Which Hawaiian Island is Right for You?

Hawaii, dunheger travel blog

 

For many travelers, Hawaii is the quintessential vacation dream. Spring is one of the best times to pay the 50th state a visit, but which island should get your attention?

 

Oahu

Few islands capture Hawaii in miniature as well as Oahu. You can find everything here from history and culture to beaches and mountains. The state capital Honolulu is on Oahu, along with its legendary Waikiki beach. Join a surfing class during the day and after sundown, venture into the surrounding downtown area for world-class dining and nightlife. Historic Iolani Palace and the rugged trails of Diamond Head are also worth a visit in Honolulu, before spending an evening learning how to hula at an authentic Hawaiian luau. The island’s other great historic claim to fame is the site of Pearl Harbor. The USS Arizona Memorial honors the victims of the surprise attack that drew the United States into World War II.

An aerial view of Waikiki and Honolulu, Oahu, dunheger travel blog
An aerial view of Waikiki and Honolulu, Flickr © Edmund Garman

Maui

Filled with natural beauty, Maui is one of the best islands for exploring Hawaii’s scenery and wildlife. The main attraction on Maui is Haleakala, the tallest peak in the state. Excellent hiking trails surround the volcanic peak in a sizeable national park. Nearby lies the ‘Ohe’o Gulch, a series of gorgeous pools and waterfalls. Most towns on Maui are located on the island’s northwestern corner. Lahaina is a popular jumping off point for whale watching and kayaking tours, while Kapalua is home to Maui’s most famous beach. For more seclusion, drive to Hana on the other side of the island. The Hana Highway is one of the most beautiful road trips in the world.

Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii, Dunheger travel blog
Haleakala, Flickr © David Schroeder

Kauai

If Maui is the island with the most accessible natural beauty, then Kauai has the most dramatic scenery. Covered with soaring cliffs and lush tropical rainforest, the Garden Isle is one of the wettest places on earth. Hikers flock to the Waimea Canyon, the Nounou Trails, and the Sleeping Giant mountains. Kayak the Wailua River or go snorkeling off Poipu Beach. For an extra adrenaline rush, zip line over the emerald peaks and valleys of Kauai. If you’d prefer a dose of local culture, Kauai is filled with charming small towns like Hanalei, Hanapepe, and Old Koloa Town. Hanapepe in particular is known as the art capital of Kauai and is the perfect place to pick up a unique souvenir from one of the many galleries and craftsmen’s shops in town.

Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii, dunheger travel blog
Waimea Canyon, Flickr © Andrew Baerst

Hawaii

It’s not just the name of the state. The largest island in this South Pacific archipelago is also called Hawaii. The true Big Kahuna of islands, Hawaii is one of the most incredible places in the world to get a glimpse at the sheer power of nature. Ten different climate zones are present on the island, from wet tropics to polar tundra. The Big Island’s top attraction is surely the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can drive and hike among the most active volcanoes on earth. Other main sights include the Hamakua Coast rainforests and the black sands of Punaluu Beach. You’ll also find plenty of resorts, golf courses, and sacred historical sites.

Hawaii Volcano National Park, dunheger travel blog
Road blocked by lava, Flickr © Gouldy99