Maui Vs. The Big Island: Which Hawaiian Island is Better?

Maui vs The Big Island: would you like to know what the best travel destination is? Find out in this post!

Hawaii is one of the best places to visit in the world, but choosing just one island can be hard!

Maybe you’ve narrowed your choices to just Maui vs. The Big Island and are wondering which Hawaiian island is better! If so, you’ve come to the right place!

This post covers all the information you need to make the best possible choice.

I’ve lived in Maui for four years and I love island hopping because it’s so fun to experience the unique experiences and vibes of each island. 

Read on to learn whether Maui or the Big Island is better for you! 

View of a rocky Maui island shore and the sea with another island in the background.
Maui Island- Photo from Canva

Table of Contents

Maui Vs. The Big Island: Overview 

What are Maui or Big Island’s pros and cons?

While both have similar scenery and activities available, Maui offers a bit more in the way of convenience while Big Island has more rugged landscapes to explore.

I’ll go into more depth below so you can make an informed decision. 

👉🏻 What is Maui best known for?

Maui is famous for its beautiful beaches, the humpback whales that come every year during the winter months, and the giant volcano of Haleakalā (Meaning “House of the Rising Sun”).

👉🏻 Why is Maui called the ‘Valley Isle’?

Maui is called the “Valley Isle” because the majority of the island is below 200 feet above sea level. Shaped like an infinity symbol, the middle of the island is flanked by mountains.

The mountain range of West Maui sits on one side, and Haleakala rises over 10,000 feet on the east side of the island. 

👉🏻 What makes Maui unique?

With a variety of micro-climates, you can experience lots of different ecosystems within one short drive on Maui.

Plus, with fantastic beaches, wonderful snorkeling activities, and the mountains nearby, you’re sure to find fun activities no matter your preferences and tastes. 

Maui’s smaller size makes it more accessible than the Big Island, and it’s more developed (meaning more options in terms of food and places to stay).

With no real city, you get to enjoy small-town vibes and won’t have to contend with city traffic during your stay. 

Maui has lots to offer any kind of traveler and it has tons of delicious food options too. I’m a little biased since I love living in Maui.

As the saying goes, Maui no ka oi! (Meaning Maui is the best in the Hawaiian language.)

Silhouette of coconut trees in Maui as the sun sets
Sunset in Maui – Photo from Canva

👉🏻 What is Big Island best known for?

As you might have guessed, Big Island is the biggest island in the Hawaiian archipelago.

The island of Hawai’i has 63% of the combined landmass of the entire state! (Thus the nickname, “The Big Island”).

The big island is best known for its most active volcano, Kilauea. Located within the famous national park, Hawaii Volcanoes Natural Park, Kilauea is one of two active volcanos on the island. 

Have you seen pictures of a Hawaiian volcano spewing forth red-hot lava? That was on the Big Island!

Big Island is home to 8 ecosystems — with only 13 named ecosystems worldwide that’s a crazy amount! It also means there’s plenty to explore and experience.

This makes the Big Island ideal for anyone who loves to adventure and explore the outdoors!

👉🏻 Why is Big Island called the ‘Orchid Isle’? 

The Island of Hawai’i has two nicknames- Big Island and Orchid Isle. The first nickname is pretty self-explanatory. But why orchids? 

In the early 1900’s Chinese laborers first introduced orchids to the islands.

Apparently, by 1930, merchants and the Hawaiian monarchy had become very fond of the delicate flowers. The first orchid society was founded in 1957!

The nutrient-rich soil and various elevations on the Big Island make it ideal for growing these beautiful, fragile flowers. 

👉🏻 What makes Big Island unique? 

Big Island’s size is one of its unique features compared to the other Hawaiian islands. 

With lots of microclimates and with five different volcanoes, this island features lush jungles, impressive mountain-scapes, brilliant beaches, and dramatic lava fields.

You can bet that Big Island is at the top of my list for my next island hop! 

Maui Vs. The Big Island: Location and Accessibility 

Now that you know some of the main differences between the two islands, you might be wondering what the location and accessibility are like on the two islands. 

The only way to get to both islands is to fly or take a cruise ship. For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume you choose to fly!

Swimming sea turtle in Maui
Sea Turtle in Maui – Photo from Canva

📌 How to Get to Maui

Maui’s main airport is located in Kahului (OGG). While there are two smaller commuter airports on the island, chances are you’ll be flying into OGG. 

