Hawaii is the longing destination for many people around the world. And also for us Hawaii was on our bucket list for a long time. When planning our Hawaii trip, we first realized how many islands Hawaii actually consists of and how different they are. Unfortunately, this does not make travel planning any easier. Because you can not visit all the islands of Hawaii in a single vacation.
Therefore, the question arises very quickly: Which Hawaii island is the right one for me? And which island is the most beautiful in Hawaii?
To make the planning of your vacation easier for you wether you have one week in Hawaii or more time, we have created a small Hawaii guide for you, so that you know which Hawaii islands you should choose. Additionally we give you some important tips to make your Hawaii vacation unforgettable.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Things to know about Hawaii
Hawaii is the 50th state of the United States of America, but it is located in the middle of nowhere in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean between mainland USA and Japan. While it is a faraway longing destination for many Europeans, it is a typical vacation destination for many Americans and Asians.
When you think of Hawaii, the same things come to most people’s minds: green-covered mountains, surfing, volcanoes, a pleasant climate, and that familiar aloha feeling. Hawaii is a dream island (or group of islands) for many people around the world.
Hawaii is extremely diverse. You can watch whales, marvel at seals, hike through breathtaking landscapes, see hot lava flowing and let time pass by on gorgeous beaches. Hawaii is simply wonderful!
Staying Overnight in Hawaii
Staying overnight in Hawaii is really expensive! No matter how early you book and how low your standards are, you will probably pay more for your hotel stays than anywhere else in the world. At least that’s how we felt and we have stayed in many countries.
But what doesn’t fit to the high price is the low comfort and low standard that prevails almost everywhere. If you can expect luxury in some countries for 200€ per night, you get almost only the minimum standard in Hawaii.
For accommodation you should plan at least 150€ per night for a normal double room. Upwards the prices are completely open. Try to book as early as possible to benefit from a larger offer.
How much is a Hawaii Vacation?
But not only the hotels are very expensive, also the rest of the costs of your Hawaii vacation will probably be higher than any other destination in the world.
Food (whether in supermarkets or restaurants) is much more expensive than in Europe or even on the mainland. But also activities (like helicopter excursions* or boat tours*) are extremely expensive and will tear a big hole in your vacation budget.
In summary, Hawaii was by far our most expensive vacation so far. It will probably be the same for you.
How much Time should I plan for Hawaii?
Some say that it is only worthwhile to fly to Hawaii from a travel time of 3-4 weeks, because the journey takes so long. But this is not true, because the flight to Hawaii does not take longer than a comparable flight to Thailand or similar destinations from Europe. With a good connection you will be in Honolulu in 19 hours.
Therefore, in our opinion, even a vacation of only 2 weeks is worth it. If you want to spend only one week in Hawaii it is up to you wether this flight time is ok for you.
How many Hawaiian Islands should I visit?
In our opinion you should plan at least 4-5 days per Hawaii island. This means that you can visit 2-3 islands in a 2-week vacation and even 3-4 islands in a 3-week vacation in Hawaii. If you want to spend only one week in Hawaii we would recommend do visit only one of the islands.
Of course, quite a few tourists stay 2 weeks only on Oahu, because there is enough to do there. But if you like variety and want to see as much as possible, then it can be 1 or 2 islands more.
Which Hawaii Island has the most Beautiful Beaches?
Actually, every island in Hawaii offers really beautiful beaches. But we got the typical Hawaii Beach feeling on the island of Maui. Here we found the beaches the most pristine and untouched. But of course it also depends on your preferences.
Best Time for a Hawaii Vacation
The best time to travel to Hawaii are the summer months from April to October. In this time it rains statistically the least and the temperatures are a few degrees higher. So, unfortunately, are the prices, because summer is, of course, the peak travel season. We visited Hawaii in the rainy season in February / March and unfortunately had some bad luck with the weather.
There was more frequent rain and the temperatures were also not as high as expected. but of course you can also be lucky in this time and have fewer tourists, lower prices and still great summer weather.
Because Hawaii is generally a year-round destination that can also be traveled in the European winter.
Hawaii: Which Island is the most Beautiful?
Hawaii is an island chain in the Pacific Ocean and consists of hundreds of islands and atolls. However, only 8 of these islands are inhabited and only 6 of them are accessible to tourists. These 6 islands are: Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Big Island, Molokai and Lanai.
Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Big Island are the main islands and the most visited ones. Molokai and Lanai are small in comparison and are not visited by most tourists.
Which Hawaii island is the most beautiful is of course totally subjective. Each island is very beautiful in its own way, but still there are differences between the islands that can help you decide when planning your trip.
