Best Hawaiian Islands

From cerulean waters to verdant vegetation to sandy beaches, Hawaii is home to a wealth of natural beauty. Though it can be easy to assume the eight main Hawaiian Islands offer similar experiences, they are more diverse than you can imagine. To help you decide which island is ideal for your next vacation, U.S. News took into account sights, expert opinion and traveler sentiment to determine the best Hawaiian Islands. Vote for your favorite destination below to have a say in next year's list. 

  • Honolulu - Oahu
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    Honolulu - Oahu

    #1 in Best Hawaiian Islands

    Why go: Oahu is home to plenty of famous sites, making it perfect for first-time visitors. You'll find Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial all in the capital city of Honolulu. Meanwhile, the North Shore is home to a more laid-back vibe and secluded resorts, along with the famous waves at Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach, which host major surfing competitions each year.

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  • Maui
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    Maui

    #2 in Best Hawaiian Islands

    Why go: Though it's perhaps most famous for the fabulous coastlines of Kaanapali Beach and Wailea Beach, Maui is a great option for travelers looking for variety in their vacation. Away from the sand, you can drive the Road to Hana, enjoy a bird's-eye view with a helicopter tour, see the world's largest dormant volcano at Haleakala National Park or get up close to the marine wildlife by snorkeling.

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  • Kauai
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    Kauai

    #3 in Best Hawaiian Islands

    Why go: With a more easygoing environment than Oahu and Maui, Kauai lets its natural beauty speak for itself and it's perfect for a couples getaway. The main attraction here is Koke'e State Park and Waimea Canyon, otherwise known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." But you might want to pack galoshes – Kauai is one of Hawaii's rainiest islands.

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  • Hawaii - The Big Island
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    Hawaii - The Big Island

    #4 in Best Hawaiian Islands

    Why go: The Big Island has variety to its advantage. Not only does it offer khaki-colored and black sand beaches, the island is also home to lush jungles and not one, but two active volcanoes found at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Plus, history buffs will love visiting Waipio Valley (where Hawaiian rulers, such as Kamehameha the Great, once lived) and Kealakekua Bay (where British explorer James Cook first arrived on Hawaiian soil back in 1778).

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  • Lanai
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    Lanai

    #5 in Best Hawaiian Islands

    Why go: For a secluded, nature-centric escape, consider the island of Lana'i. The most remote island on this list, Lana'i is the perfect place to take an off-roading vehicle to spots like Shipwreck Beach or the Munro Trail. Then, navigate to the Garden of the Gods for a breathtaking sunset that's described by past travelers as "otherworldly."

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