In Hawaii, the Big Island is like the sometimes awkward older sibling. Forgotten in favor of adorable little brothers and sisters, her attributes are often glossed over. Maui is for fun and families. Oahu attracts surfers, partiers and outdoor adventurers. Kauai is for romance and luxury. And the Big Island is just … big.
Oahu blends cosmopolitan luxury and breathtaking scenery more than any other Hawaiian island. The state's capital city, Honolulu, showcases the island's urban appeal. Nearby you'll find a host of cultural and historic sites, from the ornate Iolani Palace to the austere USS Arizona Memorial at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. In the nearby Waikiki neighborhood, a skyline of high-rises and resorts contrasts with sprawling white sand beaches. For a taste of rural Hawaii, visit the North Shore. Here, you'll find the most brilliant blue waters and meandering hikes. But those three spots aren't Oahu's only must-see locales. Its top-notch restaurants, vibrant cultural events and wild nightlife further showcase this island as a "Gathering Place" of Hawaiian culture.
Brilliant sunsets, pristine beaches, aquamarine skies – Kauai has mastered seduction. But the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain doesn't have to resort to over-the-top luxury or tourist traps to entice; instead, it appeals to a no-muss, no-fuss type of traveler. You prefer rural to resplendent? Kauai's your island – there are only two major highways, and some regions can only be explored on foot. Resorts are no taller than a coconut tree (literally).
When billionaires are fighting over something, you know it's special. That's the case with Hawaii's most exclusive island, Lanai. Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, has been trying to lay his hands on some Lanai real estate for some time. Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, took control of 97 percent of Lanai in 2012. But don't let this clash of titans stop you from visiting.
Maui is not nearly as large as the Big Island, nor is it as small as Lanai, as bustling as Oahu or as quiet as Kauai. For many Hawaii vacationers, Maui is just right – offering a taste of just about everything the Aloha State has to offer, from impressive wildlife to intriguing history and culture. While on a visit here, you can shimmy alongside professional hula dancers, golf along coastal fairways, snorkel alongside five different types of sea turtles or simply lounge along some of Hawaii's most notable beaches.
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