that you can experience many different climates, all on the same day.
You definitely will need a rental car on the Big Island. You’re going to want one to see everything! The Big Island is perfect for adventure lovers. I highly recommend renting a 4-wheel drive.
Renting a 4-wheel drive will allow you to get to some difficult areas (or illegal) to go by car. Mauna Kea, Waipio Valley, and many other places are only accessible by 4-wheel drive.
Waipi’o Valley on the Big Island
Is the Big Island good for honeymoons?
If seeing an active volcano is on your honeymoon bucket list, the Big Island is the place for you.
The Big Island is also home to Mauna Kea, where it can snow in the winter! The dry, western (Kona) side of the island is full of high-end resorts. You can also shop and dine in the beautiful seaside Kona town.
Make sure to check out 25 things to do in Kona.
The eastern (Hilo) rainier side of the island is where you’ll find waterfalls, gorgeous botanical gardens, and the more “local” town of Hilo. I have a post with 20 things to do in Hilo for more ideas.
One of the biggest draws to the Big Island is the biological diversity. The Big Island is home to many of the world’s climate zones. On the Big Island, you can experience them all in one day.
The best honeymoon resort on the Big Island
The Fairmont Orchid. The Fairmont Orchid is set on 32 stunning oceanfront acres on the Kohala Coast. You’ll find championship golfing, fabulous restaurants, and an incredible spa at the Fairmont Orchid.
I also love the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel for honeymoons. It is home to fantastic golf courses and is located on one of the best beaches on the Big Island. This resort also boasts some of the best dining options on the Big Island.
Is Maui the best island in Hawaii?
Maui is a popular destination for honeymooners and destination weddings, but it’s also a great family destination.
The Valley Isle is the second most visited island after Oahu and has plenty of options for accommodations, dining, and shopping.
You’ll find the best whale watching on Maui and one of the best snorkeling experiences on Molokini Crater. Maui also has plenty of adventure opportunities, including the popular Road to Hana.
Maui is also the gateway to two other islands, Lanai and Molokai. You can take a ferry to Lanai, and it’s a very short flight to Molokai.
Check out 50 things to do in Maui for more things to do in Maui, Lanai, and Molokai.
Maui has terrific beaches, including green and red sand beaches along the Road to Hana. You’ll also want to experience a sunrise on Haleakala. Make sure to bring a jacket; it’s chilly up there.
I wrote a post with some of my favorite things to do in Maui; check it out!
Is Maui the best island for honeymoons?
If you’re looking for the best beaches in Hawaii, you’ll find them in Maui. Maui offers more human-made activities than all of the other islands except Oahu, without having a big city on a small island.
Maui is often named one of the best places in the world for honeymoons, so it’s an obvious choice.
The best honeymoon resort on Maui
There aren’t many adults-only resorts in Hawaii, but you’ll find a quiet, adults-only atmosphere in the all-suites Hotel Wailea.
Prefer to stay at an eco-friendly, trendy, high-end resort? The Andaz Maui has an adults-only pool, which is great for honeymoon couples. You can also enjoy four incredible on-site restaurants and enjoy some wine on your private lanai.
If you prefer to stay away from it all in a beautiful, luxury resort, check out the Travaasa Hana. While there are no actual “all-inclusive” hotels in Hawaii, the Travaasa Hana comes close, offering options that include your meals.
Is Kauai the best island in Hawaii?
Kauai is the oldest island and arguably the most beautiful. Of the four major islands, Kauai remains the most untouched.
When considering which Hawaiian island to visit, this can be both a good and bad thing! Kauai was the backdrop in several famous movies, including Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones.
If you love adventure, Kauai might be the best island for you. From hiking the Na Pali coast to kayaking the Wailua River to visiting Waimea Canyon.
Kauai has something for every adventurer. Check out the best hikes on Kauai to learn about more Kauai hikes.
Kauai does not have many options for shopping or nightlife, and it can take a while to get around. The Na Pali Coast is only accessible by boat, helicopter, or hiking.
