Which Hawaii Island to Visit?

Island Information & Quiz

Hawaiian Islands

Which Hawaii Island to Visit?

Which Island to Choose in Hawaii...

Like many visitors to Hawaii, you're probably wondering which Hawaii island to visit and thinking about which one would be best for you and your travel party. Unlike many destinations, Hawaii is not really one destination - but six unique, eclectic, and diverse island destinations that all happen to be within the same state. The six main islands, four of which we cover in detail on this site, are, from west to east, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii.

The islands are very diverse, and each one has its own unique offerings, making choosing an island rather difficult, especially for first-time visitors. And once you've started visiting the islands, coming back to a different island can often feel like a totally different place with a whole new set of experiences, sights, and attractions. Additionally, one of the most common misconceptions about Hawaii is that it's all like Waikiki (on Oahu), Lahaina/Ka'anapali (on Maui), or Kailua-Kona (on the Big Island) - that is, developed and tourist-oriented. The reality could not be further from the truth, as there are plenty of non-developed parts of the island chain, including large ranches, farms, miles of wild coastline and untamed landscapes, and an abundance of verdant valleys bursting with waterfalls.

Having been to all the major islands, we admit we have our own personal favorite. However, please know that each island truly is spectacular, and one is most certainly not "better" than another. That said, here we'll objectively tell you about the major islands in the Hawaiian chain so you can pick the island that's just right for you. And, like us, we’re sure you’ll soon have a favorite. Take the handy 'Which Island to visit Quiz' below and read our companion article, Selecting the Best Hawaiian Island, to find the best Hawaiian island for you. To get started, let's first review each major island and its highlights.

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Hawaii Driving Tour Apps

Location-Based Applications

It's like having a tour guide in your car! Listen to stories, legends, history, and what to do and see, at the right place and time.

Shaka Guide uses your GPS to guide you to interesting places along the way on each of the main Hawaiian islands. Automatic audio tours with turn-by-turn directions mean all you need to do is to turn on the tour and drive. Check out driving Tours for Circle Island Oahu, North Shore Kauai, and Waimea Canyon & Na Pali Coast.

Overview of Each Major Island

Kauai - The Garden Isle Image

Kauai - The Garden Isle

The oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian Island chain is graced with dramatic, natural beauty. Explore Kokee State Park's trails, see Waimea Canyon- the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific"- or take time to relax in one of the many beautiful gardens of the aptly named 'Garden Isle,' such as Limahuli Garden.

In our opinion, Kauai represents the most iconic view of Hawaii - lush surroundings, verdant valley, an abundance of waterfalls and rainbows. This island is probably the most "rural" of the main Hawaiian Islands. It offers the perfect getaway for romantic trips, anyone seeking relaxation away from the hustle/bustle of everyday life, or those looking to explore the backcountry trails, of which Kauai has plenty (some of the best hikes in the state can found on Kauai). Check out our Kauai Regions guide to learn more about the different parts of Kauai.

There is one main airport that services Kauai, in Lihue. There are also plenty of great places to stay on Kauai, including the North & Eastern Coasts and more recent property developments along the southern shore. Be sure to read our article on Where to Stay on Kauai to help you select the perfect location.

Kauai Highlights:
Kauai's Incredible NaPali Coastline

Kauai's Incredible NaPali Coastline

Oahu - The Gathering Place Image

Oahu - The Gathering Place

Home to the Hawaii state capitol of Honolulu and the majority of Hawaii's population, Oahu is a vibrant mix of natural and cultural wonders with the entertainment and amenities of the 21st century. Check out the waves on the famous North Shore, relive American history at the memorials and museums of Pearl Harbor, or soak up the sun and take a surfing lesson on Waikiki Beach.

Oahu is truly a hot-spot for Hawaii activities, tours, shopping, surfing, nightlife, and dining. The island is the most developed of the major islands, and it'll feel like it - it's busy here, and unlike some areas of Hawaii, there's more hustle and bustle around the clock. But don't worry, there's plenty of natural Oahu to visit, too, including some amazing trails, incredible overlooks, and plenty of stunning coastal views to go around. Check out our Oahu Regions guide to learn more about the different parts of Oahu.

There is primarily one main airport that services Oahu, and it's located in Honolulu. Most of Oahu's accommodations are located in Waikiki, but there are other lodging gems scattered around the island. Be sure to check out our Where to Stay on Oahu article for more information.

Oahu Highlights:
  • Waikiki Beach - Iconic gathering place for visitors from around the world.
  • Pearl Harbor - Explore the historic sites recounting the Pearl Harbor attack.
  • Hanauma Bay & Nature Preserve - One of Hawaii's premier snorkeling sites.
  • Nuuanu Pali Lookout - Historic spot with fantastic mountain views.
  • North Shore - Legendary birthplace of big wave surfing.
Pali Overlook on Oahu

Pali Overlook on Oahu

Maui - The Valley Isle Image

Maui - The Valley Isle

The second-largest island is home to what some believe are the best beaches in the world. If you visit during the winter months, book a tour to see the majestic whales, as Maui has some of the world’s best whale watching. Wake up early to catch the sunrise at Haleakala, stroll through historic Lahaina town, or drive the majestic Road to Hana for spectacular scenery.

