Destinations / North America

Don’t Miss These Incredible Islands While Visiting Hawaii

Oahu is the most widely recognised Hawaiian island, thanks to idyllic beaches, such as Waikiki, and Honolulu’s rich history. However, Oahu is one of many coastal oases in the islands, and local culture, luxury and natural beauty can be found all around this archipelago. Intrepid travellers looking for the complete Hawaii holiday experience should also focus on Kaua’i, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and the Island of Hawai’i (nicknamed the Big Island).

Each island delivers its own unforgettable experiences, from mesmerising waterfalls and golden beaches to heritage townships. The next time you’re visiting Hawaii, see as much as possible by island hopping around this tropical paradise. Here are just some of the Hawaii’s highlights.

A Patchwork Quilt of Mesmerising Landscapes on Kaua’i

Kauai Nature
Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority

Wailua River, Kaua’i’s largest navigable river, offers enthralling kayak or stand-up paddleboard tours. Cruise down this serene waterway to encounter cascading waterfalls, verdant jungles and the Nounou Mountains, which look like a sleeping giant. The Wailua River feeds into Kaua’i’s two most popular waterfalls, Wailua Falls and Opaekaa Falls. Wailua Falls breaks into two streams that drop from 24 metres high, while Opaekaa Falls is over 46 metres tall.

Looking for a unique introduction to Kaua’i’s nature? Ride down the island’s Hanamaulu sugar plantation irrigation system on a Mountain Tubing adventure, which takes you through mountainside flumes and tunnels. Alternatively, explore the Na Pali Coast on a guided sailing excursion to see the rugged mountainous shoreline, secluded beaches and sea caves.

Wander the streets of Kapaa Town, which boasts outlets selling jewellery, souvenirs, artwork and vintage goods. Popular stops include Kinipopo Shopping Village, Wailua Shopping Plaza and Coconut Marketplace. Known as “The Garden Isle”, Kaua’i is also home to three of Hawaii’s five National Tropical Botanical Gardens. Admire native flora at McBryde Garden, giant Moreton Figs at Allerton Gardens and endangered plants at Limahuli Gardens.

Local Culture & Wildlife on Moloka’i

Molokai holiday
Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority

Immerse yourself in Moloka’i’s local culture and history at Kalaupapa National Historical Park, where the local community continues to live with traditional values.  Explore the historic Hawaiian architecture, archaeological artefacts and untouched beauty of this quiet island. Kalaupapa National Historical Park also houses about 30 threatened and endangered native species, along with rainforest and dramatic sea cliffs.

Venture into Moloka’i’s main township, Kaunakakai, to enjoy fresh bakery bread, late-19th-century churches, charming general stores and weekly outdoor markets. Soak up the waterfront with the local fishermen at Kaunakakai Harbour, where you’ll find Hawaii’s longest pier.

See rare Hawaiian flora, about 250 plants to be precise, at Kamakou Preserve. This 1,122-hectare nature preserve holds over 200 plants that can’t be found anywhere else, as well as two near-extinct birds, the olomao and kawawahie. Afterwards, sink your toes in the soft white sands of Papohaku Beach.

Shipwrecks & Sweethearts on Lana’i

Lainai beachfront
Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority

Hawaii has its fair share of unique beaches, but you’ll find arguably one of the most incredible stretches of coastline on the island of Lana’i. Kaiolohia beach has more than earned its nickname, Shipwreck Beach, after causing numerous shipwrecks over the centuries. One of the most prominent wrecks is a 1900s oil tanker that rises up from Kaiolohia Bay’s coral reef.

Venture to the revered Kaunola Village, an ancient fishing commune dating back to the 15th century. Local Hawaiian culture abounds throughout the village, from religious shrines and stone shelters to grave sites and petroglyphs. Wander through the historic village to see earthenware pottery, ancient tools and the Kahekili’s Leap, a rock ledge where warriors dove almost 20 metres into Kaunolu Bay below.

One of Lana’i’s most iconic landmarks, the 24-metre-high Puu Pehe (Sweetheart Rock) is the site of a local romantic legend. This is why the picturesque rock between the Manele and Hulopoe bays is a hotspot for couple photo ops. After snapping a photo, drive back to Lanai City and eat fresh pineapple, go clothes shopping at the Local Gentry and admire watercolour paintings at Lanai Art Centre.

Small-Town Charm Meets Beautiful Beaches on Maui

Maui white-sand beach
Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority

You’ll immediately feel at peace strolling around Paia, a historic Maui settlement with art galleries and family-friendly restaurants. Don’t miss seeing Hookipa Beach, the “windsurfing capital of the world”, or H.A. Baldwin Beach Park, which has a kid-friendly lagoon. Trade the coast for undulating countryside in Upcountry Maui, where you can tour local farms, taste Maui spirits or enjoy farm-to-table cuisine at rustic restaurants.

Go for a swim at Honolua Bay, which has long-breaking waves for surfers during winter and easily visible marine life for snorkelers during summer. Are you craving some island luxury? Spend a few days at Wailea, soaking up coastal vibes on the five crescent-shaped beaches and teeing off at world-renowned golf courses. Sunbathers flock to Wailea Beach and Polo Beach, while keen golfers take on the championship-quality Wailea Blue and Wailea Emerald courses.

Unique Volcanoes & History on The Island of Hawai’i

Big Island
Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority

The Island of Hawai’i boasts one of the state’s most unique aquatic experiences at Keauhou Bay. This luxury resort area is a popular day spot for snorkelling and kayaking, but the real magic happens at night when manta rays swim with snorkelers and scuba divers. If you love chasing waterfalls, visit Wailuku River State Park to see the misty morning rainbows at Waianuenue waterfall and the bubbling terraced pools called Boiling Pots under Peepee Falls.

Hang out with locals at Hilo Farmers Market, where the festive atmosphere complements over 200 farm produce and handicraft stalls. Open every Wednesday and Saturday, the market is perfect for picking up fresh fruit and handmade jewellery.

It’s impossible to stay away from Hawaii’s nature too long, especially with two of the state’s most active volcanoes in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the pitch-black sand at nearby Punaluu Black Sand Beach. Don’t forget about the sacred wood carvings, temples and beach huts within centuries-old royal grounds at Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.

Getting Around

Island hopping in Hawaii is made easy by the reliable inter-island flights offered on multiple domestic airlines, which take between 20 and 60 minutes. You can also arrange private flights and inter-island tours. Want to travel across the Pacific? There is a ferry service available from Maui across to Lanai.

Author: Ben Stower

I'm enamoured with travel, whether it's finding the quiet, local sanctuaries in touristic cities, venturing into rock vaults in a distant jungle or spending hours on a Spanish beach. I can't see an end to my travelling. Just another chapter and another story to tell.


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