In so many ways Hawaii is the ultimate teen travel destination. Students love the idea of white-sand beaches and gorgeous landscapes. Parents love marine biology education and active itineraries. The truth is that Hawaii has something to offer for everyone, whether you are into hiking, ziplining, surfing, sailing, or snorkeling.
If you have decided that Hawaii is the best place that you want to spend your summer, the next question is which island? Each island in Hawaii has its own unique character, offerings, and culture. I have been lucky enough to take a few trips to the Aloha State and I want to offer my advice about the highlights of each. I’ll focus specifically on the islands that most teen travel programs visit; Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island.
Before I do, I want to cover the idea of island hopping. Though obviously appealing, the problem with jumping between 2-3 islands on your trip is that you waste valuable activity time with logistic days and flights. I truly believe that your time is best spent enjoying all that a single island has to offer. Most experienced travelers will agree that you get the most out of traveling when you take the time to really get to know a place.
Maui has been made famous by the many celebrities that have vacationed there. There are world-famous beaches and the driving tour of the road to Hana. A great activity is to travel to the top of Haleakala Volcano and bike down. There are some amazing things to do and see, but also quite a few private beaches and spas. After a few days, it is easy to see why this island is very conducive to a romantic getaway.
Oahu, the “heart of Hawaii.” Oahu is home to Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital and biggest city, where you can find fantastic restaurants and mega-resorts. The north shore is arguably the best surfing destination in the world, but not very friendly for beginners. You have probably heard of famous surf breaks like Jaws and Sunset Beach. There are some unbelievable snorkeling areas that are protected from development. Oahu is also by far the most populated island. There is not a lot of great camping areas and it can be hard to get away from the crowds.
Kauai, the “garden island.” Here is a place where you can get away from the crowds and explore the adventurous side of Hawaii. Kauai is a great destination for backpacking, camping, and sea kayaking. It is also beautiful, Kauai was the filming site for Jurassic Park! Kauai is very mountainous and some of the terrain is extreme and difficult to navigate. It’s easy to find yourself in remote territory here.
The Big Island
Which brings us to the Big Island, where Bold Earth has led our Hawaii teen adventures for 25+ summers. The reason we love the Big Island is that it offers the perfect combination of culture, amenities, diverse terrain, and world-class activities. On the Big Island, we have access to perfect beginner waves and spectacular snorkeling in Kahalu’u Bay. We will camp in beautiful locations that we have all to ourselves. You not only experience the lush jungles and the white sand beaches that you expect, but also the stark lava flows of Volcanos National Park! A huge benefit of traveling on the Big Island is that we also have access to nice grocery stores and good healthcare facilities if we need it. Since Bold Earth has been operating on the Big Island for so long we have longstanding relationships with locals, allowing us to access authentic cultural destinations not normally visited.
While we love the Big Island, all of Hawaii is a mecca for adventure and fun. There is no wrong choice in what island to visit as long as you make it there at some point. If this sounds like the right fit for you, we hope that you will consider joining us on an amazing Hawaii experience.