If you’ve read my blogs for awhile you know I’m very partial to Hawaii as a great vacation spot; and, although each of the sandwich isles has their high points, Maui is my favorite. I’ll explain why later.
Here’s a quick trip through the main islands of our 50th state.
- Oahu is the most populous island with almost one million people and the site of the state’s capital, Honolulu. Oahu’s topography consists of two main mountain ranges that are separated by a valley as well as a coastal plain that rings the island. Oahu’s beaches and shops make it one of Hawaii’s most visited islands. Some of Oahu’s top attractions are the great surfing on the North Shore, Waikiki, and the Polynesian Cultural Center. Pearl Harbor is a special place to visit.
- The island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, is the largest of Hawaii’s islands, with a total area of 4,028 square miles. It is also the largest island in the United States. Like the other islands of Hawaii, it was formed by a hotspot in the Earth’s crust. It is the most recently formed of Hawaii’s islands and, as such, it is the only one that is still volcanically active. The Big Island is home to three active volcanoes and Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The highest point on the Big Island is the dormant volcano Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet. The Big Island has a total population of 148,677 and its largest cities are Hilo and Kailua-Kona. It is home to several outstanding, all-inclusive resorts.
- Kauai is the oldest of the main islands and is located the farthest away from the hotspot that formed the islands. As such, its mountains are more highly eroded and its highest point is Kawaikini at 5,243 feet. Kauai’s mountain ranges are rugged, however, and the island is known for its steep cliffs and rugged coastline. Kauai is known as the Garden Isle for its undeveloped land and forests. It is very green and lush because it enjoys a lot of short intense showers, particularly late afternoons and nights. It is also home to the Waimea Canyon and five state parks. Tourism is the main industry on Kauai and it is located 105 miles north of Oahu. Kauai’s population is 65,689.
- Molokai has a total area of 260 square miles and is located 25 miles east of Oahu. It is accessible from both Oahu and Maui. Most of Molokai is also part of Maui County and has a population of 7,404. Molokai’s topography consists of two distinct volcanic ranges. They are known as East Molokai and West Molokai and the highest point on the island. Kamakou, at 4,961 feet, is a part of East Molokai. These mountains, however, are extinct volcanoes that have since collapsed. Their remains give Molokai some of the highest cliffs in the world. Molokai is known as the friendly isle and its south shore has the world’s longest fringing reef.
- Lanai is the sixth largest of the main Hawaiian islands, with a total of 140 square miles. The only town on the island is Lanai City and the island has a population of only 3,193. Lanai is known as the Pineapple Island because in the past the island was covered by a pineapple plantation. Today, Lanai is mainly undeveloped and much of its roadways are unpaved. There are, however, two resort hotels and two famous golf courses on the island; as a result, tourism is a large part of its economy. Lanai is a nice day trip by catamaran from Lahaina, Maui.
- Maui is my favorite of all the islands because it has a varied, colorful and sensual topography. It has more to do than any of the other outer islands and still retains its laid-back, relaxing feeling. Maui is the second largest of Hawaii’s islands, with a total area of 727 square miles and a population of 117,644. Maui’s nickname is the Valley Isle. There are lowlands along its coasts, with several different mountain ranges that are separated by valleys. The highest point on Maui is Haleakala, at 10,023 feet.
Maui’s economy is based mainly on agriculture and tourism; and its main agricultural products are coffee, macadamia nuts, flowers, sugar, papaya and pineapple. Wailuku is the largest city on Maui, right near the airport.
There are five main tourist areas on Maui; four on the west coast. Starting from the north end, there is Kapalua and Napili featuring a Ritz Carlton and an extensive resort area.
Next in line is the Kaanapali Resort and Lahaina, the old whaling port town. Kaanapali features about seven large hotels and several condo complexes, as well as a great beach. The Whaler’s Village Shopping Center is shops and museum on the mall.
Lahaina still has some remnants of its whaling past as well as many shops, galleries and restaurants.
Coming down further south is Kihei, a laid-back town with nice parks and beaches. Lots of condos but not many hotels.
The area further south is Wailea and Makena. It features more than one-half dozen first-class hotels, lots of condos, four great golf courses and great beaches, all sitting under the gaze of Haleakala.
Then there is upcountry, with the ranches and communities leading up the mountain to the volcano.
Schwartz’s Recommendations for Maui:
- Submarine ride in Lahaina
- Railroad trip between Lahaina and Kaanapali
- Maui Ocean Center in Maalaea (between Kihei and Lahaina)
- Bike ride down Halaekala or drive up/down
- Helicopter ride around the island (45 to 90 minutes)
- Hana and Seven Pools (all-day drive is rough, but you can fly)
- Snorkel trips from Maalaea Harbor or the Prince Hotel
- Walk behind the Wailea Hotels (about a mile along the ocean)
- Bike or auto to end of the road past Makena Resort Hotel to Perouse Bay
- Sunset cruise(s)—best bets are big catamarans (non-dinner)
- Tropical Plantation (everything which grows in Hawaii)
- Take the boat (from Lahaina) for an all-day trip/tour to Molokai
- All-day boat trip/tour to Lanai on the Trilogy boat (from Lahaina)
- IAO Valley and Oriental Gardens
- There are some great hikes and tours to rain forests
- Nick’s Fish Market at Kea Lani Hotel * 1
- Mama’s Fish House * 1 (fabulous setting, past the airport, great for lunch after helicopter ride, windsurfing area)
- 5 Palms at Mana Kai Resort in Kihei 3 (great view, great spot for lunch)
- Tommy Bahama’s in Shops at Wailea 2
- Prince Court at Makena Resort 2
- Gannons in Wailea Golf Club 2 (great view, all day and sunset)
- Halemaille General Store (upcountry) 2
- Makena Golf Club 3 (lunch, great view)
- Aroma D’Italia in Kihei 3
- Fabiani’s in Wailea 3
- Longhi’s in Shops at Wailea 2
- Gerards in Lahaina 1
*Pricey—the rest are more moderately priced and informal.
Numbers indicate food ranking: 1 is tops, 2 is pretty close to tops, 3 is casual and good.