Which Island To Visit In Hawaii For The First Time – Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you decide to make a purchase through my links, we may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Read our membership policies here.
When planning a trip to Hawaii for the first time, it can be confusing to understand the differences between all the islands. And yes, they are very different. Each island offers something unique and it can be difficult to understand which is the best for you to visit, especially when it is your first trip.
Which Island To Visit In Hawaii For The First Time
In our opinion, if it’s your first time in Hawaii, the best island to visit is Maui. You can find it all in Maui: adventure, great snorkeling, hiking, scenic wilderness experiences, beautiful beaches, great food, and great accommodations. Not only that, but it always has great weather and more than enough to keep you busy for the rest of your vacation.
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It’s not just that we love Maui (although we do), we have a long list of reasons why Maui is perfect for your first trip.
There are many reasons we think Maui is great for beginners, but here are the top nine:
I know what you’re thinking: Don’t all the Hawaiian Islands have beautiful beaches? Yes, but Mau has other beaches that are easily accessible, many stunning coves, and plenty of options for those who don’t feel comfortable in the ocean.
You don’t have to drive far to find a beach that offers a truly relaxing swimming experience as many hotels and vacation rentals are right next to it.
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Since we have a small child, we always look for beaches that are easy to swim as a family. Maui certainly offers great beaches for kids, all located within easy reach of many vacation spots.
One of our favorite things to do is scuba diving, and Maui offers great snorkeling options along with amazing fish and marine life. Here you’ll find sheltered coves, (mostly) quiet beaches, crystal clear waters, and great opportunities to snorkel with sea turtles.
Not only that, but you can take a boat ride to snorkel in the volcanic crater or spend the day snorkeling at Lanai Island. Plus, if you’re here during whale season, you’ll undoubtedly hear whales singing underwater or see them on a snorkeling kayak trip.
According to statistics from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Maui is the second most visited island (after Oahu). Because Maui receives so many visitors, the lodging options are excellent and always growing.
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If you want to stay in a quality hotel, Mau has many. If you prefer to stay in a budget friendly hotel, you can find it here. Looking for a vacation rental with a private pool? Mouse has plenty. Like to camp or glamp? Mouse has a great selection.
We think Mau has a variety of accommodations to fit every type of traveler. Whatever you need, you can find it in Maui.
Glamping (glamping camping) is a fun, relaxing and affordable option on Maui. I am outside our tent here at Camp Olowalu.
Moto Island isn’t the only volcanic island you can visit. In Maui, you can take a day trip to Haleakala to see the sunrise, sunset, or hike. It’s a great way to get to the other side of Maui and learn how the island was built.
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Plus, a visit to Haleakala is a great jumping off point for exploring the Maui region – a place you won’t want to miss.
If you want to avoid the busy west and south sides of Maui (where most hotels and vacation rentals are located), you can book a stay at Hana in East Maui. Yes, you’ll take the road to Hana to get there, it’s truly a trip you don’t want to miss. And yes, the road will be busy with other tourists traveling to Hana. But most people don’t stay long in Hana and very few stay overnight. If you’re looking for a quiet place to spend your vacation, East Maui is the place.
We don’t want to be biased here, but we think Maui has some of the best food options. You can eat fresh fish caught locally, grab a great meal from one of the many food trucks, or treat yourself to a night of fine dining. The range of options available on Maui is amazing.
And we’re not the only ones who think mice have good food. On TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice list of best restaurants, Maui has three of the top 15 restaurants. No other Hawaiian restaurants made the list.
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Restaurants like Lahaina Grill and Mama’s Fish House are TripAdvisor’s top restaurants in the world.
If you come to the sun, go to Maui. Of course, all islands get their fair share of sun and rain—and sun is never guaranteed here—but the chances of getting a sunny day on Maui are excellent.
The main resorts are located in the wards of the island. The leeward side receives less rain and more sunshine.
We estimate rainfall at every major resort in all of the Hawaiian Islands, and on Maui, you get the least amount of rainfall. Perfect for your beach vacation:
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While we think you have enough to keep you busy in Maui, if you want to take a quick trip to another island, you can take a ferry to Lanai. It’s worth noting that to drive between the islands (like Oahu and Kauai), you need to fly. Lanai and Molokai are just a boat ride away and can be done on an ambitious day trip or two-three day trip from Maui.
If you want an easy way to visit Lanai, consider taking a day trip on a snorkeling boat. They’ll take you to the best spots, let you stand on the lanai for lunch and a quick walk, and hopefully, catch a glimpse of a dolphin while you’re there. It’s a day trip, but worth it.
If you visit Hawaii from mid-December to mid-April, you’ll be lucky enough to be here while whale watching. Each year, about 12,000 whales make the voyage from Alaska to give birth. And, Maui is one of the best islands for whale watching. The channel west of Maui is shallow and the water is warm, making it an ideal place for whales to breed and prepare for their return to Alaska.
If you are whale watching here, you can take a boat tour (highly recommended) or you can just watch from shore. We often stop along the way to watch whales.
Choosing The Best Hawaiian Island To Visit For You
Read our ultimate guide to whale watching on Maui (and get discounts on some of our favorite tours).
While we generally think that Maui is the best choice for beginners, there are times when other islands would be better choices.
Planning your first trip is hard. That’s why we’ve created a video with several videos for each island, so you can decide which island is best for your first trip to Hawaii.
And don’t miss our cheat sheets. Easy to hold and print to help you find the facts you need on each island.
Which Hawaii Island To Visit?
Sign up and we’ll send you island cheat sheets so you can learn about the islands at the back of your hand!
We’ll share 4 must-sees on each island, an impressive city map, and popular local grindz (eat it)!
I am the founder of Hawaii Vacation Guide with my husband, Jordan. We live in Maui and Oahu and continue to travel, experience and learn about the Hawaiian Islands. We travel with our children, Henry and Edith, and sometimes our little dog Hattie. I’m a Facilitator! I love itineraries with mainland and island hopping, hiking days and everything in between. I spend most of my time in Hawaii SUPing and my favorite time in Hawaii is whale watching!
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