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Family,  Travel

Travel Guide: Visiting the Hawaiian Islands

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I love visiting Hawaii! I will watch any TV show that gives my a glimpse of this lovely place! I have visited 3 of the main islands so far but I can’t wait to get back. I have wanted to publish a post about Hawaii for a while and since each of my visits have been in May, I am going to post and pretend I am back there!


Hawaii has 4 major islands: Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii (the Big Island). The biggest question when you are considering visiting Hawaii is which island to visit? No matter which island you choose you’ll find that each is a tropical paradise. Generally, Maui is known for fun and families, while Oahu is known for outdoor adventures, and Kauai is for romance and luxury. The Big Island of Hawaii is typically overlooked but it shouldn’t be! Which island should you visit? Use this guide to choose the perfect Hawaiian Island for you.

This post is going to provide an overview. Over the rest of this month, there be a separate post for each of the major islands and a post about how to travel on a budget to Hawaii.

When To Visit The Hawaiian Islands

Each island has its own peak season. Considering the best time to visit each island may help you in making the decision of which island to visit.

Best Time To Visit Kauai

As is the case with many Hawaiian Islands, the best prices, weather, and the smallest crowds happen during the shoulder seasons of September through Mid-November and March through May. October is a great time to visit for the cheapest flights, hotels, great weather, and no crowds.

kauai

Best To Visit Oahu

If you take the weather, crowds, and prices into consideration, the best time to visit Oahu is early April, September, and early October. Although Oahu has excellent weather year-round, the hotel prices and crowds increase during peak summer seasons. Another thing to consider is hurricanes and tropical storms, although they rarely affect the Hawaiian Islands. Hurricane season is typically June through November.

oahu

Best Time To Visit Maui

There isn’t a bad time to visit Maui! Peak season on the island is typically June-August and December. You’ll find the islands least crowded during shoulder season, making it the best time to visit during April, September, and October.

Maui

Best Time To Visit The Big Island

The best time of year to visit the Big Island of Hawaii is between September and November. You’ll find the best room rates and fewer crowds during this time of the year. The temperatures remain consistently perfect in the low 70s or low 80s year-round.

hawaii the big island

Where To Go In Hawaii?

Kauai

Kauai is known as one of the most scenic islands in Hawaii. The fourth largest island makes a great vacation destination thanks to the lush landscape, magical waterfalls, and delicious food. Whether you are looking to relax on a tropical beach or hike one of Kauai’s famous trails, the island has something for everyone.

Oahu

As the third largest island in Hawaii, Oahu is often called the ‘gathering place.’ The blend of ancient and modern on this island is both unique and fantastic. Whether you want to spend time in a bustling city or a laid back surf town, Oahu has an exhilarating combination of East and West cultures. As one of the most popular Hawaiian islands, this tropical paradise sees an estimated 6 million visitors a year.

Maui

Maui, Hawaii is where tropical dreams come true. The island is world renowned for its beauty, fascinating history, pristine beaches, and stunning waterfalls. Maui does cater to those looking for more luxurious accommodations, but there is also a great selection of budget friendly options making Maui an easy choice for anyone.

Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii, officially known as the Island of Hawaii, is also a wonderful place to visit! The Island of Hawaii is so different from the other islands with its varying climate, volcanoes, and beautiful beaches. This majestic island is often overlooked, but between the black sand beaches, and hardened lava landscape, it’s stunningly gorgeous! The most recent eruption on the island was in 2018 when the Kileauea volcano caused immense earthquakes.

Best Beaches On The Hawaiian Islands

Kauai

Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach has been voted the best beach in America by the Travel Channel. As one of the most popular beaches in Kauai beachgoers can find swimming, snorkeling, and a beautiful natural wading pool at this beach. It’s great for families thanks to the calm waters of the pool and the lifeguards on duty.

Makau Beach (Tunnels Beach)

This unique beach in North Kauai has so many great watersport options. In these crystal clear waters, you’ll find some of the best snorkeling on the island. The stunning coral reef here is also great for scuba diving. Tunnel Beach is also great for surfing, windsurfing, and watching epic technicolor sunsets.

