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 Hawaii Travel Guide by Kathie Fry

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Which Island to Visit in Hawaii

Tips for selecting which Hawaiian island to visit when you don't have the time or money to visit all of them. I enjoy visiting every island in Hawaii, but some people fall in love with one and visit the same island over and over. The best way to select your island destination is to learn about the attractions, activities, events, accommodations, population, geography, and tourism infrastructure on each of Hawaii's islands.

Oahu - Maui - Hawaii - Kauai - Lanai - Molokai

Introduction to Oahu Island

Eighty percent of Hawaii's population lives on Oahu Island and most of Hawaii's visitors stay in Waikiki on southeast coast of Oahu. There are only two Oahu resort areas outside of Waikiki, the Ko Olina Resort on the southwest coast of Oahu and the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's north shore. Each of those areas has one luxury hotel and several timeshare and residential developments, and while they each have a quieter atmosphere then Waikiki, they also have fewer restaurants and visitor activities.

Two of Hawaii's most popular visitor attractions are on Oahu Island, the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Cultural Center on the northeast coast. Oahu is also the home of Diamond Head Crater, Chinatown Honolulu, the Bishop Museum, the Iolani Palace, the Honolulu Zoo, the Waikiki Aquarium, Sea Life Park, big wave winter surfing on the north shore, and Ala Moana Center, one of the largest shopping malls in the world. Oahu has a great public transportation system, many dining options, hotels in every price range, and plenty of nightlife, shopping, and tourist activities.

Waikiki is a fun place to stay because it has plenty of action, but it also has plenty of traffic, crowds, shopping centers, and high rise hotels. If you don't find Waikiki's high energy level appealing, you might be happier staying at the Ko Olina Resort, the Turtle Bay Resort, or on one of Hawaii's other islands.

Introduction to Maui Island

Maui will appeal to a mix of people because it has busy resort areas on its northwest and southeast shorelines, but it also has remote and beautiful natural areas such as the long and winding road to Hana and the 10,000 foot high Mount Haleakala dormant volcano.

Resort areas on Maui Island include the Lahaina, Kaanapali, Napili, Honokowai, and Kapalua resort areas in West Maui, the Kihei, Makena, and Wailea resort areas in South Maui, and the Hana resort area in remote east Maui. Maui's many condominium vacation rentals make it a popular destination for families and college kids but Maui also has the some of the most luxurious and expensive hotels in Hawaii, especially at the exclusive Wailea and Kapalua resorts. You will find more nightlife on Maui then on some of the other outer islands, especially in the West Maui town of Lahaina and South Maui town of Kihei.

Popular visitor activities and attractions on Maui include the Mount Haleakala volcanic crater, driving the road to Hana, the historic whaling town of Lahaina, the ranches of upcountry Maui, the Iao Valley, the Maui Ocean Center, snorkeling trips to Molokini Island, and the windsurfing beaches on Maui's north shore.

Introduction to Hawaii Island

-East: Hilo, lush vegetation, lots of rain, "old Hawaii", Kapoho
-Kona: Kailua-Kona, black volcanic rock terrain, less rain
-Volcano: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. observatories, Mauna Kea gets snow in winter. People ski.
-South Point: Southernmost tip of the United States
-Driving around Hawaii Island takes about 6 hours
-Things to do: water activities, explore Volcanoes, hiking, horseback riding,
-Black sand beaches and a few white and green sand beaches. Tropical rainforests, cattle ranches, coffee farms, observatories, historic sites, golf courses, day spas, skiing,
-Population is about 140,000 and about 1 million people visit every year.
-More driving is required on Hawaii Island because things are farther apart then other islands
-Best beaches are on the west coast between Kona and Kohala on the northwest tip of the island.
-Most of the Big Island's visitor-style nightlife is in Kona. Hilo has more local-style nightlife, but not much of that. There is nightlife on the Big Island, but not as much as you'll find on Oahu and Maui.

Introduction to Kauai Island

-Natural beauty, seclusion
-About 70,000 people live on Kauai and about 1 million people visit every year.
-One of the best islands for hiking, canoeing, and other outdoor activities.
-The wettest island. Northeast cost is lush and green.
-Southwest coast is dry.
-Top attractions: Na Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon, Hanalei Bay, Wailea River Cruise

Introduction to Lanai Island

Lanai is the smallest of Hawaii's main islands and one of the two least visited islands in Hawaii. Lanai only has about 3000 residents and typically about 100,000 visitors a year. It has only three hotels, a small historic, plantation-style inn in Lanai City, a luxury beach and golf resort on at Manele Bay, and an upcountry, golf resort in a pine forest near Lanai City.

Nobody visits Lanai for the nightlife because there isn't any. There are also very few shops, restaurants, lodging options, or organized visitor activities. Lanai is a popular destination for wealthy golfers and people who really want to get away from it all. There are not many organized activities or tours on Lanai, but there is plenty to do if you enjoy outdoor activities such as golfing, water sports, sunbathing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, and off-road jeep adventures.

You might have heard Lanai referred to as "The Pineapple Isle". That is no longer an appropriate nickname for lanai because except for a few fields grown for local consumption, there are no more pinweapple plantations on Lanai. Lanai was converted from a cattle ranch to the world's largest pineapple plantation by James Dole but by the end of the 20th Century, growing pineapple in Hawaii became too expensive, and most of its Pineapple plantations closed, including Dole's Lanai Plantation.

Introduction to Molokai Island

-Very "old Hawaii". Very secluded.
-Larger population of Hawaiians then other islands but resident population is only about 7000. Visitor population is about 80,000 per year (less then all of the other islands including Lanai)
-Kalaupapa Leprosy Colony, Father Damien's work, huge cliffs, long empty beaches, Molokai Ranch (now gone), Halawa Beach Park,
-Molokai is Very rural. Lots of empty beaches and other natural areas. quiet and peaceful Biggest complain is "there's nothing to do" but I don't find that true at all. It really depends on what you like to do and how you want to spend your time.
-Only one hotel since the two Molokai Ranch Hotels shut down in the Spring of 2008, but there are several condominium resorts with vacation rentals avaialble. Best reason to go here is to experience old Hawaii or to get away from it all. No nightlife.
-Molokai only has one golf course but I think it closed when the Molokai Ranch closed.

See also:
- Hawaii Travel Planner
- Activities in Hawaii
- Attractions in Hawaii

Related Links
About Hawaii
Islands of Hawaii
Hawaii for Visitors

A NOTE FROM KATHIE: If you have any corrections or updates to the information on this page or if you would like us to add any information or links, please send a message to the email address on our contacts page.

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