There are multiple non-stop flights directly into Maui from the mainland, but you might have a quick layover in Honolulu (HNL) on Oahu.

The flight from Oahu to Maui is a quick “puddle jumper” and only takes 30 minutes. 

📌 How to Get Around Maui

If you want to take advantage of all that Maui has to offer, I would recommend renting a vehicle.

Not only does having your own car offer more flexibility, but you’ll get to go further afield and take in the sights. 

You can uber or take taxis but they aren’t cheap. Unless you’re only planning on leaving your condo or hotel once or twice, renting is more economical. 

If you’d rather not rent a vehicle, make sure to rent a condo in Kihei or Lahaina so that you’re within walking distance of restaurants, shops, and nice beaches.

You can always book a tour if there’s something extra special you’d like to do!

📌 How to Get to Big Island

There are two airports on the Big Island- Ellison Onizuka International Airport (KOA) in Kona and Hilo International Airport (ITO).

There are a variety of direct flights to the Big Island from the mainland. 

Depending on your itinerary, you may need to hop over from Honolulu, Oahu when arriving on the Big Island, but it’s only a 35-40 minute flight.

Beautiful waterfalls of Akaka surrounded by green trees
Akaka Falls in Big Island – Photo from Canva

📌 How to Get Around Big Island

With so much to see and explore, I would recommend renting a vehicle for your stay on Big Island.

Due to the size of the island, most of the best attraction sites are spread out along the coasts.

Some of the roads on the Big Island are rough, so it might be worth investing in a four-wheel drive. 

There is a bus service, but it doesn’t make regular stops at all the tourist sites.

If you don’t want to rent a vehicle you can still explore a good amount, especially if you sign up for a tour! 

📌 Which island is easier to get to?

Both Maui and the Big Island are fairly easy to get to.

Even if you’re not able to get a direct flight to the island you choose, you’ll still only have a short flight to your final destination from the Honolulu airport. 

📌 Which island is easier to get around? 

Of the two islands, Maui is a little easier to get around.

If you’re not planning on renting a vehicle and just want to relax near your hotel or Condo, Maui is a great option as (chances are) you’ll still be within walking distance of restaurants and shops. 

Ultimately, both islands might be more enjoyable (and equally accessible) if you rent a vehicle.

Maui Vs. The Big Island: Weather and the Best Time to Visit 

While both islands have similar climates, there are some weather considerations you should keep in mind while planning a trip to either Maui or the Big Island. 

✔️ What kind of weather does Maui have?

Generally, Maui’s weather is pretty consistent. With a warm tropical climate, Maui is a pleasant place to be with year-round highs of 75-85°F. 

The winter months are wetter overall, so if you don’t want to risk being on Maui during a storm you should opt to go during the summer months. 

Waipio Valley is covered with green fields and trees beside the black sand beach on Big Island
Waipio Valley in Big Island – Photo from Canva

✔️ What is the best month to go to Maui?

There are advantages (and disadvantages) to visiting Maui at any time during the year. 

If you’re hoping to take advantage of some of the lowest accommodation and rental car prices during the year, I would recommend coming during the “low season” months between April and October. 

If you’re interested in being in Hawaii during the Humpback whales’ migration to the islands, you’ll need to aim for sometime between December and March.

If you come in February you’re almost guaranteed a whale sighting!

The winter months are generally considered the “high season” on Maui, so you’ll have to deal with higher prices, more crowds, and more traffic island-wide.

✔️ What kind of weather does Big Island have?

Similarly to Maui, the Big Island experiences year-long highs of 75-85°F. A general rule of thumb is the higher the elevation, the lower the temperature. 

If you’re booking a place without air conditioning and are worried about being too hot at night you can always look into Volcano or Waimea as they get much cooler temperatures.

✔️ What is the best time to go to Big Island? 

While there’s no wrong time to visit the Big Island, it’s worth considering hurricane season. 

Due to its location in the archipelago, Big Island is more prone to getting hit heavily by hurricanes and tropical storms than the other islands.

Hurricane season begins in June and goes through November. I wouldn’t worry about it too much, but it’s worth knowing. There’s always a chance that a storm could affect your trip.

The high season on the Big Island is the same as on Maui and goes through the winter months.

If you’re deciding between Maui and Big Island in December- you should go with Big Island.

Since costs on the Big Island tend to be lower, this Hawaiian destination is a great option if you want to see humpback whales!

Maui Vs. The Big Island: Ideal Length of Stay 

How many days should you stay on each island to take advantage of all it has to offer?