Oahu

Lanikai Beach

If you’re looking to relax in a serene setting then head to Lanikai Beach. Gentle waves make this a great swimming spot with the picturesque backdrop of 2 small islands known as the ‘mokes.’

Kailua Beach

This gorgeous beach was voted #1 beach in America in 2019. Kailua Beach has something for everyone with its soft sand, beautiful clear waters and gentle waves. You can enjoy swimming, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and windsurfing.

Maui

Makena Beach

One of the most famous beaches in Maui, there are actually 2 beaches in Makena, Big Beach and Little Beach. The crystal clear waters at these beaches will make you feel like you’re dreaming.

Kaanapali Beach

Once named one of America’s most beautiful beaches, Kaanapali Beach has dazzling white sands and sparkling blue waters. The beach is also surrounded by a boardwalk with easy access to shops, dining, and luxury resorts.

Big Island

Punaluu Beach Park

Known for its unique black sand, Punaluu Beach is a can’t miss while visiting the Big Island of Hawaii. You can see how lava rocks transform into beautiful black sand. Make sure to keep an eye out for sea turtles.

Papakolea Green Sand Beach

This beach is one of a kind! You’ll be amazed at the beauty of the green sand thanks to the backdrop of rugged cliffs. Be aware that this beach is very windy, making it perfect for windsurfing! If you’re an adrenaline junkie there is also a cliff jumping section of the beach.

Best Waterfalls In Hawaii

Kauai

Wailua Falls

One of the biggest draws to this spectacular waterfall is that you don’t actually have to hike to get to the falls. That’s right, they are located right next to the parking lot. Wailua Falls splits into two separate waterfalls and cascades 173 ft into a crystal-clear pool below. 

This is the picture of the falls that my husband and I took on our helicopter tour while in Kauai.

Hanakapiai Falls

Located on the beautiful Na Pali Coast, this hike is not for the faint of heart. The trail is 4 miles one way, and 8 miles total, but it’s well worth the trek. About halfway through the hike you’ll find yourself on Hanakapiai Beach, known for its exceptional beauty. Once you reach the falls you’ll immediately notice the gorgeous emerald pool at the bottom of this stunning waterfall.

Oahu

Manoa Falls

This family friendly waterfall hike is a stunner. As you walk through the jungle to a beautiful 150 ft waterfall, be aware that this hike can become slippery and sturdy waterproof boots are recommended.

Manoa Falls Oahu

Sacred Falls

One of the most extraordinary waterfalls in all of Hawaii. This 4.5 mile hike is worth the trek to see this epic 1,100 ft beauty.

Maui

Waimoku Falls

You’ll find Waimoku Falls at the head of Ohe’o Gulch right above the beautiful Seven Sacred Pools. This is Maui’s tallest waterfall and it’s stunningly beautiful.

Waimea Falls

On the North Shore of Oahu sits the stunning Waimea Falls, also known as Waihi Falls. The best part? You can swim in the beautiful pool at the bottom of the falls. Just be cautious and do not dive without testing the depth of the water.

waimea falls Maui

Big Island

Akaka Falls Trail

This easy hike to a beautiful waterfall is a great option for families! This loop trail takes you to not only 1, but 2 waterfalls in the lush rainforest of Hilo.

Rainbow Falls Overlook

This spectacular 80 ft waterfall is easily accessible from a .1 mile walking trail.

Rainbow Falls big island

Best Hikes In Hawaii

Kauai

Kuilau Ridge Trail

  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 666 ft

This heavily trafficked trail is a great option if you’re looking for a more family friendly hike. At a moderate 3.6 miles, this trail is good for most skill levels. The entire family can enjoy a lush jungle hike together!

