These are the best islands in Hawaii, according to frequent visitors

Leslie Harvey

No matter where you go in America's 50th state, Hawaii's islands offer a wide variety of topographies, accommodations, activities and experiences.

Related: The best ways to get to Hawaii using points and miles

Hawaii is an incredibly unique place to visit, and each island has its own distinctive vibe. How do you choose between so many different versions of paradise? Here's a guide to finding the right Hawaiian island to visit on your next vacation.

  • First-time visitors to Hawaii.
  • Single travelers.
  • Large groups.
  • Budget travelers.

Oahu is Hawaii's most bustling and urban island. It's home to the state's largest city and commercial center, Honolulu, which is known for an epic rush hour that sometimes rivals the one in Los Angeles. Within city limits, Waikiki Beach is the place to see and be seen — shop, dine and enjoy the amenities of huge high-rise resorts.

Related: The best time to visit Hawaii this year

quietest hawaiian island to visit

But Oahu's offerings are more diverse than just Honolulu. The growing resort area of Ko Olina is not as built up but still has several upscale accommodations, including Disney's Aulani Resort and the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina . On the way to Ko Olina from Honolulu is Pearl Harbor , one of the most visited historic sites anywhere on the islands.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Oahu's North Shore provides another vibe that's downright chill with its beach-hopping, food-truck-loving, small-town surfer scene. Hikers will find plenty of trails all over Oahu, from the peaks of Diamond Head to less-traveled spots like Makiki Valley and Waimea Valley. Some popular spots do require advance reservations.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Oahu's gateway for travelers, Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) has the most air service of any location on the islands, making it the cheapest destination for travelers from the mainland. It also offers the most nonstop flights.

Related: Best ways to redeem points and miles on Hawaiian Airlines

  • Travelers with kids.
  • Multigenerational travel.
  • Anyone looking for resort-based condo properties.

The second-most-visited island in the state and also its second largest, Maui is home to the famed Road to Hana , Haleakala National Park and the best whale watching anywhere in Hawaii during the winter months.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

For many travelers, a vacation on Maui is the best of both worlds. The island offers some of the same infrastructure, conveniences and activities of Oahu without the traffic and urban sprawl. It's possible to have an active vacation here and visit a lot of attractions, or you can just enjoy some island rest and relaxation at a resort.

Maui is a great pick for families with kids of school age because of its many activities. It works well for multigenerational groups because it has experiences that grandparents and grandkids can enjoy, such as the Maui Ocean Center or catching a sunrise at Haleakala National Park.

The island of Maui also has many amazing hotels and resorts at a wide variety of price points. Most are clustered in two major areas: on the Lahaina/Ka'anapali/Kapalua corridor on the northwest side of the island and in Kihei/Wailea farther south.

Related: 29 hotels in Maui, Hawaii, you can book with points

For its size, Maui offers an impressive variety of hotels for travelers to book a hotel stay with points. Most major chains are represented, and many properties offer condo accommodations that work for families or larger groups. The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa ; The Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas; The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, Ka'anapali; the Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort ; and the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort have all scored well with TPG contributors and readers.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Hawaii (the Big Island)

  • Romantic couples getaways.
  • Luxury travelers.
  • Adventure seekers.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

The island of Hawaii, called the Big Island , is the largest and newest island in the chain. Because it's so big, seeing everything requires close to a week, but it offers many different travel experiences from day to day.

The vast majority of Big Island visitors stick to the western side of the island near the city of Kailua-Kona and the Kohala Coast, where the large resorts are located. Luxury seekers can enjoy high-end properties like the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai ; the Mauna Lani , an Auberge Resort; and the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection.

Families on a moderate budget can find ample hotel offerings, too. In particular, the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa and the Hilton Waikoloa Village cater to travelers with kids. Pool complexes are a big draw.

Related: Top hotels on the Big Island, Hawaii, for your next vacation

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Although it's entirely possible to spend a week on the Big Island relaxing on the beach of a resort, the island can also be an adventure traveler's paradise. On the northern part of the island, travelers can zip line, take all-terrain-vehicle tours, jump into waterfalls, scuba dive or snorkel with giant manta rays, or flume down historic sugar cane irrigation channels.

On the southern part of the island, you can visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, although some areas remain closed for safety precautions. The town of Hilo on the eastern side of the island has its own local vibe that can be a great getaway for travelers looking for an authentic Hawaiian experience.

  • Romantic couples getaways and babymoons.
  • Adventure junkies.
  • Relaxation seekers.

Kauai's lush greenery makes it, in my opinion, the most beautiful of all the Hawaiian islands. It is home to waterfalls, hiking trails and a variety of eco-adventures. Most travelers seek out Kauai to avoid the hustle and bustle of Oahu and Maui and have a more unplugged vacation experience.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Unfortunately, Kauai's natural beauty also makes it less reliable as a vacation destination. The island's greenery comes from the substantial rainfall it gets, which makes it possible that your vacation in paradise is a damp one. For that reason, it's probably best to plan for a longer trip just in case the weather doesn't cooperate all the time.

Hotel offerings on Kauai are ample. For families, the hands-down winner is the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa in Poipu, known for having one of the best waterslides and pools anywhere on the island. The Grand Club lounge is quite special, too, with easy access to breakfast, drinks, snacks and more.

Poipu to the south is home to quite a few other major resorts, including the Sheraton Kauai Resort . Princeville to the north has many others, such as The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas .

Related: True aloha spirit at the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort

Smaller islands: Lanai and Molokai

  • Returning Hawaii visitors looking for new experiences.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Although the vast majority of travelers to Hawaii visit Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai, there are two smaller islands that tourists can visit as well. Getting to both of them requires a little extra effort, as neither has air service from the mainland.

Lanai, the island owned by Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, is accessible by boat from Maui. It has two Four Seasons resorts on the island (one is adults-only), so it's also luxurious and pricey.

Related: Off the beaten path: Tips on visiting and exploring Lanai, Hawaii

Molokai, by contrast, has no name-brand accommodations, making it a place of refuge for local residents and travelers looking for authentic Hawaii travel experiences. Molokai has commuter air service from HNL and Maui's two airports: Kahului Airport (OGG) and Kapalua Airport (JHM).

Related: Off the beaten path: Tips on visiting and exploring Molokai, Hawaii

I wouldn't recommend that travelers head to either of these places until they've visited several of the larger Hawaiian islands first. You'll likely get more out of them (and know which one is the right fit for you) once you have more context to appreciate them.

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This Hidden Gem Hawaiian Island Is A Quiet Escape With Pretty Beaches And Cliffside Views

sea cliffs of molokai

Travelers will find no shortage of incredible adventures awaiting them in the Hawaiian islands, from swimming and snorkeling on the Big Island to visiting one of the world's best cliff-diving spots on Oahu . However, if you want to have a quiet and profound experience while learning about the history and culture of Hawaii, the island of Moloka'i might be for you. According to the  Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism , in December 2022, nearly 487,000 people arrived in Oahu by plane, while in quiet Moloka'i, only 4,324 recorded visitors flew in. Even if you plan to visit at the peak of Hawaii's tourist season, you can book a flight from Honolulu to Moloka'i for around $100 – but most people don't.

Moloka'i may be small, only about nine-tenths the size of New York City, but coral reefs fill the surrounding ocean, 3,600-foot cliffs rise out of the water, and you can walk miles on a sandy beach without seeing another visitor. The only resort on the island has closed. Tourism as an industry remains highly controversial there, but Moloka'i is also known as "the friendly island" for a reason. It welcomes individual travelers, and locals will often engage visitors in conversation.

Why do so few people visit Moloka'i?

While it can be hard to understand why an island with white sand and tropical rainforests gets so few visitors, its landscape, history, and culture offer some clues. Like its towering sea cliffs, the island's traditional culture also resists interference from outsiders. According to  Smithsonian Magazine , in the past, the people of Moloka'i had a reputation for using a combination of magic and poison to kill potential invaders of their land. In modern times, activists work to prevent their home from being transformed into a tourist trap. Travelers hoping to enjoy famous restaurants, luxury shopping, or  the perks of booking an all-inclusive resort  won't find these elements on Moloka'i, so many don't make the trip.

While some local businesses and volunteer programs rely on visitors to survive, many residents fear that outsiders will change Moloka'i. Some put up signs with messages like, "Visit. Spend. Go home." to remind visitors not to get too comfortable on Moloka'i, buy up the land, and price out local people, or, as one development company threatened to do, build a golf course over sacred land. Local cultural tour guide Greg Solatorio told Jim Byers Travel : "The island can't live without visitors ... It would be okay if the resort came back, but it would be nice if it was educational. We don't need more hotels handing out plumeria leis and teaching people to say, 'Hey, Brah.'"

How to experience Moloka'i for yourself

"If you come to Molokai to become part of what is here, you will be overwhelmed by the aloha and spirituality. If you bring your demands and lifestyle attitudes, you will be disappointed and will probably not find the island to your liking," states Visit Molokai , an organization created by people who live on the island to encourage the kind of tourism they want to see. If you plan ahead and travel thoughtfully, you can have an educational and perhaps even transformative trip. Best of all, you might even be able to leave the island better than you found it.

You could volunteer at the Kakahaia National Wildlife Refuge and help park staff remove invasive plants and replace them with native ones to help the endangered birds thrive there. You could get a permit, visit the Kalaupapa National Historical Park , and hike the trail to learn more about the island's history. As detailed in a report from Forbes , you might even be able to stay at a local farm for free in return for volunteering to assist the owners in their work. You could interact with the local people, asking their permission to explore their communities and enjoy the natural beauty of their island without disrupting it. In return, they may decide to share the most beautiful sights and experiences on Moloka'i.

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The Best Hawaiian Islands to Visit for Different Kinds of Travelers

Will it be lava flows or luxury resorts waikīkī beach, pearl harbor, or humpback whales settle that difficult “which island to visit” question once and for all..

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Aerial view of row of pink umbrellas and people on Waikiki Beach

Whether your ideal Hawaiian vacation means time sunning, shopping, or snorkeling, there’s an island for you.

Photo by Erin Kunkel

From laid-back yet cosmopolitan Oah‘u to wild Moloka‘i, Hawai‘i is as diverse as the travelers who visit. Within the archipelago there are eight main islands, each with its own distinctive characteristics—in all, a total of 137 islets and minor ones. How would you even begin to choose where to visit?

To help, we’ve highlighted six of the biggest Hawaiian islands to help you select which are the best for you to visit on your next trip.

Context to know before you go

Even prior to COVID, Hawai‘i was struggling with the impact of overtourism on its people and the land. For many locals the year-plus of shutdowns, while economically devastating, allowed them to have the islands all to themselves for the first time in decades, which has led to deeper conversations about what tourism should look like going forward.

“We had our space back for a year,” says Edwin “Ekolu” Lindsey III, president of Maui Cultural Lands. “And we realized what we’ve given up over the last 50 years of tourism.”

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go—to the contrary, Lindsey says, “We’re happy to share—if the visitor’s intentions are right.” As a good guest, travelers should abide by the no-trespassing signs, use reef-safe sunscreen, and follow best practices when it comes to the ocean and wildlife (like giving animals space and never touching coral reefs with hands, feet, or watercraft). Essentially, we should treat the islands as if we were entering the home of a dear friend.

“We don’t call them islands. We call them family because they are—they’re like human beings to us,” says Healani Kimitete-Ah Mow, Mauna Kea Resort aloha ambassador, “and when it comes to family . . . we need to take care of them.”

A map of Hawai'i's main islands

Each island in Hawai‘i offers something different for travelers.

Photo by Bardocz Peter / Shutterstock

To encourage travelers to think of a trip to Hawai‘i as more than a vacation spot, the state introduced the Mālama Hawai‘i initiative. Mālama means “to care for,” and that’s what the program invites us to do: To find a way to show care to the islands we visit. (It’s one of many destinations that have introduced a travel pledge or code of conduct for visitors in recent years, including Iceland, Palau, and Haida Gwaii in British Columbia.)

As you consider which Hawaiian island is right for you, consider joining one of the mālama experiences: replanting native species, participating in a beach cleanup , or any of the many other volunteer experiences .

Note: Maui and the island of Hawai‘i were affected by widespread wildfires in August 2023. The destination is welcoming respectful visitors back as recovery and rebuilding efforts continue.

Distant view of Mauna Kea rising above clouds

If you measure its height from the ocean floor, Mauna Kea is taller than Mount Everest.

Photo by Shutterstock

  • Nickname: The Big Island
  • Best for: Outdoor adventurers who want to go stargazing on the highest peak in Hawai‘i, whale-watching, and hiking on volcanoes

One of the world’s most ecologically diverse places, the state’s youngest and largest island (commonly referred to as the “Big Island”) sweeps from a black-sand beach to waterfall-laced rainforest valleys, lava deserts, and snow-capped mountains. The active Kīlauea volcano sits on the flank of massive Mauna Loa. But Mauna Kea wins the world heavyweight title for height, outstripping Mount Everest by 4,500 feet when measured from the ocean floor. It’s also among the most sacred of the five mountains on the island.

“We don’t look at this mountain as a mountain,” says Kimitete-Ah Mow. “She’s really alive.” For that reason, adventurous travelers who want to head up the steep winding road to the summit, famed for its stargazing, should book a guided tour with a company that will help visitors understand the history and culture of the mauna , or mountain.

Not in the mood for the high road? When it reopens to the public, visit the NASA-funded Imiloa Astronomy Center instead. Or go low with a nighttime snorkeling trip to visit giant manta rays as they soar and loop, feeding on tiny zooplankton. Make sure to check out the incredible aerial breaching displays of the 11,000-odd humpback whales that winter offshore, too.

Then finish with a peek into ancient traditions at Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau or Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park , where Hawaiians once fished, carved petroglyphs, and used toboggan-like sleds to ride downhill over stones covered in dirt and leaves. Travelers can also tour the seven-acre Kona Sea Salt farm, buy sea salt harvested from 2,200 feet below the ocean surface, and join in clam bakes featuring sustainable seafood raised at the neighboring Hawai‘i Ocean Science and Technology Park.

At Volcano Rainforest Retreat, the Bamboo Guest House cottage has a Japanese soaking tub

At Volcano Rainforest Retreat, the Bamboo Guest House cottage has a Japanese soaking tub beneath a canopy of ferns.

Courtesy of Volcano Rainforest Retreat

Where to stay

The island of Hawai‘i offers plenty of options for lodging. For high-end resorts, look to the Kona area on the west side of the island; travelers who prefer more low-key lodging should look to the eastern Hilo side.

Fairmont Orchid

The Kona-side Fairmont Orchid occupies 32 acres, complete with tropical gardens and a white-sand beach. Of the 540 guest rooms and suites, all have lanais and half have ocean views.

Four Seasons Hualālai

You might spot a celebrity or two at this Hollywood favorite, beloved for its 865 acres of palm-fringed coastline. Just a 15-minute drive from the Kona International airport, this Four Seasons has seven pools, a rock amphitheater where kids can overnight, and even an on-site museum and cultural center.

Volcano Rainforest Retreat

For travelers who want to stay on the Hilo side of the island—and close to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park—consider this quiet, four-cottage inn on the edge of the rainforest. All cottages are unique, but each has cedar walls, shoji screens, and plenty of windows that look out on giant ferns.

How to give back

As part of the Mālama Hawai‘i initiative, many hotels and resorts are offering volunteer projects—some, like Marriott properties statewide, will offer the fifth night free with a volunteer project.

  • Sign the island’s Pono Pledge . Pono means “righteous” and the pledge invites travelers to traverse the island with gentleness, humility, and respect.
  • Join a community or educational event put on by Pōhāhā I Ka Lani , a nonprofit devoted to stewardship of Hawai‘i’s sacred land.
  • Guests of the Fairmont Orchid can participate in three different projects: forest reforestation with Waikōloa Dry Forest Reserve , beach cleanup with Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund , and a tree planting with Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative .
  • Guests and local residents can join Kimitete-Ah Mow’s E Ala E ceremony at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Westin Hapuna Beach Resort . It’s a morning ritual to greet the sun—one that many Hawaiians participate in—that begins on the beach at 6 a.m. Kimitete-Ah Mow, also a Pono pledge ambassador, begins with a short blessing, invites travelers to gaze into the Pacific, and then they face the east and ask the sun to rise with another chant. After, people are invited to participate in a self-directed beach cleanup.

Offshore view of Kaua‘i’s rugged and steep Nāpali Coast

The cliffs and ltrails of Kaua‘i’s Nāpali Coast are steep and spectacular.

Courtesy of Tor Johnson for the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA)

  • Nickname: The Garden Isle
  • Best for: Travelers looking for a quiet, laid-back island full of natural beauty, waterfalls, and long stretches of beach, plus a chance to learn about ancient traditions and visit small towns

Lushness and serenity reign on the “Garden Isle,” home to the planet’s wettest spot, Mount Waialeale, averaging 451 inches of rain each year. The town of Poipu and the South Shore tend to be sunnier with more restaurants, shops, and water sports.

But Waimea—“the Grand Canyon of the Pacific”—and Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park hog the spotlight. Here waterfalls and swift streams sculpt one of the world’s most staggeringly beautiful wilderness areas, threaded with ancient Hawaiian archaeological sites. Keep in mind that those wishing to visit Hā‘ena State Park , which includes Kee and Tunnels beaches, as well as the trailhead, need to make reservations in advance .

Fancy a more accessible cascade? Check out Wailua Falls, a 173-foot veil featured in the opening credits of the 1970s TV hit Fantasy Island . Then contrast that riot of water and vegetation with Polihale State Park, where Hawai‘i’s longest stretch of beach covers 15 miles and dunes can pile up to 100 feet high.

Most travelers stay along the North Shore (home to Princeville and Hanalei); on the drier, sunnier South Shore, near the town of Poipu; or along the eastern coast, near the Lihue Airport.

Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas

On the North Shore, the family-friendly resort is within a short drive of Hanalei Bay and offers plenty of pools, local cuisine at the Nanea restaurant, and fully equipped villas (including washers-dryers and kitchens).

Waimea Plantation Cottages

Find laid-back luxury at this 59-cottage property (once a sugar plantation) on the sunnier, slightly less-traveled West Side, home to the storied Waimea Canyon. All cottages were built in the late 19th century or early 20th and reflect that charm: painted wood-paneled walls and shaded lanais, each with a fully equipped kitchen.

Outrigger Kaua‘i Beach Resort

Not far from the Lihue Airport, the resort is on Kaua‘i’s east coast. Choose from rooms that overlook the gardens, ocean, and pools—and make time to check out each of the three restaurants overseen by chef Mark Arriola, a pioneer in Kaua‘i’s farm-to-table movement.

  • Hawai‘i Land Trust hosts volunteer days, including a marine cleanup on Kāhili Beach on the first Sunday of every month.
  • Support Mālama Kaua‘i , an organization devoted to increasing local food production. Travelers can donate and shop the Mālama Kaua‘i Store (perfect for souvenirs and gifts).
  • Hotels across Kaua‘i, including Kauai‘i’s Marriott Resort and the Grand Hyatt, are also participating in the Mālama Hawai‘i project .

Red boulder inscribed "Garden of the Gods", beside red dirt road

Keahiakawelo, or Garden of the Gods, is the site of a famous Lāna‘i myth. On a clear day, you can see O‘ahu and Moloka‘i.

Photo by Lynn Yeh/Shutterstock

  • Nickname: The Pineapple Island
  • Best for: A more rugged, remote-feeling trip on a small, uncrowded island with a cat sanctuary, hiking trails, and snorkeling

Before Lāna‘i was colonized by Westerners, the land—where Hawaiian settlers lived off taro and seafood—was rich with native vegetation and purple flowers. But when goats, sheep, and other grazing animals were introduced to the island in the 1800s, the land was stripped, leaving it bare. Then came the pineapple years: Before statehood, the United States recognized the Republic of Hawai‘i in 1894 with pineapple entrepreneur, and longtime Hawai‘i resident, Sanford Dole as its president. When Hawai‘i was annexed in 1900, it became a territory, and in 1922, Sanford Dole’s cousin James Drummond Dole bought the island of Lāna‘i to expand his pineapple farming empire. Then came Larry Ellison: In 2012, the tech billionaire bought 97 percent of this island, including two Four Seasons resorts (and their championship golf courses).

Ellison, while controversial, has placed an emphasis on sustainability, founding Pulama Lāna‘i to protect native and endangered species, improve water and recycling systems, and attempt to transition the island’s diesel grid to 100 percent renewable energy . Today Lāna‘i remains an off-the-beaten-path destination, with an emphasis on “path”: Only 30 miles of the island’s roads are paved, but there are more than 400 miles of rugged trails you can explore by four-wheel-drive or horse or by hiking. Many lead to the 18 miles of nearly empty beaches that ring Lāna‘i and to lovely views of other islands. Be sure to stop by the Lāna‘i Culture and Heritage Center , run by Kepa Maly, who was born on the island.

Four Seasons Resort Lāna‘i

Shortly after Ellison bought the island, he overhauled the resort, reducing rooms from 286 to 213, updating the design with slate and teak walls, and adding outposts of Nobu and L.A.’s Malibu Farm.

Sensei Lāna‘i, a Four Seasons Resort

Wellness is the big focus at this 24-acre resort, which offers everything from day-long spa immersions to a five-day program that includes a fitness assessment, a Whoop wearable device to track your progress, and lots of fitness and bodywork.

Hotel Lāna‘i

This 10-room historic property was built in 1923 by James Dole—and until 1990, was the only hotel on the island. Now owned by Ellison, it’s also home to the popular Lāna‘i Bar & Grille.

Visit—and donate to—the Lanai Cat Sanctuary . The organization began back in 2004 when founder Kathy Carroll started sterilizing Lāna‘i’s street cats and relocating them to a facility to protect Lāna‘i’s ground-dwelling birds. Today it’s a popular spot for cat (and bird)-loving travelers.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

You will want a convertible to drive the famed Road to Hana.

Photo by Brandon Bourdage/Shutterstock

  • Nickname: The Valley Isle
  • Best for: A little of everything—adventure, black- and red-sand beaches, food, culture, and relaxation

Note: Go Hawai‘i’ has the latest on visiting Maui post-wildfires, reminding visitors to “visit with aloha, compassion, and empathy”, support local businesses, and “learn about the historical and cultural significance of Lahaina but stay away from the area as a means of respect for the people and places that have been lost.”

Maui remains the best one-stop sampler of Hawai‘i’s highlights. The island is anchored by the dormant Haleakalā volcano, which forms three-quarters of its mass. Catch a lift to the top with your bike, then cruise down 21 switchbacks, passing through as many ecological zones as you would on a Canada-to-Mexico road trip. Or make a reservation to visit Waīa‘ānapanapa State Park, home to a famous black-sand beach. (The new reservation system is a part of the state’s commitment to the Mālama Hawai‘i initiative.)

