Best Island To Visit In Hawaii For The First Time: Plan The Perfect Trip

Oahu - Best Island To Visit In Hawaii For First Time

If you’re considering a Hawaiian getaway but uncertain about the best island to visit in Hawaii for the first time, you need clarity, not pages of endless options. Our focused guide compares Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai succinctly, zeroing in on the standout characteristics that make each island appeal to different types of travelers. Get ready to discover your Hawaiian match without the fluff.


Island Overview: Comparing The Top Four Hawaiian Islands

Choosing the best Hawaiian Island for your vacation can be a daunting task, especially if it’s your first time visiting. Each island presents its own unique atmosphere and attractions, such as:

  • Local food

  • Sunny beaches

  • Lush landscapes

  • Nightlife

But don’t worry, we’re here to help you make an informed decision for a memorable trip. Let’s start with the four top tourist destinations in Hawaii for first-time visitors:

  • Oahu

  • Maui

  • Big Island

  • Kauai

Each of these islands offers a unique experience, from the bustling city life and diverse natural experiences of Oahu to the rural exploration and diverse experiences of the Big Island. With so much to see and do, exploring all the islands is an adventure you won’t want to miss.

If you’re still undecided, keep reading. We will dive deeper into each island, exploring its unique features and attractions. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a clear picture of which Hawaiian Island is the perfect fit for your dream vacation.



Let’s kick off our island hopping with Oahu, often referred to as ‘The Gathering Place’. This vibrant island offers a unique blend of city life and natural wonders, from the bustling streets of Honolulu to the serene beauty of the North Shore.

Whether you’re a beach lover, a history buff, or a nature enthusiast, Oahu has something for you. Here are some must-visit attractions on the island:

  • Waikiki Beach: Enjoy a day at the famous beach and ride waves with surf instructors

  • Pearl Harbor: Visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and learn about the events of December 7, 1941

  • Iolani Palace: Explore the former home of Hawaii’s monarchs and learn about the history of the Hawaiian Kingdom

  • Kaʻena Point: Take in the spectacular views at this place of cultural significance according to ancient tradition

With its diverse range of attractions, from stunning beaches to vibrant city life, Oahu offers a perfect introduction to the Hawaiian Islands.

Join us on our Premium Oahu Circle Island Tour and prepare to discover the finest attractions that Oahu has to offer. This action-packed full-day trip is filled with awe-inspiring experiences that will leave you speechless. Don’t miss out on this unforgettable adventure – secure your booking today!

Waikiki Beach on the Island of Oahu



Next stop, Maui! Known for its spectacular natural environments and romantic atmosphere, Maui is a favorite among honeymooners and nature lovers alike. From scenic drives like the Road to Hana, to exploring the crater at Haleakalā, Maui offers a spectrum of breathtaking activities.

Resort towns, rainforests, and coastal dunes are all part of Maui’s varied landscapes, each offering a unique experience. And unlike Oahu, Maui is less urbanized, allowing visitors to enjoy a diverse array of activities without urban distractions.


Big Island

Let’s venture to the Big Island, known for its:

  • Volcanic activity

  • Diverse natural landscapes

  • Geological wonders

  • Cultural diversity

  • Outdoor activities

This expansive Hawaii island offers a unique blend of these features, providing a more rural experience compared to other Hawaiian islands and more urbanized Hawaiian destinations.

The Big Island’s unique features include snow-capped mountains, stunning beaches, and vast lava fields, all within its over 4,000 square mile territory. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking to explore an active volcano or a nature lover eager to relax on a black sand beach, the Big Island offers an adventure like no other.



Last but not least, we arrive at Kauai, fondly known as the Garden Isle and often considered the best island for those who appreciate lush greenery. Celebrated for its natural beauty, Kauai offers a peaceful atmosphere perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in nature.

The island’s remarkable landscapes, from the extinct volcano Waialeale to the striking cliffs of the Napali Coast, offer excellent hiking trails and numerous waterfalls, attracting outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers. Whether you’re keen on hiking, bird watching, or simply soaking in the beauty of nature, Kauai is a paradise waiting to be discovered.


