With visitor numbers up almost 20 per cent, Hawaii's six islands are exerting a powerful pull.

New Zealanders are really embracing Hawaii – with about 85,000 of us visiting there in 2018, a record year surpassing even the days of the late '80s (when all flights to the USA required a compulsory fuel stop in Honolulu).

Not only are Kiwis visiting Hawaii in record numbers – just under 20 per cent above arrivals in 2017 – they are also staying for record numbers of days, averaging 9.5 days to be precise.

That gives ample time to do more than just visit Honolulu, fun though that is; it means Hawaii's other five islands are eminently reachable, bringing many different aspects of this fascinating destination into play.

So what does each island offer in terms of different strokes for different folks? Many refer to Oahu as the main island and some never venture far – or at all – from Waikiki, the vibrant neighbourhood in Honolulu. More of that later. Here's what makes the other islands of Hawaii so unique:



Beautifully lush, it's clear within minutes of arrival why Kauai is known as the "Garden Isle". Scenery and beauty is the big thing on the island as only about 20 per cent of the land mass is accessible by road or foot.

A helicopter ride over rugged cliffs, tangled jungle and mountain peaks reveals some of this beauty while the western side of the island contains Waimea Canyon – compared by some with the Grand Canyon (praise indeed). You can hike there or at Koke'e State Park or visit the Napali Coast, the Kalalau Valley (regarded by many as one of the planet's natural wonders) and the North Shore's Kilauea Point Wildlife Refuge. Kauapea Beach (sometimes known as Secret Beach), is also located on the north shore of Kauai and is an impressive stretch of golden sand accessible after a downhill hike.


This popular island boasts surf, shopping and outstanding cuisine plus icons like Waikiki, Diamond Head and 'Iolani Palace (once home of the royal family). But it has another side – like the easygoing surf towns of the North Shore and the lush green mountains of the east coast, where you can find Kualoa Ranch, good for horseback riding, a four-wheel drive tour including the sites for some famous movies among the 70-odd that have been filmed there, including Jurassic Park.


If solitude or a break from the crowds is your thing, Molokai might be your place. The most laid back of all the islands, Molokai contains no traffic lights and no big resorts.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park, a remote part of the island, can be reached only by mule, hike, or plane.

Molokai has numerous beaches, including Papohaku, a 5km stretch of white sand, one of Hawaii's largest. The stunning Halawa Valley could be said to resemble the Garden Of Eden and houses the impressive Moaula waterfall.



New Zealand America's Cup aficionados will remember Larry Ellison's Oracle Team USA from the dramatic racing in Bermuda and, before that, in San Francisco, California. Well, Ellison is your host on this privately owned island, once housing the pineapple plantations of the Dole company but now home to two stunning Four Seasons resorts and some world-class golf courses.

There is another side to Lanai, a comparatively unexplored dimension; Lanai's spacious beaches, like Hulopoe, are attractive, Lanai City has galleries and boutiques and those more active can explore the many off-road adventures and trails on offer where the mode of transport could be bike, horse or foot.


The second largest island is ideal for beach blobbers and adventurers alike and the scenery along the Hana Highway makes this one of the great drives. Great beaches like Kaanapali and Wailea are perfect for the 'resorties' who crave relaxation while the more active can head to Haleakala National Park for some gob-smacking sunrises from the summit of a (dormant) volcano and then head off on a breathtaking 40km cycle ride back downhill.

There is snorkelling aplenty among sea turtles and the added attraction of a seventh Hawaiian island (the crescent-shaped atoll of Molokini where the snorkelling and diving is great). Humpback whales can be seen between November and May and there are inland attractions too – like Hawaii's cowboys (yes, true) called paniolo who still wrangle cattle in Maui's open fields. Local produce includes coffee, dragon fruit and chocolate – so foodies who enjoy sampling local cuisine will also be prone to falling in love with this island.

The Island of Hawaii

The island of Hawaii is also known as the Big Island due its size and diversity of landscapes and experiences. From lush valleys and waterfalls to dramatic fields of lava, the island is famous for some special experiences that include volcano viewing, star gazing, swimming with manta rays and exploring some of Hawaii's oldest and most significant cultural sites. and Volcano tourism sounds like a contradiction in terms.

However, now that the volcanic activity has settled down, curious visitors are again beginning to venture back to this unique, evolving landscape. A host of new sites can be seen after the natural re-modelling of this part of the big island (lava flows have created 875 acres of new land and new beaches). Helicopter flights are a great way to see how Kilauea (active since 1983) has made its mark on the island. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, one of the most popular attractions in all Hawaii, allows visitors to get close-up to a live volcano. Explore by foot, take a helicopter tour over the recent activity areas or even stay a night on the rim of the Kilauea caldera at historic Volcano House.

Kiwis are familiar with black sand beaches but here you can see a green sand beach, its colour also influenced by volcanic activity, fertile jungle valleys, waterfalls and even snow – the island's high peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea have snowfalls in winter. The Kona and Kohala Coast – the location of the famed Ironman competition – also boasts good beaches and snorkelling with manta rays while the Hilo area has rain forest hikes, botanical gardens and waterfalls.

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