Below I’ve got advice on how many days you should plan to spend on each island and a sample itinerary to get you started!

View of green plants with red flowers surrounded by huge trees with a waterfall in the background
Waipio Valley in Big Island – Photo from Canva

☀️ How many days in Maui is enough?

While you can make do with just three days, five full days on Maui is ideal. You’ll be able to see the main sights and have a few days to spend chilling at the beach! 

It’s a good idea to have a slower-paced day between each big adventure you choose to do to give yourself plenty of time to recover. 

☀️ Sample itinerary for Maui

Here’s a sample itinerary for Maui! I like having a chill beach day in between my bigger adventures so that I can recover, so that’s how I’ve structured this itinerary. 

➡️ Day 1: Arrival. If getting in before 8:00 pm, grab a bite to eat at Tin Roof!

➡️ Day 2: Enjoy Ka’anapali beach, snorkel at Honolua Bay, explore Lahaina’s front street 

➡️ Day 3: Go on the Road to Hana

➡️ Day 4: Visit Makena Beach, treat yourself to dinner or happy hour in Wailea

➡️ Day 5: Hike the Waihe’e Ridge Trail,  hike Iao Valley, have lunch or dinner in Wailuku

➡️ Day 6: Go on a Whale Watch or Snorkel tour to Molokini

➡️ Day 7: Depart

☀️ How many days on Big Island is enough?

I would recommend planning to spend at least 6 full days on the Big Island. There’s so much to do and see it’s hard to fit it into a shorter trip! 

If you decide to only spend a few days on the Big Island, you should prioritize the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park!

☀️ Sample itinerary for Big Island 

Here’s a sample itinerary for Big Island! With so much to see and do on this island, it was hard to narrow it down. However, if I had 6 days to spend on the Big Island, this is how I would structure my trip.

➡️ Day 1: Arrival

➡️ Day 2: Go snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay, explore Kailua-Kona town, check out a Kona Coffee Plantation

➡️ Day 3: Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. With hikes, scenic views, and more, this is going to be a full day!

➡️ Day 4: Have a beach day at Hapuna Beach or Mauna Kea Beach

➡️ Day 5: Visit Makalawena Beach, Go on a Manta Ray Night Snorkel Tour

➡️ Day 6: Hike or go horseback riding in Waimea, visit Rainbow Falls, star gaze at Mauna Kea

➡️ Day 7: Explore the town of Pahala, then drive Kaalaiki Road to Na’alehu 

➡️ Day 8: Chill at Ho’okena Beach Park, Go to a Luau

➡️ Day 9: Depart

Maui Vs. The Big Island: Attractions and Activities 

While there are a lot of similarities between the two islands, each one has unique attractions and activities! 

Huge crater of the Mauna Loa Volcano with smoke
Mauna Loa Volcano in Big Island – Photo from Canva

👍🏼 What are the best things to do in Maui?

There are so many fun things to do in Maui! I’ve listed a few of my absolute favorites below, so you can take advantage of whatever amount of time you have on this beautiful Hawaiian island.

✔️ Haleakala National Park: Haleakala, the third-highest volcano in the state of Hawaii, is located on Maui. A sacred spot in Hawaiian culture, Haleakala means “House of the Rising Sun.”

If you like hiking, there are lots of great hikes here-all with varying degrees of difficulty. Regardless of whether you like hiking or not, you should head up to the volcano to watch the sunrise or sunset! Stay after dark for spectacular stargazing. 

Sunrise requires a ticket booked in advance! Tickets are only $1 per car, but you’ll need to book your spot about 3 months in advance.

Pro Tip: Dress warm! The high elevation means it gets really cold. Sometimes Haleakala will even get snow during the winter months! 

✔️ Road to Hana: Waterfalls, beaches, hikes, and impressive vistas await on the road to Hana! This single-lane road winds its way around the base of Haleakala. 

On one side of the volcano, you’ll experience a lush jungle, tropical plants, and waterfalls. On the other, see rolling hills, harsh barren lava fields, and impressive cliffs.

The journey is the destination on the Road to Hana. Be sure to stop and enjoy the cool things you’re driving past!

Driving the full loop without stopping takes 4 hours (without traffic) but the stops are what make it fun. Plan an entire day for this excursion. When my sister and I did it last July, it was a 16-hour day!

