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Quick Guide: Which Hawaiian Island is Right for You?

Hawaii is unquestionably one of the top destinations requested by our clients, but when we ask which island they prefer, we're met with a long pause or blank stares. The Hawaiian islands are not created equal - here's what you need to know to choose the best island for your next vacation.

Kauai - The Garden Isle

Kauai is the oldest island and most north.  It's called the Garden Isle for good reason - it's a nature lover's paradise.  It has a more mountainous topography with jagged cliffs than the other islands - much of the land is inaccessible except by air.  There are tons of hiking trails and opportunities for kayaking and snorkeling.  Plantation tours, cultural experiences, and outdoor activities are highlights. Much of Jurassic Park was filmed here ;)

Oahu - The Gathering Place

Oahu is the most populated and busiest of the islands - the Honolulu area beaches can be busy but are your typical 'Hawaiian vacation' experience at Waikiki Beach. Sneak away north you will find isolated and preserved natural spaces, as well. See the turtles at North Shore, kayak, or hike the parks. Pearl Harbor Memorial is located on Oahu and is worth a stop if you're in the area.  Oahu is fantastic for families and is home to Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa (one of my favorite resorts ever - see the review HERE).

Maui - The Valley Isle

Maui is considered the most diverse island by most - you'll never be bored and it's a great middle-ground between plenty of adventurous outdoor activities, miles of gorgeous beaches, as well as dormant volcano tours. Flights to Maui from the mainland are the second-cheapest in Hawaii (with the first being to Oahu). It's a great mix of adventure and relaxation.

The Big Island of Hawaii -The Orchid Isle

The Big Island has the only active volcano in Hawaii, as well as many hiking opportunities. Coffee lovers will discover plantation tours here, as well. 


By far the most rural of the islands, it's the most rustic and can lack modern amenities. You'll get the true 'off the beaten path' experience here. 


Lanai is a tiny island only accessible by ferry from Maui (it's only 9 miles away).  It's a great additional side trip from Maui. Popular activities include horseback riding and 4-wheeling into more remote locations. 

Still not sure?

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©2023 by Megan Halberstadt, Travel Advisor.

MH Custom Travel is an affiliate agency of Heather Christopher Travel Consulting, LLC

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