Updated October 2022
When thinking about tropical getaways, there’s few more iconic destinations that come to mind than the Bahamas and Hawaii. No wonder too, as both of these vacation spots conjure up images of sun-kissed beaches, swaying palm trees, laid-back cocktails under the sun, and many fun and exciting activities.
However, the reality is Hawaii and the Bahamas are actually very different destinations. And subsequently they provide very different types of holidays.
As we will show you below in our honest comparison of both destinations, the activities, beaches, nightlife, culture and vibe, are very distinct in both Hawaii and the Bahamas. And the result can be a very different vacation experience in each.
So join us as we show you what makes each of these vacation spots so unique and different from the other, in what is the most accurate comparison of the Bahamas and Hawaii you will find. Let’s get started!
- Stunning Natural Scenery & World-Class Beaches
- How Does The Culture & Vibe Compare
- How Does The Food Scene Compare
- Which One Should You Choose
Stunning Natural Scenery & World-Class Beaches
There’s no doubt that the Bahamas and Hawaii have some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. However that scenery is extremely different.
As we will explain more below, the Bahamas is a world class beach destination and if chilling at the beach while snorkelling and sunbathing is your idea of the perfect vacation, then the Bahamas is probably going to be the best choice for you
But if you want beach activities and also adventure away from the coastline, then the dramatic jungle and mountain-filled landscape in the state of Hawaii, alongside its rich culture, can’t be beat.
Putting it simply, there may be no better place in the world for nature lovers than the state of Hawaii!
The beaches in Hawaii are famous for their laidback vibe, golden sands, and for being the birthplace of surfing. But it’s Hawaii’s mountain-clad interior with jungles, waterfalls, and active volcanoes, that really makes this vacation destination stand out amongst many others.
Hawaii is a state with countless hiking trails, some of the United States’ best and most dramatic national parks, and the landscape is so striking that it was even used as the backdrop for the film Jurassic Park.
In fact Hawaii’s biggest mountain is 4207 metres tall. Compare that with the highest peak in the Bahamas which stands at just 63 metres! So it’s no surprise Hawaii attracts outdoor enthusiasts in their droves.
However you don’t have to be a hiker to experience Hawaii, as there’s still many iconic beaches to enjoy. One of the most famous is the bustling Waikiki Beach on Oahu.
There you can enjoy cocktails at cool laid-back beach bars, or even try surfing at the home of this fun water sport. In fact, if you’re looking to surf or learn to surf, then there’s no doubt that Hawaii will be a far better choice than the Bahamas for you.
The coastline of Hawaii is also a wonderful place for snorkelling and scuba diving, and there’s many lovely bays and coves where you will get the chance to swim beside turtles or spot the rare and endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal.
But if you are visiting Hawaii, you have to drag yourself away from the beach and explore the rugged and wild side of the state – from its active volcanoes in one of the United States’ most famous national parks, to hiking on the Hawaiian island of Kauai where the dramatic jungle-clad peaks were made famous on movie screens when featured as the backdrop for Jurassic Park.
In fact, it’s the ability in Hawaii to be able to swim or snorkel in the morning, hike mountains or watch lava flow in the afternoon, and then enjoy Hawaii’s famous nightlife in the evening, that makes this destination so special.
It’s an action-packed place where it’s possible to fit so many different activities into your holiday, whereas in the Bahamas, the activities tend to be centred mainly around the beach and the sea.
As you may have guessed, the Bahamas and its hundreds of picture perfect islands is probably the better destination if you’re looking to do less hiking and more sunbathing!
This nation looks exactly like the Caribbean paradise you see in your dreams, where you can sip on cocktails at five-star resorts while looking out towards white sands and crystal clear water in a country that averages an incredible 340 sunny days per year.
However as the Bahamas is so popular – and is a very common cruise ship destination – you will find many enthusiastic and often persistent street sellers on the most popular beaches trying to sell you tourist knickknacks and other goods.
That’s something you see far less of in Hawaii, and it just adds to the overall ‘touristy vibe’ that exists in the Bahamas compared to elsewhere.
