Traveling to Hawaii? You’ll have a wonderful time no matter where you travel, but deciding where to base yourself can be a challenge. You may be wondering if it’s better to bounce from island to island, or if it’s better to settle in one location and explore it thoroughly. The beaches, the food, and the laid-back culture of the Hawaiian islands are almost a given.
Because of this, each of the islands holds a treasure trove of secrets. If you want to experience Oahu’s vibrant nightlife, relax in the luxury of a Maui resort, or go trekking on the Big Island, Hawaii has something for every kind of traveler.
If you’re having trouble deciding which island to visit in Hawaii for the first time, don’t worry: our insider information is here to help.
First-Time Visitors’ Guide to the Islands of Hawaii
You might be surprised to learn just how diverse the islands of Hawaii really are. If you’re having trouble deciding where to go in Hawaii, the data provided in the following sections might be helpful to you.
We’re going to cover all of Hawaii’s major islands in this guide so that we can put all of our cards on the table.
It’s possible that you’ll want to go to all of these events!
Oahu, the third-largest Hawaiian island, is a must-see for first-time tourists to Hawaii. The scope of the situation is enormous. Since Honolulu is on the island, it’s teeming with people and culture, as well as nature. The island is home to the capital city of Honolulu.
It’s also a wonderful option if you’re looking for a decent balance of beach time and downtown life. Just about everything you could possibly want is available in Honolulu, including shopping, museums and monuments, beaches (beginning with Waikiki), wonderful food (and of course, hiking routes), and more (the Diamond Head trail is notoriously amazing). It’s simple to see why the island attracts more than six million visitors each year.
The North Shore, Pearl Harbor, Hanauma Bay, and the Dole Plantation are just a few of Oahu’s top tourist destinations.
Because of this, Oahu may not be the ideal island vacation spot for you if you’re searching for a secluded, relaxing getaway. In contrast, Oahu, which means “Gathering Place” in Hawaiian, is a great place to visit if you’re a foodie.
Everything from restaurants to street vendors to farmers’ markets, food is huge business in this town. Japan, China, indigenous Hawaiians, Europeans, and Americans all had an impact on the island’s cuisine and culture.
If all of that appeals to you, the majority of the island’s lodgings are clustered around Waikiki Beach, although the Windward Coast (east side) is home to numerous parks and surf locations.
Reasons to visit Oahu if you’re a first-time traveler
If you’re a first-time visitor to the island, you’ll have a bad case of FOMO if you don’t check out some of the island’s most popular attractions.
One of Hawaii’s most popular islands, Maui is the state’s second-largest. Those from all over the world go to this dreamy location, which offers up nearly all of the perks of a Hawaiian vacation.
Maui is known as the “Valley Isle” because of its lush sceneries, numerous beautiful beaches, and volcanic beauty. Many say it’s the ideal island in Hawaii for romantic getaways because of the abundance of opulent hotels and dining establishments (many of these are situated in the southern part of the island).
You’ll also be able to discover hotels with facilities like stores and restaurants on the west side of Maui. Eastern Maui has a more down-to-earth vibe, with the Road to Hana driving route being a must-do here.
Maui is undoubtedly the location for you if you’re in Hawaii for sun, sea and surf, whether you’re a couple or not. Even the most laid-back beachgoer will be able to find a place here to relax and enjoy the sun and the waves.
Maui is a terrific place to visit during the winter months because you might get a chance to see humpback whales migrating through the ocean. Hikers should make a beeline for Haleakala National Park, where the subtropical wilderness has a heaven-on-earth feel about it.
The best reasons to visit Maui for first-timers
For years, we’ve argued that Maui is an amalgamation of Oahu, Hawaii’s Big Island, and Kauai. These stunning resorts, the moon-like Haleakala Crater, and fantastic hiking trails are all within a few hours’ drive. You can call it what you want, but if you’re unsure about which island in Hawaii to visit first in Hawaii, Maui is always a safe bet.
In a single word, Kauai is heavenly. With its abundance of wildlife and typical Hawaiian sentiments, Oahu could be the finest island to visit in Hawaii for people searching for a more laid-back, slower pace of life.
