I think it depends on if you want a traditional vacation or exotic. We went traditional on our honeymoon and went to Maui. Had a wonderful time. We did all the standard Hawaii things - snorkling, sunning, luau (sp?), swimming under waterfalls, hiking, watching sufers at the northshore, etc. One thing I would have liked to have done but didn't was see a volcano. Not sure if we even had that option on Maui. This was all 12 years ago, too. Things may have changed.
If you prefer exotic, I've heard Kauai is the place to go. Somebody else will have to chime in, though.
My wife and I have been to Kauai for the last 3 years in a row, and it's fantastic. It depends on what you guys are looking for. Kauai is known as the Garden Isle as it's very beautiful and rustic--it's not nearly as developed as the other islands. There isn't much nightlife on this island. You will however find plenty of things to do and things to see. Check out "The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed" on Amazon (the cover is an aerial shot of the island). There are books just like this written for each of the Hawaiian islands, and it's an invaluable resource.
Some of our favorite things to do:
- Kipu Ranch ATV - You get to see where they filmed Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, 6 Days/7 Nights, Hook, etc. Stunning views and great stories/folklore
- Helicopter tour of the island
- Snorkeling - in the winter time stay on the southern side of the island (Poipu is a good place to start), and in the summer the north/northeast side is great (Tunnels beach is fantastic)
- Hike Napali Coast
- Waimea Canyon (the Grand Canyon of the Pacific)
This is just a core dump of info rather than an organized response, so I apologize. Feel free to ask questions. We haven't been to any of the other islands, so I'll have to defer to someone else regarding those. I will say this--you guys won't want to come back to the mainland after being out there. It's the most relaxing place we've ever been too.
Kauai is definitely the most beautiful and laid back of the islands. My favaorite. Poipu Beach is an excellent place to stay. Beautiful beach, nice hotels/condo's goood snorkling, all the tourist amenities. On the other end of the island Princeville has an extremely luxurios resort (amazing hotel) and Hanalei Bay(sp?) is the Garden of Eden. Take a Zodiac excursion up the Napali Coast with Napali Adventures in Waimea. Make sure you get on Captain Ah Ah's boat. He'll take you under waterfalls, into caves and surf the boat. He'll also get you up close to porpoises and get you airborne frequently! Kayak up the Wailu river and hike back to the Falls. Beautiful! Hike to the top of the "Sleeping Giant". Go drink Mai Tai's at Dukes and have the seven spice Ahi! Ya Baby! I have a friend who owns 3 condo's there right on the water in Kapaa and reasonable. Great central location on Kauai. Search the Web for the Kapaa Sands resort. If you are interested in staying there let me know and I'll hook you up.
Maui if you want to party more. Great island and lots to do. Big island if you want to see volcanoes and golf.
If you are going to spend the time and $ to go however, don't dismiss spending the first couple of days on Oahu to see Pearl and the Polynesian Cultural Center. The Arizona Memorial is very moving and the Cultural Center, while somewhat cheesey, will give you a good intro to Hawaiian culture. Also, cruise the North Shore. This is where all the famous surf spot are like the Banzai Pipeline, Backdoor, Wiamea Bay and Sunset Beach. Do those things then get off of Oahu.
Also, make sure you take your wife to the hokiest luau you can find. If you go to Kauai Smith's is the biggest and cheesiest.
I really ejoyed the Big Island but it was also on an all expense paid company trip. We stayed at the Hilton Waikaloa (sp) nice place. One really amazing thing is the range of climates as you drive from one side of the island to the other. Look up "fluming the ditch"...long story short after WW2 Japanese laborers dug tunnels in an extinct volcano to direct the water collected in the cone to the sugar fields. Well you can now ride down these streams of water through the inside of the volcano in a kayac/canoe.
