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Best 5 Islands to Visit in Hawaii 2020

An isolated volcanic archipelago, Hawaii is the 50th state in America. It is located in the Pacific ocean. Most people consider Hawaii as an island paradise and the best US holiday destination. So, if you are visiting this beautiful bunch of islands, you will want to know which are the best islands to visit in Hawaii, right?

Hawaii is a pack of 137 islands spread over 1500 miles. Among these, 8 are the main, larger islands. These are Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. The last two of these islands are prohibited from tourist visits. Therefore, we will detail and compare the first six islands on the list only.

BookOnBoard’s Guide to Hawaii Islands

The Big Island, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, and Lanai – all are beautiful island paradises offering tons of tourism opportunities. This famous place is known for its pristine beaches and natural sceneries. Whether you are an individual or a family or a group of friends, you will have suitable activities for you on any of the islands. This is exactly what makes Hawaii such a popular holiday destination. 

Conversely, this also makes deciding which island to visit in Hawaii a great complication. However, don’t worry! We are here to help you figure out the best islands to visit in Hawaii. For first time visits or revisits, just go through this article to get all the information you need on Hawaii Islands. Let us describe the islands below.

Hawaii, or The Big Island

Physically, this is the biggest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. It is because, at 4028 square miles, it is bigger than almost the rest of them put together. As such, you have lots of ground to cover on this island, if you choose to visit here. Also, the great size means this island has numerically more tourist spots to visit than any other island.

The Big Island offers a great diversity of terrain. The beaches range in color from white and yellow to black and even green. Lush rainforests and violent volcanoes to exceptional lava formations and quiet coves – this island covers it all. All of this makes it arguably the best place to visit in Hawaii.

As such, the island of Hawaii offers tons of tourist activities. Beaches are quite crowded here, offering many activities like sunbathing, snorkeling, surfing, swimming, watching varieties of turtles, and so much more! Other than that, you can go hiking and biking on the many scenic trails in the multiple national parks here. There are beautiful waterfalls, cool valleys, serene lakes, scary craters and much more to see on the Big Island. Mauna Loa is the biggest active volcano in the world, and Mauna Kea is the tallest peak here, rising 4 kilometers.

Maui, or the Valley Isle

It is the second biggest island in Hawaii. It is so great in its natural beauties that it attracts the most revisiting tourists in the region. The volcanic Haleakela is the biggest mountain on the island and is surrounded by lush tropical jungles. This offers no end of hiking and safari opportunities. 30 miles of pristine beaches offer a ton of beach and marine activities as well.

Probably the best island to drive around in, Maui houses arguably America’s most scenic highway. The winding Hana Highway stretches 65 miles through lush jungles, volcano, beach views long and up-close, over 59 bridges. In fact, this highway is so famous that it was deemed a National Historic Place.

This is not all! Molokini is a submerged volcano and therefore offers the best snorkeling and diving opportunities. The Iao valley with its Needle peak offers a lot of hiking and climbing activities. So do the other national parks around Maui. The main tourist attractions on this island are concentrated on the west side. These are Kaanapali, Lahaina, Kahana, Napili, Kapalua, etc. Lahaina offers shops and restaurants, and historic places. You can take many cruises from here also.

Oahu, or the Gathering Place

The name aptly suggests that it is central to all the Hawaiian islands. And that is correct. Because this is home to Hawaii’s state capital, Honolulu. Consequently, this was and is the most active and crowded area in Hawaii, and offers the most civilized amenities.

Honolulu itself is full of tourist attractions. Famed for the crescent-shaped beach, the Waikiki neighborhood is bursting with beach activity, shopping, dining, and nightlife. The port city hosts WW2 war memorials such as USS Arizona and Missouri in Pearl Harbour. The Ala Moana shopping complex is huge and famous. And going back in time, the Iolani Palace and multiple museums offer in-depth information on the history of Hawaii and local culture.

Other than that, Oahu has a lot to offer here. The Diamond Head crater is a sight to behold in awe and has hiking trails all around. Many beaches around the island attract hoards of tourists. Parks, native and Buddhist temples, museums, zoos, aquariums, lighthouses, towers, botanical gardens, statues – you will find everything you need in a tropical summer vacation here. Which makes it the best island to visit in Hawaii for the first time.

