It's a fact: we love Hawaii.
I love it so much, actually, that my ranting about it to my friends often irritates them (sorry!). The only problem about loving Hawaii, however... is that there are four main islands to choose from.
How could you possibly pick? Each individual island has something to offer. We've narrowed it down to two favorites, Kauai and the Big Island, but going from there has proved to be as difficult as attempting to zip-line underwater. On top of that, one of my friends has recently asked me which island I would recommend for her family vacation. Clearly, this is quite a popular debate: everyone seems to want to defend the island they travel to, sometimes, without even having any knowledge of the other islands. I knew I just had to write a post comparing Kauai and the Big Island... and presto!
Best Tropical: Kauai
Fact: Mount Waialeale on Kauai is the second wettest place on earth - nearly seven hundred inches of rainfall being its highest ever recorded. This makes it pretty tough competition to the Big Island when it comes to the most tropical of islands. Kauai is known as the Garden Island and draws tourists in from all over the world because of its vibrant, lush, tropical rainforests. The Big Island, on the other hand, is the largest of all the Hawaiian Islands (shocker, from the name), and contains eleven of the thirteen climate zones - as many climate zones as there are from Alaska to Costa Rica. The wetter side of the island looks very much like Kauai, but when it comes to rainforest, there's no place like the Garden Island.
What do you think? Does Kauai have the best rainforest, or the Big Island?
Best Sunset: Big Island
Okay, come on. Is this even a debate? Kauai has beautiful sunsets, but the Big Island's are just incomparable. Many restaurants and resorts make the most of this and are located smack dab on the beach, making for a perfect evening.
What do you think? Does the Big Island have the best sunsets, or Kauai?
Best Surf: Kauai
Kauai is infamous for its incredible surf, some beaches even being the best in the world. Hanalei, the small surfing town where we usually stay, is especially good for learning to surf, as you can see above. The waves are the perfect size, but at the same time, aren't too intimidating. The perks of traveling to a place with good surf? There's inevitably going to be great boogie-boarding and body surfing waves, too. On the other hand, the Big Island has virtually no surf, unless you happen to travel there during winter. Even so, Kauai is the obvious choice for families looking for a more exhilarating ocean vacation.
What do you think? Does Kauai have the best surf, or the Big Island?
Best Snorkeling: Big Island
My parents have decided to let me pick any place in the world for a trip next year, and I eagerly set about researching places to go. There was a period in this "research" that I wanted to go to a place with amazing snorkeling. When we looked it up, to our utter amusement we discovered that the Mauna Lani Private Beach (a beach just minutes from the place we stay on the Big Island, pictured above) is the best when it comes to snorkeling.
We completely agree. From twenty feet out, there is a blanket of coral teeming with fish, pufferfish, sea turtles, eels, and everything in between. Whenever we come to the Big Island, we spend our entire time at this beach. There are a multitude of other beaches that have similar stories on the Big Island; Kauai, on the other hand, is just not the place to go for snorkeling.
What do you think? Does the Big Island have the best snorkeling, or Kauai?
Best Hiking: Kauai
Alongside its rainforest and surf appeal, Kauai offers an incredible array of hikes that just cannot be beat. Of all of them, Queen's Bath (shown above) and the Na Pali Coast are most famous, and I can't blame those who follow the hype. Hiking through the tropical rainforest? Count me in! The Big Island does have beautiful hikes as well, but when it comes down to which I'd whether choose, Kauai's hikes are the best.
What do you think? Does Kauai have the best hikes, or the Big Island?
Best Beaches: Big Island
When it really comes down to it, I prefer Big Island's many diverse beaches to Kauai's fewer ones. I do love Hanalei Bay, Hideaways Beach, Kē'ē Beach, Tunnels Beach, and Anini Beach on Kauai, but in my opinion, the Big Island offers a wider array of beaches for all families: playing in the water, boogie-boarding type beaches; snorkeling; black sand beaches; pristine, calm waters; everything. And trust me, the Big Island's beaches are not ones to miss.
What do you think? Does the Big Island have the best beaches, or Kauai?
Best Goats: Big Island
Wait, what? Best goats? What is this doing here? No, seriously: if you're in the mood to see some "lava goats" (as we've taken to calling them), the Big Island is the place to be.
Best (and only) Lighthouse: Kauai
Honestly - Kilauea Lighthouse on Kauai is insanely beautiful, and definitely not one to miss, especially when it comes to families. Even if the Big Island did have a lighthouse we've been to, I'm sure Kilauea Lighthouse would still beam through (get it? get it?).
Best Resorts: Big Island
This is kind of a no-brainer: the Big Island is home to the Four Seasons Hualalai, one of the best resorts in the world. Not only that, but it houses the Beach Tree restaurant (pictured above), which we find ourselves going to almost every other night. The sheer beauty of this resort is dizzying. Don't get me wrong, Kauai has spectacular resorts as well, but the Big Island is hard to beat when it comes to resorts. In fact, the Big Island built its very foundation off of its resorts - literally. Being the newest island, the dry side used to be a vast expanse of lava rock fields, until Laurance S. Rockefeller one day decided to build a resort, roads, and an airport there... and voila! The dry side of the Big Island burst to life.
What do you think? Does the Big Island have better resorts, or Kauai?
So... What do we think?
Above: I have a ton of pictures from the Big Island and Kauai, and when I was working on the outline for this post I had a lot of extra pictures that I couldn't figure out to incorporate into the post... and decided to put them in a slideshow, shown above.
Overall, you really can't go wrong with any of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai and the Big Island in particular. But when it comes down to it, our family slightly prefers the Big Island to Kauai, due only to the incredible, life-changing snorkeling. But if you like:
While if you like:
A little bit about us...
We're a family of four (a daughter, a son, and their mother and father.... oh, and a six-month old Standard Poodle puppy). But we all share one thing in common: our love of travel and adventure!
Hotel of the Month
Solage Calistoga: the image of perfection. We stayed here recently on our trip to Napa Valley and couldn't have been more amazed at this stunning resort. The rooms, each one an individual cottage, were immaculate and private. The property itself contained multiple pools and other amenities, all of which were designed beautifully. One of our favorite parts had to be the Michelin-star restaurant, which served some of the best food we'd ever eaten. Solage Calistoga was the perfect fit for our family (and dog!), and we are eager to stay there again.