I recommend the Lahina side of Maui, great snorkeling, beaches and sites. This island is easy to get around, things to do are close but you can get away from it all with ease. Whale watching trips, snorkel trips to other islands or the drive to the top of the valcano to watch the sunrise. Throw in the bike trip down the valcano for a thrill. You can drive around the island to Hana and the 7 pools, plan a Looooong day for this but worth the time. There is a great guide book that will explain all the side trips and neat stuff to do, it's like a bible with the tourists but really helps planning what's worth seeing.
The Big island is wonderful also, you can drive from catus covered deserts to waterfall covered mountain walls in a couple of hours. Kona is a good place to stay, it's like Lahina but a bit smaller. The lava is flowing still and the National park there is fantastic.
That being said, ANY of the islands are worrh seeing and you'll have a great time.
Kauai was the most amazing place I've ever been. We were married and stayed at the Princeville for a week afterwards and would go back again in a second. Lots of 'back country' stuff to do on Kauai. It's definitely the 'Garden Isle' like was already mentioned. The island shuts down just after dark though so if it's nightlife you're after, do some Kauai and hop to Maui.
We left Kauai for Maui and stayed another week on the Kanapali (sp) coast. The snorkeling 100 feet down the beach from our hotel was supposed to be ranked #4 on National Geographic's best places in the world to snorkel. There's tons to do there after dark as well.
Do a helicopter ride on Kauai without fail. It's expensive and totally worth it.
Parasail on Maui for sure.
Snorkel on Maui for sure.
Take a tour (don't drive yourself) of the 'Road to Hana'. You'll learn tons and see stuff you wouldn't otherwise.
Here are some small size pictures. Those two islands defy description:
Sunset from our room: (The little bump on the end of the mountains is 'Bali Hai')
The Beach at the Princeville:
Falls from the helicopter:
A good donor! (rental) on a drive past Hanalei
Two from 'The road to Hana':
Two of a sunset from our favorite restaurant on Maui:
Damn I miss that place!
[ February 16, 2005, 01:24 PM: Message edited by: ChevyCobra - Randy J. ]
of you like traffic, shopping, concrete, go to any island except kauai.
if you like nature, plants, trees, relaxing, paradise, birds, waterfalls, a private beach, go to kauai.
i have been to all the islands and kauai was my first. i was told i'd be spoiled and they were right.
ask a local to see the "glass beach" near the airport. it used to be the dumping ground of a factory that make glass floats for fishing nets. go at sunrise and you will be on a beach of polished jewels. the mrs. will love it!
I just sold my place on Kauai, so I'm a little biased
For someone who's never been there, do 2-3 nights in Honolulu so you can go see Pearl Harbor. The rest of the time is a choice. If you want to see an active volcano and not much else, go to the Big Island. If you want a lot to do, go to Maui. If you want to see what most people's idea of Hawaii should be like, go to Kauai.
If you REALLY want peace and quiet, go to Molokai or Lanai.
If there is a garden of Eden on this planet, Hanalei Kauai is the closest I've ever found.
Decide on which island(s), then get back to us. I can tell which a couple of good hotels and others to avoid on each island. After 15 trips, I'm almost a local
I'm 34 now and my wife is 29... we went to Hawaii in May of last year. Of the four islands we visited, each had it's own charm and something we'd go back for.
We landed on Oahu and got a sweet deal on a Waikiki highrise that used to be on the shore before the place exploded. We were a block from the shore (excellent) and our room included a rental car (new Stratus, 310 miles on the ticker). The Arizona Memorial had me on the verge of tears the entire time as I remembered my grandfather who served in Europe and my friends who are serving now. Hanauma Bay was an awesome snorkeling bay, but take a bus or taxi there because parking disappears at first light. The pipeline and north shore beaches were incredible... and we didn't even see the big winter waves.
Kauai was next and I can echo all of the positive things from above. We found some beaches only the GPS could take us to on the extreme norteast and west sides of the island. If the mountain looks cloudy, avoid the canyon until you get a clear day. Princeville was... um... very odd. It was as if South Florida had invaded and the old folks had established a beachhead. Glass Beach was cool as was the tree tunnel and Old Koloa town, just avoid the timeshare salespeople there.
