Oahu Vs The Big Island: Which Island Is Better To Visit? 2023
Are you deciding between Oahu vs The Big Island?
Oahu and The Big Island are beautiful islands with so much to offer, but each has unique features and locations that make them stand out.
In this blog post, I will be discussing information about Oahu and The Big Island so you can help better choose which of the two islands will be your perfect destination.
I have been fortunate enough to have travelled to Oahu and The Big Island, and I can attest that they are both stunning in their unique way.
Oahu vs The Big Island: Which Island Is Better To Visit?
Before diving straight into the specifics, it would be helpful to start by comparing the islands on a broader level.
Oahu (or O’ahu), also known as “The Gathering Place,” is the third-largest island in Hawaii and is home to Honolulu, the state’s capital. It is the most famous island among the Hawaiian Islands, home to many popular tourist destinations and full of culture and history.
The island has two separate shield volcanos, Wai’anae and Ko’olau Ranges. When filming in Hawaii, the mountains are prominent on the island and recognizable in movies or TV shows, such as Jurassic Park and Hawaii Five-0.
With 365 kilometres (227 miles) of shoreline, you are bound to find many beaches all over the island. So it is no wonder that some of the best beaches in Hawaii are found on Oahu.
The Big Island, or the Island of Hawai’i, is the youngest and largest and twice the size of the Hawaiian archipelagos. It is known for its diverse landscape and climate, including beaches, rainforests, and snow-capped peaks.
Volcanic activity is something that The Big Island is also known for. Mauna Loa and Kīlauea bring many curious tourists from all over the world.
There are 428 kilometres (266 miles) of coastline, so you will be driving for a more extended period to find a beach. Moreover, you will find that snorkelling on The Big Island is a lot easier because of the calmer waters at certain beaches.
How Far Apart Is Oahu From The Big Island?
Oahu from The Big Island is 262 kilometres (163 miles) apart from each other. Flights to and from Oahu to The Big Island are relatively short at 45 minutes nonstop.
Island hopping is popular if you have the time to hop between islands or want to extend your vacation to other islands, such as Maui or Kauai.
Which Island Is Easier To Drive Around?
Both Oahu and The Big Island are relatively easy to drive around. However, traffic and other factors may impact the length of your drive time.
Oahu is much more populated than The Big Island. So you are bound to run into congested areas and traffic before you hit more rural areas and towns on Oahu and your way back.
You can only drive around part of the circumference of the island of Oahu. However, it will take you a long day to explore the part of the island you can drive without stops in between.
Meanwhile, on The Big Island, you can drive around the whole island. Again, like Oahu, it will take up the entire day to drive around without stops. However, there is less traffic because the island is less populous than Oahu but growing.
Which Island Is Cheaper: Oahu Or The Big Island?
A friend of mine that was born and raised in Hawaii said that The Big Island is cheaper because there is less to do other than hikes and beaches.
Oahu, you can find decent flight prices compared to The Big Island. However, flight prices will depend on the time of year and where you fly from worldwide.
Many retail and grocery stores on both islands close at around 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM, sometimes on The Big Island, even 7:00 PM, depending on where you are.
Is There A Ferry From Oahu To The Big Island?
No, there is no ferry between Oahu and The Big Island. However, flying is the best option to do any island hopping.
Oahu has two airports. The first is Kalaeloa Airport, mainly used for the U.S. Coast Gaurd, Hawaii Community College Flight Program, Hawaii National Guard and a general aviation reliever for their main airport.
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) is the main airport on Oahu and the airport you will use to fly into and out of Oahu and interisland flights.
In addition, The Big Island has three airports; Waimea-Kohala is not a commercial airport. But, there are two commercial airports that The Big Island uses every day.
Hilo International Airport (ITO) is located on the island’s East side and can be used for international or interisland flights. On the other hand, Kona International Airport (KOA) is The Big Islands’ main airport on the Island’s West side.
You will find that tickets for flying into Kona International Airport will be cheaper than Hilo International Airport.