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That said, as a nation made-up of a countless number of gorgeous beaches, cays, bays and coves, spread across 655,000 square kilometres, you can definitely still find pristine and barely visited beaches in the Bahamas if you’re willing to put the effort in to find them.
One of the best – which still remains largely untouched by tourism compared to other beaches – is Greenwood Beach. This place is as beautiful as any other, but luckily the long stretch of sand here is often empty and is the perfect place for long romantic walks.
You should still visit the most popular beaches though, after all they are usually very popular for reason.
One of the most visited in the Bahamas is Pig Beach on Big Major Cay. This could be the most photographed area of the country, but it’s not because of the turquoise-hued waters there, but rather the small group of pigs that live on the uninhabited island and love to swim and enjoy the water as a way to cool down during the day.
Visiting Big Major Cay and seeing the pigs in action is on many Bahamas bucket lists, but it is quite expensive to get there.
And that is actually one of the major disadvantages to visiting this country – it is often expensive to travel around, island hop, and partake in activities. That’s partly due to the geography of the Bahamas, but also because it’s become such a popular tourist destination.
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Of course with all those sunny days you get in this county, you won’t be surprised to hear that the Bahamas is one of the world’s best snorkelling and scuba diving spots. That’s mainly thanks to the islands’ having some of the most clear water you can fin on the globe.
That water is protected by reefs and extremely calm most days too, so snorkelling is easy and safe. In comparison Hawaii – as the surf capital of the world – has much rougher water and waves. That’s an advantage to the Bahamas, especially if you have children.
You can swim and snorkel anywhere in the Bahamas and have a good time, but one of the best places to view the underwater life is at Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park. There you can swim amongst colourful fish, spot sea turtles, and even look out for small reef sharks gliding above the coral.
Whilst it’s the coast that makes Bahamas so special, and it clearly lacks the dramatic jungle and mountain inland that Hawaii has, there is still some forest and hiking trails that you can explore.
You will find those on islands like Grand Bahama, and the more isolated and far-less visited island of Andros. But the reality remains that this country is definitely better for sun-seekers than hikers and jungle trekkers
How Does The Culture & Vibe Compare?
The landscape and beaches aren’t the only thing that Hawaii and the Bahamas have going for them. Both have culture and a food scene that is well worth getting to know too, and there’s plenty of historical and cultural activities to take part in.
Yet while the Bahamas wins in the beach department, Hawaii arguably wins when it comes to culture.
The US state is famous around the world for its ‘Aloha’ culture, and the colourful traditions and customs that are part of it. As you’ll see next, we think Hawaii is probably the better choice for travellers who are also looking to get their culture-fix whilst on vacation.
Experiencing the Hawaiian culture is one of the main reasons you should visit this fascinating state. This group of islands has to be one of the most culturally rich places in the world, and you’ll find many interesting and exciting cultural excursions to enjoy – far more than you’ll find in the Bahamas.
The iconic Aloha culture and its traditions like the Hawaiian lei, hula, and the luau, just have to be experienced when on holiday in the archipelago.
The luau is a traditional Hawaiian feast which typically involves slow cooking a whole pig. It’s not just about the food though, as this feast is a whole event that involves entertainment, dancing, and much more.
Luckily, many major hotels and resorts in Hawaii often do their own luau events. But even if you are not staying in a resort you will be able to find many opportunities to join a luau up and down Hawaii. The Smith Family Garden Luau in Kauai is one of the most famous, and is known for its delicious food and fun entertainment.
After being given a Hawaiian lei at your resort, which is a garland of flowers traditionally given to new guests of the islands, why not learn more about the history of Hawaiian culture and its people by visiting the Polynesian Cultural Centre which you can find on the island of Oahu.
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Another museum you should make time for is the Pearl Harbour Aviation Museum. The museum teaches the history of one of the most notorious war crimes that was ever committed, the World War Two attack on Pearl Harbour. While sombre, it’s an important place to learn about past events in history, and one where children can learn about the sacrifices that were made in the past.
The Bahamas has a fascinating culture too, but as it’s such a popular tourist and cruise ship destination, some parts of the country feel less ‘local’ and far more ‘Americanized’. That means it is often easier to find a McDonald’s in the Bahamas than it is to find a more traditional taste of the country!
