Hawaii is an island chain located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which welcomes millions of visitors every single year! In total, there are eight Hawaiian Islands, but two of them, Niihau and Kahoolawe, are (mostly) closed to visitors. The remaining six islands of Oahu, Maui, the Big Island (Hawaii), Kauai, Lanai, and Molokai all have their own unique atmospheres, attractions, and overall experiences.

Oahu

Oahu is the most frequently visited island in Hawaii — and also, my home island (which may explain why I have more Oahu content than anything else). Home to famous regions like beachy Waikiki, bustling Honolulu, and the surf-filled North Shore, there’s lots to see.

As a whole, it can be hard to describe the entire island, because the atmosphere varies quite a bit by region. There’s the hike-filled East Side, the surfer-central North Shore, the sun-and-sand West Side, and the popular South Shore (home to Waikiki and Honolulu). Oahu is also the only Hawaiian Island with any sort of notable nightlife, nearly all of which is clustered in Waikiki and Honolulu.

Diamond head with turquoise waters

Things to Do on Oahu

From incredible hikes and golden sand beaches to authentic luaus and historic landmarks, there’s no shortage of things to do during visit to Oahu.

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view of Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina with Ko Olina lagoon in the foreground

Where to Stay on Oahu

Most visitors to Oahu stay in Waikiki and Honolulu, although there are a few accommodations scattered elsewhere, including in Ko Olina, Kailua, and the North Shore.

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hand holding poke bowl in plastic container containing two types of poke and white rice

Where to Eat on Oahu

Oahu is truly a fusion food hub. Global ingredients are mixed together to create one-of-a-kind dishes. Don’t miss poke, malasadas, and more at Oahu’s best restaurants.

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Maui

Maui is the blissful island getaway that most visitors picture when thinking about Hawaii. Drawing in more couples than any other island, it’s a honeymoon and anniversary hotspot. (But don’t worry, families, friends, and solo trippers can have a great time on The Valley Isle as well.) Home to famed attractions like the Road to Hana and Haleakala, as well as its fair share of upscale restaurants and hotels, Maui is a fantastic choice for a Hawaii vacation.

Garden of Eden waterfall aerial view Maui road to hana

Things to Do on Maui

Wind your way down the Road to Hana, catch the Haleakala sunrise, stop and smell the flowers at Alii Kula Lavender, and dine at fancy Mama’s Fish House, just to start.

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Big Island of Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii, officially known as Hawaii and colloquially known as the Big Island, is by far the most diverse Hawaiian Island. It has just about every sort of terrain you can think of — from golden sand beaches to lush rainforests to dry deserts to snow-capped mountains.

The easiest way to understand the Big Island is to divide it into two halves: Kona and Hilo. Kona is the West side of the island, and it caters more to tourists. It is filled with sunny skies, sandy beaches, and tasty food finds. Hilo, on the other hand, has a very different vibe. This side of the island rains the vast majority of the year, which means it’s filled with lush greenery and cascading waterfalls. It is also home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (and it’s active volcanoes!), along with several black sand beaches and even a green sand beach.

turtle diving in bright blue waters off the coast of Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

Things to Do in Kona, Big Island

Head to the Kona side for days spent lounging on sunny shores — interspersed with great food finds, historic petroglyphs, and engaging farm tours.

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lava flowing over igneous rock and into the ocean in Hilo, Hawaii

Things to Do in Hilo, Big Island

The Hilo side is where you’ll find those active volcanoes Hawaii is known for. And don’t miss out on the colored sand beaches, cascading waterfalls, and tasty eateries while you’re in town!

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Kauai

To understand Kauai, one island law in particular sums it up: no building on Kauai can be taller than a coconut tree. This one rule encapsulates the sleepy vibe of the island while also including the respect for nature that comes with the more adventurous parts of the Garden Isle (an apt nickname!).

Most Hawaii locals would describe Kauai as “country,” not in the filled-with-cowboys kind of way, but more in the rural, natural kind of way. If you’re headed to Kauai, be prepared to enter the world of Jurassic Park (minus the dangerous animals, except for a few wild pigs) and do some hiking. Don’t miss out on the Kalalau Trail — and the greater Na Pali Coast — while you’re there!

deep crevices of the Na Pali Coast on Kauai

Things to Do on Kauai

Hiking should be at the top of any Kauai bucket list — whether it’s the challenging Kalalau Trail, the captivating Waipoo Falls Hike, or the easy Mahaulepu Coastal Trail.

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hand holding glass jar of juice in front of Kauai Juice Company storefront

Where to Eat on Kauai

Kauai is surprisingly a foodie hotspot. Not only are there incredible brick-and-mortar finds, but there’s an abundance of mouthwatering food trucks as well.

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Lanai

The little island of Lanai is tiny, even by Hawaii standards. This 140-square-mile island has 3,000 residents, 30 miles of paved roads, and no stoplights. That said, there are still luxury accommodations on this tiny isle — two Four Seasons, as a matter of fact — so it’s a fabulous vacation destination for those looking to get off the grid but still live in luxury.

See a bright orange shipwreck rising from the blue Pacific Ocean from Shipwreck beach on Lanai. It's one of the best things to do in Hawaii.

Things to Do on Lanai

Despite its small size, Lanai has a surprising number of things to do. Swim with dolphins in Hulopoe Bay, experience the fog-filled landscape known as the Garden of the Gods, or suntan at Shipwreck Beach, just to start.

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Molokai

While Lanai is off-the-grid, it does cater to visitors to some extent. Molokai doesn’t really do that. As the second smallest (yet still easily accessible) island in the chain, the locals here don’t really buy into tourism as an economic necessity. Visitors are welcome, but don’t expect brand-name hotels or guided tours (except for the famous guided Kalaupapa mule ride). If you’re on Molokai, you should definitely be ready to explore this untouched island on your own.

For now, our Molokai content is limited, but we have plans to create more in the future! For now, we have several articles that mention Molokai and its great sites.