Maybe you’re the kind of person that can’t sit still. Maybe you’re the kind of person who just wants to do everything a little better and fancier than the neighbor. I don’t know. But if you’re planning on visiting the Hawaiian Islands and actually want to visit ALL of the islands then it is going to be important to have a plan.
Unless you have a never ending reservoir of time and money, it’s best to know exactly what you’re going to do on each island and how long you’ll be on that island before you have to hop on a plane or boat to go to the next one.
Important Stuff to Know First
The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of islands. Don’t let the big word frighten you: Archipelago simply means a chain, cluster or connection of islands.
In all there are 8 major Hawaiian Islands plus a bunch of other landmasses to include atolls, islets and some under-water mountains (called “seamounts” because the people who name these kinds of things are geniuses). Those islands are Hawai’i (the largest and the one that the state is named after), Maui, O’ahu, Kaua’i, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe.
Yes, if your vacation plans include seeing every island in the archipelago (see we’re using big words now!) then you’re going to be traveling a little bit.
Something To Do On Each Hawaiian Island
Hawai’i “The Big Island”
Also, known as Kona, this one’s easy! Mauna Kea is the big island’s and the state’s highest point. Rent some lodging and take a guided hike to the top and you’re sure to be inspired by some of the most gorgeous scenes in the world. It isn’t recommended that you hike anywhere alone for safety reasons but if you are absolutely set on it then make sure that you are experienced.
Maui “The Valley Island”
Maui has Haleakala like Hawai’I has Maun Kea. I would never suggest that you don’t see Haleakala. Again, beautiful views from atop a dormant volcano can be jaw dropping.
But we already hiked a mountain, right?
Instead, try visiting the Ohe’o Gulch Pools on Maui, more commonly referred to the "Seven Sacred Pools". Imagine a terrace like effect of pools and waterfalls in perfect conditions and weather. The word “paradise” comes to mind. Try it with your love but get there early for some privacy. (Wink!)
O’ahu “The Gathering Place”
What can you say about O’ahu? There is just so much to do. It’s the most visited Hawaiian island and has a large military presence in and around Honolulu. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t leave O’ahu without taking a Pearl Harbor tour. It’s somber and exciting at the same time. The bombing of Pearl Harbor that brought the U.S. into World War II is etched into the conscious of Americans.
Waikiki is really nice and really touristy and expensive. If you have time then go walk around and spend some money with the rest of the people, but as far as a “must experience” on O’ahu-Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial should top the list.
Kaua’i “The Garden Isle”
You’ve heard of people taking helicopter rides that will take your breath away? Landscape so beautiful, lush and radiant that… that… Well, you get the picture.
If you’re going to see anything from the air then I suggest that you see Kaua’i from the air. The beautiful landscape is raw and polished at the same time. Over 80% of the island is inaccessible and can only be experienced through the air. Rain forests and secluded beaches speckle the landscape along with mountains and waterfalls.
Moloka’i “The Friendly Isle”
I’m gonna’ give you two choices on Moloka’i. The first one, you’ll never get to experience anywhere else in the world and the other you may not get to experience anywhere else except on the other Hawaiian Islands.
First, a mule ride. Yes, I know how it sounds but this is different. You ride a mule down the highest sea cliffs in the world (yes, in the world!) to Kalaupapa National Historical Park. And, secondly, some of the best snorkeling and scuba can be had off the beaches and coast of Moloka’i because the water is just that clear. Like…clear clear.
Lana’i “The Pineapple Isle”
You wanna’ hear something cool? On Lanai’i, there is something called the “Garden of the Gods” or-Keahlakawelo. This is best experienced by renting a four-wheeled vehicle and just going for it. There are rentals and guides readily available to make sure that you are safe and experience the most out of it. Or, just watch Dolphins playing right off the coast. It’s up to you.
Ni’ihau “The Forbidden Isle”
Okay, this one gets a little tougher because of an interesting back story. The Island only has around 250 residents that live without power. There are no roads, restaurants or hotels. King Kamehameha put the island up for sale in 1863 and a Kaua’i resident named Elizabeth Sinclair bought the thing. Ni’ihau is private property, largely untouched, and still in a pure and natural state.
That being said, you can actually book a helicopter tour of the island. It is only offered on a limited basis so if you’re going to do it then you better make real good plans and talk to the right people.
Kaho’olawe “The Target Isle”
The entire island is now property of the state and is a reserve. This is the one that should really be called the “forbidden island”. The reason it is called the “target isle”, though, is because it was a training ground for the U.S. military during World War II. The military bombed the hell out of it while training and, despite all efforts, no one can guarantee that there isn’t any unexploded ordinance remaining. In fact, the odds are pretty darn high that there is.
One thing you can do, though, is take a cruise and be able to see the majesty of Kaho’olawe from the 2 mile restricted distance that has been put upon it. And one more thing, if you are a student or researcher you can apply with the Hawaii State’s Volunteer Program and possibly step foot on this wondrous, uninhabited island and see things that not many in the history of the world has.
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