Hawaii | which island to visit?

A common question from first time travelers to Hawaii — which island to visit? Each is actually quite unique and offers a different vacation experience. Here's a brief rundown on your five island choices.

Oahu is the most populous island in the chain. Many travelers fly into Honolulu because of the wide choice of non-stop flights from many international and U.S. cities (including the major east coast hubs of Newark and Atlanta). Many visitors make a point to visit Pearl Harbor, and Waikiki Beach is a world-famous beach. Waikiki doesn't really appeal to me, but if you love the bustle and excitement of crowds, lots of shopping, an ABC store on every corner, and some very inexpensive hotel rooms, Honolulu could be a good choice. If Oahu is in your plans, my recommendation is the Kahala Resort, about 15 minutes from Waikiki with a beautiful, secluded beach (and a good spot for celebrity watching).

Maui is the other major tourist destination in Hawaii. It has become so popular, unfortunately, that its single two-lane road is often crowded and slow. Maui has great beaches and great golf, but I fear that it's a victim of its own popularity: lots of condos and strip malls have been built over the years. Maui is the home to the original Four Seasons Resort, the FS Maui at Wailea, and there is a large and beautiful Ritz-Carlton in the Napili area of Maui.

Kauai is a great spot for active adventurers. Small enough to get anyplace in a few hours, you can fully explore Kauai in a one-week visit. Pictured here is Waimea Canyon, the so-called "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." Located in the warm and dry southwest corner of Kauai, this is a spectacular area for hiking. You will also enjoy hiking the Napili Coast (wear shoes you won't mind walking through the mud in ... as this island is a veritable rainforest). You can also see the spectacular scenery from a helicopter or dinner cruise. The newly remodeled St. Regis Princeville Resort on the north coast is a beautiful and luxurious property - a good spot for summer visitors. In the winter, stay on Poipu Beach for the better weather (where the Grand Hyatt is a good choice).

You might guess that the Big Island (Hawaii) is the largest island in the Hawaiian chain. With a still-active volcano creating a lava stream that flows to the sea, the Big Island offers the greatest variety of natural wonders. The first time I flew into Kona and drove north towards my hotel, I was struck by the lunar landscape left behind by the lava flows that formed the island. Not to worry, all of the resorts are very green and lush with beautiful beaches and championship golf courses. While the Kona side of the island is the most dependable for warm, dry weather, the Hilo side of the island is a veritable rain forest - very beautiful in its own way. Four Seasons Hualalai, a short drive from Kona, is perhaps the most idyllic resort in Hawaii.

Lanai is the smallest and quietest of the five major tourist islands, and it provides a sense of what Hawaii used to be before it was developed for tourism. With no large cities and not a single traffic light, this is a place to go and relax. Four Seasons Manele Bay sits beside one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever walked on, and there's good snorkeling right off shore. Four Seasons Lodge at Koele is 1500 feet above sea level and offers the atmosphere of a Hawaiian pineapple plantation. Both are really beautiful properties and among the best luxury resort values anywhere in the world.

I can provide exclusive amenities at all of the resorts mentioned in this article, including complimentary daily breakfast for two, room upgrades when available at check-in, and extra value-added amenities. These are available just by booking through a Virtuoso and Four Seasons Preferred Partner travel consultant.

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copyright (c) 2010 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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