Skip to Content

Hawaiian Islands (MAP + Detailed Guide)

Hawaiian Islands (MAP + Detailed Guide)

What pops into your head when you hear about the Hawaiian islands? If it is the tropical climate and the mesmerizing beaches, you’re absolutely correct! Hollywood blockbusters? Correct again! If it’s Moana – you’re still not wrong. Hawaii is an archipelago consisting of stunning islands and home to beautiful beaches.

But that’s not all that Hawaii has to offer to its visitors. In fact, many travellers are not aware of all the interesting facts surrounding Hawaii, its natural landscape and must-dos.

That’s why we are here to help you out. We figured you dropped in here for some inspiration for your travels. And we got you the crucial resources.

Let’s start by identifying the 6 major Hawaiian islands on a map with names!

Related: Have You Experienced the KiliKilo of Hawaii?

Map of Hawaiian Islands

How many Hawaiian Islands can you visit?

Good question. How many are this many? Hawaii consists of six major islands that tourists can visit. These islands are Kauai, Maui (you probably would’ve heard this in Moana), Oahu, Lanai, Big Island Hawaii (yes, there’s an island called Hawaii in Hawaii), and Molokai.

We will be looking at these islands individually to give you the best experience!

By the way, did you know that Hawaii is a state of the United States? Non-US citizens whose countries are not in the visa waiver program are required to obtain a US visa to gain entry into Hawaii.

Let’s get to the topic now. Here are the 6 Hawaii Islands to visit this holiday! Get your sun hats, sunscreen and beach gear ready! We are diving into a tropical paradise! 

Recommended: Small Towns to Visit in Hawaii

Kauai

Kauai Napali Coast
Kauai Napali Coast

Known as the Garden Isle, Kauai is the fourth largest island belonging to Hawaii. Blessed with rainforests, dramatic cliffs, the Waimea canyon, Nounou trails and home to the breathtaking Na Pali coast, and the famous hiking spot, the Sleeping Giant Mountain.

Luxury? Say no more!

When it comes to tropical deluxe in the Aloha state, Kauai city is the go-to destination. Not only can you relax on the white shoreline, but you can also even take a hike if you’re feeling too bored. We must point out though prices can be a little on the expensive side.

Recommended reading: Why is Hawaii so Expensive?

Inspiration for Motunui

Are you a Disney fan? You would definitely be thrilled to know that the mountain of Motunui was inspired by the Nounou sleeping giant mountain.

Kauai’s shimmering white sand beaches and sugarcane fields, lined along the coconut coasts, create the perfect backdrop for any movie or photograph. If you’re visiting Hawaii, Kauai should definitely be included in your itinerary.

Maui

Maui Sunset
Sunset in Maui

Maui Island – also known as the Valley Isle, is the second largest island in Hawaii. Famous for the Haleakala National Park and its towering volcano, Ohe’o Gulch waterfalls, the golden-crescent Kapalua, and the renowned sacred valley of Iao.

A little bit of everything

Here in Maui, you get to experience Hawaii in its purest form. An island that has its cultures inclusive, nature protected, and the experience enhanced for visitors. Adventure enthusiasts can sail down on a zipline or snorkel in the shallow waters with sea turtles. Those looking for something chic can even play a game of golf.

In Maui, you’ll get to see black sand beaches – somewhat of a unique feature. This phenomenon is caused by the volcanic minerals that rest beneath the surface. All in all, it sure does provide you with a little bit of everything.

Notable: The play of the Humpback Whales

The oceans of Maui Island are best known for humpback whales that swim close to the shallow waters during the winter season. Every year over 10,000 north pacific humpback whales migrate to the Maui waters splashing and playing in the warm waters.

The best time to watch whales in Maui is from November to May, with January being the peak month.

Oahu

Oahu
Oahu Cityscape

Are you a first-time traveller to Hawaii? Then Oahu should be your first island to visit in the state. Informally addressed as Honolulu by the majority, Oahu is the ideal place to kick off your Hawaiian vacation.

A bustling urban city with towering luxury resorts, Oahu is home to many historic sites as well. Few are the Iolani Palace – a 19th-century native residence of Hawaii’s last monarch, and the Pearl Harbour Memorial.

Lively Nights

We must say that the nights in Oahu are just as lit as day. Due to the density of resorts lying approximate to one another, the shore stretch comes to life after sunset. It’s not just commercialised, but resorts in Oahu – Hawaii in general – never fail to display their rich culture in hospitality.

While sipping a Mai Tai, you can watch a traditional Hawaiian dance and later sway to some hip music here in Oahu.

Do note that prices here can be on the high side, so make sure if you’re on a budget, to do your research and plan ahead to minimise unnecessary costs. All in all, Oahu is an amazing destination.

Lanai

Lanai Hawaii
Beach in Lanai

A tropical haven, Lanai is Hawaii’s gift from the gods. This island has sheer beauty, a wonderful atmosphere and a natural ecosystem. It explains why so many influential people are making their biggest bids to acquire this island. You’d be surprised to hear that almost 98% of Lanai is owned by one single tycoon – Larry Elison.

For the most exquisite vacation

There’s no doubt that Lanai is a holiday home for the VIPs, but that doesn’t mean it won’t welcome regular travellers. In fact, many travellers visit Lanai just for its exquisite experience that comes part and parcel with all the adventure activities such as exploring the remote beaches, discovering shipwrecks and trekking on off-path trails.

On that note, we bring to your attention, Kaiolohia, also known as Shipwreck Beach, is a must-visit location on the island of Lanai if you’re a history fan. Why so? First of all, you must know that getting there is not a simple walk to the beach.

