If You Could Visit One Island in Hawaii, What Should It Be?

Hawaii, a paradise nestled in the Pacific Ocean, is a mosaic of eight significant islands, each radiating its unique charm. However, if the dilemma of choice forces you to pick just one, the 'Valley Isle'—Maui, convincingly wins the debate. More than any other, Maui provides a wholesome taste of the Hawaiian allure. This comprehensive guide details why Maui trumps its counterparts.

A Comprehensive Overview of the Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian Islands, a magnificent collage of landscapes and attractions, range from the urban dynamism of Honolulu on Oahu to the undisturbed tranquility of Molokai and Lanai. Yet, Maui, the second-largest island, skillfully integrates the best aspects of its siblings into a singular, diversified paradise.

The All-Rounder: Maui’s Unique Allure

Standing out from the crowd, Maui delicately balances the lively energy of Oahu and the unspoiled beauty of Molokai. Its diverse tapestry includes golden beaches like Ka'anapali, mystical black sand shores at Wai'anapanapa State Park, verdant mountains like the West Maui Mountains, pulsating towns like Lahaina, and an exuberant display of traditional Hawaiian culture. This multifaceted appeal sets Maui apart.

Getting There and Around: Maui’s Accessibility Advantage

While all the Hawaiian islands have inter-island flights, Maui's Kahului Airport, the busiest on the island, accommodates both inter-island and direct international flights. This ease of access extends to navigating the island as well. Maui’s robust transport infrastructure—featuring car rentals, efficient public buses, taxis, and organized tours—offers mobility options that surpass those on less developed islands like Lanai or Molokai.

The Road to Hana: A Journey through Maui’s Natural Splendor

The Road To Maui

Each Hawaiian island is a spectacle of natural beauty, but Maui's scenic diversity is unrivaled. The famed Road to Hana encapsulates this diversity in a single drive. With over 600 curves and 59 bridges, this winding path along Maui's eastern coastline is a sensory feast. It trumps similar drives, such as Oahu's North Shore, by supplementing stunning coastal views with rainforest canopies, cascading waterfalls like the Upper Waikani Falls, and exotic attractions such as the Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe'o.

Haleakala National Park: The Giant that Sleeps

All Hawaiian islands offer exceptional parks, but the Haleakala National Park on Maui stands a cut above the rest. Home to the world's largest dormant volcano, Haleakala, the park presents a sunrise viewing experience that's accessible and less crowded than popular spots like Diamond Head on Oahu. With its rugged landscapes, lush bamboo forests, and rare silversword plants, it exemplifies Maui's natural diversity.

For additional read see our article about: Hawaii's National Parks.

Stepping Back in Time: Lahaina Historic District

While Oahu's Honolulu interweaves modern cityscapes with historical landmarks like the Iolani Palace and Pearl Harbor, Maui's Lahaina Historic District immerses you in a comprehensive historical journey. This former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii houses historical landmarks such as the U.S. Seamen's Hospital and Hale Pa'ahao (Lahaina Prison), along with Front Street, named one of America's "Top Ten Greatest Streets."

A Culinary Paradise: Maui’s Gourmet Delights

The gastronomic landscape of Hawaii is diverse across its islands, but Maui leads the culinary race. Maui’s food scene, from lavish fine dining establishments to diverse food truck offerings, is unmatched in variety and quality.
For instance, Mama's Fish House in Paia offers a combination of the freshest seafood, strong ties to local fishermen, and an authentic Polynesian atmosphere, making it a prime choice for gourmet cuisine on the island. 
On the other end of the spectrum, the food trucks in Kihei, like Geste Shrimp Truck, offer delicious local grinds at reasonable prices. Maui also boasts several farm-to-table dining experiences, such as The Mill House at the Maui Tropical Plantation, which is a clear testament to Maui’s advanced culinary landscape. This commitment to diverse, quality dining sets Maui apart from other Hawaiian islands, which might not have the same breadth or depth of foodie experiences.

Maui's Unforgettable Aquatic Adventures

Maui's marine opportunities are unparalleled. Every Hawaiian island offers snorkeling and diving, but Maui's Molokini Crater is a league of its own. This crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater is home to a vibrant reef teeming with marine life. Divers and snorkelers get to experience clear waters with visibility often exceeding 150 feet—something not possible at beach dives on Kauai or Oahu.

Maui's Beaches: Not Just a Pretty Face

Maui Beach

While all Hawaiian islands boast stunning beaches, Maui has a unique combination that’s hard to beat. With over 30 miles of swimmable beaches, including the gold sands of Ka'anapali, the red sands of Kaihalulu Beach, and the black sand beach at Wai'anapanapa State Park, Maui offers a variety of beach experiences unmatched by other islands like Kauai or Big Island.

