When looking to book an unforgettable tropical vacation, options can be overwhelming. If you’ve narrowed it down to Big Island or Maui, let us help make your choice a little more clear!

Each island in the state offers unique experiences that you can’t find anywhere else. From incredible beaches, beautiful blue water, and every color of sand you can think of, no matter where you choose, you really can’t go wrong. But if you have narrowed down your choice to Big Island or Maui the decision is still very difficult.

Both are very different from each other but absolutely perfect in their own ways. Thankfully though, we know both of these islands well so can help with your decision!

Below we compare Big Island and Maui, looking at which has the better beaches, resorts, activities and more. So read on to begin your Hawaiian adventure! (Recommended: The Best Hawaiian Islands for Families).

Maui vs Big Island

What to Expect?

Big Island is called “big” for a clear reason. When you look at this destination, be prepared to find impressive biodiversity. You can pick just about any weather pattern on any given day to experience. Always wanted to take a photo of a black sand beach? What about green? Or red? Find them all on the Big Island. When you book a trip here, you can expect to need a car to get around too, so keep rental options in mind.

Maui is a destination for those looking for a very laid back, relaxing atmosphere. You can find postcard-worthy white sand beaches, excellent outdoor excursions, and some of the best snorkeling in the world.

Maui vs Big Island

Big Island vs Maui: Which has Better Beaches?

When comparing beaches, choosing a “better” island is extremely difficult.

Big Island offers many unique beach opportunities, like dipping your toes in multi-colored sands. Papakolea Beach has rare green sand that is sure to spice up your Instagram, while Kalapana Beach has iconic black sand, which stands out in contrast to the bright blue water.

Maui, however, has gentle waves that are perfect for both swimming and snorkeling, making it an ideal spot for those unfamiliar with the strength of the Hawaiian waves. Ka’anapali Beach is a famous spot on the island due to its pristine white sand, tall palm trees, and calming waves. Because of the calmer water, it also tends to be clearer, making it great for seeing underwater life, especially the sea turtles that call this island home!

Want something more private? Hamoa is a secluded Maui beach surrounded by cliffs, making it feel like you’re on your own private island.

With that said, Maui offers softer sands in comparison to Big Island. Despite its size and unique landscapes, much of Big Island’s coast is rocky and not ideal for sunbathing. So if you’re looking for beaches for swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling, then Maui is the better choice than Big Island. (Recommended: Sharks in Hawaii – Attacks and Staying Safe).

Big Island vs Maui: Which has Better Resorts?

Both Big Island and Maui offer a variety of options depending on what you’re looking for. From budget-friendly finds to upscale luxury resorts, there’s something to fit any traveler’s needs.

Find a unique stay on Big Island, where you can enter an entire private resort community that stretches along an impressive beachfront called Kohanaiki. You can also find excellent stays at Mauna Kea Resort and Mauna Lani Resort, both offering upscale amenities. In addition, the Four Seasons Hualalai is a big draw for celebrities, and for good reasons too thanks to the luxurious and secluded feel.

Maui, on the other hand, also has some great options. Wailea Beach is known for boasting some of the most extravagant resorts in the state, like the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea or the Grand Wailea – A Waldorf Astoria Resort. Many celebrities have spent time here, and the area’s appeal is clear, with massive pools and gorgeous greenery surrounded by beaches and lush forests. You can also find less expensive options in Ka’anapali with 4-star amenities. Airbnb stays are also an affordable option and can be found scattered throughout the island.

Maui vs Big Island

Maui vs Big Island: Which has Better Daytime Adventures and Activities?

Both Big Island and Maui are perfect places to be outdoors. However, something unique about both islands is the opportunity to see over 10,000 humpback whales migrating to the warmer waters from November to March! So take a boat out from either island to see this once in a lifetime kind of event.

Big Island

The Big Island has two active volcanoes, which you can conveniently find at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. If you’re lucky, you may be able to see lava actively flowing into the ocean! You can also find plenty of hikes for all skill levels for a great day outdoors.

