Overview of the Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian Islands are a chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean and by some are considered the beginning of the South Pacific. The Hawaiian Island chain is made up of 18 islands. 6 of the islands are considered tourist areas with the majority of the resorts and the Hawaiian population located on 4 islands. Oahu, Maui, the island of Hawaii (the big island), and Kauai. We will focus on the main four. Each Hawaiian Island will provide a very different experience. All of the 4 main islands have major airports flights from the mainland and everything from 1 to 5 star hotels and resorts. There are no true All Inclusive Resorts on any of the islands of Hawaii. There are two types of accommodations on the islands. Standard Hotels and Resorts and 1 – 3 bedroom Condo Resorts.
Let’s look at the islands.
Sometimes called “The Gathering Place,” Oahu certainly lives up to its name. The third largest Hawaiian island is home to the majority of Hawaii’s diverse population, a fusion of East and West cultures rooted in the values and traditions of the Native Hawaiian people. It’s this fundamental contrast between the ancient and the modern that makes discovering Oahu — from bustling city life to laid-back surf towns a great experience.
Home to the majority of Oahu’s population, Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and stretches across the southeastern shores of the island, from Pearl Harbor to Makapuu, encompassing world-famous Waikiki Beach along the way.
Central Oahu
The most important landmark in Central Oahu sits to the south in historic Pearl Harbor, the largest natural harbor in Hawaii. Central Oahu is also home to the Dole Pineapple Plantation, an actual working Pineapple Plantation. You have to try the Pineapple Ice Cream.
Leeward Coast
This area on Oahu’s west side is home to rural towns, off-the-beaten-path beaches and one luxurious resort area, Ko Olina, home of the Disney Aulani Resort.
North Shore
Rub shoulders with champion surfers and laid-back locals on Oahu’s North Shore, the big wave surfing capital of the world. This area is a beautiful laid back area where you can experience the old Hawaii.
Windward Coast
It’s only a short drive from Honolulu to enjoy the highlights of Oahu’s lush Windward Coast, including the peaceful Byodo-in Temple and adventurous Kualoa Ranch. Kualoa Ranch is the location where the Jurassic Park movies were filmed, as well as many others, and is an actual working ranch.
I would recommend Oahu to clients who love the beach, shopping, nightlife, fine dining and some day tours to see other parts of the island. It is a heavily populated island and traffic can quite heavy at times. The Waikiki Beach area has a number of very nice hotels and resorts, up-scale shopping, and fine dining.
Maui, known also as “The Valley Isle,” is the second largest Hawaiian island. The island beloved for its World Famous Beaches, the sacred Iao Valley, views of migrating Humpback whales (during winter months), farm-to-table cuisine and the magnificent sunrise and sunset from Mt. Halieakala, the dormant volcano.
Central Maui
Most visitors to the island will begin their vacations in Central Maui, arriving at Kahului Airport. Home to much of the island’s population, this area offers plenty of interesting attractions and off-the-beaten-path treasures to uncover. The top attraction in Central Maui is peaceful Iao Valley State Park.
East Maui
Visitors who brave the Hana Highway’s signature hairpin turns and narrow bridges are rewarded with out-of-this-world views of lush rain forests, gorgeous waterfalls and exotic beaches.
South Maui
Escape to the tropical beaches of Kihei, Makena and Wailea; relax and unwind at a world-class resort or tee off at one of the 13 world-renowned golf courses. Wailea is the more upscale area of Maui.
West Maui
One of Maui’s most famous stretches of coastline, Kaanapali Beach offers three miles of paradise where ocean adventures and total relaxation await. This a a great stretch of beach with the most resorts. Just West of Kaanapali is the Kapalua area home of upscale housing and the Ritz Carlton Resort.
Upcountry Maui
Watch the sunrise from the peak of Mt. Haleakala, see ancient Hawaii’s desert landscapes and discover unique, locally grown food. It is true upcountry and a higher elevation, some of the houses even have fireplaces.
Maui is one of the best islands for first time Hawaii visitors. The Island offers a little bit of everything Hawaii has to offer. It is a little more touristy than some of the islands. It is a great island for families as a number of the resorts cater to families with children of all ages.
Kauai is the northwestern most of Hawaii’s major islands. Nicknamed the Garden Island, it is covered with lush greenery and tropical plants, watered regularly by abundant rainfall. As the oldest of the islands, it has been changed the most by the forces of erosion, and this has resulted in natural wonders such as Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast. As a consequence of its age, Kauai also has more miles of sandy coastline than the other Hawaiian islands. Kauai is the most relaxing island and is known known for its wide variety of outdoor activities. It is the least touristy island and 80% of the island can only be reached by helicopter or hiking.
