The Hawaiian Islands
There are a total of 8 major Hawaiian Islands, although only 6 allow visitors. In addition to the 8 major islands there are numerous smaller islands, atolls, islets, and reefs. When you add these into the mix, the State of Hawaii counts 137 islands in the Hawaiian Island chain.
Hawaiian Island Names & Nicknames
- Hawaii, the Big Island
- Maui, the Valley Isle
- Oahu, the Gathering Place
- Kauai, the Garden Isle
- Molokai, the Friendly Isle
- Lanai, the Pineapple Isle
- Nihau, the Forbidden Isle
- Kahoolawe, the Target Isle
What’s the best Hawaiian Island? All the islands have their pros and cons. The best Hawaiian Island is the island that most closely matches your likes and dislikes.
Hawaii, the Big Island
Larger than all of the other islands combined, the Big Island has 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones. Yes! The climate here ranges from sandy beaches to snowcapped mountains. See waterfalls, rainforests, and botanical gardens in Hilo. Explore the calm and clear water off of Kona. Or view Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Maui, the Valley Isle
Maui is home to what many believe are the best beaches in the world. Also, the ocean off Maui is one of the best places to whale watch every winter. Other things to do on Maui include:
- Waking up early to catch the sunrise over Haleakala sunrise
- Stroll through historic Lahaina town
- Driving the scenic, winding road to Hana.
If you think Maui is the best Hawaiian Island for you, take this fun quiz to see what’s your best beach on Maui.
Oahu, the Gathering Place
Oahu is home to the state capitol and the majority of Hawaii’s population. The island is a vibrant mix of natural and cultural wonders with all the modern arts, entertainment and amenities of the 21st century. On Oahu you can….
- See pro surfers charge the big winter waves of the legendary North Shore.
- Relive American history at the memorials and museums of Pearl Harbor.
- Soak up the sun and take a surfing lesson on Waikiki Beach.
Kauai, the Garden Isle
Kauai is the oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian Island chain. It is graced with dramatic, natural beauty. As a result, outdoor adventures and romantic escapades are made for Kauai. Explore the beaches of the Coconut Coast. See Waimea Canyon, “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Take a boat ride to marvel at the towering cliffs of the Napali Coast.
Molokai, the Friendly Isle
With almost half of its population being of Native Hawaiian ancestry, Molokai is an island that has preserved its connection to the past. While visiting Molokai you can…
- Step back in time in the sleepy town of Kaunakakai.
- View the lovely flora in Halawa Valley.
- Learn about Saint Damien at Kalaupapa National Historical Park.
Lanai, the Pineapple Isle
Without a single traffic light, Lanai is a true island getaway. People go to Lanai for luxury, romance and privacy. You can get away from it all at Lanai’s opulent resorts. Or, see the rock formations at Keahiakawelo. Or, 4-wheel drive amongst the pine trees along the Munro Trail.
No matter which Hawaiian Island you visit, you’ll find beauty, serenity, and relaxation. The choice is entirely up to you. Even better. Why limit yourself to one island? Visit as many as your time and budget allow!
Then let us know what Hawaiian Island you think is best.
To many joyful beach experiences!
— Lisa Dworkin