Kalalau Trail

  • Distance: 22 miles
  • Rating: Difficult
  • Elevation Gain: 6,177 ft

This hike is not for the faint of heart, the 22 mile Kalalau Trail is a favorite among experienced hikers. One that qualifies you for bragging rights! This trail takes you through the lush jungles of the Na Pali coastline. Advanced reservations are not required to hike this trail.

Oahu

Diamond Head Summit Trail – Honolulu

  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Rating: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 452 ft

Diamond Head (Le’ahi) Summit Trail is an easy 1.8 miles and provides amazing views of Honolulu. One of Oahu’s most popular sites and hikes means that Diamond Head has nearly 3,000 visitors a year. This dormant volcano is a favorite of families.

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail

  • Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Rating: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 505 ft

At just over 2 miles, this family friendly hike provides views of the stunning blue water of Oahu. During the winter months you may even see humpback whales from this hike.

Maui

Iao Needle Lookout Trail

  • Distance: .4 miles
  • Rating: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 134 ft

This family friendly hike is great for all skill levels. This nice paved trail offers beautiful views of the famous Iao Needle.

Waihee Ridge Trail

  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 1,610 ft

This hike may be challenging for beginner hikers due to the elevation gain. The reward is worth the climb, you’ll be treated to ridge tops, jungle, and ocean views.

Big Island

Ka’Awaloa – Captain Cook Monument (in Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park)

  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Rating: Difficult
  • Elevation Gain: 1,256 ft

Captain Cook monument was built in 1874 commemorating the fallen British explorer who was killed in 1779.

Waipi’o Valley Hike

  • Distance: 4.7 miles
  • Rating: Difficult
  • Elevation Gain: 1,417 ft

This dog friendly hike follows a steep road that eventually turns into the Waipio Trail. There are some picturesque bodies of water along the way! Keep an eye out for wild horses on this trail as well.

Hawaii’s National Parks

Maui

Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park

$30 entrance fee for 3 consecutive days

Haleakala National Park is impressively beautiful with its lush rainforests, rugged coastlines, and stunning volcanic landscape. The park offers camping, hiking and epic sunrises. Hiking is the best way to experience this extraordinary National Park. Some of the most popular hiking trails in the park include:

Seven Sacred Pools Trail (Ohe’o Gulch)

  • Distance: .6 miles
  • Rating: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 108 ft

Also known as the Kuloa Point Trail, this is an easy .6 mile trail that is great for families. As one of the most popular and impressive hikes in the park, in just .6 miles you will discover a lush jungle, beautiful ocean views, and amazing waterfalls. Diving and jumping into the pools is prohibited and there is no safe ocean entry from this trail.

Waimoku Falls via Pipiwai Trail

  • Distance: 3.8 miles
  • Rating: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 908 ft

On this beautiful hiking trail you’ll experience several waterfalls before reaching the gorgeous Waimoku Falls. The hike will take you through dark bamboo forests on this unforgettable trail.

Pa Kaoao Trail

  • Distance: .6 miles
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 134 ft

Take in a sunrise on this spectacular trail! The park implemented a new reservation system, and you will need to make a reservation for sunrise on the summit. This trail is a lot of bang for your buck, a very short hike for truly spectacular views.

Sliding Sands Trail

  • Distance: 11 miles
  • Rating: Difficult
  • Elevation Gain: 2,795 ft

This difficult trail is worth the challenge for experienced hikers. This 11 mile hike offers spectacular views, but make sure to wear sturdy hiking boots for this difficult hike.

Big Island

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

$30 for entrance pass that’s good for 7 consecutive days

Kilauea is an active volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. In December of 2020, scientists detected a fresh lava flow. Currently, there is no evidence that the lava flow is a threat to any of the neighboring communities. Whether you get to see the lava flow during your visit or not, the park is incredible and has plenty to see and do. Take the Chain of Craters Road, an 18.8-mile one-way road that showcases the best scenery on the Big Island. Another great activity is checking out the Puuloa Ancient Hawaiians Petroglyphs. Of course, one of the most popular activities in the park is hiking. Some of the most popular trail in the park include:

Kilauea Iki Trail and Crater Rim Trail

  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 741 ft

This beautiful trail takes you around the Kilauea summit caldera. This fantastic day hike will allow you to explore a solid lava lake, a once in a lifetime experience. The crater itself is a mile wide and to finish you’ll descend into a beautiful tropical jungle.

