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With its tropical rainforests, turquoise waters and iconic volcanoes, Hawaii is unlike anywhere in the world. This island paradise draws travelers to its welcoming “aloha spirit” and natural beauty. Of the eight main islands, the most popular are Maui, Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii Island (aka the “Big Island”), each of which has its own unique personality.
It’s no surprise that Maui has topped Conde Nast Traveler’s Best Islands list for more than two decades. The Magic Isle is famous for its charming villages, luxurious oceanfront resorts and pristine beaches. Don’t skip sunrise over Haleakala (Maui’s highest peak), the scenic road to Hana, or Lahaina, a historic whaling town tuned artsy hot spot.
Home to the majority of Hawaii’s population and the capital city of Honolulu, Oahu receives the vast majority of tourists. History buffs delight at the plethora of cultural attractions, including Pearl Harbor and the Iolani Palace. Waikiki attracts fashionistas and sun worshippers alike with world-class luxury shopping and golden beaches, respectively. Outdoor aficionados can hike the majestic Diamond Head volcano or catch a wave on the North Shore, famous for its epic surfing competitions.
Nicknamed the Garden Isle, Kauai is known for its tropical climate, breathtaking Na Pali Coast and magnificent waterfalls. Must-sees include sunny Poipu Beach, Hanalei Bay and Waimea Canyon – dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” by Mark Twain. Kauai’s fresh fish tacos rarely disappoint, and the most delicious are served from food trucks in the quaint seaside town of Kapaa.
Hawaii Island (the “Big Island”) is best known for its size – it’s almost twice as large as all the other Hawaiian islands combined – and dramatic landscape. Home to all but two of the world’s climate zones, the Big Island is dotted with natural wonders from Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanos, to lava deserts and black sand beaches.