There's a reason many repeat visitors to Hawaii joyfully say, "Maui no ka oi" - which translates to "Maui is the best." Maui offers a little bit of everything in Hawaii, providing the best mix of nature and developed areas (towns), good snorkeling, great hiking trails, a volcano you can hike into, and so much more. Honestly, Maui makes a great island to visit for first-time visitors, and it's probably why more people who take our quiz (below) are given the suggestion of Maui than any other island. Check out our Maui Regions guide to learn more about the different parts of Maui.

The main airport on Maui is in Kahului. Many of the best accommodations are on the West coastline (in Lahaina or Ka'anapali) or along the south shore (within Kihei and Wailea). Be sure to check out our Where to Stay on Maui article for more information.

Maui Highlights:
Waterfall along the famous Road to Hana

Waterfall along the famous Road to Hana

Big Island of Hawaii - The Orchid Isle Image

Big Island of Hawaii - The Orchid Isle

Larger than all of the other islands combined, the island of Hawaii, also known as Big Island, encompasses most of the world's climate zones - from white sand beaches to snow-capped mountains. See waterfalls, rainforests, and botanical gardens near Hilo; explore the historic PuuKohola Heiau, north of Kona; or view Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The sheer size of the Big Island of Hawaii also gives it a 'rural' feel, much like Kauai has, but so much larger! Plus, the island's diversity is truly astounding; there's nothing else quite like it; Hawaii Island is as eclectic as they come; from lush and verdant rainforests to barren black lava fields that stretch for miles. Check out our Big Island of Hawaii Regions guide to learn more about the different parts of Hawaii Island.

Two airports service the Big Island, one in Kailua-Kona (on the west side of the island) and the other in Hilo (on the east side). Most visitors will fly into Kona's airport, as most accommodations are located on the western side of the island. Don't forget to read our Where to Stay on the Big Island to get an overview of all the major accommodation locations on the island.

Big Island of Hawaii Highlights:
Lava Tube on Hawaii's Big Island

Lava Tube on Hawaii's Big Island

Take our Which Island to Visit Quiz

Discover the best island(s) for your travel party by scoring your personal interests. Our quiz will generate a private & personalized page, customized just for you.

Take our Which Island to Visit Quiz Related Image

2022-2023 Hawaii Budget Calculator

Estimate the Cost of your Hawaii Vacation

Aloha, guest readers can calculate five (5) trip cost estimates for Hawaii each day. Rates included within this calculator are based on projected Summer & Fall 2022 rates aggregated from current OTA pricing. Rates will be updated regularly.

HawaiiGuide Premium members can submit unlimited trip estimates each day.

Aloha, as a HawaiiGuide Premium member you can calculate unlimited Hawaii trip cost estimates each day. Mahalo for being a HawaiiGuide Premium member!

Calculator Overview

This calculator is designed to provide both a comprehensive and regularly updated budget estimate for planning a trip to Hawaii. Currently, rates are applicable for 2022-2023. Generally, these rates should provide a good estimate for any time period between 2022-2024.

This budget tool considers all of the following:
  • Hawaii Flight Costs including airfare from various destinations, baggage fees, etc.
  • Hawaii Accommodation Costs including different lodging types, Hawaii's now roughly 18% accommodation tax, parking fees (if applicable), which island you're staying on, etc.
  • Hawaii Vehicle Rental Costs including various types of vehicles, fuel costs, and number of miles driven daily.
  • Additional Costs including dining + gratuity, visitor fees to parks, etc., and Hawaii Tours and Activity costs.

Hawaii Flight Costs

First, consider your flight costs to Hawaii. Select your departure location, update the number of travelers (if applicable), and check whether you expect to pay baggage fees, below.


Hawaii Accommodation Costs

Next, let us know which island you'll be visiting (select the primary island if you're visiting more than one), select a lodging type/classification, update the number of nights (default is set to a week), update the number or rooms (if applicable), and check whether you expect to pay parking fees (common in more densely populated areas on Oahu and/or Maui).



Hawaii Car Rental Costs

Now, let's consider your vehicle rental costs (if applicable). If you're not renting a car, select 'No Car,' but for most visitors, we highly recommend a rental. Update the number of days (which will default to +1 day more than you selected in accommodation nights) and choose an estimate for your mileage each day. If you're not sure, we recommend you leave the default option selected.


If you select 'No Car' this will be zeroed out by default!















Other Hawaii Costs

Finally, consider a few last potential costs and fees for your trip. There's dining (we've included gratuity in the estimates), and we've selected all three meal options by default. Then, there are potential fees for parks and other attractions, which are a relatively new factor to now consider when estimating a Hawaii budget; select the applicable options below. Finally, select the amount, if any, you expect to spend on Hawaii Tours and/or commercial Activities. Be sure to update the number of people dining and people the fees/tours apply to if applicable; these numbers will default to the same number of people you selected previously for this trip estimate.













Email + Expected Travel Dates

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You may not have exact dates yet, but provide a rough guess or estimate below. This will help us refine the calculator and provide more accurate data throughout the year. Mahalo!

Final Question

If you're visiting another island, please let us know below. This will not affect the estimate or rate you're provided. This is for research and calculator improvement purposes only. Mahalo!

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