Secondly, you are advised not to sunbathe or bathe in the waters here. But you will get to witness shipwrecks and debris from the World War II period.

If you want to see green turtles and humpback whales, set off to the Polihua beach in the northwest. It’s much more secluded and ideal for your sunbathing session.

Big Island Hawaii

Waipio Valley in Big Island Hawaii
Waipio Valley in Big Island Hawaii

Big Island stands for its name – Big Island. Yes, it’s just big, and it’s the biggest of all the Hawaiian Islands. While the rest of the islands steal the limelight with their unique Aloha culture and tropical vibes, this destination often goes unnoticed.

It’s true, you wouldn’t be able to experience the authenticity of Hawaii here, but it’s not something you should miss on your vacation.

Garden of Hellfire

Big Island is known for its volcanoes. It’s home to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the active volcano Kilauea which erupted back in 2018. That is, however, not a reason to miss out on this picturesque destination.

It has lush rainforests, dramatic waterfalls, stunning beaches, and it’s just.. big! So you have so many acres to explore. According to our experience, the best time to visit is from April to June, when the demands are somewhat low.

Hey! You get to save on your trip.

Coloured Beaches

The beaches in Big Island are known for their beautiful tropical aura and coloured sands. If you’re on a tour of Big Island, make sure to visit Papakolea beach, where the sand is green like matcha.

When you visit Punalu’u, you’d encounter a distinct black sand beach. Both these phenomena occur due to minerals that emit from the volcanoes on the island.

Molokai

Molokai Mountains
Molokai Mountains

Hawaii’s fifth largest island, Molokai, is one of the least visited islands compared to the rest. It has vast acres of natural beauty and majestic cliffs – some of the highest in the world. But it rarely brings in tourists.

Here in Molokai, you can find Kalaupapa National Historical Park, which played a significant role during the late 19th century and the early 20th century in housing orphans and patients.

Today the historical destination stands as an educational site and can be reached via hiking, mule-riding, or a small commuter plane.

A Remote Retreat

Although the land of Molokai is breathtaking against the stunning natural landscapes, it is somewhat remote. With its towering sea cliffs and acres of lush lands, Molokai surely deserves recognition similarly to its neighbouring islands.

Before it became this serene retreat, Molokai used to house disease patients, which is one reason that it distinguishes itself from the rest of the Hawaiian islands.

On our visit to this island, we had trouble finding a clear connection, but some resorts and hotels give you seamless access. However, just be prepared to get your feet muddy if you run out of connection.

Things You Need To Know About Hawaii

Hiker in Hawaii

Wildlife in Hawaii

Hawaii is home to a diverse variety of both land and sea species. Most famous for its marine creatures, including the humpback whale, Hawaii is the perfect place to set off on an ocean wilderness expedition. You’d come across dolphins, sea turtles, monk seals and tiger sharks.

It was during our visit that we learnt that Hawaii does not house any dangerous predators. If any insect or a manta ray was to sting you, you’ll survive past a few wounds.

Recommended reading: Hawaiian Animals (All You Need To Know)

Hawaii Geography

We assure you that Hawaii is one of God’s playgrounds on Earth. The geographical landscapes of the archipelago are just mesmerizing. From volcanic peaks and rising sea cliffs to tropical jungles and breathtaking beaches, Hawaii is the go-to place for your tropical adventure.

The climate usually lingers around 31˚C during summer here and about 28˚C during winter.

Recommended reading: Ecosystems in Hawaii | Volcanoes in Hawaii

Hawaiian Cuisine

The Hawaiian cuisine – somewhat similar to Fijian meals – largely incorporates meaty dishes and taro prepared in multiple methods. Some of the most famous Hawaiian dishes to try are Kalua Pork, Laulau and Poi.

When you’re in the tourist hotspots, you’d easily come across franchise food but make sure you take the extra effort to taste some native delicacies. They really are worth experiencing.

Recommended reading: Hawaii Food

People of Hawaii

One thing that we noticed on our visit to Hawaii was the glee in people (most of them). It could be that the state is entirely associated with tourism that the people of Hawaii are required to show hospitality and make people feel welcomed.

Their laid-back culture, amazing local food coupled with the experiences and beautiful places to visit make it any traveller’s dream destination.

Recommended reading: Useful Hawaiian Words and Phrases To Learn

Frequently Asked Questions About Hawaiian Islands

You may have particular questions about Hawaii, and we are here to answer them for you!

Which island is Honolulu on?

Located on the South shore of Oahu Island, Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and one of the most famous cities in the state. In fact, many misinterpret the entire Oahu island as Honolulu.

The best time to go to Honolulu

The best time to secure attractive rates and avoid the crowds, visit Honolulu between April and June or from September to December. You’d be able to experience all that the capital city has to offer.

How many islands in Hawaii can you visit?

Although there are a total of eight major Islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, visitors are only allowed to visit six of them. Kauai, Maui, Oahu, Lanai, Big Island Hawaii and Molokai are open for tourists, while Niihau and Kahoolawe are forbidden to enter.

Why can’t you visit Niihau and Kahoolawe?

Niihau has been a privately owned island since 1864, which categorises it as a residence and not public property. Unless for a special case, visitors are not allowed to visit Niihau. Kahoolawe is prohibited to visit due to its constant volcanic threat that may put visitors in danger.

Can you visit Hawaii without a car?

Yes. You can easily move around the Hawaiian archipelago by boat (if crossing the sea), or by bus (on land), which are very efficient modes of transport.

You can get a glimpse into the local culture, and you’d be able to visit places spontaneously that were never originally in your plan.