Exploring Hawaii’s Natural Wonders

Now that we’ve dipped our toes into the unique features of each island, let’s dive headfirst into the natural beauty and wonders that Hawaii has to offer. From the sun-kissed beaches of Oahu to the snow-capped mountains of the Big Island, Hawaii is truly a paradise for nature lovers.

Whether you’re a beach bum, an adventure junkie, or a wildlife enthusiast, Hawaii’s diverse landscapes offer something for everyone. Let’s explore the beaches, hiking trails, and wildlife encounters that make Hawaii a top destination for nature lovers.


Beaches And Ocean Activities

No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a visit to its beautiful beaches. The islands are home to some of the world’s most stunning coastlines, ranging from the bustling Waikiki Beach on Oahu to the serene Hapuna Beach on the Big Island.

For water enthusiasts, Hawaii offers an array of ocean activities. Try riding waves with surf instructors at Waikiki Beach or snorkeling with colorful marine life at Hanauma Bay on Oahu or Molokini Crater off the coast of Maui. Whether you’re into surfing, snorkeling, or simply soaking up the sun, the beaches of Hawaii are sure to leave you spellbound.


Hiking And Outdoor Adventures

If you’re an adventure enthusiast, Hawaii’s diverse hiking trails and outdoor activities are sure to thrill you. From coastal walks to rainforest treks and summit climbs, Hawaii’s diverse landscapes provide a hiker’s paradise.

Traverse the stunning Waimea Canyon on Kauai or challenge yourself on the Kalalau Trail along the Napali Coast. On Oahu, don’t miss the panoramic island and ocean views from Diamond Head and ʻAiea Bay trail. And remember, while exploring Hawaii’s trails, preparation and adherence to safety guidelines are imperative due to the diverse and sometimes challenging conditions.

Waimea Canyon on Kauai


Wildlife Encounters

Hawaii’s rich array of marine life, including sea turtles, provides opportunities for unforgettable wildlife encounters. From dolphin viewing tours on Oahu to seasonal whale watching at Makapu’u Point Lighthouse, Hawaii’s oceanic flora and fauna are a sight to behold.

On land, Maui offers chances to learn about its unique plants and animals, while Kauai is home to rare birds such as Amakihi and I’iwi. As you explore, remember to engage in responsible tourism practices to support the protection and preservation of Hawaii’s unique wildlife and their habitats.

The Hawaiian Sea Turtles


Cultural And Historical Experiences

Beyond the stunning natural landscapes, Hawaii offers a rich cultural and historical experience. From ancient Hawaiian sites to the legacy of the Hawaiian monarchy, each island has a story to tell.

As you navigate through the islands, you’ll encounter landmarks that tell tales of Hawaii’s past. Whether you’re exploring ancient Hawaiian life at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, feeling the history of the Hawaiian monarchy at Iolani Palace, or witnessing the power of nature at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, every place you visit offers a piece of Hawaii’s rich history and culture.

Explore Polynesian Cultural Center


Learning About Hawaiian History And Culture

Dive deeper into Hawaii’s rich history through a variety of historical sites and museums. At the Iolani Palace, delve into the history of Hawaii’s monarchy and royal heritage through comprehensive tours. Or visit the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, which offers extensive exhibits on Hawaiian culture and history.

For those interested in the region’s coffee farming history, the Kona Historical Society operates the Greenwell Store Museum and the Kona Coffee Living History Farm. Whether you’re a history buff or simply interested in learning more about Hawaii’s past, there’s plenty to discover and explore.


Attending Cultural Events And Festivals

Immerse yourself in Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage by attending local events and festivals. The Waikiki Starlight Luau at the Hilton Hawaiian Village is highly recommended for visitors to witness traditional Hawaiian performances and cuisine.

Whether it’s a traditional luau or a vibrant festival, these cultural experiences provide an immersive look into Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage. So, don’t just observe, participate, and let the spirit of Aloha embrace you at the Polynesian Cultural Center.


Transportation And Accessibility

Getting around in Hawaii is easy, thanks to the various transportation options available. Whether you’re traveling between islands or exploring a single island, there are plenty of ways to move around.

