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How to choose the best Hawaiian island for your vacation (updated 2024)

What’s the best Hawaiian island for your vacation? What’s the best island for your family? Find out everything you need to know!

If you’re considering a trip to Hawaii, the first place to start is to choose the best island for your Hawaiian vacation. If you’ve already started planning, you may have realized that every Hawaiian island is gorgeous and fantastic — and offers unique and incredible experiences for visitors. For first-time travelers to Hawaii, it’s not always easy to choose which island to visit. After all, every island is wonderful! There are so many great activities, destinations and other options for things to see and do across all of the Hawaiian islands!

If you are early in the planning stages now, you may be asking yourself, “How do I choose the best Hawaiian island for my vacation?” Therefore, this means you may need some help figuring out which island to select for your upcoming getaway. Great news! I created an easy quiz to point you in the right direction. 

Expert Hawaii advice is here: How to choose the best Hawaiian island

I’ve traveled to Hawaii many times, and have stayed in many hotels, experienced many activities, dined in a multitude of restaurants, and have explored numerous beaches across the islands. So, I created this quiz as a simple guide that will provide first-time visitors with a head start on planning. It focuses on the four most-visited islands of Hawaii: Oahu, Maui, The Island of Hawaii (aka “The Big Island”), and Kauai. It will help you answer the question, “Which Hawaiian island is best for me?”  This quiz is sure to save you time in research and decision-making.

View of Diamond Head Monument and Waikiki beach with the yellow sand turquoise ocean.
Diamond Head Monument and Waikiki Beach (taken from the beach in front of the Outrigger Reef hotel) Photo by Marla Cimini

Please know that most (but not all) activities listed below can be found on several Hawaiian islands. As you read each statement in the list below, the names of the islands immediately beneath will reveal the best islands for your Hawaii vacation! This list only takes one minute! So, now is the best time to determine how to choose the best Hawaiian island for yourself — and start planning your vacation to paradise!

When you’re ready to plan your trip, be sure to download the awesome Shaka Guide app on your mobile phone for the best self-guided tours of the Hawaiian islands! Highly recommend!

Overlooking the swimming pool of the Halekulani Resort with palm trees and the ocean beyond.
Halekulani Resort swimming pool on Oahu’s Waikiki Beach – Photo by Marla Cimini

Are you trying to decide between a trip to Maui or The Big Island? Read my ultimate guide comparing these two islands! Maui vs. The Big Island: The Ultimate comparison guide!

Take the island quiz now: How to choose the best Hawaiian island for my vacation?

When I’m in Hawaii, I want to feel like I’m in paradise! I don’t need nightlife or crowds.

  • Kauai 
  • The Big Island

I love activities and want to take surfing lessons, enjoy boat rides, and have lifeguards nearby. I would like to easily rent my chairs and umbrellas — and I don’t mind a busy beach.       

  • Oahu (Waikiki)
  • Maui (Ka’anapali and Lahaina) 

A spa day is an important part of my vacation!

  • Maui
  • Oahu 

I enjoy nature hikes during the day and then I love to dine in good restaurants at night. 

  • Maui 
  • Oahu

I’m a history buff and culture enthusiast. I need to learn all about Hawaii’s history. 

Visiting and exploring an active volcano is important to me!

I like extreme activities!  

  • Kauai 
  • Maui 

I am a true food lover and enjoy experiencing new, upscale, innovative restaurants and checking out what the local chefs are cooking up! 

  • Oahu 

I want to see several different types of beaches (white, green, and black sand).

  • The Big Island 

I need to stay at a large resort with plenty of amenities, and close to restaurants, shopping and fun activities. 

  • Oahu
  • Important to note: You can also find large resorts on Maui, Kaui and the Big Island — where you don’t need to leave the resort if you wish!

I don’t mind driving a lot on my vacation when I visit natural sights and off-the-beaten- track beaches.

  • Island of Hawaii (The Big Island) 
  • Kauai 

I’m traveling solo and want to be in the center of all the action and activity!

  • Oahu

I’m traveling with my family and need a lot of kid-friendly activities (beyond the beach).

  • Oahu 

I am excited to go whale watching in Hawaii! 

  • Maui 

I am going on my honeymoon (or celebrating my anniversary) and would love to have a super romantic trip. 

  • Kauai 

I love snorkeling! Where can I go snorkeling in Hawaii?

  • Maui 
  • Kauai 
  • Oahu 
  • The Big Island (*If you want to do an incredible night dive with sting rays)! 

In conclusion…

Once your compare your answers to the above questions, you’ll be able to decide for sure which island is best for you. And if several islands appeal to you, no worries, you can always plan a return trip — or if you have more than a week, you can visit both islands!

When you’re ready to book a place to stay on Oahu, see my post about Where to stay on Oahu: The BEST hotels in Waikiki! AND if you’re curious about how long your flight will be to Hawaii, check our my post about How long is a flight to Hawaii? and tips for long flights!

Hopefully, this quiz has helped you choose the best Hawaiian island for your upcoming vacation! NOTE: If you need more help narrowing down your choices further based on your timeframe, budget, or personal circumstances, I am available for consulting! So, feel free to email me with your additional questions! 

Be sure to download the SHAKA GUIDE — this award-winning audio guide is a favorite among Hawaii vacationers. AND please read some of my articles about Hawaii on this website (look for my “Hawaii” tab) for many of my articles and post. And see the Hawaii guidebooks that I contributed to recently!

Above all, feel free to contact me through this website and email me with your additional questions! 

Rainbow over Waikiki Beach in Hawaii
Rainbow off the coast of Oahu and Waikiki Beach in Hawaii – Photo by Marla Cimini

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