✔️ Kaanapali Beach: This gorgeous beach has brilliant blue-green water and soft white sand. Make sure to bring your snorkel gear for a day at this beach!

✔️ Haleakala National Park: Haleakala, the third-highest volcano in the state of Hawaii, is located on Maui. A sacred spot in Hawaiian culture, Haleakala means “House of the Rising Sun.”

✔️ Honolua Bay: This nature preserve is another fantastic snorkeling spot. Take a quick hike through a lush and sacred forest, and then climb over the rocks and into the crystal-clear waters to see brilliantly colored fish and beautiful coral. 

Note: Reef-safe sunscreen is a must! Double-check that the only active ingredients are zinc or titanium. Otherwise, don’t use it! There are plenty of reef-safe options for sale in Hawaii. 

✔️ Whale Watching: During the winter months a whale watch is a must-do! While you can often see whale activity from the shore, getting within 100 yards of the magnificent creatures is a whole different ball game and absolutely worth the splurge. 

One of the best whale-watching companies available is Pacific Whale Foundation. As an added plus, going on one of their tours helps fund their important research and conservation efforts!

Lava from the Kilauea Volcano hits the beach wave on Big Island
Kilauea Volcano on The Big Island – Photo from Canva

👍🏼 What are the best things to do on Big Island? 

Big Island’s size and plethora of ecosystems mean it has a ton of awe-inspiring and amazing things to do. If you’re down for an adventure, Big Island has plenty for you to enjoy!

✔️ Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park:  This national park has so much to offer. With miles of hiking trails through lots of different types of terrain and scenic drives, there’s something for every type of traveler!

✔️ Kona & Ka’u Coffee Farms: Chances are, you’ve heard of Kona coffee. Since it is exclusively grown on the Big Island, you should check out a coffee farm while on the island! 

Hawaii is the only state in the USA that can grow coffee, and it started when Christian missionaries planted the first coffee trees in the 1800s.

Due to the elevation, precipitation, and nutrient-dense volcanic soil, Hawaiian-grown coffee is delicious. When purchasing coffee in Hawaii, look for 100% locally grown labels on bags of beans. 

✔️ Snorkel or Dive with Manta Rays at night: I’m not going to lie to you, this experience is the main reason I want to get over to the Big Island as soon as I possibly can! You’ll want to book this in advance!

You’ll be taken out to a spot where manta rays are known to congregate and you’ll get to jump in the water and see them up close. Other people have recommended bringing a jacket to make sure you’re warm on the way back.

Manta Rays tend to circle the same area for a long time, so even if you only get to see one you’ll be able to hang out with it for a while. 

✔️ Stargaze at the summit of Mauna Kea: Mauna Kea is a very sacred place in Hawai’i. With the highest elevation in the state, the summit of Mauna Kea is located at 13,679 feet. 

It’s no surprise that this is also one of the best stargazing spots! Make sure to dress warmly, and take in the awe-inspiring expanse of stars. On a clear night, you can see the milky way!

✔️ Snorkel in Kealakekua Bay: Even if snorkeling with manta rays isn’t your cup of tea, you should snorkel in Kealakekua Bay

Allegedly, this is the bay Captain Cook arrived at!  It lives up to all the hype with gorgeously clear blue water and an impressive coral reef teeming with fish. 

You have the option to kayak (just make sure you’re aware of the regulations imposed on kayakers) or even hike down to the bay.

👍🏼 Which island is best for sightseeing?

There’s no clear winner for Maui vs The Big Island as far as sightseeing goes. Both islands are beautiful and feature some amazing vistas. 

Chances are, though, that the Big Island will have everything you’re looking for simply due to its size. 

View of the East Coast of Big Island with rocky shore and island abundant with trees
East Coast of Big Island – Photo from Canva

👍🏼 Which island is best for hiking?

While Maui has a few really enjoyable hikes (like the Waihe’e Ridge trail or the Haleakala crater hike), Big Island has some jaw-dropping hikes to waterfalls, secluded beaches, and lava tubes. 

If hiking is high on your to-do list, you might want to go to the Big Island instead of Maui since there are significantly more hikes available.

👍🏼 Which island has the best scenic drive routes?

Maui basically only has two scenic drive routes— the West Maui loop (which I think is highly underrated and fantastic) and the Road to Hana. Both go around the two main mountains to the East and West. 

With 266 miles of coastline, Big Island has lots of scenic drives. Pretty much any drive you take is scenic! A really popular one is Chain of Craters Road. At 18.8 miles long, it features dramatic cliffs, a native rainforest, and lava fields. 

