Pick the Best Hawaiian Island(s) For Your Vacation

With six great Hawaii islands that you can visit, how do you choose the best island(s) for you? That’s a question that many potential Hawaii visitors wrestle with. Trust me, I’ve been there.

I’ve seen a few surveys that ask a handful of questions and supposedly result in an answer of the perfect island for you. Though I’m often called a Hawaii expert, just for fun, I take these quizzes to see the result. After the result displays, I have to wonder how’d they come up with that answer? The trouble with these surveys is that they are too short and ask odd questions like, “Your perfect day includes hiking to a volcano or lounging on the beach or pampering in a spa or searching for beautiful waterfalls.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I want to do all of the above! I think the results of these simple questionnaires are as effective as picking an answer out of a hat.

Waikiki Lights Up for the Evening

Does your ideal vacation include shopping and nightlife? Oahu may be a good fit for you.

So, how on earth do you pick an island or two to visit on your vacation? I have some suggestions and can point you to some great resources that will help you get started.

1. Review the visitors bureau website for each island. If a particular island looks interesting to you, order their free island guide. These sites and guides highlight the scenery, cultural activities, and island adventures. The island visitor bureaus give you a good flavor for what each island has to offer.

  • Kauai: Visitors Bureau website and page to download and/or order free Kauai guide that includes maps and island highlights.
  • Oahu Visitors Bureau website and page to download and/or order Oahu vacation planner that includes maps and island highlights.
  • Maui Visitors Bureau website and page to download and/or order Maui vacation planner that includes maps and island highlights. Note that the Maui Visitor’s Bureau also includes the islands of Lanai and Molokai – two lesser visited, but fantastic islands.
  • Big Island Visitors Bureau website and page to download and/or order a Big Island planner which includes maps and island highlights.
  • Lanai Visitors Bureau website and page to order a free Lanai travel guide. (Also see the link to order a Maui guide that’s mentioned above.)
  • Molokai Visitors Bureau website and page to order a free Molokai travel guide. (Also see the link to order a Maui guide that’s mentioned above.)

You might also benefit from surfing the overall Hawaii Visitors Bureau’s website where you can watch videos, find festivals and quickly get lost in discovering all the wonderful things the islands of Aloha have to offer.

Kalalau Trail

Enjoy hiking? Kauai’s loaded with trails that’ll get your heart pumping and your eyes popping at the views.

2. Take an island virtual tour. A picture is worth a thousand words and a virtual helicopter tour is worth even more! Though the Blue Hawaiian Helicopter island videos were not generated for the intent of helping a potential visitor choose an island, I think they’re great for just that. It’s one thing to see a still photo, but to see a video is even more useful. Here are links to the individual island videos:

There’s about a half a dozen videos or more for each island, so make sure you check them all out by clicking on the “Area of Interest” navigation on the left as well as the circles on the island maps.

3. Review our easy to use Go Visit Hawaii Vacation guides. Though not as fancy as the official visitors bureau sites, there’s a great depth of unbiased, practical advice in my island guides. Each guide offers photo highlights of each island, advice on when to go, where to stay, where to play, and where to dine.

If you are considering Hawaii for a honeymoon or a romantic trip, checkout our island honeymoon guides:


4. Review the following infographic:


Our infographic describes each island in a nutshell.

How to pick the perfect Island for your Hawaii Visit

5. Ask an expert.  I’ve vacationed on every island and I know them very well. If you have reviewed the above links and you are still not sure which island(s) best suit you, you can ask me. Do not cheat yourself by not taking the time to review the links and read the content of this page. Only you know what appeals and resonates with you.

Bear in mind that I am not a travel agent.  I write this site on a voluntary basis, so I am not available to assist with individual trip planning details.

Once again, do not cheat yourself by not taking the time to review the resources in this article. After you have reviewed every link and all the content in this article, if you are still unsure of which island(s) use the comments to describe:

  • What do you like to do on vacation?
  • What don’t you like to do on vacation?
  • What island(s) are you considering? Are you already leaning towards one or two?
  • Have you already identified some must see sights? For examples: active lava flow (Big Island), Pearl Harbor (Oahu), Na Pali Coast (Kauai).
  • Before you say you want to see volcanoes, which is a very common question, read: Where to see volcanoes in Hawaii? If you want to see an active volcano then go to the Big Island.
  • What time of year you anticipate you’ll be visiting Hawaii?
  • How many days you have in mind for your Hawaii vacation? Read our article: how many Hawaiian Islands should you visit during your vacation.

6. Don’t worry. You can’t make a bad decision. You can have a fantastic Hawaii vacation no matter which island(s) you choose. They all have their own personality and unique features for you to enjoy and admire.

For more Hawaii vacation planning advice, see our guide for first time Hawaii visitors with step by step planning instructions.

Ohana Beach Rentals

About Sheila Beal

Sheila Beal is the founder and editor of Go Visit Hawaii. You can connect with Sheila Beal on Twitter, Go Visit Hawaii on Facebook, or Sheila Beal on Google+.


  1. Wow Sheila, this post is like an eleven course meal! Lots of great info and stuff to check out. Can’t wait to check out the videos.

  2. Fantastic resources. You are absolutely right about not going wrong which ever island you pick. I’ve been to Oahu, Kauai, Maui and can’t wait to visit the other islands some day. Going back to Oahu in October and I am going to check out their website and page to find something to explore I haven’t seen there yet; I’ve been multiple times, but there is always something new.

  3. Which island(s) to visit?
    going for wife’s 50th birthday which is in May.
    Would like to relax and enjoy the weather but would also like to take in the sights. Both enjoy physical activity.
    coming from the east coast of Canada so would anticipate a 10 day vacation (including travel days).

    • Ian- what you’ve described as your requirements would probably apply to all the islands. With 10 days including travel – that leaves you with 8 full vacation days. You could potentially go to two islands. But, that being said, you won’t run out of things to do if you spend the entire time on just one island. I’ve been to each island multiple times, and I still leave with a list of things I want to do the next time I’m on that island.

      I think Kauai might be a good fit for you if ou like physical activity – Kauai has some of the best hiking trails in my opinion. Kauai also has some biking paths. You can kayak the rivers, snorkel the Na Pali coast Line, etc.

      Hope that helps. Enjoy your celebration in Hawaii.

  4. hi was looking at going on kaui island was looking at doing some tour. except for the hiking we are limited as we both have back problem. we can do some walking no problem but hours of hiking. we are going in october. was reading and have some concern about the weather. it mention that the island is the wettest island. i thought it didn’t rain much in hawaii overall. can you clearafy this. don’t want to both and have a raining week…

    • Suzanne – Kauai does tend to get more rainfall that some of the other islands, BUT there are drier areas to stay — like sunny Poipu. See this link: http://www.govisithawaii.com/kauai-where-to-stay/

      Also, the rainiest months are usually December and January, so with an October visit, you most likely won’t experience much, if any rain. I have been to Kauai twice in October and I can only recall one daytime rain shower.

      Kauai has plenty of beautiful sight seeing that doesn’t require significant hiking. Take a helicopter tour, go on a snorkeling tour, take a catamaran cruise of the Na Pali Coast, see Waimea Canyon,tour a tropical garden, tour a coffee farm … There’s lots of wonderful, but not strenuous things to do on Kauai. See my Kauai vacation guide: http://www.govisithawaii.com/kauai-vacation-guide/

  5. Going to Hawaii August 2011. Celebrating my hubby and my 40th b-day. going with our 14 year old son and 10 year old daughter. want to have cool things to do. Im planning the whole vacation and need ideas. Want to go to Oahu and Maui and possibly Kauai. Dont want to do physical activities like hiking or biking, but def. want to do fun things. Should we start at Oahu which is more active and end the last 5 days in Maui? going for 13 days. HELP!!!

    • Maui and Oahu are probably the best fit. Kauai is more laid back, but definitely a beautiful island for sightseeing. With 13 days, it’s borderline on if it’s a good idea to add a third island or not. Bear in mind that even though the islands are a short flight from each other, you could be spending up to a half a day each time you transfer from one island to another — door to door.

      I doubt you’d run out of things to do if you just went to Maui and Oahu. I’ve been to both those island many times and I still have a “to-do” list of things I want to do next time.

      I would think starting at Oahu for 6 days and finish on Maui for 7 days.

  6. We are planning our honeymoon for mid October of this year. I told my fiance that I want to “go lay on a beach somewhere romantic” for our honeymoon. Kind of considering Oahu for some of the “Lost” sites…fiance is a chef so we are all about checking out non-chain dining (I have Celiac Disease so need gluten free options). We are not looking to break the bank, and are on a somewhat modest budget…a “fancy” resort is not necessary but we DO want a beachfront room. I’m thinking “lazy honeymoon” with a little shopping nearby. Help!! ;)


  7. Hi,

    Our rather large family (12 Adults, 9 Kids (5 of the kids are infants!)) are looking to spend some quiet family time in Hawaii this August 2011. We are planning on spending a week, so want to pick one of the islands (no island hopping for us). We are mainly looking to soak in some sites, and hang out at the beaches. Hiking and snorkeling are right up our alley (i can’t imagine taking all 21 on a helicopter ride for example…) We want to avoid crowds, and get away from the city. Right now, we are debating the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai. We have all been to Maui, none have visited the other 2. Our fear on the big island is that if we want to see both sides of the island, we will be stuck in the car all day. Any thoughts on what it takes to get from one side to the other? Any recommendations on finding accommodations for such a large group? Many of the travel websites that I have tried (to look for combined air/lodging) have a limit of 12 people.

