This past Christmas (how has it been so long since I’ve posted) we decided to check out Oahu before heading for our bi-annual family Christmas in Maui. Yes I know we are very lucky not only to get to visit Hawaii so often but also because we have such generous time off with our jobs. This trip amounted to 23 days in the Hawaiian islands. 11 on Oahu and 12 on Maui.
Oahu was the first island I’ve visited other than Maui and I thought it may be helpful to create a post comparing the two for those that are trying to figure out which island is better suited for them.
I will get this out of the way first, I definitely prefer Oahu. But my reasons for liking it better will not be draws for everyone. We also did not spend any time on the South side of the island which means we purposely avoided Honolulu and Waikiki. We went immediately North and West.
If you want more adventurous experiences I would say Oahu has more opportunities for that. One of the reasons I loved Oahu was the hiking, the Ko’olau Mountain Range has such a gorgeous variety of hikes to do and the views were incredible overlooking Honolulu on one side and the ocean on the other. We did some hiking in Maui that was obviously gorgeous as well but I felt there were more hikes and less populated hikes than Maui had to offer.
We also had the opportunity to snorkel with dolphins in Oahu with Wild Side Specialty Tours. It was more expensive than other boat tours but with Wild Side we were 2/5 guests on the boat. We saw the other tour companies and the hoard of people in the water and I feel we were able to get much better interactions with the dolphins compared to those huge groups. We also went to a turtle cleaning station which had the highest concentration of turtles I’ve had the pleasure of seeing and saw a manta ray and a few humpbacks. I’ve done a fair bit of snorkelling on Maui but maybe it was just the time we went but never got such interesting experiences. I’m going on another dolphin snorkel in Portugal’s Azores islands so we’ll see how that stacks up (they have about 5 more species).
One thing that I didn’t think would be a big issue that ended up being a game changer was being a vegetarian in Oahu vs. Maui. Oahu was hands down 500% better than Maui. I think it might be because of the concentration of tourists that are in Maui but we couldn’t really eat in Maui unless we wanted salad whereas Oahu had many options all the time, even at the food trucks on the North Shore. It was a pretty big burden to be a vegetarian in Maui because they just don’t have the choices available.
Again, this may be because of our location in Oahu vs Maui where in Oahu we were in “the country” and in Maui we’re in tourist central Kihei but I found the people were amazing in Oahu. Amazing in the way that they were locals. I think I could count on one hand the number of native Hawaiians we saw in Maui compared to Oahu. It was important to get to know more about how the locals live. We stayed on the Westward side which is definitely lower income and we shopped at the local grocery store and got to see what it’s like for the average person. I think it’s important to know the reality of these places and try and give back. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to real people compared to the facade of the tourist areas. I found our interactions with people were more authentic on Oahu.
Now that isn’t to say Maui is bad by any means. It’s Hawaii, I don’t think it could ever be bad. The Wildman was on Kauai during rainy season and the flooding and he still says it was great, because it’s Hawaii and it can’t not be great. Maui is ideal if you want to relax. It’s low key and tourist based so you don’t really have to go far to find restaurants, excursions, etc. There are some hikes and things you can do if you are so inclined but they aren’t as rigorous. I think it’s more family friendly as well, because of the level of convenience it is much easier to travel with young children. To me they almost amount to two different trips, Oahu was the wild adventure and Maui was the relaxing vacation.
For the next bi-annual Maui Christmas the plan is to do a week on Kauai beforehand. The Wildman went on a surf trip and that was the main focus so there are still many hikes, snorkelling spots, etc that remain unexplored.
What is your favourite Hawaiian island and why? Is there any must sees while visiting Kauai?