The Best Islands in Hawaii in 2017
Hawaii has been a popular tropical getaway for decades — and with good reason. The 50th state’s six main islands — Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, Kauai, Lanai, and Molokai — offer everything from world-class surfing and snorkeling to increasingly dynamic food and hotel scenes that are attracting a new generation of travelers — while also giving longtime visitors a fresh perspective with each trip.
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.
For the sixth year in a row, Maui has earned top honors from T+L readers — many of whom return year after year. “I’ve been visiting Maui since the 1960s,” said one longtime fan, who praised the diverse activities, from “the incredibly scenic road to Hana to the adventures of whale-watching and snorkeling in pristine waters.”
The “Garden Isle” of Kauai is known for its lush jungle landscapes and the easy, relaxed pace of life. One reader characterized Kauai as having “that old-school aloha spirit,” where the warmth and openness of the locals is especially present. Another cherishes the “nearly deserted beaches that look like a film set.”
Larger than all of the other islands combined, Hawaii, aptly nicknamed the Big Island, is defined by the dramatic, moonlike landscape of its lava fields. But there are also dense, verdant rain forests, miles of stunning beaches, and the quiet, small-town charm of Hilo, the island’s biggest city (population: about 43,000), where the weekly farmers’ market is a must-stop for the abundant fresh tropical fruit for sale.
Oahu, meanwhile, offers a little (or a lot) of everything. The island is home to Hawaii’s glittering capital, Honolulu, which has a smattering of museums, galleries, and a seemingly endless amount of hip new restaurants in its recently gentrified downtown. Still, this is Hawaii, after all, and there’s also some of the best surf on the planet on Oahu’s rural North Shore.
3. Hawaii, the Big Island
Readers love the second-largest Hawaiian island — and this year’s winner — for its limitless options for outdoor and culinary pursuits, from the glistening sands of Wailea and Kapalua to the bustling town of Lahaina. “There’s so much to do on this heavenly island,” said one respondent. “There are water sports, hiking, good food, and beautiful views around every turn of the road. It’s the closest place to heaven on earth!” Another reader appreciated the singular experience of visiting Haleakala crater, the dormant volcano that rises over 10,000 feet. “Watching the sunrise, then biking down the volcano to the beach was one of my favorite travel experiences of all time.”