So you’re thinking about going to Hawaii. Good call – especially if you’ve never been. And if you’ve never been to Hawaii, you might just be wondering “which Hawaiian island is right for me?” We live for questions like this, because it gets us in a Hawaii state of mind, thinking about and discussing one of our favourite locales on the planet.
We’ve all got different reasons for picking a vacation destination, so it helps to think what you’d like to be doing when you go to Hawaii, as well as who you’re going with. One common theme with vacations, no matter the destination: you definitely want to see or do things that you wouldn’t get to experience at home. That’s what’s so great about Hawaii – each island offers its own world of amazing and unique experiences, each and every moment. So do you choose Hawaii Island, Kauai, Maui or Oahu?
It’s the Big Island, more than twice the size of all the other Hawaiian Islands put together. And Hawaii Island is chock full of big possibilities, from the snow-covered peak of Mauna Kea to brilliant beaches and an incredible world on and underneath the waters offshore.
Hawaii Island Experiences: do the day-trip tour of Volcano National Park, and witness the world’s most active volcano (Volcanoes! Cool on Nat Geo Channel, yes. Way cooler in person.); Hawaii Island offers some of the finest snorkelling and scuba diving sites anywhere – snorkelling with Manta rays is an excursion you’ll be sure to remember for a long, long time; take a Kona coffee plantation tour and fall in love with the world’s finest coffee.
Hawaii is the island for explorers, and those who want more than just a little adventure on their vacation. It’s the least “tourist-y” of the Hawaiian Islands, and if you look around, it’s where you’re most likely to find a special and unique place that feels like it’s yours and yours alone.
Let’s say you’ve always wanted to see the Grand Canyon. How about the Grand Canyon of the Pacific? Waimea Canyon is one of those places that everyone should see at least once. Every angle from every vantage point reveals a kaleidoscope of colour and scenic wonder.
Kauai experiences: Kauai is nicknamed “the Garden Isle”, and it’s in Hawaii, so of course you’ll want to enjoy a lot of time outdoors; Kauai offers a multitude of hiking experiences like Waimea Canyon, Kalalau Trail and Hanakapiai Falls; day cruises and sailing tours are a great way to see the island; Po’ipu Beach and Kalapaki on the island’s south coast are the beaches that you have in mind when you think of paradise.
Though perhaps not as celebrated as the other islands, Kauai offers its own distinct mix of natural wonders and island culture, along with outstanding resorts and amenities, so that your visit here feels like a complete experience of Hawaii.
Whether you’re hanging ten or just hanging out, you can’t go wrong on Oahu. For many, this is the quintessential Hawaiian island. It’s the undisputed surf capital of the world, with waves to challenge the gnarliest pro surfer, but even rookie surfers can find their feet and catch some waves here. Of course, Oahu offers a broad mix of Hawaiian culture, from the beach life to the big city.
Oahu experiences. Some say Honolulu is where the heart of Hawaii truly beats, and the state capital certainly offers great sightseeing, shopping, restaurants, entertainment and world-class resorts; the famed North Shore is where you’ll find the big waves, as well funky surf towns like Haleiva, shrimp trucks and the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Surf. Shop. Golf. Relax. Swim. Snorkel. Dine. See the sights. Feast on local delicacies. Oahu is known as “The Gathering Place”, and the variety of experiences here make it a great choice for all sorts of travellers. Relax and embrace the laidback island vibe, while you enjoy as much of the quintessential Hawaii experience as you’d like.
Some feel that Maui offers the best balance of chill relaxation and island adventure. The scenery ranges from simply beautiful to utterly breathtaking – and that’s just on the Road to Hana.
Maui experiences. Yes, the Road to Hana is a must-see; you’ll also want to bike the volcano – Haleakala offers the world’s longest downhill bike tours; Maui is known for its impressive culinary scene, so a gourmet seafood meal is also high on the list; hit the beach, and get out on or under the water; from December to May, get up close and personal with humpback whales on a Maui whale watching excursion.
Like we said above, Maui is about the best kind of balance: yes, there’s surely a spot just for you on the beach, where you can relax the day away if you choose. You can also set your own pace and enjoy the incredible array of activities and attractions that you’ll find here.
The verdict: there’s really no wrong island. It’s all amazing here, because for starters, you’re in Hawaii. Be a tourist, and go see the local attractions – or let loose at a luau. Be a foodie, and enjoy the excellent cuisine you’ll find no matter which island you visit. Be an adventurer, and challenge yourself. Above all, be on vacation, and relax – in Hawaii. Which certainly is something you can’t do at home.
WestJet Vacations offers a variety of Hawaii experiences, from resort packages to condo and villa rentals, to suit many whims and every budget.