Hungry for culture? Hire a hula instructor for a lesson nearly anywhere on Maui. Shop the galleries of Paia, then strap in for the world-famous Road to Hana, a drive tracing the rugged black-lava coastline. (Be sure to check out the guidelines for driving the famous road.) Hungry in general? Wake early to queue up at Donut Dynamite, arguably the island’s best doughnuts . Or book a 90-minute chocolate-and-cacao tour at Maui Ku‘ia Estate. Or stop by the new Sunset Market in Wailea Village to shop for local goodies, including Pau Maui vodka, tacos and shave ice, and cookies from Maui Cookie Lab.

Maui is also the access point for the Molokini atoll just off the coast, where visitors can snorkel an extinct volcanic caldera. But the caldera’s not your only option for gorgeous waters to explore: Get a mask and fins and then zip over to the beach town of Olowalu on the west coast where you’ll find a “cleaning station” for green sea turtles. For any ocean activities, watch for outfitters certified by the Surfrider Foundation.

There’s no shortage of places to stay in Maui —here are several to get you started.

Maui Eco Retreat

Built in 1988 on land blessed by a Hawaiian priest, the retreat has only a handful of rooms, yoga classes, and an oceanfront location.

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa

This Lahaina hotel has won numerous awards for its sustainability initiatives (it’s one of two Gold LEED-certified resorts in Hawai‘i ), which include minimizing plastic use and food waste and adding one of the largest solar panel systems in the state. Amenities are equally appealing: The oceanfront property has six pools, 10 restaurants, and even resident penguins.

Hotel Wailea

Hotel Wailea occupies 15 acres—and only has 72 suites. This adults-only property offers everything from tree-house dining and sustainable travel experiences, such as outrigger canoeing, to a surf safari (a tour of Maui’s best breaks) and a new line of reef-safe sunscreens.

Camp Olowalu

For those who want to live a little closer to nature, book a campsite, tentalow, or cabin at Camp Olowalu. The beachfront spot, a former sugar plantation, was created in 1955 as a camp operated by the Protestant Episcopal Church. Over the years, it added 700 acres and set about restoring them; in 2015, it added tent lodging and renovated the cabins and eating areas.

Maui Cultural Lands : Launched as a nonprofit in 2002 by Puanani and Edwin “Ed” Robert Naleilehua Lindsey Jr., Maui Cultural Lands focuses on restoring and preserving Hawaiian cultural sites. Now headed up by their son, Edwin “Ekolu” Lindsey III, the nonprofit offers travelers the opportunity to help reforest Honokowai Valley and the Ka‘anapali areas, all while learning about the cultural significance of these archaeological sites. (For example, the work begins with a chant asking for permission to enter.)

Pacific Whale Foundation : Founded in 1980, the nonprofit is dedicated to protecting the ocean and inspiring environmental stewardship. Travelers can book ecotours including snorkeling trips, stargazing, and of course, whale-watching. All profits support the foundation’s research, education, and conservation programs.

A long, empty stretch of stretch of Papohaku Beach

The uninterrupted three-mile stretch of Papohaku makes it one of the longest beaches in the state.

5. Molokaʻi

  • Nickname: The Friendly Isle
  • Best for: Outdoor adventures without the resorts, such as bird-watching, snorkeling, and swimming, plus an excellent choice for camping

Molokaʻi packs in plenty of beauty, adventure, and also authenticity, thanks to the high percentage of Native Hawaiian descendants living there. Papohaku Beach , with three miles of silky white sand, fringes the island’s west end. The sunbathing and camping are superlative here, but avoid swimming in the dangerous breaks between October and March.

There are no resorts on Molokaʻi, and most lodgings are low to the ground and laid-back.

Hotel Molokaʻi

At this 52-year-old hotel, the bungalows are outfitted with kitchenettes and carefully arranged to allow the trade winds to move through. Step out the front door and walk the Kamiloloa beach, snorkel the 28-mile barrier reef (the longest in Hawai‘i), or drive five minutes to wander Kaunakakai, the island’s main center.

Pu‘u O Hoku Ranch

For a truly remote stay, book a few nights at this lodge on the eastern side of the island. It is a family-owned, working organic and biodynamic ranch, so expect to see cattle and a wide range of produce, including bananas. The three cottages don’t have Wi-Fi, making this an off-the-grid experience.

Molokaʻi is pure nature—and one of the best ways to help it remain that way is to join a project with the nonprofit Moloka‘i Land Trust , which is working on restoring three land preserves.

A section of O‘ahu’s North Shore coast, with people on beach and in water

O‘ahu’s North Shore is home to the “Seven Mile Miracle,” a stretch of coast where surfers take on world-class breaks.

Photo by Caroline/Shutterstock

  • Nickname: The Gathering Place
  • Best for: A laid-back urban trip that still features beaches, hiking trails, historical sites—and some legendary surfing

On Oʻahu, Honolulu is undergoing a renaissance of art, culture, and cuisine, with a foodie scene that champions Hawaiʻi-inspired cuisine. Enjoy the resort hot spots of Waikiki, Ko Olina, and Turtle Bay (AFAR’s hotels editor Jenn Flowers visited in 2023 and deemed it “your go-to spot for nature and surfing”) but make sure to venture beyond them.

Pay your respects to local culture and history—more important than ever, now that so few WWII veterans remain —at the extensive Bishop Museum and at Pearl Harbor, now the Pearl Harbor National Memorial . The Pearl Harbor campus includes the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, which reopened in 2021 after a $20 million renovation that added virtual tours of submarine interiors and interactive displays about submarine warfare, among many other things.

Explore the history of Hawaiian royalty at Iolani Palace, where travelers can pick between guided and self-led tours that wind from palace grounds to the opulent interiors. Commission an instrument from Ukulele Hall-of-Famers or dip a smoked-beef brisket bánh mì in aromatic phở at Piggy Smalls , an outpost run by Andrew Le, a chef at the forefront of the efforts to include regional cuisine on Hawaiian menus. For those who want to tour local delicacies, try the Saturday markets. The KCC Farmers’ Market at the foot of Diamond Head specializes in prepared food and travel-friendly foods like local honey. Closer to downtown Honolulu is the Kakaʻako Farmers’ Market, which has more produce but also foods made locally, such as Koko Kai, a coconut yogurt.

O‘ahu has a strong connection to surfing and the ocean, of course—respecting the ocean and marine life is critically important, and almost spiritual, for many locals. Consider the Bishop Museum, which frequently offers surf exhibits and has permanent exhibits devoted to celestial navigation and outrigger canoeing.

Experienced surfers can head to the North Shore, where 36 breaks grace the “Seven-Mile Miracle,” a storied stretch of surfing heaven. Not quite ready to catch a world-class wave? Rest easy: In addition to Waikiki, O‘ahu has more mellow aquatic options such as the Hanauma Bay underwater park. Honolulu often has the best airfare deals, too, as the state’s main hub.

Exterior of the pink Royal Hawaiian hotel at night

Built in 1927, the Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, is a pink-hued classic in the heart of Waikiki.

Courtesy of the Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort

Most travelers stay in or near Honolulu, where you’ll find plenty of options , no matter what you’re looking for.

The Modern Honolulu

A newish addition to the Waikīkī waterfront, this hotel designed by George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg is great for those who prefer a more modern stay. Rooms are whitewashed with many overlooking the Ala Wai Boat Harbor.

The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort

Many say that this hotel, built in the Roaring ’20s, put Waikīkī on the map. For years, celebrities flocked to the luxurious beachfront resort; in 2008, a renovation renewed preserved the art deco details but added more modern flair.

Turtle Bay Resort

Set on a peaceful 1,300-acre property on a palm-tree-lined stretch of O‘ahu’s North Shore, Turtle Bay gives guests the chance to experience a quieter side of O‘ahu. It was also voted one of AFAR’s top sustainable hotels in 2021 and has long been committed to reducing its impact on the environment.

  • Learn about bamboo-pole fishing and help restore fishponds with the Mālama Loko Ea Foundation .
  • Participate in one of Ulu A‘e Learning Center’s days of caring held several times a year.
  • Learn to make papa and pohaku (a poi board and stone) with Hui Aloha Aina Momona, a three-acre farm raising pork and olena (aka turmeric) plants.
  • Join one of the nonprofit Hui o Ko‘olaupoko’s many volunteer projects, including the He‘eia Estuary Restoration Project , located in He‘eia State Park, where volunteers remove invasive species and replant native ones.
  • Get involved in Kōke‘e Resource Conservation Program, which also invites people to help remove nonnative species, as well as do trail and fence maintenance and care for tea plants in the Kōke‘e wilderness preserve.
  • Plant a tree in the Hawaiian Legacy Forest at Gunstock Ranch , which offers a series of sustainable experiences, including horseback rides and off-road tours.

It’s difficult to go wrong with whatever island you choose to visit. The hard part comes when you have to leave Hawai‘i—hopefully a little better than you found it—to return home.

This story was originally published in 2019 and most recently updated on November 8, 2023, to reflect current information.

Kayaking in Alaska

How to choose the best Hawaiian island for your trip

Sarah Etinas

Mar 7, 2024 • 9 min read

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Choose between Hawaii's six main islands with this guide © Fly View Productions / Getty Images © © Fly View Productions / Getty Images

Hawaii has six main visitable islands in its remote archipelago, and it can be hard to choose which one is right for you, especially if you're a first-time visitor.

Each island boasts its own atmosphere and attractions. Local food and sunny beaches are practically guaranteed on all of them, but that’s just the beginning. While some are lush and filled with top hiking routes , others are buzzing with clustered landmarks and nightlife.

Since there’s so much to see on each individual island – and inter-island transport is limited – many visitors often find themselves trying to narrow down their options. Of course, there’s no way to go wrong in Hawaii , but there may be ways to go a little more right,given each traveler’s particular interests and pace of travel. Here's our guide to help first-time visitors choose the right island for them.

A large seaside city with tall buildings and greenery-covered volcanic hills rising behind

Best for city life, surf competitions, and historic landmarks

As the most popular Hawaiian Island – to visit and to live – O'ahu is bustling! In Honolulu and Waikiki , you’ll find skyscrapers and luxury hotels, traffic and nightlife, all of the hallmarks of a big city. But beyond that, O'ahu has verdant hikes in the East, sunny beaches in the West, and world-renowned surf competitions on the North Shore.

Top places to visit on O'ahu

Pearl Harbor National Memorial : On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Navy Air Service bombed Pearl Harbor, prompting the US’ involvement in WWII. Visit this landmark to see both the USS Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri Memorial.

ʻIolani Palace : Once the home of Hawaiian royalty, ʻIolani Palace later became the location for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and the imprisonment of Hawaiian Queen Liliʻuokalani.

Hanauma Bay State Park : This protected bay offers some of the best and safest snorkeling on the island. Keep an eye out for honu (turtles), dolphins, heʻe (octopus), and the famed state fish: the humuhumunukunukuapuaa‘a (reef triggerfish).

Top things to do on O'ahu

Watch a North Shore Surf Competition: O'ahu’s North Shore hosts some of the most famous surf competitions in the world. Watch talented surfers do what they do best during winter events like the  Vans Pipe Masters and the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational .

Tackle the Lanikai Pillbox hike: Make the short, but steep hike to the first Lanikai Pillbox (abandoned military overlook point) for jaw-dropping views of Kailua, the Mokulua Islands, and the Pacific Ocean.

Savor authentic Hawaiian Food: From laulau and kalua pig to poi and ho‘io salad, traditional Hawaiian food is one of the best ways to experience Hawaiian culture. Oahu’s Waiahole Poi Factory and Helena’s Hawaiian Food offer some of the most authentic Hawaiian food in the islands.

Save our ultimate long weekend itinerary for O'ahu

Two hikers sit on the edge of a crater looking out at a volcanic landscape

Best for a romantic atmosphere and scenic drives

When people picture the beachy side of Hawaii (as opposed to the volcano side), they often dream up beach bliss and resort luxury. Of all the islands, Maui fits this bill the best. This vibe is particularly alluring to couples for honeymoon, babymoon, or anniversary trips, but families, friend groups, and solo travelers will feel right at home as well.

Top places to visit on Maui

ʻIao Valley State Monument : Both a historic and natural landmark, ʻIao Valley (and the aptly named ʻIao Needle rock formation) is a must-visit stop in West Maui.

Waiʻanapanapa State Park : Located on the Road to Hana , this state park has historic heiau (ancient Hawaiian temples), sea arches, and the island’s only black sand beach. Advanced reservations required.

Aliʻi Kula Lavender : Stroll through rows of blooming lavender plants at the base of Haleakala, before popping into the gift shop to snag locally made lavender creations, like lavender tea and scones.

Top things to do on Maui

Catch the Haleakala sunrise: As the tallest peak on Maui at 10,023ft tall, Haleakala – which means “the house of the rising sun” – offers unobstructed views of the pastel-painted sunrise sky each morning.

Drive the Road to Hana: As the epitome of the phrase, “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” the Road to Hana is filled with cascading waterfalls , oceanfront state parks , and blood-pumping hikes.

Snorkel at Molokini: Dive underwater for a peek at Maui’s marine life. Many tour companies, including Four Winds and Maui Snorkeling , have incredible snorkeling tours to Molokini Crater, a thriving islet 2.5 miles off the Maui coast.

Keep planning your trip to Maui with one of these road trips 

People stand in the background as hot red lava flows through the cracks of black hardened lava

Best for volcanic activity and diverse natural landscapes

The Big Island of Hawai'i , officially known as Hawaii and colloquially known as the Big Island, certainly lives up to its informal name. Bigger than all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined, the Big Island manages to pack a lot of natural diversity into its 4000 sq miles — from golden sand beaches and flourishing rainforests to ash-based deserts and snow-capped mountains.

Top places to visit on the Big Island

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park : With two active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea , this national park is filled with unique natural features like sulfur-smelling steam vents, lengthy lava tubes, and the occasional flowing lava stream. Save our complete first-timer's guide to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park  for more expert guidance.

Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach : Enjoy the long-lasting results of the Big Island’s volcanic activity at this black sand beach. With sand made from pulverized lava rock and lounging honu (turtles), Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach is a popular attraction.

ʻAkaka Falls State Park : At 442ft tall and surrounded by thriving plant life, ʻAkaka Falls is one of the most eye-catching natural features on the Big Island.

Top things to do on the Big Island

Summit Mauna Kea: As the tallest mountain in the world (from the seafloor to the peak), Mauna Kea is a special spot. Head to the summit for stargazing at night or snow (in Hawaii!) in the winter.

Learn Hawaiian History at Kaloko-Honokohau National Park : Learn all about ancient Hawaiians’ way of life through the centuries-old ruins of heiau (temples), kiʻi pohaku (petroglyphs), and fishponds.

Snorkel with manta rays: Hundreds of manta rays have made their home on the Kona Coast. Get an up-close look at these friendly creatures with an after-dark snorkel with Manta Ray Dives of Hawaii or Kona Snorkel Trips .

Three woman hiking in Hawaii with a big waterfall in the distance

Kaua'i

Best for hiking and waterfalls

Nicknamed The Garden Isle, Kaua'i certainly lives up to the title. There’s lush greenery around every mountain nook and cranny! While this sleepy island does get more rain than any other, the flora-filled hikes, parks, and botanical gardens are more than worth it.

Top places to visit on Kaua'i

Na Pali Coast : This beautiful old mountain range boasts deep, lush ridges and cascading waterfalls. It’s only accessible on foot (via the 22-mile round-trip Kalalau Trail), by boat or by air.

Waimea Canyon : Nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” this stratified natural landmark is filled with challenging hikes and breathtaking viewpoints.

Hanalei Bay : This North Shore bay is ideal for a beach day, thanks to its calm waters, lengthy shoreline, and beautiful sunset views.

Top things to do on Kaua'i

Bike the Ke Ala Hele Makalae Path: This in-progress bike path runs along Kaua'i’s East Side, passing beautiful beaches, adorable eateries, and the occasional historical landmark.

Go chasing waterfalls: As the rainiest Hawaiian Island, Kaua'i boasts dozens of waterfalls. Drive up to Wailua Falls and Opaekaʻa Falls or hike to Waipoʻo Fall and Hanakapiʻai Falls.

Stroll through Hanapepe: Known as Hawaii’s “biggest little town,” historic Hanapepe is bursting with adorable eateries, shops, landmarks, and festivals. Don’t miss out on the Talk Story Bookstore , the Taro Ko Chip Company and the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge.

Continue planning your trip to Kauai with these itineraries

A father and son walk hand in hand through a red, sandy landscape

Lana'i

Best for luxurious relaxation

At 140 sq miles, Lana'i is the smallest of the six main Hawaiian Islands. Even though it has no roads and a population of just 3000, it’s still home to two luxurious Four Seasons Resorts, making it ideal for off-the-grid, laid-back luxury.

Top places to visit on Lana'i

Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods): Once upon a time, the islands’ introduced goats, sheep, and deer ate all of the vegetation in this area. Now, this otherworldly, foggy, boulder-dotted landscape is all that remains. It's only accessible by 4WD.

Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach): Admire two big ol’, rusty WWII shipwrecks from the shore – but don’t get in the violent water! It's also only accessible by 4WD.

Lana'i City: Nestled in the center of the island, the “downtown” Lana'i City is home to adorable restaurants, shops, and art galleries.

Top things to do on Lana'i

Snorkel in Hulopoe Bay: Strap on your snorkel gear and dive into this calm South Shore bay filled with tropical fish and the occasional spinner dolphin.

Test your swing at Manele Golf Course: Part of the Four Seasons Resort Lanai , this challenging golf course is best known for its sweeping cliff and ocean views.

Hike the Munro Trail: This 12-mile path offers breathtaking views of Lana'i, the Pacific Ocean, and beyond. It's only accessible by 4WD.

A single distant figure on a large sandy beach that's completely empty of people

Moloka'i

Best for an undisturbed Hawaii experience

The little island of Moloka'i offers an untouched taste of old Hawaii. Of the six main islands, Moloka'i has the largest percentage of Native Hawaiians, at about 62% of residents. While larger than Lana'i, Moloka'i doesn’t really cater to visitors. There are a couple of small local hotels, but beyond that, there aren’t many guided tours, souvenir stores or grand restaurants. Plan to be on your own on Moloka'i for the most part.

Top places to visit on Moloka'i

Papohaku Beach : Given that this West Side beach is 2 miles long, every beachgoer is practically guaranteed to have a slice of sunny shoreline all to themselves.

Moaʻula Falls: Located in Halawa Valley, this 250ft waterfall is the most easily accessible cascade on Moloka'i. Do note that the trail goes through private property, so you’ll have to take a guided tour (or get permission from the owners) to access it.

Kalaupapa National Historical Park: Once home to a remote leper colony, this remote part of Moloka'i (now only accessible by air) now serves as a historic park that tells the story of this lore-rich region.

See more of Hawaii's national parks, memorials and historic sites

Top things to do on Moloka'i

Explore Kamakou Preserve: Home to the 2-mile Pepeʻopae Bog Trail, this preserve – complete with thriving native plant life and gorgeous viewpoints – is an all-day adventure. It's only accessible by 4WD.

Take a fishing charter: Since Moloka'i is mostly undisturbed, its waters are teeming with fish. Book a charter with Hallelujah Hou Fishing and reel in a few ʻoʻio (bonefish) and ʻomilu (bluefin trevally).

Take a farm tour: Much of Moloka'i is agricultural land, and a few local farms are open for tours. Learn more about Moloka'i’s agricultural practices at Molokai Plumerias , Molokai Flowers  and Purdy’s Natural Macadamia Nuts .

Ready to plan your trip?

Decide on the perfect week for you with the   best time to visit Start crafting your budget with these tips   Save this transportation guide for   how to get around between the islands

This article was first published May 13, 2016 and updated Mar 7, 2024.

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Which is the Best Hawaii Island to Visit?

An overview of each island .

Picture this: you're sipping a mai tai, toes in the sand, watching the sun dip into the Pacific. Sounds like heaven, right? Well, that's just a typical evening in Hawaii. But with so many incredible islands to choose from, how do you decide which one to visit first?

We've been lucky enough to explore every corner of this tropical haven, and we're here to spill the beans on the best Hawaii island to visit. Whether you're a beach bum, an adventure junkie, or a culture vulture, there's an island that's perfect for you. So grab your sunscreen and let's dive in!

Unlike many destinations, Hawaii is not really one destination - but six unique, eclectic, and diverse island destinations that all happen to be within the same state.

The six main islands, four of which we cover in detail on this site, are, from west to east, Kauai , Oahu , Molokai, Lanai, Maui , and the Big Island of Hawaii .

— article continued below —

Waimoku Falls at end of Pipiwai Trail on Maui

Waimoku Falls at end of Pipiwai Trail on Maui

Hawaii Islands Introduction

Your perfect Hawaiian experience largely depends on what you seek. Whether it’s adventure, dining, relaxation, culture, or luxury, each island offers a distinct flavor for visitors to experience. Most of us have a favorite island, and below, we'll briefly introduce you to each island.

Oahu - The Gathering Place

Oahu is the most visited of all the Hawaiian islands, at nearly 4.7 million visitors annually.

Oahu is primarily defined by the state capital of Honolulu, as well as Pearl Harbor and the famous beach known as Waikiki. These areas attract tourists by the thousands daily.

Oahu boasts a fantastic climate, inexpensive accommodations, a large variety of shopping options, and world-renowned beaches - it's fair to say the island entices visitors from around the world. Some say this may be the one fault of the island, as many are discouraged by the large crowds of Oahu and thus dismiss the island, instead opting to visit one of the other less-visited islands in the chain.

But Oahu is much more than Honolulu or Waikiki - it may well be the most beautiful of all the major islands. You simply have to know where to go to experience the beauty that is Oahu. This island offers a perfect blend of city life and natural beauty. You can shop, dine, and enjoy nightlife in Honolulu, then take a short drive to stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and scenic hiking trails.

More on Oahu in-depth below...

Maui - The Valley Isle

Maui is the second most visited island with around 2.7 - 2.9 million visitors annually. Tourism greatly affects the nature of Maui and it boasts a very wide assortment of resorts, hotels, condos, and private rentals available across the island.

Maui is another great choice for first-timers. Known as the "Valley Isle," Maui has stunning beaches, world-class resorts, and a laid-back vibe. Some of the top attractions include the Road to Hana, a scenic drive with waterfalls and black sand beaches, and Haleakala National Park, where you can watch the sunrise above the clouds.

