In today’s world, we have all coped with stress and often find ourselves afflicted with the cliché daydream of teleporting onto a picturesque, tropical beach. An image of beach scenery typically sparks the daydream so mind-blowingly beautiful, it makes you question if such an idyllic paradise exists. If you have visited Hawaii, you would know that it does. Imagining your Hawaii tropical vacation, picture yourself leaving delicate footprints on a velvety white sand beach at sunset, or hiking through lush rainforests, motivated by the sweet promise of a blissful refreshment underneath a waterfall.
Such an image may offset wanderlust or also initiate the need for a deep, sharp, wistful sigh. The type of sigh that says: one day, you will finally take that trip to Hawaii… Right? The self-told illusion of “one day” can feel adorably optimistic and promising at times, but if not now, then when?
Well, if we have learned anything in the unforeseen reality we are living in today due to the global pandemic, it is this: Life is too short, unpredictable, and delicate to passively sit, wait and wish for the perfect timing to do what you have always wanted to do. As you put your plans and dreams on hold, whether it is at your personal discretion or not, life speeds by. It speeds right past you, brazenly (almost mockingly! *gasp*), waving at you as you shyly draw circles in the sand with your toes, stalling to decide whether to take action or to succumb to your circumstances.
In due time, before you let any more precious time and opportunity slip through your fingers, and as you decide to take that much-needed, well-deserved Hawaii tropical vacation, finally, there is one decision you must make. One excruciatingly vital, life-or-death question you must ask yourself before taking the next step in actively turning your dreams into a reality: Which Hawaiian island is the best one for me?
Okay, while ‘life-or-death’ is perhaps a slight exaggeration, planning a highly anticipated, once-in-a-lifetime vacation is not to be taken lightly considering the time, money, and energy invested into making it happen. It is a given that each destination can always offer something for someone, but not everything for everyone and Hawaii is no exception.
The destination of Hawaii is a world of its own. Each island in the Pacific embodies its own unique personality and diverse approach to embracing the natural environment, culture, and beauty of the U.S. state. Hawaii consists of 132 islands in total and six main islands, including Hawaii (the Big Island), Oahu, Maui, Kaua’i, Lana’i, and Moloka’i.
It is essential to compare these six islands’ differences to decide which one will best suit you and your travel party’s needs and expectations and deliver the ultimate tropical vacation of your dreams.
Hawaii (The Big Island) – A Nature Lover’s Haven
Ideal for nature lovers, the Big Island is the youngest and largest of all the islands and has the most diverse climate and natural landscape. Kona, located on the west side of the Big Island, offers a holistic experience for the traveler looking for a healthy balance of quiet tranquility and fun adventure. The sheltered and sun-soaked beaches on Kona are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving along the calm and peaceful coast. Along the coast, the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park highlights the extraordinary native marine wildlife and surreal sacred temples.
East of the island is the lively towns of Hilo and Puna. The warm energy of Hilo makes its local restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and boutiques all the more captivating. For a more nature-driven experience, uncover the hidden oases of bustling waterfalls woven in the luscious depths of tropical rainforests for a true Hawaii tropical vacation. Journey to the southern tip of the island to Ka Lae, and breathe in the fresh, rejuvenating air on leisurely hikes, macadamia nut orchards, coffee bean farms, and of course, the alluring black sand beaches known as Punaluu.
On the south side of Ka Lae is a remote, rural area called Kau, home to the only active volcano on the Hawaiin archipelago, located in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The south tip of the Big Island is also where the ancient Polynesians first settled and named the island Hawai’i. Whether you are looking for your zen or not, here, you will be sure to relax and relish your senses in the gorgeous nature that surrounds you during your stay in a charming B&B or luxuriously quaint boutique hotel.
Oahu – The Family-Friendly Heart of Hawaii
Oh, Oahu! The Heart of Hawaii. Easily the most popular and the busiest island in Hawaii, the state capital, Honolulu, is located on Oahu. This island is most famous for its worldly iconic attractions, including Pearl Harbor, North Shore, and Waikiki Beach. This island is ideal for families, or any traveler, who can benefit from and appreciate the best of both worlds when it comes to urban big city-island life. Explore the world-renowned surf spots in the North Shore, including the Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and Turtle Bay. Nicknamed “the gathering place” due to the diverse cultures on the island, Oahu is also known to be quite the hub for foodies, offering delicious, gourmet international cuisine throughout establishments across the island.
The south side of Oahu in Honolulu and Waikiki offers a lively option for your Hawaii tropical vacation. Entertainment and activities are coupled with tropical weather and the energy of locals. Enjoy a spa day at the beautiful 5-star oceanfront hotels in Waikiki, learn to surf, or take a break from the beach (phew, I know, you are welcome), and treat yourself to the high-end shops, boutiques, and top tier must-try restaurants lined along the Waikiki strip, Ala Moana and Pearl City. Oahu may be stereotyped as the “party island,” but rest assured, there is a lot more to be offered, experienced, and celebrated with the whole family.
