It doesn’t require much convincing to get visitors to Hawaii. Nearly half of Hawaii’s visitors return for at least one more trip. Whether it’s your first time or a return visit, fill your itinerary with the perfect combination of island hopping, action and rest, water and land, and indulgence and nourishment with this handy guide to the most commonly-visited islands.
“The Gathering Place” Oahu is the third largest Hawaiian island but home to the largest city, Honolulu. Since Honolulu International Airport is the hub for Hawaiian Airlines, Oahu is the easiest to reach for international visitors. Each coast of the island has its own flare, from the buzzing nightlife in Waikiki to the surf culture on the North Shore and peaceful paradise of the Windward Coast.
Must see: On a day that will live in infamy, Pearl Harbor became the centre of a surprise attack that brought the US into WWII. All 5 historical sites, including the USS Arizona and Battleship Missouri memorials, are open to visitors by daily tours. Pearl Harbor is still an active navy base, reminding visitors just how important it is to learn world history and what we can do to prevent the history from repeating itself.
Must do: The Royal Hawaiian Center houses more than 100 shops and restaurants, including luxury brands and arts and crafts shops, right on Waikiki’s main street. A bit further, the Waikele Premium Outlets offers top fashion brands at incredible discounts. Getting to the outlets from Waikiki is a snap with the many shuttle services available daily.
Must eat: Matsumoto shave ice, a North Shore institution, has been serving tropical-flavoured shave ice - a finely shaved snow cone - since the 1950s. A day spent surfing or sunbaking along the storied North Shore is complete with this treat. Don’t mind the queue - this chilly delight is worth the wait!
Proud to claim the title of second-most visited Hawaiian island, Maui is equal parts charming and breathtaking. Accommodation is found in three main areas: West Maui, home to Kapalua, Kaanapali, and Lahaina - and the airport; South Maui, home to Wailea and Makena; and East Maui, home to the Road to Hana. Although many of the resorts are enough to keep visitors entertained, satiated, and utterly relaxed, it’s worth stepping out to explore the historic small towns, listen to live music, eat from local food trucks, and take in sunrises and sunsets from different views.
Must see: The Road to Hana is as epic as it sounds. Filled with dazzling scenery, this famous route along the Hana Highway rounds 600 bends, traverses 60 bridges, and passes sparkling white sand beaches, historic towns, and mesmerizing waterfalls. Drive slowly and make as many stops as necessary to satisfy your wide-eye curiosity.
Must do: Molokai Crater, shaped like a crescent moon, is a volcanic atoll off the coast of Maui. Daily trips leave from the South to bring visitors to this famous marine life hotspot for snorkelling, diving, whale watching, and swimming.
Must eat: It wouldn’t be a trip to Hawaii without a food truck meal! Stop by the South Maui Fish Co. truck in Kihei for the fresh catch, Hawaiian style. Spring for poke, a classic Hawaiian dish, or bring the heat with a fish taco.
The northernmost island, Kauai is slower to change than many of the other islands. As a spectacular result, the pace of life is even more relaxed, the rural landscape even more untouched, and the natural wonders even more pristine. Kauai is so striking that it has been chosen as a filming destination for many Hollywood movies and TV shows!
Must see: Soar from the sky in a helicopter over Waimea Valley, Napali Coast, and rushing waterfalls. The staggering landscape is dramatic from any angle, but the best views of it all come from the perspective of a bird’s eye view.
Must do: A sunset cruise around the Napali Coast is the best way to absorb the powerful vistas. The coastline stretches for 27 kilometres, with cliffs reaching over 900 metres. As the sun paints the sky, the lush greenery of the coast will stand out in its brilliance.
Must eat: This is not your average coffee shop: Java Kai is bound to be the trendiest place you visit. Your coffee is roasted to perfection, your breakfast is fresh and filling, and any cravings you have to shop will be satisfied by the shop’s sunshine-ready apparel and accessories.
Island of Hawaii
“The Big Island” earned its title by being the largest of the chain. Thanks to the gigantic Maunakea and Maunaloa volcanoes, the Island of Hawaii has all four of the world’s climate zones. The force of the volcanoes is still felt today, as Kilauea Volcano is one of the world’s most active.
Must see: One of the most sacred spots in Hawaii is the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park, which used to be home of royal grounds. Here, visitors will see the ruins of an ancient chief’s home, incredible wooden figures of gods that guard the temple of Hale o Keawe Heiau, and more.
Must do: A round of golf should be on every visitor’s list, no matter what their skill level! The Big Island has the best golf in one of the dreamiest golf destinations in the world. Perfect views of the Pacific Ocean and massive volcanic rock to pair with a perfect swing.
Must eat: Sweet Cane Cafe packs a healthy punch for visitors. The benefits of sugarcane juice range from alkalising the body to preventing cold and flu and beyond. Grab a nourishing smoothie or simply delicious cane juice - everything from the cafe is as replenishing as the scenery is exciting!