Is Maui a good place to live

Island hopping Hawaii: which island is right for you?

Hawaii is a chain of volcanic islands and consists of 137 islands and atolls. Eight of them are inhabited and six accessible to tourists: Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Hawaii, Molokai, and Lanai. All of them have beautiful beaches, fascinating nature and a magnificent underwater world. But they all have their own sights and charm. But where is it most beautiful? And which island is right for you?

To answer that and to make your choice easier, I have put together this island hopping guide. Here you will find the most important information about the islands of Hawaii, highlights and special features, further links and pictures that should give you an initial overview.

The Hawaiian Islands: Overview

Island profile Oahu: Monster waves and Waikiki Beach

Capital: Honolulu
Airport: HNL (Honolulu)
Bigger places: Kailua, Kaena Point, Haleiwa, Waimea Bay
Tips for accommodation: Life is raging in Waikiki and Honolulu's Chinatown. It's quieter on the North Shore.
How much time you should plan: Oahu is small and you saw the highlights in three to four days.

Oahu is that Main island Hawaiis. Most Hawaiians live here: just under a million people, three quarters of the Hawaiian population. And this is where most of the tourists come. Hard to believe: Many visitors simply stay on Oahu for their entire vacation and ignore all other islands. The third largest island is just 40 miles long and 26 miles wide, but has much more to offer than just Waikiki Beach.

In fact, Honolulu is a too Transport hub for flights from the American mainland to the South Seas, which is why transit passengers land in Honolulu, who then usually only stay in Hawaii for a few nights.

Oahu: The highlights

Waikiki Beach: Surfing was invented on Hawaii's most famous beach - and of course many surfers are drawn into the water here.

Pearl Harbor: The former American base in the Pacific provides an impressive example of American pathos and patriotism, but it is only partially worth a visit if you are not interested in weapons and war history.

North Shore: The north coast could just as easily be called Surfer’s Paradise. The world's best surfers train here.The east coast on the other hand, it is popular with kite and windsurfers and is also a good place to get a taste of both sports for the first time.

Bishop Museum: If you want to learn about the culture of the islands, you should definitely visit the Bishop Museum. The museum offers a very good overview and exciting exhibits about the settlement of the islands by the Polynesians, about Hawaiian history and about customs and rites.

Also: Hiking in the Waimea Valley, pineapple plantations, a trip to Hanauma Bay, a walk up Diamond Head.

Hot spots: Almost all large hotels and complexes are located in the south. There the offer is much larger than in the north. In Waikiki there is one hotel after another. The easiest way to find accommodations on the north coast is through Airbnb or a bed and breakfast provider such as Affordable Paradise.

My advice: Book accommodation in Haleiwa in advance and go on excursions across the island from there - preferably with your own rental car. Haleiwa is on the north coast, there are many restaurants and cheaper snack trucks where you can also eat a whole lobster, and great little surfer boutiques.

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i By the way: Island hopping works in Hawaii either by plane or, to a limited extent, by ferry. Cruise ships also head for the islands and offer an alternative to air travel. You can find more information about this HERE.

Island profile Maui: waves, aloha and whales

Airport: OGG (Kahului)
Larger places: Kahului, Wailuku, Lāhainā and Kīhei.
Tips for accommodation: Kihei is an ideal starting point for tours around the island.
How much time you should at least plan: About a week.

Maui is THE surfer island. It's incredibly casual here - and if you've never stood on a surfboard, Maui is the place to start. The island is only slightly larger than Oahu and with Kahului also has a port where cruise ships dock. Maui consists of two mountains, Haleakala in the southeast and Mauna Kahalawei in the northwest. A valley floor runs in between. The southeast is a little more humid and greener than the northwest.

Maui: The Highlights

Sunrise over the clouds: The sunrises over the dormant crater of the Haleakalā volcano at 3,055 meters above sea level are spectacular. If you get there early enough, you have time to hike a little further into the crater and look for a secluded spot. Don't forget gloves and a thick jacket!

Danger!Since February 1, 2017, visitors who want to see the sunrise at Haleakala have to register in advance. The reservation fee is $ 1.50 - in addition to national park entry. More information is available here, you can make a reservation 60 days before your planned visit here.

Beaches: Maui's beaches are not without good reason some of the most beautiful in Hawaii. There are black beaches in the east and sparkling white beaches in the south, small bays and long, wide strips of sand. The underwater world is as colorful as anywhere in the area, and sea turtles are common when snorkeling.

Road to Hana: A mini road trip through lush green rainforest, 59 bridges, 46 of which are single-lane, 620 curves. You have to have done it once. And that's what you should see there: Out and about on Maui. 5 favorite places on the Road to Hana.

Makahiku Fall, Maui.

Maui is also the most popular island for Whale watching and Maui Whale Watch Tours lists all providers.

also: Snorkel tour to the Molokini crater, surf lessons (there are schools in Lahaina and Kihei, for example), watch professional surfers in the Hookipa Beach Park.

