I visited three islands for my Honeymoon in 2014: The Big Island, Kauai and Oahu. I just came back from a Christmas vacation in Maui so I can say that I have a good knowledge of Hawaii.
BIG ISLAND – The Explorer’s Paradise
The Big Island is the explorer’s paradise because there are countless unique landscapes to discover. Number one must do is the Kilauea Iki Trail in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It doesn’t happen every day to walk on sedimented lava of million years. My advice is to go in the afternoon because you have to wait for the dark to see the caldera of the volcano Kilauea glowing in the night sky. It takes a couple of hours to do the trail (you will be tired) then you can visit the museum waiting for sunset.
Number two is stargazing , there are free telescopes that you can use and volunteers astronomers available. I saw Saturn and Jupiter with the moons. Just remember to bring a heavy sweater if you plan to go up there.
Best non touristy place to eat is a small restaurant located in the north of the island, Bamboo in Hawi. Also don’t forget to watch the sunset sipping a delicious cocktail at Lava Lava Beach Club.
KAUAI – The Hippie’s Island
Kauai is the hippie’s island. Farms and a self sustaining lifestyle rule the island pace. The must see is the Na’Pali Coast State Park. If you are a beginner hiker (I am) you can reach Hanakāpīʻai Beach in 2 hours. Some parts of the hike are rocky and slippery but overall it’s not so hard and it’s totally worth it.
Hanalei s the best place to stay if you like a more local atmosphere, Bouchons Hanalei is a great place to eat. The chef is amazing but the service is slow so my advice is to get a cocktail while waiting (the wait is worth it and drinks are good).
OAHU – The Asian American Cocktail
I stayed in Oahu just for a couple of days so I didn’t have much time to explore. I noticed that there are more Japanese tourists compared to the other islands so it felt more exotic in terms of culture. Waikiki Beach is touristy but the crystal clear water is inviting. Also, the cocktails at the Royal Hawaiian are to die for.
MAUI – The American Gateway
Maui felt really American and more fancy compared to the other islands. I stayed in Kihei and loved Makena Beach. If you want to feed your explorer spirit you have to take one day to visit the upcountry. It offers a stunning landscape away from tourists. Stop for lunch at Kula Bistro to taste delicious fresh local dishes. Last but not least Iao Valley will take you to a sacred world made of mysterious mist and lush green.