    I am leaning towards Kaua’i, It seems smaller, and more laid back than the rest.

    I appreciate any thoughts that you might have, and I very much appreciate this blog!


    • Hi Josh,

      I think Kauai would be a good fit for what you’re looking for. It is laid back and a great place to soak in the beautiful sites.

      With 9 kids and most being infants, you’ll definitely want to go to some of the safer beaches. In my opinion, Kauai has some excellent beaches that tend to be more sheltered and safe. Here are some of the safer beaches on Kauai:
      – There’s a keiki (kid) beach at Poipu Beach Park. It’s sheltered, not too deep and definitely fun for kids. Here are a couple of photos from our collection of that beach: http://www.flickr.com/photos/govisithawaii/4590596178/in/set-72157600056337793/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/govisithawaii/4589973451/in/set-72157600056337793/ There’s no hotel on this beach, so you’d have to drive to get to it.

      – If you want to stay in a resort hotel that’s right on a safe beach then the newly refurbished Kauai Marriott would be ideal. See my review for photos http://www.govisithawaii.com/2009/01/02/review-of-kauai-marriott-resort-a-piece-of-paradise/

      – Another beach park that’s good for kids and snorkeling, too is Lydgate Beach http://www.kauaiexplorer.com/kauai_beaches/lydgate_beach_park.php that’s on the East Side

      The Big Island is also a good choice, but for first timers to the Big Island, ideally, I like to recommend more than a week. And, as you said, you’ll be tempted to want to see both sides of the island, and that might be a tad more challenging with 9 kiddos in tow. :)

      I’ve never tried to book a vacation for more than 4 folks at a time, so I didn’t know that the online sites have a 12 person limit. Do you know of a travel agent that you or your friends have had good service from? You might save a lot of time and headaches by finding a reliable travel agent that knows Hawaii.

      Another thought for you, if you wanted to book air separately from accommodation is to try to find a vacation rental. You can save a lot of money, have more privacy, the benefit of a kitchen, etc with a vacation rental. (See this article: http://www.govisithawaii.com/2008/01/30/why-staying-in-a-condo-on-a-hawaii-vacation-is-a-savvy-choice/ ) I’ve met the folks at http://www.kauaivacationrentals.com/ and they seem good to work with, plus they have an extensive list of vacation rental properties for Kauai. (FYI – I don’t get any kickbacks for saying that or making any other recommendation, in case you were wondering.)

  8. Hi Sheila,

    I have been put in charge of the ‘difficult’ decision of which island to pick for our multi-generational family vacation. I have narrowed it down to Maui & Kauai. Under different circumstances I would choose Kauai because I’m a hiker and I know Kauai had awesome hiking, however the hiking on this trip will have to be fairly easy & short hikes since I will be hiking with a toddler in a backpack strapped to me. Also, we need to know which island has easy access to the beautiful scenic overlooks, waterfalls, etc. The elderly folks are capable of walking short distances on level ground but nothing too hard. There will be days that we will all want to stay together and sight-see and other days that we will all do our own thing. To be honest I am leaning toward Maui but I really would like to be persuaded toward Kauai. I have this impression that I would not get to see a lot of the most beautiful sites in Kauai since they are difficult hikes (Na’Pali Coast, etc).

    What do you like to do on vacation? HIKE, SNORKEL, NATURE, SPENDING SOME TIME AT THE BEACH
    What island(s) are you considering? Are you already leaning towards one or two?
    Have you already identified some must see sights? (For examples: active lava flow, Pearl Harbor, Na Pali Coast) MAUI: ROAD TO HANA, HALEAKELA
    What time of year you anticipate you’ll be visiting Hawaii? DECEMBER
    How many days you have in mind for your Hawaii vacation? (Your response will influence the number of islands I’ll recommend for your vacation.) 9

    Originally posted at: How to Pick the Best Hawaiian Island(s) For Your Vacation http://www.govisithawaii.com/2010/06/28/how-to-pick-the-best-hawaiian-islands-for-your-vacation/#ixzz1UZGkQEzJ

  9. Have a family with 2 kids (5&11) and would like to go to Hawaii – confused on the best island and hotel to stay.
    Would like sandy beaches, pools and want to visit Volcanoes. We have 7 to 10 days.
    Would like to minimize the travelling between islands if possible.
    Any suggestions?

    • Jay – do you want to see volcano activity? Or would seeing a relatively “young” volcanic mountain (Haleakala) suffice? If you want to see volcano activity, then Hawaii’s Big Island is the only island with activity.

      If seeing volcano activity is not a high priority, then I’d suggest Maui, which has bunches of beautiful sandy beaches. Maui’s volcanoes are relatively young. Maui also offers quite a bit of fun stuff for kids to do beyond the beaches and pools. They have good luaus, a sugar cane train and more.

      Hope that helps.

  10. what would be the best month to go.
    Also do you have suggestion for family friendly resorts/hotel – or other lodging choices

    Thanks for your advise.

    • Any time is a good time to go to Hawaii. If there’s one ideal month to go, I’d say May.

      There’s tons of family-friendly resorts across Hawaii. Which island are you thinking of?

  11. I am travelling with my parents to Hawaii for 8 days the week straddling the end of October, beginning of December. We’re interested in snorkling, scenery, swimming, boat rides, etc. and culture (can be “culture”). Hiking would need to be relatively short or flat. We’ll probably do 2 islands as this is likely the only trip my parents will take to Hawaii.
    I was advised to do Maui and Kaua’i, and I was able to get a good deal at one of the nicer resorts in Princeville for the Kaua’i part, but now I’m worried about the rain? Does end Oct/early Nov count as winter? A lot of the guide books mention things that do not happen in winter but I can’t find a definition of what they consider to be winter. Are we going to be driving south every day? We definitely want to see the canyon and the Napali coast. Do you have to drive south and around to get over there?

    Also, thoughts on the selection of the 2 islands. Someone else suggested skipping Kauai and just doing Maui and Oahu but we’re not really into cities at all.


    • Michele — I really wish we had a crystal ball to tell us the weather. It would make life so much easier for us. :-)

      Oct/Nov is on the cusp of some of the rainier months in Kauai and Hawaii in general. One thing to bear in mind is that most of Hawaii’s rain falls at night. http://www.govisithawaii.com/2011/04/05/most-of-hawaiis-rain-falls-at-night/

      You do have to drive around to the southwest side of Kauai to see Waimea Canyon. Boat tours of the Na Pali coast leave from the South coast at Port Allen. (See my post on exploring the Na Pali Coast by land, air and sea: http://www.govisithawaii.com/2011/04/11/na-pali-coast-by-land-air-sea/)

      The Princeville area of Kauai is absolutely gorgeous. You can see Hanalei Bay from there. http://www.govisithawaii.com/2011/03/22/kauais-hanalei-bay/

      I wouldn’t hesitate to go to Kauai any time of year. If that helps. We have been to Kauai twice in October and had excellent weather both times.

      If you are nervous about rain, consider staying in the Poipu area on the sunnier, south shore. Odds are that you’d avoid rain better there.

      I think the Maui/Kauai combination is a good option based on what you described.

      You’ll be there just as the humpback whales are arriving back to Hawaii for their annual winter frolic. Maui is perhaps the best island for whale watching.

  12. Hey there! I’ve been enjoying your blog and insight into Hawaii travel. My family of four (10&12yo kids) is planning to travel over Thanksgiving. The things we most want to do are see an active volcano, snorkel, stay on the beach, kids pool, local markets, flora and fauna and geography unique to the Hawaiian islands. Oh, and a luau of course. It’s so hard to choose! We will only have about 5 days (Sat-Sat), so can’t imagine it would be possible to do much island-hopping. We’re not big pop-culture people, so traditional tourism (or eco-tourism! ;) is probably more our speed. We are of modest means (budget $5-6k for flight+hotel). Is it worthwhile to get a car? Or is public transport reasonably available? Thanks for any insight you can give!!

    • Hi Amy —

      If you want to see an active volcano, you have to go to Hawaii’s Big Island for that. It’s the only island with an active volcano.

      On the Big Island, there’s some great snorkeling. We have really enjoyed our snorkeling excursions along the Kohala Coast and at Kealakekua Bay.

      A challenge with the Big Island is that it really is big. It’s bigger than all the other islands put together. I like to think of the Big Island split in the middle from north to south, making a Hilo side (east) and Kona side (west). Basically all the best beach or ocean side resorts are along the Kona and Kohala Coast. All the volcano activity is on the Hilo side. It’s easy to drive to and from each side in a day. It’s scenic, but takes a couple or so hours depending on where you go.