Hot spots: Kihei and Lahaina are centrally located in the south and directly on the sea and are therefore ideal as a starting point for all tours around the island.

Insider tip: The most beautiful hiking trail on the island awaits behind Hana: The Pipiwai Trail leads over six kilometers to the 122 meter high Waimoku waterfall. On the way it goes through dense bamboo forest, past ancient trees and the Makahiku waterfall. Take away: bug spray.

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Hawai’i Island profile: lava flows, black beaches and turtles

Airports: KOA (Kona) or ITO (Hilo)
Larger places: Hilo, Kailua-Kona, Waimea, Volcano
Tips for accommodation: Accommodation in the east is ideal for excursions to the Volcanoes National Park, but better weather is always in the dry west of the island.
How much time you should at least plan: A week minimum, about half in Kailua-Kona and half in Hilo.

Hawai’i Island - also known colloquially as the Big Island - is that youngest and the largest of all Hawaiian islands and also their namesake. The island continues to grow because the Kilauea volcano is still active and spits lava into the sea. In particular, the south of Hawai’i Island is therefore a bit more barren and rougher than the other islands. The distances are also a bit larger here: Hawai’i Island is 122 kilometers wide and 150 kilometers long and is united eleven of the 13 climate zones in the world.

Hawai’i Island: The highlights

Volcanoes National Park:Kilauea is considered to be the only drive-in volcano in the world. You can drive by car almost to the edge of the active Halem’uma’u crater at the Jaggar Museum, where you can see directly into the seething lava kettle. If the lava lake is high enough, the magma can be seen with the naked eye. If it is low, at night it appears as if the sky is glowing over the crater. The national park also offers some great hiking trails, for example through the crater of an extinct volcano or through lava tunnels. You should definitely get out of the car.

Helicopter flight: In addition to the Halem’uma’u, the Puʻu-ʻʻō-crater has been spitting lava regularly - and has been doing so without interruption since 1983. From the crater the lava flows into the sea and has already threatened or destroyed one or the other settlement. Understandably, the endangered part of the area around the crater is inaccessible to motorists and pedestrians. The only way to get close enough to the crater to see what is happening there is by helicopter. The huge lava fields look even more impressive from the air than from the ground. You can book tours at Blue Hawaiian, among others.

Volcanoes National Park, Big Island.

Sunset on Mauna Kea, Big Island.

Mauna Kea: Did you know that Mount Everest is not the highest mountain in the world at all? It is “only” 8,848 meters high. The Mauna Kea measures more than 10,000. However, only 4,205 meters of them are above water. Here, too, you can drive to the summit, where the largest observatory in the world is located. At sunset it is particularly beautiful upstairs, but also bitterly cold. Be sure to wear several layers (windproof) and don't forget gloves and hat.

Observe animals: I don't want to go so far as to say that there are more animals here than on the other islands. But they show up more often. While snorkeling in Honaunau Bay I met a group of wild dolphins and swam with them and on the black beaches north of Kailua-Kona you can often see sea turtles on the beach. The area south of Kona, on the other hand, is known for manta rays. You can dive with the animals there at night or watch them from the bar of the Sheraton Kona at dusk.

Breweries:Because there is no beer in Hawaii! They call the brew here Liquid Aloha, paradise in a bottle. There is a not-so-small craft beer scene in Hawaii. And in Kailua-Kona, Kona Brewery also offers brewery tours twice a day for $ 5. Beer tasting included.

Also: Coffee plantations, snorkeling, hiking, green beaches, orchid gardens, waterfalls.

Hot spots: Kailua-Kona and Hilo are the two largest cities on the island. Hilo is a good starting point for tours to Volcanoes National Park and Mauna Kea, the west coast and Kailua-Kona for trips to the west. The west is generally more touristy, but there is a bit more life there: restaurants, cafes and bars are lined up in Kailua-Kona.

Insider tip:Annie's Burger in Kainaliu - a few miles south of Kona - makes the best burgers I've had in my entire life. Without shit.

Read more: Hawai’i Island. The woman who breathes fire

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Kauai Island Profile: Jungle & Jurassic Park

Airport: LIH (Lihue)
Larger places: Lihue, Waimea, Koloa, Kapa‘a, Princeville
Tips for accommodation: The largest selection is in the south
How much time you should at least plan: Kauai is similar in size to Oahu, but there is less going on here. Unless you plan to go on longer hikes, four days should be enough. Of course, it's nicer when you can stay longer.

Kauai is also known to many as the Jurassic Park Island, because a large number of the films were shot on the steep, densely overgrown mountain slopes of the Napali Coast. But not only the dinosaurs found the perfect environment here. Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides was also filmed here and fans of Lilo and Stitch will recognize some of the locations again. Kauai therefore attracts a lot of movie lovers, but also many nature lovers and active travelers. It is the greenest of all islands and offers great hiking trails, including some multi-day tours.

