Maui or Oahu? Which is the best Hawaiian island?

Anyone would be hard-pressed to decide between Maui to Oahu – both are gorgeous islands and the envy of anyone who has ever wished they could go to Hawaii. But let’s glimpse a few of their attractions and activities side by side – seeing them close up may make it easier (or harder?) to decide if you should travel to Maui or Oahu?

Oahu vs Maui – The Beaches

Maui sports an impressive 30 miles of beaches, and they are as varied as the day is long. There are beaches of different hues, such as black or red; beaches for surfing and windsurfing; and many beaches meant for sunbathing and other laid-back beach activities.

Some of the most renowned beaches in Maui include Kapalua Beach, once called “America’s Best Beach”, and Makena Beach, called “The Big Beach.” And there are plenty of Hawaii beachfront rentals nearby that will make your trip even better.

Oahu’s Lanikai Beach is known for its calm waters that make for peaceful swimming. For bird lovers, there are a couple of bird sanctuaries nearby. Waimanalo Beach has more active waters not as suitable for newer swimmers, but it is a good place for fishing and boogie boarding. Waikiki Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Hawaii, and one can swim, snorkel, and it’s one of the best places in the world to start surfing.

Attractions of Oahu and Maui

Oahu hosts the city of Honolulu (meaning “sheltered bay”) – it’s the capital of Hawaii and has the greatest population in the state. At one time, King Kamehameha III moved from Maui to gather his kingdom in Oahu.

The Chinatown also has great markets with wonderful seafood, fruits, and Chinese vegetables. At night there are busy markets and great music, and jazz clubs underground.

Maui, on the other hand, has the Haleakala National Park. It is an awesome landmass, actually an active volcano, and can be seen almost anywhere in Maui. Sunsets and sunrises are amazing in this 30,000-acre park – the sunrises are so incredible that you need a reservation to see them from Haleakala. There plenty of cool and free things to do in Maui.

It’s also a wonderful place for stargazing, and there are many trails to hike and horseback ride. A beautiful spot to visit is the Pools of Oheo – they are swimmable pools that are in tiers up the mountainside.

Tours and Other Exciting Things in Maui and Oahu

The Road to Hana is a tour for those looking for beauty and a lot of exercise. There’re plenty of hiking and waterfalls as well as rainforest to hack through. A special stop is the gravesite of Charles Lindbergh. Another road to Hana has a grand drive by the coast and includes a barbecue, cliffs, waterfalls, and even a blowhole that is a historic feature in local lore.

Oahu has wondrous helicopter tours, where you can soar over such great sites as Pearl Harbor and Waikiki, as well as the breathtaking waterfalls and the magnificent terrain. It’s a wonderful experience that will not be forgotten. Or if you are seeking more on-the-edge thrills, there are parasailing, hang gliding and even sky diving.

Maui or Oahu, which has the best outstanding experiences?

On the Island of Oahu sits Pearl Harbor, which is an iconic attraction for history buffs. A walk to one of the hangars reveals the many marks left by bullets and bombs during World War II. One hangar has a theater that seats 200 people and shows a movie about Pearl Harbor, including survivors’ memories. You can also see more than 50 aircraft of the era, expertly and personally described by many retired docents.

On a different note, in Maui, there is a fishpond called ‘Ao‘ao O Nā Loko I‘a O Maui, where visitors can assist with restoring the famous fishpond. Maui Fishpond is a non-profit organization that was established to help bring back this most venerated fishpond.

Before the 1500s, the fish were plentiful and huge and were collected for the monarchy at the time. Monarchs even became involved in helping repair the pond – King Kekaulike and Kamehameha the Great. Today it’s a unique spot for educational classes, and for the many who feel the pull to help the earth and its treasured places.

Fun Things to Do in Maui

Because of its various tourist attractions and fun activities, catering to just about every personality and interest, Maui is Hawaii’s major tourism pride. Adventurers will love hiking the dormant Haleakala volcano or flying above it on a thrilling helicopter tour. More relaxed travelers, on the other hand, can soak up under the sun on the shorelines or play golf in one of the island’s golf courses. 

Since the island also lives up to its culture and shares its history at tourist sites, like Banyan Tree Park, the Old Lahaina Luau, and Lao Valley State Park, Maui is not just for active types and beach bums. If you’re traveling with children, they can learn about Hawaii’s underwater creatures at the Maui Ocean Center. Most importantly, you don’t have to worry about accommodations because Maui has a lot of hotels, lodges, and there are plenty of amazing AirBnBs in Lahaina.

Fun Things to Do in Oahu

While Maui is a great destination for tourists, Oahu makes a little bit of everything. Oahu also has a lot to offer like its clean and beautiful beaches and exciting nature tours. For instance, you can try the Diamond Head Walk, giving you stunning views over Waikiki Beach. 

Here are some of the best things to do in Oahu, Hawaii:

  • Road Trip: Rent a car in Waikiki and take a road trip around Oahu. Get to visit famous beaches, such as Lanikai Beach, Hanauma Bay, and the North Shore beaches, along with Oahu’s historic town, Haleiwa.
  • Snorkel at Hanauma Bay: To go snorkeling, visit Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, which is 30-minutes east of Waikiki.
  • Pearl Harbor Tour: Pearl Harbor is a historical point in Oahu. It’s a fantastic educational experience for children, wherein you can visit the museum and grounds of the Arizona Memorial, the ship resting place of 1,102 Marines and sailors killed because of the war.

travel to Maui or Oahu

These comparisons don’t exactly help in choosing between these two marvelous places. In fact, this shows that each has its great places and that many of the choices are similar to each other – both have beaches, tours and historical places.

As it turns out, it may have more to do with visitors’ interests in the more singular attractions. If you have the time, experience both; that way you can sample the wonders of these gorgeous islands. But if either of these isn’t what you are looking for, you should have a look at Hawaii’s Big Island which is a rather different island from these.

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