      A rental car is a must in my opinion, there is public transportation on the Big Island, but I think you’d enjoy your experience far more with a rental car. http://heleonbus.org/

      As for your budget, I think it might be doable. Take a look at all the detailed links in this article: Top Tips for Saving Money on your Hawaii Vacation: http://www.govisithawaii.com/2011/01/25/top-tips-for-saving-money-on-your-hawaii-vacation/ I have two suggestions, you might want to try to find a vacation condo and I highly recommend you book your flights ASAP with Thanksgiving being only about 3 months away.

      Once you’re in Hawaii, most of the best things to do are free or almost free. http://www.govisithawaii.com/2007/10/25/best-big-island-budget-fun/

      Check out my Big Island Vacation Guide for a whole lot more advice: http://www.govisithawaii.com/hawaii-big-island-vacation-guide/

  13. Hi! My motherand a friend of mine are looking to spend about four days on one Hawaiian island. We want to just lay out and relax, so much nightlife is not really needed. This means we would love amazing, not too crowded beaches, but we also want plenty of lush scenery and nature to look at. We want to see the naturally beautiful aspect of Hawaii. However, we’re not too big on hiking. Any suggestions for which island would be best for us? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Julia — I just discovered I hadn’t replied to your comment.

      Several islands would suit your needs. I would suggest Maui or maybe Kauai for beautiful scenery and uncrowded beaches.

  14. hi
    i am planning a trip for myself, my sister and our father. it is his 70th birthday. we are only going to go for a week so we only want to go to 1 island. i have been to maui so i would like to see another island. we r planning on going in january and we want to see a volcano and we love the beach. we also love to go out to great restaurants. what island would u suggest? thank u!!

  15. Hello Sheila,

    First, let me say that I appreciate your blog. It is truly full of valuable information.

    I am planning my first trip to Hawaii in November 2012 with my husband to celebrate my birthday. A few friends may come with us. Since this is my first time visiting, I am trying to figure out the best place to go. I have visited other websites (yours was the most informative) and took the “Hawaii test” and was told based off my answers, Maui and Oahu are my best fit but had additional questions I needed answered before I make a decision.

    I won’t ask the weather question as you have pretty much clarified that in your earlier
    responses. Listed below are the answers to your questions as well as other concerns:

    What do you like to do on vacation? I like to sightsee and relax when I go on vacation. I’m not into partying that much but would like to attend a few shows. I also love to shop.

    What don’t you like to do on vacation? I am not into water sports or hiking.

    What island(s) are you considering? Are you already leaning towards one or two? I am
    considering one island, maybe Maui.

    Have you already identified some must see sights? (For examples: active lava flow, Pearl Harbor, Na Pali Coast). No, I haven’t identified must see sights.

    What time of year you anticipate you’ll be visiting Hawaii? 1st week in November.

    How many days you have in mind for your Hawaii vacation? (Your response will influence the number of islands I’ll recommend for your vacation.). I plan to be in Hawaii for 5-7 days.


    I prefer to fly into one island. My preference is not to have to get on another plane after I land. If I have to, then I understand, but if I can avoid it I will.

    Huge selection of stores to shop at.

    Huge selection of restaurants to dine. At least a few 5 star.

    Whatever island(s) you recommend, can you also tell me the best area on that island to stay?

    I really appreciate your feedback.


    • Hi Natalia,

      I’m glad to hear that you are finding useful planning information here at Go Visit Hawaii.

      I think Maui would be a good fit for you, with one very slight caution, it’s notoverflowing with shopping. That being said, I think you’ll find interesting shopping between historic Lahaina town, Whalers Village in Kaanapali and at the Shops at Wailea. With all the great sightseeing mixed with a little pool or beach relaxation time, you won’t need a lot of time for shopping. By the way, you didn’t mention you were looking for spa time, but just in case, I thought I’d let you know that Maui has some fabulous spas.

      Maui has some excellent restaurants — many with ocean views. Here’s our favorite places to dine in Maui: http://www.govisithawaii.com/2008/04/28/how-to-find-the-best-maui-restaurants/

      Best area on Maui to stay? I would flip a coin between Wailea and Kaanapali/Kapalua. Wailea has the more “high-end” hotels, but Kaanapali and Kapalua are prettier areas, in my opinion. One of our favorite places to stay on Maui is at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. The only caution is that it can get windy there.

      Hope that helps. I’ll be interested in hearing what you decide and how it all goes.

  16. My fiance and I are planning a trip to one of the Hawaiian Islands in early October for our honeymoon. Initially we were thinking of Kauai b/c we both love hiking and figured this would be the best island for that reason. We are a little concerned that there won’t be much to do at night though however. Do you know if there are many restaurants/bars open past 10 within walking distance of many of the condos or resorts? We are just afraid that everything will be closed and that there won’t be much to do. We are also looking for a hotel/condo that has ocean front view that is nice but not crazy expensive. Thanks for your help in advance

    • Suzanne — Kauai is a really romantic island and a wonderful place for a honeymoon. However, if nightlife is what you want, you won’t find a great deal on the Garden Isle. There’s some restaurants/bars that offer live music.

      One thing to bear in mind is that if you’ll be visit Hawaii from the US Mainland, you’ll be jet lagged for at least a few days. Most likely, you’ll be wanting to wake up early and go to sleep early in the evening. We fly to Hawaii from the East Coast and the first few days we’re in Hawaii, we’re probably asleep between 8:30pm and 10pm.

      You can find condos/hotels withing walking distance of restaurants/bars in the Poipu area of Kauai.

      • Thanks! Live music to sit down, relax and get a drink or two is all we are really looking for at night. We were just concerned that there would be absolutely nothing open in the evening. Thanks again!

      • Do you know of the names of the places that have live music off hand?

        • Past 10pm? No. Though at home we stay up past 10pm, with jet lag it’s extremely rare to stay up past 10pm for us in Hawaii — even 9pm.

          Most resorts in Hawaii have live music every evening. In Poipu, I’ve heard live music at the Hyatt and the Sheraton. I’m sure there are other places which don’t come to mind.

          On the North Shore, we’ve enjoyed live music at Princeville St. Regis and down in some of the shops in Hanalei.

  17. Hi Sheila!
    Your website is full of great info!
    My hubby and I are going to celebrate our 10yr anniversary in Hawaii this July. We are traveling with our son (8yrs) and our niece (10yrs). I’ve been to Oahu, which I loved, but this will be their first time to Hawaii.
    We obviously want a place that has tons of thing to do for kids, but mostly a place with safe beaches where they can swim and play for hours on end. Being from California, the beaches are wonderful but the water is cold and they don’t get to enjoy too much water time at the beach.
    My son would love to see an active volcano, but higher on his list is snorkeling and swimming with dolphins.
    Your suggestions are much appreciated!

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Based on what you described, I think I know the ideal resort for you, Hilton Waikoloa Village. Here’s why:
      – On the Big Island, the only island with an active volcano. Seeing the lava flow and/or glow is truly amazing to see!
      – Hilton Waikoloa Village has a neat lagoon with a sandy beach where it’s safe for swimming, snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, etc.
      – This resort has a Dolphin Quest on site where you can arrange to swim with the dolphins. (We’ve done the Dolphin Quest in Oahu and it was very good.)

  18. Taking our first trip to Hawaii in September, 2012. Want to visit two islands, spending a week on each. Interested in beaches, pineapple plantations, some sightseeing, good restaurants and nice hotels, preferably a condo unit with kitchen to prepare some meals. What do you suggest? We are traveling from Massachusetts and not sure what airport to use for what islands. Do they each have one airport or more than one? I have so many questions because I want this to be a wonderful trip. Any help yiu can give wiuld be appreciated.

  19. Amazing site! I will certainly hit all the links as time allows. Here is our Hawaii vacation challenge: Possibly 2 Hawaii vacations this year.

    First one late April or early May with friends. 7-10 days. Between our two families we have 4 kids ages 3-6 at time of travel. Boy and girl age 6, girl age 4, boy age 3.

    We like: beach time with water calm enough for the kiddos. Preferably one we don’t have to drive to. Pool time. Fun kid activities (aquarium, local historical sites, museums, plantations). Hiking, yes, but easy, shorter trails. We’d love to get the older (6 year olds) kids snorkeling.

    Probably not on the list until the kids are older: zip lines, big water, surfing, cliff diving, long hikes, road to Hana, long scenic drives (two of the kids get car-sick).

    Parents are active and like to explore. Moms like spa time if available. We like good dining (Mama’s Fish House on Maui is a favorite) but stay in condos as we dine in more than we eat out.

    Not committed to any island. We’ve been to Maui several times, and the Big Island. We prefer to balance major attractions (ie – crowds) with lazy days or spots off the regular route.

    Second trip: Sept or Oct. 7 days. Just our family (2 adults, 2 boys age 3 and 6). Done Maui. Love it. Would go again. Done Big Island. Thinking it would be more fun when kids were 6 and 9. Little guy might have a hard time hiking over lava to get to cool beaches. Have time-share options available on Big Island or Kauai. We like off the beaten path but with restaurants, small towns, local sights. As little driving as possible.

    Any suggestions are welcome! Thanks!