Maui – Romantic & A Little Bit of Everything
Known as the Valley Isle, Maui is the second-largest and one of the most popularly visited islands, being a tropical paradise that offers as much R&R as it does adventure. The most popular areas of Maui are the West and South sides of the island. If you are looking for a luxurious resort and hotel feel, rich history and culture, prime shopping, dining, and thriving nightlife, the vibrantly spirited towns of Kaanapali and Lahaina on the West side of Maui are there to sweep you off your feet.
On the south edge of Maui are Kihei and Wailea’s towns, which offer a more family-friendly feel and exciting activities for everyone to enjoy. On the wonderfully long stretched coastline is Oneloa Beach, known as “Big Beach,” ideal for family beach days or tropical picnics. Fun and exciting for kids and parents, experience authentic luaus, delicious Hawaiin cuisine, free hula show at the Lahaina Cannery Mall, and the Banyan tree park.
Maui’s east side is the famous 52 mile Road to Hana, standing as the island’s most mesmerizing natural scenery of glorious mountains, lush green rainforests, and dramatic clifftops that cascade into the ocean. In the east area, you will also discover the amazing series of waterfalls and natural pools known as the Seven Sacred Pools (Ohe’o Gulch), located in the Haleakala National Park. Maui can be a perfect honeymoon destination for the adventure-loving, thrill-seeking couple, as well as the ideal destination for an unforgettable family vacation.
Kaua’i – The Island for Action + Adventure
If you are looking for a tropical adventure, say Aloha to Kaua’i. As the oldest island housing the most iconic representation of Hawaii, Kaua’i’s island is known as the Garden Isle. Kauai offers an environment that has evolved with grace and grit through the years, carving out uniquely spectacular valleys, mountains, and cliffs that do not compare to the other islands.
The thrill in visiting Kauai comes from adventure-fueled outdoor activities such as hiking, ziplining, kayaking, and snorkeling through the island’s vastly robust landscape of rainforests and rivers and waterfalls. Discover what is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the Waimea Canyon State Park, and prepare to be blown away by this ten-mile, 3,600 feet deep Hawaiian canyon. If you are looking for a place to come alive with a deep, enlivening breath of fresh air, or you need a good excuse to let out a big, healthy, “WOO!”… Kauai is the place for you.
Lana’i – Tiny, Secluded, Private Paradise
The island of Lana’i is known as the Pineapple Isle, and it is a kind of paradise that you do not find in the pages of a travel magazine, or on any other of the Hawaiian islands for that matter. This tiny, 90,000-acre island is only accessible by ferry from Maui’s island, a mere nine miles away. A chance for a perfect getaway to exclusive small-island life, no mass tourism included.
The island houses two amazing resorts, including the Royal Lahaina Resort and the Four Seasons, and includes a world-renowned golf course. This island will nurture the mind, body, and soul with delicious solitude and relaxation.
Moloka’i – Authentic + Off-the-Beaten-Path Hawaiian Adventure
Moloka’i’s island is perfect for the off-the-beaten-path traveler, as there are no resorts on the island, only smaller, privately-owned accommodations. Just like Lana’i, this island is accessed via ferry from Maui. It offers the opportunity to truly get away and be immersed in a remote, private island life experience while enjoying your Hawaii tropical vacation.
With a population of about 7,000 people and a land area of 260 square miles, this charmingly rustic island is home to some of the region’s highest sea cliffs as well as Hawaii’s longest fringe reef. Go where the people are not, and you will find yourself moved and beguiled by somewhere otherwordly.
All differences aside, the best, most ideal Hawaiian island for you is that you have the pleasure and privilege to visit one day. Each island in Hawaii offers its own magical take on enthralling you and your travel party. The tropical climate of Hawaii means that it is a destination you can visit year-round, and it is relatively easy to travel to from the United States.
The “one day…” daydream of a Hawaii tropical vacation may offer an illusion of an optimistic, hopeful outlook on your travel aspirations while it actually stands as an empty buffer between your reality and aspirations. However, in trying times of trouble and uncertainty, “one day” is not solely for the wishful thinkers and daydreamers, but also for those who have the wisdom, patience, and hope to wait graciously the day that their dreams come true.
The first step lies in wholeheartedly deciding to do just that. That and, of course, the decision on the specific island, accommodations, and flights – but that, my friend, is exactly what Boutique Travel Advisors is here for. Let us plan your next Hawaii tropical vacation and prepare to be awed.
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Written by Milica Remetic. All images are courtesy of Getty Images.