Ask anyone what their ideal vacation spot is and it’s likely that Hawaii is at the top of the list. Why wouldn’t it be? The Hawaiian Islands are a feast for the senses that call to travel newbies and seasoned jet setters alike. It’s a paradise rich with breathtaking views, white sand beaches, historical culture, and eco-friendly excursions. The only challenge is narrowing down the choices to decide which island to visit first and which sexy designer bikinis to pack.
People head to the islands for several reasons. Honeymoons, girls trips, summer escapes, and surf trips are some of the most popular occasions that cause people to book a plane ticket across the Pacific. There’s no need to have a specific reason to visit, though, because there’s an island to accommodate all. After reading through our guide, we hope you’ll have a better idea of where to start your island-hopping adventures based on the Hawaii itinerary you have in mind. In short, there is no “best island in Hawaii.” Each is memorable in its own right and deserves a closer look.
Maui: The Valley Isle
Maui may come in second as the largest Hawaiian island, but it’s the number one best island of Hawaii to visit according to Conde Nast Traveler’s 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards. In its most recent survey, the magazine polled over 429,000 travelers who weighed in on their favorite spots so the numbers speak for themselves. It’s not the island’s first time in the spotlight. Maui has been listed as a top vacation and island spot on travel and bucket lists worldwide for years.
So, what gives? What is it about Maui specifically that makes it oh-so-special in the eyes of so many? Let’s start with the beaches. There’s nothing quite like the sands of Maui shores. They serve as a scenic complement to its iconic sunsets (search #mauisunsets and see for yourself). However, anyone can boast white beaches, but what about black? Maui’s Wai’anapanapa State Park is known for its unique, dark sands as a result of volcanic lava meeting the ocean. It’s such a treasure that it’s illegal to remove the black sand from the beach, but it makes for one beautiful backdrop among those incredible sunsets.
Wai’anapanapa is along the way on the Road to Hana if you’re up for a scenic adventure. The name alone sounds like an epic journey and the 64-mile route doesn’t disappoint. With waterfalls, hiking trails, and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean dotted along the coastline, it encapsulates the beauty of Maui in a single road trip. Don’t miss out on the chance to see the largest lava tube on the island or a stop at the Seven Sacred Pools or Ohe’o, which translates to “something special” if that’s any indication of what to expect.
Also, a Maui vacation wouldn’t be complete without a sunrise viewing at Haleakalā National Park. To say it’s popular among tourists is an understatement since you have to make reservations months in advance to secure a chance to experience it. Even if you’re not typically an early riser, the lookout over the volcanic craters is one that is unlike any other. Pack a thermos of coffee and a breakfast picnic to see the sun come up over the clouds. The Haleakalā summit is 10,023 feet, a height that will literally have you feeling on top of the world.
This only begins to illustrate the story of Maui’s allure. Swim near sea turtles right off the shore, walk through the botanical gardens and bamboo forests, play on world-class golf courses, and take in the natural beauty of the island that has everyone flocking to it. It’s a discovery waiting to be experienced.
Best swimsuit style for the island: A Full Coverage One Piece is ideal to explore the waterfalls, volcano summits, and lush island forests of Maui. It’s super comfortable with a full rise bottom that is built for a packed day of island adventure. Plus, a sexy silhouette set against Maui’s most famous backgrounds sets the stage for the perfect photo opportunity.
Kauai: The Garden Isle
Tropical is an understatement when talking about Kauai’s rainforest setting. It’s known for being the backdrop for several Hollywood movies; maybe most notably, Jurassic World. However, remote it is not. This island is known for a wide range of cultural landmarks and outdoor adventures. Ziplining, hiking, and paddleboarding are some of the more popular activities. Although, it’s not every day you have a chance to take a helicopter tour down the Na Pali Coast or go mountain tubing down the streams of Mt. Waialeale.
It’s all enough to work up an appetite and get a taste of Hawaii's regional cuisine. Kauai is known for its fresh fish, kalua pig, and shaved ice as a cool treat. Red Salt is one of the most popular restaurants that has a Kauai native as its head chef serving up seafood entrees and sushi rolls, as well as traditional breakfast options with a local flair like lemon-pineapple souffle pancakes. Also, any food enthusiast shouldn’t pass up the chance of attending an authentic Kauai luau. It’s the ultimate combination of culture and cuisine.
The luau menu includes a long list of native dishes such as poi, haupia, and a cooked pig that’s been buried beneath the sand and covered in banana leaves for up to 8 hours. There is a hula dance, lei making, fire dancing, and ukulele music. If ever there was one event that fully embodied the “spirit of aloha,” it’s the luau. Kauai embraces the balance of relaxation with being on the go, making it a spot where you can sample a little bit of everything that Hawaii has to offer.