The island does have two resort areas, in Poipu/Koloa (south) and Princeville/Hanalei (north.) Check out this post about the 10 best things to do on Kauai.
Is Kauai good for honeymoons?
Arguably the most beautiful island, Kauai is the perfect destination for honeymooners seeking adventure.
Kauai has plenty of beautiful resorts for relaxing by the beach/pool or a spa day. Kauai also has more adventure activities than you can imagine.
In contrast, Kauai is more remote than the other islands on this list (excluding Lanai) and is perfect for anyone looking to getaway.
The best resort for honeymoons in Kauai
If you want to stay near the beautiful Na Pali coast, check out the Westin or the Princeville Resort. If you are worried about rain, check out Ko’a Kea Hotel and Resort in sunny Poipu.
You might also enjoy: What to pack for Hawaii.
Is Lanai a good place to visit
Lanai has upscale accommodations at the Four Seasons, great golf courses, and great beaches. If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation with a little bit of golf, Lanai might be the perfect destination for you.
Of course, Lanai does have other things to do. Are you missing your cat at home? You could visit the Lanai Cat Sanctuary.
The Garden of the Gods and Lanai Cultural and Heritage center are other popular attractions.
Is Lanai good for a honeymoon?
If you want a secluded, and I mean, really secluded honeymoon spot, Lanai is a perfect choice. Lanai has just one resort, The Four Seasons Lanai.
Although Four Seasons Resorts are very family-friendly, not as many families make it to Lanai, Lanai’s remoteness makes it an excellent choice for a Hawaii honeymoon.
For more honeymoon resorts in Hawaii, check out the best honeymoon resorts in Hawaii.
Can you visit Molokai?
Molokai is often referred to as the “real Hawaii.” This island has no stoplights and only three gates at the airport! The seacliffs in Molokai rival those on Kauai; you can explore the sea cliffs by boat.
Molokai is called the “Friendly Isle,” and you’ll see why you meet the locals. Come to Molokai with respect for the land and the culture; you’ll be greeted with open arms.
The south coast of Molokai has the longest barrier reef in Hawaii. Of course, this means snorkeling in Molokai is fantastic.
Molokai even has a golf course, so if you want to golf on every (inhabited and not privately owned) Hawaiian island – you can!
Can you visit Niihau?
Sadly, you can’t visit Niihau, the island off the coast of Kauai. The island is privately owned. However, you can do a Na Pali Coast and Niihau sail and snorkel tour.
You won’t be on land but you’ll be in the shallow waters of Niihau which is pretty darn close!
What is the best island in Hawaii for first-time visitors?
Which island would I recommend for your first time in Hawaii? That’s a tough one! If you are only going to one island, I would recommend Maui or The Big Island.
Maui has so much to do and offers options for day trips to Molokai and Lanai. The Big Island has so much to do and so much variety that you’ll never get bored.
If I had to choose one island that would be best for first-time visitors, it would probably be Maui.
Maui is a great destination for honeymoons, babymoons, family vacations, and more. The Valley Isle has shopping, dining, and lodging options for any taste and budget.
There is also has something for those who love adventure, so it has a little bit of everything.
Don’t forget to check out 10 things you NEED to know before going to Hawaii.
How many Hawaii islands should I visit?
If you think that all of the islands sound amazing, they are! I wouldn’t recommend trying to see everything in one trip.
If you’re visiting for one week, I would choose two islands, max. It would be better to stay on one island for a week if possible.
Are you visiting for two weeks? It’s possible to fit in two or three different islands in your itinerary.
Although I am a Hawaii Travel Agent, I am only taking on a few clients for 2024. You can contact me if you’d like more information. I would recommend starting with my Hawaii travel guide if you plan to DIY your vacation!
The best way to get Hawaii travel tips and the most current travel information is to sign up for my email list. I send out one weekly email with the latest news, travel deals, and more. Sign up below.
Pin it for later: