Maui vs Oahu – What Island Is Best For You?

By Jim CampbellJim CampbellJim CampbellJim is the owner of Honeymoons.com. A lifelong traveler, Jim's wanderlust has led him to spend months living on the Mayan Rivera, instruct SCUBA diving in Croatia, sail from San Diego to Hawaii, and cruise the Caribbean on a catamaran. Jim launched his honeymoon business while planning his own honeymoon in 2019. Since then, he has helped thousands of honeymooners plan their trips through his honeymoon travel agency.Meet Our Team | Updated on February 14, 2024 | Posted In: Honeymoon Destinations


Planning a honeymoon in Hawaii is so much fun! The only hard part is deciding exactly where you want to go! With multiple islands and multiple experiences, it’s hard to decide where are the best beaches, farm tours, and outdoor activities. Not to worry! We’ve broken it down so you can decide whether you want to visit Maui or Oahu.

Oahu vs Maui – Overview

Maui and Oahu have a lot in common. They are both islands. They are both in Hawaii. They both have stunning beaches, and whale watching and can provide an amazing Hawaiian vacation. But they are different. Each has its own unique feel and vibe, which can directly impact your stay. Oahu is big and busy. There are a lot of plusses, big resorts, small resorts, lots of shopping, beaches and you might not even need a car. But with the busy vibe you’ll also get crowds, wait times for restaurants, traffic, and not a lot of space on the beach.

Maui Resorts

Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

This five-star property has everything that a honeymooner could need! Nine pools, oceanfront accommodations, spa, tennis, golf, and even an outrigger canoe experience. Text the hotel’s concierge any day, any time to get immediate assistance to make your stay even more magical. Take part in outdoor yoga, garden tours, cultural tours, and lei making.

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort

With 40 oceanfront acres this AAA 4-Diamond award-winning resort is a perfect place to spend your honeymoon. When visiting Maui you’ll want the best a beach vacation has to offer. The resort also offers suites, a luxury spa, and a giant pool complex with waterfalls and slides. Attend the Drums of the Pacific Lu’au right on site.

Wailea Beach Resort Maui

Head to high-end luxury at this AAA 4-Diamond award-winning resort. Incredible amenities and suites with five pools are plenty to keep you as busy or as relaxed as you want. Onsite restaurants and a resort luau will keep you entertained on your outdoor adventure.

Honolulu skyline during blue hour

Oahu Resorts

Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort

This famous resort is located right on Waikiki beach. Stay in the heart of Waikiki with the spirit of aloha. Enjoy authentic music, arts and crafts, and excellent foot right where everyone wants to be. Great views of the ocean and Diamond Head.

Turtle Bay Resort

Located in North Shore, the Turtle Bay Resort is 880 acres of paradise. With two pools, two golf courses, and six different restaurants, you’ll never have to leave the resort. 

Kahala Hotel & Resort

Enjoy a little piece of heaven on Oahu. This hotel has a beach with calm water just waiting for you to go for a swim. The property also includes a unique 22,000 sq ft lagoon where you can see all kinds of wildlife such as sea turtles, stingrays, and dolphins.

The Kaanapali Beach and resort Hotels on Maui Hawaii. A popular tourist destination on the west coast of the island of Maui. Lined with luxury hotels and an entertainment district.

Maui Beaches

Makena Beach State Park

This state park features two beaches, Big Beach and Little Beach. This area is almost untouched by the commercialism you’ll find at other beaches. No resorts, few food options, and no shopping. The water conditions vary so ask a lifeguard before getting in. Little Beach is also unofficially known as a nude beach, which may be a pro or a con depending on who you ask.

Waianapanapa State Park

If you want to visit a black sand beach, then this is the one for you. Located along The Road to Hana, you might be tempted to just pop out and take a picture. But there’s so much more to this beach than just jet-black sand. You can do a hike to freshwater caves (and even swim in them!), see blowholes, and sea stacks.

Wailea Beach

This beach offers a relaxed atmosphere for beachgoers. This is the postcard-perfect beach you are looking for with warm sand, nearby resorts, and palm trees. Snorkel or swim in the calm water or you can rent kayaks or paddleboards.

Kaanapali Beach

A very popular beach for both surfers and sunbathers, Kaanapali Beach has a little bit of everything. Shallow water invites snorkeling but you can check out the daily sunset cliff diving at Puu Kekaa (Black Rock).

The rock on the left side of Waimea Beach

Oahu Beaches

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is the most famous and most recognizable beach in all of Hawaii. Extremely popular and very busy. The beach includes every type of tourist need including rentals, food, shopping, and sun.

Kailua Beach Park

Famous for windsurfing and kiteboarding this beach has a lot of sand and room to stretch out. Away from Waikiki, you’ll find a little more room to spread out.

Ko Olina Lagoons

There are four lagoons out in Ko Olina. About an hour west of Waikiki, this area is a growing resort area with high-end vacation property towers as well as Disney’s Aulani resort. Even with the large resorts, it is less busy than other beaches with easy swimming inside the cove.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Enjoy some amazing snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. The reservation system keeps the crowds low but it can be hard to get in. Plan to be up early to get tickets or work through a local tour provider to get access. Amazing fish!

Maui Activities

There’s so much to do in Maui, but here are the top activities to cross off your bucket list!

The Road to Hana

This is a beautiful, scenic drive that takes in 52 miles of beauty. It’s a long drive with lots of hairpin turns. Plan on taking most of the day. Drive yourself or take a tour where you can be shuttled and simply enjoy the view.

Haleakala National Park

See the dormant volcano, hike to the top or down inside the crater. Don’t forget you’ll need reservations (and there’s a fee) but you’ll see a lot of beautiful scenery with a completely unique hike.

