Find Hawaii on a map: The little specks of green adrift in an ocean of blue are isolated, a world unto themselves. To travel there is not a journey into a smaller world, but a journey into the larger world within. Although limited in square mileage, the islands of Hawaii are full of underground caves, black sand beaches, trails overhung with jungle flora, and enough color to fill an artist’s palette. By traveling to such a small place, one might assume that there is less to do, feel, and experience, but the truth is quite the contrary—minute variations between people and places are more magnificent, creating an altogether unique journey that must be experienced.
Each island offers something different and unique. Here are but a few of the opportunities.
The Garden Island has more beach mileage, as varied terrain as any island in the Hawaiian archipelago, and a laid back attitude that pairs perfectly with those looking for adventure in the outdoors. But let’s talk specifics. The Waimea Canyon is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, or various iterations thereof, and it is a sight to behold—plus, we hear a rumor that prime singletrack lines the canyon bottom. The oldest island in the chain, Kauai also has more sand beaches than any other Hawaiian island, including Polihale, arguably one of the most beautiful sand beaches in the United States. Don’t sleep on the backpacking opportunities here, either: The Kalalau Trail is one of the best multi-day trips in the country, too.
When you’re done in the outdoors, visit Warehouse 3540 in Lawai for an authentic Kauai community, Anake’s Juice Bar in Poipu for the best açaí bowls in Hawaii, and The Fresh Shave for the best shave ice!
The most populous of the Hawaiian islands is where you’ll also find many of its cultural attractions and the epicenter of the Hawaiian surf culture. Think North Shore of Oahu, Waikiki, and Pearl Harbor. Many of the Hawaiian islands feature a strong Asian influence, and Oahu is perhaps the best example of this. The Byodo-In Temple, a replica of the Buddhist temple in Japan, is but one example.
The center of whale watching in the Hawaiian Islands, Maui is also the home of windsports in the region. Windsurfers have been here for decades, and the sport of kitesurfing is growing on the island.
The archipelago’s biggest island is also its youngest, and it has the volcanic activity that might befit a turbulent adolescent. The island is also the biggest in the island chain and one of the most sparsely populated. Prepare yourself for seclusion in a tropical paradise with high-elevation volcano hikes as easily accessible as black sand beaches, lava tubes, and “firehoses” that spurt liquid-hot magma into the ocean. There’s much to explore on Hawaii’s biggest island, including the 175-mile Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail.