When choosing a Hawaiian island to visit, it’s almost impossible to go wrong. After all, the archipelago’s six main islands (there are over 125 in total) offer snowcapped volcanoes, amazing snorkeling, lava-rock deserts, some of the planet's best beaches, and ancient Polynesian culture.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe—to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands on their natural attractions and beaches, activities and sights, food, friendliness, and overall value.
For the fifth year in a row, Maui was dubbed the best of Hawaii’s isles. “We never tire of the beaches, activities, excellent restaurants, and lovely people,” said one reader, who has been visiting the island for 30 years. Hollywood A-listers relax at the island’s five-star spas, millionaires invest in property along the coast, and families come to soak up the sun and snorkel above the reefs.
On the Big Island, you can spend the day on a spectacular golf course along the coast or hiking around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. “A different landscape from any of the other Hawaiian islands,” opined one respondent. “Black volcanic beaches, tropical waterfalls, active volcanoes, the mountain region. It’s less touristy as well.”
Kauai is known for its coastlines, waterfalls, and fantastic hiking. Adventurers can fill an entire vacation with exploring the cliffs, beaches, and waterfalls. One reader, who has been visiting the Hawaiian islands since 1957, said he can “feel more of the Ohana feeling on this island than any other.”
"We have been to Maui numerous times and still haven't done or seen all it has to offer,” said one of our survey respondents. On Hawaii's second-largest island, visitors can go surfing, snorkeling, or sailing on a catamaran. For hikers, there’s a range of terrain, from lush forests to the dormant volcano at Haleakala Crater National Park. “The weather, the ocean, the mountains, the food, the people, the whales and porpoises, and the history,” another reader raved, “all make this a wonderful place to visit over and over again.”