Halema’uma’u Trail

  • Distance: 1.7 miles
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 429 ft

This trail features beautiful wildflowers as you primarily hike through the jungle. At the end of the trail you’ll reach the crater and be able to walk on a lava field.

Keanakakoi Overlook

  • Distance: 2.1 miles
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 190 ft

This trail was a former paved road that was damaged during the earthquakes of the 2018 eruptions. There are views of several different craters from this trail, but please use caution during this hike.

Popular Overlooks at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

  • Kilauea Overlook
  • Pu’u Pua’i Overlook
  • Kilauea Iki Overlook
  • Kealakomo Overlook

Can’t Miss Attractions

Kauai

Take A Helicopter Tour

One of the best ways to see the beauty of Kauai is from above, and there is no better way than a helicopter tour of the island. You’ll hover over the Waimea Canyon before flying up the gorgeous Na Pali Coast. You can even experience the famous Manawaiopuna Falls exactly as they were featured in Jurassic Park. These falls are actually on private land, making a helicopter tour the only way to experience them. There are many options for helicopter tours on the island but some of the most popular are:

My husband went on a helicopter tour while in Kauai. You definitely need to do that if you visit. I am a bit of a chicken, but I enjoyed it! We toured in a helicopter without doors. Great for pictures but tough on this “chicken’s” nerves.

Oahu

Learn To Surf

Hawaii is hugely famous for its importance in the world of surfing. It only makes sense to learn how to surf while visiting Oahu. There are plenty of places to rent a board on the island and Waikiki has some of the best beginner waves. Some of the best places to rent boards are

Maui

Hana Highway – ‘Road to Hana’

Hana Highway - ‘Road to Hana’

This scenic drive is the undisputed #1 attraction in Maui. The drive is actually the main attraction, and you’ll want to take your time on the 52 mile Road To Hana. As you drive along Maui’s cliffs cloaked in emerald green, you’ll be awestruck by the beauty of East Maui. Gaze at lush valleys that are bursting with gorgeous waterfalls as the road snakes around 620 curves and over 50 bridges. Due to the fact that the Road To Hana is so popular it has a code of conduct.

Road To Hana Code of Conduct

  • Visit State Parks and county rest stops and facilities.
  • Stop at botanical gardens, farms, and fruit stands along the way to support local businesses.
  • Pay attention to private and posted property signs.
  • Only park in designated parking areas.
  • Do not enter streams or rivers after heavy rains.
  • Respect the land and make sure to leave no trace. Pack out trash and leave only footprints.

Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii has some truly epic beaches thanks to the active volcano on the island. Here are a few suggestions for can’t miss beach:

Pololu Valley Beach

This beach has amazingly beautiful black sands, but it’s not great for swimming. If you’re looking for a gorgeous beach then Pololu Valley Beach is for you. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the hiking trails nearby.

Kehena Beach

If you find yourself near Kalapana and you’re looking for something unique to do, check out Kehena Beach. After taking a short but steep trail of lava rocks you’ll reach this secluded beach. What makes this beach truly unique? It’s clothing optional! Even if you’re not into baring it all, the scenery is beautiful where lush jungles meet lava rocks and sparkling sapphire water.

**Note: All prices, helicopter tours, and surf shops are subject to change and may not be the same when you travel.**

Conclusion

Visiting the islands of Hawaii will have you feeling relaxed in no time! Whether you are looking to sunbathe on a black sand beach, learn to surf, or hike to a waterfall with your family the Hawaiian Islands have something for everyone. What are you waiting for? Pick an island and pack your sunblock and sunglasses!





Loving Life — The Reboot!

Dominique

Travel Guide: Visiting the Hawaiian Islands

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