👍🏼 Which island is best for family vacations?

Depending on the age of your kids, Maui or the Big Island might be a better fit for your family.  

The Big Island has so much to see and do, and there are lots of really cool educational activities. More rugged and less developed than Maui, there are lots of adventures to be had and places to explore! That does mean more time in the car, which is worth taking into consideration.

If your kids are 5 and under, you might want to consider Maui. Vibrant, but not bustling like Oahu, Maui has lots of things to do with toddlers. 

Baby beach in Paia is a great family-friendly beach spot, and the Ocean Center is a great indoor activity for kids. 

👍🏼 Which island is best for a romantic getaway?

If you’re an adventurous couple, the Big Island is the place to go! With zip-lining, waterfall hikes, two active volcanoes, and tons of hikes, there’s so much to see and do on the Big Island. 

There are world-class resorts on the Kohala (Gold) Coast and plenty of condos and B&Bs on the Big Island. Whatever your budget, you’ll probably find something that works for you!

If you’re wanting to spend some quality time relaxing and soaking up some sunshine, I’d recommend Maui.

There are still adventures to be had, but with more beaches, more accommodation options, higher quality restaurants, and a budding coffee scene, Maui is a great place to slow down and just be together.

Plus, there are quite a few luxury resorts on the island of Maui. Some of the best are found in West Maui and Wailea, so if you’re looking for a higher-end vacation, Maui is the place to go. 

Regardless of which island you choose for your romantic getaway, you can always cater it to your own needs as a couple. 

White sand beach with coconut trees filled with tourists and a valley
Hanauma Bay in Maui- Photo from Canva

👍🏼 Which island is best for outdoor adventures? 

Both Maui and the Big Island have a lot to offer as far as outdoor adventures. However, in terms of variety and quantity, Big Island wins.

Hiking, horseback riding, snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking… Big Island has it all! 

Plus, Big Island is chock-full of jungles, deserts, fern forests, and sometimes even snow-capped volcano peaks. 

👍🏼 Which island has the best nightlife?

Neither Maui nor the Big Island is known for its nightlife. With most restaurants and stores closing by 8:00 pm at the latest, the islands are generally pretty quiet at night.

That’s not to say you’ll be unable to find a fun place! Just that, compared to Oahu, the options are pretty limited.

Of the two islands we’re focusing on, Maui has more options. If you’re interested in the nightlife, you’ll want to stay in Kaanapali or the Lahaina area. 

Bars and restaurants will stay open until 10 or 11 pm, which is late by Maui standards! 

Maui Vs. The Big Island: Beaches 

Big Island has better hikes and more outdoor activities, but the consensus is that Maui has better beaches. Big Island has rocky, volcanic shores, and by comparison, Maui has lots of beautiful beaches with soft, white sand. 

👉🏻 What are the best beaches in Maui?

You don’t have to go very far on Maui to find a nice beach! 

🌊 Makena Beach State Park is one of the best and has three different entrances. It’s a little further afield than some of the other beaches, but it has one of the biggest stretches of sand on the island. 

Unlike most of the beaches on Maui, Makena Beach State Park charges a fee for parking. 

Depending on the time of year, the waves can get quite big, and it does have a dangerous shore break, so this isn’t the best beach for young kids. 

🌊 Kaanapali Beach Park is another one of the best beaches on Maui. It’s conveniently located on the West side of Maui and isn’t that far away from restaurants, shops, and hotels. 

There’s even a beautiful beach walk you can enjoy and the water is almost always crystal clear and gorgeous. 

🌊 Ho’okipa State Beach Park has one of the best views on the island. You’re almost guaranteed to see surfers in action. 

Plus, at the far end of the beach is a protected area where green sea turtles like to congregate. The last time I was there, I counted 32 turtles! I’ve also been lucky enough to see a rare monk seal chilling on the beach. 

Tropical white sand Kaanapali beach with blue sea seen from under a palm tree
Kaanapali Beach, Maui – Photo from Canva

What are the best beaches on Big Island?

🌊 The number one rated beach on the Big Island is Makalawena. Requiring a 20-minute walk across lava rock to get to, this beach is worth the extra effort! 

Shaped like a crescent, it’s got lumps of lava rock, palm trees, and picnic tables for your convenience. It’s also fairly secluded, making it scenic and peaceful.