From taxis, shuttles, and ride-sharing services to car rentals and inter-island flights, Hawaii offers a range of options to suit your travel needs. However, it’s important to note that transportation and car rentals could contribute an estimated $250 to the overall weekly budget for a trip.


Getting Around Each Island

Each island offers different transportation options. On Oahu, you can take advantage of:

  • ‘TheBus’ with its extensive routes

  • ‘Skyline’ elevated transport system

  • ‘TheHandi-Van’ paratransit service for individuals with disabilities

  • ‘Biki’ bike share program

Meanwhile, Maui’s public transportation system includes bus services operated by Roberts Hawaii, which connects major areas seven days a week. And if you prefer the freedom of driving, rental cars are widely available across the Hawaiian Islands with a variety of vehicle categories to choose from.

Hawaii Rental Car

Island Hopping: Pros & Cons

If you’re planning to visit more than one island during your stay, island hopping is a great way to experience the diverse landscapes and attractions of different islands.

However, keep in mind that island hopping can increase the cost and complexity of the trip. It’s important to plan well and consider how much time you have, so you can truly enjoy each island without feeling rushed.


First-Time Visitor Itineraries

Now that you have a broad understanding of what each island has to offer, let’s help you plan your ideal Hawaiian vacation. Whether you have one week or two, we’ve got you covered with some suggested itineraries.


One Week Itinerary

If you have only one week to explore, we recommend focusing on one island to maximize your experience. Oahu, with its mix of urban and natural experiences, is an ideal choice for a one-week stay.

From the bustling streets of Honolulu to the serene beaches of the North Shore, Oahu offers a diverse and memorable experience in a limited timeframe.


Two-Week Itinerary

If you’re lucky enough to have two weeks in Hawaii, consider incorporating multiple islands into your itinerary. This allows you to gain a more diverse Hawaiian experience, exploring the unique landscapes and attractions of different islands.

Whether it’s the bustling city life of Oahu, the tranquil greenery of Kauai, the majestic volcanoes of the Big Island, or the romantic atmosphere of Maui, a two-week stay lets you experience the best of Hawaii.



As we wrap up our journey through the Hawaiian Islands, there’s one thing we hope you take away: Hawaii is more than just a set of islands; it’s a diverse paradise waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re enjoying the vibrant city life of Oahu, the tranquil greenery of Kauai, the volcanic landscapes of the Big Island, or the romantic atmosphere of Maui, each island offers a unique experience that’s sure to make your vacation unforgettable.

So, pack your bags, grab your sunscreen, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the tropical paradise of Hawaii. We promise it’s an adventure you won’t want to miss!


Discover Oahu On An Unforgettable Full-Day Tour

If you’re a first-time visitor to Hawaii, Oahu is the ideal destination to explore. By choosing experienced local tour operators, you can ensure that you make the most of your time on the island, gaining insider knowledge and access to hidden gems that only the locals know.

Experience the best of Oahu with our premier full-day island tour, the Premium Oahu Circle Island Tour. As a leading tour operator on Oahu, we take pride in showcasing the island’s top attractions and hidden gems.

Join us for an unforgettable journey as we explore the wonders of Oahu from sunrise to sunset. Book your full-day tour with us today and create memories that will last a lifetime!

Oahu Byodo in Temple



10 hours
Group Size
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Premium Oahu Circle Island - North Shore Snorkeling Tour (With Dole & Byodo Temple)

We invite you to join us for the ultimate full-day, action-packed tour that will guide you to the finest sights on Oahu, and leave you in total amazement. Featuring 16 Points of Interest, it is our talented tour guides that will show you the best that Oahu has to offer. Diamond Head, Dole Plantation, Byodo-In Temple, Secret Beaches, Coffee & Macadamia Farms, Incredible Views & Photo Opportunities, and Swimming and Snorkeling with Turtles are just a few highlights that you will experience with us!

It’s our Tour Guides that will make all the difference in this action-packed day! They will spoil you rotten by telling funny stories, giving their knowledge of Hawaii, singing songs (Kanikapila), and sharing with you the precious culture of Hawaii. This tour will bring you relaxation, excitement, and all the emotions in between. We are ready to show you some major fun and give you the lay of the land. Aloha & E Komo Mai!

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