Often called, the "playground of the wealthy," Maui definitely caters to those looking for more expensive accommodations, sans the crowds of Oahu. But don't fret if top-notch accommodations aren't in your plans - Maui caters to all types, including the budget conscious. The island has a reputation for being a playground for  all  tourists, not just the super-rich.

More on Maui in-depth below...

Hawaii - The Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii is the third most popular choice by visitors, with over 1.6 million travelers annually. The vast majority of the Big Island's visitors stay in the Kailua-Kona area with its fantastic weather, abundant shopping, and the vast array of dining options. It also hosts a wide assortment of accommodations, from high-end resorts to condominiums.

The Big Island, officially named Hawaii Island, is the largest in the chain and offers incredible diversity. Here, you can visit active volcanoes, hike through lush rainforests, and stargaze atop snow-capped mountains. Highlights include Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can see lava flows and steam vents, and the observatories on Mauna Kea, one of the best places in the world for astronomy.

More on Big Island of Hawaii in-depth below...

Kauai - The Garden Island

Kauai is the fourth most-visited island, at 1.3 million visitors annually. The island is easily identified by its amazing scenery and relaxed persona. The island, arguably, we'll admit, also boasts more coastline filled with beaches than any other island in the chain. Kauai is full of sparsely-visited and secluded beaches all around the island; you'll surely find one that's just right for you.

Kauai, nicknamed the "Garden Isle," is a nature lover's paradise. With its lush landscapes, pristine beaches, and laid-back atmosphere, Kauai offers a true escape from the hustle and bustle. Must-see spots include Waimea Canyon, often called the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," and the rugged Na Pali Coast, which you can explore by boat, helicopter, or on foot.

More on Kauai in-depth below...

TL;DR - The Best Island for first time visitors...

In our opinion, for most first-time Hawaii travelers, Oahu is often the best choice . Oahu offers a perfect blend of stunning natural beauty and vibrant urban experiences.  

Visitors can explore the iconic Waikiki Beach, hike to the top of Diamond Head for breathtaking views, and immerse themselves in Hawaiian/U.S. history by visiting historic sites like Pearl Harbor. With a wide range of accommodations, dining options, and activities, Oahu provides a well-rounded introduction to the Hawaiian Islands.

You'll be in good company if you visit Oahu; check out the chart below to see how popular Oahu is compared to the outer islands. Oahu is, by far, the most popular choice for Hawaii visitors.

That said, there's still a lot more to consider, like which type of Hawaii traveler you are , before making a final choice. Let's dive into our comprehensive guide to find the island that resonates with your dream Hawaiian adventure!

Hawaii Visitation by Island (2023)

Hawaii Visitation by Island (2023)

Key Takeaway:

Choosing the best Hawaiian island for your first visit? Think about what you love. City vibes and famous beaches? Oahu's your spot. Crave stunning drives and sunrises above clouds? Maui calls. If active volcanoes and stargazing are up your alley, Big Island awaits. Love lush landscapes and quiet escapes? Kauai is perfect.

Kalalau Lookout on Kauai

Kalalau Lookout on Kauai

Hawaii Islands In-Depth

Oahu - The Gathering Place Image

Home to the Hawaii state capitol of Honolulu and the majority of Hawaii's population, Oahu is a vibrant mix of natural and cultural wonders with the entertainment and amenities of the 21st century. Check out the waves on the famous  North Shore , relive American history at the memorials and museums of  Pearl Harbor , or soak up the sun and take a surfing lesson on Waikiki Beach .

Oahu is truly a hot spot for Hawaii activities, tours, shopping, surfing, nightlife, and dining. The island is the most developed of the major islands, and it'll feel like it - it's busy here, and unlike some areas of Hawaii, there's more hustle and bustle around the clock. But don't worry, there's plenty of natural Oahu to visit, too, including some amazing trails, incredible overlooks, and plenty of stunning coastal views to go around. Check out our Oahu Regions guide to learn more about the different parts of Oahu.

There is primarily one main airport that services Oahu, and it's located in Honolulu. Most of Oahu's accommodations are located in Waikiki, but there are other lodging gems scattered around the island. Check out our Where to Stay on Oahu  article for more information.

The eastern coast of Oahu is hemmed in by a gorgeous mountain range and boasts three of the islands best beaches. Surprisingly, you'll find no major accommodations here, jut a few vacation homes along the quaint towns that dot the coast. The eastern region offers many visitors an escape from the bustling Waikiki scene while still offering the proximity to the shopping and activities of the nearby city just a half-hour drive away.

The famous North Shore of Oahu is a surfer's paradise, especially in the winter months when the surf is up. Located about an hour from Honolulu, this region has a surprisingly unpopulated feel to it. Many miles of beaches stretch along this portion of Oahu, making it a popular haven for those looking to relax in the sun.

The western, northwestern, and central regions are where most of the island's residents live. For the most part, there isn't much here for the typical island visitors - just a few scattered beaches.

View from Diamond Head on Oahu

View from Diamond Head on Oahu

Hiking on Oahu

Hiking on Oahu

Oahu Highlights:

  • Waikiki Beach - Iconic gathering place for visitors from around the world.
  • Pearl Harbor  - Explore the historic sites recounting the Pearl Harbor attack.
  • Hanauma Bay  & Nature Preserve - One of Hawaii's premier snorkeling sites.
  • Nuuanu Pali Lookout  - Historic spot with fantastic mountain views.
  • North Shore  - Legendary birthplace of big wave surfing.

Useful Oahu Links:

  • When to Visit Oahu
  • Oahu Weather
  • Where to Stay on Oahu
  • Oahu Must See & Do
  • All About Oahu
  • Oahu Accommodations
  • Handpicked Oahu Tours

Pali Overlook on Oahu

Pali Overlook on Oahu

Maui - The Valley Isle Image

The second-largest island is home to what some believe are the best  beaches  in the world. If you visit during the winter months, book a tour to see the majestic whales, as Maui has some of the world’s best whale watching. Wake up early to catch the sunrise at  Haleakala , stroll through one of the many historic towns, or drive the majestic  Road to Hana  for spectacular scenery.

There's a reason many repeat visitors to Hawaii joyfully say, "Maui no ka oi" - which translates to "Maui is the best." Maui offers a little bit of everything in Hawaii, providing the best mix of nature and developed areas (towns), good snorkeling, great hiking trails, a volcano you can hike into, and so much more. Honestly, Maui makes a great island for first-time visitors, and it's probably why more people who take our quiz (below) are given the suggestion of Maui than any other island. Check out our Maui Regions guide to learn more about the different parts of Maui.

The main airport on Maui is in Kahului. Many of the best accommodations are on the West coastline (in Ka'anapali) or along the south shore (within Kihei and Wailea). Check out our Where to Stay on Maui  article for more information.

Please also remember, portions of Maui experienced some devastating wildfires in August 2023; and Lahaina town remains closed.

The island of Maui features an abundance of beaches, especially along the west coast. Sun is abundant here, too, as the volcanoes in the center of the island block the majority of precipitation from ever reaching the leeward side of the island. While portions of Maui's west coast are often dry and barren, the eastern portions of the island are a lush green paradise boasting waterfalls in numerous valleys. Many visitors enjoy the Hana Highway (aka The Road to Hana) as it winds its way along the coast to the sleepy town of Hana in the bay.

The center of the island is where Maui earns its nickname, the "Valley Isle." The isthmus stretching from Haleakala to the West Maui Mountains is likely where you'll begin your journey- at the airport.

Garden of Eden along the Hana Highway on Maui

Garden of Eden along the Hana Highway on Maui

Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach on Maui

Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach on Maui

Maui Highlights:

  • Makena Beach State Park (Big Beach)  - One of Maui's most extensive 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.

Useful Maui Links:

  • Handpicked Maui Tours
  • When to Visit Maui
  • Maui Weather
  • Where to Stay on Maui
  • Maui Must See & Do
  • All About Maui
  • Maui Accommodations

Waterfall along the famous Road to Hana

Waterfall along the famous Road to Hana

Big Island of Hawaii - The Orchid Isle Image

Big Island of Hawaii - The Orchid Isle

Larger than all of the other islands combined, the island of Hawaii, also known as Big Island, encompasses most of the world's climate zones - from white sand beaches to snow-capped mountains. See  waterfalls , rainforests, and  botanical gardens  near Hilo; explore the historic  PuuKohola Heiau , north of Kona; or view Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park .

The sheer size of the Big Island of Hawaii also gives it a 'rural' feel, much like Kauai has, but so much larger! Plus, the island's diversity is truly astounding; there's nothing else quite like it; Hawaii Island is as eclectic as they come; from lush and verdant rainforests to barren black lava fields that stretch for miles. Check out our Big Island of Hawaii Regions guide to learn more about the different parts of Hawaii Island.

Two airports service the Big Island, one in Kailua-Kona (on the west side of the island) and the other in Hilo (on the east side). Most visitors will fly into Kona's airport, as most accommodations are located on the western side of the island. Don't forget to read our Where to Stay on the Big Island  to get an overview of all the major accommodation locations on the island.

Akaka Falls State Park on the Big Island

Akaka Falls State Park on the Big Island

Green Sand Beach on the Big Island

Green Sand Beach on the Big Island

The ocean off the Kona coast is clear and great for both snorkeling and diving. To the north of Kona is the "Gold Coast" of Kohala. While drier and more barren than Kona, the region offers amazing beaches, great weather conditions, and several luxury accommodations to choose from.

On the other side of the island, you'll discover Hilo and the Puna region. These are good locations to stay if you're interested in exploring  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park . This part of the island receives an abundance of rainfall that creates the lush green surroundings. Accommodations are harder to find, but a few hotels, small inns, and private rentals can be found, especially in the Volcano town area. The Volcano area, which is located at a crisp 4,000 ft. (1,219 m) above sea level, is dotted with a wide assortment of homes, bed and breakfasts, and small cottages for renting. This area is also a great place to stay if you're primarily interested in exploring the HVNP.

And speaking of the park, most visitors would be wise to forget anything they've seen or heard about the volcano long before they visit the island. The erupting volcano photos, the videos, and all the hype about lava everywhere are just that... hype; at least at present. The media and the park create unrealistic expectations as they try to draw in the public. Most visitors will be surprised that Kilauea is nothing more than a smoking caldera with no visible lava. The only way to get up close and personal with the volcano is to take a helicopter tour that will take you over the current eruption location. Occasionally, visitors may also be lucky enough to catch a surface pahoehoe lava flow near the end of the road; but all of these things can change in an instant. Most of the lava/magma is flowing directly underground to the ocean. Those who have an appreciation for geography or geology will love the park, though.

Despite the fact that Kilauea is the most active volcano on the planet, the volcanoes of Hawaii are nothing like their cousins on the mainland West Coast (Mt. St. Helens or Mt. Rainier). They are not explosive, pose little threat to visitors on the island, and their lava flow moves at a turtle-like speed that you could outwalk if necessary- no running required. To fully appreciate and explore the park you'll want to give yourself at least one full day, preferably two, if possible. There are many great hikes within the park and several stops which offer informative displays about the history of the region. Also, be wary of VOG (a volcanic smog) when visiting the park.

Big Island of Hawaii Highlights:

  • 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 (South Point)  - The southernmost point in the United States.
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park  - Home of one of the world's most active volcanoes and otherworldly scenery.

Useful Big Island of Hawaii Links:

  • When to Visit the Big Island
  • Big Island of Hawaii Weather
  • Where to Stay on the Big Island of Hawaii
  • Big Island of Hawaii Must See & Do
  • All About the Big Island of Hawaii
  • Big Island of Hawaii Accommodations
  • Handpicked Big Island of Hawaii Tours

Lava Tube on Hawaii's Big Island

Lava Tube on Hawaii's Big Island

Kauai - The Garden Isle Image

Kauai - The Garden Isle

The oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian Island chain is graced with dramatic, natural beauty. Explore Kokee State Park's trails , see  Waimea Canyon-  the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific"- or relax in one of the many beautiful gardens of the aptly named 'Garden Isle ,' such as  Limahuli Garden .

In our opinion, Kauai represents the most iconic view of Hawaii - lush surroundings, verdant valley, an abundance of waterfalls, and rainbows. This island is probably the most "rural" of the main Hawaiian Islands. It offers the perfect getaway for romantic trips, anyone seeking relaxation away from the hustle/bustle of everyday life, or those looking to explore the backcountry trails, of which Kauai has plenty (some of the best hikes in the state can be found on Kauai). Check out our Kauai Regions guide to learn more about the different parts of Kauai.

There is one main airport that services Kauai, in Lihue. There are also plenty of great places to stay on Kauai, including the North & Eastern Coasts and more recent property developments along the southern shore. Read our article on Where to Stay on Kauai  to help you select the perfect location.

Kauai's North Shore features some dramatic and beautiful mountain scenery along with a variety of hidden beaches. The area also has an incredible selection of shopping and dining options. While the winter months will mean more rain for the northern part of the island, it's still one of the most popular places on the island. Hanalei Bay is a popular location for water activities and boasts some of the best beaches in all of Hawaii along her crescent shores.

Kauai's South Shore is popular due to its abundance of sunny weather, even during the wet winter months. Poipu and Lawai offer a wide variety of accommodations, fine dining, and shopping. On the East Coast- also known as the Coconut Coast- Kapaa offers a nice selection of affordable rentals and more shopping than most other areas. While Kauai has a small town feel to it, many larger store brands can still be found on the island - Costco, Target, and Wal-Mart all are present here.

Kauai's West Coast is more barren and dry than the rest of the island, and accommodations are fewer and more far between here. However, one of the main attractions on the island is present here- the Waimea Canyon. Mark Twain dubbed it the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." At ten miles long, it's an amazing sight to behold on an island the size of Kauai. The true splendor of the region, and the neighboring Kokee State Park, can only truly be appreciated by taking one of the many trails that crisscross the parks.

Tunnels Beach on Kauai

Tunnels Beach on Kauai

Waialeale Waterfalls in Central Kauai

Waialeale Waterfalls in Central Kauai

Kauai Highlights:

  • 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."

Useful Kauai Links:

  • Handpicked Kauai Tours
  • When to Visit Kauai
  • Kauai Weather
  • Where to Stay on Kauai
  • Kauai Must See & Do
  • All About Kauai
  • Kauai Accommodations

Kauai's Incredible NaPali Coastline

Kauai's Incredible NaPali Coastline

Hawaii Visitors by Island (2023 vs 2022)

Hawaii Visitors by Island (2023 vs 2022)

Take our Which Island to Visit Quiz Image

Take our Which Island to Visit Quiz

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Enjoying Hawaiian Culture and Cuisine

No trip to Hawaii is complete without immersing yourself in the rich culture and delicious cuisine of the islands. From ancient traditions to modern twists on classic dishes, there's so much to discover.

Learn about Ancient Hawaiian Traditions

One of the best ways to connect with Hawaiian culture is to learn about its ancient traditions. Many resorts and cultural centers offer classes and demonstrations in things like lei making, hula dancing, and storytelling. I once took a lei making class at a local cultural center, and it was such a fun and informative experience. As we wove the delicate flowers together, our instructor shared stories and legends associated with each bloom. It gave me a whole new appreciation for these beautiful garlands and their significance in Hawaiian culture.

Taste Authentic Hawaiian Food

Hawaiian cuisine is a delicious fusion of flavors from around the world, reflecting the islands' diverse cultural heritage. From classic dishes like kalua pork and poke to local favorites like plate lunches and shave ice, there's no shortage of tasty treats to try. One of my favorite food experiences in Hawaii was attending a traditional luau. The spread of food was incredible - succulent kalua pork, fresh poke, lomi lomi salmon, and so much more. And the entertainment, with hula dancers and fire twirlers, made for an unforgettable evening.

Experience the Unique Culture of Each Island

While all of the Hawaiian islands share a common cultural heritage, each one has its own unique flavor and traditions. From the bustling streets of Honolulu to the laid-back vibes of Kauai, there's so much diversity to experience. I love how each island has its own distinct personality. On Oahu, you can immerse yourself in the history and culture of the islands at places like Iolani Palace and the Bishop Museum. On Maui, you can explore the charming towns and learn about the island's history. And on the Big Island, you can witness the power of creation at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and learn about the ancient Hawaiian goddess Pele.

Planning Your Perfect Hawaiian Getaway

With so much to see and do in Hawaii, planning the perfect trip can seem daunting. But with a little research and some insider tips, you'll be well on your way to the vacation of a lifetime.

Kilauea Eruption inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Eruption inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Best Time to Visit Hawaii

One of the most common questions I get asked is, " When is the best time to visit Hawaii ?" The truth is, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on your preferences and priorities. If you're looking to avoid crowds and score some deals on accommodations, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of April-May or September-October. The weather is still pleasant, but the peak summer and winter crowds have thinned out. That being said, there's really no bad time to visit Hawaii. The islands enjoy warm, sunny weather year-round, with average temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to mid-80s. Just be prepared for the occasional rain shower, especially if you're visiting during the wetter winter months.

Choosing the Right Island for Your Interests

With six main Hawaiian islands to choose from, it can be tough to decide which one is right for you. Here's a quick breakdown: - Oahu : Best for first-timers, history buffs, and those seeking a mix of city and beach life - Maui : Best for beach lovers, snorkelers, and those seeking a laid-back vibe - Kauai : Best for hikers, nature enthusiasts, and those seeking a more remote, untouched experience - Big Island : Best for adventure seekers, stargazers, and those interested in geology and volcanoes - Lanai : Best for luxury seekers and those looking for a secluded, upscale experience - Molokai : Best for those seeking a glimpse of old Hawaii and a slower pace of life Of course, you can't go wrong with any of the islands. Each one offers its own unique charms and attractions.

Getting Around the Islands

Once you've decided which island(s) to visit, you'll need to figure out how to get around. Renting a car is the most popular option, as it gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. If you're planning to stick to one island, you can easily get by with a rental car. But if you're island hopping, you'll need to factor in the cost and logistics of inter-island flights. Another option is to book guided tours or use public transportation, like buses or shuttles, when available (mostly on Oahu). This can be a good choice if you're not comfortable driving or if you want to sit back and let someone else handle the navigation.

Accommodations and Budgeting

Hawaii offers a wide range of accommodations to suit every taste and budget, from luxury resorts to budget-friendly vacation rentals. When deciding where to stay, consider your priorities and what kind of experience you're looking for. If you're dreaming of a posh resort with all the bells and whistles, expect to pay a premium. But if you're willing to forgo some amenities and stay in a more modest hotel or rental, you can save a significant amount of money. Another way to stretch your budget is to book accommodations with a kitchenette or full kitchen. This allows you to save money on dining out by preparing some meals yourself. Plus, there's nothing quite like enjoying a home-cooked breakfast on your own private lanai (balcony). As for budgeting, it's no secret that Hawaii can be an expensive destination. But with some careful planning and savvy choices, you can make your dream trip a reality without breaking the bank.

Some tips :

  • Travel during the shoulder season for lower rates on flights and accommodations
  • Look for package deals that bundle flights, hotels, and car rentals
  • Take advantage of free activities like hiking, snorkeling, and beach hopping
  • Eat like a local at food trucks, farmers markets, and hole-in-the-wall joints
  • Use credit card points or airline miles to offset the cost of flights or hotels

At the end of the day, the memories you'll make in Hawaii are priceless. So don't let the cost deter you from experiencing all that these magical islands have to offer.

Makalawena Beach on the Big Island's West Coast

Makalawena Beach on the Big Island's West Coast

Relaxing on Oahu

Relaxing on Oahu

FAQs in Relation to Best Hawaii Island to Visit

What is considered the best hawaiian island to visit.

Oahu shines for first-timers with a mix of history at Pearl Harbor, bustling Waikiki Beach vibes, and epic hikes like Diamond Head.

Should I go to Oahu or Maui?

Pick Oahu for iconic sights and city life; choose Maui for stunning beaches, Haleakala National Park sunrises, and quieter adventures.

What is the prettiest place to go to in Hawaii?

Kauai's Na Pali Coast offers jaw-dropping scenery with its emerald cliffs plunging into azure waters—true paradise found.

Which is better Maui or Kauai?

If you're after vibrant beaches and volcanic wonders, hit up Maui. For lush trails and dramatic landscapes, Kauai's your spot.

So, which Hawaiian island should you pack your bags for? The answer is, it depends on what kind of vacation you're dreaming of. Oahu is perfect for those who want a bit of everything, from city life to stunning beaches. Maui is a nature lover's paradise, with its lush rainforests and jaw-dropping coastlines. The Big Island is an adventure seeker's dream, with active volcanoes and rugged landscapes to explore. And Kauai? Well, it's the ultimate escape, with its laid-back vibe and secluded beaches.

Hawaii is calling, and it's time to answer! Whether you're drawn to the bustling beaches of Oahu or the serene landscapes of Kauai, an incredible journey awaits. The islands have a unique charm that will captivate your soul and leave you with a lifetime of cherished moments. Don't hesitate – make those travel plans, pack your sunscreen, and prepare to fall in love with the beauty of the Pacific. Trust your instincts; you'll be glad you did!

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Article Published/Updated: 06-15-2024

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What’s the Best Island in Hawaii for You?

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Sarah Schlichter

Deputy Executive Editor Sarah Schlichter's idea of a perfect trip includes spotting exotic animals, hiking through pristine landscapes, exploring new neighborhoods on foot, and soaking up as much art as she can. She often attempts to recreate recipes from her international travels after she gets home (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires—no humans or animals were harmed).

Sarah joined the SmarterTravel team in 2017 after more than a decade at the helm of IndependentTraveler.com. Sarah's practical travel advice has been featured in dozens of news outlets including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Budget Travel, and Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor .

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A journal. Even years later, reading my notes from a trip can bring back incredibly vivid memories."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Road tripping and hiking through the rugged mountains of Patagonia."

Travel Motto: "'To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.'—Freya Stark"

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle. I get restless on long flights and like to be able to move around without disturbing anyone else."

Email Sarah at [email protected] .

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There’s no wrong choice when it comes to deciding which Hawaiian island to visit . They’re all naturally beautiful, they all have gorgeous beaches, and they all welcome visitors with the gentle “aloha” spirit for which the islands are known. But there are important differences from one island to the next—and while there’s no such thing as a single best island in Hawaii, there may be a best island for you .

What’s the Best Island in Hawaii?

The best island in Hawaii depends on your passions. Are you into food? Adventure? Hiking? Beaches? There are six Hawaiian islands open to visitors, and each one offers something unique.

Luckily, you don’t have to choose just one. Most flights from the mainland U.S. land in Oahu, but frequent service from Hawaiian Airlines makes it easy to fly to other islands in the chain. You can also visit four different islands in seven days with Norwegian Cruise Line , allowing you to sample the best of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.