In that respect, Hawaii tends to have a more ‘authentic’ feel to it, whereas the Bahamas feels far more tourist orientated.
However, there are still plenty of cultural activities in the Bahamas if you’re willing to look for them. The Heritage Museum of the Bahamas in the capital of Nassau is a good place to start. There you can learn about the dark history of the slave trade in the country, and how around 85% of the population are descended from slaves.
In fact the national music of the Bahamas, Goombay, is an energetic and rhythmic beat that was actually created by slaves to pass down their customs and traditions to the next generation. The rhythmic music of Goombay can still be heard during the fun festivals that happen in the summer throughout the archipelago.
The Bahamas is also a synonymous with having fun, and there’s a fantastic nightlife scene in Nassau and places like Paradise Island which is a tourist hotspot and resort mecca. There you can enjoy beach bars, take your kids to waterparks, or even try your luck at the slots.
How Does The Food Scene Compare?
If you’re a self-confessed foodie you’ll find plenty to keep you happy in both the Bahamas and Hawaii, but for seafood lovers it’s the Bahamas that will probably suit you more.
Hawaiian food is unique and diverse, and the cuisine is a combination of European, Japanese, American, and Polynesian influences.
Food tends to be cheaper in Hawaii than it is in the Bahamas, so it’s a great place to get out and try different types of cuisine.
One of the most popular items to buy on a hot day is shaved ice. This tasty syrup-flavoured ice, which is also sometimes served with ice cream, is a perfect way to cool down during the midday sun and is always a big hit with kids. It’s like Hawaii’s version of ice cream.
If you make it to a luau at some point during your Hawaiian vacation, you will get the opportunity to try many different types of Hawaiian cuisine. But the star of the show is usually the Kalua pork. This is a whole pig that is slow roasted for hours until the meat can be easily pulled off the bone. It’s as delicious as it sounds.
There’s plenty of good seafood in Hawaii too, but the food scene is quite diverse and you’ll find many restaurants that cater for a whole variety of tastes rather than just those who like seafood.
The Bahamas is all about seafood, which will be no surprise considering this nation is made-up of hundreds of islands! So if you’re the sort of person that is always on the hunt for the best seafood restaurant around, then the Bahamas is going to be the perfect destination for you.
It’s all kinds of seafood that you will find in the Bahamas, but one of the most popular dishes is fried conch and you’ll find this served up and down the islands. Another dish that is a favourite with locals is baked crab, which is where the crab meat is mixed with breadcrumbs and egg and then baked directly within the crab shell.
You’ll find plenty of restaurants serving all forms of Western cuisine in the Bahamas, and many fast food chains as well. But remember to leave your comfort zone and try a few different dishes that you normally wouldn’t try.
And of course when the evening hits, that’s when the beach cocktails start to flow! Many of the cocktails in the Bahamas are made-up of rum, and the cocktail called The Yellow Bird is a popular one amongst Bahamians.
Or if you’re looking for something refreshing then you can’t go wrong with trying coconut water in the Bahamas. Or even better, drinking it straight from the coconut itself!
Hawaii Or The Bahamas: Which Should You Choose?
Regardless of whether you choose to visit the Bahamas or Hawaii, you’re guaranteed to have a vacation that you’ll never forget. But there’s no doubt that both of these destinations can provide quite different vacations.
The Bahamas is one of the most beautiful beach vacation spots in the world, and the snorkelling, swimming, and general laidback beach life in this nation is unbeatable. In many ways it is the perfect destination for people who are seeking sun, sea, and sand. However all of that comes with a price, and the Bahamas is also one of the most expensive destinations in the Caribbean.
Hawaii is marginally cheaper, and it also has some wonderful beaches and coastline – no surprise considering it’s the birthplace of surfing. However Hawaii excels not just on the coast, but inland as well.
So if you’re looking for holiday where you can spend some time on the beach but other days hiking, exploring, enjoying cultural activities, and even experiencing things like seeing active volcanoes and flowing lava, then Hawaii will be the perfect destination for you.
Whatever you decide, we hope you have a great time. Have fun!