Maui was unusual. It took forever to drive to the resort area on the west coast. There were some very cool blowholes and bays o swim on the northwest, but the road doesn't go all the way around (or rather the rental car would tattle-tale on us over the GPS marker hidden inside). Iao Needle was very cool as was the waytoolongtopronounce black sand beach park just north of Hana. The road to Hana is hella-twisty with an ocassional place to pull off and enjoy the views or waterfalls or such. Picnicking at the foot of waterfalls is awesome. Swimming under them is just as awesome. If you make it to Hana, you have to visit Hasegawa's General Store.
Last but not least was Hawaii, the big island itself. We stayed in Kailua Kona which is an oasis of coastline bracketed by expansive desolate lava fields. Collect some coral from the beaches and create a grafitti marker in the lava fields.
The Place of Refuge was really neat to visit and afforded some of the best sunsets of the trip. We also geeked out and hit the southernmost point of the US on the south tip of the big island. Whether you stay on Kona or Hilo, do not miss Volcanoes National Park; especially if the lava is flowing.
Pack hiking shoes and a suply of water, some first aid materials, flashlights, and spare batteries and get to the park about 3 hours before sunset. That should give you time to get to the shore and out onto the lava field where the flow can be seen. I recommend a GPS receiver too that can track and guide you back to your vehicle on the featureless flow. Timing it right will let you follow the marked trail (it changes often) out to the edge of the hot zone. From there you will probably see the lava moving in the distance. Take extreme care in moving through the steam vents toward the lava! The rock underneath is very young and still cooling. Keep your wits about you when you find a flow to observe as well... it is an incredible sight to behold but one that could be very dangerous. Of course, I'm the idiot who took macro shots of the lava from a foot away. :kookoo:
I lived on Oahu for 5 years in the early 80's and was amazed at how much changed when I went back several years ago. I lived in Aiea Heights up above Pearl Harbor behind Aloha Stadium. When I went back the development had changed the landscape so much I couldn't find my road!
I agree with everything said before and would add that one of the beautiful things about Hawaii is that it can provide the total package. You need to decide how you want to spend your vacation. See everything? Always on the go? Kick back and relax? Tourist delights or local hide aways? From a helicopter Tour of Waimea Canyon on Kauai to nude sun bathing at McKenna beach on Maui, you can have literally anything.
You will never see everything in two weeks, so do the research you're doing, decide what type of vacation you want, and plan your moves. Have fun!
BTW, Sco, no GPS satelites when I was there. We took a rental car all the way around Oahu (from the Makaha side) with no problems but a couple of scratches and a bashed muffler. We then tried it on Maui, going around Haliakala and the car rolled sideways off a cliff! No one hurt, but GPS would have saved their car and my wallet!
I first walked the beach of Waikiki in 1965. I've been back every year since and have stayed at all the islands mentioned above.
For first time visitors I always recommend a two island package. Island One: Ohau (Honolulu). Everything that has been written about Hawaii (in most cases) is found here. Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, Waikiki beach, punch bowl, and many famous beaches. Island Two: Your choice, I go most often back to Maui. Great hotels, golf and quiet. Kaui is too quiet and Hawaii (the big island) is great for deep sea fising. If you have 7 days do 3 nights in each island. It is easy and fairly inexpensive to travel between the islands. Most airlines service Maui and Ohau direct. You may have to change planes in Honoulu for Kaui or Hawaii. For touring of any island plan on morning tour and PM beach or water sports. All islands shave full complement of activities. You can actually play golf in Kaui at a public 9 hole course for $9.00. However, you have to play around the wild chickens. Some years ago there was a hurricane that destroyed many of the chicken farms and blew the chickens into the "bush". They are now romaing wild around the island. They actually sold chicken feed at the pro shop. Aloha.
I visit Hawaii a couple times each year. Oahu has the most to do for a 5-7 day visit.