Below is a rundown of Hawaii’s six main islands to help you decide which one (or more than one) is the right choice for your next tropical vacation.

oahu skyline

About 1.4 million people live in Hawaii, and you’ll find the bulk of them on Oahu. The capital city, Honolulu , is home to the best high-end shopping, fine dining, and nightlife in the islands. Waikiki is the heart of the action, where you can hit the beach, snag a new pair of Gucci sunglasses, and sample chef Roy Yamaguchi’s Japanese/Hawaiian fusion cuisine all in the same day.

But Oahu has its quieter sides, too. Get outside of Honolulu and you’ll discover the laid-back surf towns of the North Shore and the lush green mountains of the windward (east) coast. Movie buffs and adventurers should stop at Kualoa Ranch , where you can go horseback riding or mountain biking, take an ATV tour, or check out the filming locations for dozens of movies including Jurassic Park and 50 First Dates.  For more ideas, see The 10 Best Things to Do in Oahu Beyond Waikiki .

Best for: Shoppers, foodies, city lovers, and those who like a mix of action and relaxation. Oahu is also probably the best island in Hawaii for travelers on a budget, as you don’t have to spend extra on inter-island airfare, and the wide choice of hotels and vacation rentals means it’s easier to find a reasonably priced place to sleep.

Where to stay: One of the most popular spots to stay in Waikiki is the upscale Aston Waikiki Beach Tower , with spacious condos located right in the heart of the action. A more affordable option is the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort , which has two towers right on the beach as well as a vast outdoor complex including a saltwater lagoon, waterslides, and five swimming pools.

Check Prices for Aston Waikiki Beach Tower in Honolulu

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garden of eden maui

The second-largest of the Hawaiian islands, Maui is a perennial visitor favorite because it has a little of everything: golden beaches, tumbling waterfalls, laid-back nightlife, championship-caliber golf courses, and plenty of outdoor adventure, from hiking and biking to snorkeling and surfing. You can get a taste of many of these attractions along the rugged Road to Hana , one of the most gorgeous drives on the planet.

If all you want to do during your vacation is to lie on a beach and relax, you can do so in popular resort areas like Kaanapali and Wailea. But more active travelers will find endless things to do in Maui. Head to Haleakala National Park to watch the sunrise from the summit of a volcano and then take an exhilarating 26-mile bike ride back down to the base. Go snorkeling among sea turtles and lava arches off the small island of Molokini. Come in the winter months to see migrating humpback whales. Or visit Maui’s many farms and plantations to sample local specialties like coffee, dragon fruit, and chocolate. (Many of these ingredients make it into farm-to-table cuisine around the island.)

Best for: Adventure seekers, honeymooners, foodies who love sampling local fare, and travelers who enjoy scenic drives.

Where to stay: Hotel Wailea is an ultra-luxe, adults-only resort featuring 72 beautifully designed suites with ocean or garden views; it’s the perfect spot for a secluded honeymoon. Or book yourself a beachfront condo at Maui Kai , where family-friendly units include kitchenettes and on-site laundry is available.

Check Prices for Hotel Wailea in Wailea

Check prices for maui kai in lahaina, big island (island of hawaii).

beach turtle

Put all the other Hawaiian islands together and they’re still only about half the size of the Big Island (officially known as the Island of Hawaii). Nor can they match the Big Island’s sheer natural diversity. As you travel around the island, you’ll see not only the landscapes you’d expect to see in Hawaii—black and white sand beaches, golf courses, fertile jungle valleys, waterfalls—but also a green sand beach ( Papakolea ), stark black lava fields, and even a little snow.

This varied terrain means there’s plenty to do on the Big Island for any visitor, starting with its most famous attraction, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park , which you can explore on foot or by car. Try stargazing from Maunakea , the island’s highest peak, where you’ll see that aforementioned snow. Near Kona you can relax on the beach or go snorkeling at night with manta rays , while the Hilo area is known for rainforest hikes, botanical gardens, and waterfalls. The Big Island is also a good spot to see Hawaiian green sea turtles, especially along the Kohala Coast .

Best for: Animal lovers, golfers, and outdoorsy travelers. The Big Island is also the best island in Hawaii for those seeking a variety of climates and landscapes on their vacation.

Where to stay: The Fairmont Orchid sprawls over 32 oceanfront acres in the northwestern part of the Big Island. Thanks to its large swimming pool, tennis courts, fitness center, and “spa without walls,” you may never leave the resort. If a B&B is more your speed, try The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls , an eco-friendly collection of rooms surrounding Hawaii’s largest privately accessible waterfall.

Check Prices for Fairmont Orchid in Puako

Check prices for the inn at kulaniapia falls in hilo.

kauai hawaii

As you drive past mile after mile of lush foliage in every imaginable shade of green, it’s not hard to see how Kauai earned the nickname “the Garden Isle.” Only about 20 percent of the island is accessible by foot or road; the rest is a dense tangle of rugged cliffs, primeval jungle, and rain-drenched mountain peaks. Consider taking a helicopter ride for the best views over Kauai’s most remote landscapes.

But there’s plenty to do on land, too. Drive to the western part of the island where lookout points and hiking trails offer spectacular views into Waimea Canyon , a deep and colorful gorge that’s often compared to the Grand Canyon. Just up the road is Koke’e State Park , where you can gaze out over Kauai’s distinctive Napali Coast and the pristine Kalalau Valley. Another must-see spot is the North Shore. Here you’ll find Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge , home to albatrosses and red-footed boobies, and Kauapea Beach (also known as Secret Beach ), a vast, unspoiled stretch of golden sand accessible via a short downhill hike. For more ideas, see The 10 Best Things to Do in Kauai .

Best for: Nature lovers, beach bums, hikers, bird watchers, and travelers who want to escape tourist crowds without getting too far from civilization.

Where to stay: Those looking for a resort experience should try the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa , which offers multiple restaurants, a golf course, a massive pool area (including a lagoon and a lazy river), and a location right on the beach. A more affordable option is the family-owned Garden Island Inn in Lihue, with 21 rooms featuring kitchenettes and freshly cut tropical flowers from the hotel’s own gardens. The beach is a short walk away. For more ideas, see The 10 Best Kauai Hotels for Every Budget .

Check Prices for Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa in Poipu

Check prices for garden island inn hotel in lihue.

lanai hawaii menele bay

Lanai sees only a tiny fraction of the tourists that visit the four best-known islands, and that’s part of its appeal. For much of the 20th century, the island was used exclusively for pineapple farming by the Dole company, but these days the main source of income for Lanai is its small but growing tourism industry. About 98 percent of the island—including its two Four Seasons resorts—is owned by billionaire Larry Ellison.

Apart from relaxing on Lanai’s uncrowded beaches, travelers can visit the Lanai Cat Sanctuary to see what the staff playfully calls “Hawaiian lions,” check out the galleries and boutiques in Lanai City, relax on serene Hulopoe Beach , or hike the 12.8-mile Munro Trail to Lanaihale, the island’s highest point.

Best for: Well-heeled travelers looking for an exclusive escape and day trippers from Maui (via the Lanai Ferry ).

Where to stay: The Four Seasons Resort Lanai is all about oceanfront opulence and seclusion, complete with a spa, an 18-hole golf course, limo service, and a Nobu restaurant. Non-Four Seasons options on Lanai are few and far between, but the 1920s-era Hotel Lanai offers 11 simple, recently renovated rooms.

Check Prices for Four Seasons Resort Lanai in Lanai City

Check prices for hotel lanai in lanai city.

molokai hawaii

The only Hawaiian island that sees fewer visitors than Lanai is Molokai, which feels like the island that time forgot. The pace of life is slow, there are no big resorts or traffic lights, and the mostly Native Hawaiian locals still embrace a simple, laid-back lifestyle. “If you want a place where you can sit on the beach by yourself and have no one talk to you, Molokai might be the best bet,” one recent visitor told me.

Molokai’s most unique attraction is Kalaupapa National Historical Park , a remote part of the island where people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) were once sent to isolate them from the rest of the Hawaiian population. (You can currently reach the park only by air due to a landslide that wiped out the trail used by mules and hikers; restoration efforts are under way.) The island also has numerous uncrowded beaches, including Papohaku , a three-mile stretch of white sand. Take a guided hike through the stunning Halawa Valley to learn about local history and see one of the island’s most impressive waterfalls.

Best for: Outdoorsy travelers, those looking for off-the-beaten-path experiences, and people who want to get away from it all.

Where to stay: Accommodations on the island are limited. Hotel Molokai is the best of the bunch, offering comfortable rooms (some with air conditioning, some cooled only by the trade winds) as well as a pool and restaurant. The condos at Ke Nani Kai are another good option, though past guests report that some units feel dated.

Check Prices for Hotel Molokai in Kaunakakai

Check prices for ke nani kai in maunaloa, what to pack, women’s cover-up outfit for hawaii, shop the look.

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Moisturizing Sunscreen

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One-Piece Swimsuit

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Men’s Cover-Up Outfit for Hawaii

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Drawstring Backpack

quietest hawaiian island to visit

More from SmarterTravel:

  • What to Wear in Hawaii
  • The Essential Hawaii Packing List
  • 12 Things You Should Never Do in Hawaii

Sarah Schlichter traveled to Hawaii as a guest of Hawaiian Airlines and Barclays . Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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Which Hawaiian Island Should I Visit?

quietest hawaiian island to visit

You’ve saved up, requested off work, and have started to count down the days until your vacation. The white sands and lush mountains of Hawaii have already begun calling your name, but when it comes to starting the planning process, which Hawaiian Island should you visit? Although it seems like a pretty basic question, it's a problem that a lot of Hawaii visitors run into, especially since opportunities to visit paradise don't come along every day. Keep reading to learn which of Hawaii’s unique islands suits you best.

Oahu: Ideal for Families

Oahu is known as the "Gathering Place" for a good reason. This island is by far the most popular for travelers, partially due to the accessibility of everything from nightclubs and world-class restaurants to sandy beaches and quaint surf towns. Honolulu, the state capital, is located on this island. Drive just a few miles outside the city, and you'll find yourself surrounded by rainforests in Manoa Valley or the state's most tourist-friendly snorkeling in Hanauma Bay . The island's north side is known for being a bit more laid-back without sacrificing vacation staples such as restaurants and shops.

On Oahu, you'll find:

  • A main strip of incredible resorts, with plenty of choices for families, couples, friends, and solo travelers alike, iconic and bustling Waikiki.
  • Museums, opportunities for surf lessons, and family-friendly activities can also be found on this populous island, as well as cultural sites and malls .
  • Pearl Harbor . This important historical site is the most-visited attraction in Hawaii.

Maui: Great for Honeymooners

Home to stunning scenery and some of the best resorts in the country, the “Valley Isle” of  Maui is a no-brainer for honeymooners. Maui is a fantastic option for those who want to have most of the vacation amenities offered on Oahu, such as the restaurants, bars, and accommodations choices, without the large crowds.

The possibilities on Maui are endless:

  • Newlyweds can drive past waterfalls and rocky coastal shores along the Road to Hana , go ziplining through the rainforest, frolic through lavender fields , watch the sunrise over a dormant volcano on Haleakala , or lounge on the sand.
  • Haleakala National Park encompasses over 33,000 acres, mostly wilderness, along with the spectacular Pipiwai Trail and Maui’s tallest peak.
  • Kaanapali Beach and Makena Beach Park are often on lists of the state’s best beaches .
  • Nearby, Lahaina town has a condensed group of restaurants, shops, and art galleries.
  • Maui also has incredible whale watching during winter, with many boat tours and ferries leaving the Lahaina Harbor throughout the day.

Kauai: Plenty of Outdoor Adventures

Kauai gets the most rain out of any other island in the state, so don’t bank on staying dry during your outdoor adventures. This rainy weather is what helps make the place so special, and also how the “Garden Isle” got its name. For this reason, the island is home to unique plants and flowers that thrive in the tropical weather and an abundance of botanical gardens . 

This island is also the oldest in the main island chain, with important cultural sites where the first Native Hawaiians lived off the land and sea. Na Pali Coast State Park is home to many of these historic outdoor sites, as well as towering sea cliffs, world-famous hiking trails , and snorkeling . Waimea Canyon , known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” boasts some of the state’s most unique and spectacular views and camping spots. Kauai’s wildlife refuge at Kilauea Lighthouse is an important sanctuary for the state’s wildlife, too.

Big Island: Best for Nature Lovers

As you may have already guessed, the Big Island (also known as Hawaii Island) is the state's largest island. This is the place for outdoor-loving adventurers who aren't afraid to fully immerse themselves in new environments.

What truly sets this island apart from the others is its volcanic activity , one of the true wonders of nature . The Big Island's constant active lava flow means it is still growing, which is particularly impressive, considering it is already bigger than all of the other Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii Island is home to most of the world's 14 climate zones, from snowy Mauna Kea to its many hot, sandy beaches .

A road trip or two on the Big Island isn't just recommended; it's inevitable. The island's massive size means that a car is mandatory for getting around unless you're planning on staying inside your resort the entire time. Hilo , on the east side, is known for its waterfalls and rainforests, while Kailua-Kona , on the west side, has a more lively ambiance.

Lanai: Perfect for Relaxing

While the quaint island of Lanai is still known as the “Pineapple Isle” from its days as the state’s leading producer of pineapples, the island grows very little of the fruit these days. 

Lanai has a population of just over 3,000 full-time residents living in its 140 square miles of land area, so it is extremely quiet. This peaceful vibe comes in handy for those who want to relax.

Still, Lanai has no shortage of things to do:

  • The luxurious Four Seasons and golf course at Manele Bay is gorgeous and frequented by celebrities looking to escape it all.
  • The sandy area off the connecting Hulopoe Beach Park is known for its pristine snorkeling.
  • From there, you can hike up to Puu Pehe Sweetheart Rock for majestic views of Maui and Molokai in the distance and crystal clear tidepools below.
  • The island also offers a few great attractions, such as an offshore World War II tanker wreck near Shipwreck Beach, the Lanai Cat Sanctuary, and the moonscape-like Keahiakawelo Garden of the Gods.

Molokai: The Friendly Isle

Molokai is small—as in, not one traffic light on the entire island small. This island has a reputation for being the “most Hawaiian” of the Hawaiian Islands, thanks to its aloha spirit, the residents’ embracement of the old Hawaii lifestyle, and small tourist numbers.

Since the tiny island only welcomes an intimate number of travelers each year, there isn’t a wide selection of accommodations. Dining options level out at local mom-and-pop stores, family-owned eateries, and small beachside restaurants.

Kalaupapa National Historical Park is the island’s biggest attraction. Only accessible by organized tour (typically done on mules to help navigate the steep and narrow access trail), Kalaupapa is home to Hawaii’s historic former leper colony. Other popular activities include hiking the Halawa Valley to Moaula Waterfalls with a local guide and kayaking near Molokai’s barrier reef, the longest reef in the state.

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Things to Do and Where to Stay in Hilo on Hawaii's Big Island

The 10 Best Beaches on Hawaii Island

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The Least Touristy Island In Hawaii For A True Hawaiian Escape

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With over 130 islands that make up the Hawaiian archipelago, picking the right Hawaiian island for your next vacation can be overwhelming. If you’re looking to escape the crowds and experience authentic Hawaiian culture, finding the least touristy island in Hawaii is key.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Molokai is widely regarded as the least touristy of the inhabited Hawaiian islands, offering pristine nature, quiet towns, and intact cultural traditions well off the beaten tourist track .

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore in detail the factors that make Molokai the best bet for avoiding other travelers in Hawaii. We’ll compare visitor statistics across the islands, highlight what makes Molokai so untouristed, and provide travel tips to help you plan the ultimate off-the-grid Hawaiian adventure.

What Makes an Island Touristy in Hawaii?

Beautiful One Albi Park beach of the island of Molokai in Hawaii, USA.

When it comes to choosing the perfect Hawaiian island for a true escape, it’s essential to consider the level of tourism. Some islands in Hawaii are known for their bustling tourist scene, while others offer a more secluded and authentic experience. Here are a few factors that contribute to an island being considered “touristy” in Hawaii:

Visitor Arrivals and Occupancy Rates

One of the key indicators of a touristy island in Hawaii is the number of visitor arrivals and occupancy rates.

Islands like Oahu and Maui tend to attract larger crowds due to their popularity and accessibility. They have a higher concentration of hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals, resulting in higher occupancy rates.

In contrast, less touristy islands such as Molokai or Lanai have fewer accommodations and lower visitor numbers, providing a more serene atmosphere.

Development and Commercialization

The level of development and commercialization also plays a significant role in determining how touristy an island is.

Islands with extensive resort complexes, shopping centers, and entertainment venues are more likely to draw large numbers of tourists. These developments often cater to the needs and preferences of visitors, offering a wide range of amenities and activities.

On the other hand, islands with limited development and a focus on preserving their natural beauty, such as Kauai or the Big Island, provide a more genuine Hawaiian experience.

Accessibility

Another factor that contributes to an island being touristy is its accessibility. Islands that have direct flights from major cities or frequent ferry services tend to attract more tourists. For instance, Oahu, with its international airport and the capital city of Honolulu, is easily accessible for travelers from around the world.

In contrast, islands that require multiple flights or have limited transportation options, like Molokai or Niihau, tend to have fewer visitors and a more off-the-beaten-path feel.

Molokai: The Least Visited Hawaiian Island

If you are looking for a true Hawaiian escape, Molokai is the perfect destination. With its minimal visitor numbers, limited resorts and attractions, and hard-to-reach location, Molokai offers a unique experience that is far from the typical touristy hustle and bustle.

Minimal Visitor Numbers

Unlike the popular islands of Oahu and Maui, Molokai sees significantly fewer tourists. This means you can enjoy a peaceful and serene vacation without the crowds . With fewer people around, you can truly immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty and experience the authentic Hawaiian culture.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Molokai has consistently had the lowest number of visitor arrivals compared to other Hawaiian islands . In fact, in recent years, Molokai has only received a fraction of the total tourist arrivals to Hawaii. This makes it the perfect choice for those seeking a more secluded and tranquil getaway.

Also read:   Would Hawaii Survive Without Tourism?

Limited Resorts and Attractions

Molokai is known for its limited resorts and attractions, which adds to its charm as the least touristy island in Hawaii. Unlike other islands that are filled with high-rise hotels and commercialized attractions, Molokai offers a more rustic and untouched experience .

Don’t expect to find large resorts or fancy amenities here. Instead, you’ll find a handful of smaller accommodations, such as bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals , which blend in harmoniously with the island’s natural surroundings. This allows you to truly connect with the island’s rich history and culture.

When it comes to attractions, Molokai offers a different kind of experience. Instead of bustling tourist hotspots, you can explore the island’s stunning landscapes, including the majestic sea cliffs of Kalaupapa National Historical Park and the pristine beaches of Papohaku Beach . You can also immerse yourself in the local community by visiting the quaint towns and participating in cultural activities.

Hard to Reach

Molokai’s remote location adds to its allure as the least visited Hawaiian island. Getting to Molokai requires a bit more effort compared to other more accessible islands.

There are no direct international flights to Molokai, so most visitors arrive via connecting flights from Honolulu or Maui . Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Maui to Molokai, which offers a scenic journey across the ocean.

This remoteness means that Molokai remains largely untouched by mass tourism. The island’s natural beauty and cultural heritage have been preserved, allowing you to experience the true essence of Hawaii.

If you’re looking for a true Hawaiian escape away from the tourist crowds, Molokai is the perfect choice. Its minimal visitor numbers, limited resorts and attractions, and hard-to-reach location make it a hidden gem in the Pacific . So pack your bags and get ready to discover the untouched beauty of Molokai!

What to Expect by Visiting Molokai

If you’re seeking a true Hawaiian escape away from the crowds, Molokai is the perfect destination for you. Known as the “Friendly Isle,” this hidden gem offers a unique and authentic experience that is unlike any other in Hawaii.

When you visit Molokai, you can expect pristine and secluded beaches, untouched nature and wildlife, authentic Hawaiian small towns, and an abundance of outdoor activities to keep you entertained throughout your stay.

Pristine and Secluded Beaches

Molokai is home to some of the most pristine and secluded beaches in all of Hawaii. Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax and soak up the sun or an adventurous beach for snorkeling and surfing, Molokai has it all.

One of the must-visit beaches on the island is Papohaku Beach, which stretches for three miles and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean . With its powdery white sand and crystal-clear waters, it’s no wonder why Molokai’s beaches are considered some of the best-kept secrets in Hawaii.

Also read:   Hawaiian Beaches – A Comprehensive Overview

Untouched Nature and Wildlife

Molokai is a paradise for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. The island is home to pristine rainforests, dramatic sea cliffs, and stunning waterfalls that will leave you in awe of its natural beauty.

As you explore the island, you may come across native Hawaiian plants and animals that are found nowhere else in the world. Keep an eye out for the rare and endangered Hawaiian monk seal , which can often be spotted lounging on the beaches of Molokai.

The untouched nature and abundant wildlife make Molokai a haven for those seeking a true connection with the natural world.

Authentic Hawaiian Small Towns

One of the highlights of visiting Molokai is experiencing its authentic Hawaiian small towns. Unlike the bustling tourist hubs on the other Hawaiian islands, Molokai’s towns offer a glimpse into the traditional Hawaiian way of life.

Kaunakakai , the island’s main town, is a charming and laid-back community where you can find local shops, restaurants, and markets. Stroll through the streets and immerse yourself in the warm and welcoming atmosphere that is characteristic of Molokai’s small towns.

An Abundance of Outdoor Activities

Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do on Molokai. From hiking to biking, fishing to kayaking, the island offers a wide range of activities for every adventurer.

Explore the scenic trails of the Halawa Valley and discover hidden waterfalls along the way. Take a boat tour and witness the majestic sea cliffs that tower over the ocean. Go snorkeling or diving and discover the vibrant marine life that thrives in Molokai’s crystal-clear waters.

With so many outdoor activities to choose from, you’ll never have a dull moment on this captivating island.

So, if you’re looking for a true Hawaiian escape that offers pristine beaches, untouched nature, authentic small towns, and a plethora of outdoor activities, look no further than Molokai.

Plan your trip to this hidden gem and experience the beauty and tranquility that can only be found on the least touristy island in Hawaii.

Travel Tips for Visiting Molokai

Getting to molokai.

Molokai is often referred to as the “Most Hawaiian Island” due to its untouched beauty and rich cultural heritage . To get to Molokai, you can take a short flight from the neighboring islands of Oahu or Maui.

Hawaiian Airlines and Mokulele Airlines offer regular flights to Molokai’s Kalaupapa Airport and Molokai Airport. Alternatively, you can also take a ferry from Maui’s Lahaina Harbor . The ferry ride provides stunning views of the Maui Channel and the chance to spot dolphins and whales.

