Me and my boyfriend are going for 2-5 weeks in July. What island do you prefer, Kauai or Oahu? Why, and where is the best place to stay?
What websites are best to find good hotels/apartments and flights?
If you gave me those two choices I would take Kauai all day every day and twice on sundays without blinking second guessing or doubting my choice for one second. (I don't think i can fit anymore cliches in there). My reason is that I think the north shore of Kauai is one of the most beautiful places on earth. There is plenty of hiking and water sports to keep you physically challenged and busy. And plenty of time to chill.
The north and south sides of Kauai couldn't be more different. The north is wet and tropical and the south is much drier. If you don't mind some an occasional shower, you'll get to see some waterfalls leaking down the mountains and plenty of rainbows... here's one I took in late November from Hanalei Bay So if you don't mind something a little more tropical this side of the island is just magical imo.
I've only been to Honolulu and not seen the north side of Oahu which is supposed to be nice as well, but not nearly as breathtaking at north shore of Kauai. Waikiki was a big disappointment for me and tbh so was most of Honolulu because it's a city and not what you think of when you're going to Hawaii. If you're looking for a city, then it's probably a good choice, but why would you want to be in a city on an island?
So I would check with airbnb and vrbo for a place to stay in Hanalei Bay. Ideally you'll want to be able to walk to town and the beach. If you stay in Princeville it's just up the hill from Hanalei and still has great views. Depending on how long you're going to be there, you could do a few days on the north shore and a few days on the south side to get a feel for the whole place.
It says you're going for multiple weeks (must be nice :)) so you'll have time to see both islands. They are relatively small and a week on each you'd be able to see most of each one.
This is a tough one, almost like asking which Smithsonian Museum you could visit if you had time to only do one...or in your case, which Smithsonian would you stay in for 2-5 weeks. Each island is different, but if you are active people, there could be too much of a good thing if you are on one island for a full 5 weeks. Oahu and Kauai both have their good points and drawbacks, and of course you can drive around both islands in a day...and I would suggest doing so.
Kauai is very laid back and has beautiful spots. If you can, do a helicopter ride early in your stay and let it serve as a general overview/orientation of the island (and this is the only way to truly be impressed with Waimea Canyon State Park.) Then explore. Na'Pali Coast State Park is beautiful and should be hiked if possible, and also viewed from the sea during sunset (we did Captain Andy's). There are many eco-tours, including ziplines and a innertube tour through a wonderful old sugar plantation watering canal (Kauai Backcountry Adventures). There are plantation tours with train rides, etc...and wonderful beaches. The north and east of the island are much wetter than the southern side, and Kauai is well-known as the wettest/rainiest place on earth...and the most free-range roosters per capita (yes, that's a warning as well...no need for alarms on the island!)
Oahu on the other hand has the islands really only "big city" in Honolulu, with iconic Waikiki and Diamond Head State Monument as a backdrop. There are typical touristy things to engage in, but if you are staying longer and are active, there are more things to do. Climb Diamondhead for great views, or better yet Koko Head. Snorkle in Hanauma Bay (get there early), drive to the North Shore and complete the circle. Like all the islands, this one too has a wet and a dry side (go west towards Ko Olina Beach Park for the dry and then north past Turtle Bay Resort for the wet.) One of my favorite spots on Oahu is the Northeast and East side of the Island...especially near Hauula and Ahupua'a O Kahana State Park. The terrain is fascinating and just beautiful! Kāne‘ohe Bay is worth exploring, from kayaking to more snorkeling.
I've been to both and would go back...but as someone else I think mentioned, the The Big Island is quickly becoming my favorite of the chain...but then again, roasting marshmallows over an active lava flow after a 4 mile hike through tropical jungle (epic lava tours) the day after visiting an active cattle ranch (Parker Ranch) does leave an impression.
In truth, wherever you choose, you will have a great time!
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Kauai hands down. The Na'Pali Coast State Park and coastline is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Take a catamaran cruise along the coast. We stayed in a time share, no knowledge of other places.
Oahu has the North Shore and really big waves; Honolulu is just a city. Pearl Harbor, if you're a history buff but the lines are long to go see the sunken battleship memorial. You can pay your respect from the park there with no hassle.
You could do both and make your own choice.