Adrenaline Rush: Maui’s Adventure Sports

Adventure lovers will find Maui particularly appealing. Although surfing is excellent throughout the Hawaiian Islands, Maui's Ho'okipa Beach is globally renowned for wind-surfing, something not offered on other islands. For an adrenaline-filled day on land, visitors can take a bike ride down the slopes of Haleakala or go ziplining through the West Maui Mountains, activities that are unique to Maui.

Celebrating Maui’s Vibrant Culture

Maui's cultural richness is a reflection of the island’s diverse past. It manifests through various festivals, such as the Lei Day Celebration and the Maui Film Festival, which are not commonly found on other islands. Also, the Old Lahaina Luau offers an authentic Hawaiian Luau experience, featuring traditional Hawaiian food, music festivals, and hula dancing - providing a cultural experience that is more traditional and less commercial than similar offerings on other islands like Oahu.

Shopping on Maui: Beyond the Ordinary

When it comes to shopping, Maui offers a unique mix of local boutiques and markets that surpass Oahu's more commercialized shopping scene. Paia, Makawao, and Lahaina are treasure troves of local boutiques selling handmade jewelry, local art, and unique island apparel. The Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina offers locally made crafts and products that showcase Maui's rich cultural heritage, offering shoppers a different experience from the high-end brand shopping found in Waikiki on Oahu.
In conclusion, every Hawaiian island has its charms, but Maui consistently shines in offering a balanced, comprehensive Hawaiian experience. Its diverse natural beauty, rich history, unique culinary offerings, and a myriad of activities make it a top choice if you can visit just one island in Hawaii. From the moment you land at Kahului Airport to your last sunset on Ka'anapali Beach, Maui promises a truly unforgettable island experience.

For farther read about this topic - see our comperhensive article: Shopping in Hawaii.

Maui’s Scenic Golf Courses: A Hole in One

If golf is your game, Maui raises the stakes. While there are notable golf courses on every Hawaiian island, like Oahu’s Ko Olina, Maui’s courses often come with a stunning ocean backdrop. The island boasts several world-class courses, such as the Kapalua Plantation Course, host to the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, and Wailea Golf Club's Gold, Emerald, and Blue courses, each offering different levels of challenge and spectacular Pacific views. It’s a golfing experience that rivals its peers on any other island.

Nightlife in Maui: Vibrant yet Charming

Maui's nightlife might not be as bustling as Waikiki's on Oahu, but what it lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality and charm. In Maui, nightlife doesn't just mean clubs and bars, although there are plenty of those in places like Lahaina and Kihei, like the Fleetwood's on Front St. and Monkeypod Kitchen. Maui's nightlife also includes star gazing tours to Haleakala Summit, 'Ulalena—a high-energy performance portraying the rich cultural history of the islands, and the mesmerizing sunset torch lighting and cliff diving ceremony at Kaanapali Beach.

Sustainable Tourism: Maui's Commitment to the Future

Maui Sustainability

More than any other Hawaiian island, Maui has been proactive in promoting sustainable tourism, recognizing the need to protect its precious natural and cultural resources. Efforts include guidelines for interacting with wildlife, sustainable dining and shopping options, and eco-friendly accommodations like the LEED-certified Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. This commitment to sustainability offers a chance to travel responsibly and ensures the preservation of Hawaii's beauty for future generations.

Year-Round Events: Celebrating Maui's Spirit

While each Hawaiian island has its festivities, Maui's calendar is uniquely packed throughout the year. Festivals like the Maui Film Festival, Celebration of the Arts, and the Maui Whale Festival offer culturally enriching experiences that you may not find on other islands. Foodies can enjoy the Maui Onion Festival or the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival, while sports enthusiasts can engage with events like the Maui Jim Maui Invitational Basketball Tournament or the XTERRA World Championship. These distinctive events provide an additional layer of immersion into the island's vibrant culture.

Accommodations for All: Diversity in Maui's Stays

While every Hawaiian island offers a range of accommodations, Maui provides a particularly diverse range to suit any budget or preference. From luxury resorts like the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, unique accommodations such as the treehouses in Hana, to affordable yet comfortable condos in Kihei, Maui's offerings are as diverse as the island itself.


To sum it up, Maui truly is the jewel of Hawaii. Its unique blend of nature, culture, history, cuisine, and adventure create an unmatched Hawaiian experience. If you have to choose just one island for your Hawaiian getaway, Maui offers the most holistic representation of the Aloha spirit. Whether you're watching the sunrise atop Haleakala, traversing the Road to Hana, savoring a farm-to-table meal in Upcountry, or simply relaxing on a beach in Wailea, you'll find that Maui’s enchantment lies in its ability to offer something extraordinary for everyone.