For more information on flights and ferry schedules, you can visit the official websites of Hawaiian Airlines and Mokulele Airlines .

Where to Stay on Molokai

Molokai offers a range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences. From luxurious beachfront resorts to cozy vacation rentals, you’ll find something that fits your needs.

One popular option is the Molokai Shores , a beachfront condominium complex that offers stunning ocean views and easy access to nearby attractions. If you prefer a more secluded experience, consider staying at the Pu’u O Hoku Ranch , which offers charming cottages nestled amidst lush greenery.

For a complete list of accommodation options on Molokai, you can visit the official website of the Hawaii Tourism Authority .

Getting Around the Island

While visiting Molokai, it is recommended to rent a car to explore the island at your own pace. Several car rental agencies are available at both the Kalaupapa Airport and Molokai Airport.

However, if you prefer a more eco-friendly option, you can also rent a bicycle or take advantage of the island’s public transportation system. Molokai’s shuttle service, known as the “Molokai MEO Bus,” provides affordable transportation to various destinations around the island.

Best Time to Visit Molokai

Molokai enjoys a pleasant tropical climate throughout the year, making it an ideal destination for a Hawaiian escape.

The island experiences less rainfall compared to other parts of Hawaii, with the driest months being May through September. This period also coincides with the peak tourist season, so if you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting during the shoulder months of April or October.

Regardless of when you choose to visit, Molokai’s natural beauty and cultural richness will surely leave you in awe.

Also read:  The Worst Hawaiian Island For Tourists – Why You Should Avoid Molokai

If you’re searching for an authentic Hawaiian experience away from mass tourism, Molokai delivers. With the island’s tiny population, lack of resort development, and remoteness, you’ll be immersed in natural splendor, local culture, and tranquility.

Just be sure to respect the land and people by following proper etiquette as an outsider. By visiting Molokai, you can enjoy Hawaii’s stunning beauty without the crowds on this least touristy island paradise.

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Jane Smith is a Hawaii resident and author born and raised on the island of Oahu. Her Hawaiian heritage shines through in her writing, infusing it with the Aloha spirit and local flavor.

Jane draws inspiration from the tropical island lifestyle - outrigger canoeing at sunrise, beach picnics, hiking to hidden waterfalls. Her works immerse readers in the beauty and culture of Hawaii.

An avid surfer since childhood, Jane often wakes early to catch waves along the North Shore. She also enjoys practicing Hawaiian crafts like lei-making, lauhala weaving, and kapa cloth printing.

When not writing or adventuring outdoors, you can find Jane sipping mai tais at the local tiki bar, listening to ukulele music at the night market, or cooking up a big pot of stew at home.

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The Quietest Hawaiian Island: Places To Explore

Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches, expansive volcanoes, and lush green forests. What many people don’t know, however, is that there’s a quieter side to the Aloha State. In this blogpost we’ll discuss the criteria by which it is determined whether an island is quiet and which of the Hawaiian islands meet these conditions. We’ll also give you some tips on how and when to go there!

original 1. 20LEDE Oahu Honolulu Erin 20Kunkel The Quietest Hawaiian Island: Places To Explore

Conditions of Being Quiet

The conditions under which an island can be considered quiet include:

  • distance from civilization
  • population and tourists
  • level of urbanization
  • untouched nature

Lanai: The Least Inhabited Hawaiian Island

The smallest inhabited island travelers may visit in Hawaii, Lanai offers big enticements to its visitors. Only nine miles from Maui yet a world away, Lanai can feel like two places. One half is the relaxed, friendly home of just about 3,000 locals. The other half is vast expanses where nearly all signs of development are outside Lanai City. There are some luxury hotels but no chain restaurants or shops on this island (somehow).’

08598 The Quietest Hawaiian Island: Places To Explore

The island has some great beaches and some good hiking trails. Charter boats go snorkeling daily; the fantastic Hulopoe Beach on the east side can be crowded at times but it’s still a real treat for most visitors, if you want to swim with turtles or just have a nice beach for yourself.

Molokai: The Least Tourisic Hawaiian Island

Molokai, the most remote of the main Hawaiian Islands, is also the least visited and has the least touristy atmosphere. There are no stoplights or malls on Molokai, which keeps it rustic and quiet.  Unlike Lanai, there aren’t many lodgings available and it’s the most difficult island to arrive at by air.

​People who live there consider it to be the greatest place to reside. People leave their doors unlocked at night and there aren’t any dangerous animals here…just chickens! It is one of the most secluded Hawaiian Islands, with many long-standing families and few visitors, when compared to other islands in the chain. Thus, it isn’t as crowded as some other islands – Molokai is definitely a place to relax and unwind from life on the mainland.

Kahoolawe: The least Visited Hawaiian Island

Kahoolawe Hawaii is almost uninhabited island. After the first Polynesian explorers arrived around 500AD., Kahoolawe was used as an training ground for new warriors on Maui.

images 2022 02 20T185545.049 The Quietest Hawaiian Island: Places To Explore

Until recently, Kahoolawe was used by the U.S. Navy for bombing practice throughout World War II and later during the Vietnam War era. It’s now managed by Hawaii State as a feral animal preserve and watershed, and the only people allowed to visit are biologists and environmentalists. No camping or overnight lodging is available on this quiet island, which averages just 70 visitors per month.

Niihau: Altimately Connected To The Native Hawaiian Culture

Niihau is extremely isolated; in fact, guests are only allowed on Niihau for a maximum of two weeks per year. As part of an old Hawaiian promise to preserve its culture, outsiders (including Hawaiians) are not permitted to visit without an invitation from one of the 70 Native Hawaiian residents living living on its 114 square-mile landmass.  They are intimately connected to their natural environment, with food sources including fish, wild boar, taro root, sweet potatoes and more. The native Hawaiian culture on Niihau is kept alive by traditional hula dancers practicing every night on full moons.

Niihau The Quietest Hawaiian Island: Places To Explore

All shipments are subject to approval by the island’s residents, who are committed to keeping outsiders out. If you find yourself with an invitation to visit this mysterious land of few people, make sure your sunscreen is packed!

In Conclusions

We hope you enjoyed learning about the quiet side of Hawaii. If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, any of these islands would be a great choice. Mahalo for reading!

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The Ultimate Hawai’i Big Island Travel Guide (2024)

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase through my links we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Read about our affiliate policies here .

Volcanoes, stargazing, whale watching, and waterfalls galore will greet you on the Island of Hawai’i . Welcome to the ultimate Big Island travel guide!

The Island of Hawai’i is larger than all the other Hawaiian islands combined and then some. The Big Island has die-hard fans, and I am one of them. The Big Island is for coffee connoisseurs, astronomers, whale watchers, volcanologists, manta ray snorkelers, and travelers who crave a white-sand beach.

Everything you need to know about planning your trip is in the Big Island travel guide .

Here are some quick links to essential planning resources: – Check out the best (and worst) times to visit the Big Island – Pick what part of the island is the best fit for your group – Find the best beaches around the island – We’ve got you covered with 21 Incredible Things to Do on the Big Island

Want to hop around? Use our handy table of contents below to find exactly what you’re looking for.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Big Island Wayfinder Itinerary

Get the big island itinerary.

The step-by-step itinerary takes you to all the best beaches, snorkeling spots, restaurants, and sights. You’ll get six carefully planned excursion days to help you see the can’t miss stops no matter how limited your time is.

Get all the details on our itinerary and download it for a memorable and easily planned trip to Hawai’i (Big Island).

Big Island Travel Guide: Facts

Impress your seatmate on the plane or win trivia night with these facts about the Island of Hawai’i: 

  • The Island of Hawai’i has 4 out of the 5 major climate zones in the world and 8 out of 13 sub-zones, following the  Köppen climate  classification scheme. That means the Big Island has deserts to polar tundra to rainforests and in-between. 
  • Two of the five shield volcanoes that formed the island are still active. Kilauea and Mauna Loa are active but may not be erupting. Kilauea is the most active, see if it is  erupting here for your trip .  Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park is worth a visit.
  • The next Hawaiian island is forming fifteen miles off the island’s southeast coast. Loʻihi, is erupting 3,000 feet below the surface of the ocean. While it will still be several thousand years before this volcano breaks the sea’s surface, it has already risen more than 10,000 feet from the seafloor and has a crater that measures three miles across.
  • Kamehameha the Great , who unified the Hawaiian Islands as one kingdom in 1810, is believed to have been born in the Big Island’s North Kohala area, Waipio Valley. 

Big Island travel guide - Volcanoes House Lodge

  • Captain James Cook , who is widely considered to be the first European to set foot on the Hawaiian Islands, was killed at Kona’s Kealakekua Bay in 1779.
  • Measured from its seafloor base to its highest peak,  Mauna Kea  is the world’s tallest mountain, taller than Mount Everest, since the base of Mount Everest is above sea level.
  • The island is often referred to as the Island of Hawaiʻi, the Big Island, or Hawaiʻi Island to distinguish it from the state.

Big Island Geography

The Big Island is aptly named:  it has 63% of Hawaii’s combined land mass . That means it’s larger than all of the other islands, combined. And, with new volcanic eruptions, the island is getting bigger.  

There are five major volcanoes on the Big Island and six main regions: Kona, Kohala, Hamakua Coast, Hilo, Puna, and Kau. 

Like all of the Hawaiian islands, there are two sides: a leeward side and a windward side. The leeward side of the island is drier and the windward side is wetter. 

Big Island Travel Guide - Map of the island

Welcome to sunny Kona. The Kona district stretches for most of the leeward side of the island and includes beaches, snorkeling spots, coffee farms , and cultural sights. Here you’ll also find one of the two airports, Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport (KOA). It’s one of the most popular areas on the island to stay thanks to airport proximity, activities, and weather. 

Shielded from the winds, you’ll find warm weather, mostly clear skies, and calm, swimmable beaches (here are the  5 Best Kona Beaches ). Into the cooler hillside you can explore the coffee farms that are so prevalent in the area. And enjoy an incredible historic site,  Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park .

Plus, you will find the best snorkeling spot on the island here (in our opinion). 

Check out even more to love about Kona: The 21 Best Things to do in Kona (+ tips to know before you go) Where to Stay in Kona: the 7 Best Hotels and Vacation Rentals Tried & Tested: The 5 Best Manta Ray Night Snorkel (& Dives) in Kona

Kohala 

Just north of Kona on the leeward side of the island is the Kohala Coast, also sometimes referred to as the Gold Coast thanks to the number of five star resorts in this area. It’s also home to some of the best beaches on the island, like Hapuna Beach, with it’s white sand and beautiful blue water. Just note that in the winter, some of these beaches get hit with large currents and waves, making them dangerous for swimming.

Venture further inland and you’ll leave the resorts behind and find another side to the Kohala district, with the cowboy (paniolo) town of Waimea, the charming town of Hawi, and the sacred Pololu Valley. 

Related reads: The 15 Best Things To Do In Waikoloa Kona vs Waikoloa: What’s the Best Place to Stay on the Big Island

Hamakua Coast

Here, you’re off the leeward side of the island and you’re now on the lush, tropical windward side. The Hamakua Coast is famous for its jagged coastline, waterfalls , and stunning scenery. Waipio Valley is also located here, which is known for being the boyhood home of King Kamehameha I. 

The largest town of the windward side, here you’ll find another airport, Hilo International Airport (ITO), serving inter-island airports and some west coast airports. This small city has a great downtown and is also a launching point for many of the spectacular sights in the area, including Volcanoes National Park. Explore our  1-Day Hilo Itinerary for Things to Do and the Best Things to Do in Hilo (+nearby) .

South of Hilo you have the Puna district, an area known for its fertile soil. You’ll find plenty of farms here growing flowers, macadamia nuts, and papayas. You can also visit the lava viewing area of Kalapana, once a historic town before it was partially destroyed by lava. 

This southern region is quiet, but is home to two major attractions: Punalu’u Black Sand Beach and the majority of Volcanoes National Park (including Kilauea Volcano). You’ll also find coffee farms, mac nut farms, and hiking trails. What you won’t find are large hotels, golf courses, or a bustling town. 

Big Island travel guide -

What’s the Best Time of Year to Visit the Big Island?

While you may be visiting from a place that has four seasons each year, in Hawaii there are just two: summer (kau) and winter (hooilo). Summer runs from May to October and winter lasts from November to April. 

Luckily, the weather on the Big Island is warm and pleasant year-round, so there’s truly no bad time to visit.  But our favorite months to visit are May and October, because there are fewer visitors, the weather is great, and it’s a little less expensive to travel in this off-peak season period.  

You can find all the details for the best time to visit the Big Island (and the worst), plus our advice on when to visit for whale watching, snorkeling, and the cheapest costs!

While the winter months get a little more rain and might be a little cooler, the weather in Kona stays pretty sunny and warm year-round. It’s a  perfect spot to plan a winter vacation . On the Kohala Coast you’ll find even drier conditions but be prepared for some rough surf in the winter. 

That said, if you plan to visit the windward side in the winter, you are in for cooler temperatures and more rainfall. But that’s what makes that side of the island so lush and beautiful. 

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Getting to the Big Island

There are two (two!) airport options for you to choose from on the Big Island. The main airport that serves the most visitors is  Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport  (KOA). The airport is located seven miles northwest of Kailua-Kona and serves inter-island, domestic, and international locations. 

Located on the other side of the island is Hilo International Airport (ITO), which is located two miles east of Hilo. This airport serves inter-island locations as well as some domestic airports on the west coast.

Big Island travel guide - airport

Renting a Car and Getting Around the Big Island

If you’re hoping to see all that the Big Island has to offer, having a car is going to be pretty important. Our favorite recommendation is  Discount Hawaii Rental Car . We use them  any time we island hop  and we’ve saved thousands of dollars by using them over the years. 

While the island is big, you can drive around the island in one day, either using the northern route, the southern route, or by taking the saddle road through the middle of the island. When driving from Kona to Hilo, the northern route will take approximately 2 hours. You can shorten your journey to 1.5 hours by taking the saddle road, however you’ll miss some of the sights on the  Hamakua Heritage corridor .

For the most part, the roads on the Big Island are well paved and easy to navigate with any type of car — no 4 wheel drive required! There are a few spots where having a 4WD car is preferred or required, but you can visit most sights just cruising around with regular wheels. 

If you don’t want to rent a car but you still want to get out and see the sights, a guided tour is a great option. Our favorite tour that will pick you up from your hotel and take you around is the  Big Island Circle Tour .

Big Island travel guide - hotel

Where to Stay on the Big Island

Ready to book your stay on the Big Island? There are so many different options: a quaint vacation rental in coffee country, a tiny home on a bed of lava, a five-star resort, or a small boutique hotel. Whatever you’re looking for, the Big Island has something for you.

Should you stay in a hotel or vacation rental?

There’s something for everyone on the island. The Big Island has plenty of five-star resorts, quaint hotels, and unique vacation rentals. But what’s the right spot for you? 

The first choice you’ll need to make is whether you’re looking for a hotel or a vacation rental. There’s no bad choice. Go for a hotel if you’re looking for the traditional resort experience with big pools, nearby beaches, and restaurants within walking distance. Opt for a vacation rental if you want access to a kitchen, are looking for space, or are looking to save money. 

If you’re still not sure what you want to do, we  break down the difference between choosing a hotel and a vacation rental in Hawaii .  

Should you stay in Hilo, Kona, Kohala, or…?

Because you read our geography section (above) you know that the island has a leeward side and a windward side. The leeward side is the drier side and includes Kailua-Kona and the Kohala Coast. These are the most popular places for visitors to stay, but are they the right spots for you? 

Check out our where to stay guide, which walks you through the accommodation options for different areas of the island: from the luxury resorts on the Kohala Coast to the unique options on the windward side. 

Related Articles:

  • Where to Stay on the Big Island: an area by area guide
  • Hilo vs Kona: picking the right place for you
  • Where to Stay in Kona: the 7 Best Hotels and Vacation Rentals
  • Where to Stay Directory: Big Island

Big Island travel guide - black sand beach

How Many Days Should You Stay on the Big Island

When you’re planning a trip to the Big Island, your list of things to see will be long. And the more you read about this beautiful island, the more you’ll add to your list of things to do and see. That’s why we recommend spending at least a week on the Big Island. This will give you time to check off some of your top experiences while also enjoying some downtime to relax. 

Most visitors seem to agree with our advice to stay for at least a week: the average number of days a traveler spends on the island is eight. 

Read more about  how many days you should spend on the Big Island .  And don’t miss our  Hawaii packing list   as you’re getting ready to go.

Big Island travel guide - beach

Beaches and Snorkeling Spots on the Big Island

Who doesn’t love a good beach when they’re on vacation? If you’re headed to the Big Island, you’re in luck. There are plenty of beautiful beaches for you to discover. Our favorite beaches include:

1.  Hapuna Beach : If you’re looking for white-sand beaches, this is the spot. One of the best beaches on the island (if not the best), Hapuna Beach offers plenty of soft sand, good swimming conditions in the summer, and plenty of parking. It is what beach vacation dreams are made of.

2.  Kikaua Point Park : This is the best spot for kids (though truthfully we love it as adults as well). This park has a protected cove that makes swimming here easy pretty much year-round. And it’s also surprisingly good for snorkeling. But the limited parking makes it a tough beach to get to.

3.  Punalu’u Black Sand Beach : A must-see beach on your trip to the Big Island, it’s the best black sand beach in the state (in our opinion). But swimming here isn’t so easy, so plan to spend your time on the shore marveling at your beautiful surroundings.

Check out this  list of our favorite Big Island beaches , complete with directions, parking information, and must-know tips.

If you’re coming to snorkel, we’ve got you covered. These are our  favorite snorkeling spots on the island .

The top one, Kealakekua Bay isn’t easily accessible from land so we recommend a  boat tour  or a  kayak trip  out to enjoy it. It’s one of our most memorable experiences in Hawai’i to date.

Remember that while the beaches in Hawaii are beautiful, they are not without risk. Currents, dangerous shore break, and changing ocean conditions make swimming in any ocean dangerous. Practice beach safety by swimming on beaches with lifeguards, obeying lifeguard flags, and when in doubt, don’t go out. This website has more excellent information to help keep you safe. 

Big Island travel guide - Kayak to Kealakekua Bay

Things To Do on the Big Island

The Big Island is full of amazing adventures, stunning natural beauty, and important heritage sites. There’s more to do and see than you can fit into one trip, so prioritizing what you want to experience is important. 

Ready to craft your list of things you can’t miss? Here are a few of our favorite experiences, but you can read the  full list of things you can do activities on the Big Island. 

  • For an up-close experience with the ocean’s gentle giants, head out for  night snorkeling or diving with Manta Rays
  • Hike in Volcanoes National Park , drive the crater rim, walk through a lava tube, and look into Halema’uma’u Crater
  • Dip your toes in the water at a stunning  black sand beach
  • Explore  underwater at Kealakekua Bay  — you may get lucky and be greeted by a pod of spinner dolphins
  • Visit a coffee farm and sample fresh coffee in Kona’s famed coffee country (these are out favorite coffee farm tours! )

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of the amazing experiences the Big Island offers. To plan your trip, check out our  five  can’t miss experiences on the Big Island .  It’s also home to a ton more farm tours (not just coffee farms) and you can go whale watching in the winter !

And if you’re traveling with kids, don’t miss our  12 things to do in Kona with kids . It has some great ideas that your kids will love.

Want help seeing how to fit all of the best sights into your vacation?  Our Big Island itinerary  was created just for that. The step-by-step itinerary takes you to all the best beaches, snorkeling spots, restaurants, and sights. With the download, you’ll get six carefully planned excursion days to help you see the can’t miss stops no matter how limited your time is.

Get all the details on our itinerary  and download it for a memorable and easily planned trip to the Big Island.

Best Tours and Activities on the Big Island

While we embrace DIY travel, there’s something to be said for a  great  tour on the big island. Not only are you supporting a local business, but you’re getting time with a guide who truly knows the island. Whether they’re teaching you the history of the islands during a canoe tour or they’re educating you on the marine life during a snorkeling trip, a good tour experience can stick with you for years. 

We’ve done the hard work for you by finding the best of the best tours on the island. Here’s a sampling of our favorites to get started,  but don’t forget to check out our full list . 

If you’re visiting the Big Island on a cruise ship, don’t miss the best Big Island shore excursions and our Cruise Travel Guide .

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Popular Big Island Videos

Get to know the Big Island and see some of our best recommendations with our most popular Big Island videos.

Or, explore our full library of videos on Hawaii .

Full Library of Big Island Articles

Want to binge-read everything we’ve written on visiting the Big Island? Pour yourself a Mai Tai and browse all Hawai’i Big Island articles here .

The Best Big Island Itinerary

If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, we’ve got you covered.  Our island itineraries  help you navigate the planning process and make your trip smooth once you’re on-island. Thousands of customers have loved them, whether they were planning for a trip that was a year away or a trip that was a day away.

Thousands of customers have loved them, whether they were planning for a trip that was a year away or a trip that was a day away.

We hope you have an amazing trip!

~Jordan & Erica

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quietest hawaiian island to visit

I'm the co-founder, with my husband Jordan, of The Hawaii Vacation Guide. We have lived on Maui and Oahu and continue to travel, experience, and learn about the Hawaiian Islands. We travel with our kids, Henry and Edith. I am a planner! I love to plan trips from the mainland and island-hopping adventures, excursion days, and everything in-between. I spend a lot of my time in Hawai'i on a SUP and my favorite time of year in Hawai'i is whale season!

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Best Hawaiian Island to Visit

Are you planning a dream vacation to hawaii but have absolutely no idea which island to choose.

Hawaii is not a single travel destination, but really six different destinations. The six main Hawaiian islands are Oahu, Maui, Kaua’i, Hawaii(Big Island), Lana’i and Moloka’i.

How to Choose the Best Hawaiian Island to Visit

Choosing which island to visit can be arbitrary and difficult. A common misconception is that Hawaii is one place, encompassing all the hot spots such as Waikiki, Kaanapali, and Kona. But did you know that the Hawaiian chain is actually comprised of six separate islands that are publicly accessible? We hope this detailed guide will provide you with local insight while choosing which Hawaiian island is right for your vacation. Call today if you have questions or seek more information, and one of our friendly travel experts will be happy to help! 1-800-843-8771

Based on popular appeal, activities, and notoriousness, each of the six islands is uniquely distinct. With so much to see and do on one island, Hawaii Aloha offers custom-tailored travel packages that fit your needs and particular lifestyle. All you need to do is choose the island that suits your desires and vacation ideas! So read on to discover more about the Hawaiian Islands and we’ll ensure you have the vacation experience of a lifetime, custom-created to be exactly what you seek.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Known as the “ Gathering Place ” and harboring Hawaii’s state capital of Honolulu, if you’re looking for the Best Hawaiian Island to Visit and beach action in a big city, this is the island for you. A hot spot for activities, shopping, dining, surfing, nightlife, and much more, Waikiki Beach is a worldly popular location. However, don’t be fooled by travel guides telling you Oahu is only good for a party because there is much more to Oahu than just its city parts.

