Hawaii O-Five

No one denies that our 50th state is Paradise, USA. But anyone who's ever been to this lush chain knows a simple truth: Not all the islands are created equal. So which is best? Welcome to the Great Hawaiian Island-Off. Read on, and pick your perfection.

Mar 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

Grab your shades, wax your board, and check out our tropical—paradise smackdown, in which we scour the Aloha State's sweetest shorelines, lushest mountains, coolest adventures, choicest chow, and hippest nightlife—then we let you decide which island is the big kahuna of beach-bound delight.

KAUAI: Wild Thing
By Amy Linn

HAWAII: Big Island Hot Spots
By Kent Black

LANAI: Luxe Outpost
By Ethan Watters

MOLOKAI: Real Aloha
By Joe Kane

OAHU: Blue Diamond
By Alex Heard

MAUI: A-List Island
By Daniel Duane

Getting There: Major carriers offer nonstop flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Honolulu, Oahu, Kahului, Maui, and Lihue, Kauai—home to Hawaii's largest airports—for sometimes as low as $370 round-trip. Hawaiian (800-367-5320, www.hawaiianairlines.com) and Aloha (800-367-5250, www.alohaairlines.com) airlines serve many smaller cities along the West Coast—including Portland, Seattle, Oakland, Orange County, and San Diego—and fly nonstop routes to the Honolulu, Kahului, and Big Island's Kona airport, starting at about $400. Once you're there, Island Air (800-323-3345, www.islandair.com) offers shuttle service between the six major islands, from $86 one way.

Resources: Visit HawaiiWeb.com for a photographic catalog of many of the islands' best beaches; check out GoHawaii.com, the Web site of Hawaii's tourism board. For the best maps, pick up a copy of Atlas of Hawaii (University of Hawaii Press, $50).