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Hawaii - which island?

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1. Posted by kleino83 (Budding Member 16 posts) 6y

Hi all

As part of our round the world trip we'd like to fly from LA to Hawaii and spend a week or so there.

So far from my research I think that the Big Island would suit us as it seems to have a huge variety of interesting things to see i.e. the volcano etc. However from what I've read about Maui that seems like a lovely option too.

As we plan to then head on to the Cook Islands I don't mind us missing out on a pure beach holiday in Hawaii as we will be seeing plenty of them later on elsewhere although we do love beaches!

We basically want to experience what Hawaii has to offer as from all the films etc you see about Hawaii it looks amazing.

We will be backpacking so would need to stay in hostels or B&B's. Can the Big Island/Maui be done cheaply but also quite nicely? We don't want to do and have to stay in awful places and therefore have our trip ruined by this. Any ideas of nice places to stay? Also we won't have a car but can rent one if that will make a big difference to where we go.

All ideas welcome and greatly appreciated!


2. Posted by bgl (Full Member 167 posts) 6y

Hi! The Big Island has a lot to offer and is a truly unique island. It's almost twice the size of all the other Hawaiian islands put together. Maui has become very popular the last 10-15 years, and like all the islands, it's truly beautiful. However, and this is my opinion only, the main reason it's become so popular is that lots of people who used to fly to Honolulu (Oahu) and spend their time on Waikiki Beach now want something a bit less crowded. So, Maui in a sense became that place, with more and more large (and expensive) hotels being built there. There are certainly some large and expensive hotels on the Big Island as well, but they are concentrated along the Kohala coast, north of Kailua-Kona (west side of the island). The Hilo side (the east side) has no luxury hotels and is very different from the Kona side. Both are definitely worth exploring.

I'll get to the point: I would recommend the Big Island since there's so much to see here, and you can easily spend a week doing so. You WILL need a rental car, and if you plan on coming here, you should make the reservation as soon as you have definite plans when you'll be visiting. Since this is an island, there's only a limited number of rental cars, and sometimes they actually run out. There are hostels in both Kailua-Kona and Hilo. Around $25 per person and night in a dorm, or around $65 for a room for 2. And I know young people who stayed in these hostels and they definitely thought they were OK. I can give you more info once you've decided.

Where do you live, and when is this trip planned for?

3. Posted by jambo101 (Respected Member 414 posts) 6y

I've always wanted to go to Hawaii but the cost of getting there and having a decent vacation is a bit out of my price range, If i ever did go the island of Kauai has always attracted me for its breathtaking scenery

Any comments on kauai bgl?

4. Posted by bgl (Full Member 167 posts) 6y

Despite what I said above, and despite the fact that I live on the Big Island, if I were to rate the Hawaiian islands, I would pick Kauai as the most beautiful. The reason I decided not to live there is that it's so small. It's an incredible place to visit and when people who are planning to visit Hawaii ask for my advice I usually recommend AT LEAST two weeks, preferably a little bit more. In, say, two and a half weeks, you can comfortably cover Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island. Maui, despite the fact that it's the most popular destination after Oahu, actually is number four on my list. Reason being that no matter what you're looking for on Maui, you can find something equal, or better on one of the other islands. Again, just my personal opinion! If you're looking for a great hotel, plenty of those on any of the islands! If you're looking for great scenery, Kauai is more beautiful, and Big Island is more impressive. If you're looking for night life, can''t beat Waikiki. Etc. etc.

5. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1993 posts) 6y

I lived on Oahu many years ago, but I have been to all of the major islands. Kauai is indeed the most beautiful of the lot because it gets the most rain. Hawaii is not the cheapest place to go - I know nothing about hostels there, but would think that cheap housing would be hard to come by on any island except Oahu.

Wherever you go you'll want to rent a car. The Big Island is indeed very big, but almost all of the attractions are coastal except for the volcanoes. I recommend visiting at least 2 islands and it all depends on the time of year you travel. HI does get some pretty wild winter storms, and tropical showers just about every day depending on which side of an island you're on.

my favorites:
1 - Hana, Maui (east), Poipu Beach, Kauai and Hanalei, Kauai
2 - Kona, Big Island (west)
3 - Oahu (all areas except Waikiki) - N. Shore Oahu the best for surfing

my least favorites:
1 - West Maui
2 - Hilo, Big Island
3 - Waikiki Beach, Oahu

Honolulu. Oahu has the best Chinese food and the best shopping (Ala Moana Center) - traffic can be pretty bad at rush hours in the city.

6. Posted by bgl (Full Member 167 posts) 6y


Funny you'd say that (about Kona and Hilo). Just goes to show how we all (fortunately!) like different things. We love driving over to the Kona side for the day. It's very different and I feel like I'm on vacation, but coming back to the tropical lushness of the Hilo side at the end of the day is unbeatable.

Quick story. Neighbors of ours had a handyman over a couple of years ago, and they happened to mention they were heading over to Kona the next day. His reponse "oh, you're heading over to the too side!". They said "what do you mean, too side??". His reponse "too dry, too hot, too many tourists, too expensive!"

[ Edit: Edited on 05-Feb-2010, at 14:07 by bgl ]

7. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1993 posts) 6y

Bgl - I must admit that I haven't been to Hilo in many a moon - has it changed any? When I was there it had beautiful parks and all, but was just a little on the dull and quiet side. I know Hawaiians don't see things as tourists see them. Maybe in my old age I'd appreciate the quieter side of island life.

8. Posted by bgl (Full Member 167 posts) 6y

Well, I'm obviously not Hawaiian, but I have lived here since 1995. I had been to Hawaii many times prior to my first visit to Hilo and the Big Island, which was in 1990. We lived in the San Diego area at the time. The moment I stepped off the plane at Hilo Airport, my first thought was "this is home!" This is such a unique and welcoming place, and Hilo has a very distinct charm all of its own. But true, not everybody will like it (and a good thing is that!:). Even though it's certainly much busier now than it was 15 years ago, it's still a quiet little town compared to Honolulu and Waikiki for instance. If you're looking for nightlife, you're in the wrong place! If you're looking for a friendly laidback place where people will know you by name as soon as you step in to the bank or the post office or simply walk down an aisle in Safeway, this is it!

9. Posted by kleino83 (Budding Member 16 posts) 6y

Thanks for the comments everyone.

Think we'll def head to the Big Island, maybe try and see Maui or Kaui.

We wanted to head straight to the Cook Islands but have just realised that there are no direct flights there...

Anyway, can't wait to go to Hawaii!

10. Posted by C.Glynn (Budding Member 26 posts) 6y

Ditto the Big Island. I was there several years ago for a few weeks. One of the best vacations of my life.

My favorites, which coincide with some of the former posts:

Mauna Kea - I am a big astronomy buff, so this was a must for me. At the summit, at almost 14,000 feet, are the observatories. We were lucky enough to know someone at the KECK and rode up with him. It was the highlight of our trip. If you are not feeling adventurous enough to ride to the summit, there is an equally lovely visitors station about half way up. It is recommended to stop here for at least 30 minutes before going to the summit, to acclimate to the atmospheric conditions.

KÄ«lauea - very active when i was there - part of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Extraordinary.

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach Park

Kailua-Kona - I know you said you are backpacking... but if you care to splurge, this is the place to do it. "Kona Villiage" if you are NOT on a budget, its a great place to stay with "hales" dotted around so it feels as if you are in a Hawaiian Villiage. the food was AMAZING! I think you can go in for the luaus they offer as well, or snorkel there but I am not certain it was a while ago.

Whatever you do, I am sure you will have a great time. Aloha!