The Top Islands in Hawaii
California natives can look smug come winter, and it’s not because of their comparatively temperate climate. It’s because they know that they have Hawaii in their back pocket.
The six main islands of Oahu, Maui, Big Island, Kauai, Lanai, and Molokai serve as the ideal metaphoric family mediator: bring your demands to the table, and they will be met. Farm-to-table cuisine? Hiking? Lying on a glorious beach while others see volcanoes and hike? Done, done, and done.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.
Related: The 2018 World's Best Awards
For the seventh year in a row, Maui has earned the coveted top spot from T+L readers. Here, you can enjoy 30 miles of beaches (don’t miss the golden shores of Wailea and the black sands at Pailoa Bay) and hike to Haleakala, one of the world’s largest dormant volcano craters. But its fellow honorees are constant and deserving companions on the list. Kauai, also known as the Garden Isle for its verdant jungles, has a relaxed atmosphere that prompted one reader to write, “very peaceful.” Added another: “Kauai is our favorite island — very lush, laid-back, yet still has prime restaurants and shopping.”
Oahu offers as much action as visitors wish — it is home to the capital of Honolulu — and the North Shore is many a surfer’s dream come true (or pipe dream, as the case may be). Wrote one fan: “There is something for everyone.” The Big Island, known more formally as Hawaii, has extraordinary beaches, lush rain forests, and lava fields that resemble pictures sent by NASA from outer space.
Who could possibly choose one island over another? Luckily, T+L readers did, so we don’t have to. Read on for the list of winners and see how they scored.
3. Big Island
Maui wins again, thanks to a plethora of diversions, from biking down Haleakala Crater and sunbathing on Kaanapali beach to driving the twisty, cliff- and waterfall-lined road to Hana. It’s also the perfect place to do nothing other than watch whales breach and enjoy the sense of time standing still. As one T+L reader wrote: “Our favorite Hawaiian island, a sentiment that is as true today as when we first visited more than 40 years ago.” Added another: “I could move there tomorrow and be happy!”
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2018.