April 10, 2024

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Comparing The Best Islands In Hawaii

Comparing The Best Islands In Hawaii

Hawaii is blessed with so many amazing things that often put it at the top of the list for many travelers. But choosing which island in Hawaii to visit often puts the plan on hold for a moment. This is because the state has plenty of islands that all come with exceptional experiences that make them worth visiting all at the same time. This, however, is impossible. One can only visit one destination at a time, and to ensure that travelers get the best out of their first visit to the state, it becomes necessary to compare the best islands in Hawaii: Maui, Oahu, and Kauai.


Each of Hawaii’s best islands puts up strong competition and comes with something the other islands do not have. This may not necessarily be a list to make one island superior to the other; rather, it is aimed at helping travelers choose the ideal destination based on the type of experiences they seek by comparing these top Hawaiian islands. The stage is set, and without further ado, here is an unbiased comparison of Hawaii’s best islands to make the decision-making process easier.

Ko Olina Lagoon on Oahu Island in Hawaii
Image by Michelle Raponi from Pixabay 

Ko Olina Lagoon on Oahu Island in Hawaii

What To Know About Oahu – The Gathering Place

One of the most popular things Oahu is known for is its hosting of Honolulu – the state capital. It is the largest island in Hawaii by population, as about two-thirds of the population is located there. The island also has plenty of natural attractions, from beaches to dense forests with plenty of hiking trails. This makes Oahu the best place to enjoy a city and tropical experience combined.

Oahu is where the action in Hawaii happens. It’s where the skyscrapers, vibrant clubs, luxury hotels, and exciting shopping spots are located. This island also has some of the best beaches in Hawaii, as well as some of the state’s top historic attractions. This makes Oahu suited to meet the needs of all kinds of travelers.

The Best Things To Do In Oahu

Sea turtle in Turtle Canyon, Oahu, Hawaii

Sea turtle in Turtle Canyon, Oahu, Hawaii

While most of Oahu’s offerings are more appealing to city-loving travelers, they also appeal to those who love nature, as the island also has plenty of natural attractions. Some of the island’s best offerings include:

Some Of The Top Beaches In Hawaii

Oahu’s beaches are some of the best in the state of Hawaii, as they come with both scenery and adventures. Lanikai beach – one of the beaches in Oahu – is characterized by soft white sand and turquoise waters, making it one of the most beautiful beaches in the USA. Beaches like Lanikai beach are abundant in Oahu, and while many of them feature calm waters, there are also beaches on the island with crashing waves that create opportunities for some amazing surfing.

Excellent Surfing In Oahu

Oahu’s North Shore is one of the best places in the world to experience surfing. The waves here are incredibly massive and great for big-wave surfing. There are plenty of spots for surfing in Oahu, like North Shore, although the island also has spots for beginners. This makes Oahu one of the best places for surfing in Hawaii but also the world at large.

Resort pool Oahu palm trees
Photo by Michelle_Maria from Pixabay

Resort pool in Oahu surrounded by palm trees

Amazing Dining And Shopping In Oahu

Oahu, without a doubt, offers the best dining and shopping experience in Hawaii. The island has numerous world-class restaurants offering both local and international dishes. It also has vibrant shopping spots where one can get whatever they seek. This is one more point higher for Oahu as no other island in the state offers the kind of dining and shopping that Oahu offers.

Interesting Landmarks In Oahu

As one of the oldest islands in Hawaii, Oahu has a lot of interesting landmarks to show visitors. Here, one will find temples, places, and museums that all shed more light on the history and culture of this island.

Pearl Harbor National Memorial – one of the top historic attractions in Honolulu – was created to mark the resting place of the more than 1,000 sailors and marines who died during the Pearl Harbor attack.

This attack was carried out by the Japanese, and it was what led to the US’s involvement in World War II and eventually led to the brutal bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Visiting this memorial is an opportunity to learn about an important part of US history.

Oahu is also home to the Polynesian Cultural Center -a place to learn about Polynesian culture – Bishop Museum, a museum of Hawaiian culture, history, and heritage, and Iolani Palace – which was home to ancient Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs.

The Cons Of Visiting Oahu

  • Overcrowding due to the huge number of people and tourists on the island.

Beach trees sky
Photo by Todd Kay from Pixabay

Beach surrounded by trees with sky views

What To Know About Maui – The Valley Isle

Maui has remained one of the top islands in Hawaii for many reasons. Besides being the most historically-rich island in the state, Maui is also endowed with a wide range of natural attractions. Maui arguably offers the best opportunities for water activities in Hawaii.

The Best Things To Do In Maui

Volcanic Crater in Haleakalā National Park, Makawao, Maui, Hawaii, United States
Photo by Jack Nieuwoudt on Unsplash

Volcanic Crater in Haleakalā National Park

Maui’s huge list of offerings attracts different types of travelers, as the island caters to the needs of history/culture lovers, adrenaline fans, and nature lovers. Below are some of the top activities and best attractions Maui has to offer, and they are no doubt appealing enough to make one want to visit.

Beautiful Beaches In Maui

When it comes to beautiful beaches, Maui has plenty of them. The island has both golden sand and black sand beaches. Beaches in Maui are characterized by soft sand and turquoise waters, and besides being incredibly beautiful, these beaches also offer amazing opportunities for exciting water adventures.

Water Activities In Maui

The beaches and various waterbodies in Maui are not just beautiful but create the best opportunities for water activities in Hawaii. Maui has the best snorkeling, swimming, and also some of the best surfing in Hawaii.

