I’ve had a lot of people ask about Hawaii lately. And with good reason, flights have been on sale, and it’s a gorgeous destination. But not all Hawaiian vacations are created equal.
I want to briefly tell you about my perceptions and my experiences in each of the main islands.
Honolulu: It’s the main city in the island of Oahu. The main tourist area in that city is Waikiki beach. These three names are for the same place, but sometimes people use them in odd context and it sounds like 3 different places. Basically it’s like saying “I’m going to stay in Green Acres, when I go to Brandon Manitoba.” Or, I’m staying on Waikiki Beach, when I go to Honolulu, Oahu.
Honolulu, the city, is full of hi-rise buildings, expensive shops and big city living. It is intensely busy and popular. Waikiki beach area is crowded all year long. Parking at hotels is so limited, that most charge $30-$40 per night for parking. You don’t actually need a car if you’re staying in the main tourist area, it’s faster and easier to just walk. Plus, there’s public transportation. Tourist trolleys come by every 10 minutes or so. If you go to Honolulu, it may be inexpensive to get there (cheap flights) but it’s expensive and oh so crowded once you arrive. Honolulu is where you will find Pearl Harbour and the museum dedicated to it.
Maui is the 2nd largest of the Hawaiian islands. It’s nickname is the Valley Isle. Its population is spread out over the island, and features a few main tourist areas. The areas are like townships. Kihei, Wailea, Ka’anapali are some of the most popular tourist areas. I think of them like Morden, Carmen and Winkler. Each area has everything you need, easy to drive around in and quite similar. Maui does not have the intensity of Oahu, that’s for sure. There are no great big hi rises all jammed onto one little beach. In fact there are so many beaches and things are so spread out you really do need a car to get around in Maui and enjoy the scenery. Good news here though, you won’t have to pay for parking. One of the things I like best about Maui is whale watching, and of course, sunset walks on the beach. I felt that stress melted away in Maui. The warm breeze and the tropical laid-back pace made it my favourite Hawaiian vacation. It’s a little more expensive to get to, but I found it less expensive overall once you’re there.
The third most popular island that Air Canada and Westjet take Canadians to is The Big island. This is where you will find the city of Kailua-Kona, and “the volcano.” Mt Kilauea is an active volcano area and part of the island’s National Park system. This active volcano erupted May 2018 consuming thousands of acres and dozens of homes in its path. The Big Island itself is incredibly diverse. Lava rock has left some areas looking like Mars – black and barren. Other areas are more like rainforest and are known for growing incredible coffee. (I visited a coffee plantation in Kona area and it was absolutely fabulous! One of the highlights of the trip for sure.) Beaches are harder to find in the tourist areas of Kailua-Kona, some are small and others have black sand. The island itself seemed more “American” than Maui and was a blend of modern culture and newer buildings.
My suggestion to anyone planning a trip to Hawaii, is to clearly understand the differences in lifestyle and activities and then choose your vacation accordingly. Find the island that suits you and go for it!