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The Best Islands for your Next Vacation to Hawaii

Hawaii is an amazing vacation destination, but with so many places to see, which one do you choose? Here's a breakdown of what each island has to offer to help you decide which island to travel to for your Hawaiian vacation.

Are you suddenly fantasizing about travelling to Hawaii? Great idea, but if you’ve never been there you’re probably wondering, “Which is the best island for me?” With its six main islands, Oahu, Hawaii (or Big Island), Kauai, Maui, Lanai, and Molokai, the 50th state offers everything from world-class surfing and snorkelling, to a dynamic food (poké, anyone?) and hotel scene attracting a new generation of travellers. Here is Skyscanner’s break down of what each island has to offer so you can choose what’s right for you for your next Hawaiian vacation.

Best Islands to Visit in Hawaii

With such diversity, it also gives long-time visitors a fresh perspective on each trip. Let us guide you to the ideal island while helping you find the cheapest flights to Hawaii.

We all have different reasons to choose a particular destination for your vacation. So, you should start by thinking about the activities you would like to do in Hawaii as well as the people who will accompany you. No matter where you’re going, it’s important to determine the attractions and experiences you’re interested in when planning a vacation. This is the fascinating side of Hawaii – each island offers a lot of unique experiences to keep you busy every moment!

Oahu: Surf, Crowds & Food

Whether you want to have fun with the waves or simply walk at your own pace, you can’t go wrong with Oahu. For many, it is the perfect Hawaiian island. It is without a doubt the surfing capital of the world with its waves challenging even the most adventurous professional surfers while novices can take their first “steps” and learn.

Some say the heart of Hawaii really beats in Honolulu. The state capital certainly has a lot to offer with beautiful panoramas, shopping, restaurants, entertainment, and world-class resorts. Three-quarters of Hawaii’s residents call it home. It’s crowded, so everyone rubs elbows on the bus and city sidewalks.

Foodies if you do nothing else on Oahu – eat! And then eat some more. Food trucks, farmers markets and fusion menus created by Hawaii’s star chefs are all here, with so much food options waiting to be enjoyed. The trendy dish of poké is originally from Hawaii and consists of a bowl mixed with raw tuna or salmon, rice and a variety of vegetables. It can be enjoyed as an appetizer or a full meal. 

You can also shop, play golf, relax, swim and snorkel between visits to the restaurants. Don’t forget to admire the landscapes and savour the local specialities. Oahu is considered a perfect meeting point for everyone and a variety of experiences available on the island make it an excellent choice for all types of travellers. Relax and indulge in Oahu’s laid-back atmosphere, taking full advantage of quintessential Hawaii.

Best Islands in Hawaii
Best Islands in Hawaii: Oahu
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Hawaii the Big Island: Hiking and Wildlife

Twice as large as all the other islands in the archipelago put together, this island is overflowing with incredible opportunities, from Mauna Kea’s snow-capped peak to brilliant beaches, and the underwater marvels they offer.

It is perfect for trail junkies. Kilauea, Earth’s most active volcano, conjures up a dreamscape for hikers: Emerald valleys, icy waterfall pools, lava flows crashing against the rainforest and some of the loftiest summits you will ever struggle to climb.

Hawaii is a top island for explorers and an ideal destination for travellers who want more than a little adventure during their vacation. It is the Hawaiian island least visited by tourists, giving you the feeling that it belongs only to you. On the Big Island, culture is participatory – absorbed, rather than simply observed.

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Kauai: Landscapes and Lifestyle

Let’s say you have always wanted to see the Grand Canyon. How about visiting the Pacific version of the Grand Canyon? The Waimea Canyon is one of those places you have to see at least once in a lifetime. Each point of view reveals a kaleidoscope of colours and grandiose landscapes. You can also kayak Hawaii’s only navigable river.

The rest of the rugged terrain on the “Garden Isle” ranges from gaping chasms to dramatic coastal cliffs, balanced by luscious forests.

Surfing and an irresistibly laid-back vibe make up the lifestyle on this mostly rural island. Kauai’s North Shore is home to many folks who came to check in and stayed to tune out.

Although perhaps not as popular as other islands, Kauai offers the perfect combination of natural wonders and island culture, while presenting an impressive variety of accommodation options and amenities.

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Maui: Relaxation and Adventure

Maui has got a beach for every mood, from kiteboarding meccas to calm snorkelling coves, hidden gems and some of the biggest surfable waves on the planet. Or you may just lay down on the sand and scan the horizon for wintering whales while working on your tan.

Some consider that Maui offers the best balance between relaxation and adventure. It constantly moves from simply beautiful landscapes to breathtaking views.

The island’s hiking trails wind through a bamboo forest, climb to lofty ridgetops, wander past waterfalls and crunch through a cindery volcanic national park. Although the Hana Road is a must, you can also cycle down the Haleakala volcano, offering the world’s longest downhill bike course.

It is also a paradise for those gourmet foodies searching for a local food experience. Grass-fed beef from country pastures, day-boat fish, and bountiful organic gardens ensure Maui’s chef-driven restaurants have the raw ingredients to whip up their famed regional creations.

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Lanai: Remoteness and History

Lanai feels like an isolated bit of subtropical pleasure far from the rest of the world. It is the smallest inhabited island in Hawaii, less than 15 kilometres from Maui yet a world away. It is split between luxurious resorts and rugged back roads where you can discover off-the-beaten-path treasures, hiking or horseback riding. You are sure to find serenity, adventure, and privacy on Lanai.

Almost the entire island was once planted with pineapples, which were exported around the world for much of the 20th century. The crops are gone, but the vintage plantation town of Lanaʻi City is timeless and unique.

Lanai’s main beach, Hulupo’e Beach is a long crescent of sand on a bay, backed by a tidy, uncrowded park. It is perfect for snorkelling and possibly spotting turtles and dolphins. Remember not to touch and only observe them in awe!

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Molokai: Culture and Adventure

Hawaii’s fifth largest island, Molokai, is only about 60 kilometres long and 16 kilometres across at its widest point. The highest sea cliffs in the world and the longest continuous reef make it a breathtaking destination.

Molokai remains true to its island roots, with more than 50% of its population being of native Hawaiian ancestry. They continue to preserve their rural lifestyle thanks to their love of the land which precedes promoting tourism. The “aloha” spirit is genuine here rather than paid-for. Molokai is also famous as a dream wedding destination.

When to Go to Hawaii

The Hawaiian islands are a popular escape for Canadians between December and March, despite it being Hawaii’s wet season. The islands actually see their best weather from April to June and from September to mid-December. On the other hand, it is warm all year long. The north and east side of any island have a cooler and wetter climate, while south and west destinations are hotter and drier. Find the cheapest flights to Hawaii with Skyscanner. Search for flights to Hawaii below. 

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