Which Hawaiian Island to Visit

Our breakdown of the 6 major islands

What to Expect on Each Hawaiian Island

Sponsored by Norwegian Cruise Lines

Pele, the Fire Goddess, gets the credit for creating this Pacific paradise, but the credit for making it easy to explore each island goes to Norwegian Cruise Lines. It’s the only line to cruise the Hawaiian Islands and it’s time to learn about the unique personality of each island. Their diversity makes each worth a visit.

As Pele made her way from west to east, a string of islands was left behind, each with its own story, history and beauty. Our guide will help you decide what to do on each stop and perhaps which island to visit again based on your personality.


Kauai, the oldest island of the chain, is blessed with wide sandy beaches, lush rain forests, impressive waterfalls and sculptured cliffs.

  • Enjoy a challenging hike on the Kalaulau Trail along the Na Pali Coast.
  • Refresh in hidden swimming holes, waterfalls and pocket beaches along the way.
  • See what made the island famous with a movie location tour: “South Pacific” was one of the first films shot on Kauai, “Blue Hawaii” with Elvis Presley and T-Rex made an appearance in “Jurassic Park.”


Oahu has a split personality of sorts, which makes it an easy place to satisfy the whole family. While Honolulu is every inch a modern city, offering world-class shops and restaurants, while there still remains many scenic areas and beautiful quiet coastline to explore.

  • Downtown’s Iolani Palace was once home to Hawaii’s royalty.
  • Pearl Harbor is home to the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri, both fitting reminders of World War II.
  • Honolulu’s high-octane playground, Waikiki, is framed by Diamond Head Crater and a surfing beach known around the world.
  • Bring the family to Kapiolani Park for a picnic and a visit to the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium.
  • Head to the North Shore and you’ll find a scenic coastline known for its challenging winter surf.
  • Finish your trip with a visit to Matsumoto Shave Ice in Haleiwa for a cool, sweet treat.
No matter which island best matches your personality, you’re sure to find something eye catching everywhere.


This little cone shaped island was once covered in pineapples, but today it is home to smallish Lanai City and two upscale resorts complete with world class golf courses. Lanai is perfect for those seeking luxury, pampering and a little wilderness.

  • Rent a 4X4 vehicle and bounce down the dirt road leading to Garden of the Gods, a collection of natural rock sculptures on a red-earth landscape.
  • Enjoy the remote and private Polihua Beach.
  • The reefs fronting Hulopoe Beach Park offer some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii.

The island of Kaui, Lava on Maui, Garden of the Gods on Lanai

Big Island

Nature lovers will delight in what the big island has to offer, from active volcanoes spilling in to the ocean to untouched beaches.

  • Take a helicopter tour and watch the glowing red lava flow across the black landscape and into the sea.
  • Hike the trails around Halemaumau Crater, also active.
  • Walk through an underground lava tube or visit a dinosaur-age tree-fern forest.
  • Head to Hilo and its 1950s era downtown for small town charm.
  • Ride horses at Parker Ranch in Waimea or hike the slopes of Mauna Kea.

The best beaches, and the poshest hotels, are on the Kona side.


Molokai is quiet and low-key, in fact the Ironwood Hills Golf Course on this Hawaiian island doesn’t even require tee-times. If you’re looking to truly get away from it all and relax, this is your island.

  • Visit Kalaupapa National Historic Park, where Father Damien treated those banished to Molokai because they had Hansen’s disease, also called leprosy. Arrival is by helicopter, hiking or on mule-back. The mule ride, though a bit challenging, is worth the effort.
  • Long and wide, Papohaku Beach is perfect for beachcombing or picnicking.
  • Love to fish? Book a charter boat out of Kaunakakai Harbor.


Maui is a magnet for honeymooners and families alike due to the vast array of available hotels, resorts, excursions and perfect sunbathing beaches.

  • From November through March watch humpback whales dancing from the shore, or even better, from the deck of a whale watching boat.
  • Quaint Lahaina with its block-wide banyan tree and trendy shops is worth a visit.
  • Drive the Hana Highway, a two-lane wonder that has 52 one-lane bridges and roughly 600 hairpin turns. Your reward is eye-popping scenery and a visit to Hana, a sleepy town that time forgot. Aviator Charles Lindbergh fell in love with the place and is buried at a small church just west of town. Overlooking it all is Haleakala National Park, a hiker and nature lover’s paradise.

No matter which Hawaiian island best matches your personality, you’re sure to find something eye-catching everywhere.