🌊 Samuel M Spencer Beach Park is a great, family-friendly option. With a lifeguard, picnic table, and barbecues, you can comfortably spend the entire day by the ocean!

The waters at this beach are protected by the reef, making it a good spot for young children as the ocean is fairly calm. 

🌊 Kauna’oa Beach (also called Mauna Kea Beach) is located near the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and offers views of its namesake on a clear day- the awe-inspiring volcano, Mauna Kea. 

👉🏻 Which island is best for swimming?

Since Big Island has more volcanic terrain and less sandy shores than Maui, Maui is the winner for the best swimming spot. 

With lots of protected bays and sandy stretches, there’s a good swimming spot on every side of the island. 

👉🏻 Which island is best for snorkeling?

With protected bays, crystal clear waters, and vibrant sea life, Maui has some of the best snorkeling in the state.

Plus, you can even take a boat trip out to the nearby Molokini crater. A unique experience, the brilliantly colored fish and bright coral are unforgettable! 

My sister got to see an octopus and a moray eel when we went to Molokini together. Snorkeling was the highlight of her trip!

Beautiful blue waters of the beach in Big Island
Big Island – Photo from Canva

👉🏻 Which island is best for other water activities?

Both Maui and the Big Island have lots of other water activities to offer. Both islands offer paddle boarding, surfing lessons, kayak rentals, windsurfing, parasailing, and more! 

Maui Vs. The Big Island: Accommodation 

Even once you’ve narrowed down the island you want to stay at, you still need to choose where on that island to stay! 

Each island has unique towns, and each area has pros and cons to staying there. Below I outline some of the best spots to stay on each island and reasons why they might be a good fit for you.

👉🏻 Where to stay in Maui?

There are two main places to stay while on Maui. The West side, or the South side. 

While you can find accommodation in other areas, the vast majority of your options will be either in Lahaina/Kaanapali (West side) or in Kihei/Wailea (South Side).

Scenery-wise, the west side has stunning views of West Maui.

With lots of surf spots nearby and lots of great restaurants and shopping options, there’s something for everyone. Plus, you’re going to be closer to Ka’anapali beach park and Honolua Bay.

Kihei offers more budget-friendly condo rentals within walking distance of the beach, and a decent number of shops and restaurants. Wailea offers luxury on the south shore. 

More centrally located, you’ll be able to navigate to any side of the island with ease if you stay on the South Shore.

white yacht on the Kaanapali beach of Maui, a view from under a coconut tree
Kaanapali Beach in Maui – Photo from Canva

👉🏻 Where to stay on Big Island?

Big Island has two main options as well: the Hilo side or the Kona side. Both sides are very different than each other. 

If you’re primarily interested in checking out the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you should stay in Hilo, whether in downtown Hilo or the Volcano area.

It’s also more convenient for driving up to the summit of Mauna Kea. 

On the Kailua-Kona side, you’ll be closer to the beaches and historical and cultural locations, making day trips to those attractions more feasible. 

If you’re wanting a more luxurious experience on the Big Island, look into accommodations on the Kohala Coast.

While you’ll be further away from both the majority of the attractions and the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, this area shouts luxury. 

👉🏻 Where to stay if you have kids, Maui or Big Island?

If you have young kids, you’ll want to stay in Maui. Not only are there lots of attractions that are family-friendly, but also plenty of beaches your kids will enjoy. 

I would recommend the Kihei or Lahaina areas as there are plenty of good swimming beaches close by and you won’t need to go far afield to have a good time. 

Dark rocks due to volcano eruptions with a rainbow at the back
Kilauea Volcano in Big Island – Photo from Canva

👉🏻 Where to stay if you have pets, Maui or Big Island? 

Both islands are equally pet-friendly. Just make sure when you’re booking your accommodations that pets are allowed! 

You’ll also need to apply for Direct Airport Release for your pet, otherwise, they’ll be put into a mandatory 6-month quarantine.

This process takes several months, so you’ll need to plan this well in advance. 

Maui Vs. The Big Island: Food and Drinks

Maybe you’re a self-proclaimed foodie, or just curious to know about the quality of dining options in Maui or the Big Island.

Both islands have some great restaurants with delicious food. Generally speaking, Maui has more quality dining options. Ultimately, it’s all about knowing where to go!

A full serving of Mochiko chicken with white rice and salad on a styrofoam plate
Hawaiian Mochiko Chicken – Photo from Canva

👉🏻 Where to eat in Maui?

