What’s the Best Island to Visit?
Why is Kauai the best island to visit? Well in comparison to Oahu or Maui, it is the less touristy place, but more importantly, there are tons of beaches and amazing hikes to go around the island. It’s a place full of adventure and you won’t forget any of it. From the Na Pali Coast to the peaceful valley of Hanalei to the beaches down at Poipu, it’s everything you’d want in a visit to Hawaii. Try to explore it in three days at least.
But also Try the Big Island:
Big Island (Hilo or Kona)
Still quite off the beaten path is the Big Island – either exploring Hilo or Kona. You can combine the two into a single trip as it only takes two hours to drive from either side. This is an island full of different things to see: volcanos, waterfalls, cold water springs, tropical jungles. There’s a ring road around the island to sightsee everything and you’ll want to explore both the rainy side (Hilo) and the drier side (Kona). Try to go for three to four days.
What about Oahu?
This is where I call home and for good reason. While much more frequently visited by tourists, it still has a good amount of things to do. There’s hiking, surfing, going to the beach, and much more. You’ll just have to fight a bit more traffic to get to the good spots, but they are well worth the effort. Oahu by far has the best food options and is accessible even if you don’t rent a car, so try a couple days in Waikiki and then head to the countryside for a more relaxing stay.
When is the Best Season to Visit?
Winter tends to be the coolest months and will likely be the best time to visit for most people – with this advice mostly applying to Oahu. There’s surf on the north shore, rainbows every day, and the chance to get a tan without getting too sunburnt. This time of year has the shortest days, but also some of the best sunrises and sunsets.
If you are on Kauai, then you’ll want to go late summer, after the major tourist rush. It also has drier weather, which means better, less muddy hiking.
Overall, my advice is to avoid summer busy season overall, where everyone is coming to the islands and all the prices jack up. Try October for a good budget month.
How to Get Around?
If you want to get between islands, then you’ll have to fly. Hawaiian Airlines connects to all the islands. Southwest Airlines now has routes to the major ports of Hilo, Kona, Kahului, Lihue, and Honolulu. You can then rent a car on any of the islands to drive around to all the farther to reach spots. If you are only staying on Oahu, and only have a limited amount of time, then you could try to go without a rental car and uber/bus everywhere.
What are Some of the Most Notable Places?
Na Pali Coast
On the island of Kauai, you can go to the Na Pali Coast, which is a stunning cathedral of vertical cliffs and magical valleys. This is paradise as it was created and will likely remain so for eternity. You can either kayak in, hike in, or take a boat tour around. Some people prefer to see it by helicopter (just flying above), which includes a tour of the other parts of the island.
Next to the Na Pali Coast, is the Waimea Canyon, which rivals the Grand Canyon, although just because you are so close to the two rims, it feels a lot bigger and more dramatic. It’s a stunning place that deserves a stop to marvel at this wonder.
On the Big Island is Rainbow Falls, which has two twin streams meeting into one. The early morning sun usually produces a rainbow off the mist, although you can see it during other parts of the day. It’s just a quick 15 minutes outside of Hilo town.
Crouching Lion Hike
This hike is one of the best effort to reward ratios in Hawaii. The steep climb up, which only lasts around 30 minutes, then leads to an amazing view of Kahana Valley and the blue ocean of the east side of Oahu. Although popular, you’ll have plenty of space to wander around. Try to spot the lion’s head rock where it gets its name from.
What are Some of the Best Experiences?
Surfing Waikiki Beach
With the iconic Diamond Head in the background, surfing Waikiki is a perfect spot to ride some waves, beginners or pro alike. You find a range of gentle waves to some that have a little power. Check the surf forecast at Surfnewsnetwork.com or watch the webcams at surfline.com to see if there is any energy.
Seeing a Rainbow
This one can either be on a hunt or could just appear out of no where. You’ll want to focus your time in the mornings or afternoons, especially if there is partly cloudy weather in the forecast. One of the best places to see it is in Nu’uanu Valley as you are driving to Kailua in the afternoon. Or in the mornings off Waikiki and Honolulu.
Catching a Sunrise at the Beach
Any of the beaches on the east side of the island catches the sun for sunrise. My favorite spot is early in the morning at Lanikai beach, when no one is there. But also try to be adventurous and head to Makapu’u Tidepools in the dark hours to watch an amazing sunrise by the sea.
Here are my Oahu guides:
These are my other guides for Oahu:
Ultimate Guide to Oahu: Best Things to Do on Oahu – Complete Bucket List
Best Hikes: The Best Hikes on Oahu
Best Beaches: Top 5 Beaches in Waikiki
Where to Stay: Best Areas to Stay on Oahu, Hawaii – Your Travel Guide