    • Tricia —

      Finding beaches in Hawaii with water calm enough for kids can be challenging. So, I’ll list some beaches that tend to be on the gentle side:

      Oahu — Ko Olina, Turtle Bay, though crowded, there are protected sections of Waikiki Beach. All of those beaches have condos within walking distance.

      Kauai — Kalapaki Beach, Lydgate Park, and a protected area at Poipu Beach. There are condos within walking-ish distance

      You can find good dining and spas on both Oahu and Kauai.

  20. Hello.

    My sister and I are planning a trip to one of the island around the end of October for 10 days. Only we’re not sure which one to pick.

    Some of things we want to do go snorkeling, hiking small distances,dinner cruise, waterfalls. I love taking pictures especially animals and nature.

    Also we will be renting a car, which island is the easiest to drive about, I drive when I have to but don’t really like to. I know sometime we will be heading out very early.

    Thank you for your help.

    • Stephanie — just about every island would suit the interests you’ve mentioned. So, let’s focus in on what island is easiest to for driving. In my opinion, Kauai is probably the easiest island. Kauai doesn’t have near as many busy roads as Oahu and Maui do. So, you’ll have less chances for getting lost and less traffic.

  21. Great information here,
    My fiance and I are looking to travel to hawaii in Mid October for 6 nights, we are flying from Vegas as part of our honeymoon.

    We are from Scotland, both interested in relaxing around beautiful beaches and scenery but also interested in snorkeling and water skiing.

    We would love a beach side resort to wake upto in the mornings.

    Also we like our nightlife and would be looking for entertainment and bars in the evenings.

    Still cannot decide where to go! Any help would be great.


  22. Great web-site! I am just beginning to look into a Hawaiian vacation for my family for next year (June, July 2013!) We could take up to 4-6 weeks. We will be flying from the East coast and want to make the most of the pricey airline tickets. We are a family of 4 (2 girls-ages 11 & 14). What islands would you suggest and what would a reasonable budget be? (this will determine whether the trip is even possible!) Vacations we have loved generally include Western National Parks. We normally stay in “Hampton Inn” like places, it does not have to be fancy but we are not campers either. For sure sites: Pearl Harbor & volcano. Suggestions for islands, budget, etc…THANK YOU!

  23. Sheila! I have gotten some great advice on your site! My family and I which consists of my husband and two children. My son will be 21 and my daughter will be 17 when we plan to travel July of 2013. We have already decided to go to Oahu but unsure of the second island. We will be going two weeks and will spend more time on Oahu. We love the water and snorkeling but not to interested in much hiking. We plan on doing a luau and a dolphin swim along with Pearl Harbor. We have done a helicopter tour 22 years ago on our honeymoon so we do not care to do that or any type of zip lining. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    • Tracey – glad to hear you’re finding helpful info here.

      I think Maui might be a good compliment to Oahu based on your description. There’s really nice snorkeling and great beaches on Maui. Maui also has some excellent luaus, too. Do check out the links above to see if there’s an island that seems to click better with you. They all have something special to offer!

  24. Hi Sheila,

    You obviously know Hawaii well! Please help us with some tips and suggestions on how to choose which island.
    Four of us (young 50 year olds)will be visiting Hawaii for the first time for 9 days from Aug 28 to May 7, 2 coming from the Pacific coast and 2 from Eastern Canada. We are all not really beach people(i.e. suntanning all day long) and prefer walking around & checking things out kinda of holiday. We would enjoy sightseeing(volcanoes, waterfalls, lush tropical rainforests/parks) hiking, culture (e.g. luau) and history. We are not interested in nightlife and nightclubs. We don’t mind off the eaten path for local sights and sounds and are considering renting a car. We have looked briefly into Hawaii packages (flight & hotels) but is it better to book them separately?

    We would prefer no island hopping and rather choose a island that will provide us with enough to do for a week. Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Heleene — You’re in luck — most islands fit what you’re looking for. I would lean towards Hawaii’s Big Island for you because you’re interested in seeing volcanoes. The Big Island is the only island with an active volcano and it’s fascinating to see.

      No matter which island you visit, it’s best to rent a car to get around. You can possibly get away without having to get a car if you stay on Oahu, but having a car gives you lots of freedom for sightseeing.

  25. Hi Sheila,

    Just found your website while looking around TripAdvisor. My wife and I are planning a trip to Hawaii towards the end of August. Never been there. We are coming for 8 days from the East Coast. We really want to see the road to Hana and watch the sunrise at Haleakala so Maui is a definite. We are also interested in seeing a volcano (I know that is Big Island) and seeing Pearl Harbor (Oahu). Does this sound feasible to you or too rushed? I don’t want us to be running around so much that we don’t get a chance to relax and enjoy being in Hawaii. Any specific recommendations you might have? Also, we are both vegetarians. Do you know if there are any islands that don’t have options for us? Thank you for your help.

  26. Hi,

    My two daughters, 11 and 13, and I are thinking about traveling to Hawaii in March for about 7 days from the west coast of British Columbia, but I am not sure where to go. I don’t want a very expensive trip but my daughters want to stay in a more upscale resort/hotel on the beach. I have narrowed it down to Oahu or Maui. My one daughter wants a little bit of shopping and the other wants to go snorkeling. I really want to go hiking but I want to best fit my daughters needs first. We want to stay on an island where we can relax on a nice, not crowded, beach. Your advice is greatly needed! Thank you.

  27. Hi Sheila,

    We are planning to have a trip to Hawaii in May for 9 days 9(Including travel). We want to enjoy Beginner surfing, beaches, scooba diving,paragliding,Little bit shopping, and moderate sight seeeing, to feel relaxed and nice. We are planning to rental home .

    Please help to suggest the Island and the place to stay. Your help is deeply appreciated.

    Looking forward for your reply

    • Vindya — if paragliding is important, mark Kauai off your list. It’s banned there. You’ll find paragliding on Oahu, Hawaii (Big) Island and Maui.

      Sightseeing is amazing on all islands, so don’t worry there.

      If you want to do a little bit of shopping and feel relaxed, then I’d suggest Maui. You can find rental homes and vacation condos everywhere on the island.

  28. Hi Sheila,

    We are planning our trip to Hawaii in Apr last week till May 12th for 15 days Including travel. Except for hiking, we want to enjoy all the fun.There are 3 people, My son 4Yr old, My wife and myself. Please help to advice as this is the first time to that place. I saw this forum is very helpful. We are vegetarians and we have planned for renting house or condos hoping that may be less expensive than the hotels.

    Also please help to tell which island to go first we are coming from seattle. We want to cover as much as we can also not to rush and to our great satisfaction.

    Kindly respond :)

    • Hi Krishna

      You’re description of what you want is too general for me to recommend a specific island(s). They all fit what you described. So, good news is that you can’t make a bad choice. :)

      My recommendation would be for you to read the links in the above article and see which islands seem to click with you the most. It really is worth your time as only you know what interests you most.

  29. Hi Sheila!
    We are a family of 4 looking to vacation to Hawaii for 6 weeks in Feb – March 2013. Our girls will be almost 3 and almost 2. We are debating between Maui and the Kona side of the big island as we read it has considerably less rain during this time. We would be renting a condo to alow us the space we will need as well as the flexibility to cook our own meals. (going out with toddlers isn’t always fun) I’m wondering if you could recommend either island for our stay and any activities/attractions that might be of interest to us and the kids. We will be inviting our parents for part of the stay to allow us to explore the island differently, but when it is just us, what family friendly activities are there that allow us to bring the kids while still enjoying the island?
    Thank you in advance!

  30. Hi Sheila


    My fiancé and I are eloping so looking for a romantic and beautiful place for our solo ceremony and honeymoon.

    We LOVE great restaurants and very nice hotels and/ or resorts

    No children and 40, so adult environment preferred

    Thinking about anywhere b/w end of July-September for travel based on the best time to go?

    Not super concerned with clubs or crazy nightlife

    Love outdoors activities, Like to hike, and great beaches would be key

    2 islands could be possible

    Love very modern and updated hotels

    Will either fly from Florida or New York. How long should we stay?

    First time to Hawaii

    I absolutely love anything to do with animals or aquariums

    We originally planned to go to San Fran and Nappa but cost wise and “more bang for your buck” Hawaii is looking very good to me after reading your sire. We absolutely love The Bahamas, so Hawaii should be that x. 1000

    Thank you for any advice you can provide :)

  31. Hi Sheila,

    I hope you can advise us with deciding on whether or not to attend a luau. Do you recommend it as a “must do” if you are visiting Hawaii or is really more of a tourist attraction only? This will be our first time visiting Hawaii for the 4 of us (50 year olds) and think $100 per person is a little pricey for a buffet dinner. However, there are 2 people who will be celebrating birthdays during our 8 day stay. We are staying on the Big Island with 4 days in Hilo area and 4 days on Kona side. If you recommend a luau, is there one you favor? Any other suggestions for a memorable dinner elsewhere? Thanks for your help! I love your site

  32. Shelia,

    This website is great! My finacee and I are planning our honeymoon in March of 2013 and we are trying to decide between Kauai, Maui, or the Big Island. We love to hike and experience the outdoors but at the same time want somewhere that we can spend time on a great beach and relax. We are looking for a romantic spot that isn’t too touristy but still has great sites to see and we are having a very hard time choosing between these three options. What would you recommend?