One of my favorite places to eat on the island is called Tin Roof. It’s close to the airport, so a great option if you need a quick stop once you arrive.

Owned by Top Chef finalist Sheldon Simeon, Tin Roof offers high-quality food at affordable prices.

There’s no seating at this spot, so you’ll want to grab it and eat somewhere else, or be prepared to have a picnic in your car. 

The mochiko chicken is my go-to, with just the perfect amount of sauce. The saimin is also fantastic.

🍽 Monkeypod by Merman is an incredible farm-to-table restaurant with two locations. One location is in Wailea, and the other is in Ka’anapali. 

They’re on the pricier end, but so worth the splurge. The Mai Tai is famous, so make sure to try one while you’re there.

🍽 Flatbread in Paia has wood-fired cooked pizzas that are made to order. The mopsy is their version of the “Hawaiian pizza” with barbecue sauce, Kalua pork, and grilled pineapple slices 

Even if you’ve sworn off pineapple on your pizza you have to give this a try!

Pro Tip: They can split pizzas, so if you want to try more than one, you can!

👉🏻 Where to eat on Big Island?

🍽 Lava Lava Beach Club is an open-air, beachfront restaurant with great drinks, fresh seafood, and live music.

It’s a fantastic place to watch the sunset while you wine and dine! This is located on the Kona side of the island.

🍽 A family-run business, Pineapples Hilo has a classic Hawaiian feel. The food here is delicious, featuring classics with fun twists. Plus, you can sample the Volcano Winery’s red blend or a local craft beer. 

Live music is played every night starting at 6:30 pm, making this a place you want to come to again and again. 

🍽 Under the Body Tree is located in Waimea, and is a great option when you’re wanting something healthier than the “local grindz”.

This restaurant is committed not just to serving local, organic vegetarian, and vegan foods but also support the community with a fitness program and local fundraisers.

👉🏻 Which island has better food?

Big Island is growing its selection of bars and restaurants, but currently, Maui has a wider array of dining options. There are lots of high-quality and delicious restaurants on every side of the island. 

👉🏻 Which island is best for experiencing local cuisine? 

Both Maui and the Big Island have some fantastic options for experiencing local cuisine. 

On Maui, I’d recommend eating at South Shore Grindz in Kihei. Try their loco moco! This local dish is made of rice topped with hamburger, eggs, and gravy.

Big Island has some great spots as well. Broke Da Mouth Grindz in Kona receives tons of praise, especially for their Furikake Fried Chicken.

Fried rice topped with egg and slices of bacon on a plate
Loco Moco – Photo from Canva

Maui Vs. The Big Island: Cost of Travel 

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Neither Maui nor the Big Island is going to be the cheapest place to visit.

However, with proper budgeting and planning you can come prepared. 

👉🏻 How much does it cost to go to Maui?

Maui is the most expensive Hawaiian island to visit. According to statistics published in 2023, the prices in Maui are approximately 163.22% of the state average! To be safe, you should budget $220 per day per person. 

💰 Average cost of transport 

The average cost of transportation in Maui comes out to around $50 per day. Rental car prices have been fairly high since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. 

There are some good budget options, especially if you reach out to local car rental companies instead of big-name brands. (I’d recommend Kihei-Rent-A-Car). 

💰 Average cost of food and lodging 

For a typical double occupancy hotel room, the average price on Maui is around $225 per night. Depending on the area and time of year, you’ll spend more or less. The winter months of December through March tend to see the highest prices.

The food on Maui is also pretty pricy. The average traveler spends $75 per day on food, plus more on alcoholic beverages.  

💰 Average cost of tours and attractions 

While there’s plenty to do on Maui that doesn’t require money, there are also quite a lot of really cool experiences and tours to enjoy.

Depending on how long you’re planning to be on the island, you should plan to budget an additional $30 per person per day for outings.

A small road beside a green field and the blue beach in Maui as the sun sets
Olowahu Maui – Photo from Canva

👉🏻 How much does it cost to go to Big Island? 

Big Island is a bit cheaper than Maui, with the average traveler needing to budget $210 a day. Some aspects of The Big Island are cheaper than Maui. Transportation and accommodations tend to be less, but food costs are higher. 

💰 Average cost of transport

Most travelers to the Big Island spend about $30 a day on transportation. Again, you’re more likely to spend more if you rent a vehicle right out of the airport. I would highly recommend reaching out to a local car rental company to help get a better deal (Budget Car Rental in Kona is great!)