With diverse sides to explore on this island, you will be kept busy for your entire vacation. The pristine beaches of the east side will tempt you to stay forever. With a stunning view of the Mokulua islands , crystal clear waters, and unbelievably white sand, this site offers a wide variety of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. Rent a kayak and explore the twin islands off the coast of LaniKai beach or go into Kailua town for some shopping and authentic restaurants. Surfing, snorkeling, the increasingly popular SUP (stand-up paddleboarding), swimming, and kayaking are all great ways to get to know the East Side. You will also find lookout points, waterfalls, canyons, and rainforests on this tropical side.

The north shore of Oahu is home to the world-renowned surf break, Bonsai Pipeline. Although the surfing spectacles are incredible to watch, the ocean conditions are usually unsafe for visitors here during winter. Waimea Bay is another great spot to watch the surfers, along with Sunset Beach and Turtle Bay. There are several waterfall hikes on this side, and with its lush scenery, it is easy to see why so many people flock here. The quaint town of Haleiwa is known to have some of Hawaii’s best shave ice, not to mention awesomely authentic surf shops and mean Mexican food at Cholo’s. The north shore is a relaxing, quiet retreat compared to its opposite location of Waikiki.

The west side is cropping up with new shopping centers and resorts and is a great place for solitude. The resort community of Ko Olina is equipped with a lush golf course, private beach coves perfect for leisure swimming, fine dining, and oceanfront cocktail bars. The town next door is Kapolei, where you’ll find shopping, movie theaters, restaurants, and much more. Out further west is the deep local parts of Nanakuli , Waianae , and Makaha Beach. These areas offer beautiful beaches and dramatic mountain ridges; if you’re seeking intense sun rays, this is the best place to get it!

Waikiki and Honolulu are bursting with activities and entertainment. Located on the island’s south side, this location has the feel of a big city, only it is Hawaii-style- with palm trees, blue water, and warm evenings. Here, you’ll find the high-end outdoor and indoor shopping malls of Ala Moana, Pearl City, and the Waikiki Strip. Much of the island’s historical and cultural centers are also here, so jump on several entertaining tours to traverse the island via bus. 5-star hotels, resorts, and spas adorn the long stretch of beautiful Waikiki beach. Still, you will also find surfing lessons, snorkeling, luaus , superb dining, and lively nightlife, making this the Best Hawaiian Island to Visit for many.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Known as the Garden Isle, here you’ll find the iconic representation of Hawaii. With lush mountains that seem to go on for days and rainbow shower trees that line dirt roads, you’ll find a peaceful retreat here that is unlike any other; for this reason, Kauai is also the Best Hawaiian Island to Choose. With unsurpassed tropical beauty, this quiet island is a perfect getaway for honeymooners or someone who needs to get away and find some relaxation.

The recently developing south side of Kauai is known for its incredible snorkeling sites and sunny beach weather, which many visitors when thinking about the Best Hawaiian Island to Visit. Hotels and resorts are located along the coast, including the Grand Hyatt Kauai and the contemporary Koa Kea Hotel. You will also find secluded beaches framed by verdant mountains that tower to the clouds. Sparsely populated, the south side is a great place to enjoy Hawaii at its finest. In the old town of Koloa , you’ll find museums giving information on the sugar cane mills, Kauai’s oldest agriculture industry. Many mills are still visible and offer photo opportunities as the sun sets against their tin roofs.

The small, local towns on Kauai’s west side are quaint and authentic. Visit the dwellings of Hanapepe , Kauai’s biggest little town and weave in and out of art galleries, boutiques, original restaurants, and the popular Banana Patch Studio . Here you can watch local artists hand-paint Hawaiian tiles and pottery and purchase unique gifts. The west side is also home to Kauai’s largest stretch of beach, Polihale . The direct translation of this ancient word is “house of the dead,” but don’t be too spooked! This beach is one of Kauai’s most stunning and will surely run your camera out of batteries. Waimea is another town to visit, and don’t forget to stop in at JoJo’s for some tropically flavored Hawaiian shave ice.

Kauai’s only airport is located on the east side, in the town of Lihue. Harboring much of the island activity, this is where you’ll find shopping malls, river kayaking, dining, Kauai-style nightlife, hikes, and more. Vacationers who want a little bit of everything come to the east side because here, you’ll find a centrally located area closest to all of Kauai’s shores. The beaches are long, golden strips of sand that usually sit in front of resorts, with mellow waves and sandy ocean bottoms. The mauka (mountain) side of Lihue and Kapaa is lush and beautiful, teeming with waterfall hikes and rivers you can journey up. You can paddle and put upstream to secret waterfalls and hiking trails with kayaks, SUP board rentals, canoes, and small boats. This side is also known to wash up some of Kauai’s most valued treasures: sunrise shells and glass fishing floats. Another area on the east side worth a visit is the old town of Kapaa , where you’ll find old-fashioned ice cream parlors, small boutiques, local style eateries, and art galleries. Kapaa also holds outdoor markets where locals sell unique gifts such as pareos (sarongs), koa wood crafts, Hawaiian jewelry , and much more.

The north shore of Kauai is secluded and quiet, with rainforest-bordered beaches, trickling streams running across the roads, and one-lane bridges that inspire a sense of friendly neighborliness. With amazing snorkeling sites and world-class hiking along with the Na Pali coast , this is the side to visit if you’re looking for a relaxed, tropical retreat. Only a few hotels and resorts are on this side, so many vacationers look into home rentals. With one of the world’s largest (but unfortunately nonliving) reefs, Anini Beach is a great place to get sun, camp, or look for Kahelelani shells sprinkled amongst the sand grains. These tiny shells, also known as Niihau shells, are precious plunder that were used to make jewelry for the Hawaiian royalty. This site also offers a quaint shopping village with Kauai’s famous Buba’s Burgers, bikini shops, and surf shops. North Shore has some of the best surf spots too, so if you’re looking to catch some waves while on Kauai, head north to Hanalei!

quietest hawaiian island to visit

If you’re looking for a little bit of everything; relaxing beach days, adventurous hikes to waterfalls, nightlife, lively coral reefs, and resorts, then Maui is truly the ideal tropical paradise. Most first-time Hawaii visitors travel to Maui because of its diversity and popularity if you are considering the Best Hawaiian Island to Visit. Known as the valley isle, this island has incredibly beautiful scenery with an abundance of guided tours to allow some major sightseeing. From volcanoes to lush rainforests to miles of warm golden beaches, Maui is a great place to come taste everything Hawaii has to offer.

Much of Maui’s popular destination spots are divided between the West and the South sides of the island. The west side of Maui has the most visited town of Kaanapali. Kaanapali Beach has a resort community feel to it, with various hotels, resorts, and condos that are all within walking distance of one another. The beach is spectacular, offering tons of activities such as snorkeling, surfing, and swimming, and Whalers Village shopping center is within proximity as well. Kaanapali, one of Maui’s most appealing towns, is rich in history and culture but also brimming with restaurants, shopping, galleries, and a vivacious nightlife.

The south side of Maui includes the towns of Kihei and Wailea. With the resorts and hotels more spread out than Kaanapali, this side tends to be quieter and have more of a relaxed beach atmosphere. Oneloa Beach, referred to by the locals as “Big Beach” is a wide stretch of sand that is perfect for body boarding, body surfing, swimming, and snorkeling. With portable restrooms and picnic tables, this is a great family beach location , so pack a picnic and spend the day along this gorgeous coastline. On this side you can also indulge in divine cuisines, authentic luaus, and the Maui Ocean Center Aquarium . You can also enjoy free hula shows at the Lahaina Cannery Mall and visit the giant Banyan tree, a park-like setting fun for kids and mid-afternoon activities.

The famous Road to Hana is a major attraction along Maui’s east side and boasts some of the island’s most inspiring scenery. The windy road to Hana carves around mountains with dramatic cliffs that drop into the ocean and lush rainforests alive with vibrancy. Here you will also find black sand beaches, Haleakala National Park, and cascading waterfalls, all sights to be had while visiting Maui. You can also check out the popular east side attraction of Ohe’o Gulch, or Seven Sacred Pools, the series of waterfalls and natural pools within the National Park.

The towns of Haiku, Kula, and Upcountry are located in the northern territories with rustic sights of Maui’s produce farms and botanical gardens. Without many hotels or resorts, these areas act more as sightseeing and point-of-interest locations than actual vacation destinations. But with interesting and unique places like Holy Ghost Catholic Church, Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula, pineapple canneries of Haiku, cemeteries, small restaurants, and rolling fertile hillsides with misty mountains, these high elevation areas still provide amazing scenery and unforgettable experiences.

Waimea sign

Hawaii (Big Island)

This island originally named Hawai’i is the largest and youngest of all islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. Referred to now as the Big Island to avoid confusion with the state’s name, this is home to Hawai’i’s only active volcano. With incredibly diverse landscapes from molten lava rivers to snow-capped mountains to beautiful rainforests and black sand beaches, this island is a place of wonder and excitement.

On the sunny west side of the Big Island you will find Kona , a bustling place of activity home to historic villages, shops, dining, nightlife, and beaches. The beaches here are sheltered and calm, creating perfect places for tranquil swimming and snorkeling. Dolphin and honu (turtle) sightings are common while snorkeling, but if you would like to experience more of Hawaii’s marine life, scuba diving is renown here as well. Along the Kona coast you will discover the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park that highlights Hawaiian fishponds, native wildlife, and sacred temples. You will also find the famous Kona Coffee Plantations here, so have fun on a guided tour or explore on your own.

Hilo and Puna is where you will find tropical rainforests, flowing falls, and blooming gardens. The east side of Big Island acted as the farming and fishing community during earlier times, which sheds light on its present day fertile landscaping. Now home to museums, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and the Hilo Farmer’s Market, this side remains energetic with activity. Come visit the Wailuku River State Park, home to the 80-foot Rainbow Falls and the Boiling Pots pools. The Liliuokalani Gardens boast 30 acres of beautifully landscaped Japanese gardens with koi fish ponds, pagodas, and rock structures. The town of Puna houses Hawaii’s oldest theatre, the Akebono, which is still open to the public with a full bar, dance floor, and performance stage. You’ll also find a variety of resorts and hotels with amenities and spas, so come relax in Hilo and surround yourself in tropical beauty and Hawaiian entertainment.

The southern tip of Big Island is know as Ka Lae, but the south side is named Kau, a vast, rural, and remote part of the island. With a small town feel and pace, Kau is home to Kilauea and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park . This area offers hikes, one of Hawaii’s most well-known black sand beaches (Punaluu), macadamia nut orchards, coffee farmlands, and cattle pastures. The south tip is also the place of beginnings, where the ancient Polynesians are known to have first set foot, thus naming the island Hawai’i. You can find a quaint bed and breakfast to stay in or choose a hotel, but wherever you stay, this side will offer solitude, respite, and tranquility.

North Kohala and Waimea are locations on the north side of Big Island, with green pastoral landscapes home to paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys), ranches, and scenic drives. Here you will also find the charming town of Hawi with unique boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. There is also rich historical value to this side, including King Kamehameha’s birthplace and the Puukohola Heiau National Historical Site, one of the largest and last remaining Hawaiian burial sites. Enjoy activities such as horseback riding through lush fields, ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) explorations, snorkeling, swimming and much more. A place of natural splendor and dramatic coastlines, the north shore will inspire and entrance you.

Here Are The 11 Most Peaceful Places To Go In Hawaii When You Need A Break From It All

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Megan Shute

With more than 10 years of experience as a professional writer, Megan holds a degree in Mass Media from her home state of Minnesota. After college, she chose to trade in her winter boots for slippahs and moved to the beautiful island of Oahu, where she has been living for more than five years. She lives on the west side but is constantly taking mini-road trips across the island and visits the neighboring islands whenever she can getaway. She loves hiking, snorkeling, locally-grown coffee, and finding the best acai bowl on Oahu.

More by this Author

Whether you live in Hawaii — or worse, work at an establishment inundated with tourists from across the world — sometimes you just need an escape. While Hawaii’s most popular tourist destinations are visited for a reason, sometimes you want to get away from it all. If you’re looking for some much-needed peace and quiet, you can head to any of these awe-inspiring but quiet places in Hawaii for some respite.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

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quietest hawaiian island to visit

Which of these destinations is your favorite? Tell us your thoughts in the comments! For more incredible spots to get away from it all, these secluded places in Hawaii have it all.

OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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More to Explore

Quiet places in hawaii.

What is the best place to relax in Hawaii?   

Hawaii is one of those places people go specifically for rest and relaxation, but it can be hard to do so with all the crowds and hustle and bustle that this little slice of paradise is almost always host to. So, what’s the best place to relax in Hawaii ? We personally prefer the island of Kauai, which is known for its more low-key vibe and laid-back lifestyle. You might want to check out some of the most amazing hidden beaches in Hawaii , especially the ones in Kauai, and some of our amazing hiking trails in Hawaii are lesser-known and quite relaxing as well. Another idea is to check out some of the lesser-known state parks in Hawaii, where you can escape to while everyone else is distracted by the busier spots.  

Where are the best state parks for relaxing in Hawaii?   

So, what are some of those laid-back state parks in Hawaii that tend to get a little less foot traffic than others? These state parks are often known for how quiet they can be; one of our favorite state parks for relaxing in Hawaii is Ka’ena Point State Park. You’ll find it in Waialua, and you’ll be amazed at just how peaceful it is. Folks describe it as “serene” and “tranquil”, and we are obsessed. We also totally love the Mālaekahana State Recreation Area, which is one of our favorite beaches in Hawaii for relaxation.  

What are some of the best places to go for peace and quiet in Hawaii?   

Sure, Hawaii is a touristy place, but as you can see, that doesn’t mean you won’t find peace and quiet anywhere. We have more favorite places to go for peace and quiet in Hawaii like Molokai, which is literally known as the “Quiet Islands”. It’s also probably one of the least-touristy places in Hawaii, making it the perfect place to run off to when you just need an escape. You might also want to look into the quietest hiking trails in Hawaii , too – many of which are on Molokai.

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Which Island Should I Visit In Hawaii?

Close your eyes. Picture your ideal Hawaii even if you've never been there before. What do you imagine? Do you see endless parties? Do you envision flowing rivers of lava? Do you dream of white sand beaches surrounded by lush rainforest?

Hawaii is made up of eight different major islands. Four of these islands -- Kauai , Oahu , Maui , and Hawaii -- are where you'll find tourists. The other four islands are generally reserved for locals or the most experienced Hawaiian travelers. And each of these four major islands offers up unique experiences that you can't find anywhere else. So what you envision in your dreams of Hawaii should have a big say in which island you ultimately choose.

But before we get to the features of each island, there are some logistics to consider. Picking your favorite Hawaiian island may come down to simple timing and economics. Only after you're done with the logistical side of planning your Hawaiian vacation can you focus on the different flavors of the island. Whichever Hawaiian island you visit, planning is crucial.

Book Your Flights Early

Booking

You won’t want to wonder which Hawaiian island to visit if your trip to the islands is not a pleasant one. It's a good idea to monitor flight prices three months out to book the cheapest fares. That will give you ample notice to request the time off of work. It's easier than requesting the time off of work and then trying to fit your Hawaiian vacation into that time frame. You may be stuck with high-priced flights and accommodations.

We recommend spending at least seven days on your favorite island. A cheap flight can help you extend your stay, afford a nicer accommodation or help you afford more interesting tours during your visit.

Flights To Different Islands

Flight

Make a matrix of costs for flights to each island before factoring in accommodation costs for your ideal Hawaiian vacation.

Accommodation Types

Rental

Kauai is perfect if you envisioned endless surfing and hiking with rugged camping , outdoor showers, and local house rentals. As the oldest Hawaiian island, it has had millions of years to collect wildlife carried from around the world from seeds in bird's talons.  Oahu is for you if you need to be pampered with big city convenience. As the second oldest island it has a happy medium of city life and some natural Hawaiian scenery.  Maui gives you all the comforts of home with a little bit of seclusion. And the Big Island is for the nomad who wants to see it all.

The Islands

Now that you know your flight window, flight and accommodation costs, it's time to rank your favorite islands.

Oahu

Oahu is home to Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital and the biggest city in the state. Three out of four residents of Hawaii live on Oahu, and the island boasts an excellent mix of nature and culture. On Oahu, you can spend the day shopping, trying world-class restaurants, or enjoying a resort’s amenities. You can also learn to surf, take a hike, or visit major historical sites, most notably Pearl Harbor .

Waikiki is the most popular tourist district on Oahu. People from all over the world come to enjoy the luxurious resorts, nightlife, and  surfing lessons . For people traveling to Hawaii without a car, Waikiki is a good destination, because there are plenty of things to do within walking distance, as well as a good public transportation system.

Maui

If you want to spend most of your time in Hawaii on the beach, Maui might be the island for you. The island’s miles of gorgeous beaches come in white, red, and black sands . The beaches in Maui aren’t just picturesque, though – they’re a great destination for all kinds of water sports. If you like surfing, sailing, kitesurfing, snorkeling , or scuba diving , Maui will be right up your alley.

Maui isn’t short on stunning views away from the beach, either. If you’re staying on the island, set aside a day or two to drive to the little town of Hana at the far eastern end of the island. The highway takes you along one of the most scenic routes in the state of Hawaii (or the entire United States, for that matter). Nature lovers can also visit Haleakala Crater , with its stunning views and hiking trails. For a morning you’ll never forget, go to Haleakala Crater at sunrise.

The Big Island

Big Island

The Big Island may not be quite as commercialized as Oahu or Maui, but it still sees plenty of visitors every year, and there’s something fun to do for everyone. Kayaking , surfing , and horseback riding are a few of the biggest outdoor activities the Big Island offers. You can also immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture by watching hula dancers at the Merrie Monarch Festival, admiring local artists’ work at the Big Island’s many galleries and museums, and learning about Hawaii’s cowboys, or paniolos. And, of course, there’s plenty of good coffee to be found on the Big Island, particularly if you visit Kona.

By far the biggest attraction on the Big Island, though, is Hawaii Volcanoes, National Park . Here you can see Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world today, as its red-hot lava meets the sea. Kilauea is particularly beautiful at night. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park also offers plenty of hiking trails and beautiful spots to stop, relax, and enjoy the view.

Kauai

Mountains, waterfalls , rivers, beaches – Kauai has them all. Hiking and kayaking are both popular ways to enjoy the outdoors on Kauai. For a particularly beautiful view, you can also take a helicopter tour of the island.

Kauai is less commercial than Oahu and Maui, but it’s not so remote that you’ll have trouble finding what you need. There are plenty of convenient shopping options on the island, as well as hotels and resorts for every budget. If you want to avoid some of the crowds of the more popular islands without sacrificing comfort, Kauai is the perfect place to visit.

Lanai

Lanai is far more rustic than the larger Hawaiian islands – there isn’t a single traffic light to be found. It does, however, have a number of resorts, so visitors still have plenty of amenities. Tourists can visit Sweetheart Rock, one of the island’s most famous landmarks, before heading back to Lanai City for dinner at an authentic Hawaiian restaurant.

Lanai has an interesting history as a former pineapple plantation. While only a few pineapples are grown on the island today, people can still visit the old plantation site and sample some of the locally grown  fruit .

Molokai

Molokai has one hotel, a number of condominiums, and no luxury resorts. With little shopping and no nightlife, it’s not the place to go if you’re looking for excitement or pampering. But if you want a quiet, private, slow-paced vacation, Molokai is heavenly. You can go hiking or golfing , explore serene beaches without elbowing crowds of tourists out of the way, and visit the Saturday farmer’s market in Kaunakakai for some fresh, locally-grown produce. Molokai also boasts the highest sea cliffs in the world.

What Are You Looking For on Your Hawaiian Adventure?

Now that you've gotten acquainted with all the islands of Hawaii, which one should you visit? There's really no wrong choice, so don't worry about regretting your decision - you'll find beautiful scenery, good food, and things to do on any of the islands. Here are some more things to consider as you make your choice.

 Hawaiian Adventures

If you want to visit more than one island... start in Oahu. Oahu is in the center of all the other islands, and Honolulu has the biggest airport in Hawaii. From Oahu, it's easy to get to any of the other islands.

If you're returning to Hawaii for the second time... try visiting the Big Island or Kauai. These islands are a little off the beaten track, but there's still plenty to do and see.

If you're a nature lover... Kauai or the Big Island should be your go-to destinations. Kauai offers plenty of lush greenery and outdoor activities, while the Big Island lets you witness an active volcano - something you can't do very many other places on earth.

If you're into watersports... go to Oahu or the Big Island. Oahu is the perfect destination for beginners' surfing lessons, and its north shore offers huge waves for experienced surfers, while the Big Island offers a wide variety of water activities to choose from.

If you want a taste of old-time Hawaiian culture ... visit Lanai or Molokai. These lesser-known islands are just as beautiful and enchanting as the others, and since they haven't been overrun by tourists, you'll have an easier time meeting locals and learning about the real Hawaii.

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quietest hawaiian island to visit

Best island in Hawaii guide: What to know about Maui, Oahu, Big Island, Kauai

Choosing Hawaii is the easy part — but which islands to visit? From tourist magnets to secluded hideaways, follow our guide to find your Hawaiian paradise.

This article may contain links from our affiliate and advertising partners. When you click on them, or share this content, we may earn a commission.  Learn more

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Best for:  Foodies, beaches and culture  

Oahu, affectionately known as The Heart of Hawaii, is one of six Hawaiian Islands tourists can visit. It's a hub for global cuisines and serves up everything from locally grown coffee to ahi poke.

Home to approximately one million residents, Oahu is the most populated and popular isle in Hawaii. You'll find it's state's capital city Honolulu here as well as resort areas Waikiki and Ko Olina. And if you want to catch waves make sure you hang ten in North Shore.

Catch all the highlights on a Majestic Circle Oahu Island Day Tour.

Where to stay

  • Luxury: Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina
  • Mid-range:  Queen Kapiolani Hotel
  • Budget: Aston Waikiki Circle Hotel

See also: Best places to stay in Oahu

<p><b>HONOLULU, OAHU </b>The state&rsquo;s capital city Honolulu is a popular base for tourists and is an ideal city for the first-time visitor. Within a stone's throw is the world-class resort area of Waikiki, it&rsquo;s iconic beach and Diamond Head crater backdrop.</p>

HONOLULU, OAHU The state’s capital city Honolulu is a popular base for tourists and is an ideal city for the first-time visitor. Within a stone's throw is the world-class resort area of Waikiki, it’s iconic beach and Diamond Head crater backdrop.

