The best islands in Hawaii for first time are those that will give you the full Hawaii experience. All the major islands except Kahoolawe are inhabited. Every Island has its distinct personality, adventures, sights, and activities.
Best Islands In Hawaii For First Time
In Hawaii, there is a group of volcanic islands that are popular for different things. The Islands are only the exposed tips of undersea mountain ranges. There are the main 8 Islands also called the Hawaiian Windward Islands.
If it is your first time in Hawaii, you must be wondering which island to visit. Here are some of the major Islands and awesome things you can do on each island.
If you are a fan of nature, try the Big Island or Kauai Island. The North shore of each island tends to get larger waves in the winter only.
A universal waterproof phone if you are going on a beach, on boats, hiking, or near waterfalls. Affordable underwater camera, a flotation strap in case your phone falls.
You also need a travel towel, swimsuit, neck wallet, hero packing cubes, hair conditioner, windproof travel umbrella, and slip-on water shoes.
Hawaii: The Big Island
Hawaii is the largest Island in Hawaii State. It has an area of 4,028 miles. There are many activities on this big Island. You can choose what is right for you.
On Hawaii Island, you will find 3 types of beaches, white beaches, black beaches, and green beaches.
Biking is also a thing you can do. You can bike on the volcano or just do low-key and relax. It’s advisable and important to put a helmet in both cases.
The botanical gardens are filled with rainforests, waterfalls, and tropical flowers. All these natural treasures can be easily seen on the big Island.
There are campsites on the Big Island. You can pitch your tent somewhere and be truly outdoors. You can also do farm tours and explore exotic farms and animals.
Hawaii volcanoes that you can’t miss include the lava glow over the Halemaumau Crater at night. Hiking is also available at the national park. The Big Island also has horseback riding, hot ponds, picnic spots, and scenic drives.
Kauai Island: The Garden Isle
Kauai is the fourth largest island in Hawaii. The island is known for its lush foliage. There are beautiful flowers and long white sand beaches. Some beaches like Kalapaki offer riding, sailing, surfing, swimming, and wave riding.
With its lush mountains, dramatic sea cliffs, plunging waterfalls, and golden beaches, we enjoyed Kauai. I can also say that the Island is good for a honeymoon and it’s also a romantic getaway.
Much of the island can only be seen when you travel by air. Most helicopter tours include views of Nawiliwili harbor, the Menehune Fish Pond, Jurassic Park Falls, and the Hanapepe Valley.
There is also a Grand Canyon of the pacific. You can explore the Limahuli Garden and Preserve.
The plant collection focus on the beauty of plants that is native. There is a historic train at Kilohana plantation and Luau Kalamaku.
The Wailua River Valley offers kayak and boat riding. Kauai is a golfer’s paradise. They offer top golf courses and boast the most scenic and challenging layouts in Hawaii.
You can also visit the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and enjoy the amazing views that overlook the Pacific.
Lanai Island: The Pineapple Isle
Lanai is the sixth-largest of the Hawaiian Islands. There is a Cultural Heritage Centre where you can get an excellent overview of the history of the Island.
I was surprised to see a big ship rusted out and stuck off the shore. I learned that it was a failed project by the navy trying to sink the ship but it refused and got lodged on the reef. You can stop and have a look at it. The place is called shipwreck beach.
A stop at the Garden of Gods will do you good but make you dirty. This is a rock garden that was formed by wind erosion. The alien-like landscape is stunning and windy.
Spinners Dolphins offer you a chance to see dolphins jump out of the water and do spins and flips. You can also see turtles that come out of the beach to relax or escape predators. Kayaking is available at Lopa beach.
Maui Island: The Valley Isle
Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands. A helicopter tour is one of the things you can’t miss. You will be able to see Maui Island from above.
Haleakala National Park provides sweeping views of the Island. Every year more than a million tourists visit Haleakala Park. The Road to Hana is curvaceous and hugs around the Haleakala National Park.
You can spend a day hiking through its dense rainforest filled with massive waterfalls. Travelers recommend planning your visit to the summit in the morning to be able to see the sunrise. Be sure to put warm layers. It’s usually chilly.
Whale watching is a thing you can do from November to March. Whale watching is a delight in itself. Head out to watch them frolic in their environs.
Learn to Surf in Maui. There is a massive seasonal wave. Maui surf lessons are offered for beginners.
Biking is also an option. Haleakala bike tours have stayed at the top of the most popular Maui activities. Riding down the slopes of the volcano can never be disappointing. Kayaking and Snorkeling is an excellent way to reach less accessible spots.
The Grand Wailea Luau offers a Maui- centric show. The music, the dance and the stories will make your trip even more enjoyable. You will enjoy the hula dancers as well as the yummy spreads of Hawaiian food.
Molokai Island: The Friendly Isle
Molokai is the fifth-largest island in Hawaii. The island is 38 miles long and 10 miles wide. If you love the beaches then Molokai is the place to be.
Papohaku is a massive 3 miles long beach. Other beaches include Dixie Maru, Kepuhi Bay beach, and Pohakumauliuli Beach.
Paddleboarding and kayaking to the barrier reef are great activities for adventurers’ first-timers. Climbing in a kayak and just a short paddle will take you out to crystal blue water with clear visibility.
