The Best Islands in Hawaii

This year's World's Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year's honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.

There's no shortage of natural splendor, exciting adventure activities, and high-caliber resorts on the best islands of Hawaii. They're consistently among T+L readers' favorite destinations; three of them appear not only here but also on this year's list of best islands in the world.

Big Island, Hawaii
Papakōlea Beach or Green sand beach, Big Island, Hawaii. Getty Images

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.

While readers have stayed enthusiastically true to the region for decades, this year their sights have wandered: for the first time in nine years, Maui has been displaced from the No. 1 spot (though it still made the world's best islands list). Now No. 3, Maui is beloved for its something-for-everyone attractions, from rain forests to national parks and 30 miles of beaches, as well as its five-star lodgings and what one reader deemed "amazing food."

Kauai (No. 2), which is also voted among the world's best islands, received glowing reviews for its pristine beaches and nature trails that wind through jungles to waterfalls. "It is stunning," wrote one reader. "This is what you think of when you dream of Hawaii." (This may explain why another reader said this destination is so beautiful that he honeymooned there twice — with two different wives.)

So which island could outdo these beloved options? Read on to find out why readers voted for the Island of Hawaii, as well as the other top Hawaiian islands.

1. Island of Hawaii

Big Island, Hawaii
Kulaniapia Falls, Big Island, Hawaii. Getty Images

Spend enough time on this oasis, and you could get through most of your bucket list. Learn to surf with world-class athletes, hike through lava fields to volcanoes, and zipline in rain forests; go snorkeling with dolphins by day and manta rays at night. As one reader noted, "So much to see and do. Get out and see the sites!" But there are also plenty of impressive hotels for those who prefer to maximize their resort time. Consider the beachside Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, which was voted the best hotel on the island (and No. 7 in all of Hawaii) by T+L readers. The 243-room property has seven swimming pools, a full service spa, and a 1.8 million gallon swimmable aquarium with marine biologists at the ready to teach you about the 90 kinds of tropical fish that live in it.

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 90.06

2. Kauai

Kauai, Hawaii
Aerial landscape view of cliffs and green valley, Kauai, Hawaii. Getty Images

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 89.88

3. Maui

Maui, Hawaii
tropical shore, Maui, Hawaii. Getty Images

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 89.76

4. Oahu

Oahu, Hawaii
Ala Wai Canal, Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. Getty Images

Score: 86.66

5. Lanai

Lanai, Hawaii
Hulupoe Bay, Lanai Island, Hawaii. Getty Images

Score: 84.55

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2021.

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