When it comes to dream getaways, Hawaii and the Bahamas 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 the Bahamas 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 vs Bahamas: Stunning Natural Scenery
Both Hawaii and the Bahamas 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 the Bahamas would be a better vacation choice than Hawaii. However if you want adventure away from the beach and coastline, then Hawaii will probably suit you better.
Hawaii is an outdoor lovers paradise. There are unbelievable golden beaches, but Hawaii’s mountainous jungle-covered interior is begging to be explored and enjoyed. In fact Hawaii’s biggest peak stands at 4207m!
In contrast, the Bahamas is much flatter (its highest peak is just 63m!) but its beaches, hundreds of cays, and Caribbean vibe make up for that. That makes the Bahamas 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. 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 Jurassic Park, so expect great hiking 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.
It’s this diverse range of landscapes which makes Hawaii a superb destination for tourists looking for adventure and activities. In Hawaii you can jungle trek in the morning, snorkel in the afternoon, and be partying at night. It really does have everything.
For tourists looking to walk less, and sunbathe more, the Bahamas and its hundreds of beautiful islands seem the natural choice. There is far more of a tourist vibe in the Bahamas though. As a result, there are some over-enthusiastic street sellers trying to hawk goods on the most popular beaches.
However the Bahamas is 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 far more expensive than what you will find in Hawaii. In fact traveling around the Bahamas, which requires hopping from island to island, can be pricey. Especially if you want to visit some of the most beautiful islands, many of which are uninhabited. (Recommended: Are There Snakes in the Bahamas).
When it comes to beaches in the Bahamas, you will be spoiled for choice. A country that has countless sandy bays and coves across 655,000 square kilometers! One of our favorites is Greenwood Beach on Cat Island, because it is a long sandy stretch that is far less touristy than other beaches.
However iconic beaches such as Pig Beach on Big Major Cay are must visits. This beach is famous not for the turquoise-hued waters, but the pigs that swim there! Visiting this uninhabited Bahamian island can be expensive though. (Recommended: The Best Island in the Bahamas For You).
A more accessible, and equally iconic beach, is Gold Rock Beach in Grand Bahama. Regarded as one of the best swimming spots and beaches in the Caribbean, the sunsets here are also unparalleled. In fact it’s the sunset reflecting off a nearby cay that gives this beach its name.
The Bahamas also has some of the world’s best diving spots in arguably the world’s clearest water. And with 340 days of sun a year, there’s rarely a day when scuba diving and snorkeling isn’t possible. Compare that to Hawaii, where waves and water can be much rougher, and there’s fewer days of sun.
Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park is probably the best snorkeling experience in the Bahamas, where you can see a huge variety of colorful sea-life.
Although the Bahamas lacks the mountains and huge forests that Hawaii has, it’s not all beaches and coral reefs. Northern Bahamas does have some forests, particularly on the islands of Grand Bahama and Andros. But this country is definitely more for sun-seekers, than adventurers.
Hawaii or the Bahamas: Explore the Sights and Experience the Tropics
Along with the natural scenery on offer, both Hawaii and the Bahamas have a wealth of attractions and cultural experiences worth checking out.
However exploring Hawaii can take time and is more suited to someone who is looking for at least a two-week holiday. The Bahamas, can be enjoyed within a week if you stay on a main island like Grand Bahama. Staying longer and hopping between the islands on this archipelago is even better.
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 Hawaii. This destination is culture rich – arguably more so than Barbados – and you’ll never be short of cultural excursions if visiting.
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.
The Bahamas has a fascinating mix of culture, with African, British and American influences. However this country has become heavily ‘Americanized’ in recent years, so it’s often easier to find a McDonald’s in the Bahamas than a taste of any traditional culture.
That said, if you can find a way to experience the vibrant rhythmic national music of the Bahamas, Goombay. Created as a way for slaves to pass down traditions and customs, Goombay continues to this day, and is a staple of fun summer festivals in the country. The Heritage Museum of the Bahamas in Nassau is a good place to visit to find out more about the history of the Bahamas.
There’s no doubt that the Bahamas is also a country synonymous with having a good time, so if you fancy a flutter then head to Paradise Island. Here you can try your hand at the casinos, enjoy a huge waterpark, or grab a beach-side cocktail at one of its high-market resorts.
For something a bit more historical then visit Fort Charlotte, which sits on a hill overlooking Nassau. This 18th century fort will introduce you to what the Bahamas was like when piracy was rampant a few centuries ago.
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 has flavored syrup, and is sometimes served with ice cream!
When in the Bahamas make sure you get away from the tourist traps and fast food restaurants. The local food joints serve delicious food at much cheaper prices.
As a nation made up of numerous islands, it will come as no surprise that Bahamian cuisine is focused around seafood. So if you are a seafood lover, this is the country for you!
Fried conch (aka cracked conch) is a popular dish in the Bahamas and is served in a variety of ways. Baked crab is another dish that’s very popular. It’s made up of crab meat, bread crumbs and egg, all baked within the crab shell itself.
As for what to drink, coconut water in the Bahamas is a no brainer! You also have to try Switcha, which is a sort of lemonade, except it’s made with limes.
Want something a little stronger? The beers made by the Bahamian Brewery are definitely worth trying. As are the delicious rum cocktails served up and down the archipelago. The Yellow Bird is a favorite rum cocktail of many Bahamians.
Hawaii or the Bahamas? Which Should You Choose?
Both Hawaii and the Bahamas make excellent holiday destinations. But if you’re seeking more time on the beach with a cocktail in your hand, then the Bahamas will probably be the better choice. However the Bahamas, as a very tourist-orientated destination, can be very expensive. It also has quite an ‘Americanized’ feel to it.
Hawaii on the other hand is culture rich. It’s also perfect if you’re looking for a holiday with beaches but also adventure, as the variety of landscapes in Hawaii means there’s countless activities. So if you want an active holiday, full of culture, hiking trails, watersports, and great beaches, choose Hawaii.