    • Sorry, I should add- we don’t care too much about night life, are not interested in golf, and care more about an amazing outdoor and meld of relaxing and active experiences rather than touristy type things (which is why we are avoiding Oahu)

      • Jessie — glad you’re finding Go Visit Hawaii useful for your honeymoon planning. Be sure and get our free daily updates for lots of tips to prepare you for the trip: http://www.govisithawaii.com/2008/04/20/are-you-subscribed-to-go-visit-hawaii/

        After reading what you’re looking for, my first thought was Kauai…in my opinion, there’s something especially romantic about the “Garden Isle”. Kauai is also less touristy compared to Maui.

        My only hesitation about Kauai is that it tends to get a bit more rain and March is one of the rainier months. See this chart that shows historic rainfall averages by month.

        You can reduce your risk of rain by staying in the Poipu or Waimea areas. See this article on where to stay on Kauai to avoid rain: http://www.govisithawaii.com/2008/09/15/where-to-stay-on-kauai-for-the-best-weather/ One really cute, very not touristy place you might want to look into is Waimea Plantation Cottages — located in an area that doesn’t get as much rain as the rest of the island.

        If the worry of rain scares you about Kauai, then I would recommend the Kohala Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. That area only gets about 10 inches of rain per year. There’s lots of great hotels there that are more on the luxury side. Most of them are not big chains, so you don’t feel like you’re in a cookie cutter hotel.

        Don’t sweat the decision….it’s all good in Hawaii.

  33. Hi. I am planning on visiting Hawaii the end of October. Since this is our first trip to hawaii I was trying to decide which island to go to and which town.
    We were looking for a less crowded island, seeing waterfalls, valcanos, and do some sightseeing, whale watching. We also had a little concern on the weather and the rain.

    Thanks alot for all your help!!

    • Laura —

      All of Hawaii is made up of volcanoes, but only the Big Island of Hawaii has active volcanoes. See this article: http://www.govisithawaii.com/2012/05/23/where-to-go-in-hawaii-to-see-volcanoes/

      If seeing volcano activity is not a priority, I would also recommend Kauai.

      So, based on what you described, either the Big Island or Kauai are good fits.

      Humpback whale season doesn’t being until mid to late December. So, it would be highly unlikely for you to see whales at the end of October. If you do end up seeing one, you’d be extremely lucky.

      October is not a heavy rainfall month, so I wouldn’t give that much concern.

  34. We are a family with 2 girls ages 10 and 12 by the time we will be going to Hawaii in late May or early June 2014. We’ll book timeshare condo either on Oahu or Maui, but would like to see active volcano on the Big island. Is it possible to see on a day trip to fly in, see volcano, fly back all in the same day from Oahu or Maui?

  35. Dear Sheila,

    You have such a great website. We are a couple planning to go to Hawaii in mid-August for the first time. We are interested in hiking, seeing the volcanoes, and beaches. To minimize transport logistics we were thinking in going to (1) Maui to see the Haleakala National park and the road to Hana and (2) staying over one day/night in Big Island to see the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (I noticed that you recommend to see the volcano at night as well). Does it sound like a good plan, any suggestions? We need help in choosing accommodation, do you have a recommendation for a hotel to stay in Maui and another one for the night in Big Island?

    Many thanks in advance. Best regards,

    • Thanks for the kind words Sonia.

      I think your plan sounds like a sound one.

      When you go to the Big Island, you’ll want to fly into Hilo (ITO) airport, which is the closest airport to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park — about a 45 minute drive.

      When we stay on the Hilo side, we really enjoy staying in the village of Volcano that is on the doorstep of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. There’s a famous inn there, Kilauea Lodge plus many nice B&B’s. On our last stay there, we enjoyed the Teapot Cottage.

      Lava action is always subject to change, so I recommend you check this post to find out what’s going on with the lava.

      As for where to stay on Maui…there are so many great places to stay. For a first timer, I think Kaanapali Beach makes a good base. If you’re up for some luxury, check out the Ritz-Carlton deal I posted about today: http://www.govisithawaii.com/2012/07/26/hawaii-vacation-deals-news-july-26-2012/

      • Dear Sheila,

        Thanks again for your reply. At the end we decided to do only Maui but do a tour to the Big island volcano. Reading your website, we have three options: (1) Big Island Volcano Tour (12 hours) with Hawaii Tours, (2) Big Island Volcano Tour (2h) with Maui with Air Tours, and (3) Sunset Volcano Tour (2h). Which of the 3 tours would you recommend? Number (3) is going over the volcano in Big Island at night? I like the relaxing and romantic feel of this one, but I was wondering whether you’ll recommend number (1) since you can walk over the volcano. Or number (2). Also could you recommend any nice restaurant in Maui for a celebration? We are staying at Kaanapali beach as you recommended. Many thanks again! Best regards, Sonia

        • Sonia – Regarding the tours, it really depends on what appeals to you, fits your budget and schedule. I haven’t taken any of them so, I can’t recommend one over the other. I have always “created” my own tour while staying on the island.

          One slight word of caution about “volcano” tours…I’ve seen brochures that show their tour going directly to flowing lava. Depending on the lava, that may or may not be possible.

          When I went to the Big Island for the first time, the only way to see any active lava was via an air (helicopter) tour.

          Regarding restaurants – here’s our list of top Maui restaurants: http://www.govisithawaii.com/2008/04/28/how-to-find-the-best-maui-restaurants/ If I were celebration a special occasion and staying in Kaanapali…
          … if I didn’t want to drive, I’d go to Leilani’s in Kaanapali
          …. if I didn’t mind driving 10 or 15 minutes, I’d go to Plantation House. This is one of our favorite Maui restaurants. http://www.govisithawaii.com/2007/09/26/review-of-the-plantation-house-restaurant-in-kapalua-maui/ Book a reservation for when the restaurant opens for dinner. Arrive on time and you’ll probably get one of the beautiful tables for two by the open glass doors.

          Either way, book asap.

  36. Hey Sheila! This website is awesome! Me and my fiancé are planning our honeymoon for the first week of April 2013. We are planning for a maximum of 8 days and we also wanted to do some island hopping. After doing some extensive research, we have short listed Maui, Kuai, and the Big Island. This is what we are seeking for on our trip: privacy, some realllyyy good romantic spots, waterfalls, water sports (diving,snorkeling,kayaking), cruise or paragliding,good restaurants, good ocean view resorts,bit of volcano, and some time alone on the beach. We are not fond of partying too much, thus having no nightlife shouldn’t matter. Can you please suggest two islands that we should visit, how should we split our time, and can the budget be within $6000 ? (We might be looking for some package plans.please let us know if you have any recommendations). Looking forward to hear from you :)

  37. Wow, what a prompt reply! This website is truly helpful and the effort you put into it is commendable! I have been reading all bits and pieces from your website and have even been dreaming about Hawaii too. Lol. Sheila, it still seems that I have more extensive research to do for our honeymoon. My to-be-husband has handed over the task of Hawaii planning to me as I am the one with the more keen interest in these beautiful islands! Here is a rough plan of what I came up with overnight :) Can you tell me if it looks good or you can turn down the whole thing as you are the expert here! I have posted the questions along with the plan. I would appreciate it if you could take the time out to fulfill my queries.

    Day 1: Fly from Houston to Maui (Can we do a direct flight to Maui?)

    Day 2: Take the road to Hana (early morning) and try to be in time for a sunset picnic.

    Day 3: Go snuba diving (can someone who is an amateur to swimming do snuba diving after having practice lessons ? If no, should we do a submarine tour instead?) Come back, rest, and go for the star gazing/sunrise at Haleakala.

    Day 4:Parasailing. Can we do the waterfalls too and then leave for the Big Island or skip them? (Are there evening departures for the BI? )

    Day 5:At the BI, visit the Tropical Botanical Garden and do the sunset cruise later at the evening. (If we can’t do these two together, should I adjust the cruise in Day 6)

    Day 6: Helicopter tour

    Day 7: Hawaii volcano Park. End the trip with a couple massage by the ocean and with the stargazing.

    Day 8: Return to Houston

    I tried cutting down on activities as per your recommendation. I might still be overloading our honeymoon with too much. If that is the case, please let me know. I have no intentions of being a superwoman on this tour :)

    * Also 2 more things to ask : 1. I cover my head and my body and I am hoping there won’t be a racial issue in Hawaii. I might be the odd one out dressed up like that but I hope my attire would be not a reason to stop me from visiting that beautiful place. 2. After reading the plan, if you find it fine, will we be fitting in 6K?

    Thanks so much for reading!!! :)

    • * I was thinking of one island but my fiance and I have our fingers crossed to see some of that lava! Hence, the BI is a part of the excursion.

    • Is it doable? Probably. Depends on if you want your honeymoon crammed packed with activities or if you want to enjoy your Hawaii honeymoon at a less hurried pace. If you want to go at a slower pace, then pick one island…and if seeing lava is important, consider going with the Big Island. One thing to bear in mind with lava is that there are no guarantees that it’s flowing at a point where you can see it. Another idea is just stay on Maui and take a scenic flight to see the volcano activity on the Big Island: http://www.govisithawaii.com/2008/04/29/island-hopping-from-maui-to-see-the-big-island-lava-flow/

      The Big Island is big and takes about 2.5 hours to drive from one side to another. So, at a glance, the Big Island days look ambitions.

