Hawaiian Islands

Choosing The Right Hawaiian Islands

One question we’re asked frequently is which island to visit. That comes second only how to find Hawaii deals. Our best advice on Hawaii deals is part of The Cheapest Time to Fly to Hawaii, a series of always up to date posts that have been read over 1 million times.

For those of you who are frequent visitors to Hawaii, you know that it all boils down to a personal choice since each island is truly unique. On each you’ll find island spirit and aloha. It is indeed hard to imagine not having a great vacation no matter which island you choose.

We’ve just updated our thoughts on this subject, including some issues on one island you should be aware of. We look forward to hearing yours.

Choosing The Right Hawaiian Islands


A good pick for a Hawaii vacation when looking for value, city, nightlife, history and activities.

In Honolulu you’ll generally find better Hawaii deals on airfare and accommodations here too. Maui is a close second in that regard.

Eighty percent of Hawaii’s population reside on Oahu so there’s an abundance of energy. Not to mention great shopping, major museums in addition to entertainment and dining options galore. Plus Pearl Harbor. If the city gets too much for you, just drive to the other side of Oahu where it’s more relaxed. On the downside there’s traffic getting around, and it can be bad.

Our favorite noodle shop is here called Jimbo, for its family feel. We also love Marukame Udon. Beat of Hawaii recommends Sans Souci Beach and Ala Moana Beach Park in Waikiki.


A Maui vacation is a good choice for travelers wanting a mix of action and rural life but on a budget.

On a Maui vacation you’ll find secluded Hana and upcountry Haleakala National Park in addition to great resort areas spread across the island. Reasonable flights (second best only to Oahu). Nightlife. Major world class resorts. Incredible black, red and white sand beaches. Plus art town Paia.


For resorts, great beaches, spectacular scenery plus added peace and quiet.

You may pay a little more for airfare but there are many nonstop flights from the mainland with more cheap flights to Hawaii coming soon. Kauai is great for the adventure traveler while still offering enough shopping, activities and beaches to keep any traveler happy.

Kauai is rustic and rural, with features including iconic Hanalei Bay, Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Parks, waterfalls, and the resorts of Poipu Beach.

Big Island

The only island with a live volcano, some of the best snorkeling and one of the most varied landscapes.

Big Island is huge in comparison with all the other Hawaiian Islands so there’s plenty of room to explore. The unusual landscape is carved by recent and still active Kilauea Volcano. It has beautiful Rainbow Falls, the ancient Mookini Heiau, elegant resorts, fantastic water activities, superb beaches and fish ponds of the Kohala coast. Fascinating and historic Hilo is both always changing yet iconic, and definitely worth a visit. So too is Mauna Kea where is even skiing in winter.

The Big Island has both a distinctly wet and tropical side (Hilo) and sunny dry side (Kona), so take your pick.

Lanai or Molokai

For return visitors to Hawaii who want to step back in time, and who like adventure, the outdoors and are not into crowds, traffic or city life. We suggest you consider Lanai or Molokai (which can also be accessed by ferry from Maui).

Lanai offers two world-class resorts with a third one coming, and renowned golf. There are major construction projects impacting Lanai:

  • The beachfront Manele Bay Resort has been closed since June for a $75 million renovation. It was originally scheduled to be open this month. That was rescheduled for opening on February 1, 2016.
  • The Lodge at Koele and its golf course has been closed since January 2015. It is currently being used to house construction workers. A date for reopening has not yet been set.

Molokai highlights include a visit to the prior leper colony at Kalaupapa, some of Hawaii’s most incredible beaches, and the Coffees of Hawaii Molokai plantation.

Neither Molokai nor Lanai has mainland direct flights so you’ll pay somewhat more for the quiet life. Molokai no longer has any major resorts and accommodations are in smaller venues. The Island of Lanai and Island Air are under new ownership by billionaire Larry Ellison. Hawaiian Airlines flies to both islands in addition to other smaller airlines.

Want to See Them All?

We reviewed two all-Hawaii cruises, both of which were fantastic. First, an adventure-style Hawaii cruise of the Islands. Second, NCL’s Pride of America 7 night inter-island cruise.

16 thoughts on “Choosing The Right Hawaiian Islands”

  1. You forgot to mention these facts about the Big Island:
    1. Clearest water= best diving both day and manta night diving
    2. Mauna Kea: where else can you surf in the morning and throw snowballs in the afternoon, on an island? (seasonal)
    3. Waimea, Hawi, the hot ponds at Pahoa, Queens Baths
    4. Hapuna Beach, Kua Bay, Kiholo, surfing Lymans, Banyans
    5. Kona sunshine, Kona Coffee, Kona Chocolate, Kona Aloha

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