Kauai: The Highlights

Napali Coast: Steep rocks, narrow valleys, waterfalls and a lot of tropical green are located on the Napali Coast. There are no roads to Napali Coast State Park. It can only be reached by helicopter, on foot or by kayak - swimming in the beautiful bays is a bit more complicated than anywhere else. You can also camp in the park with the appropriate permit. Good to know: There are no poisonous spiders, snakes or other dangerous animals to be scared of or scared of on the Hawaiian Islands.

Waimea Canyon: The Wai’ale’ale volcano is one of the rainiest places in the world. This is where the Waimea River rises, which consequently usually carries a lot of water and is responsible for the formation of the Waimea Canyon. It is also called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and looks very similar to the original from Arizona. It is particularly impressive from the air. There are numerous providers of helicopter tours. I flew with Safari Helicopters and was very satisfied.

More about helicopter tours get it from Claudia from the travel blog Gone Walkabout: Over Kauai with helicopters in my stomach. At around $ 200 per person for an hour, the tours are not exactly cheap - but the view from the air is gigantic. You can spontaneously think about whether the tour is worth the money for you: It can be booked anywhere on site.

Sunsets are most picturesque in Poipu (see article picture). Find a spot on the stone wall at Hanakaape Bay along Poipu Beach Road and watch the sun sink into the sea. At the weekend there are always some young people from the area to be found here.

Hula at the Hanapepe Art Night.

Hot spots: Since Kauai is much less touristy than the other islands, it is particularly advisable to book accommodations in advance. Most can be found in Kapa’a, Princeville and Poipu.

Insider tips: The Hanapepe Art Night is a popular meeting place for locals every Friday evening. There is street food, live music and dancing and many opportunities to chat with local residents. There is also really good food at Eating House 1849 in the Kukui’ula Shopping Center in Poipu.

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Annotation: I have not yet visited Lanai and Molokai on my Hawaii trips. Before and during my travels, I researched blogs, magazines and travel guides and interviewed tourism professionals and locals as well as friends who had already been there. The following two island profiles are based on the findings from this research and discussions.

Lanai Island Profile: Luxury and Adventure

Airport: LNY (Lana’i)
Tips for accommodation: Lanai specializes in luxury tourism and most accommodations are expensive.
You absolutely need: Off-road vehicle. There are few paved roads.
How much time you should at least plan: Those who love seclusion are likely to be happy here for several days. For everyone else, one or two nights are probably enough.

Lanai is the most central Hawaiian island, but it is at the same time completely off the beaten track. Only about 3200 people live here, most of them are descendants of former farm workers. The island was the largest pineapple plantation in the world for a long time. Today the fruit is still grown on a fifth of the area, but the island no longer belongs to the Dole Company, but to a Silicon Valley billionaire. Most visitors only come for one day by ferry from Maui. No wonder: accommodations are limited to a few luxury resorts, four Airbnb listings, and a campsite in Hulopoe.

Lanai: the highlights

Hulopoe Bay: Hulopoe Beach is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii - with the finest sand and the best opportunities for snorkeling.

Beaches: Because few visitors come, there are some largely undiscovered and undeveloped bays next to Hulopoe Bay. However, if you want to get there, you should rent a four-wheel drive car - the roads are not all paved.

Hot spots: There are no real hotspots on Lanai. Most residents live in Lanai City, which is where visitors arrive by ferry.

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Molokai island profile: culture and originality

Airport: MKK (Molokai)
Places with Accommodation options: Kaunakakai, Maunaloa
How much time you should at least plan: It should be at least two to four days, if you really want to get to know the island more.

Molokai is considered to be the most Hawaiian of all islands, a place where indigenous Hawaiian culture is nurtured. Large parts of the island are untouched. Molokai is therefore one of the last island paradises in the world and is ideal for adventurers, explorers and nature lovers and whoever wants to relax completely, is probably at the right place here.

Molokai: The highlights

Kalaupapa National Historical Park: The peninsula was once a leper colony.All people who had become infected were brought here to live in isolation surrounded by insurmountable cliffs.

Halawa Valley: One of the oldest Hawaiian settlements was located here. Wooded slopes and waterfalls invite you to hike. But be careful: some trails can only be walked with a guide.

Hot spots: Kaunakakai is the largest city on the island and, thanks to its location in the middle of the south coast, is a good starting point for excursions everywhere.

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Do you want to save the island hopping guide for Hawaii for your travel planning? Then just make a note of it on Pinterest!

I hope I was able to help you with your travel planning with this island guide. Now the question is: which island is your favorite? Which ones have you already visited and which ones do you want to see? Tell me! Just leave a comment.

about the author

Anna | Anemina Travels
Anna loves the sound of rain on a tent roof, conversation around the campfire, and North America. She would prefer a spontaneous road trip anytime to a day at the pool and prefer to be outside - for hiking, surfing or snowboarding.