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I would agree with the consensus here, to the point that if you are just going to two islands, skip Oahu. The big Island has the active volcano, been flowing since the late 70's, something you don't see every day. And it has the Manta Ray dives, from Kona, that I've written about before, a true bucket list number 1 experience. And Kauai, would be my second choice, ahead of Maui. The north shores of these island are pretty dangerous for swimming in the winter, so if you want to get some swimming in, aim for the south shores. (Like Honolulu, yeah, I know..) Hanuma bay was the first place I ever snorkeled and I thought is was spectacular until I went anywhere else. Now, I wouldn't go back. Almost anyplace in Hawaii is better. If you go on a Na'Pali Coast State Park boat tour from Port Allen Small Boat Harbor, you'll get an opportunity for some primo snorkeling in addition to the best vantage point for the spectacular scenery. Pick a day with good weather and calm seas, watch the reports and forecasts.
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If you want a more traditional Hawaii feel, then you have to do Kauai. It still retains some version of what we all sort of see in our minds-eye that Hawaii is. Fabulous, low-key dining. Gorgeous setting-both waves and lush, green mountains/canyons. We stayed in Kapaa. Lots of fun things to do around and you are half way to the north shore and half way to the canyon. Lots of locals are here too, so you feel like you are in the place, rather than just visiting a tourist area.
Since you are staying for awhile, I would go to BOTH Kauai and Oahu - they are COMPLETELY different. Oahu is crowded and touristy, BUT it has great beaches and great surf all around the island. Kauai is more laid back, less touristy and stunningly beautiful, especially from Hanalei to the end of the road. Kauai has surfing and GREAT beaches, you just have to look more carefully to find everything. If you hike, the trailhead at the end of the road at Ke'e Beach leads to one of the most dramatic coastal cliff walks you will EVER take and the first big beach cove (abt 3 miles) is a great picnic walk-in/walk-out.
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Both are great and with such a long trip, you should visit both -- maybe a week on each island. If you're going for longer than two weeks, then highly recommend visiting the Big Island as well.
My favorite island is O'ahu -- by far the best food (the Japanese food is outstanding to cater to all the Japanese tourists), lots of shops and nightlife. Hanauma Bay, though crazily full or tourists, has the best snorkeling in all the islands (you need to swim out to where the reef breaks instead of staying near shore). You can hike Diamond Head State Monument, spend a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, catch the big wave surfing on North Shore, visit the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, visit Pearl Harbor, rent scooters and putt-putt around, go flume-riding and zip-lining, etc etc! Definitely can stay at least a week if you can, there's so much to do. Waikiki Beach is one of the best places to learn to surf -- it's nice and calm there, and the beach is so wide and long. Avoid the high season (summer, Christmas) though since it gets super crowded, but in low season it's beautiful.
Kaua'i is much more laid-back and relaxed. The "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" is a must-see, and the island has lovely hiking trails throughout. Highly recommend a doors-off helicopter tour of the island.
The Big Island is the largest and most unique of the islands -- a visit to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is a must-do, and snorkeling/diving with Manta Rays (just off Kona airport) was one of the highlights of my life! We spent 9 days there which wasn't enough. Take a helicopter and/or boat ride to see the flowing lava, drive up to see the observatories on top of Mauna Kea (the highest mountain in the world but measured from the ocean floor), go horse-back riding in Waimea Valley, explore the ancient Hawaiian temples along the Kohala Coast and at Pu'uhonua O Honaunau Park, hike amongst the waterfalls and explore tropical gardens along the Hamauka Heritage Corridor. It's really magical, and make sure to stay on both the Hilo (wet) side as well as the Kona (dry) sides!
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As an American the thought of a 5 week vacation is mind boggling. So jealous! These two islands are as different as it gets among the Hawaiian islands. I spent a great deal of time in Kaua'i this summer and I would say that it's possible you could feel what they call "island fever" because of the lack of variety of restaurants and other retail services there. It's far more beautiful than Oahu, IMO, but it's tiny. Honolulu in Oahu is the state capital and has over 500,000 people so it has a huge variety of restaurants and nightlife, and a famous shopping district. You might also consider the island of Maui, which is more of a hybrid of the those two islands and has a little of both. But, if had to choose between Kauai and Oahu, I would choose Kauai.
Ditto to the raves on Kauai - it is so great that I moved here about a month ago! Best weather in the winter and most of year is here in the sunny south Poipu area. Lots of price ranges for accommodations, just depends on your budget...let me know if you want more specifics. :)
As someone who has been to both, its really simple. Kauai is a beautiful tropical island that is probably the least developed of the 4 islands people typically visit. You will get a true island experience. Oahu is an island with a metropolitan city on it, and there's some nice beaches in the north shore, but to me, it doesn't feel like i'm on a tropical island paradise. However, since you are spending 2-5 weeks!!, why not visit both, and throw Maui in for kicks?