The Heart of the Hawaiian Islands
So you want to go to Hawaii. You could get used to the perfect waters, warm sands, lush tropical forests, and fun luaus. A diverse culture, thrilling outdoor activities, and exotic flavors are added bonuses along the way.
The question becomes: which island? Or better yet: what to see as you island hop?
This island has earned the nickname “The Gathering Place” for a good reason. You’ll find several iconic spots here: Pearl Harbor, Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, and the North Shore to name a few. This is the most populated island within the chain and is the perfect blend of east meets west with native Hawaiian influence mixed in.
Honolulu is the state’s capital, a bustling city on Oahu full of great shopping, delicious food, and high-rise hotels. Running along its oceanfront edge is a little slice of paradise, the famous Waikiki Beach. If you need a break from city life, the laid-back North Shore is a treasure chest ready for you to unlock its secrets. With so much history and things to see, you’re guaranteed a fun-filled trip from start to finish.
The North Shore offers visitors a chance to cruise the coast and discover beachy coves, sleepy towns, and pineapple fields. Visit during the spring and summer months and grab some snorkeling gear from seaside shacks or rent a board and learn to surf on waves perfect for beginners. Come November, the peaceful atmosphere of the North Shore is met with some of the largest waves in the world, and seasoned and professional surfers flock to the birthplace of Big Wave Surfing.
This picturesque island is often considered the favorite of most visitors to Hawaii. A popular honeymoon destination, Maui attracts travelers with lush valleys, artsy towns, peaceful beaches, and farm-to-table delicacies. You won’t find a true city here, which definitely adds to its appeal. Grab a round of golf or look for migrating humpback whales and take in everything Maui has to offer for a true Hawaiian experience.
Lose yourself in the beauty of the “Valley Island” with a hike through the Iao Valley State Park. You’ll be transported to another world among the lush green flora and babbling creeks and rivers. Rest in the mists of a waterfall while gazing up at the Iao Needle, a lava relic rising 1,200 feet in the sky.
Take the Road to Hana.
The peaceful town of Hana is considered to be one of the last unspoiled frontiers in Hawaii and a must-stop on any Maui itinerary. What really puts this town on the map is the 52-mile drive it takes to get there and the awesome stops along the way. Filled with twists and turns, narrow bridges, and captivating views, hop in a rental car (we recommend a jeep or convertible) and remember: it’s all about the experience.
The untouched landscapes of Kauai are heaven for nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts. Natural wonders and historic towns are a big draw for visitors, but for the most part, crowds aren’t a problem here. Accurately named the “Garden Isle,” Kauai’s forests, valleys, and beaches have caught the eye of many filmmakers throughout the years as well – queue the Jurassic Park theme song.
Waimea Canyon is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” so you know this greener counterpart is truly a sight to behold. The Waimea Canyon Lookout and other stops along the main drive allow unparalleled views of this 14-mile monument and its cliffs and gorges. There are also a number of beginner to expert level hiking trails.
Whether by land, sea, or air, you need to see Kauai’s Napali Coast. Emerald cliffs rise from the azure waves of the Pacific Ocean for 17 miles, and majestic waterfalls crash to the clear pools below in its valleys. Hop on a boat and cruise along the scenic coast, or hike in the 11-mile trail that runs through the heart of its valleys. The best views by far are from the sky on a guided helicopter tour.
Best known as the “Big Island,” this is, you guessed it, the largest island in the chain. Also the youngest of the four main islands, Hawaii Island offers some truly unique experiences. If you’ve ever dreamed of swimming with gentle giants or watching lava flow right before your eyes, this is the place for you.
The Hawaiian Islands were born from the volcanic depths of the sea and cooling lava created the lands we love today. Hawaii Volcano National Park allows visitors the chance to see volcanoes in action. Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, erupts a steady flow of glowing lava over land and pouring into the sea. Hear the lava hiss as it hits the sea on a boat tour or hike through craters on one of the 150 trails.
Take a manta ray night swim. Measuring as wide as 23 feet, manta rays are some of the ocean’s most gentle creatures despite their intimidating size. Although they can be spotted during the day, the best time to see them is at night when they are most active. Boats depart from Kona nightly, and give you the chance to jump in the water with dive flashlights perfect for attracting plankton, their favorite food, and offer safe viewing of the mantas.
With the abundance of activities and experiences offered at each of the islands, we understand it can be hard to choose. We recommend picking one or two (or all four) and take an island-hopping adventure.