Eight Main Hawaiian Islands to Visit on Your Next Trip: Hawaii Travel Guide

Over nine million tourists visited Hawaii last year. Hawaii is the perfect place to be labeled as paradise on Earth. With its white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, lush rainforests, and friendly locals, Hawaii is indeed a beautiful place for vacation. Hawaii has eight main islands. If you are still contemplating on which island to say “aloha” to, here are the eight main islands in Hawaii, the best places to see, and the top things to do in each island to help you decide which one to add to your travel bucket list!

1. Hawai’i

Hawai’i - Best Hawaiian Islands to Visit on Your Next Trip

Hawai’i is the largest among all eight Hawaiian Islands. Its size is twice as big as the sizes of all the other islands combined, thus earning the name The Big Island. Because of its massive size, you will never run out of things to do and places to see in The Big Island. It is known for being the home of the world’s most active volcanoes, eleven of the thirteen climate zones, as well as two of the world’s greatest mountains.

Top Places to Visit on the Island of Hawai’i

For tourists who frequent Hawaii, The Big Island has become a favorite. Here are the top places you should visit on the Island of Hawai’i:

1. Makalawena Beach

What’s a trip to Hawaii without going to the beach, right? The entire Hawaiian Islands have a lot of great beaches, but Makalawena is probably one of the best, due to the fact that it is usually empty. If you are looking to get away from the crowd and just relax on the beach and listen to the waves, the hike to Makalawena Beach is definitely worth it. There aren’t any roads that lead up to this beach, which is why it is not crowded. There aren’t any facilities on the beach, too, so you need to bring everything with you, from food to floaties. This place is ideal for couples or group of friends, but probably not that convenient for families traveling with little kids.

2. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

In August of 1916, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park was established. The park covers two volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, while Mauna Loa is the world’s most massive shield volcano. Although the park has been closed for visits due to the recent explosions from Halema’uma’u crater, some parts of the park are planned to be opened to the public this year on September 22. The park will give you a fascinating view of volcanic landscapes, lava deserts, steaming craters, and ancient rainforests. This is a place you should not miss while visiting The Big Island.

3. Mauna Kea’s Summit Area

Visiting the summit area of Mauna Kea is perfect for travelers who love adventures and the outdoors. The summit is the perfect place for astronomical observations, because of the four giant telescopes available, although these are not yet open to the public. But the hike trails around the area are great for the adrenaline junkies and people who are not afraid of heights. Mauna Kea’s Summit is also the perfect place to watch the sunset. Watching the sun go down at 13,796 feet is one of the most magical experience there is.

2. Maui

Maui - Best Hawaiian Islands to Visit on Your Next Trip

Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It is also known as the Valley Isle because most of Maui sits on the bowl between the east and west Maui volcanoes.It is the perfect island to visit for anyone who is looking to do both water, land, and air activities. Maui’s culture is a combination of both the traditional Polynesian influence and the Modern American style. And if you’re into glamping, Maui does have some unique locations.

Top Things to do in Maui

Most Hawaii visitors call Maui  the most beautiful among all eight Hawaiian Islands. In fact, it has been voted the Best Island in the World for sixteen times by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine. Maui has both high end resorts and budget accommodations to choose from and boasts of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Maui also has one of the most amazing waterfalls that makes our list of the top five places you should see in your lifetime! Here are the top things to do in Maui:

1. Helicopter Tour

Taking a helicopter tour in Maui is highly recommended. This will give you a chance to see all the beauty of the island from up above; blue waters, waterfalls, mountains, volcanoes, and lush rain-forest. There are a lot of organizations that you can choose from for your helicopter tour, depending on the size of your group. Early morning or late afternoon are the highly preferred times for the tour, because you would get to witness the sunrise or the sunset, which is always a breathtaking phenomenon to witness.

2. Road to Hana

The Hana Highway is a 64.4-mile-long stretch that connects Kahului to Hana. This is also one of the must-dos in Maui. The best part about taking a road trip along the Road to Hana is the drive itself, as well as the stops along the way. It would only take about threehours to drive from Kahalui to Hana, but this might take a whole day because of the stops you should make along the way. Make sure to grab local drinks and eats. Huelo Lookout is famous for fruit smoothies, KaHaku Smoke Shack serves roasted chicken and rice, and Halfway to Hana offers the best banana bread and the tastiest shaved ice in the island. If you are up for a swim, Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach, Upper Waikani Falls, and Ching’s Pond are the best places to go.

3. Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park is home to the world’s largest dormant volcano. Upon reaching the summit of Haleakala, you can continue going down into the mouth of the volcano. Desert-like landscapes surround the area that leads up to the volcano. There are other hike trails within the park, which is perfect for travelers looking to spend more time with nature. The park is open to visitors 24 hours a day, so planning a trip to watch the sunrise or the sunset is possible.

3. Oahu

Oahu - Best Hawaiian Islands to Visit on Your Next Trip

Also called The Gathering Place, Oahu is home to the majority of Hawaii’s diverse population. It is also the most popular island, because the state’s capital, Honolulu, can be found here.

