While we recommend that you spend a little time getting to know each island, we know you may have to choose a handful to visit – or just one. To make choosing a little easier, we’ve curated the single best thing to do on each island. (Plus, did you know that there are actually around 130 islands recorded in the state of Hawaii?)
1. Kaua’i – The Garden Island
The aptly-named Garden Island is home to stunning state parks and tropical areas packed with hiking trails, campsites, and beaches. Kaua’i is the hiker’s paradise, and an island best suited to those looking for less time tanning on the beach, and more time checking out incredible vistas, waterfalls, and evergreen valleys.
2. O’ahu – The Gathering Place
Home to spots like Banzai Pipeline and Backdoor, O’ahu’s North Shore boasts some of the world’s most famous – and most dangerous – surf breaks. Snag a spot on the beach during one of the many international surf competitions held on the North Shore, and try not to gape as surfers skim down 30+ foot waves.
3. Maui – The Valley Isle
We can’t blame Pacific-based humpback whales for wintering in the waters off Maui, the state’s best island for whale watching. After a 3,500 mile migration from Alaskan waters, humpbacks settle in Maui’s ‘Au’au Channel, where tourists can spot baby whales breaching. Our partners at The Whaleman Foundation support these incredible cetaceans through research programs that help develop whale watching guidelines that protect and respect whales.
4. Hawai’i – The Big Island
The Big Island is composed of five shield volcanoes, three of which are active (Mauna Loa, Hualalai, and Kilauea). You can tour all five, but we recommend choosing a tour that will allow you to see some lava action. Camp, hike, and explore volcanoes and more at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
5. Moloka’i – The Friendly Isle
Get your hips swinging. Moloka’i is the birthplace of hula, and no trip to this island would be complete without a hula lesson or two. Take it one step further by visiting the island during the annual Moloka’i Ka Hula Piko festival.
6. Lana’i – The Pineapple Isle
Whether or not you like the fruit (no judging here), pineapples are a huge part of the island’s history – James Dole actually purchased the entire island of Lana’i in 1922, and turned it into the world’s largest pineapple plantation. While the current Dole Plantation is on the island of O’ahu (even more reason for a quick island hop), we recommend diving into the local culture by touring the island’s small villages – and snacking on its signature fruit along the way.