How To Pick The Best Hawaiian Island For Your First Trip

Hawaiian sunset peeping from the sea.

Smiles and says Aloha to his sweetheart Hawaii

(Soundtrack: “Blue Hawaii” by Elvis Presley)

Hawaii, also known as the Aloha State and the Paradise of the Pacific is a place that everyone dreams to visit at least once in a lifetime. There may be no more diverse destination on the map than Hawaii. Each island has its own feel and flavor and the terrain is amazingly varied with desserts, beaches, lush rainforests, mountains and oceans, deep valleys and soaring volcanoes. There is something for everyone in Hawaii, making it one of the world’s greatest family destinations.

So sit back, sip on some Mai Tai or Kona coffee, imagine you are in paradise, with coral sand beaches, coconut palms gently swaying in the ocean breeze, waterfalls and rainbows and check out what each of the islands has to offer to make your choice of the holiday island you would like to visit as a first-timer.

Hawaii is a chain of eight main islands that offer unique and varied experiences.

Weather: Hawaii has warm weather all year round. The high temperatures range from the low 80s to the high 80s most of the year and it’s very humid. The humidity on average is 64%. The coolest months are January and February where the average high temperature is a cool 81 degrees and the hottest months June, July and August the average high temperatures are around 89 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s only about 10 degrees cooler at night. The most consistently good weather is usually in April, May, September, and October.

Essentially there are 2 seasons- the wet and the dry seasons. The dry season kind of coincides with summer April to October. The wet season is November to March that brings the rain. It can rain at any time of the year but the winter months are considerably rainier. June through November is hurricane season too, though big storms are rare.

Best time to visit: The shoulder seasons – Spring (mid-April to early June) or Fall (September to mid-December) is when crowds are going to be the lowest and hotel and airfare prices would be more reasonable.

The times that are busiest are the times when the weather is not as great everywhere else or when the kids are off to school. The summer months June, July, August is high season, and also December around the holidays. December, January, and March are really busy. November is the quietest month for tourists.

The last 2 weeks of December are really busy due to Christmas.

There is also a week in April that is the Golden Week in Japan and hence Hawaii is full of Japanese tourists.

So if you want to go when everyone else goes make sure you book your hotel and flight ahead of time and expect to pay premium prices and wait in long queues.

Oahu


A majority of people for their first trip to Hawaii prefer staying in Honolulu and the famous Waikiki Beach area hence Oahu is appropriately nicknamed the gathering place. It was once a haven for Hawaiian royalty with beautiful beaches and world-class shopping abundant, this is a great place to visit. Nowadays, not only is it the cheapest Hawaiin island to visit but also due to increased competition and a lot of options being available, accommodation and grocery stores are competitively priced.

Besides the price, the great weather, incredible beaches, and more tour and accommodation options make Oahu an appealing choice for first-timers.

Tour around: Based on your interests there are varied options for sightseeing as It offers a perfect mix of nature, history, culture, sports and shopping all in one place.

Honolulu the capital of Hawaii is located on the Polynesian Island Oahu in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean and with America’s only royal palace at its core and Pearl Harbor around the corner there is a lot of history to discover.

Historical exploration includes-

  • Bishop museum which gives you a chance to learn about the Polynesian voyagers who came here hundreds of years before Captain Cook dropped anchor in 1778
  • The native Hawaiians and first Europeans were drawn to the majestic profile of the Diamond Head volcano which is still an attraction today
  • When in Honolulu city the backdrop of Leahi is a constant reminder of Hawaii’s explosive beginnings
  • Downtown don’t miss the statue of the fearless warrior King Kamehameha who unified the Hawaiian islands in the late 18th century
  • Admire the American Florentine architecture of Iolani Palace
  • Visit the Hale Koa barracks
  • Set aside a day for Pearl Harbor to see the remnants of the U.S. Pacific fleet that was crippled by an air raid on December 7, 1941
  • Pay your respects on the USS Arizona Memorial
  • Visit the aviation museum and see the spot that marks the surrender of Japan aboard the USS Missouri

Kids attraction-

  • Kapi’olani Park is home to the historical Honolulu zoo where kids can see friendly giants and exotic birds
  •  If you are not a great swimmer or are traveling with little children the ideal location is Ko Olina Lagoons. These are man-made lagoons so the waters are calm and great for floating and swimming. If you intend to stay awhile pack a lunch

Beaches and activities-

  • Surfing in Waikiki
  • Zablan beach is not crowded on weekdays, has super clear water and gentle waves
  • Mermaid caves are to the left of Zablan beach. Be careful of sharp rocks
  • Hiking to Manoa Falls in a gorgeous rainforest. The hike is intermediate, as there are stairs and slippery slopes. Its also very humid to light clothing is recommended. Also, carry a poncho or umbrella as it does rain from time to time

Maui


Also known as the valley isle Maui has been voted as the world’s best island for its size, beauty, beaches, and diversity. Be it a glimpse of history you are searching for or a slice of resort relaxation Maui is sure to have what you’re looking for.

It is the 2nd largest island in Hawaii and you can drive across its length and breadth in less than 3 hours. Here Polynesian heritage and the modern American lifestyle go hand in hand.