      I don’t know if there’s a direct flight from Houston. I do know there is one from Dallas.

      Bear in mind that the vast majority of flights from Hawaii to the mainland require an overnight flight — unless you live on the West Coast.

      Regarding SNUBA: http://www.govisithawaii.com/2012/05/07/confessions-of-a-snuba-failure/

      Maui’s waterfalls are off the road to Hana.

      I am not set up to help plan individual detailed trips. I write this site on a voluntary basis as I have time.

  38. Appreciate your reply! I’ll stick with one island then. Thanks again! :)

    • Hi Mariya – honestly, I think that’s wise to do. Sticking with one island will save you time and money.

      Regarding how you dress, I wouldn’t anticipate it would be an issue. People in Hawaii are generally very warm and welcoming.

      You will have a fabulous honeymoon. Happy travels!

  39. Hi Sheila,

    All the links are so informative!!! and I want to thank you very much as it was easy to decide the islands and we have booked the tickets and accommodation :)

    Islands: Oahu and Maui
    Duration: 15 days (6+8)[excluding travel]
    Travel month: Dec 21 2012 to Jan 6 2013
    People: 2 adults and 1 kid [4-1/2 yrs]

    Not willing to do : hiking, nightlife, shopping

    The queries:
    1.Considering our dislikes how much percent can we cover in one island?
    2.Need help in planning a schedule for 15 days [Top must see and do in both islands as there are holidays in between like new-year and Christmas]

    Looking forward for your reply

  40. Hi. We are planning a surprise trip to Hawaii for my mother. She has wanted to go her whole life and talks about how “someday” she’d love to see Hawaii, every vacation we take. We will be going May 14-21. We will be traveling with my parents, husband and myself, and our three kids (7 and 6 year old girls and 1 year old boy). I am so afraid that we are going to spend a mountain of money and be disappointed, but after reading everything here, I’m excited all over again. I am writing to ask your opinion on a couple of questions I can’t seem to answer myself no matter how much research I do online and our travel agents have never been to Hawaii so they were little to no help!
    Big questions: Which island? And Which luau?
    My Dad says “I don’t care what else we do, I want to see Pearl Harbor”. Lol.
    Husband said “the only thing I want to do is get in one of those cages and go down to see the sharks”.
    My mom (who has no clue we are planning this) has always dreamed about going to a real laua on the beach.
    And I just want to FEEL like I’m in Hawaii….I would love to see all the amazing things the big island offers, but ai don’t think that it is possible to make everyone happy and see the different sands, volcanos, desert, etc. So I will just be happy to make everyone else happy.
    And my kids love everything. Especially playing in the sand at the beach. And I don’t want them to miss out on that for sure!
    We go to the beach in Flordia every year and I want this to be unlike any other beach experience….just amazing. We will do everything together (so with three little ones in tow). We will rent a house for the week so we won’t have any resort activities to keep us busy. Any suggestions for must see?

    • Probably Oahu would be your best bet as that’s where Pearl Harbor is and, as far as I know, is the only island with cage shark diving.

      If you’re looking for a house to rent, don’t plan on Waikiki as there are mostly high rise towers that are predominately hotels.

  41. Hi Shelia-

    Loved all your information but would still like a recommendation. My wife and I and our 9 year old son are going for 14 days (last week of Feb/first week of March). The first week we are spending on the big island but are torn on week number two- mostly likely Ohau or Maui. We would take in Pearl Harbor but heard the lines can be outrageous so we may skip. While we might be satisfied with beautiful beaches, we also want to make sure there are enough things to do to keep the 9 year old fully engaged as well. One of the things that intrigued us about Waikiki was the shows, shops, and general energy but are not as thrilled when we hear about traffic and congestions and crowds. Any advice you have is welcome and appreciated. Thank you in advance.

  42. Hi Sheila,

    Love your site…great source of unbiased information! My husband and I are contemplating Hawaii…we’ve talked about it for several years but always seem to end up vacationing somewhere else! Nonetheless, I think 2013 might be our year!

    We would most likely be traveling in early February…we’re looking for some sightseeing and relaxation. We do not yet have children and we both have fairly demanding careers…vacation for us is our chance to relax, enjoy wonderful food and accommodations, explore some new places, get away from the MN winters, and spend time together.

    Is there an island for us???

    Thanks much!

    • Hi Ann,

      I bet you’d love Maui based on what you’re looking for. A great plus for going to Maui in early February is that you’d be there during the peak of humpback whale season which is amazing. Maui is one of the best places in Hawaii for whale watching.

  43. HI Sheila,

    What a wonderful site, thank you. We are planning a trip for this coming February (2013) for our family of 4 – my husband & I , our 4yr old and 1yr old. Ideally we want to rent a home on a beach (with safe wading/swimming) for a week and relax. We’d like to stay somewhere low key but close enough to decent / quaint shopping and restaurants. No high rises, big box stores, etc. I’ve been looking at Anini beach on Kauai but have been thrown off by talk of mosquitoes, noisy nearby neighbors, and campers on the beach. None of which I really want involved in our vacation. Perhaps I’ve been researching too much and have just managed to find every complaint founded and unfounded? The internet is a blessing and a curse, isn’t it? SO would love your opinion. We’re not set on Kauai so if you think another island would suit our requests, I’m all ears. A sea turtle sighting would be nice too : ) Any help you can give is appreciated – Sarah

    • You might want to look in the Poipu area, which tends to be a sunnier side of Kauai in winter months. You can find homes and condos to rent. At Poipu Beach Park, there’s a protected little keiki (kids) beach that’s great for little ones.

  44. My fiancé and I are planning our honey moon in Hawaii in late August. We would really like a beautiful and scenic resort, maybe even a room that doesn’t have any doors that opens up to the ocean. Is there a resort like this? We also like to want to be active. We’re thinking of splitting up the trip. Any advice?

    • By “doors that opens up to the ocean”, do you mean simply seeing the ocean? Or walking out the doors to the ocean for a swim?

      There are tons of oceanfront resorts all across Hawaii with rooms where you open the doors from your lanai and gaze out onto the beautiful blue Pacific.

      You can be very active with hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, snorkeling, etc on all islands.

  45. We are from Australia and are planning a stop-over on our way back in May for 3nights. Along with my husband, we’ll have our 18month old daughter with us. We were leaning towards the Big Island as we’re interested in the volcanic experience. Ive heard a lot about the volcanic smog and altitude being somewhat harmful, or rather, upsetting for little ones. Any advice would be good about it. Would you recommend another island to snorkel/and really just relax in if the VOG is inadvisable

    • Experts advise that children, the elderly and anyone with heart or respiratory issues avoid exposure to volcanic gases. Even for healthy adult, exposure to the gases are irritating — and I can say that from experience.

      Really, you can relax on any island. For snorkeling, I really like Maui and Lanai.

      • I should clarify that the volcanic gases are usually concentrated immediately around Kilauea area in places where lava is flowing and in and around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

  46. I’d like to do a quickie trip with my parents. I’m turning 50 and they have been married 50 years! We’d fly from NYC March 20-24 or 25. I’d like to see some beautiful natural sites (flowers, birds, waterfalls, etc.) but they are in their late 70’s and can walk on flat trails but nothing strenuous. We don’t want to drive so walking or taxis is a must, but if we can join a small tour bus that would pick up at a hotel or resort would be fine. I think my folks would like a nice beach and nice grounds at a hotel or resort for a little pampering. Maui or Big Island or something else? Please give me your best recommendation.

  47. Wow what a wonderful website!
    Just wondering if I could get a little advice for my first trip to Hawaii?
    I am going with my friend to Hawaii for a “girls holiday” as a break from our stressful jobs. We are in our mid 20’s and will be going around November-December for about one week (not including travel days).
    Our main priority with this trip is to laze about, go to the day spa and eat like no one has ever eaten before!
    We would also be looking to do a couple of activities, see some of the sights and I know I will be dragged on some kind of hike. We aren’t really looking to party, shop too much or spend too much time in the city but we would like the option to do these – maybe if our time is split between two islands?
    I understand that December isn’t prime-time to visit Hawaii but its really the only time we can go from work. With that being said we are both really low maintainence and could surely find something to do if it rains (probably eating!)
    I absolutely love staying in beautiful hotels and accommodation so this is a huge priority for me, for my friend – she would just prefer to be near a nice beach.
    I could be wrong, but I have heard that Hawaii gets a lot of big wave surfing in December and I would love to see something like that if we’re there at the right time.

    Can you suggest any thing that would suit us? Thanks in advance.

    • I think Maui would be a great fit for what you’ve described. In my opinion, Maui has the best collection of spas.

      You might want to look into the Wailea area of Maui, where you’ll find luxury hotels, each with fabulous spas — one of my favorites being Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea.

      Maui offers lots of great sightseeing that makes getting a rental car worth your time and money.

