Millions of people go to Hawaii annually to spend time and enjoy its stellar sandy beaches, top-rated resorts, picturesque environments, amazing wildlife, and diverse climate. Nestling in the northern Pacific Ocean, the Aloha state comprises 137 islands and islets mostly formed by volcanoes. Yet, despite that huge number, the archipelago is renowned for its eight main islands, plus only four of them ring the bells, being the most popular and the largest. Here, discover more about Hawaii’s eight main islands and the things that make them distinct.
Hawaii (Big Island)
Hawaii, popularly called the Big Island, is the largest island not only in Hawaii but in the United States, spanning a total of 4,028 miles. One of its notable tourist attractions is Mauna Kea, the world’s tallest mountain when measured from its base on the seafloor. It also has several more volcanoes, making it the most volcanically active island in the archipelago. Other locations to visit include natural settings, dozens of beaches, state parks, and national parks, such as the Puna Fern Forest, Kealakekua Bay, Kau desert, and the Volcanoes National Park.
Maui is the island chain’s second-largest island, resided by over 160,000 residents, whose economy depends on a perfect blend of business, tourism, and agriculture. It has a thriving export industry, with pineapple and sugar as its primary exports, while papaya, nuts, and coffee also have their fair share. When it comes to tourism, its main draw is its stunning coastline lined with swaying palm trees, with a breathtaking backdrop of the mountain ranges and valleys – no wonder that it is one of the top Hawaiian destinations for visitors. If you’re on the island, don’t miss out on the Road to Hana and Haleakalā National Park, plus Haleakala, the world’s largest dormant volcano crater.
Oahu is the third-largest island but is the most populated and most visited island in Hawaii. It is also the home of Honolulu, the state’s largest city and its capital. Despite that, Oahu is popular for its fantastic entertainment, culinary, and art scene. Adding to that, it is brimmed with verdant rainforests, amazing mountain ranges, and sparkling beaches, such as the world-famous Waikiki Beach.
Known as the “Garden Island,” Kauai is the fourth-largest and the wettest island, having a precipitation range of 20-100 inches annually. As such, Kauai possesses a beautiful collection of streams, rivers, and waterfalls, accentuated by lush greenery, dense jungles, and seaside cliffs. Must-see areas include Hanalei Bay, Poipu Beach, and the Waimea Canyon.
Spanning 260 square miles, Molokai is Hawaii’s fifth-largest island. Deviating from other buzzing and touristy islands, its main draw is its untouched landscape, characterized by volcanic mountains and towering sea cliffs. Meanwhile, its economy relies on farming and agriculture, with coffee and pineapple plantations, sugar cane farms, and cattle ranches scattered throughout the island. If you need a break from the city jam, Molokai’s remoteness and relaxed ambiance will help you find that much-needed peace.
Dubbed as the “Pineapple Island” as the whole island used to be a pineapple plantation, Lanai is Hawaii’s sixth-largest island. Today, the majority of the land is still undeveloped, but it is overflowing with natural wonders, such as rock formations, gorgeous cliffs, and glistening white-sand beaches. The small developed portion still makes it an ideal getaway as it houses luxury resorts, golf courses, and gourmet restaurants.
While you’d want to explore each of the eight main islands, Niihau, the seventh-largest of the archipelago, is off-limits as it is now privately-owned. The Sinclair family bought the island in 1864, but part of the sale was to preserve the island’s traditions and culture and take care of the small tribe composed of 200 villagers, who thrive in simple and rural means.
Kahoolawe is the smallest of the eight main islands but most likely won’t be a part of your travel bucket list. The tiny island is only 45 square miles and completely off-limits to the general public under the law. It used to be a U.S. Military target, but conservation efforts are now being enforced to preserve and protect the island’s environment and waters.
That’s the list of Hawaii’s eight major islands. If you’re planning to visit the archipelago, you’ll surely come across the majority of them across your trips and relish all the top attractions and unique things each has of them has to offer.