Oahu Vs The Big Island For Families
Depending on what kind of excursions or activities your family loves doing, both of these islands offer many excellent options.
Oahu may be excellent for your family if…
✔ Want to do surfing
✔ Faster paced environment
✔ More touristy destinations
✔ Some of the best beaches in Hawaii
✔ Okay with more traffic/people
The Big Island may be excellent for your family if…
✔ Your family can handle long car rides
✔ Like a calmer/relaxed environment
✔ Love hiking
✔ Volcanoes & beaches (including green and black sand)
✔ Less touristy destinations
Best Things To Do On Oahu
If you choose to visit Oahu, there are many things to do and see while exploring the island and still wondering if Oahu is worth visiting? Here are some top things to see while you are in Oahu if you decide to go.
One of the most popular tourist destinations on the island is the Dole Plantation. Dole is one of the most well-known pineapple-producing companies in the world.
Dole has a Pineapple Express Train ride that will take you through a tour filled with the history of the plantation as well as how to know when a pineapple is ready. There are also other activities, such as a maze and feeding Koi Fish.
Inside, you can find an array of pineapple theme gifts and nick-nacks to take home, food, and to try the famous Dole Whip.
A significant part of Hawaii’s history is Pearl Harbor. A Naval base on Oahu that was, unfortunately, part of a surprise attack by Japan on December 7th, 1941. It was a devastating day that declared the Pacific War.
Now it serves as a museum and memorial site to all those thousands of Navy soldiers and civilians who lost their lives on that day on Ford Island and their Naval vessels, including eight battleships and over 300 airplanes.
It is an informational site, and I highly recommend visiting. There is an area that is free to visit across from Ford Island (there is a parking fee): The Pearl Harbor National Memorial. No large backpacks or purses were allowed in this area.
In addition, if you want to see Ford Island, you will have to purchase tickets in advance online.
Diamond Head is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Oahu. You can hike inside the extinct volcano crater until you reach the top. From there, you will see views of Honolulu and the ocean.
You will have to book online in advance and choose a time slot. There is an entrance fee and a parking fee. You can select the entrance fee of parking and entrance fee combined, but the combined timeslots do go fast.
I recommend going as early as possible to avoid massive crowds of people walking down and up the crater. Also, if it is raining or misting, please be careful on the metal stairs as they will be slippery.
TIP: There is a paid parking lot outside of the tunnel. You will be allowed to park there. However, you will have to come before they open to secure a spot and walk into the park.
Best Things To Do on The Big Island
If you choose The Big Island, or still wondering, is The Big Island worth visiting? Here are some top activities and things to see and do on the island.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
The park is home to some of the world’s most active volcanos – Mauna Loa and Kīlauea. It is an extraordinary location to see volcanoes as close and safely as you can and learn about the two active volcanoes.
Akaka Falls State Park
A 442 feet waterfall plunges into an eroded stream gorge at the bottom; Akaka State Falls is wonderful to see. You can walk around the looped paved path in the park surrounded by foliage.
You will have to pay an entrance fee of $5.00 USD and a parking fee of $10.00 USD.
Pololū Valley Lookout
Pololū Valley Lookout is an easy hike to do. It is a popular location for tourists to explore and take pictures of the iconic landscape on the horizon.
At the bottom of the hike, you can explore a black sand beach. However, some areas may be slippery or steep if it has rained the day before.
Conclusion: Oahu Vs The Big Island
As you can see, both islands have so much to offer any traveller wanting to visit either island. Both islands have beautiful beaches, many hikes and tourist destinations to explore.
It will ultimately come down to what type of vacation you are looking for, whether you choose the bustling city life of Oahu or the peaceful island living of The Big Island.
While Oahu tends to be the more popular choice among travellers over The Big Island, that should not stop you from also exploring the uniqueness and natural beauty of The Big Island.
I hope this post helped you better decide which island you choose to visit. And no matter which Hawaiian island you choose, you will not be disappointed!
Have a good day 🙂