A handy cheat sheet to the Hawaiian Islands

Want to know what each Island in Hawaii is known for? Here’s a “cheat sheet” we created to help you out:

Big Island

Nickname: The Orchid Isle
Size: 4,038 square miles, largest island in Hawaii

Good to know:

  • Really big — as in you-can-fit-all-the-other-islands-in-the-Big-Island and it-takes-more-than-a-few-hours-to-circle big!
  • Home to an active volcano Kilauea, aka “Madame Pele”
  • Rough and rugged coastline, lots of black sand beaches, short on white-sand beaches
  • Mauna Kea (13,796 ft.) is the highest point in the Hawaiian Islands, and one of the most sacred sites in all of Hawaii
  • Exporter of coffee, macadamia nuts, vanilla, chocolate and orchids
  • Home to the Merrie Monarch annual hula festival and competition


Nickname: The Gathering Place
Size: 596.7 sq mi, 3rd largest

Good to know:

  • Home to Waikiki, Duke Kahanamoku, and the world-famous view of Diamond Head
  • Some of the best and most dangerous surfing on the planet (North Shore)
  • All of Hawaii’s city life on one island (Honolulu)
  • Center of government, military, universities, commerce and yes — awesome shopping
  • Pearl Harbor, site of 1941 attack from Japanese forces
  • Most populous island by far (953,207 vs. 467,284 for the rest of the state)
  • Split into cardinal regions: West Side, East Side, North Shore and Town


Nickname: The Valley Isle
Size: 727.2 square miles, 2nd largest

Good to know:

  • Geographic center of Hawaii with most views of 5 of the neighbor islands (Oahu, Molokai, Kahoolawe, Lanai and Big Island)
  • No Ka Oi” which means “the best,” … because it has the best of everything Hawaii has to offer without the ridiculous crowds or long drives
  • The highest number of accessible beaches in all of Hawaii — 120 miles over 81 beaches, including 33 miles of swimming beaches!
  • Hana – the remote and charming town where old Hawaii still exists
  • Haleakala — drive and hang out at the top of an extinct volcano


Nickname: The Pineapple Isle (formerly)
Size: 140.5 sq. mi, 6th largest

Good to know:

  • The smallest habitable island in Hawaii
  • 98% “owned” by Oracle founder Larry Ellison
  • No traffic lights or buildings above X stories
  • Not just 1 but 2 Four Seasons resorts
  • Formerly “The Pineapple Island,” now an emerging model for 21st century sustainability


Nickname: The Target Isle
Size: 44.59 square miles, 8th largest

Good to know:

  • Tiny, dry and uninhabited except for rodents and goats
  • Once used as bombing practice for the US military 🙁
  • Now being restored by workers and volunteers


Nickname: The Friendly Isle
Size: 260 square miles, 5th largest

Good to know:

  • aka “The Friendly Isle,” lives up to its name
  • Once home to a leper colony (Kalaupapa) and Saint Damien
  • Site of culturally-rich Halawa Valley
  • Peaceful, quiet and remote, with no major resorts
  • Start of the 41 mile international Molokai Hoe outrigger canoe race to Oahu


Nickname: The Garden Isle
Size: 552 sq. mi, 4th largest

Good to know:

  • Ultra lush, green and jungle-y
  • Set of films such as Jurassic Park, The Descendants and Avatar
  • The 2nd wettest spot on Earth (Mt. Waialeale)
  • Stunning Na Pali coast — only accessible by foot or water craft
  • Interesting fact: one of the islands not conquered by King Kamehameha


Nickname: The Forbidden Isle
Size: 69.46 sq. mi., 7th largest

Good to know:

  • “The Forbidden Island,” which means invitation only
  • No telephone services, no paved roads, no plumbing, no running water, no power lines (there is solar)…and horses are the main form of transportation!
  • Owned by the Robinson Family, inhabited by Native Hawaiians
  • Hawaiian is first spoken language
  • Origin of renowned Niihau shell necklaces


Need a hand with your next Maui vacation? Please contact the Sunny Maui Vacations team at info@sunnymauivacations.com or call 808-240-1311, ext. 21. We’ll find you the best vacation rental condo in South Maui and help you with any and all recommendations and activities across Maui (chat with our in-house Concierge at extension 71).

Photo credits: AussieActive, Julien Millet, Pascal Debrunner, ornellas, 29198100@N00, 75348994@N00, Wikipedia

Need a hand with your next Maui vacation? Please contact the Sunny Maui Vacations team at info@sunnymauivacations.com or call 808-240-1311, ext. 21. We’ll find you the best vacation rental condo or rental home in South Maui and help you with any and all recommendations and activities across Maui.