A conversation like the following is not uncommon:
Blissful Post-Hawaii Vacationer: “Oh, you write about Hawaii travel? We just got back. We loved it!”
Sheila: “I’m glad you liked it. What island did you visit?”
Blissful Post Hawaii Vacationer : “We were on the Big Island.”
Sheila: “I love the Big Island. Where did you stay?”
Blissful Post Hawaii Vacationer: “We stayed in Waikiki Beach.”
Queue the sound of a needle scratching a vinyl record: skreeeetch!
Waikiki Beach is on Oahu — not the Big Island. I’m not sure why, but it is a common misconception that Oahu is the Big Island. So, let’s take a look at Hawaii’s geography.
As you can see, the Big Island is indeed a big island. It’s bigger than all the other islands put together. The Big Island is also known as the island of Hawaii. (That point might also add to the confusion. That’s why I usually try to refer to the Big Island as Hawaii’s Big Island or the Big Island of Hawaii.)
Perhaps one of the reasons folks think that Oahu is the Big Island is that they assume that the most populated island is also the largest. Oahu is indeed biggest in population, as it is home to almost 70% of Hawaii’s population. According to the HVCB, here’s the population data by island.
- Oahu – 876,156
- Big Island of Hawaii – 148,677
- Maui – 117,644
- Kauai – 58,303
- Molokai – 7,404
- Lanai – 3,193
- Niihau – 160 (Not shown on the map. It’s a small island located on the southwest side of Kauai. It’s privately owned.)
- Kahoolawe – (The small unlabeled island near Lanai and Maui on the above map. This island is uninhabited.)
Do you have any other theories as to why people may think that Oahu is the Big Island?
By the way, don’t feel bad if you once thought that Oahu was the Big Island. Believe me, you aren’t alone!