Hawai'i ~ a state in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A lot of images come to mind when you think of Hawai'i. Rainbows, beaches, palm trees, hula dancing, surfing... One thing that's obvious is that Hawai'i, the 50th state of the USA is a group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. About 2500 miles west of California to be more clear. When people say "Hawaii" they are referring both to the state and also the biggest of the group of eight major islands: Kauai, O'ahu, Moloka'i, Maui, Lanai and the "Big Island" of Hawai'i. The islands of Ni'ihau and Kaho'olawe are part of the eight major islands but don't see visitors as Ni'ihau is privately owned and Kaho'olawe was destroyed by the military. The Hawaiian islands are actually the exposed peaks of an underwater mountain range that creates a chain of a total 137 islands that extends northwest to Midway island.
People really only normally visit the six major Hawaiian islands: Kauai, O'ahu, Moloka'i, Maui, Lanai and the Big Island of Hawai'i. Each of the Hawaiian islands has a very unique character and are very different from each other. In no particular order... Kauai- the Garden Island, like it's nickname suggests is known for being the most lush as it is the oldest of the major islands and so it seems has had the longest to develop it's natural beauty. People love Kauai because of the unspoiled nature and for being relatively undeveloped. Kauai has been in the news more recently as the particular beauty of this island is attracting more rich and famous immigrants.
The Big Island of Hawai'i is the youngest of the islands and is still growing with a very active volcano oozing lava everyday. The Big Island is huge compared to the other islands and with a relatively small population is the place to get away from people. The island has two main towns on opposite ends of the island, Hilo on the east coast and Kona on the west coast. Being as large as it is, the Big Island is the most climatically diverse, with the typical windward/ leeward climate pattern but also with the highest mountain peaks actually sometimes receiving snowfall.
O'ahu- the Gathering Place, like it's nickname suggests is the most populated with the Capitol and largest city, Honolulu. If you like people and city life, O'ahu is your island. O'ahu has more than that though, with some of the most beautiful and iconic natural beauty of its own. Lots of beautiful and famous beaches, hikes through nature and historical sites, Oahu has the most to offer tourists if you've never been to Hawaii and had to pick just one island to visit. People love O'ahu because the island has everything in terms of civilization, nature, history and culture. Oh and jobs! Oahu is the economic engine of the state and where a lot of people find employment, especially with the government (state and federal)- the biggest employer in Hawaii.
Maui- the Valley Island earned its nickname because the island is formed from two dormant volcanoes separated by a valley in between. Maui, (the town of Lahaina) used to to be the Capitol of the Kingdom of Hawaii until 1845 and now the island is like a low key version of Oahu, with some civilization and a lot of natural beauty and history. Maui has a little bit of everything with luxurious resorts, beautiful beaches and hiking trails and all types of marine activities operating out of the very active Lahaina harbor. Humpback whales make their annual migration to Hawaii in the winter months and Lahaina is the best place to hop on a boat to see them.
Moloka'i - the Friendly Island, across the Kaiwi Channel from O'ahu, is the exact opposite of O'ahu. One of the least populated but with the highest percentage of native Hawaiians, Moloka'i stands strong against development. When visitors come to Moloka'i they are amazed that a place like this exists in Hawai'i, where you can walk through the main town of Kaunakakai in just a few minutes and every resident of the island knows each other. The historic Kalaupapa Peninsula is what Moloka'i is most famous for but the natural beauty, an embrace of local culture and a slow pace of life is what defines the island.
Lanai - the Pineapple island is a mostly privately owned island that used to be a big pineapple plantation until the early 1990s when it became unprofitable. The small island has been owned and sold between the titans of business throughout the years and is now 98% owned by Larry Ellison who has in recent years invested mostly into turning the island into a resort for the ultra wealthy. Since public beach access is a state law in Hawaii, visitors can still visit and enjoy the beautiful Hulopoe Beach at Manele Bay without checking into the resort.
Whichever island you choose to visit in Hawai'i, they all share some important traits: natural beauty, interesting history, rich culture and rainbows! Oh and lots of sunshine here, so don't forget your sunglasses!