Oahu | Touristy Waikiki
Oahu is the main island of the Pacific archipelago and also the most visited of all islands. Most tourists land in the capital Honolulu and quite a few stay their entire vacation on Oahu. The island seemed to us like a huge all-inclusive hotel and at least Honolulu is by far the most touristy part of all Hawaii. Of course, there is another way, you just have to go to the north of the island and visit the Northshore.
But Oahu also has a lot to offer and you can do a lot of different activities. Nevertheless, there is basically nothing here that is not also available on the other islands. But Oahu is much more touristy and crowded. It was definitely not our favorite island.
Oahu Top Highlights
The most famous, but definitely not the most beautiful beach in Hawaii. If you stay in Waikiki you will spend a lot of time at this beach. We found it not so beautiful, because behind the kilometer-long curved beach the big hotel buildings pile up.
The complete opposite to the touristy Waikiki. Far away from the capital is the quiet and relaxed North Shore with beaches, surfers and turtles.
Probably the most famous war memorial in the world. See here the remains of the US fleet sunk in WW2. All very patriotic, but still worth seeing.
How much time do I need for Oahu?
You should plan at least 4-5 days here. Very many tourists stay completely on the main island of Hawaii and therefore it is absolutely no problem to spend 2 weeks or more here. There are enough activities and sights here.
The Best Activities on Oahu
|Oahu Helicopter Tour with Doors On or Off||from 368 €||Book Now*|
|Guided Pearl Harbor, USS Arizona, and City Tour||from 61 €||Book Now*|
|Glass Bottom Boat Tour in Waikiki||from 37 €||Book Now*|
|Shark Cage Dive on the North Shore||from 68€||Book Now*|
Hotel Recommendation for Oahu
Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach
In this central accommodation* in Waikiki Beach, you'll stay in beautiful double rooms right in the lively center.Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach | Check Availability*
Oahu is the right island for you if…
…you like to have everything in one place and choose from almost endless possibilities. And of course, if the lively and extremely touristy Waikiki doesn’t scare you off.
- More travel tips about Oahu: Oahu Highlights | Top 7 Highlights & Travel Tips
Maui | Whales and Beaches
Maui is famous for surfing, but also for beautiful almost untouched beaches. Such quiet beaches are not in the least comparable to Waikiki Beach and tempt you to spend hours relaxing in the sun. These can be found especially in the south of the island. Maui is dominated by 2 mountains, Haleakala in the southeast and Mauna Kahalawei in the northwest.
Extremely popular here is the Road to Hana in east Maui and whale watching in the east of the island. We found the island totally relaxed and much less touristy than Oahu. Here we found the typical aloha feeling we were looking forward to. Maui was our favorite island of our Hawaii trip. It was endless fun cruising along the coast in the convertible, with the sunset and the palm trees blowing in the wind always in view.
Maui Top Highlights
Road to Hana
The road with over 600 curves is probably the most famous stretch of road on Maui. Here you drive through untouched rainforest and experience nature and the sea from a very special side. The route is very strenuous, but extremely eventful.
Especially in the winter months you can watch whales in the east of the island. Thousands of sperm whales spend the winter here and raise their babies.
The beaches are beautiful and totally relaxed on Maui. Especially in the south they are totally pristine and without the big hotels in the background like in Waikiki.
How much time do I need for Maui?
You should plan at least 4-5 days here to see the highlights. More if you want to soak up the laid-back vibe of Maui completely or take a few more beach days.
The Best Activities on Maui
|Maui Channel Whale-Watching Catamaran Cruise||from 37 €||Book Now*|
|Small-Group Road to Hāna Sightseeing Tour||from 225 €||Book Now*|
|Eco-Friendly Molokini and Turtle Town Tour with Lunch||from 160 €||Book Now*|
|Haleakala National Park Sunrise Tour||from 199 €||Book Now*|
Hotel Recommendation for Maui
Napili Sunset Beach Front Resort
At this charming accommodation* in West Maui, you'll stay in lovely studios right on the beautiful beach of Napili Bay.Amazing Hotel Napili Sunset Beach Front | Check Availability*
Maui is the island for you if…
…you like beautiful and pristine beaches without a lot of bug hotel, restaurants and hullabaloo and you generally like it a bit more relaxed. And of course if you want to watch whales.
- More travel tips about Maui: Maui Bucket List | Highlights & Travel Tips
Kauai | The Hiking Island
For us, Kauai is the hiking island par excellence. There are so many beautiful hiking trails just waiting to be discovered by you. Kauai is also not very touristy and still offers great things to do. On Kauai we had the most authentic Hawaii feeling. On Kauai you can really do a lot of different things, whereby the focus is rather on nature & the landscape.
