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The Best Island to Visit in Hawaii for the First Time

beautiful women in hawaiian shirt and jeans shorts jiumping on a background of tropical beach

Hawaii is the largest island in the United States and is home to a diverse array of plants and animals. The island’s climate is tropical, and its soils are incredibly fertile, supporting an abundance of plant life. Hawaii’s flora includes native and introduced species, and the island is home to several endangered species, such as the hoary Hawaiian bat and the Hawaiian goose. The state of Hawaii is committed to preserving its natural environment, and many of the island’s parks and reserves are open to the public. Hawaii Island is truly unique, and its beauty will dazzle any visitor.

I drew ALOHA on Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in the background.

So if you’ve decided to come to the Hawaiian Islands for your vacation? Great choice! Now you have to decide which island or islands you want to visit. While all of the Hawaiian Islands are beautiful places, each has its own flavor and personality. The islands also offer stunning and cheap hotels that offer gorgeous views of the ocean. In this blog post, we will give you an overview of each of the main islands and help you decide which one is the best fit for your vacation. 

Oahu – The Gathering Place

Panoramic Aerial View of Waikiki Beach Hawaii

With so many beautiful islands to choose from, it can be hard to decide which one to visit on your first trip to Hawaii. Oahu is a clear choice if you’re looking for an island that has something for everyone. Home to Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, and Diamond Head, Oahu is a great place to start your Hawaiian adventure and our top 1.

Oahu lives up to its nickname, “The Gathering Place, ” the most populated and most visited island.” With Waikiki Beach as its centerpiece, Oahu is a perfect blend of city life and beach life. In addition to world-famous surf spots, Oahu is home to Pearl Harbor, the Honolulu Zoo, Diamond Head crater, and Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. There is also no shortage of shopping, dining, and nightlife options. Oahu is a perfect choice if you’re looking for an action-packed vacation with plenty of things to do. 

Maui – The Magic Isle

maui beach landscape in hawai

Maui is often referred to as “The Magic Isle,” and it’s easy to see why. With its stunning natural beauty, sweeping coastline, fantastic weather, and friendly locals, Maui truly is a magical place. Popular activities on Maui include hiking through Haleakala National Park, exploring the Road to Hana, zip-lining through tropical forests, whale watching, and snorkeling in Molokini Crater. Maui is also home to some of the best golf courses in Hawaii. If you’re looking for an island with breathtaking scenery, endless activities, and 5-star resorts, then Maui should be at the top of your list. 

Kauai – The Garden Island

Beautiful aerial view of spectacular Na Pali coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai is very different from the other major Hawaiian Islands because it is much more rural and laid back. Due primarily to its lack of beaches (only about 12 miles of coastline), Kauai has remained relatively untouched by tourism. That being said, there are still plenty of things to see and do on Kauai. Some of our favorite Kauai activities include hiking through Waimea Canyon (dubbed “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific), exploring Napali Coast by boat or helicopter, visiting Wailua Falls (featured in Jurassic Park), and taking a Plantation Railway Tour through Kauai Plantation Railway. If you’re looking for an island that feels a bit more off the beaten path but still has plenty to offer tourists, Kauai is a great option.. 

The Big Island – Hawaii Island

Hawaiian outrigger canoe at Kamakahonu Beach Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

If you want to get away from it all and experience true tranquility, Hawaii Island (often called “The Big Island”) is the place for you. With only about 200 miles of coastline (compared to nearly 750 miles on Maui), Hawaii Island is largely uninhabited except for a few small towns around the island’s perimeter. While there are fewer tourist attractions on Hawaii Island than on some other islands, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do. Popular activities include visiting active volcanoes (Kilauea Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the world!), lava tube caves (the Kaumana Caves near Hilo are great!), black sand beaches (Punaluu Beach Park is one of our favorites!), and stargazing at Mauna Kea Observatory (one of the best places in the world for stargazing!). If you want an authentic Hawaiian experience where you can get away from it all and enjoy nature at its finest., Hawaii Island should be at the top of your list. 

Final word

Sunrise over Hanauma Bay on Oahu, Hawaii

All four of these islands offer travelers something unique and special but deciding which one is right for your vacation can be challenging. If this is your first time coming to Hawaii, we recommend starting with Oahu because it offers a little bit of everything – great beaches, city life, history museums, etc. Once you’ve had a chance to experience all that Oahu has to offer, you can come back and explore someplace more off the beaten path, like Kauai or Hawaii Island. Regardless of which island or islands you decide to visit, we know you will have an amazing time here in paradise! However, the choice is yours!

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