Which islands for a Hawaii round trip?

The beauty and versatility of the islands makes Hawaii special, but at the same time it makes holiday planning more difficult. Which islands should be included in the selection? And how do you divide the islands in time?

I will try to help with the decision and planning, especially when it comes to a first visit to Hawaii!

Island hopping (also) for Flashpackers

If you are interested in Hawaii (and read our travelogues here) you will soon find out that you would have to do without a lot of things if you would choose only one of the islands as your holiday destination. In order to get an overview and to collect different impressions I would recommend – especially for a first visit – to visit several islands. For us as “Flashpackers with a preference for round trips” it was quickly clear that we would visit several islands – but which ones?

The four biggest islands, Hawaii (Big Island), Maui, Oahu and Kauai, are best suited for a first round trip with island hopping. However, you should not simply set the time allocation at 25% for each of the four islands, because the different size and individual interests require different lengths of stay per island.

The four largest islands

Oahu – with Honolulu

Most will also associate Hawaii with Honolulu, but hardly know the name “Oahu”. Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and is located on the island of Oahu, which is not the largest of the islands.

Oahu has by far the most inhabitants of the four big islands and also the most vacationers. In comparison to the other islands, especially opposite Big Island and Kauai, we experienced Oahu as quite “full”, which is partly due to the big city Honolulu.

Apropos, those who like big cities will definitely feel at home in Honolulu with the famous Waikiki Beach. Many tourists also want to visit Pearl Harbor. The north of Oahu is a little less “bustling”.

For those who love nature and like it a little quieter, sometimes more pristine, the other islands are more suitable. One could also say: Oahu is beautiful and has a lot to offer in terms of landscape, but nothing one finds here one would not be able to find on one of the other islands in the same way – or even more beautiful.


The southwest of Maui is also quite touristic, but not comparable with Waikiki or even the “Ballermann” on Mallorca.

There are very beautiful beaches as well as the famous Road to Hana and the 3000 m high Haleakala volcano, which is suitable as a destination for great sunrises.

We wouldn’t call Maui our favourite island, but we wouldn’t have wanted to do without Maui during our first visit!

Hawaii Big Island

Hawaii is by far the largest island of the archipelago and is often called “Big Island”, so that there is no confusion with the name “Hawaii” in the broader sense (referring to the whole archipelago or the state of Hawaii). In fact, Big Island is even bigger than all the other islands put together!

In the west of the island it is dry, there are many beautiful beaches and partly also touristic infrastructure, e.g. with the small town Kona or the hotel resorts in the northwest.

The east is more humid and offers much green rainforest and less tourists. The center of the island is dominated by the high volcanoes Mauna Kea (the highest mountain in Hawaii) and Mauna Loa. And in the southeast there is the Kilauea volcano with decades of continuous activity, which can be admired in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Kauai – the garden island

Kauai belongs to the older islands and has no active volcanism or large lava fields to offer, but a lot of greenery – it is also called “Garden Island”.

Kauai has both great beaches and beautiful scenery – it is not for nothing that many films have been made here. Waimea Canyon is impressive and Kokee State Park is a great place for hiking. The infrastructure is less touristic and we had the feeling that Kauai has the “Aloha feeling” and the “Hang Loose mentality”.

Our personal island selection

You may have already read from the overview of the islands that Kauai and Big Island were our favourite islands, because we feel that they convey the most original “Hawaii feeling” and, of course, because there is so much to discover there.

We only visited Oahu for a short time, but were also confirmed in our opinion that it was simply too “full” and in a certain way also too little Hawaiian for us there. But we are also not necessarily the big city fans, apart from a few exceptions.

The temporal distribution of the islands

Due to its size, Big Island also takes the most time to explore both the west and east of the island and the volcano.

At Oahu, however, we would recommend a rather short visit so that there is enough time for the other (and in our opinion more beautiful) islands.

The time needed on Kauai depends very much on whether you like hiking (and want enough time for it) or not.

For Maui you need less time, especially when it comes to the Road to Hana, a visit to Haleakala and a few beaches.

However, it should be clear that every island has enough to offer to spend a complete holiday only on this one island! That means it is important to set priorities and think about what you like best.

Accordingly, the following suggestions are only to be understood as clues, which can and should be adapted according to your personal preferences!

3 weeks Hawaii:

With 3 or even 3.5 weeks you should visit all four islands, e.g. in this way:

3 Days Oahu
5 days Maui
7-8 days Big Island
6-7 days Kauai

Two weeks in Hawaii:

If you only have 2 or 2.5 weeks available, it could be a bit stressful if you take all four islands into your program. My suggestion: Decide for 2-3 of the islands!

4 days Maui
7 Days Big Island
5 days Kauai


2 days Oahu
5 days Maui
7 days Kauai

1 week Hawaii:

I don’t think anyone will fly from Europe to Hawaii exclusively for just one week and I’m against plans to include Hawaii as a “side trip” in addition to a USA vacation, see below. But if you really have so little time, you should limit yourself to 1-2 islands.

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