Where Should I Go In Hawaii for the First Time?

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Dreaming of a tropical escape? With endless beaches, lush rainforests, and jaw-dropping scenery, the Aloha State has an undeniable allure.

Boasting 137 islands spread out over 1,500 miles of sparkling seas, this paradise of the Pacific will leave you spoiled for choice.

So you’re probably wondering: where should I go in Hawaii for the first time?

What Is The Best Hawaii Island?

The magic of Hawaii is that you can name your own adventure.

Each island has its own charm. Wander among the surreal beauty of the smoldering volcanoes.

best islands in Hawaii to visit
Best Hawaii island

Dive into the depths of the sapphire seas. Experience the charming culture and mouth-watering food delights of Polynesia. 

To help you decide on the best Hawaiian island for your dream getaway, let’s explore the wonders of the United States’ most exotic wonderland.


Here is your guide to the best islands in Hawaii. 

The Rural Beauty of the Big Island 

Also known as the Island of Hawaii, the Big Island is the largest island in the archipelago.

In fact, this island is about double the size of all the other islands of Hawaii combined.

This impressively diverse island contains eight of the 13 climate zones that exist on the planet.

Explore everything from the Polar Tundra to the Humid Tropical regions of the Big Island.

A nature lover’s dream, this island is home to four active volcanoes. Two of these volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, are actually a couple of the most active volcanoes on earth.

Over the past couple hundred years, these volcanoes have erupted every two or three years.  

Kahaluu Beach Park, Two Step Beach at Honaunau Bay, and ​​Kealakekua Bay (also known as Captain Cook Bay) are amongst the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, the eastern end of the Big Island is filled with lush foliage that spans from sea to sea. 

What’s not to love about the Big Island?

The magic of Hawaii view
The magic of Hawaii

Well, the Island of Hawaii is largely rural.

Outside of a few small towns with resorts, this is one of the more rural areas of the island chain.

If you are looking forward to horseback riding through wild terrain, trekking up the lush emerald mountains, and exploring lava fields, however, this is the island for you. 

Our Top Pick: If you opt for the Big Island be sure to check out Get My Guide’s Big Island: Tiki Carving Workshop.

Everything for Everyone in Oahu 

The word Oahu means “gathering place” in the Hawaiian language.

As the cultural and business hub of the state, it is a fitting name for this island.

Visiting Hawaii first-time tips
Visiting Hawaii

The state capital, Honolulu, is located on the southern shores of the island. Home to 80 percent of everyone in Hawaii, this metropolitan area has a population of more than one million people. 

The best cultural sites, restaurants, and nightlife in Hawaii are in Honolulu, particularly the trendy Waikiki neighborhood.

This swanky district is famous for its world-class nightlife, boutique shopping, and flawless beaches.

Waikiki beach Hawaii
Waikiki beach

When people ask me that common question: where should I go in Hawaii for the first time?

Oahu is my go-to response. You can explore the history and culture, dance the night away, or wander through the coffee farms.

If you are only going to visit one island during your trip, Oahu gives you the most opportunities to see diverse sites. 

Insider Tip – There is a lot to see in Oahu so enlist a local to see the true beauty of the island. We had an incredible experience with Get Your Guide tours.

For an authentic look at Oahu, check out these fab tours:

  • Oahu: Afternoon Glass Bottom Boat Tour in Waikiki – book here
  • Oahu: Ka Moana Luau Dinner & Show at Aloha Tower – book here

The Green, Family-Friendly Maui 

The second biggest Hawaiian island, the green island of Maui is a family-friendly pick.

Famous for its kid-friendly resorts, Maui is a perfect place to find chill all-inclusive beachfront accommodation. 

The Green, Family-Friendly Maui 
Hawaii Maui 

Away from the urban hustle and bustles of Oahu but with more things to do than Kauai, Maui offers a perfect balance. It also has beautiful beaches for swimming.

Take a road trip down the iconic Hana Highway to see the most beautiful sites on the island. Get active in Lahaina at the countless water sports centers and golf courses.  


Off the Grid in Kauai 

The greenest of all the Hawaiian islands, Kauai is a dreamy escape full of tropical rainforests.

Known as the Garden Isle, you’ve probably seen the towering coastal cliffs of Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park in at least a couple of movies.

Kauai tropical rainforests
Hawaii Kauai 

The scenery of Kauai is truly unforgettable. This is an ideal destination to get off the grid.

And, thanks to the regular power outages, you won’t be tempted to scroll for too long!

Kauai is a place to get back to nature and soak in the natural beauty of Hawaii. 

Take in the breathtaking local flora and fauna as you trek the Nounou Trail and Waimea Canyon Trail while you admire the view of the Sleeping Giant mountain ridge.

See the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, aka Waimea Canyon, and watch the sunset over the Pacific. 

Island Hopping Option – Where Should I Go In Hawaii for the First Time?

In love with the charms of every island?

Want to make the most of every moment? For your first trip, island hopping in Hawaii is a fantastic option.  

You can explore the islands by plane or ship. Planning a DIY tour is easy or you can book a guided trip.

The scenery of Hawaii and house
Where to stay in Hawaii

There are cruises with set itineraries, or you can go on a day trip.

Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Mokulele Airlines offer low-cost regular flights that are under an hour.

Expeditions Lanai operates regularly between Maui and Lanai or you’ll find Norwegian Cruise Line doing regular trips in and out of Oahu. 

Last but certainly not least, if you wondering where should I go in Hawaii for the first time for a truly epic experience, look to the Get Your Guide Hilo: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Waterfalls Flight.



So, where should I go in Hawaii for the first time? Anywhere and everywhere!

While Oahu is a smart choice if you’re limited on time or want to stay put, every island is worth exploring. From Kauai to Maui, you’ll be enchanted at every turn.

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