  48. Oh and I just forgot to add to the above comment ^^

    Both me and my friend love doing road trips and if there are any great scenic drives where we can hire a car for we would definitely take the time to do a Hawaiian road trip around an island.


  49. Awesome site Sheila. Your knowledge is impressive! We are interested in a trip to the Big Island or Maui in mid April with a 4 and 6 year old. What are the best beaches for kids on each of those islands? Looking for calm water, sandy beaches, not too crowded/touristy.

    Would you say it is accurate that Maui has more activities for young kids? Thanks so much for your help!

    • Pete — April can be a transitional month between rough winter seas and calmer summer seas. Hopefully, you’ll experience the calmer side.

      Based on my knowledge and experience:

      On Maui DT Fleming and Kaanapali beaches are relatively calm, mostly sandy bottom and fairly uncrowded. DT Fleming has a lifeguard, which is definitely a plus.

      On the Big Island Mauna Kea Beach, Hapuna Beach and Anaethoomalu Bay (A-Bay) along the Kohala Coast fit what you’re hoping to find. Hapuna has a lifeguard station.

      I do think Maui has more kid friendly things to do — great luaus (some information may be slightly out of date, but gives you a relative idea of luau comparison), a fun goat farm, sugar cane train, etc.

  50. Sheila, your website is absolutely amazing! Me and my fiancé are planning our honeymoon in late June for 9 days. He is absolutely set on seeing the lava flow while I want to be at Maui. I was thinking if we could do one or two nights initially at BI just for the sake of the active volcano and then we go on to Maui for 6-7 nights. Does that sound wise? I want him to be happy too provided the lava flows :) Let me know what you think.

  51. Hi Sheila!

    I am planning a trip to Hawaii for myself(37), my aunt(59), my mother (61), and my son(9)for 9 days starting the week after Christmas bringing in the New Year there!! I would like to spend time on Ohau and Maui and I have the idea of doing a Luau for New Year’s Eve. My aunt and mom are a little more on the touristy side, I want more of an authentic, cultural, nature rich experience. I am looking for guidance for New Year’s Eve and for a balance of activity between what they want and what I want. This is my first big trip with my son (single mom trying to show my kid some of the world) so I really want him to have a memorable experience where he can appreciate the beauty of the land and learn a thing or two. I would love to hear any suggestions you have!

    • Every luau has a touristy aspect to it. That being said, there are two luaus — one on Oahu and one on Maui — that have won awards for being closer/honoring Hawaiian culture. Those are the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu (make sure you see their evening show HA: Breath of Life after the luau) The one on Maui is Old Lahaina Luau.

      I don’t know if either of those luaus are open on the holiday evening, so I recommend you verify that before making your plans.

      You will have plenty of opportunities to learn more about the culture and beauty of Hawaii during your stay — just don’t expect all that to happen at a luau. One example Oahu that will give you many learning opportunities is Waimea — here’s a bit I wrote about that, but with more of a focus on their swimmable waterfall – http://www.govisithawaii.com/2010/10/25/where-to-swim-at-a-waterfall-in-oahu/

      Additionally, plan to spend an entire day including the luau and evening show at the Polynesian Cultural Center where you can learn about Hawaii and all the Polynesian cultures. http://www.govisithawaii.com/2007/06/20/polynesian-cultural-center-a-hawaii-must-do/

  52. Hey there!

    Thank You for sharing great information about Hawaii!
    I was wondering, where is the best place for surfing in Hawaii?
    Thank You

  53. Family of 5 looking for advice on a first time visit to Hawaii. Children’s ages: 7, 10 & 13. We have set aside 2 weeks in April for travel from New York area. How many islands should we schedule? How easy is it to travel from island to island? Hoping for good mix of relaxing and exploring. Any insights would be appreciated. Hard to know where to begin!

  54. The information here is a huge help! Thank you so much for putting together such a wealth of information. Which island would you say is the least crowded in late July/early August?

  55. Hi Sheila, so happy I ran across your site…what a wealth of information you have. I am a single mom with a 12 yr old daughter. I would love to take her to Hawaii but not sure which island to visit. I want to take her where there will be lots of fun activities for her to do. We would like to stay in a resort. Trying to plan ahead of time as have to budget for our trip. I was hoping to visit around xmas because she is out of school, however I see that is the most expensive time to visit. Any thoughts/advice? Thanks Sheila

  56. Hi Sheila!
    My husband & I are going to Hawaii to celebrate our 40th anniv. plus 5 yr. of being cancer free for me. I have been studing all the islands. I’m so confused. We are taking 2 weeks. 2 days will be travel time to and from. I want to see and do it all. I am planning on 4 islands. Would we be better off to do 3 and spend an extra day or 2 on each island. I want to snorkel, kayak, hike (easy), go to a luau, drive the road to Hana, see Pearl Harbor, pineapple plantations, waterfalls, & mountains. Would also like to see where they did some filming. I have to decide soon to make our arranagements. I’ve consulted 2 travel agents, but think I can manage the arrangements myself, including inter island flights and car rentals. Which inter island air line would you recommend? Thank you. Pat

    • Hi Pat,

      I think your hunch to trim your plans down from four to three islands is a good idea. There’s so much to do on each island and spending more quality time on three will probably make for a better experience. Lots of time can be lost in rental car agencies, airports, hotel check in’s etc when you transfer from one island to the next.

      As for interisland airline, we’ve had the best experience on Hawaiian. See more here:

      Based on what you hope to see and do, I recommend Oahu and Kauai for TV and movie locations. For the third island, Maui for the road to Hana plus great snorkeling. You can go to a luau on any island.

  57. We are going to Hawaii over the Thanksgiving week (~7 days)to celebrate our 20th anniversary with the two kids (8 and 11). We want to swim in the ocean, snorkle, learn some things about Hawaii history and customs. Any thoughts

    • You can do what you’ve described on any of the Hawaiian Islands.

      Based on our own experiences, we think Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii are best for snorkeling.

  58. Hi Sheila,

    My husband and I are planning a trip to Hawaii for our babymoon from Sep 22nd to 30th. We have been contemplating going to Maui & The Big Island but we also learned that we’ll end up losing more than half a day hopping islands. Do you recommend an entire week stay in Maui? Also, considering my situation what activities do you suggest we do during our stay in Maui? Sometimes I feel that am not sure when we’ll go back to Hawaii again, so maybe we should squeeze the other island in our itinerary. So confused!! Please help!

    Thanks a ton for your time and patience!

  59. Hi Sheila!

    First of all I love your site and all the tips, I’ve been reading them all night!

    I do need some advice though…

    My fiance wants to honeymoon in Hawaii, our wedding is on January 4th, so I assume we will depart by Monday January 6th! I would love to visit two islands, is there enough time? We will probably return on Tuesday the 14th to Oklahoma. We’ve had many people tell us to choose another destination for our honeymoon since it won’t be the best weather in January, but my fiance really wants to visit Hawaii.

    An ideal honeymoon includes relaxing on the beach, swimming/some body surfing in the ocean, a nice resort is a must with a pool and bar, night life, maybe some snorkeling, a spa, shopping, fiance would like to do some kind of ATV tour if possible, sight seeing, maybe visiting/ hiking ( nothing too adventurous) around a volcano? I also think renting a jeep or convertible sounds super fun and just driving around! We typically go on vacations with my family, we’ve never really been anywhere just the two of us so I’m just afraid we will become bored?!

    He’s also interested in watching the surf competitions, so I was thinking that our two islands would be Oahu and Maui? What do you think?

    I went to Hawaii when I was 12, but that was 10 years ago so I’m sure I won’t be repeating anything although I do remember a little bit of the Road to Hana. I didn’t necessarily want to repeat a vacation, but i’m sure a honeymoon is different than a family vacation?

    Sorry for the detailed post, and thank you in advance for your help and suggestions! :)

  60. Hi Sheila,

    My family wants to go to Hawaii during the Christmas Holiday for 10 days. We have teenagers who like adventure, water sports, etc. What islands would you recommends and hotels?

    • Hi Carmen — really, any island is great for water sports, with one minor exception being Molokai, which doesn’t offer much in the way of water sports.

      Hawaii typically gets stronger/bigger swells in Winter months — typically on the north facing shores of the islands. So you’ll want to steer clear of staying in those areas if you want water sports at the nearest beach to your accommodations.

      In my opinion, I think you should consider Maui, Oahu and the Big Island, but choosing no more than 2 islands over the 10 day period. Kauai is nice, but it can be a bit trickier ocean-wise that time of year.

      Check the individual island guides on our home page. Each guide has a section with advice on where to stay.

  61. Hi,
    My best friend and I are both turning 50 and we want to mark this special occasion with a special trip to Hawaii. Neither of us have ever been to Hawaii before, and we are overwhelmed with all of the choices to make. We both are looking for a relaxing, beach- and pool-filled vacation and want all of the amenities that a large hotel would have to offer. Some shopping and light sight-seeing will occur, but we really just want to soak in the sights and sun that a beautiful beach would have to offer. Any suggestions?

    • You’ll find beautiful beaches and great scenery on any island. If you’re interested in shopping, then Oahu and Maui are your best bets.