Pipiwai Trail

Feel like a hike in a bamboo forest? That’s what awaits you at the Pipiwai Trail. Not an easy hike but worth it to see three waterfalls: Makahiku Falls, Waimoku Falls, and ‘Ohe’o Gulch.

Luaus

There are so many different luaus to choose from! Many resorts in Maui offer their own luau on site. Some include fire dancing and even dinner. With a wide variety of pricing and inclusions, check for a location near or at your hotel to minimize any travel time when the evening is done.

Whale Watching

Head out on a chartered boat to see whales! While the whales are easier to see at certain times of the year, your tour guide has information to give you the best chance to see them. Maui is a great area where humpback whales travel to give birth to their young. You might even see a mother and baby!

Other Activities

If you’ve had enough beaches and hiking, try out Banyan Tree Park, Maui Ocean Center, O’o Farm, or lavender farms. There’s plenty to do in Maui.

The dormant volcano known as Diamond Head located adjacent to downtown Honlulu, Hawaii, as shot from an altitude of about 1500 feet over the Pacific Ocean.

Oahu Activities

Diamond Head

Is hiking Diamond Head on your to-do list? Make sure you plan ahead. This is an extremely popular spot with limited parking and shade. Enjoy a moderate hike, bring some water, and enjoy don’t forget to make a reservation.

Byodo-In Temple

Head over to Kaneohe and enjoy a replica of a Japanese temple. Because it is not a practicing temple, anyone from any faith can visit and enjoy the beautiful scenery and ring the bell. The temple also appeared in the television show “Lost”.

North Shore Surfing

If surfing is your passion, you’re going to want to head to North Shore. The biggest and best waves can be found between November and February. You can watch professional surfing competitions like the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. The huge waves found on the north side of the island can be very dangerous for inexperienced or beginning surfers, but you can learn to surf right in Honolulu. There are dozens of companies offering surfing lessons, rentals, and gear.

Pearl Harbor National Museum

You can easily spend all day touring Pearl Harbor with the abundance of different tours, exhibits, and information to take in. Make sure the Arizona Memorial is on your list. Plan well in advance for all of the Pearl Harbor activities. Tickets are sold in advance and sell out very quickly. Determine which activities are most important to you or plan multiple trips to get it all in.

Polynesian Cultural Center

Rated the #1 attraction in Hawaii by USA Today, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a place to learn and experience all the different cultures of Aotearoa (New Zealand), Fiji, Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga. Enjoy music, crafts, IMAX, a luau, and the evening show Ha: Breath of Life. Spend the entire day or come just for the evening entertainment.

Hawaii Plantation Village

Check out this interesting and cultural opportunity to learn about Hawaii’s history through their museum and village tour.

Dole Plantation

Head on a ride through the fields, get some Dole Whip and all the pineapple treats that you can handle at the Dole Pineapple Plantation. Great hopping and treats!

Kualoa Jurrasic Tours

You can do an ATV tour at lots of different destinations around the world, but here you can tour the filming area for Jurassic Park at the same time. Enjoy a four-seater ATV, a horseback ride, electric mountain bikes or a zipline at this adrenaline-filled location.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Basking in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean

Maui vs Oahu – Weather

Weather in Hawaii is always great when you are comparing it to somewhere gray and cold. But like most tropical destinations, there are really two seasons, winter and summer. Winter runs from October through April, while summer runs from May to October. 

For the summer months, Maui and Oahu get close to the same amount of rain. But for the winter months, Oahu actually gets more rain. The leeward side of each island is always going to be drier while the windward side will always get more rain. 

Maui vs Oahu – Crowds

Oahu has about twice as many tourists as Maui. It’s busy, booked and has lots of traffic – foot and car. Many activities are so popular now you have to make reservations in advance. But while Oahu has more visitors, Maui is actually larger in square miles, but with one-tenth of the local population. Oahu has larger crowds but also a huge amount of variety for activities, resorts, and shopping. 

Maui vs Oahu – Costs

You can find luxury, expensive hotels on either island. In general, flights to Maui are more expensive and there are fewer direction options from the mainland. Also, hotels in Maui are more expensive. Maui resorts take up a lot of beachfront space and have much larger properties. There are fewer resorts and fewer people, so less competition to keep rates low. Maui is a more expensive destination than Oahu.

FAQ

Where can I find black sand beaches?

There aren’t any black sand beaches on Oahu but there are on Maui. Waianapanapa State Park is the most well-known black sand beach. 

Where can I find humpback whales?

From December to May (whale season) you have a chance to see a humpback whale in Oahu. Or on Maui, head to the Maui Nui Basin. That’s basically the water between Maui, Lanai and Kaho’olawe. This area is a protected sanctuary for whales. 

Where can I see sea turtles?

On Oahu, you can usually find sea turtles at

  • Aki’s Beach
  • Cockroach Beach (Kaupo Bay)
  • Electric Beach
  • Haleiwa Beach
  • Halona Beach Cove
  • Kuilima Cove Snorkeling
  • Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach)
  • Makua Beach

On Maui, you can usually find sea turtles at

  • Honolua Bay 
  • Kaʻanapali Beach’s Puu Kekaa (Black Rock) 
  • Kapalua Bay 
  • Keawakapu Beach 
  • Makena Landing
  • Maluaka Beach 
  • The point between Napili Bay and Honokeana Cove
  • Ulua Beach 

What airlines fly to Hawaii from the US?

Flights are changing all the time, but there are a few things that you can count on when flying in or out of Hawaii. When you fly from Honolulu to the mainland, expect to fly home late in the day. There are quite a few carriers to choose from including

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Sun Country
  • United Airlines

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