Top Places to Visit in Oahu

If you are looking for some quality beach time, but still want to be in the cosmopolitan area, Oahu is the place for you. Here are the top places to visit in Oahu:

1. Waikiki Beach

Waikiki is one of the most popular beaches in the whole Hawaiian Islands. This is a surfer’s paradise, especially during the winter months. The waves during summertime are pretty decent, too. If you would like to learn how to surf, Waikiki is a great place to start. Waikiki Beach is also a great place to watch the sunset or just lay on the beach and work on your tan. There are also great food places and hotels nearby.

2. Diamond Head State Monument

Diamond Head State Monument - Hawaii Travel Guide

Diamond Head, also known as Le’ahi locally, is a crater that was a result from a volcanic eruption over 300 thousand years ago. You need to go through a 760-foot hike up, but the view from the top is rewarding; you would be able to see Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean. The view is so great that it was even used by the US military as a lookout post for any possible intruders. If you plan to watch the sunset from the summit, make sure to hike early to arrive before 4:30 p.m. The gates close at 6:00 p.m. but hiking after 4:30 p.m. is no longer allowed. There are gift shops at the summit, but bringing your own food and drinks is highly recommended. There are also picnic tables if you would like to stay for a longer time  to admire the view and get good quality photos.

3. Manoa Falls

You need to hike a little bit to get to the falls, but the rain forest scenery along the way is magical. You would get to see huge prehistoric ferns and old banyan trees. No need to worry though, there aren’t any dinosaurs around, unlike the scenes from Jurassic Park which was filmed here. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring water to stay hydrated. There aren’t any facilities along the way nor at the falls, so bring your own necessities. Also, make sure to take your own trash with you when leaving the falls. Not to worry though, you would get to cool off at the waterfalls while enjoying the view after your hike.

4. Kauai

Kauai - Best Hawaiian Islands to Visit on Your Next Trip

Kauai is known as the Garden Island because of its lush rain-forest, dramatic landscapes, and beautiful gardens. If you are going to tour around the island, you would understand why. It is also the oldest and northernmost island among the eight Hawaiian Islands. Some parts of Kauai are only accessible via air and sea transfers. Kauai is on our list of the best warm destination for escaping the winter.

Top Things to do in Kauai

Kauai is best known for its beaches, scenic views, and lifestyle. Here are the top things to do during your vacation in Kauai:

1. Tour around Waimea Canyon

Mark Twain dubbed Waimea Canyon The Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Tourists come to visit to spend some quality time with nature. It is 14-miles long,14-miles wide, and about 3,600-feet deep. There is so much to do and so much to see here that is hard to find somewhere else. There are multiple lookout points around the canyon. Getting a local tour guide is highly recommended for you to maximize your visit. They would be able to tell you information about what to expect in each lookout point as well as the cultural background of the place. Local tour guides are also good photographers. Especially if you are traveling alone or a couple and would like to get great photos of you together, get a tour guide. They will act as the drive, guide, and photographer in one! Generous tips would be very much appreciated.

2. Swim and bask under the sun in Poi’pu Beach

Poi’pu Beach - Hawaii Travel Guide

Poi’pu Beach is one of the most accessible and popular beaches in Kauai. If you are vacationing with kids, you can let them run around and swim to their hearts’ content here without having to worry about big waves. The beach is sandy, which is perfect for building sand castles with the kids. They will be spending hours playing in the sand or swimming in the sea, so don’t forget to reapply sunscreens and to keep them hydrated all day. This is the best beach to kick back and have a relaxing day with the family. If you need to grab a bite, there are a lot of food places in the area. If you need sweet and cold treats, Beach House Restaurant, Little Fish Coffee Poipu, and Loco Coco Shave Ice are the highly recommended places in the area.

3. Cliff jump in Makaleha Falls

Adrenaline junkies and outdoorsy travelers make it a point to visit Makaleha Falls in Kauai for two main reasons- hiking and cliff jumping.Hiking towards the falls normally takes about an hour. Make sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes with a strong grip because the paths could get slippery, especially after the rain. Also, be prepared to encounter boulders, vines, roots, and mud during the hike. Not to worry though, upon reaching the waterfalls, you will thank yourself for braving the hike. The best way to cool off is to go swimming. If you have local guides with you, expect that they will go cliff jumping right away. If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, go ahead and follow suit.

5. Molokai

Molokai - Best Hawaiian Islands to Visit on Your Next Trip

Molokai is known for agriculture and ranching. It has been nicknamed The Friendly Isle because of how quaint and charming it is. You would be able to experience the true Hawaiian spirit in a more laid back pace. Molokai has been said to be the birthplace of the popular hula.