  62. Hi there,
    We’re looking at going to Hawaii in the next 4-6 months. We plan on taking our 12 year old and his 14 yr. old cousin. These are active boys who like to be doing things. Which island would be the best for teen boys? They enjoy anything to do with water (including surfing, water parks, kayaking, even snorkeling).


  63. Hi Sheila, Thank you for this excellent resource! We will be going to Hawaii for the first time in late November/early December 2014. We will be attending the last reunion of U.S.S. Arizona families and will be dedicating the period of Dec 1-7 to Oahu. (My husband’s uncle and namesake, Thomas William Stanborough, survived the sinking of the Arizona but died later while saving another soldier in the Solomon Sea.) The airfare to Hawaii is a HUGE splurge for us, and this is likely to be our one and only chance to visit Hawaii… so we’d like to get in as many “must do’s” as possible. (We typically drive for vacation to save on this expense.) Of course, we know everybody’s “must do” list will be different based on interests. If possible, we’d like to visit several islands… depending on the expense and time required for interisland flights. On Oahu, we will be staying at Aulani, as we are Disney DVC owners. We haven’t decided which other island(s) to visit. We would truly appreciate your advice on which islands/activities would be best for us. It will just be my husband and me, aged mid-50’s and in good physical condition, celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary while there. We enjoy moderate hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, viewing beautiful wonders (gardens, waterfalls, whale watching, volcanoes), and cultural sites. We have done helicopter tours in other locations, but find we enjoy them best if the helicopter ride is roundtrip to somewhere that is otherwise inaccessible, with a fun midflight activity. We also enjoy exploring at our own pace, with the freedom to take a closer look at things that really interest us, so we’d like to do as many self-guided activities as possible. Neither of us drink alcohol, so night clubs, etc. are not important. Lodging on other islands does not need to be the same type as Aulani. In fact, a break from the crowds would be welcomed for part of the trip. We are budget-conscious, but not cheap (though cheap is great if it’s fun!). We would truly appreciate any advice you could provide!

  64. I am planning a trip for my wife and I the 1st week of December 2015.
    Things we like to do:
    Self guided tour/hiking.
    Kayaking, whale watching, see the volcano.
    Have not planned where to fly into yet.

    We are thinking 11-12 days in Hawaii.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Don S

  65. Hi and thank you so much for this wonderful resource site. My cousin and I are planning a trip to Hawaii (neither of us have been before) in late March/ early April 2015. We are in our early 30’s and looking to do a combination of hiking, beaches, and experiencing a little bit of night time entertainment (nothing too crazy, but do enjoy going out), a luau, and possibly a spa. We are planning on staying in either hostels or airbnb rooms/condos. We are leaning towards Maui, Oahu, or the Big Island. We will be there for 7 nights total. We are wondering if Oahu is too crowded/ city like as we both live in the city and are really looking for an escape from that pace. Is the Big Island doable in that short amount of time? Thank you so much!

    • Kelly – we find Waikiki to be pretty city-like. If you are looking to escape city life then, you may want to give Waikiki a skip. That being said, there are quite areas of Oahu, though they don’t have much in the way of nightlife.

      Any island is “doable” in seven days. You’ll be able to see the island highlights. Just stick with one island though.

      On Maui a bit of nightlife is found in Lahaina. For the Big Island, some nightlife is found in Kona.

  66. Hi, we are planning a week stopover in Hawaii after a holiday in Disney land and we are having trouble deciding which Island and hotel. We will be there the first week of November with our 4 and 6 year old kids so we are look for relaxing beach holiday with time to relax after the chaos of LA. We would like a great resort with water slides, calm beaches and activities for the kids and to experience real Hawaiian culture and basically have the full hawaian experience. I think we have over researched and are now confused. We are thinking Maui but any advice woul be greatly appreciated.
    Kind regards

  67. We would like to come to hawaii on February 16-22. I am 50 years old & my wife a Robin is 60 years young. We are looking for good times, snorkeling, jeepin, romantic beaches, good food & drink. We are moderate activity. Exploring and spas. I definetly need some help choosing an island.

    • Since you mentioned spas, you might want to consider Maui as Maui has several top notch spas. Otherwise, just about any other island will suit your needs.

  68. My mother and I are planning on going to Hawaii 10/15-10/18/15 she lived there when my dad was in the military many years ago, and has been wanting to go back. We don’t know where to go…She’s 65 I’m 38 and we like to do moderate shopping, walk around to site see, and walk on the beach. We’re going primarily for relaxation on a small budget.

    What would be the best island, and things to do? Oh I definitely want to see a luau.

    • Oahu is best for shopping with lots of shops in Waikiki, the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, Ala Moana Center and the outlets. If you’re mainly wanting to walk around near where you’re staying, Waikiki would be your best bet on Oahu. That being said, not everyone finds Waikiki to be relaxing. Some folks love it, while others find it a bit to city like.

      Maui is next best for shopping with shops in Lahaina, Kaanapali, Paia, and Wailea. Maui is very relaxing.

      The Big Island is third best for shopping with shops in Kona. Kona is a bit vibrant, but can still be relaxing.

      You can do a luau on any of those islands.

  69. Wow! Awesome info. Thanks for the time you put into answering the quesitons. My wife and I are planning a one week trip to hawaii in October for our 20th anniversary. We like secluded beaches, warm water, snorkling, food, hiking, luau, and want to learn to surf and paddleboard. Night life isn’t important to us. What do ya think? Thanks.

    • I’d say Maui or Kauai would be the best fit for you. Here’s how they stack up based on what you described:
      Maui – excellent snorkeling, tons of great restaurants in the resort areas, good luau options.
      Kauai – beaches tend to be a bit more secluded, a decent number of good restaurants especially in the Poipu area, there are some well established luaus.

      Water temperature should be pretty much the same from island to island.

  70. Hi Sheila,

    My Fiance and I are considering Hawaii For our honeymoon in 11/2015. We are thinking of visiting Maui and Kona for about 12 days including travel. Things that would be important are beaches, Good food and some kind of nightlife.
    Would this be a good time of year to go? Would you have an recommendations for restaurants or hotels? Would you recommend swapping either one of these destinations out for a better location?
    I would LOVE to hear your thoughts. Thank you! :)

  71. Hi Sheila! Thanks for this site! It is unbelievably helpful! I would like to ask your opinion as well tho.

    Me and my husband are wanting to go for vacation in April. We are going for 10-11 days. We would like it to be romantic (as we are going for our Annual reconnection lol) as well as have waterfalls to visit, volcanoes is a plus, hiking, shopping (not a big have to), sailing, we want tons of things to do at the beach or out on the water for sure. I was looking at the islands and it’s looking like maybe Maui or Big Island would be fitting but still not sure. I was told Oahu is good for first timers but It looks as tho that’s more for site seeing. I also need to find an all inclusive resort to stay in. Also should we just do one island? Any help you can give would be great as I am the most indecisive person I’ve ever known!!

    • I think you’re on the right track with Maui and/or the Big Island with a lean more in the Maui direction because of the sailing opportunities to Molokini and to Lanai.

      Hawaii doesn’t really have all-inclusive hotels. The only hotel that’s sort of all-inclusive is Travaasa Hana in Maui http://www.govisithawaii.com/2011/09/29/experiencing-travaasa-hana/ which, though lovely, I wouldn’t recommend an entire Maui stay there due to how remote it is from the rest of what Maui has to offer. Read this article to help you decide how many islands to visit: http://www.govisithawaii.com/2014/01/14/how-many-islands-should-you-visit-during-your-hawaii-vacation/

      • Where would you suggest staying in Maui? What side of the island and what hotel or resort? And where would u suggest staying at Big Island …what side of the island and/or hotel or resort? are there any small villas or bungalows? I’m doing my research but I have no idea as to where to even start. I guess a good place to start would be what sides of the island. Also, Kauai, is that all nature or would I find the things I want there?

        • Meagan – maybe you should get a travel agent to help you with your planning, book your hotels, etc.

          Go to our home page http://www.GoVisitHawaii.com and access our individual island guides (located under the site introduction page) which provide more information about where to stay.

  72. Hi Sheila,
    I am planning to go to Hawaii in Mar/Apr for a week with my wife and 3 year old son. I am inclining towards Kauai and Maui but unable to finalize one of them.
    Our main preference is to enjoy natural beauty, beaches and try to watch whales also. We won’t be doing much of hiking and would like to rent a budget condo/home/hotel with kitchen.
    Please let me know your thoughts.

    • Vikas – Maui is the very best island for whale watching because most whales concentrate in the shallow waters between Maui, Lanai and Molokai.

      Read our Maui where to stay page: http://www.govisithawaii.com/maui-where-to-stay/ paying particular attention to Kihei

      • Thanks Sheila for your quick response. Maui is best for whale watching but are there good chances to watch whale from Kauai also in Mar/Apr? From the perspective of natural beauty and beaches, is there any preference between Kauai and Maui?

        • Have been to Kauai in February, which is the peak of whale season, we saw very little whale activity.

          ALL the Hawaiian Islands have natural beauty.

  73. Where’s best for a young couple/night life/sights to see

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