💰 Average cost of food and lodging

On the Big Island, a classic double-occupancy hotel room costs around $180. 

The winter months of December through March are going to be priced higher since these months are considered the “high season.” Everyone is trying to escape miserable winters on the brilliant beaches in Hawaii!

Food prices on the Big Island are not low, so a $34 on a meal out is typical- not including alcohol. You should budget $85 a day for food. 

💰 Average cost of tours and attractions

With such a wide variety of excursions and attractions on the Big Island, it’s not a surprise that the costs vary widely as well. 

Most guided tours and excursions will cost between $50-$100, but you can also choose to do self-guided tours in the National Parks. Don’t forget the admissions cost! It’ll be about $35 per person. 

👉🏻 Which is cheaper, vacation in Maui or Big Island? 

Big Island tends to be a slightly cheaper location than Maui. However, there are lots of ways for you to enjoy all that the islands have to offer without breaking the bank.

Maui Vs. The Big Island: Safety 

Overall, Hawaii is an incredibly safe place to visit. The state has a lower average crime rate versus the national average. That doesn’t mean crime is non-existent, but it is a kind and welcoming place in lots of ways.

Generally speaking, the most dangerous part of Maui is the ocean itself!

A blue boat in the middle of the coconut trees and the blue Wailea Beach with and island on the backgorund
Wailea Beach in Maui – Photo from Canva

👉🏻 What is the safest part of Maui?

The majority of Maui is safe, with South Maui and the North Shore considered the safest areas. There are only a few areas in which I wouldn’t feel comfortable being out at night on my own.

👉🏻 What is the safest part of the Big Island?

Kalaoa is an incredibly safe area of the Big Island. A center of activity and close to dozens of beaches.

👉🏻 Which island is safer, Maui or Big Island? 

Both islands are generally safe and you don’t need to worry about it much.

👉🏻 How to Stay Safe in Maui

While you don’t have a lot to worry about during your stay on Maui, it’s still a good idea to exercise caution.

Keep your car and hotel/condo locked when you’re not there and make sure to stow valuables or keep them with you. 

If I’m at the beach alone, I feel comfortable leaving my things unattended while I go for a swim. I do tend to stick loose items like water bottles inside my bag.

You should also stay away from the beach parks at night, at least if you’re on your own, and stick to brightly lit areas. 

Make sure to drink lots of water, use reef-safe sunscreen and respect the ocean. If in doubt, don’t go out!

👉🏻 How to Stay Safe on Big Island 

Thankfully it’s not too hard to stay safe on Big Island, but like anytime you’re out and about, make sure to practice awareness! 

Lock your car door, hide your valuables, and be aware of your surroundings. In general, I don’t recommend going to beach parks alone at night.

Stay in brightly lit areas after nightfall.

One of the best things you can do to stay safe in Hawaii is to respect the ocean and nature. Don’t turn your back on the ocean, and don’t attempt hikes you wouldn’t feel confident doing at home. 

FAQs about Maui and Big Island 

Check out these facts about Maui and the Big Island! 

Is Maui more crowded than the Big Island?

Maui is more crowded than the Big Island. The main reason is that the Big Island encompasses 4,028 square miles and Maui only has an area of 727 square miles. 

Is Maui too touristy?

Maui does get significantly more tourists than The Big Island. Depending on your preferences, this could be either a benefit (more hotel, food, and activity options) or a detriment. 

Why is Maui more popular than Big Island? 

Maui has more developed tourist areas and a wider variety of beaches than the Big Island does, making it a more popular tourist destination. 

Is Maui for the rich?

Prices on Maui are high. However, there are ways to cut costs and enjoy Maui, even on a tighter budget.  

Can you see Maui from the Big Island? 

On a clear day, you can see the peak of Haleakala or the Lahaina harbor from the north side of the Big Island. 

Dark lava rocks covered with green plants beside the blue waters
Hana, Maui – Photo from Canva

Wrapping-Up: Maui Vs. The Big Island 

Both Maui and the Big Island have numerous adventures and experiences to offer!

With a fairly minimal price difference between the two, you can choose what kind of Hawaiian vacation you would like based on preferences rather than budget. 

Big Island offers lots of adventure, rugged nature, and impressive vistas of volcanoes and lava.

Maui offers accessible beaches and fantastic snorkeling options, plus a wider variety of food and accommodation options. 

No matter which island you choose, there’s going to be something for everyone, and you’ll create memories to last a lifetime.