Discover the magic of the Hawaiian Islands by touring each one. These jewels of the Pacific feature tropical beauty, warm breezes, and friendly people. What's more, the beaches of Hawaii have drawn visitors for centuries. If you don't have the time or money to visit all of the Hawaiian Islands, then select a couple to explore using this Hawaii travel guide:
Hawaii's Big Island
Hawaii's Big Island is the largest in the Hawaiian chain and offers visitors the most diverse landscape. The Big Island has 11 of 13 climate zones, including rain forests, beaches, mountains, volcanoes and more.
The Big Island has two airports: Kona International Airport (KOA) on the west side and Hilo International Airport (ITO) on the east. Vacationers can make the most of their trip by flying into one airport and flying out of the other airport. This ensures you access to some of the best sightseeing in the world.
Luxury hotels, bed and breakfasts and standard hotels populate the island. For golfers, the Big Island is an ideal choice because it is home to 18 separate golf courses. Popular activities include hiking, lava tube walks, surfing, scuba diving and for the coffee lovers, coffee plantation tours. Expert skiers can enjoy the slopes of Mauna Kea although the region is not recommended for beginners. While you're vacationing, make plans to visit:
- Hilo Farmer's Market: It offers products from over 200 local craftsmen, growers and more.
- Akaka Falls State Park: This lush, tropical rainforest is home to massive waterfalls.
- Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park: Features some of the most magnificent, up-close views of volcanic activity.
History buffs will also enjoy touring Hulihe'e Palace, a former vacation home of the Hawaiian royalty, located along the water near Kailua-Kona. The structure is filled with traditional Hawaiian furniture, paintings, quilts, and other decorative arts. Also, don't miss touring the luxury beachfront resorts, which line the west coast of the island. The Big Island also boasts an orchid farm and a working cattle ranch.
Maui is an island of many faces. It has the luxury beach resort villages of Kapalua and Kaanapali, alongside the scenic village of Hana, which is home to hundreds of pristine waterfalls.
Don't Miss Experiences
While on Maui, be sure to visit the dormant volcano, Mt. Haleakala, which is renowned for its beautiful sunrises. Spend a day in Lahaina, a 17th century whaling village and missionary outpost, where you can shop for arts, crafts and other cultural treasures. Maui is also the site of Hawaii's prime whale watching center. Each year in late November, hundreds of humpback whales arrive from their summer homes in the Bering Sea to spend the winter in the warm Hawaiian waters. The whales stay until early June, with the peak viewing months being January through April.
Other notable experiences include the drive to Hana. You can take a shuttle bus or drive it yourself. The road offers 600 curves and 54 bridges and shouldn't be missed. You should also make time to visit Maui's incredible beaches which offer something for everyone, including windsurfing and boogie boarding.
The island of Oahu is home to the state capital, Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, and two of the world's best surfing beaches, Sunset and Waimea. Visitors fly into Oahu's main airport, Honolulu International (HNL), which doubles as a main entry point for most visitors to the Hawaiian Island chain.
Top Tourist Spots
The bustling city of Honolulu offers visitors the benefits of a large city, such as excellent shopping and fine dining restaurants, in a scenic tropical setting. White sand, Waikiki Beach spans the downtown shoreline. Outside of town, the somber Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is a moving tribute to the sailors and airmen who lost their lives on that terrible day in December 1941. Further inland, the Mormon-run Polynesian Cultural Center contains seven authentically recreated villages, representing the cultures that came together to populate the Hawaiian Islands. During your stay, you'll want to be sure to visit the following:
- Waikiki: The beach and resort area is one of the best known in the world.
- Pearl Harbor: The national landmark is open to the public and offers daily tours.
- North Shore: Sunset and Waimea beaches are home to some of the most dramatic and challenging surf in the world.
- Iolani Palace: A cultural oddity within the United States as the only official royal residence of the former Hawaiian Kingdom's monarchs.
Visitors fly into Kauai's main airport in Lihue located on the southeastern part of the island. Unlike its sister isles, Kauai is quieter and offers a laid-back environment. Kauai is filled with scenic wonders, from the lush and tropical fern grotto, site of many an island wedding, to the deep and craggy Waimea Canyon, a smaller and more colorful version of the Grand Canyon.
What to Do
Kauai has starred in many films, including the musical, South Pacific, Disney's Lilo and Stitch, and Jurassic Park. Vacationers have the option of staying at a luxury resort, vacation rental or country cottages. The variety of places to stay makes Kauai an ideal honeymoon spot. The island's natural beauty should be experienced by visiting:
- Wailua River: The winding river offers some of the most awe-inspiring views in the world.
- Kilauea Lighthouse: A majestic scenic point that is popular with visitors of all ages.
- Napali Coast: Indulge yourself with an air or boat tour of the magnificent cliffs of the islands North Shore.
One of the smallest islands in the Hawaiian chain, Lanai is just 18 miles long at its longest point. The small island destination doesn't boast a lot of direct flights, but visitors can take a short hop over from Honolulu. Lanai consists mainly of pineapple plantations. The scenic island is also home to two luxury resorts, the beachfront Manele Bay and the inland, Lodge at Koele. Lanai has little nightlife and shopping, but it is a perfect destination for honeymooners or anyone looking to "get away from it all." Even if you only go over for a day, be sure to check out:
- Kaiolohia: A secluded beach popular for a shipwreck located just off the shore.
- Keahiakawelo: Also known as the "Garden of the Gods," it is a four wheeler's heaven.
Remember when traveling to Hawaii to plan on dressing casually. You'll want a jacket for evenings and early mornings. Skiers and hikers planning to head for higher elevations will need warmer clothes. Nightclubs and restaurants typically require semi-formal or dress casual. Skip the suits and ties, as few wear them in the Aloha State.