Top Places to Visit in Molokai

Aside from ranching, pineapples, and mountain biking, here are the best places you should visit on your trip to Molokai:

1. Kalaupapa National Historical Park

Kalaupapahas a sad history which is quite a contrast to the beauty of the place. The 2.9-mile trail to this place is only accessible via mule ride. It is scenic and peaceful; one could not have imagined this being the isolation place of Hawaiians who were affected by Hansen’s disease. Kalaupapa today is disease-free, and tourists have been coming here to appreciate nature as well as the history of the park.

2. Post-a-Nut, Hoolehua Post Office

You can send a coconut post to your family from Molokai. Yes, you got that right. Hoolehua Post Office is the only post office in the world where you can write, draw, or paint a coconut and have it mailed anywhere else in the world. This will be a great experience for you and a fantastic souvenir for your family and friends back home. If you want to keep one for yourself, send one to your own home! That way, you won’t have to worry about excess baggage at the airport. Posting a coconut also helps the local post office keep going, so you will be hitting two birds at once. So, don’t forget to come visit and post-a-nut while you are in Molokai.

3. Papohaku Beach

Papohaku Beach - Hawaii Travel Guide

Hawaiian Islands are all about beaches, and Molokai’s Papohaku Beach is one of the best. Papohaku is a three-mile long white sandy beach, which is great for a sunset stroll. The beach faces west, so it is the perfect spot to sit quietly and watch the sunset. Star gazers also frequent this beach. On clear nights, you can see the glow lights from Honolulu on the other side.

6. Lanai

Lanai - Best Hawaiian Islands to Visit on Your Next Trip

Lanai used to be known as The Pineapple Island. A couple of years back, most of the entire island was a pineapple plantation. Today, tourists come here for a remote luxury. Four Seasons Resort is the popular accommodation in the island.

Top Things to do in Lanai

Aside from chilling in Four Seasons, here are the top things to do in Lanai:

1. Join a dolphin and whale watching tour

The best way to watch dolphins and whales is to see them in their natural habitat rather than in an aquarium. In Hawaii, humpback whales and dolphins are plentiful and can be found in almost every island, but they are normally frequently spotted in the Auau Channel between Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. Dolphin and whale watching season is within the months of December to May. If your trip falls on these months, taking this tour is highly recommended for you. If you are traveling with kids, this is an activity that they would surely enjoy. It is also a great time to learn more about dolphins, whales, and the marine life. Some tours also offer snorkeling sessions. Since Hawaii has a bountiful marine life, snorkeling in its oceans would definitely give you a view of the paradise under the ocean.

2. Play golf at Manele Golf Course

Manele Golf Course - Hawaii Travel Guide

If you love playing golf, head over to Manele Golf Course, which was designed by Jack Nicklaus himself. The golf course sits on the ocean cliffs, and you would be playing with Lanai’s lush vegetation and blue oceans in the background. If you are still trying to learn, not to worry because golf lessons for beginners are also offered here. Guests staying at the Four Seasons Resort normally get the best deals, so if you book your accommodation there and you are interested in playing golf or just checking out the golf course and taking some photos, make sure to ask for the information at the resort.

3. See all six Hawaiian Islands at once by taking the Munro Trail

The Munro trail is the only trail in the State of Hawaii that lets you see six of the eight Hawaiian all at once so long as it is a clear day. The trail is 12.8-mile-long, and t most visitors take it via jeep, although you can also hike or bike along the trail, but do take note that even with a car or a jeep, it is about a three-hour drive from the start of the trail just north of Lanai City up to the end, which is the Palawai Basin.

7. Niihau

Niihau - Best Hawaiian Islands to Visit on Your Next Trip

Niihau is the second smallest island in the State of Hawaii. It is known as The Forbidden Island because it is privately owned and is generally not open to the public. Niihau was purchased by Elizabeth Sinclair in 1864 for ten thousand dollars from the Kingdom of Hawaii. The private ownership of the island has been passed on to the descendants of Elizabeth Sinclair, which is the Robinsons family. The island can only be visited by the relatives of the island owners, U.S. Navy personnel, government officials, and invited guests, although the owners have offered half-day helicopter and supervised beach tours since 1987. An overnight stay is not possible unless you are a confirmed guest, since there aren’t any accommodations for tourists on the island.

8. Kahoolawe

Kahoolawe - Best Hawaiian Islands to Visit on Your Next Trip

Kahoolawe, also known as The Target Isle, is the smallest island among all eight Hawaiian Islands with only forty-five square miles in size. It is inhabited and has always been sporadically populated because of its lack of fresh water. Kahoolawe is relatively dry all year long. Even if you would want to visit all eight Hawaiian Islands, you might just leave this one off your list together with Niihau Island. Presently, Kahoolawecan only be used for native Hawaiian cultural, spiritual, and subsidence purposes such as fishing, environmental restoration, historic preservation, and education. Ever since the Hawaiian State Legislature established the Kahoolawe Island Reserve in 1993, all commercial uses of the island have become even more impossible, including visits or island tours for tourists. The closest you can get to the island is on a Hawaiian Cruise Ship. One must take note that the cruise ships will be outside of the restricted two-mile radius from the island.

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