Arizona Memorial is a must. Waikiki and the Ala Moana center, rent the traditional Mustang convertable and drive over the Pali highway 13 miles to Kaneoe Bay and the north shore. Beautiful beaches in every direction. Go to a luau, have Mai Tais at Dukes on Waikiki, the University of Hawaii in Manoa valley is a little known tropical secret with view of the Pacific Ocean. Wear Hawaiian shirts, shorts, sandals..be a tourist and have a great time.
According to my son, a junior at UH, Cobra sightings happen on Oahu.
I've been to all of them. My kid goes to school in Honolulu also and we like to visit.
With all due respect, EVERY island has tourist dreck, and EVERY island has some really cool stuff.
Oahu is the main island and Honolulu is the big city with all the Japanese tourists. If you go on the north and west sides of the island, it's small local towns with really neat folks.
Hawaii is the big island, and it's a full day to drive around. The tourists are at Kona on the west, but the small local towns in the north and south are very nice. Volcanoes National Park is AWESOME. Take a tour of a coffee plantation. Snorkel in Cook's Bay. A helo ride over the volcano is expensive but worth it, IMHO. Northwest corner gets 8" of rain a year. Southeast corner gets 131" of rain a year. The flume is not exciting, like river rafting, but it's interesting and fun. Honest-to-god cattle ranches in the north.
Maui has lots of expensive hotels and some really nice bars. The bike ride down from Haleakala is not to be missed. Any holiday in Lahaina is party time. Molokini is an atoll just offshore that lots of snorkel boats go to, and it's beautiful.
Kauai is very lush and green, but it has a LOT of condos and very few locals that are not tourist-dependent. The ATV tour is a blast.
Lanai is the most un-touristy island, but that also means not a lot to do. Pretty, though.
Molokai is the home of a former leper colony (interesting) and is just getting developed.
Bottom line, if you want education, history, etc. go to the big island. if you want to party, go to Maui. If you want to hang out on the beach, go to Kauai. If you want a little of everything, and big buck shops, go to Oahu. I agree with Roger - there's a LOT of great stuff to do there.
By the way, if you're a scuba diver, the best diving is either Oahu or Hawaii. Or if you're just interested, in both places you can take a Discover Diving class that will get you under water for pretty cheap.
Roger, we saw a very nice Cobra in the Waikiki Thanksgiving parade last year. We really need to hook up our kids...
Good stuff guys because I'm going to the big island in late June or early July for 1 week.
I celebrated our 10th anniversary in Maui on the Lahaina side and it was a great stay. My wife didn't like all the driving around. There was actually 7 of us total (her sister and one kid and my 2 sisters, and our daughter). She mostly went to wherever we decided to drive.
Haleakala was closed near the summit the day I went; sister got altitude sickness along the way.
I went snorkeling and it's amazing how many fish are around you at Molokini, when compared to diving in Monterey or Carmel - just no comparison. And the giant turtles are simply huge compared to the pet-store counterparts.
Also went to a "traditional" luau one night and Planet Hollywood another (don't bother). Went to one of the gardens near the joint of the island along with a fruit plantation.
Overall, it was nice but this time, were going with MORE people but we've insisted multiple car rentals; my wife is going to stay strickly at the Hilton and my daughter wants to learn to surf. One of my sisters is more like me and we're going to try the submarine ride and/or helicopter ride over a volcano. If time permits, we may try to fly to Oahu or save it for another trip some other year.
Lived on Maui for 11 years, Big Island for 1 year, and Oahu for a summer. I would base my decision on what time of year, traffic, weather, etc. Maui is great but traffic can be tough. Kauai is beautiful but it rains more. Have the best of both worlds and see two islands....
My wife and I spent our 25th anniversary (last May) at Oahu and the Big Island. As has been said, the Arizona Memorial is powerful. We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental a little east of Waikiki and it was great, but the city is really busy. We really enjoyed the Big Island. Did the submarine trip, Volcanoes National Park (go just before sunset and the lava really glows), saw seven or so fantastic waterfalls and a black sand beach and a green sand beach. The green sand beach is tough to get to. You either need a four wheel drive rent car or you can hoof it but it takes a good 45 minutes. But well worth it. So many things to see that are only there.
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