“Which Hawaii Island Should I Visit?”


February 19, 2020

Here we go folks, THE number 1 question I get asked about Hawaii is finally being answered. Which Hawaii Island Should I visit? I think I’m a prettyyyyy solid resource for this answer. I’ve been to every accessible Hawaii island, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to the major islands. Each island has it’s own charm and believe it or not, they are all quite different from each other.

You might be reading this because you stumbled across it, or you’re considering hiring me as your photog when you visit (hollar!) or you just asked me the very question this blog is about so I sent you the link. No matter how you got here, I’m happy to answer this question for you! Hawaii is a magical place, with so much to offer. So here is my definitive answer for the major islands, with recommendations of course!

crouching lion hike

Oahu – The gathering place

Oahu is the most populated island, however it is not the largest. This is where you will find lots of shopping, city life, and me! My home base is in the country on the north shore, which is also home to some of the most famous surf breaks in the world. I always recommend Oahu to people who love nightlife, shopping, hiking and want to spend a lot of their vacay at different beaches. If you want to be in the mix of the city, Waikiki is for you. I personally avoid Waikiki, as I’m a small town girl at heart. So if you are looking for something more low key, consider staying on the east side or north shore.

Where to fly in: Honolulu
Favorite hikes: Lanikai Pillbox, Crouching Lion, Manoa Falls
Favorite beaches: Lanikai, Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay, Sheerwood Forrest
Favorite food: Elephant Truck, Haleiwa Bowls, Ted’s Bakery, Leonard’s, Kalapawai Deli, and honestly Foodland’s poke bowls
Other things to do: Pearl Harbor, snorkeling at Shark’s Cove, Kayaking in Lanikai, paddle boarding in Haleiwa, hanging out at Turtle Bay, Kualoa Ranch tours

Maui – The Valley Isle

Maui is the second largest island so there are tons of things to do! I like to go to Maui when I want a boujee vacay near Lahaina, but there are definitely some more low key areas in Kihei. It’s a great island to come to relax and explore. There’s still a bit of nightlife and shopping available, but it’s a lot more chill than Oahu. Like… A LOT.

Where to fly in: Kahului
Favorite things to do: Road to Hana, sunrise (must reserve a spot ahead of time) or sunset at Haleakala National Park, whale watching (in the winter) and shopping in Lahaina, Molokini Snorkel Tour, snorkeling at Kaanapali beach, diving with Banyan Tree Divers, taking the ferry over to Lanai.
Favorite beaches: Kaanapali, Makena, Napili Bay, Ho’okipa
Favorite food:  Tiki Tiki Thai, Mama’s Fish House, Star Noodle, Maui Brewing Co.

Kauai – The Garden Isle

Kauai is the least developed of the major islands, so if you are looking for a more “traditional” Hawaii vacay away from crowds, this is for you. You won’t find much nightlife here, but the beaches are secluded and the views are some of the most incredible that you will ever see in your life.  There’s tons of outdoor activities to do here, and dare I say they have the best food of the islands?? I dare to say. I also have a separate blog all about one of my Kauai trips you can read here.

Where to fly in: Lihue
Favorite things to do: The Napali Coast (there are SO many ways to see this coast by foot and boat, and you must do at least one), Waimea Canyon, Alakai Swamp Trail, Kamokila Village, Wailua Falls, Kalalau Trail, floating the river with Kauai Backcountry Adventures
Favorite Beaches: Shipwrecks, Poipu, Kiahuna, Kalapaki, Makua, Cannon’s
Favorite Food: Tiki Tacos, Island Taco, Makai Sushi, Lava Lava Beach Club, Lotus Garden Chinese + Thai, the cookie dough ice cream sandwich at Papalani Gelato

Hawaii – The Big Island

So. Much. To. Do. Here!! Seriously, the Big Island is adventure island and it has a bit of everything that Hawaii has to offer. This is another island that I wrote a separate blog for. If you love adventuring, going to remote areas, and want to see lava – yes LAVA – this is the island for you! The beaches aren’t as accessible here as the other islands, but they are so worth it. This island is so big that I’ve done a lot but at the same time have barely scratched the surface!

Where to fly in: Kona or Hilo
Favorite things to do: South Point, Green Sand Beach, Mauna Kea, Waipio Valley, Manta Ray night dive or snorkeling (I love going with Big Island Divers!), Hawaii Volcanos National Park, Rainbow Falls, snorkeling at the Captain Cook monument, Uncle Robert’s Awa Bar and Farmers Market
Favorite Beaches: Beach 69, Hapuna Beach, Makalawena, Ahalanui hot pond (not sure if it still accessible after the last lava flow)
Favorite Food: Huggo’s, Umeke’s Poke, Kona Haven Cafe, Kona Brewing Co, Moon and Turtle

If you’re still asking yourself “Which Hawaii Island Should I Visit?” I post about all of them all the time over on my ‘gram! Head over to @chelseastratso to peep my travels!

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