Activities

  • Book a helicopter ride to get a bird’s eye view of the lush landscape
  • More than 80 beaches allow you to enjoy water sports on this sunny island
  • There are plenty of bars, shops, and galleries for your entertainment
  • Rent a car for the famous drive to Hana to experience some of Maui’s most striking natural wonders
  • On the road to Hana, you can stop at Twin Falls for a short easy hike and then stop at the Garden of Eden to check out hidden waterfalls and the Keopuka rock that was featured in the movie Jurassic Park
  • Hiking at Haleakala National Park is great as it has the highest peak on the island and gives you a view of impressive cinder cones
  • The Haleakala observatory that is standing at 10,000 feet above sea level is located at one of the most sought after locations in the world for ground-based telescopes
  • Book a boat tour at Makena Beach State Park and go diving to spot Hawaii’s green turtles
  • The city of Lahaina is one of the prettiest in Maui and attracts whale watchers in winters
  • Snorkeling at Honolua Bay is great because of the amazing marine life you can explore there
  • Ho’okipa Lookout is known as the Mecca of the windsurfing world and is the most popular sights for events like the Aloha Classic and Red Bull surfing events
  • Another sought after sight is the sunrise at Haleakala which is named the house of the sun by ancient Hawaiians

Sunshine, comfort, magnificent beaches and culture is all up for grabs on this lush island retreat.

Big Island


If this Island is your pick we don’t blame you since here nature’s splendid gifts to humankind earth, water, wind, and fire are all at your disposal. This island is the largest and youngest in the Hawaiian chain and the landmass keeps growing. Its sheer size is awe-inspiring and has a range of climate zones. On this volcano rich island with sub-tropical coastline, nature’s elements collide spectacularly and the landscape is one of the most unique on earth.

It’s home to the largest park in Hawaii, the Hawaii volcanoes national park. You can hike past the diverse scenery viewing soulful banks and the famous Halema’uma’uma crater. The Hamakua coast which is the northeastern coast of the island displays tropical flora and beautiful vistas. You also get to see the world botanical gardens which house the captivating Umauma falls. Another beautiful location is Hakalau bay which is distinguishable for its black sand. Kahua Ranch is operational and allows visitors to experience the remarkable surroundings landscape. You can try horseback riding or see the vistas on an ATV.

Next, you can follow the historic kings’ trail which links the past with the present.

Due to the prevailing winds, the eastern side of the island is lush vibrant rainforest. Here you can check out the famous towering ‘Akaka falls which makes for the picture-perfect Hawaii photo. When on the eastern side of the island stay at Hilo, where witnessing a morning rainbow is almost guaranteed due to the rainforest climate.

The Hawaii volcano national park is also a definite go-to with its vast expanse of the hardened lava fields as it gives you a chance to witness the primal process of creation, making it one of the most popular vision attractions in Hawaii and a very sacred place.

This true sense of the rebirth of land is something you can only experience on the island of Hawaii.

Activities:

  • Surfing and other water activities are incredible here due to the unending miles of coastline
  • Sip freshly brewed Kona coffee
  • Explore the western side of the island which is sunny with turquoise blue waters and white beaches
  • The more adventurous can night dive with manta rays in Kona
  • Rent a car and drive across the island through the rustic town of Waimea to breathe in the landscapes
  • Hike in ‘Akaka falls state park which is lush rainforest filled with bamboo growth and draping ferns
  • Rent an ATV at Umauma Falls for some adventure which is an iconic three-tiered waterfall cascading down the sloping hills
  • Zipline to fully admire the waterfalls and kick up the adrenaline
  • Next discover the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park which is home to 2 volcanoes, including Kilauea Caldera one of the most active volcanoes on earth

Kauai


Nicknamed the Garden Isle because of its unsurpassed natural beauty and a breathtaking panorama of natural splendor, it is the oldest of the Hawaiian islands. It rains quite a bit as it gets the trade rain and Mt. Waialeale (means rippling water) the second rainiest spot on earth is located here. There are tons of waterfalls and many famous movie scenes were filmed here including Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean 4 so coming here gives you the Jurassic feel. It’s relatively undeveloped, so there’s lots of wilderness to explore.

Fun fact: Besides the gorgeous scenery you will notice an abundance of roosters who you will find cock-a-doodle-doing along with the chickens all over the place. Supposedly a severe hurricane in 1992 broke open all the coops settling them free. They are now even a status symbol of the island and you’ll find rooster centric swag all over the place.

Kauai is best for travelers who like the outdoors, prefer hiking through jungles and their trip is not so much about the beach as the beaches aren’t fabulous. The beaches are rocky and not quite suitable for swimming however, the south shore does have a few picks.

Activities:

  • Mediate, soul search and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you at the north shore
  • Kilauea Lighthouse promises stunning views of the scenic and dramatic coastlines and the Kalalau lookout is one of the most famous valleys in all of Hawai as it was seen in numerous films like King Kong and Jurassic Park
  • Also, check out the famous crescent moon shaped Hana lei Bay lined with green mountains
  • The biggest attraction is the Weimeya Canyon nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific by Mark Twain
  • There are various helicopter, scuba, kayak and boat tours, and water sports to choose from
  • The Maha’ulepu Heritage trail makes for a wonderful hike to explore the rugged and undeveloped coastline
  • Wailua falls is one of the most impressive falls in Kauai so don’t miss it
  • Poipu Beach with its golden sands is the most popular beach on the south shore and you can swim, do snorkeling, boogie boarding and surfing
  • Spouting horn blowhole which is one of the most photographed spots on the island
  • Na Pali Coast is great to get to sea turtles, dolphins, cascading waterfalls and explore sea caves

Come and experience the true meaning of ‘Aloha’, which is more than just Hawaiian for ‘Hello!’. It means a warm welcome; love; best wishes; and even goodbye. But it never means farewell. So take the plunge, splash up and set out to explore. Regardless of which Hawaiian island you choose, you’re sure to have a great time. However, if you’re still having trouble deciding to consider expanding your trip by planning a multi-island package to get the most out of Hawaii.