Hawaii versus the Caribbean – Why Hawaii Wins

Oahu from the East Side

As you may recall, I don’t live near Hawaii. I live in North Carolina which is about 12 to 15 hours of flight time to Hawaii. Just based on observation, most East Coasters balk at that amount of flying time and opt to find paradise in Florida or the Caribbean. Oh boy! Let me tell you that Hawaii is worth the extra flying time. I’ve been to several Caribbean islands and they are lovely, but I much prefer Hawaii over any of them. The Caribbean Islands have lots to offer, but I think Hawaii offers even more. Here’s why I choose to go to Hawaii over the Caribbean.

1.. The Aloha Spirit
The warmth and friendliness of the people of Hawaii is practically noticeable from the moment you step off the plane. The aloha spirit welcomes you to Hawaii with a sincere kindness. It makes you feel relaxed and at home right away.

Jim of Bargaineering.com is a blog pal and fellow Hawaii addict that lives on the East Coast. So, when I told him I was working on this article, Jim shared these thoughts.

In Hawaii, everyone made us feel like we were at home. I think that in visiting various Caribbean places, people are nice but not to the degree and extent Hawaiians were nice and inviting. The Caribbean was like another nice beach, great weather, but not a place where you felt at home.

2. Volcanoes!
DSC_0923There are few things on earth as exciting as the unpredictable shape and force of a volcano. In Hawaii, you are constantly reminded of the islands’ volcanic beginnings. You’ll find many volcanic craters and mountains in Hawaii. On the Big Island you’ll even find Kilauea which is one of the worlds most active volcanoes where you can watch red-hot lava flowing. Beat that Caribbean!

3. The Climate and Terrain Diversity
The volcanic shape of the Hawaiian islands create such diversity of climates and terrain. You’ll never find an island in the Caribbean that has elevations of nearly 14,000 feet above sea level like Hawaii has. The tall volcanic shaped mountains along with the pleasant tradewinds create the windward and Kohala Coastleeward contrasts and climates.

In Hawaii, you’ll find rainforest jungles in contrast with fields of dry grasslands and beaches in contrast with snow-capped mountains. Take the Big Island of Hawaii for an example, you’ll find 12 of the earth’s 16 climate zones compactly existing on just one island. All this diversity creates such a feast for the eyes.

If you love to hike like I do, Hawaii is a paradise. Hawaii is has many miles of diverse and rewarding hiking trails. I’ve not found that on any Caribbean island that I’ve visited.

4. The Food
Hawaii is a harmonious melting pot with many ethnic backgrounds. You’ll find the evidence of this IMGP1400melting pot in the local cuisine. As Go Hawaii describes it, “Hawaii Regional Cuisine is a renowned culinary style that fuses American, Asian, European, and Hawaiian dishes together with the freshest local ingredients.” You won’t find many, if any Asian influences in Caribbean cuisine. That’s what sets Hawaii apart. Let me just add that as much hiking as I like to do in Hawaii, I don’t think I’ve ever returned from a Hawaii vacation a pound or two lighter.

5. The Polynesian Culture
I love that Hawaii clings to its Polynesian heritage. The European influence on the Caribbean is much more pronounced.

6. Hawaii feels safer.
In comparison to some Caribbean islands, Hawaii feels leaps and bounds safer. There’s hardly ever been a time that I’ve felt unsafe in Hawaii, but I have experienced some uncomfortable moments in Cozumel and Jamaica for example.

7. The US Dollar
Since many foreign currencies are strong now compared to the US dollar, it makes Hawaii a very good bargain destination. As a US citizen in a tough economy, I like spending my vacation budget to support my own country’s economy.


Finally, I’d like to re-emphasaze that the Caribbean is absolutely lovely. I have certainly enjoyed my vacations and honeymoon there. I just think that Hawaii has much more to offer visitors. Have you been to both? What other comparisons and contrasts did you notice?

  1. Thanks for including me!

    I have to second #3, I was amazed at how quickly climate changed on the Big Island. On the Hilo side it was lush, verdant, rainforesty; on the Kona side it was dry, volcanic, and almost prehistoric in some places. It made for a very interesting trip, plus it has #2 volcanoes!

  2. Wow, what a great article! You know both destinations very well so your personal insight was very interesting to read. You may want to compare Tahiti and Hawaii next.

    I love Tahiti, lived there 2 years vs. 28 years in Hawaii, but I also love Hawaii.

    Both the Tahitians and Hawaiians are Polynesians so they are basically the same culture. Tahiti has been run by the French and Hawaii by the US for the past 100+ years.

    The only thing keeping from living in Tahiti is an inexpensive internet connection, cheap gas, and missing friends in Hawaii.

    Tahiti is not overdeveloped like Waikiki is. Tahiti is a little more isolated from the modern world than Hawaii is but that can be a good thing.

    I am worried about Tahiti losing its cultural identity. Not many children are learning the Tahitian language anymore. Hawaiian children almost completely stopped speaking the Hawaiian language 15 years ago, but it is making a come back.

    The natural beauty of Hawaii and Tahiti (French Polynesia) is stunning. The cultures and history of Polynesia are fascinating.

  3. It is the air. Whether it’s the just after a sprinkle or mist, look at the rainbow moment or the wonderful trade winds.

    Plus for a guy that grew up in the midwest, full of too cold winters and snow and ice, and too hot summers, this is just right.