<p><b>WAIKIKI, OAHU</b>&nbsp;Ninety per cent of Oahu&rsquo;s accommodation resides in <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/oahu/regions/honolulu/Waikiki" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Waikiki</a>, making it Hawaii&rsquo;s most significant tourism hub. Spanning 5km by 1.5km, Waikiki is highly walkable but local buses, trolleys and the new Biki bike-sharing system provide extra ways to get around. From historic sites, shopping hot spots and watersports, to award-winning restaurants and cocktail bars, live entertainment and events, Waikiki is a holiday-makers wonderland.</p>

WAIKIKI, OAHU  Ninety per cent of Oahu’s accommodation resides in Waikiki , making it Hawaii’s most significant tourism hub. Spanning 5km by 1.5km, Waikiki is highly walkable but local buses, trolleys and the new Biki bike-sharing system provide extra ways to get around. From historic sites, shopping hot spots and watersports, to award-winning restaurants and cocktail bars, live entertainment and events, Waikiki is a holiday-makers wonderland.

<p><b>KO OLINA, OAHU</b>&nbsp;<a href="http://koolina.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ko Olina</a>, a planned resort zone on Oahu&rsquo;s west coast, is fast growing in acclaim. Its hero feature is a string of man-made ocean lagoons coupled with an exclusive number of luxe resorts. Nearby <a href="http://kapolei.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kapolei</a> continues to develop at a rapid pace being dubbed Oahu&rsquo;s &ldquo;second city&rdquo; after Honolulu. There&rsquo;s plenty to experience on this side of the island from premium golf, boating tours, dolphin excursions, star gazing, outdoor adventure courses, water parks and more.</p>

KO OLINA, OAHU   Ko Olina , a planned resort zone on Oahu’s west coast, is fast growing in acclaim. Its hero feature is a string of man-made ocean lagoons coupled with an exclusive number of luxe resorts. Nearby Kapolei continues to develop at a rapid pace being dubbed Oahu’s “second city” after Honolulu. There’s plenty to experience on this side of the island from premium golf, boating tours, dolphin excursions, star gazing, outdoor adventure courses, water parks and more.

<p><b>NORTH SHORE, OAHU</b>&nbsp;Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing, and this ocean pursuit is one of the best things to experience on <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/oahu" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Oahu</a>. Beginners can book surfing lessons, while the advanced can hire a local&rsquo;s surfboard and hit the open water. In Hawaii&rsquo;s winter (November to April) surf&rsquo;s up on the North Shore with waves as high as 12m. This is the perfect time to catch professional surfers competing in major league surfing events.</p>

NORTH SHORE, OAHU  Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing, and this ocean pursuit is one of the best things to experience on Oahu . Beginners can book surfing lessons, while the advanced can hire a local’s surfboard and hit the open water. In Hawaii’s winter (November to April) surf’s up on the North Shore with waves as high as 12m. This is the perfect time to catch professional surfers competing in major league surfing events.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Best for:  Hiking, beaches

The Hawaiian Island of Maui is nicknamed The Valley Isle thanks to rugged mountains in the West, a dormant volcano standing 3055m in the southeast and a central valley in between. These mountainous landscapes charm travellers, along with beautiful beaches, jungle-like rainforests and character-filled small towns. Maui continues to receive “best island” awards, it’s famous for top-notch hotels and resorts and a laid-back tropical vibe.

Visit Lahaina on the west coast for boutique shopping, the south side for relaxing beaches or go upcountry for local food and wine.

Catch all the highlights on a Best of Maui Tour .

  • Luxury: Montage Kapalua Bay
  • Mid-range:  Paia Inn
  • Budget: Oloolua Resort and Campground

See also: Best resorts, hotels and budget stays in Maui

<p><b>LAHAINA, MAUI</b> Maui&rsquo;s West side is a coastline of highlights from one town to the next, starting in <a href="https://lahainatown.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Lahaina</a>. Once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii and a busy whaling port, Lahaina is now a happening harbourside village. It&rsquo;s main &ldquo;strip&rdquo; Front Street is a lively mixture of quirky restaurants and bars, shopping boutiques, artist showrooms and the largest banyan tree in the United States.</p>

LAHAINA, MAUI Maui’s West side is a coastline of highlights from one town to the next, starting in Lahaina . Once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii and a busy whaling port, Lahaina is now a happening harbourside village. It’s main “strip” Front Street is a lively mixture of quirky restaurants and bars, shopping boutiques, artist showrooms and the largest banyan tree in the United States.

<p><b>SOUTH SHORE, MAUI</b>&nbsp;The South Coast of Maui is dotted with superb stretches of sun-soaked sand including the islands biggest beach, <a href="http://mauiguidebook.com/beaches/ironwoods-beach-oneloa-bay-west-maui-kapalua/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Oneloa Beach </a>(pictured). This region is known for premium beachfront accommodations, especially in Wailea, where resorts sprawl over acres of land and vacation rentals run extra large. It&rsquo;s a luxury travellers dream from private beach cabanas, fine dining and high-end outdoor malls to indulgent spas and championship golf courses.</p>

SOUTH SHORE, MAUI  The South Coast of Maui is dotted with superb stretches of sun-soaked sand including the islands biggest beach, Oneloa Beach (pictured). This region is known for premium beachfront accommodations, especially in Wailea, where resorts sprawl over acres of land and vacation rentals run extra large. It’s a luxury travellers dream from private beach cabanas, fine dining and high-end outdoor malls to indulgent spas and championship golf courses.

<p><b>UPCOUNTRY, MAUI</b>&nbsp;Nestled on the back hills of Maui&rsquo;s highest peak, Mount <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/maui/regions/upcountry-maui/haleakala-national-park" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Haleakala</a>, is <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/maui/regions/upcountry-maui" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Upcountry Maui</a>. This cold climate region is filled with farms, ranches, restaurants, and one of the few wineries in Hawaii. Spend a day tasting chevre (goat cheese) at Surfing Goat Dairy, lavender-infused treats at Alii Kula Lavender, pick-your-own strawberries at<a href="https://kulacountryfarmsmaui.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> Kula Country Farm</a>, and more. Non-drivers can sample pineapple wine at <a href="https://mauiwine.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">MauiWine </a>and organic vodka at <a href="https://hawaiiseaspirits.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hawaii Sea Spirits</a>.</p>

UPCOUNTRY, MAUI  Nestled on the back hills of Maui’s highest peak, Mount Haleakala , is Upcountry Maui . This cold climate region is filled with farms, ranches, restaurants, and one of the few wineries in Hawaii. Spend a day tasting chevre (goat cheese) at Surfing Goat Dairy, lavender-infused treats at Alii Kula Lavender, pick-your-own strawberries at Kula Country Farm , and more. Non-drivers can sample pineapple wine at MauiWine and organic vodka at Hawaii Sea Spirits .

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Island of Hawaii (Big Island)

Best for:  Volcanic scenes

Like all Hawaiian Islands the Island of Hawaii (Big Island) is the product of volcanic eruptions over time, however, as the youngest isle it’s the only one where the volcanoes remain active! It’s so huge that all other islands could easily fit in it, giving way to its nickname the “Big Island”. From a geological perspective, this island has eleven of the world’s thirteen climate zones creating ample opportunities for unique adventures.

Stay on the West Island for ritzy resorts and while you're around swing by the east side to chase waterfalls or head straight to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to catch all the action.

Catch all the highlights on a Big Island Highlights Day Tour .

  • Luxury:  The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls
  • Mid-range:  SCP Hilo Hotel
  • Budget: Wild Ginger Hotel

See also: The best ways to see Hawaii's Big Island

<p><b>WEST ISLAND, ISLAND OF HAWAII</b> The West side of the Island of Hawaii attracts sun-lovers from around the world. Vacationers like to stay in the charming township of <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/hawaii-big-island/regions/kona" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kona</a> or the ritzy resort areas along the <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/hawaii-big-island/regions/kohala" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kohala</a> Coast. There&rsquo;s no better place than Kona to eat fresh tropical fruits and drink local Kona coffee and beer. The Kohala Coast has super-sized resorts and the island&rsquo;s best white sand beaches.</p>

WEST ISLAND, ISLAND OF HAWAII The West side of the Island of Hawaii attracts sun-lovers from around the world. Vacationers like to stay in the charming township of Kona or the ritzy resort areas along the Kohala Coast. There’s no better place than Kona to eat fresh tropical fruits and drink local Kona coffee and beer. The Kohala Coast has super-sized resorts and the island’s best white sand beaches.

<p><b>EAST SIDE, ISLAND OF HAWAII </b>The east side of the Island of Hawaii is the location of <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/hawaii-big-island/regions/hilo" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hilo</a>, Hawaii&rsquo;s biggest city after Honolulu and the gateway to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This region gets showered in rainfall creating an abundance of natural beauty, visit lush attractions like <a href="http://www.htbg.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden</a>, <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/hawaii-big-island/regions/hilo/akaka-falls-state-park" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Akaka Falls </a>(pictured) and <a href="https://www.hawaii.com/big-island/attractions/rainbow-falls/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Rainbow Falls.</a></p>

EAST SIDE, ISLAND OF HAWAII The east side of the Island of Hawaii is the location of Hilo , Hawaii’s biggest city after Honolulu and the gateway to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This region gets showered in rainfall creating an abundance of natural beauty, visit lush attractions like Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden , Akaka Falls (pictured) and Rainbow Falls.

<p><b>VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, ISLAND OF HAWAII </b><a href="https://www.nps.gov/havo/index.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hawaii Volcanoes National Park</a> is around an hour&rsquo;s drive from <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/hawaii-big-island/regions/hilo" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hilo</a>. This World Heritage-listed site contains the most active volcano in Hawaii, Kilauea. More than two million people flock to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park annually to hike lava fields, explore underground lava tubes, feel the heat of the steam vents and witness crater eruptions (updates at nps.gov/havo).</p>

VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, ISLAND OF HAWAII Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is around an hour’s drive from Hilo . This World Heritage-listed site contains the most active volcano in Hawaii, Kilauea. More than two million people flock to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park annually to hike lava fields, explore underground lava tubes, feel the heat of the steam vents and witness crater eruptions (updates at nps.gov/havo).

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Best for:  Waterfalls and waterways

Kauai is the Northern-most and oldest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. Mother Nature has created a real work of art on this island, there’s seemingly endless beauty to discover! The scenery is draped in thick rainforest, flowing waterfalls, a mini-Grand Canyon rich in red dirt, dramatic Napali sea cliffs and Hawaii’s only navigable rivers.

Catch all the highlights on a Kauai Waimea Canyon and Koke'e Adventure tour

  • Luxury: Timbers Kaua'i Ocean Club & Residences
  • Mid-range: Kauai Shores Hotel

<p><b>KAPAA, KAUAI</b> Accommodation on Kauai is spread out across the island from top to bottom. <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/kauai/regions/east-side/kapaa-town" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kapaa</a>, also known as the Coconut Coast, is situated on the East side of the island just North of Kauai&rsquo;s main town <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/kauai/regions/lihue" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Lihue</a>. It&rsquo;s an excellent place for travellers to base themselves with the attractions in <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/kauai/regions/north-shore/hanalei-town" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hanalei</a> and <a href="http://www.princeville.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Princeville</a> in the North and <a href="https://poipubeach.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Poipu</a> and <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/hawaii-big-island/regions/kohala/Waimea" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Waimea </a>in the South easy accessible. Picture: Jenny Galbraith</p>

KAPAA, KAUAI Accommodation on Kauai is spread out across the island from top to bottom. Kapaa , also known as the Coconut Coast, is situated on the East side of the island just North of Kauai’s main town Lihue . It’s an excellent place for travellers to base themselves with the attractions in Hanalei and Princeville in the North and Poipu and Waimea in the South easy accessible. Picture: Jenny Galbraith

<p><b>POIPU BEACH, KAUAI </b><a href="https://poipubeach.org/beaches/poipu-beach/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Poipu Beach</a> is one of Kauai&rsquo;s most well-known beaches, positioned on the sunny South side of the island. The main attraction is <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/h/hawaiian-monk-seal/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hawaiian monk seals </a>who frequently sunbake on the golden sands. These endangered species are typically roped off, and visitors are asked to keep a safe distance of about 45m.</p>

POIPU BEACH, KAUAI Poipu Beach is one of Kauai’s most well-known beaches, positioned on the sunny South side of the island. The main attraction is Hawaiian monk seals who frequently sunbake on the golden sands. These endangered species are typically roped off, and visitors are asked to keep a safe distance of about 45m.

<p><b>HOLLWOOD TOUR, KAUAI </b>The sparkling beaches, mountains, sea cliffs and canyons of Kauai have caught the eye of many a film producer. This island has been the backdrop to more than 60 television shows and movies including Jurassic Park, King Kong, South Pacific and Blue Hawaii. Take a <a href="https://klook.prf.hn/click/camref:1100luK3p/pubref:ESC--evergreen--/destination:https://www.klook.com/en-AU/activity/29162-kauai-movie-sites-adventure-tour-hawaii/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kauai movie tour</a> to get the Hollywood scoop.</p>

HOLLWOOD TOUR, KAUAI The sparkling beaches, mountains, sea cliffs and canyons of Kauai have caught the eye of many a film producer. This island has been the backdrop to more than 60 television shows and movies including Jurassic Park, King Kong, South Pacific and Blue Hawaii. Take a Kauai movie tour to get the Hollywood scoop.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Best for:  Unwinding and underwater exploration

A visit to the Hawaiian Island of Molokai will take you back to a simpler time. It’s unspoilt, has few hotels and no traffic lights. Hawaiian by nature, Molokai has a significant Native Hawaiian population and retains a more traditional way of life.

  • Mid-range:  Hotel Moloka'i
  • Mid-range: Castle Molokai Shores

<p><b>BARRIER REEF, MOLOKAI </b>Along the entire South shore of Molokai is Hawaii's longest and most extensive fringing <a href="https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/molokai/things-to-do/water-activities" target="_blank" rel="noopener">coral reef</a>, at 45km long. Seldom visited, these waters offer a sanctuary of marine life with the most pristine snorkelling and diving locations in the state.</p>

BARRIER REEF, MOLOKAI Along the entire South shore of Molokai is Hawaii's longest and most extensive fringing coral reef , at 45km long. Seldom visited, these waters offer a sanctuary of marine life with the most pristine snorkelling and diving locations in the state.

quietest hawaiian island to visit

Lanai Island

Best for:  Relaxation and outdoor adventure

Lanai entices the sophisticated traveller with a handful of exclusive luxury resorts and championship golf courses. It’s the least visited Hawaiian Island, small in size and slow in pace those that travel to Lanai, by air or on the ferry from Maui, are forced to rest and relax.

  • Luxury: Four Seasons Resort Lanai
  • Mid-range: Hotel Lanai

quietest hawaiian island to visit

SWEETHEART ROCK, LANAI The majority of things to do on Lanai centre around the great outdoors. Travellers are best to hire a 4WD vehicle and go off the beaten track to uncover hidden nature trails and remote, deserted beaches. Lanai is also known for rock formations like Puu Pehe (pictured), also known as Sweetheart Rock, an iconic landmark between Manele and Hulopoe Bay. — Ashlee Galea

Which Hawaiian islands are best to visit for the first time?

Some may argue with us but the capital Honolulu is arguably the best island to visit if you've never been to Hawaii before. Yes, it's touristic, but it's also the most accessible island of the lot, offers a little something for everybody, is home to some of Hawaii's most famous attractions (e.g. Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbour) and is an ideal jumping off point for exploring neighbouring islands.

What is the most beautiful island in Hawaii?

Kauai is one of the most picturesque islands on the Hawaiian map. After all, its nickname is the Garden Isle. Dressed in tropical rainforest and secluded waterfalls, parts of this breathtaking island can only be visited by boat or helicopter. In other parts you can walk trails  or kayak through gentle waters.

Is Maui or Kauai better?

Maui is Escape writer Alexandra Carlton's pick for solo travellers looking for a more laid-back holiday. It's got beaches, small-town charm, underwater tours and overwater sailing tours.

Kauai on the other hand offers more outdoor adventure and dramatic scenery. Here you can hike the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail which is brimming with sand dunes and turtles and marvel at Waimea Canyon AKA the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. 

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- Hawaii shopping hotspots

Iconic Hawaiian attraction to be demolished after ‘rampant illegal trespassing’

Iconic Hawaiian attraction to be demolished after ‘rampant illegal trespassing’

The ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on O'ahu  has been earmarked for demolition over the bad behaviour of some visitors. Haiku Stairs are set to be removed by the end of April according to Honolulu council, because tourists keep breaking into the off-limits site.

Aussies may be charged to visit iconic spot

Aussies may be charged to visit iconic spot

Visitors to Hawaii may be hit with a new fee, following in the footsteps of other popular holiday locations around the world.

Maui’s back: Hawaiian island without tourists

Maui’s back: Hawaiian island without tourists

Rising from the ashes, the island is ready to welcome visitors again.

I went to Maui after the fires… here’s what I found

I went to Maui after the fires… here’s what I found

Through an unwavering spirit of aloha, Hawaii is rebuilding itself after the August wildfires. 

quietest hawaiian island to visit

6 of the Best Islands To Visit in Hawaii

H awaii is home to some of the most sought-after tropical waters in the world. The islands of Hawaii have lush rainforests, world-class beaches, and stunning volcanoes that attract millions of visitors every year . Marked by clear turquoise waters and vibrant green mountains, these islands provide picturesque views that are unparalleled.   

Along with the many environmental attractions and attributes of Hawaii, its culture is one of the most incredible features that travelers can experience. The Aloha Spirit, which many travelers get to experience as soon as they land, is a significant aspect of Hawaiian culture derived from Polynesian heritage. The term comes from the greeting “aloha,” which means the coordination of both the mind and heart (or compassion and harmony with mankind). This spirit exists across each of the islands of Hawaii. 

Hawaii’s many different islands offer unique features and gorgeous views. Travelers can have many different types of vacations, depending on their preferred island. While there are a total of eight main Hawaiian islands, only some of them are accessible to visitors. Check out these six Hawaiian islands that are the best to visit; whether a bustling tropical paradise or secluded getaway sounds ideal. 

Popular Tourist Islands 

These islands are tourist hot spots and provide convenient central locations. These locations come with top-notch hotels, delicious food spots, and metropolitan cities close to the water. The islands are a must-see for travelers aiming to get acquainted with the city and locals.  

The Big Island

The Big Island is full of hiking trails and beautiful parks and is known for its size. In fact, it has plenty of space for visitors with varying interests since it is the largest island in the United States (with over four thousand square miles of land). Beaches are one of the most beautiful spots to visit on the Big Island and a place for visitors to lounge, sunbathe, and have fun. A highly favored white sand beach is Mauna Kea, which is a half-mile long and extremely family-friendly. Mauna Kea is also the name of the nearby dormant volcano that is the world’s tallest mountain from (base to the summit), not to be confused with Mt. Everest (which is the tallest above sea level).

There are volcano sightseeing tours, stingray snorkel tours, and ship excursions on the Big Island. These activities, along with hiking, are the most popular. The Pololū Valley Trail is considered one of the most beautiful big island hikes since its overlook provides panoramic views of the nearby black sand beach. 

The best time to visit Hawaii’s big island is between September and November. This is technically due to the price changes for rooms, which change because of lower volumes of visitors. Since Hawaii has generally consistent weather, there is not too much to be worried about in terms of sunshine. Hawaii’s temperatures usually range from the 70s to the 80s. Surfers may want to visit between December and March, although this time period is when prices surge.

The island is beloved for its glorious coasts and unique experiences . Haleakala National Park has Maui’s highest peak, Haleakala, which is the largest dormant volcano in the world. Many visitors opt to book sunrise and sunset tours at the Haleakala National Park, which must be booked well ahead of time since they are so popular. There is even an adults only luxury resort in Maui. This island may be an ideal option for travelers who want to prioritize romance or quiet environments. 

Blue Hawaiian helicopter tours are another popular excursion that travelers can book to explore the island. With a helicopter tour of the island, travelers can get an aerial view of all the mountainsides and the scenic views of Maui. 

Travelers should visit Maui during the shoulder season, that is, during spring or fall. In spring (between April and May) and fall (from September and November), visitors can experience moderate weather while also avoiding the higher prices and crowds that visit during summer and winter. 

Oahu is well known since it is the site of Pearl Harbor and has one of the best shores for surfing. The tourism industry is thriving in Oahu, reflected in the quality of amenities and experiences it offers.  

Some of the most exciting things to do in Oahu include nature and historical landmarks. In fact, some of the most popular sights of Oahu are unique nature sites like China Walls or Electric Beach , which seem to exist miraculously. Of course, there are also historical sites that can be traced back to distinct events. There are Pearl Harbor tours that visit the museum, memorial and visitor’s center to provide more in-depth information regarding the events of Pearl Harbor. Many of these tours depart from Waikiki, which is a popular district of the city of Honolulu , Oahu.

Between April and June and September and December, attractions are less crowded, temperatures are moderate, and prices for travel decrease. The shoulder season is the best time to visit since the summer and surfing season crowds have not hit yet. 

Secluded Islands 

These islands of Hawaii are great options for those who want to reconnect with nature and have a sense of solitude. With more sprawling land than people, these locations will surely be the fix that tropical travelers need. 

Molokai 

Molokai is one of the four islands within Maui County and is one of the least visited of the major Hawaiian islands. The island is only 38 miles long and has a proudly undeveloped coastline. Molokai provides an off-the-beaten path and small-town feel, so large-scale tourism will not be found here. People planning to visit Molokai must be cognizant of the island’s people and resources since environmental and cultural preservation are local concerns. 

Molokai is a great place to have a relaxed and slow-going trip. Since the island is not commercially developed, there is a lot of wilderness. Enjoying the surrounding nature and the Aloha Spirit is the best way to spend time on Molokai. The most popular attractions are the Kalaupapa National Historical Park and Pāpōhaku Beach Park. The remote northern national park is a place of education and preservation and is actually only accessible by a mule ride, hiking tour or a small airplane. Pāpōhaku Beach Park (or three mile beach) has campsites, showers, and picnic facilities. Visitors will find that there is an abundance of space at the site since it is one of the longest white-sand beaches in Hawaii. 

The best time to visit Molokai is during the dry season when there are moderate temperatures and less rain. Between April and June, visitors can expect temperatures between the high 70s and 80s. Generally, since Molokai has no crowds, travelers will not have trouble visiting the island throughout the year. 