Kauai Top Highlights
Na Pali Coast
The images of Kauai’s NaPali Coast in the east are probably the first thing you’ll see in a Google search. The view of this green overgrown cliff is really indescribable and can be admired perfectly on a helicopter tour*.
One of the few trails to discover the spectacular Napali Coast. The hike along the coast is extremely popular and takes you along the cliff and to a waterfall in the jungle.
The red-brown canyon is located in the east of the island and can be discovered by road trip along numerous viewpoints.
How much time do I need for Kauai?
Generally we would recommend at least 5 days. If you have more time in Hawaii and also want to do a lot of hiking we would recommend to spend at least 7 days on Kauai. It is also important to plan for one or two rainy days, because especially in winter it rains more than average on Kauai.
The Kauai Beach Resort is located in the capital Lihue near the airport directly on the beach. So you are not only quickly in the sea but also very quickly to all corners of the island. You get comfortably furnished double rooms and a super cool pool.
- perfectly conveniently located in Lihue
- super cool pool
- manageable, quiet hotel complex
- very good organic breakfast
Kauai is the right island for you if…
…you like hiking and you want to do some of the most beautiful hikes on Hawaii. But spending a week or more here is no problem either. Kauai is also much less touristy than Oahu and has a similar atmosphere to Maui.
- More travel tips about Kauai: Kauai Travel Guide – All you need to know
Big Island | The Volcano Island
Big Island is the largest and the youngest of all Haiwaii islands and is dominated by the huge Kilauea volcano, which has been very active here in recent years and has spewed a lot of ash and lava. Big Island, by the way, is still growing because the volcano spews lava into the sea, which increases the land mass of the island.
By the way, Big Island is also called Hawai’i Island and is therefore often mistaken for the main island of Hawaii. However, in our opinion, this is rather Oahu.
Big Island Top Highlights
Volcanoes National Park
You can drive almost to the edge of the crater. Always depending on how the last eruption happened and where the lava flowed to. If you are lucky you can see red glowing flowing lava.
Highest mountain of Big Island where you can also drive up. Here is the highest observatory on earth.
How much time do I need for Big Island?
Since Big Island is very big you should plan at least 5-6 days. Better is a week or more, of which you spend half in Kona and the other half in Hilo. Hilo and Kona are the two largest cities on the island and are located on opposite sides of Big Island.
Hotel Recommendation for Kauai
Big Island is the right island for you if…
…you like to visit pristine and rugged landscapes. The volcano is the highlight of the island and offers views you won’t get anywhere else in Hawaii. Also, you’ll supposedly experience 11 of the 13 climate zones on earth here.
Lanai | The Luxury Island
Lanai is rather specialized in luxury tourism and is therefore rather left out by most tourists. There are rather few paved roads here, because the island is not so much designed for mass tourism. Most visitors therefore only come for a day visit by ferry from Maui.
Lanai Top Highlights
Considered the most beautiful beach on Lanai and offers great snorkeling.
Because so few tourists come to Lanai, there are many pristine and almost undiscovered beaches
How much time do I need for Lanai?
Unless you’re looking for a luxury vacation, 1-2 days should be enough here. If you are looking for peace and seclusion, then you can also spend 3-4 days here in an expensive hotel.
Hotel Recommendation for Kauai
Lanai is the right island for you if…
…you like luxury vacations and are looking for the untouristic seclusion.
Molokai | The original Hawaii
Molokai is considered the most pristine of all the Hawaiian islands and here the indigenous culture is still very much alive. Molokai is very untouched and far away from mass tourism. Adventurers and nature lovers will get their money’s worth here.
Maolokai Top Highlights
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
In the past, patients infected with leprosy were brought here to live far away from civilization.
This was once one of the oldest Hawaiian settlements. It is a great place to hike and discover the Hawaiian culture.
How much time do I need for Molokai?
You should spend at least 2-3 days here to really get to know the island.
Hotel Recommendation for Molokai
Molokai is the right island for you if…
…you want to discover the indigenous culture and experience a true island paradise as an adventurer.
Conclusion: Which is the most beautiful Hawaii Island?
This question is of course totally individual to answer and we hope we could give you some tips to decide which island is the right one for you.
If you would ask us for our subjective opinion, then the most beautiful (because most original) Hawaii islands are Kauai and Maui. We liked it best there and tourism is not as rampant as on the main island of Oahu.