    Honolulu has its issues as does all of Oahu. But we will attempt to hide them from you when you visit. And of coure the neighbor islands are glorious as well. In a different way.

    I’d go on, but my boss could be looking over my shoulder at any time……aloha

  4. I travel extensively and been to many Caribbean islands and to Hawaii about 30 times. Hands down Hawaii, no comparison. The Carib islands are small, very little to do in comparison and dare I say say the poverty is a bit exposed for my tastes when I am spending thousands on a vacation. And don’t get me started on Mexico, except LaPaz.

  5. @ Jim – that’s right! The BI has 2 active volcanoes – Kilauea and Mauna Loa, I believe. The BI is actually made up of 5 volcanoes – Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, Kohala, and Hualalai. That just blows my mind! Thanks for your quote!

    @ Chris – Oh Tahiti is so beautiful! You are so lucky that you have lived in Tahiti and now in Hawaii! Don’t make me jealous. 😉 I agree with you that Tahiti seems to have too much of a European, particularly French, influence. Which is a shame. I’ll have to put some thoughts around an article comparing French Polynesia to Hawaii.

    @ Rick – I hope your boss didn’t bust you. 🙂 Yes – the air….there is something in the air! It really is almost magical. I remember when I arrived in the Maui airport for my first Hawaii vacation. I remember that the scent of the air was unusual,earthy and exotic, but very pleasant. I’m not even sure what the scent was, but I loved it. When I think of being in Hawaii, the first thought that pops into my mind is the sound of the air – specifically the tradewinds blowing gently through the palm fronds. Ahhhhh…paradise on earth! Thanks for your first time comment and please do come back and comment more!

    @ Bob K – Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You’ve certainly traveled both extensively, so you would know. I know what you mean about the poverty in the Caribbean. It’s shocking and sad to see it. It puts a bit of a somber damper on your vacation when you see it. Mahalo for your first time comment. Please do visit and comment again!

  6. I think Hawaii feels like home to many mainlanders because as the 50th state, American culture, laws, money, etc. make up the fabric of our society. Woven in are lots of other cultures that create a vibrant tapestry so it feels like home with an exotic flair.

  7. HVG – for the most part I agree. I was surprised that some Caribbean islands accept the US dollar along with their own currency.

    Now about the street and town names in Hawaii….those are definitely foreign for mainlanders. I shudder to think of the number of times I’ve completely mispronounced a street name. 🙂

  8. If you want to feel home, why do you spend thousands of $$. stay at home. Experience caribbean islands, venture out.those islands are fascinating…better than hawaii…just because you are from US, u should not be supporting hawaii…
    Need to have a fair judgement guys !!

  9. I have been to the Bahamas and Hawaii is much better. There are a lot of activities and tours to besides visiting the beach. I went there for 7 days and wish I could of stayed longer to visit other islands. There is a lot more options in Hawaii where you can take a 20 min. flight to visit other islands. The ocean waves are beautiful and if you are lucky you can see the green sea turtles swimming in the ocean.

  10. @ Maki – thanks for sharing your experience and opinion. I agree with you that Hawaii has a great variety of activities.

  11. I’ve been to both Hawaii and the Caribbean (family in the Virgin Islands and Barbados) and it is MUCH more affordable by comparison. I can say I feel more at home in the Carribean, but honestly it’s incomparable. I hear you guys, but the Carribean and the Hawaiian islands are just too different on so many levels. Granted the landscape is much the same, but as far as culture and experience it’s very different. You can really enjoy it if you explore ALL or MOST of the Carribean Islands. Visiting just one country won’t cut it, the Carribean encompasses many islands.

  12. I’m from the Caribbean, actually. I’m from the Paraguana Peninsula in Venezuela. I find very similar things that they have in Hawaii here in the Caribbean. The Venezuelan Cuatro is very similar to the Hawaiian Ukelele. The Hawaiian music has some similarities to the Trinidadian Calypso. In fact, there is a lot of reggae Hawaii. I don’t know if it’s home preferences, but I like Caribbean vacations much better. Also, it’s very safe in the Caribbean if your not stupid. It’s as safe in the Caribbean as it is in the United States when you do everything commercially.

    1. Thank you for your comment! A lot of Americans love to generalize all the countries in the Caribbean and say they are unsafe. There are many dangerous areas in the United States.

  13. I have been to both, Hawaii wins. Yes, the Carribean has softer sand and calmer waters, but that is it. Hawaii has nature. Rainforests, waterfalls, gardens, volcanoes, canyons, black sand beaches, green sand beaches, and beautiful waters. If you want to do nothing but lie down than Carribean is great. If you want to explore and get in touch with nature, Hawaii!!!

  14. I have been to Hawaii and Caribbean cruises. They’re both different types of vacations and similar in other ways. For me, if I like to explore a different exotic culture and something more adventurous, the Caribbean is it! Being in Hawaii feels like you’re still in the U.S., same currency, language, culture etc. The beaches are nice in Hawaii, but the Caribbean has clearer (and warmer) waters. There are also interesting historical sites in the Yucatan/Mayan peninsula that you won’t find in any other exotic parts of the world.

  15. You argue “I love that Hawaii clings to its Polynesian heritage. The European influence on the Caribbean is much more pronounced.” The Caribbean is so many different islands/countries. It is very much a generalization to state that Europe has influenced the Caribbean so much that they do not have distinct cultures. Besides the food is way better in the Caribbean.

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