The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of eight major islands, six of which are accessible to tourists. While Hawaii’s diverse natural scenery, tropical climate and abundance of public beaches make it a popular tourist destination, few venture beyond Hawaii’s most popular island of Oahu. This article explores the highlights of six Hawaiian Islands: Oahu, The Big Island, Maui, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai.
Oahu is the tourist epicentre of Hawaii, attracting thousands of tourists daily. Home to the state capital of Honolulu and the majority of Hawaii’s population, the highlights of Oahu include Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbour, Ala Moana Shopping Complex, Diamond Head and Aloha Tower. Oahu offers tourists a selection of inexpensive hotels, lots of shopping and world renowned beaches.
The Big Island, built from five separate shield volcanoes – three of which remain active – is larger than all of Hawaii’s other islands combined. Places of interest encompass Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Akaka Falls and Mauna Kea Observatory. The majority of Big Island visitors stay in Kona due to its sunny weather, variety of shopping and dining options, and wide array of accommodation.
Maui is home to what many believe are the best beaches in the world, delivering more surf and sand than Hawaii’s other islands due to an abundance of beaches lining its lengthy west coast. Maui is sometimes called the playground of the wealthy due to its broad selection of luxury accommodation. Maui’s attractions centre around its beaches, encompassing Makena Beach State Park, whale watching at Lahaina and Haleakala National Park.
As the oldest and northernmost island of Hawaii’s Island chain, Kauai boasts spectacular natural beauty, including a variety of uncrowded and secluded beaches. Although sparsely populated, the area is home to excellent infrastructure as a result of tourism, including a variety of dining and shopping options. Places of interest encompass Haena State Park, Makaleha Mountains, Moir Gardens and Wailua River.
National Geographic Traveller i>magazine rated Molokai as the 10th most sustainable destination worldwide, citing the island’s pristine tropical landscape, environmental stewardship, rich Hawaiian traditions and visitor-friendly culture. The former leper colony of Father Damien de Veuster at Kalaupapa National Park is a frequently visited site, a testament to the fact that Molokai is not home to many typical tourist attractions.
Lanai is the smallest publicly accessible and inhabited island in the chain. It is home to two golf courses and two resort hotels managed by Four Seasons Hotels. However, it lacks traffic lights and shopping malls, and most landmarks can only be visited via dirt roads, requiring an off-road vehicle. Popular activities on the island include hiking, four-wheel driving, snorkelling and horseback riding. Molokai and Lanai are not recommended for first-time visitors to Hawaii.
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