North Shore
Home to dramatic natural beauty like the cliffs of the Napali Coast, this area is an outdoor lovers paradise. The most stunning feature of Kauai’s North Shore is the magnificent Napali Coast. This 17-mile stretch of coastline is lined with cliffs up to 3,000-ft. tall, accented with lush green valleys, cascading waterfalls and sea caves. Inaccessible by car, you can hike or take an air or boat tour to view this breathtaking natural wonder.
Eastside (Royal Coconut Coast)
Kauai’s East Side is sometimes referred to as the Royal Coconut Coast for the groves of coconut palms that grow in its resort areas. The most populated district on the island, about 16,000 of the island’s 71,000 residents reside in the Wailua/Kapaa area
South Shore
Drive through a tunnel of trees to arrive on the warm and beautiful south shore of Kauai. The biggest attractions here are the perfect beaches around the Poipu area and Spouting Horn, a blowhole that releases a spout of water up to 20 feet into the air. Poipu stretches around Makahuena Point and is a spectacle to any onlooker.
The most famous attraction on the West Side is breathtaking Waimea Canyon, also called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Hiking trails and scenic overlooks offer sweeping views of rugged crags and plunging valleys dipping more than 3,600 feet into the earth. There’s nothing else in Hawaii quite like it.
The ideal client for Kaui is one who wants a relaxing Hawaiian experience and loves outdoor activities. A car is a must to explore the island and its hidden gems. This is not the island for those who want a lot of shopping and nightlife. It is not called the “Garden Island” for nothing.
HAWAII ( The Big Island)
The island of Hawaii is the youngest and largest island in the Hawaiian chain. Nearly twice as big as all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined (hence, its nickname, “Big Island”), its sheer size is awe-inspiring. You can travel through all but four of the world’s different climate zones there, ranging from Wet Tropical to Polar Tundra, a result of the shielding effect and elevations of the massive volcanoes Maunakea and Maunaloa. The island of Hawaii is also the location of Hawaii’s only active volcano.
If you’re driving along the Hamakua Coast be sure to stop to explore some of its hidden gems, including taro farms, black sand beaches, splendid waterfalls and more.
The perfect place to explore local shops, a famous farmers market, beautiful beaches and dramatic waterfalls. Hilo tends to be the commercial town of the island. Hilo used to be the tourist center until the new airport was built on the other side of the island close to Kona which is now the main Tourist area.
South of Hilo on the island of Hawaii’s easternmost tip lies the Puna district and town of Pahoa, known for its free-spirited vibe. Many locals believe that Puna is Pele’s workshop, where the volcano goddess continually creates and recreates the very land we live on. Indeed, this dynamic area stretches from Kilauea’s summit east to the sea, including lava features, black-sand beaches and more natural wonders forged by the power of volcanoes.
Vast, rural and remote, the island of Hawaii’s southernmost region, Kau, is a quiet area free of large hotels, resorts and golf courses. Kau is also home to most of Hawaii’s Volcano National Park and Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
The sunny Kona District stretches almost two-thirds of the entire West side of the island of Hawaii—from just south of Anaehoomalu Bay (Waikoloa Beach Resort) to Manuka Park (Kau). One of Kona’s most memorable experiences is going on a manta ray boat tour to scuba or snorkel with these gentle, graceful sea creatures. Kona is also famous for its deep-sea fishing, and coffee plantations. The Kona area is also home to the main airport and many of the best resorts.
As you drive 20-minutes north of Kona International Airport, you’ll marvel at the rugged lava fields surrounding you. You may not see it from Queen Kaahumanu Highway, but the Kohala Coast is where you’ll find some of the island’s finest resorts. This area is also the top golf area of the island. Inland you have one of the largest ranches in the United States, the Parker Ranch where you can interact with real Paniolo (Hawaiian Cowboys). Did you know that you can actually play in the snow on the island of Hawaii?
The island of Hawaii is ideal for those that want to see an actual live volcano up close and personal, are fans of deep sea fishing, golfers, Cowboys and coffee lovers. The island is very large and requires a car to see all the sights. The island has some very nice beaches but not as many as the other islands.
As you can see, the Hawiian Islands are varied and each island can provide completely different experiences. Contact one of our Hawaiian specialists. They are experts on all of the islands and can provide that perfect experience whether that be one island or multiple islands.