A Guide to the Hawaiian Islands

by Melissa on February 28, 2013 · 8 comments

In December 2012, I happened to stumble upon a holiday to Hawaii on my way back to Canada after being abroad for the previous sixteen months.  Before nailing down the trip, I had perused flights to Hawaii online, and made the choice enjoy a two-week holiday in America’s favorite Island state, it was a matter of planning the trip and I knew that during my fifteen days in Hawaii, I wanted to explore not just O’ahu, but another island or two.  This is where having a guide to the Hawaiian Islands would have been pretty beneficial.


Since I couldn’t quite find one, here’s a guide to the Hawaiian Islands that may help you decide which islands have what you’re looking for.

Please Note: This guide to the Hawaiian Islands covers the six main tourist islands– there are many other smaller and less populated islands, atolls and reefs that also make up the Hawaiian chain of islands, however many are protected by the United States Government and you may require special permissions to visit them.


The most densely populated and state capitol of Hawai’i.  O’ahu has a vibrant and more exciting vibe – where you can experience modern arts, entertainment and shopping.  If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Waikiki, all you have to do is drive up to the legendary North Shore where you can watch some of the best surfers in the world catch some massive waves, or head on over to Pearl Harbor for some historical military tours.  O’ahu is also home to the biggest international airport in the state – where you can find flights from all the usual airline suspects – American Airlines, Qantas, and many of the Star Alliance airlines. O’ahu literally has everything that you could possibly want – beaches, people, shops –  so you still get a feeling that you’re in the United States – only with a Polynesian vibe.


Also known as ‘the Big Island’ – Hawai’i is the biggest and youngest in the chain of Hawaiian Islands.  Hawai’i and volcanoes are synonymous and if an active volcano is what you’re in the mood to see – head on over to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the south coast of the island.  Here you can check out the Jaggar Museum, which provides tourists with information about Hawaiian mythology, as well as facts about volcanoes – all whilst being settled on the rim of Kailua crater.  The Big Island is sparsely populated, in comparison to O’ahu and actually reminded me at time of being back in New Zealand, there are rolling hills and hidden hikes and waterfalls, making this island the perfect destination to get some exercise in the beauty of nature!

Black Sand Beach, Maui

The island of Maui has long since been known as the Magical Isle of Hawaii – and is consistently regarded as the best island to visit.  Maui, like many of the other islands is a natural wonderland, full of enchanting beauty.  The island is the second largest, yet has nowhere near the population of O’ahu – and this is something that visitors relish during their visit to Maui.  This natural playground is the perfect setting to catch some rest and relaxation all while embracing the true spirit of the natives.  Maui is known for its spattering of luxury resorts where you’re sure to have a romantic getaway right in the middle of the beautiful and natural surroundings.  It’s no wonder that humpback whales make the journey along the coastline of this beautiful island, enticing visitors from all over the world to embrace the power and splendor of nature.


Moloka’i is a special island where they encourage tourists to take a step back, relax and enjoy the beauty of the aloha spirit.  The people of the island like to preserve the native traditions.  There are no buildings taller than a palm tree, and there are so few vehicles that there is no need for traffic lights.  The island is absolutely gorgeous and untouched – showcasing some of the beautiful cascading waterfalls, secluded white-sand beaches and the highest sea cliffs in the world.  If you’re looking to take a step back into time and experience an authentic Hawaiian experience or want to partake in some of Hawai’is best hikes, don’t miss Moloka’i.


Kaua’i is known for it’s dramatic natural beauty.  When you look up photos of Hawaii and see the dramatic cliffs, cascading waterfalls and magnificent rainforests – you’re usually looking at Kaua’i. The island is the oldest and northernmost in the chain of islands, but some would argue it’s the most beautiful.  If stunning scenery is what you’re looking for, be sure to check the island out not only on foot, but also by air – since there are quite a few inaccessible parts of the island, but provide absolutely gorgeous views that are a photographer’s dream.


The smallest of the six main islands in the Hawaiian Islands is known as the Pineapple island for its past as an island-wide pineapple plantation, and was once owned by James Dole.  Lana’i is the hardest of the islands to get to, and once you arrive you get a genuine small town feel complete with locals eager to share their personal stories about life on the island.  It’s cozy, virtually uninhabited and naturally beautiful.  Like Moloka’i it is not ruined by shopping centres or traffic lights, and there is only 30 miles of paved roads on the entire islands.  The most common form of transportation is via quad bike or bicycle.  This little island is a true tropical paradise that even celebrities have been known to visit to escape the hustle and bustle.

photo by: szeke

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne February 28, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Hawaii is on my bucket list. You provided me with great info.


Melissa April 2, 2013 at 12:07 am

Glad you could find it useful – hopefully you’ll make it there someday!


Craig Makepeace February 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm

It’s been 19 years since I visited Hawaii, and only did Oahu. Would love to take the whole family island hopping!
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Melissa April 26, 2013 at 5:53 pm

It would be amazing for Kalyra and Savannah to see Hawaii – perhaps once they’re a touch older so that they can participate in some of the cool activities they have for kiddies 😛

I would love to get back and see some of the other islands – like Maui and Kaua’i!


Erik March 3, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Hawaii and Alaska are my last two states to visit. I’ve had a shot to go to both on shorter trips, but I balked because I felt like a week-10 days wouldn’t do them justice. I’ll do the epic Alaska thing eventually…. Hawaii may be a few years off.
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Melissa April 26, 2013 at 5:54 pm

10 days would be a good quick trip if you could find a cheap flight to Hawaii (good luck!) – you could probably fit in 2 islands in that time. I was only there for 14 days, spent 12 of them on Oahu and 2 on Big Island… would have loved to spend more time on the other islands. One day. Luckily, my friend Steph lives there (for now) so I have a jumping off point in Oahu


Ryan March 10, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Melly, I freakin’ miss Hawaii! Great quick guide to the islands. While I was working on the cruise ship, I didn’t have MUCH time to visit them all but I got to check out most of Maui and Kauai which I loved.
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Melissa April 26, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Awww you got to check out the 2 I’m dying to see! ME= jealous!

I didn’t know you used to work on cruise ships! Crazy!


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