The beautiful, ancient state of Hawaii has eight main islands: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and the island of Hawaii itself, known as the Big Island. What makes each island special, and which of these islands is the best of the lot for a first visit to Hawaii? What is the best island to visit in Hawaii for the first time? Let’s find out.
Kauai – the garden island
Kauai is the oldest island in Hawaii and lies at the northernmost point of the island chain. It’s carpeted in greenery and is the ideal vacation spot for nature-lovers. With locations like the popular Wailua falls, Waimea canyon, and the Poipu beach, this island is best covered on foot. It boasts the best hiking trails in Hawaii, winding through Pacific beauty and lush foliage. Don't forget to bring your hawiian shirt!
Maui – the valley island
Maui is the next largest Hawaiian island, and if you love beach vacations, this is the place to be. With some of the best beaches in the world, Maui has much to offer its visitors. You can enjoy whale-watching in the winter, catch beautiful sunsets at Haleakala, and spend a fabulous time at Makena Beach State Park and the picturesque Haleakala National Park.
Big Island – where the orchids grow
If you’re looking for a vacation that’s laced with the scent of orchids, head to the Big Island. Made from 4 different volcanoes – including the majestic splendor of Mauna Loa, which measured from its root at the bottom of the sea is the highest mountain in the world – the Big Island has got everything, from snow-capped mountains and waterfalls, to sandy white beaches and rainforests, and enjoys 11 of the world’s 13 climate types.
Oahu – a mix of everything
A majority of the Hawaiian population is distributed in Oahu, making it a vibrant mix of cultures. Here’s where you’ll find the historic Pearl Harbor. You can also enjoy a variety of experiences like snorkeling, mountain viewing, and touring through museums and memorials. To up the adventure factor, the island offers opportunities for the best big-wave surfing in the world, on the island’s famous North Shore.
Lanai – the subtropical island
Known for its pristine beaches, Lanai is where you’ll want to spend time undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Lanai is where pineapples grow in abundance, and the island ships the fruit to most parts of the world. You can tour the carefully curated vintage plants in the island and spend a few lazy days at the Hulopoe beach.
Molokai – Hawaiian roots
Molokai is where you should head to if you want a vacation that’s plugged in to the simplicity and depth of Hawaii’s ancient culture. Nearly the entire population on this island traces its ancestry back to the times when Hawaii was first formed and recognized. There may not be a lot of adrenaline-pumping activities here, but Molokai offers you an unfiltered taste of ancient Hawaiian life.
Kahoolawe – the island with a waitlist
Kahoolawe isn’t any tourist’s first choice; we’re sure of that. It’s dry, sparsely vegetated, and is the smallest island in Hawaii. The island is, at present, closed off to the general public. You can only get there if you sign of to carry out volunteer work to restore the island, and there’s a waiting list for that too! However, if you’re a conservationist, Kahoolawe could be a great option for you.
So how to choose? For us, Niihau or Kahoolawe probably aren’t the first islands you’ll want to visit: beyond the Big Island with its breadth of experiences, Maui may be the next best choice, followed closely by Oahu and Kauai – but it depends what you want to do. You’ll almost certainly fly in to Oahu or the Big Island first, and they both give you a great sense of Hawaii’s beautiful past and exciting future, but travelling to some of the smaller islands could be fantastic too. It’s hard to make a bad choice about where to go in Hawaii!
Now it's up to you, what do you think is the best island to visit in Hawaii for your first time?