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  • Writer's pictureCarol McKee


The Islands of Hawaii

What makes a place a paradise on earth?

Lush vegetation, beautiful clear blue water, friendly people and a laid back lifestyle all contribute to making the Hawaiian islands a place you visit and never want to leave. While you might not fine the fountain of youth there it comes close.

Hawaiians live longer and are less stressed and happier than any residents of other states. The average life expectance is 81.2 year vs. 75.6 year stateside. Hawaii has been at the very top of the Gallup well being poll for several years.

The wilder side of Oahu

What makes people here so happy and gives them long life?

You may have hear the expression "Hawaiian Time". That is the go slow relaxed lifestyle that gives Hawaiians a big health advantage. When asked if they are stressed out on a daily basis less than one third of the state's residents said yes.

Time with friends and family and taking the a break to have a laugh or a story is also a key to the happiness of those lucky residents of the islands.

Hawaii also has a truly deep sense of community spirit. This not only brings a lot of support but also a lot of joy into their lives.

Whale watching in the waters of Maui

So how do you tap into that?

Visiting Hawaii is a good start. While Hawaii is a chain of 137 islands there are seven that are inhabited and five islands that most people visit. So let's talk about those islands.

When planning your visit you need to consider that each of the four major islands has it's own vibe. Here is a little of what to expect at each to help you decide what makes the most sense to you for planning a trip to Hawaii. Here in order of most visited to least visited islands are a few insights to help you decide what is best for you.

The view from our hotel balcony in Honolulu


Most people fly into Honolulu airport the largest in the island chain and home to the capital of the state and the largest city in the islands.

Honolulu offers a lot of the things you expect out of a bigger city: Shopping, nightlife, a range of hotels from mid range to luxury can be found in the city. But be for warned Hawaii is not a budget friendly destination. Still there are lots of great restaurants and bars to keep you fed and happy while you are there. It also has a beach although in recent years Waikiki beach has been eroding due to tropical storms.

Just outside of the city is the dormant volcano of Diamond Head that you can hike - but start early before the heat of the day. You are rewarded at the top with a view of the city and much of the island that makes the climb worth your while.

Oahu also has a completely different vibe on it's surfer strewn north shore. Food trucks offering lots of delights including fresh shrimp's and other island specialties keep the surfers and you fed while you enjoy the beautiful beaches and surf of the area.

Sunset from atop Haleakala as beautiful as sunrise and less crowded


Maui has it all. And this is why you could go to Maui and spend your whole trip there and be happy you did. There is lots to do here.

Dormant Volcano Haleakala is spectacular at sunrise or sunset. Beaches that are great for all kids of water sports - swimming, windsurfing, snorkeling or diving is you like to play in the water you can do it best on Maui.

Whale watching, especially in the winter months, is best done from here and you can see dozens of whales a day if your timing is right.

Maui also has great hotels with the highest concentration of four and five star luxury properties and wonderful restaurants. And of course if you like to live on the edge you can drive the road to Hana or the equally frightening road to Lahaina. While both are a white knuckle experience you will find less tourists on the later and run into more locals on your way (hopefully not literally though!)

Cliffs on the Big Island created with the eruption in 2018

The Big Island

Hawaii Island (aka The Big Island ) The youngest island in the chain and the largest the Big Island as it's called is diverse and awe inspiring. While has two main centers of population, Hilo and Kona, that is not what you will likely remember most about the island if you visit.

Volcanoes National Park was the most memorable site for me. To be able to see a site with an active volcano (which erupted again just recently beginning on December 20, 2020 and continuing as of this writing. Seeing this park was impressive in a way that is a bit hard to describe. The power of a lava flow to both scorch the earth but also create new land is pretty easy to see here.

There is so much to see that you could easily spend more that a day exploring this park. The park service has a fun page with current status and web cams of the volcanos if you want to

Kona has a small town beach vibe and of course the famous Kona coffee comes from here. There is also a huge macadamia nut farm on the island that you can visit.

Beaches however are not really a thing here as they are on Maui. While there are some swimmable beaches here the surf is rougher and the number of beaches you can visit much smaller than you might think. There are some nice hotel properties on the Big Island but not as many as you might expect.


I have to confess that Kauai is my favorite island. The island is visited much less frequently than the others I have mentioned. And it has a much smaller population than the other islands too. Kauai is a little gem that feels like it's your secret to keep. More than half the island can not be reached by car. Kauai is home to the famous NaPali Coast with it's rippling mountains that drop straight down to the sea.

The view from the helicopter of the stunning NaPali Coast

Find a way to take a helicopter ride to see those and the dozens of waterfalls that dot the islands. Truly heave on earth. We absolutely loved that ride and it was the highlight of our whole trip. Looking back on it that was the perfect way to end our visit to the islands. That last day on Kauai was the best day of all.

One of the many waterfalls on Kauai

Lanai & Molokai - Okay I grouped these two together because they are the least visited islands and that is for good reason.

Lanai is where movie stars go to stay at expensive hotels and avoid the paparazzi's. If you have a movie star budget you can do the same but know when you get there that there is not much else to do besides laze around your resort. It's rural and isolated and few people go there. Oh but if you love pineapples you will find lots of them growing here!

Molokai is the famous former lepers' colony island. While there are not hotels to speak of on the island it does make for an interesting day trip where you might ride a donkey to down the steep cliffs to visit the site.

Steve and me at Volcanos National Park

Ready to take in some Hawaiian time for yourself? You can rent a villa, stay at a resort or even take a cruise and sample the four major islands. There are lots of ways to visit Hawaii but just like a macadamia nut you probably won't want to do just one but rather dip into the islands again and again. I would love to help you plan a trip to this paradise on earth. You can contact me to here more **

Travel Debrief: Know Before You Go to Hawaii

Anyone who is actively considering travel to Hawaii needs to bookmark this site

to obtain the most recent COVID protocols, island by island.

The state of Hawaii is made up of counties just like others, however in this case, each county (basically each island is its own county with Lanai and Molokai falling under Maui County) has been allowed to create its own COVID requirements and it has become a huge cluster for inbound and interisland travelers.

There is legislation being considered in Honolulu currently that would require all islands/counties to abide by the same laws and protocols concerning COVID. Hopefully it will pass so this can all get simplified, but it is VITAL as an travel advisor that you stay up to date.

Better yet use a travel advisor! I work hard to stay on top of the latest requirements so you don't have to. If you are considering travel to Hawaii please drop me a line at:

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