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 six main Hawaiian Islands travelers visit 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 reader input to determine the best Hawaiian Islands. Vote for your favorite destination below to have a say in next year's list.
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Oahu is home to plenty of famous sites, making it perfect for first-time visitors. You'll find Waikiki Beach, the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and Diamond Head State Monument 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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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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With a more easygoing environment than Oahu and Maui, Kauai lets its natural beauty speak for itself and is perfect for a couples getaway. The main attractions here are Koke'e State Park and Waimea Canyon, otherwise known as "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." But you might want to pack galoshes and a rain jacket – Kauai is one of Hawaii's rainiest islands.
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The Big Island has variety to its advantage. Not only does it offer white and black sand beaches, but it is also home to lush jungles and two active volcanoes found at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Plus, history buffs will love visiting Waipio Valley (where Hawaiian rulers, such as Kamehameha I, once lived) and Kealakekua Bay (where British explorer James Cook first arrived on the Big Island in 1778).
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For a secluded, nature-centric escape, consider the island of Lanai. The most remote island on this list, Lanai is the perfect place to take an off-road vehicle to spots like Shipwreck Beach and the Munro Trail. Then, head to the Lanai Culture & Heritage Center to learn more about the island's history before navigating to the Garden of the Gods for a breathtaking sunset.
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