The first step in planning a vacation to Hawaii is to decide which island you’d like to visit. There are six islands to choose from: Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai. Most first time travelers will choose from the four largest islands, leaving Molokai and Lanai for later trips.
Choosing an island is both fun and easy. It’s impossible to make a mistake because all the islands offer those special qualities Hawaii is famous for: great weather, beautiful scenery, wonderful beaches and friendly people. Many people fall in love with the islands and visit them all eventually. Just don’t make the mistake of visiting too many islands in a single trip. The rule of thumb is that you need at least a week to get a taste of each island because there is so much to see and explore.
Once you’ve selected an island, a more difficult question arises: where to stay on the island? Below is an overview of the most popular regions of each island to give you some ideas.
Waikiki is the most popular destination in Hawaii. The convenience of direct flights from many cities in North America and Asia to Oahu, a large selection of inexpensive hotels and condos, great beaches, and all the excitement and activities of Honolulu make it an easy choice for visitors. Most people are already familiar with Waikiki and Honolulu due to all the publicity it gets on TV.
17 Miles north of Honolulu on Oahu’s west coast is the Ko Olina resort. Here you’ll find four hotels: Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa, the Marriott Ihilani, Ko Olina Beach Villas, and the Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club. The hotels are built around four man made lagoon style beaches.
On Oahu’s north shore about an hour from Waikiki is the 880 acre Turtle Bay Resort. The resort includes a hotel, villas, and condos. This is a more remote area of the island, famous for its surf breaks. You won’t find any malls or large developments, but there are plenty of nice beaches.
Maui’s resorts are located along its dry western coast. Starting in the southwest is Maui’s flagship resort, Wailea. Here you’ll find three 5 star hotels and several condominium developments including Wailea Beach Villas, one of Hawaii’s most luxurious. Although the region is very dry the finely manicured resort is always green. This area of the island has more than half a dozen wonderful beaches.
Just north of Wailea is the busy town of Kihei which runs for 6 miles along the coast. Kihei offers many affordable condo developments on or near the ocean. There are three nice swimming beaches here.
On Maui’s west coast is Kaanapali, Hawaii’s first planned resort whose development began in the 1960′s. Built along the fabulous Kaanapali beach which stretches for over 2 miles (in two sections), the resort features many hotels and a handful of condo developments. Kaanapali is located 2 miles north of Lahaina, an energetic town with a rich history that has become a tourist magnet. Here you’ll find many dining options, luau’s and magic shows, historic buildings, plenty of tourist shops, and whale watching boat trips departing from the harbor.
About 10 miles north of Lahaina is Kapalua resort. This is home to the 5 star Ritz Carlton Kapalua as well as several luxury town home developments. Between Kaanapali and Kapalua are the communities of Honokowai, Kahana, and Napili, all featuring many oceanfront condo developments. There are several popular beaches and snorkel spots in and around Kapalua.
As with Maui, the most popular tourist areas of the Big Island are along its dry west coast. Many visitors stay in the Kona region which has a large selection of affordable condos and several hotels. You’ll find many dining options and a variety of tourist shops in Kona. The coastal waters here are among the clearest in Hawaii and this is a popular area for scuba diving, snorkeling and fishing.
North of Kona is the Kohala coast where you’ll find the Waikoloa Beach Resort, Mauna Lani Resort, and Mauna Kea Resort areas. This is one of the driest regions in all of Hawaii and much of the region is barren lava field. The greenery of the resorts with their golf courses provide a stark contrast. For accommodations expect a great selection of modern condos and town homes and an interesting selection of hotels, including the Hilton Waikoloa Village which is set on 62 acres. Most of the Big Island’s beaches are located along the coast here.
Volcano Nationals Park is a highlight of the Big Island. Most visitors take a long day trip from Kona to visit the Park, but it is possible to stay in Volcano Village, a small community beside the Park which has a handful of bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals.
On the east coast is Hilo, the largest community on the island and famous for being the wettest town in the United States. Lush vegetation and waterfalls highlight the region. There are a few hotels and condos in Hilo, but many people chose a vacation rental in the region. One benefit of staying on the east coast is that one is closer to Volcanoes National Park. The Park really deserves a full day or more of exploration, so staying nearby is a good idea. For that reason consider a split stay with a few days spent on the east side of the island.
Visitors to Kauai have three regions to choose from: the north, east or south shores. The decision of where to stay can be difficult because each region is very different and there are many factors to consider. You can read the following in depth guide of where to stay on Kauai to help make an informed decision.
For further reading, here’s another page that discusses the Hawaiian Islands.
Courtesy of HawaiiGaga.com
Owner of An Island Life and Family Review Network. Wife, mother, and flight attendant . . . living a blessed life in Hawaii.