Hawaii Close-up: Which Island Will You Love?
Now with 19 airlines offering flights from major cities around the world, Hawaii is more accessible than ever. But with so much laid-back culture across six distinct tourist-friendly islands—and so many miles of beautiful beaches—it can be difficult to choose. Our shortlist highlights the best-of to help you decide which Hawaiian Island is right for you, and which should be your next destination for aloha.
The Big Island
Who'll Love It: Explorers
With five national parks, including the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, The Big Island—a.k.a. Hawaii—is for those who like a little (lava-laden) adventure. Bring the sneakers versus the swimsuit, and be ready to tour top island hiking spots like Waipio Valley, known as the Hawaii's modern Garden of Eden. Highlights: See the volcanoes by boat; Check out the Insta-worthy Akaka Falls.
Who'll Love It: Those who want it all
Honolulu. Pearl Harbor. Waikiki Beach. From the start of island surfing on Waikiki, to the birth of tiki, to today’s craft beer and art scenes, the island of Oahu is the top island for culture—and lives up to its name 'The Gathering Place'. It's also got outdoor adventure and some of the best beaches, so it's a great pick for those who want it all. Highlights: Hike to Waimea Falls; Climb Diamond Head; Check out the nightlife in supercool Kaka’ako.
Who'll Love It: Nature-lovers and Insta-mavens
The greenest, lushest of the six tourist-friendly islands, Kauai is for (nature) lovers—and it's one of the most naturally beautiful destinations on earth. Its beaches are especially breathtaking, and the landscape is no stranger to the big screen—providing the oh-so-scenic backdrop for movies from Blue Hawaii to Jurassic Park. This also makes it a favorite for the Instagram set, so be ready to create some #wanderlust. Highlights: Fly over the cliffs and valleys of the Nā Pali coast; Snorkel at Tunnels Beach; Hike the 22-mile Kalalau Trail.
Who'll Love It: First-timers and solo travelers
Hawaii’s second-largest island, Maui is a mix of quintessential, lush-Hawaiian natural beauty and great culture, from roads winding through rain forests to craft breweries. A great spot for both solo travelers and first-time Hawaii-goers, the island’s rich history is also on full display, with ancient sites of worship, heiau, that add to the magic of the place. Highlights: Swim with sea turtles on Maluaka Beach; Go to a traditional luau at Old Lahina Luau; Drive the famous Road to Hana.
Who'll Love It: Luxury loungers
Lanai is the place you go when you don’t want to be seen. Privacy. Luxury. Romance. It’s the place for remote indulgence and relaxation, and that makes it a favorite for global celebrities. The allure? You get the best of Hawaii’s activities—without the crowds. Highlights: Hike Garden of the Gods; See all 6 Hawaii islands at once from the Munro Trail; Snorkel at Hulopoe Beach.
Who'll Love It: Digital detoxers and Solitude-seekers
This ultra-sleepy isle almost doesn’t make the tourism list. With no traffic lights and only one town, it’s the place to go for secret hideaways—and days-long digital detoxes. It’s perfect for those who prefer local hotels, and equally local cuisine. Known as the Friendly Isle, Molokai has 106 miles of pristine, nearly people-free coastline and striking cliffs that make for gorgeous shots. Highlights: Hike the Halawa Valley; Listen to the waves from (mostly) deserted Papohaku beach.