Kauai, or the Garden Isle

Located north of Oahu, Kauai is called the Garden Isle because of its vast tropical rainforest coverage. As such, it is the best place to visit in Hawaii for ecotourists. The Na Pali coastline features impressive scenery and dramatic cliffs. That is why you can find the coastline in many Hollywood films. The 10-mile long Waimea Canyon and multiple ridges and trails offer great hiking and climbing opportunities.

That’s not to say this island doesn’t have beaches! On the contrary, you have plenty of beaches here like Poipu, Hanalei, and Kee. In the winter, you can come here to watch lots of whales. The island offers many adventure tourism opportunities like ziplining, hang gliding, helicopter tours, etc. It is settled by many resorts offering fine dining and the famous Luau.

Molokai, or the Friendly Isle

Comparatively, Molokai has little tourism activities than the other Hawaiian islands. This is not because of its natural beauties but its administration and infrastructure. The island itself is a jewel. It is believed to be the birthplace of the hula. The tropical landscape is mostly virgin yet. As such, if developed properly, it could be a more interesting tourist magnet than Maui.

The Kalaupapa National Park is the biggest one here. Towering cliffs and lush rainforests divide intermediate colonies. The Phallic Rock is said to have magical powers for men. The People Trail is a boardwalk through dense forest and is quite popular. You can view many native animals and birds here. Tall, beautiful waterfalls, crystal clear waters, and white sand beaches all beckon you in Molokai.

Lanai, or the Pineapple Isle

The former pineapple plantation is now a traveler’s haven. Quieter than the other islands, Lanai is full of resorts. Consequently, it is a place for quiet, private getaways among the green leaves and golden sands. In Lanai City, there are no traffic lights, no shopping malls. Public transportation is arranged by the hotels and resorts. 

The island itself offers many natural places to visit in Hawaii. Garden of the Gods is an alien landscape with rock towers and boulders. Hulopoe, Puupehe, Polihua, Lopa, etc all are pristine beaches. There are many great romantic spots to visit in Lanai, like Manele Bay and Sweetheart Rock. The nearby Shipwreck beach has crashed ships and views of other islands. The Towering Lanaihale volcano (inactive) offers panoramic views of the whole archipelago from its peak.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hawaii Islands

Can we visit all Hawaii Islands at one go?

You can, yes. But it will give you very little time to enjoy each place. This is because most package tours focus on touching the maximum number of points within a minimum of time. We recommend that you choose one of the best places to visit in Hawaii and spend some time there. As Hawaii is supposed to be all R&R and not rushing around, right?

However, maybe you do want to see all the best tourist spots Hawaii has to offer in one tour. Then, please read BookOnBoard’s Hawaii Tour Guide. It will explain how most all-inclusive package tours work around this area.

When is the best time to visit Hawaii?

Any time, really. This place has a tropical climate and thus is good in most seasons. However, do watch out for the hurricanes!

Will my phone work in Hawaii?

Most major US cellular operators work in Hawaii. Though, they may impose roaming charges. Do check that with your operator. You can, otherwise, rent a phone here too. However, please note that some of the most secluded locations among the islands may not have coverage. Most resorts and hotels provide free wifi for their guests. 

Does Hawaii have good medical services?

Sparsely populated, the islands are not well-known for medical services. However, the Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu is the largest hospital and trauma center here and it is well equipped to deal with most emergency situations that can possibly happen around here. The other islands have their own hospitals as well. If you take regular medication, make sure you bring proper papers for them. Also, it’s always a good idea to have emergency measures with yourself when traveling, as you never know.

Why can’t I visit Niihau or Kahoolawe?

Niihau is known as the Forbidden Isle because it protects indigenous life. The owners of the Island, the Robinsons, do offer short helicopter and beach tours. But the island has no public facilities and contact with locals is strictly prohibited. All in all, not a good experience.

Kahoolawe is called The Target Island because of the extensive military tests run here. Even after decades of cleaning work done by UXO and the US Navy, the island is still very inhospitable and has no drinking water. It is completely off-limits to civilians without special permits.

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