It’s no surprise that Kauai is known as the “Garden Isle” because of its natural beauty, but it’s not just land-based. Surfing and snorkeling are two of the best in the area.
The Na Pali Coast can be found on Kauai’s north shore. There is a lot of wildlife in this area, and the beaches here are gorgeous. It’s not uncommon for visitors to the north of the island to take a break from the rigors of contemporary life and immerse themselves in island life.
The Coconut Coast can be found on the east side. If you’re looking for more modern conveniences, consider staying in this area, which gets its name from its abundance of coconut trees and is the most inhabited region of otherwise rural Kauai. Wailua Falls, as well as opulent resorts and golf courses (for those with the cash), are nearby and to the south.
In search of a more intimate setting? Make your way to the island’s western tip. There are a few little communities scattered about, but the main attraction here is the stunning Waimea Canyon.
For first-time visitors, Kauai is an excellent choice.
Even while Kauai isn’t as well known to first-time tourists, we’ve found it to be a favorite among those who have been there before. If you go as your first visit to Hawaii, you’ll be rewarded to hands down the most stunning coastline, quiet beaches, and magnificent canyon. When you go, it’ll seem like you’ve stumbled on a secret.
The state of Hawaii (Big Island)
The “Big Island” isn’t just large; it’s enormous. The island of Hawaii is larger than all the other Hawaiian islands put together, and it is a natural wonderland with a wide range of wildlife. Klauea, the world’s most active volcano, is just one of the island’s five active volcanoes.
Nature lovers, especially those who enjoy hiking and exploring, will find the Big Island to be the ideal island in Hawaii to visit. It’s easy to find trails in Hawaii that will take you through tropical jungles, lava fields, meadows, and even to breathtaking waterfalls.
The Big Island has a rich history and culture in addition to its breathtaking scenery. For one instance, the first Polynesians are said to have landed at Southern Point on the island, and the unifier of the Hawaiian islands, Kamehameha the Great, was born on the islands.
Total in all, the Big Island consists of six distinct regions: the Hamakua Coast (Hilo), Kau (Kohala), Kualoa (Kohala), Kona (Kona Coffee) (Puna), and Hilo.
Northern Hamakua Coast is known for its black sand beaches and stunning waterfalls; Puna, east of Hilo, is wild and untamed; and Kua, in the south, is secluded and rustic, yet it is home to some of Hawaii’s most spectacular lava flows.
For first-time visitors, the Big Island is an excellent choice.
In contrast to Oahu’s bustling cityscapes and world-class resorts, the Big Island’s active volcanoes, gushing waterfalls, renowned Kona coffee, and jagged beaches are a must-see when visiting Hawaii. Big Island is a great place to visit if you enjoy exploring new places.
However, if you’re looking for complete seclusion in Hawaii, Lanai is the finest choice. Lanai, despite its proximity to Maui, feels like a world removed from the rest of the planet.
Larry Ellison, a billionaire with a vision for Lanai’s self-sufficiency, owns nearly all of the island. Throughout most of the 20th century, Lanai was owned by Dole, the world’s largest pineapple producer, and was home to the world’s largest pineapple plantation. Immigrant workers and authoritarian bosses lived on the island, which still has its colonial-style 1920s architecture in Lanai City.
Only a few lodging alternatives are available on Lanai, one of which is the 1930s-era Four Seasons Lanai. Private and secluded, it isn’t the best island in Hawaii for families to visit. Think golf courses and four-wheel drive trails. Flights to Lanai are only available from Honolulu or Maui, as there are no international connections to the island.
Lanai has a lot of natural beauty. Turtle and dolphin spotting, snorkeling, or simply strolling on one of the many trails on the island are all favorite pastimes here. A long, sandy crescent tucked into a cove, Hulupo’e Beach is Lanai’s primary beach and an excellent location for snorkeling.
Why first-time visitors should consider a trip to Lanai
Lanai is a great place to visit if you’re looking for a more secluded location with fewer tourists. You’ll be able to brag about your accomplishments, and you’ll have access to some amazing hiking trails and world-class snorkeling.