This is the best adventure since there are mangroves, seaweed, and a shallow rocky shoreline.
You can have fun mailing a coconut to a friend or relative through the post a nut Molokai. If you are not afraid of heights, try the Molokai Sea Cliffs.
They are the tallest in the world. They are 3800-foot-tall cliffs dropping straight into the ocean.
Visit the Phallic Rock and gaze down on Kalaupapa at Pala’au State Park and enjoy. According to Hawaiian’s, if a woman goes to Kauleonanahoa with offerings and spends the night, she will get out of that place pregnant.
Enjoy samples of Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm. They offer free tours of their orchards and later shows you how they are prepared. Kids enjoy cracking the shells with a hammer. They don’t open on Mondays and Sundays are open only with an appointment.
Enjoy a 3 hours hike from the Halawa valley to Moaula falls. Visiting the ghost town of Maunaloa is also a great adventure.
There was a ranch that was closed down and as you pass dozens of buildings, with old signs you feel like a ghost will appear from nowhere.
The waters of Molokai have some of the biggest fish you will see in Hawaii. Try your luck fishing and see what you can get.
There are other things like golf playing, whale watching, making Lei at Plumerias, shopping at Saturday market among others.
Oahu Island: The Gathering Place
Oahu is the third-largest island in Hawaii. Byodo – In Temple is a nice place to start your day. The site is serene and boasts some ornate gardens. Hiking at Manoa falls is another place that has been set for Jurassic Park and Lost.
A day at Hanauma Bay is one of the best places to snorkel. There is also a place where you learn about marine life. This Bay also has a swimming place that is shallow but crowded.
You can do Yoga on a paddleboard to check your balance. At Oahu, they do paddleboard yoga classes at night.
Whether you have the balance or not a little moment at Oahu’s Turtle Canyon will do you good. There are many green sea turtles you can swim along.
Oahu will give you a chance to swim with sharks. If that is too much for you, look for dolphins and whales in Waianae.
Stroll through the Hoomaluhia Botanic Garden for a relaxing and calm feeling. The garden also has a campsite, but your book early. Challenge yourself at Koko Crater Railway Trail or hike to the Diamond Head crater.
Swimming under the Lulumahu Waterfall can be fun. Plan to be at the waterfall early in the morning and you will get to enjoy it all by yourself.
Niihau Island: The Forbidden Isle
Niihau is the seventh-largest and the second smallest Island in Hawaii. The place has been restricted for commercial use. Niihau is situated approximately 18 miles northwest of Kauai.
The island including its surrounding waters is off tourist limits. The Island is an invite-only destination but has an estimated 170 residents.
In 1864 Elizabeth Sinclair bought the land for a mere $10,000 in Gold. Niihau has refused to develop due to the agreement between the king and the Sinclair family. They agreed to protect the Island from outside influences.
The area survives without electricity, running water, internet, shops, restaurants, paved roads, cars, and hotels. People even fish using traditional methods. The largest lake in Hawaii passes here. Livestock and other animals roam freely.
Only the selected people visit the place. Hawaii’s legislature allows subsistence fishing, spiritual activities, environment restoration, historic preservation, and education. Getting to the island itself is fun.
Onboard the chartered helicopter owned and operated by Robinsons. You will get a glimpse of one of the rarities available on the Island. The pilot will give a history of the Island.
Kahoolawe Island: The Target Isle
Kahoolawe is the 8th and the smallest of Hawaii islands. The place has been restricted for commercial use. The island including its surrounding waters is off-limits.
Only the selected people visit the place. Hawaii’s legislature allows subsistence fishing, spiritual activities, environment restoration, historic preservation, and education.
The place was called the target isle because it served the US Army during the Second World War. The US organized a cleanup exercise but that doesn’t guarantee the safety of the Island.
There is a belief that explosives might still be there or some may have fallen in the waters.
Outside the two miles radius, you can board a Hawaiian cruise ship.
Small Hawaii Islands
Other than the eight major islands, there are several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and seamounts. The smaller islands, atolls, and reefs are uninhabited except Midway Atoll. The Hawaiian Leeward Islands are:
- Nihoa (Mokumana)
- Necker (Mokumanamana)
- Midway Atoll (Pihemanu)
- Kure Atoll (Mokupapapa)
- Maro Reef (Nalukakala)
- Laysan (Kauo)
- Pearl and Hermes Atoll (Holoikauaua)
- Lisianski Island (Papaapoho)
- French Frigate Shoals (Kanemilohai)
- Gardener Pinnacles (Puhahonu)
There are also islets or very small islands:
- Ford Island
- Mokalea Rock
- Na Mokulua
- Grass Island
- Sand Island
- Moku Manu
If you are traveling with your family, it’s good to stay on the south or west side of Hawaii. Hawaii has the best weather and you will enjoy it regardless of the time you visit.
It is also one of the places where you will not experience racism. Most of the people on the island like visitors.
The islands have amazing shapes, great wilderness, beaches, and volcanoes. Hawaii has over 750 miles of shoreline and over 400 beaches.
There are white sand beaches, red sand beaches, yellow sand beaches, and black sand beaches. Each Hawaiian Island was formed by a single hotspot on the floor of the ocean.
Hawaii has a strong traditional culture. The hotels by the beach are very beautiful. Regardless of your budget, you will find something fun to do here.
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