When it comes to dream getaways, Hawaii and Barbados are two destinations that are at the top of most people’s bucket list. Both of these tropical paradises can offer unique varied experiences. From romantic getaways for couples looking for sun, sea, and sand, to the adventurous backpacker who wants to scuba dive and trek jungles in one of the world’s most exotic regions.
Choosing whether to visit Hawaii or Barbados for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday or honeymoon destination can therefore be difficult. Having visited both, we compare them below, and show you what each has to offer.
Hawaii or Barbados: Stunning natural scenery
Both Hawaii and Barbados offer some of the world’s best scenery, but in very different ways.
However as we show you below, if beaches are your main priority then Barbados would be a better vacation choice than Hawaii. However if you want adventure away from the beach and coastline, then Hawaii will suit you better.
Hawaii is an outdoor lovers paradise, and while it has unbelievable golden beaches, its mountainous jungle-covered interior has to be explored and enjoyed. Barbados, on the other hand, is much flatter and its beaches and Caribbean vibe are the gem in its crown. That makes the latter much more suited to those looking for sun, sea, and sand.
For travelers leaning towards a Hawaiian holiday, there’s still many great beaches where you can enjoy that famous laid-back surfer vibe. Some of our favorites include the less well-known Waimea Bay Beach on Oahu, and the stunning Hanalei Bay on Kauai island. For great snorkeling and the chance to see turtles, then visit Hanauma Bay on Oahu. A great underwater camera – such as this one – is a must.
For a more fun-fueled beach adventure, pick up a cocktail at the famous Waikiki Beach and get chatting to locals. If you’re feeling energetic, a hike up Hawaii’s Diamond Head – which looms over Waikiki – will give you spectacular panoramic views of Honolulu and Oahu.
The Hawaiian island of Kauai was the backdrop for the film Jurassic Park, so expect great hiking and walking trails that will take you back in time. A superb walking and hiking in Hawaii book – such as this one – would be a great addition to your suitcase. The tropical forests here on the ‘Garden Isle’ make their way up the mountainsides towards sharp dramatic peaks. However the reefs on this island are also world renowned among divers, and offer spectacular scuba and snorkeling opportunities.
For tourists looking to walk less, and sunbathe more, Barbados seems the natural choice. There is more of a tourist vibe here though, and its not uncommon to get a little harassed at times by street sellers trying to hawk their goods to sun-seekers on Barbados’ most popular beaches.
However Barbados offers that picture-perfect Caribbean holiday many people are looking for, with upmarket hotels, and beach-side bars set on stunning coasts. Whilst there’s a range of accommodation here, it is often more expensive than what you will find in Hawaii.
Make your way to Oistins and Miami Beach for great swimming waters and one of the best sunsets in the Caribbean.
You can find turquoise water and golden sandy beaches up and down Barbados, but one of our favorites is Bottom Bay. It’s not a great swimming spot, but it’s secluded, romantic, and with swaying palm trees it has a real desert island feel to it. Beautiful beaches like this are one of the reasons Barbados made our list of the best Caribbean islands for couples!
Barbados’ teeming sea-life can also be viewed when out and about swimming and snorkeling. Bell Buoy reef, near Accra Beach is the perfect place to spot angel fish and parrot fish. While at Carlise Bay Marine Park you can dive among numerous ship wrecks that have been taken over by colorful fish, nurse sharks, and manta rays! Some of the best reefs to explore in Barbados can be found in this.
Hawaii or Barbados: Explore the sights and experience the tropics
Along with the natural scenery on offer, both Hawaii and Barbados have a wealth of attractions and cultural experiences worth checking out.
However exploring Hawaii, and its different islands, can take some time and is probably more suited to someone who is looking for at least a two-week holiday. The much smaller Barbados, can be seen, explored and enjoyed within a week – although staying longer is a good idea too!
Hawaiian culture – aloha wear, hula, and luau for example – is almost better known that Hawaii’s gorgeous sunsets and swimming waters. So getting a taste of the real Hawaiian experience is a must if visiting here.
The iconic luau – a traditional Hawaiian feast with entertainment – should be the first thing on your list. We recommend the Smith Family Garden Luau in Kauai due to the delicious traditional food on offer, and the colorful entertainment and dances. But almost everywhere on Hawaii you can find a spectacular luau experience.
With your interest piqued in Hawaiian culture after taking part in a luau, head to the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Oahu to learn more about the Polynesian people and culture.
Hawaii is also home to one of the most notorious war crimes in history – the WW2 attack on Pearl Harbor. For military history buffs, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is therefore a must visit.
With a mix of West African and British influences, Barbados is a fascinating country with a rich blend of Caribbean traditions and a culture that emerged out of plantation slavery economy.
Historic Bridgetown is where you should head if you want to learn about the colonial past in Barbados. A walking tour will introduce you to the country’s tumultuous past, and the colonial relics and architecture that still stand today. You can also tour St Nicholas Abbey, a Jacobean plantation house.
As with many countries that were colonized by the British, cricket quickly became the national sport and a way to beat the occupiers on the playing field! Take a trip to Kensington Oval Barbados to watch a game.
Barbados also has one of the oldest horse race tracks in the world, the Garrison Savannah. Situated just outside of Bridgetown, locals and tourists mix on race day as excitement builds. In fact a visit here is on our list of the best things to do in Barbados!
A taste of a different world
Both countries will provide a treat for your taste-buds, but with a very different focus.
Hawaiian food is truly unique, combining Polynesian, European, Japanese and American tastes.
A must try – and what you will almost certainly have at a luau – is Kālua pork. A whole pig is slow cooked for several hours and then the meat pulled apart ready to be eaten. It’s absolutely delicious.
For something that has more of an American feel, try loco moco – a burger steak, fried eggs and gravy. Perfect after a day swimming or hiking.
Shaved ice is also common in Hawaii, and is perfect to cool down on a hot day. This tasty treat is flavored with flavored syrup, and is sometimes served with ice cream too!
Unsurprisingly, fish features heavily in Barbadian cuisine, and fried flying fish is one of the national dishes of Barbados! However with such a mix of cultures here, food is influenced by West African, British, and even Indian tastes.
Here popular dishes include chicken curry, barbecued pig tails and even Macaroni pies!
Just like many Caribbean islands, rum is the drink of choice in Barbados. Luckily for visitors, they make great rum too! Get yourself along to Mount Gay Rum Distillery for a tour and some free tasters.
Hawaii or Barbados? Which should you choose?
Both Hawaii and Barbados make excellent holiday destinations. But if you’re seeking more time on the beach with a cocktail in your hand, then Barbados will probably be the better choice.
However if you want an active holiday, and have more than a week to spare, then Hawaii and its constituent islands will provide a better holiday than Barbados. One that can be packed full of culture and adventure, as well as great beaches and snorkeling spots.
Recommended for your trip to Hawaii or Barbados
*This article may contain affiliate links which allows Wandering our World to make a small commission on any sales made – and keep the coffee flowing! It involves no extra cost to yourself. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases, but only recommend products we believe in.