Kauai is the northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain and is known as the garden island since it is covered by tropical rainforest. The island also has breathtaking cliffs on the sea and beautiful flora and fauna. This destination has plenty of natural beauty and is a tropical paradise welcoming smaller towns like Waimea.

Travelers who love adrenaline-surging activities will appreciate the expanded possibilities that a less populated island provides. Travelers of Kauai enjoy things like exciting zipline journeys through the jungle, ATV backroads tours or kayaking trips on the Wailua River.

Visiting Kauai is better during non-peak seasons even though there is not a high volume of visitors compared to trendy tourist islands. Between September and December or April to June, there are lower prices on excursions and local accommodations . 

Lanai offers a luxury and remote experience that many romantics enjoy. Lanai has a historic town named Lanai City with small restaurants and shops for travelers to explore. The city is technically more like a small village since the community is so small. This island is a popular day trip destination, allowing tourists to experience authentic island living. 

Although the island is mainly uninhabited, there is plenty for visitors to see. There are unique sites to see on Lanai, including a well-known shipwreck at Shipwreck Beach (or Kaiolohia) that travelers go to see often. The 1940s shipwreck is a testament to how Hawaii’s windy and rocky beaches can be dangerous. Even though the beach has incredible views, visitors are not advised to swim there. 

The best time to visit Lanai is between June and November since those months are the warmest and driest months. Lanai is a secluded island, so travelers do not have to be concerned with crowds and can spend their time relaxing.

Learn about the best islands to visit in Hawaii. Pictured: A Hawaii black sand beach with a forest of palm trees

Protect Your Trip »

The 21 Best Beaches in Hawaii

These gorgeous Hawaii beaches are perfect whether you love surfing, snorkeling or tropical views.

Silhouette of a couple at sunset walking along a Hawaiian beach.

Getty Images

There are many beautiful beaches in Hawaii for all kinds of enjoyment, from sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling to watching the sunrise or sunset.

The islands that make up Hawaii's archipelago are known for their unique culture, their stunning tropical foliage and their laid-back vibe. Hawaiian beaches are also some of the most beautiful in the world thanks to the tall, swaying palm trees and the dramatic mountain scenery that surrounds them.

Which beaches in Hawaii are worth a visit? Practically all of them, but some feature better scenery or waters for surfing or snorkeling than others. As you start planning your next trip to the gorgeous Hawaiian islands , consider adding a stop to these Hawaiian beaches for a few hours … or a few days.

Poipu Beach: Kauai

Poipu beach park in Kauai, Hawaii.

The island of Kauai is popular due to its mountainous terrain, its verdant and lush landscapes, and its accessible waterfalls. However, the golden sand beaches are also a sight to behold. Once named "America's Best Beach" by the Travel Channel, Poipu Beach is located on the south shore of the island and features a natural ocean wading pool perfect for snorkeling and swimming.

Big Beach (Makena Beach): Maui

Turquoise waves crash on the golden orange shores of Makena Beach in Maui, one of the best Hawaii beaches.

Maui 's Big Beach (also called Makena Beach ) is long, beautiful and wide, with rough waters and stunning mountain views. Visitors can spread out and enjoy plenty of space thanks to the sheer size of the beach, and its shorebreak brings huge swells perfect for surfing, extreme boogie boarding and other water sports.

Read: The Best Maui Helicopter Tours

Hanauma Bay: Oahu

Hanauma Bay, a beautiful Hawaiian beach, with turquoise water and a white sand beach

Located within the city of Honolulu , Hanauma Bay is home to an array of tropical fish and other marine life, making it an ideal place for learning about the area's delicate underwater ecosystem via a snorkeling excursion. This nature preserve is so important to locals that tour buses are no longer permitted inside. However, individual travelers can still make the journey to admire this gorgeous stretch of coastline.

Hulopoe Beach: Lanai

A sunny day on Hulopoe Beach, a white sand beach on the island of Lanai, Hawaii

Hulopoe Beach is located in front of the Four Seasons Resort Lanai , one of the premier luxury resorts in all of Hawaii . In addition to its incredible scenery, this beach offers some of the best snorkeling and swimming waters off the coast of Lanai. Large tidal pools on the eastern side of the bay also create ideal swimming and exploring opportunities for children.

Polihale Beach: Kauai

The sunset reflects off of the ocean and golden sands of Polihale Beach in Kauai, Hawaii

Polihale Beach is located within Kauai's Polihale State Park , and it's known for its amazing sunsets and jaw-dropping views of the famous Napali Coast . This stretch of coastline is perfect for families who want to enjoy a picnic or relax in a remarkably natural setting. Plus, swimming is possible when ocean conditions are calm.

Kahalu'u Beach: Big Island

The black sand and striking teal waters of Kahalu'u Beach makes it one of the best Hawaii beaches to visit

Located on the Kona coast near the town center of Kailua-Kona, Kahalu'u Beach boasts an array of marine animals that range from sea turtles to tropical fish. This makes the beach ideal for snorkeling and learning about the ocean, although rocks near the shore necessitate water shoes. Rougher waters not far from the shore also make this beach a popular spot for surfers.

Ko Olina Beach: Oahu

An aerial view of Ko Olina Beach on the island of Oahu, Hawaii

Ko Olina Beach is home to several resorts, including the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina and Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club, and is made up of four different lagoons that are ideal for swimming and snorkeling. While the beaches here are privately owned, travelers can visit and daily parking is available. Many activities like scuba diving and surfing are prohibited, but the beach is worth a visit thanks to its ample ocean wildlife and clear waters.

Pa'iloa Beach: Maui

Pa'iloa Beach (also known as Honokalani Beach) features jet black sand, green trees and striking blue water

Maui's Pa'iloa Beach (also known as Honokalani Beach) is located along the Road to Hana within Waianapanapa State Park , and is only accessible with park reservations. However, the trip will be worth it thanks to the beach's startling black sand and clear turquoise waters. This stretch of sand even boasts a natural lava arch in the water, which creates the perfect backdrop for your Instagram-worthy photos.

Read: The Best Things to Do in Maui

Polihua Beach: Lanai

Turquoise water laps on to the golden sand of Polihua Beach, one of the best Hawaii beaches, on Lanai

Located on the northern shore of Lanai, secluded Polihua Beach is harder to reach than some of the other top beaches in Hawaii (accessing it requires a four-wheel drive vehicle or a professional guide). However, this beach is 2 miles long and blissfully empty, making it perfect for sunbathing or enjoying the views without any crowds. Strong ocean currents make the waters along Polihua Beach too dangerous for swimming, but it's still a great place to get away from it all.

Read: The Best Things to Do in Lanai

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach: Big Island

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach with charcoal-colored sand is framed by green palm trees and a frothy ocean

If you're eager to see a unique black sand beach, the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach on the island of Hawaii should be on your radar. This beach is located between the towns of Pahala and Naalehu in Kau, so it's easily accessible. While not ideal for swimming, the stark contrast of the black sand and clear waters makes this beach unforgettable. You may even see protected sea turtles relaxing on the shores or swimming directly off the coast.

Hanalei Bay: Kauai

World famous Hanalei Bay seascape with a scenic beach in Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii.

Kauai's Hanalei Bay is known for its incredible surf and proximity to the gorgeous Napali Coast, as well as the many luxury resorts located in nearby Princeville, including The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas . There are actually three different beaches within Hanalei – Waioli Beach Park, Hanalei Beach Park and Black Pot Beach. Each one is dotted with lifeguards, and swimming is possible when the waters are calm.

Read: The Best Things to Do in Kauai

Wailea Beach: Maui

Beautiful and vibrant sunset at Wailea Beach, a top beach in Maui, Hawaii

Wailea Beach features soft white sand and calm waters that beg visitors to jump right in. Known for drawing in lots of tourists, this stretch of coastline boasts many upscale eateries featuring gourmet cuisine and fresh seafood. This beach is also home to an array of popular resorts, from the Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort to the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea .

Waimanalo Beach: Oahu

White sand and light blue water in Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii

Waimanalo Beach is not very popular with tourists, but it's not due to a lack of beauty. This beach on the island's southeastern shore is a sight to behold thanks to its powder white sand, mountainous backdrop and azure ocean waters. There aren't any amenities here, but what the beach lacks in facilities it more than makes up for in its peaceful atmosphere.

Makalawena Beach: Big Island

A view of tropical Makalawena Beach, located on the West Coast of the Big Island, Hawaii. Peaceful and scenic, rows of palm trees make this one of the best beaches in Hawaii.

The Big Island's Makalawena Beach is popular with hikers, and it's easy to see why. As part of Kekaha Kai State Park, this beach is not accessible by car, meaning it's less frequented by tourists. If you do decide to make the 4.5-mile trek to the beach along the Ala Kahakai Trail, you'll be rewarded with a palm-lined shoreline, plenty of shade trees and astonishing natural beauty in every direction.

Read: The Best Things to Do on the Big Island

Lanikai Beach: Oahu

A view of striking Lanikai Beach in Hawaii, complete with white sand, blue-green water and two islands in the distance

Oahu's Lanikai Beach is located 15 miles northeast of downtown Honolulu, so it's not that difficult to reach. Travelers who make the journey will find a tranquil beach that's a mile long with lighter crowds than nearby Waikiki Beach . While parking can be limited, the calm waters found here make this beach a family-friendly gem.

Read: The Best Things to Do in Honolulu - Oahu

Kalapaki Beach: Kauai

A beautiful view of Kalapaki Beach in Kauai, with palm trees and mountains in the distance

Kalapaki Beach sits behind a protected break wall directly next to Marriott's Kaua'i Beach Club , making it convenient for hotel guests who don't want to drive. This beach is ideal for swimming, stand-up paddleboarding and learning to surf, yet you'll also find visitors sunbathing and playing beach volleyball.

Sunset Beach: Oahu

A cotton candy colored sky with a sandy beach and calm waves at Sunset Beach in Oahu, one of the best Hawaii beaches

Oahu's Sunset Beach is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it's perfect for active vacationers who want to take part in water sports like surfing and boogie boarding. This North Shore beach is also easy to visit by car thanks to its location near the town of Haleiwa south of Waimea Bay. Parking is available across the street from the beach, as well as basic facilities like restrooms and showers.

Hapuna Beach: Big Island

An aerial view of Hapuna Beach, with white sand, green trees and teal water

Hapuna Beach is located within Hapuna Beach State Park on the Big Island, and it's one of the area's largest white sand treasures. This postcard-perfect beach tends to offer excellent conditions for swimming, as well as calm water activities like stand-up paddleboarding and snorkeling. You can even see whales migrating along the coast during part of the year (most often from January to March), and amenities like food vendors, restrooms and showers will make your visit more comfortable.

Papohaku Beach: Molokai

The wide white sand beach of Papohaku Beach on the island of Molokai, Hawaii

Papohaku Beach is located on the island of Molokai, and it's one of the longest and widest white sand beaches in all of Hawaii. Families love to camp along the broad expanse of this beach year-round, and picnic and restroom facilities are found on-site. While swimming is safe for part of the year, visitors should avoid getting in the water here from October through March.

Papakolea Beach: Big Island

The green sand beach at Papakolea Beach is surrounded by rocky gray cliffs and blue ocean waves

After you've visited a few of Hawaii's black sand beaches Papakolea Beach , also known as Green Sand Beach, should be next on your list. While this unique shore on Hawaii's Big Island offers no amenities and often experiences a strong surf that makes for dangerous swimming conditions, it's worth a visit just to view the stark contrast of the green sand, which is made that way by a common mineral called olivine. Note that reaching the shoreline requires a hike from the parking lot and that there is little to no shade along the way.

Waikiki Beach: Oahu

Beautiful Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, is flanked by a row of hotels. The striking turquoise water features a few surfers and waves.

Waikiki Beach is located along the south shore of Honolulu, which boasts many of Oahu's most fabulous hotels and resorts, including Halekulani and The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, Waikiki . This means you'll share the sand with thousands of tourists in the area, but that you'll also be able to find dining and entertainment with ease. Not only does Waikiki Beach stand in the shadows of the beautiful Diamond Head landmark, but it's also an ideal spot for swimming, snorkeling and surfing lessons for beginners.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hawaii has more than 100 beaches across all of its different islands. Some of the best beaches in Hawaii include:

  • Poipu Beach
  • Makena Beach
  • Hulopoe Beach
  • Wailea Beach
  • Polihua Beach

See more of the best beaches in Hawaii .

The Big Island and Maui both have several black sand beaches. Some of the top black sand beaches in Hawaii are:

  • Punaluu Beach (Big Island)
  • Kehena Beach (Big Island)
  • Kaimu Beach (Big Island)
  • Honokalani Beach at Pailoa Bay, located in Waianapanapa State Park (Maui)
  • Oneuli Beach (Maui)

See more great beaches in Hawaii, plus photos .

Waikiki Beach is in Honolulu, about 9 miles east of Honolulu International Airport. It's situated on the southeastern coast of the island of Oahu.

Learn more about Waikiki Beach .

Hapuna Beach is on the Big Island. It's located on the western coast of the island, about 30 miles north of Kailua-Kona and 25 miles north of Kona International Airport.

Find out more about Hapuna Beach .

You might also be interested in:

  • The Best Hawaii Tours
  • All-Inclusive Resorts in Hawaii: Hotels With Awesome Amenities
  • The Top Beach Resorts Around the World
  • The Top Overwater Bungalows Around the World
  • The Best Beach Bags

Tags: Travel , Hawaii Vacations , Beach Vacations , US Vacations

World's Best Places To Visit

  • # 1 South Island, New Zealand
  • # 4 Bora Bora

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COMMENTS

  1. The Quietest Hawaiian Island For A Peaceful Vacation

    Maui, often regarded as a paradise for tourists, offers a mix of busy and quiet areas. The popular resort areas of Kaanapali and Wailea are bustling with activity, but there are also secluded beaches and peaceful retreats scattered across the island. If you're looking for a balance between adventure and relaxation, Maui is a great choice.

  2. Which Hawaiian Island is the Best to Visit? Our 2024 Ranking

    Maui. #1 in Which Hawaiian Island is the Best to Visit? Our 2024 Ranking. Though it's perhaps most famous for the fabulous coastlines of Ka'anapali Beach and Wailea Beach, Maui is a great option ...

  3. These are the best islands in Hawaii, according to frequent visitors

    The second-most-visited island in the state and also its second largest, Maui is home to the famed Road to Hana, Haleakala National Park and the best whale watching anywhere in Hawaii during the winter months. Sliding Sands trail at Haleakala National Park. LESLIE HARVEY/THE POINTS GUY. For many travelers, a vacation on Maui is the best of both ...

  4. This Hidden Gem Hawaiian Island Is A Quiet Escape With Pretty Beaches

    According to the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, in December 2022, nearly 487,000 people arrived in Oahu by plane, while in quiet Moloka'i, only 4,324 recorded visitors flew in. Even if you plan to visit at the peak of Hawaii's tourist season, you can book a flight from Honolulu to Moloka'i for around $100 - but ...

  5. Which Hawaiian Island Should You Visit?

    Nickname: The Pineapple Island. Best for: A more rugged, remote-feeling trip on a small, uncrowded island with a cat sanctuary, hiking trails, and snorkeling. Before Lāna'i was colonized by Westerners, the land—where Hawaiian settlers lived off taro and seafood—was rich with native vegetation and purple flowers.

  6. How to choose the best Hawaiian island for your trip

    Best for city life, surf competitions, and historic landmarks. As the most popular Hawaiian Island - to visit and to live - O'ahu is bustling! In Honolulu and Waikiki, you'll find skyscrapers and luxury hotels, traffic and nightlife, all of the hallmarks of a big city. But beyond that, O'ahu has verdant hikes in the East, sunny beaches in ...

  7. Discover the Best Hawaii Island to Visit & Why

    Maui - The Valley Isle. Maui is the second most visited island with around 2.7 - 2.9 million visitors annually. Tourism greatly affects the nature of Maui and it boasts a very wide assortment of resorts, hotels, condos, and private rentals available across the island. Maui is another great choice for first-timers.

  8. The Best Hawaiian Island to Visit, The Ultimate Guide

    With a mixture of country charm and thriving communities and towns, Maui is a perfect island for first-time visitors, showing the best of what Hawaiʻi has to offer. And with natural wonders like ʻIao Valley, Haleakalā and Molokini Crater, the Valley Isle will impress visitors time and time again.

  9. A Guide to the Best Islands in Hawaii to Visit

    You can also visit four different islands in seven days with Norwegian Cruise Line, allowing you to sample the best of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. Below is a rundown of Hawaii's six ...

  10. Which Hawaiian Island Should I Visit?

    Oahu: Ideal for Families. Oahu is known as the "Gathering Place" for a good reason. This island is by far the most popular for travelers, partially due to the accessibility of everything from nightclubs and world-class restaurants to sandy beaches and quaint surf towns. Honolulu, the state capital, is located on this island.

  11. The Best Hawaiian Island for Beaches (plus its secluded beaches)

    With 227 miles of shoreline, Oahu is the best Hawaiian Island for beaches. Oahu has the best beaches in Hawaii due to Oahu's many protected bays, reefs surrounding the island, gold-sand beaches, and calm waters year-round. The downside is Oahu beaches can get crowded as Oahu is the most popular Hawaiian Island to visit.

  12. What is the Best Island to Visit in Hawaii? A Complete Guide

    Make sure you know the Hawaii travel restrictions during COVID-19. In this post. Choosing the Best Island in Hawaii to Visit. Oahu: "The Gathering Place". Maui: "The Valley Isle". Kauai: Hawaii's "The Garden Isle". Hawai'i: "The Big Island". Molokai: Hawaii's "The Friendly Isle". Lanai: "The Pineapple Island".

  13. The Least Touristy Island In Hawaii For A True Hawaiian Escape

    Molokai's remote location adds to its allure as the least visited Hawaiian island. Getting to Molokai requires a bit more effort compared to other more accessible islands. There are no direct international flights to Molokai, so most visitors arrive via connecting flights from Honolulu or Maui.

  14. The Best Hawaiian Island to Visit: Don't Get It Wrong

    There are 137 islands in Hawaii, although only eight (seven of which are inhabited) are recognized as major islands. But when it comes to tourism, there are four islands that are at the top of everyone's mind. For this reason, this article will focus on the following islands: Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.

  15. The Quietest Hawaiian Island: Places To Explore

    The Quietest Hawaiian Island: Places To Explore . Zarah Green February 20, 2022 March 16, 2023. ... The smallest inhabited island travelers may visit in Hawaii, Lanai offers big enticements to its visitors. Only nine miles from Maui yet a world away, Lanai can feel like two places. One half is the relaxed, friendly home of just about 3,000 locals.

  16. Best Island for Private Quiet R&R Vacay

    Hi there, I'm 25, female, traveling solo, and looking to spend 3-4 weeks in Jan in Hawaii...I am looking to sunbathe, read, relax and general R&R... looking to stay in the most peaceful, quiet island, with no big resorts or malls...

  17. The Ultimate Hawai'i Big Island Travel Guide (2024)

    Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park is worth a visit. The next Hawaiian island is forming fifteen miles off the island's southeast coast. Loʻihi, is erupting 3,000 feet below the surface of the ocean. ... This southern region is quiet, but is home to two major attractions: Punalu'u Black Sand Beach and the majority of Volcanoes National ...

  18. Best Hawaiian Island to Visit

    Oahu. Known as the " Gathering Place " and harboring Hawaii's state capital of Honolulu, if you're looking for the Best Hawaiian Island to Visit and beach action in a big city, this is the island for you. A hot spot for activities, shopping, dining, surfing, nightlife, and much more, Waikiki Beach is a worldly popular location.

  19. THE 10 BEST Quiet Resorts in Hawaii

    Searching hundreds of travel sites to find you the best price Clear all ... " Friendly greetings, excellent service, knowledgable of things to do on the island, great location, quiet times, outstanding food, ... This is one of the most booked hotels in Island of Hawaii over the last 60 days. 2024. 10. Royal Kona Resort. Show prices. Enter dates ...

  20. 11 Quiet Places In Hawaii For When You Need A Break From It All

    8. Kahana Bay Beach Park. Kahana Bay Beach Park, 52-222 Kamehameha Hwy, Hauula, HI 96717, USA. Megan Shute/OnlyInYourState.com. Though Kahana Bay Beach Park is found off the highway, the remote location on Oahu's northern windward coast makes this a secluded spot perfect for a beach day.

  21. Which Island Should I Visit In Hawaii?

    Oahu. Oahu draws the most visitors every year of all the Hawaiian islands - nearly 4.7 million people come every year. There's a good reason for that. Oahu offers a little bit of everything that you might want in Hawaii, and for people who aren't sure where to start in the Aloha State, Oahu is a safe choice.

  22. 10 Peaceful, Quiet Islands to Escape From It All

    Location: Hawaii Population: 3,367. The island of Lanai is the most exclusive island to visit in Hawaii. This privately owned island is located just off the coast of Maui and is reachable by local ferry from Maui or by plane from Oahu. Enjoy the island's palm-fringed beaches, off-roading along red dirt paths, and hiking along sea cliffs.

  23. Kauai Official Travel Site: Find Vacation & Travel Information

    Islands. Islands Overview; Kauaʻi Hawai'i's fourth largest island is called the "Garden Island."; Oʻahu The "Heart of Hawai'i" is home to Honolulu and much more.; Molokaʻi The island of Molokaʻi remains true to its island roots.; Lānaʻi Luxury and rugged nature blend on this enticing island.; Maui Quaint towns, farms and beautiful beaches await on the "Valley Isle."

  24. Best Island to visit first time : r/VisitingHawaii

    Best island to visit is Maui, but there's plenty tourists there (for a reason). If you want less tourists and more local flair, maybe Hilo on Big Island, but that would hardly be somewhere I'd recommend to someone on their first and last Hawaii visit. 5. Reply. jason48089.

  25. Best island in Hawaii: Which islands in Hawaii should I visit?

    Oahu. Best for: Foodies, beaches and culture. Oahu, affectionately known as The Heart of Hawaii, is one of six Hawaiian Islands tourists can visit. It's a hub for global cuisines and serves up everything from locally grown coffee to ahi poke. Home to approximately one million residents, Oahu is the most populated and popular isle in Hawaii.

  26. 6 of the Best Islands To Visit in Hawaii

    Molokai is one of the four islands within Maui County and is one of the least visited of the major Hawaiian islands. The island is only 38 miles long and has a proudly undeveloped coastline.

  27. The 21 Best Beaches in Hawaii

    Planning a trip to Hawaii? You won't run short of beaches to explore. From Hanalei Bay to Waikiki Beach, the Aloha State offers plenty of opportunities to surf, snorkel, enjoy stunning views and more.