Best swimsuit style for the island: A suit that easily transitions from the mountains to the beach to a nighttime luau is a designer one piece. The tastefully sexy structure of this type of swimsuit creates an elegant statement worn on its own and is also a stylish complement to a chic swim suit coverup. The laid-back luxury of this look captures the spirit of the island and the free-spirited personality of the woman wearing it.
Oahu: The Gathering Place
Home to Waikiki and the state’s capital, Honolulu, Oahu is a central location that delves more deeply into the history of island life. It’s also well known for its sea turtle and tropical fish sightings. Tourists are likely to spot them most frequently at Laniakea Beach during the summertime. Park alongside the highway and walk to the beach access point for a chance to see these serene creatures swimming near the shore and hanging out on the rocks.
Back at Waikiki, get a free tour of the world’s largest manufacturer of black coral jewelry, take a trip to learn about the history of Pearl Harbor, or relax on a sail out to sea. The famed Waikiki Beach is two miles of white sands and calm, clear waters. Set up a beach blanket for the day or participate in any of the water activities available. Paddleboarding, kayaking, beach volleyball, this place has it all.
Sunset Beach is also a favorite among travelers. Visitors here like to snorkel and surf while waiting for one of the island’s stunning sunsets to grace the waters. Beyond the beaches, there is a rich, Polynesian culture woven in everywhere on Oahu. Even the coffee involves more than grabbing a latte from a Starbucks on the corner. The Waialua Estate houses the only coffee farm on the island. Visitors can learn about the milling process where sugarcane used to grow. It’s an insider’s look at the coffee market on the island with free samples of freshly-roasted coffee.
Like Maui and Kauai, Oahu has attractions on land, by sea, and in the air. Wherever your adventurous spirit takes you, there’s an activity for it here, which is why it’s one of the best places to visit on Hawaii
Best swimsuit style for the island: Embrace vacation mode by packing your favorite printed stylish bikini. Pair with a beach hat and sunglasses for a trendsetting, tropical look.
Hawaii: The Big Island
The Big Island of Hawaii is the state’s largest and is widely known for being the most volcanically active of all the islands. A trip to Volcanoes National Park is a popular excursion for travelers who want to see its two active volcanoes. There are miles of hiking trails through the craters and lush rainforests, but there are also overlooks accessible by car. A visit to the Kilauea or Mauna Loa volcanoes is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
On the opposite side of thrilling adventure, the Big Island is also known for its laid-back vibe. From farmers markets to taro farms, specialty shops, and hidden gems, this island harbors an artist’s spirit. Historic Honokaa Town is a representation of this with antique stores and clothing boutiques lining its main street. Travelers can also peruse art galleries, some which include koa (a wood known to the island) woodworking.
If that’s not enough to inspire a visit, you’ll also be able to taste some island flavors just outside of town by sampling malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts), fresh fruits like guava and mango, and macadamia nuts. The Big Island holds it all depending on your mood and desire to explore.
Finally, when it comes to the best beaches, the Big Island is just as picturesque as Maui, Kauai, and Oahu. The clear waters of Manini'owali Beach are a favorite for swimming near shallow coral reefs and exploring nearby caves. The soft sand of Hapuna Beach, located north of Kona, offers equally favorable swimming conditions and a place where visitors can sunbathe and walks along the shoreline.
Best swimsuit style for the island: If there was a swimsuit option equivalent to the feel of the Big Island, it would be the bandeau bikini. It’s chic and comfortable and designed for a day of island exploration. The color and sexy style of the scales bikini, specifically, embodies how Hawaii is both timeless and trendy at the same time.
Lanai: The Pineapple Isle
Though smaller, with a population of about 3,300, Lanai shouldn’t be outshined by its larger, more popular neighbors. The island was once home to the Dole plantation, which produced three-quarters of the world’s pineapples; hence, the name. Although Maui is close by, Lanai has its own appeal. Its tranquil nature and semi-private setting make it appealing to many.
Touted as one of America’s best beaches, Hulopoe Bay is a prime spot for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing. Gorgeous white sands and deep blue waters can be found here, along with tide pools to explore on the eastern side of the bay. It’s not uncommon for beachgoers to easily spot marine life on this island, whether it’s up close or under water.
For the perfect sunset view and dolphin spotting, a drive to Kaumalapau Harbor is the best place for both. It was originally built to accommodate the high level of pineapple exportation in years past and is still the principal commercial seaport for Lanai. It’s a premier place for recreational fishing and walking along the water for some of the best island views.
Say Aloha to Hawaii
A vacation getaway to Hawaii is the type of paradise every traveler seeks. The blissful beaches are the place to relax and soak up the scenery, but there’s never a dull moment with all the activities that are available. Each island has everything you’d want from a vacation, while still holding onto its own individual appeal. It makes for a difficult choice of where to go and what to do because the options are endless.
Make the most of your next travel adventure by mapping out what appeals most to you. Between choosing which Hawaiian Island to visit and which swimsuit to pack, the good news is there is no wrong choice. The only thing left to do is to throw your favorite swimwear in your suitcase and go.
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