The majority of the whales that migrate from the Arctic to the also end up in the waters around Maui, which also makes the island the best place for whale watching in Hawaii. During winter, it is almost certain that one will spot whales on a whale-watching tour in Maui.

sunset palm trees beaches
Photo by hmmunoz512 from Pixabay

Sunset at a beach in Maui with views of palm trees

Sun, Sunrises, And Sunsets In Maui

Maui gets the most sun in Hawaii, and this is one more factor that makes the island so enjoyable. The abundance of sunlight it experiences also means that one will enjoy some of the best sunrises and sunsets on this island. Haleakala Crater and Big Beach – some of the best sunrise and sunset-watching spots in the world – are located in Maui.

Related: Catch The Sunrise At Haleakalā: Hawaii’s Most Esoteric Volcano

Maui’s Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park is an area in Maui that protects a huge wilderness area where Haleakala Volcano is located. Although the volcano in the park is dormant, it is one of the best places in the world to enjoy a sunrise and sunset. This park has rich fauna and flora and it also offers amazing opportunities for hiking and camping.

Road to Hana MauiRoad To Hana – The Hana Highway

The Hana Highway, also known as the Road to Hana, is one exciting attraction in Maui that is always worth mentioning. Although there are several road trips on Hawaii’s other islands, this road trip in Maui is arguably the most exciting. The road is about 52 miles long, and it takes one through plenty of impressive attractions, from waterfalls to beaches, sleepy villages, scenic overlooks, and lush farms. One of the best ways to enjoy this road trip is via a Road to Hana guided tour.

The Cons Of Visiting Maui

  • Exposure to excess sunlight, so seeking shade, wearing appropriate protective clothing, and wearing sunscreen is always advised.

What To Know About Kauai – The Garden Isle

Also known as the garden isle, Kauai is one Hawaiian island that comes with a natural appeal and plenty of outdoor adventures. The island is like one big garden filled with beautiful trees, vegetation, and other intriguing natural attractions. This makes it particularly suited for nature lovers. It is one of the best destinations in the United States to enjoy a tropical vacation brimming with pristine nature.

The Best Things To Do In Kauai

Hiking trail Kalalau trail napali coast
Photo by Kathy VanDeventer from Pixabay

Hiking trail with a view of the Napali coast

The offerings of Kauai are abundant, and while they are mostly related to nature, the island also has other non-nature things to offer people. The following are some of the island’s best offerings, and they are great reasons to visit Kauai.

Incredible Hikes In Kauai

Hiking is one of the main reasons people flock to Kauai in their thousands every year. The island has some of the best hiking trails in the world. These hiking trails are designed to take one through the impressive landscape of the island and see the natural attractions up close. Kalalau trail – the best trail in Kauai – takes hikers through the stunning Napali Coast hiking trails and offers incredible views of beaches, waterfalls, and forest areas. Sure, there are plenty of popular hikes on the island, but there are also plenty of amazing hikes in Kauai that few people know about.

Related: Hawaiian Islands Hiking Guide: Kauai

See An Abundance of Waterfalls In Kauai

Hidden within the stunning forests and mountainous landscape of Kauai are some of the most picturesque waterfalls in the world. Most of these waterfalls are great rewards for the sometimes strenuous hikes on the island.

The Weeping Walls, one of the most popular waterfalls on the island, is characterized by lush surrounding trees and a gorgeous collection of waterfalls that makes it one of the wettest places in the world. A beautiful hike leads to this waterfall, and one can also see it on a helicopter tour. Waterfalls like Weeping Walls are spread out all over the island, and they are part of what makes the whole outdoor experience in Kauai so exciting.

View of green valley and mountains Kauai
Photo by ddegrandpre from Pixabay 

View of green valley and mountains in Kauai

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon is one of the world’s most epic canyons, and it is located on the island of Kauai. Also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, this canyon is ten miles long and about 3,000 feet deep. The canyon is one of the most adventurous parts of the island and is where one will find beautiful waterfalls, such as the above-mentioned Weeping Walls as well as several hiking trails.

Luxury Hotels In Kauai

For those whose idea of a dreamy vacation is staying in a luxury hotel with a tropical vibe, Kauai is one of the best places in the world to enjoy this experience. The island has plenty of these luxury hotels that will get one in the Aloha spirit. Besides offering plenty of luxury amenities, these hotels also have a relaxing tropical atmosphere and organize unique events that will give guests an unforgettable experience. When planning a trip to this island, be sure to book one of the best hotels on Kauai for the ultimate experience.

Waterfall in Waimea Canyon State Park

Waterfall in Waimea Canyon State Park

Beautiful Beaches In Kauai

Every island in Hawaii has superb beaches, and Kauai also has its fair slice of these gorgeous shorelines. Beaches in Kauai are not just beautiful but also suited for a wide range of water activities, from swimming to snorkeling and surfing.

The Cons Of Visiting Kauai

  • It can be extremely rainy and wet during certain seasons of the year, especially winter. This makes the island a place of regular floods and muddy paths that can make some of the hiking trails more challenging.

Hawaii, Island of kauai, Na Pali Cliffs

Hawaii, Island of kauai, Na Pali Cliffs

Which Island In Hawaii Is Best: Oahu, Maui, Or Kauai?

Every Hawaiian island has its unique experiences to offer, so travelers can make their choice based on what they wish to experience. For a more city-inclined vacation, Oahu is the best choice, while Maui is the best place in Hawaii to enjoy water activities. Kauai, on the other hand, is best suited for those who want a more relaxing experience and those who want to spend time in nature.