Scuba diving is also very popular on the Big Island due to the lava caves and huge manta ray population. There are plenty of unique and exciting dive sites to explore, so you’ll never run out of cool places to spend the day underwater.

You can also opt to take a boat or helicopter tour to take in just how giant this island really is. Want a more exhilarating perspective? Try taking a zip line through the jungle! Surrounded by wildlife and views of the ocean, it’s sure to be a lasting memory. Finally, if you want a break from the sun, check out the Pu-uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park to learn more about native culture.

Maui vs Big Island


Besides checking out the beaches, Maui also has prime spots for snorkeling, like Molokini and Makena Cave. Surfing is a big draw in Maui, and you can find locations for all skills levels. For beginners or those looking for gentler waves, the Cove in Kihei is a great place to start. If you’re a bit more advanced, Olowalu has bigger waves to get your heart racing.

The Road to Hana is also an experience you don’t want to miss if you choose to visit Maui. This 50-mile drive is sure to take your breath away as you twist and turn through the stunning (however, admittedly narrow) roads. With over 600 windy curves and 60 bridges, you’ll find unparalleled ocean views, giant waterfalls, breathtaking hikes, produce stands, and more. Go see the black sand beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park and the quaint surf town of Paia on your way to top off your daytime adventure.

A staple excursion you also can’t miss if you visit Maui is Haleakala Crater. This iconic spot has attracted visitors from all over the globe due to the out of this world sights. Get up close and personal with Hawaii’s largest volcano, but no need to worry, it remains dormant to this day. As you climb its heights (we recommend leaving early in the morning as it takes a couple of hours to drive to the top), notice the way the landscape begins to change. Make sure you pack a sweater because at 10,000 feet, it can get a little chilly, especially if you’re rocking that tropical vacation sunburn.

When comparing the two, both have an excellent array of outdoor adventures, but Big Island might win by a margin due to the sheer size of the place. In addition, you can find eight of the earth’s thirteen ecosystems throughout the island, which means you can find something different to do or see just about any day of your vacation!

Maui vs Big Island

Big Island vs Maui: Which has Better Nighttime Adventures and Nightlife?

Neither the Big Island nor Maui is known for its nightlife, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find things to do. Many places shut down early, so don’t expect to see many bars or clubs in either place. With that said, there are plenty of options to enjoy nature, even in the dark.

The Big Island boasts some of the best night snorkels and scuba dives in the world due to the high manta ray population. Night is the best time to catch them at their peak activity time, swimming in and out of old shipwrecks.

On the other hand, Mauna Kea on Big Island is also an excellent place for stargazing. So grab a blanket and keep an eye out for shooting stars!

Lahaina in Maui is going to be your best bet if you’re looking for somewhere with a bit more going on. Keep an eye out for restaurants, pubs, and breweries. Also, keep in mind that each beach town holds a few local spots worth exploring, and if you run into upscale hotels, you can often find good restaurants there as well. Again, don’t expect anything fancy, but it will be more than enough to fill your nighttime needs!

Big Island vs Maui: Which is the Better Choice?

Big Island is perfect for any outdoor lover who is looking for plenty of space to explore. With various environments to enjoy and many outdoor excursions, it’s the ideal place to pack a day full of adventure. So if you’re looking for adventure on an island with a vast and diverse landscape, Big Island would be a better choice than Maui.

Maui, on the other hand, has slightly more going on. You can visit a variety of quaint surfing towns, each with their own unique personality. As a result, it has a bit more going for it regarding activities than the Big Island, making it a draw for families, solo travelers, and honeymooners alike due to the variety. It also has better beaches than Big Island. So if you’re looking for a more traditional tropical beach holiday, then Maui will be a better choice.

Either way, whichever you choose, you can find beautiful scenery, plenty of thrills, and epic adventures that may make your Hawaiian vacation the best trip you’ve taken yet. Lucky for you, there are plenty of islands to choose from, which gives you an excellent excuse to plan trip after trip after trip! We certainly wouldn’t blame you for it.

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