Hawaii vs Australia: An Honest Comparison To Help You Choose!

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Last updated on July 7, 2023 by Wandering our World

Looking for a truly exotic escape from everyday life? A magical adventure you’ll never forget? If so, you can’t simply settle for the typical vacation destinations. You need to go somewhere special, somewhere like Hawaii or Australia.

When people talk about their dream travel destinations or once-in-a-lifetime trips, these two locations often rank high up on the list. And it’s not hard to see why. They both have some of the world’s most amazing scenery, incredible wildlife, dreamy weather, and world-class tourist attractions.

But, for all their similarities, they’re also totally different places. For starters, Australia is an entire country, home to more than 25 million people, with a huge number of cities and regions to visit, from bustling Sydney and cultural Melbourne to the iconic, arid expanse of the Outback.

For fun city breaks, huge beaches and unique wildlife, Australia is one of the best countries in the world to visit.

Hawaii, meanwhile, is a U.S. state, made up of a series of islands in the Pacific Ocean. It’s a fraction of the size of Australia, with a substantially smaller population.

But, in spite of its small size, the “Aloha State” has a big heart, with rich cultural traditions and majestic landscapes. It’s a destination where you can hike volcanoes in the morning but swim with manta rays by the afternoon – it’s diverse, special and wholly unique.

Given the colossal differences between these two destinations, it can be tricky to choose between them or even compare them….

However, our honest guide will help you out! Here we take a look at Hawaii vs Australia in several key categories, like attractions, nightlife, food, and affordability. By the end, you will have a much better idea of which location is best for you. Let’s get started!

CONTENTS:

  1. A Quick Overview
  2. Which Is Best For Activities?
  3. Which Is Better For Beaches? 
  4. Which Is Better For Nightlife?
  5. Which Is Better For Hiking & Outdoor Adventures? 
  6. Which Is Best For Shopping? 
  7. Which Has The Best Food? 
  8. Which Is Better For A Family Trip?
  9. Which Is Better For Couples & Honeymoons?  
  10. Which Is Better For Backpackers? 
  11. Which Is Cheaper? 
  12. Where To Stay According To Your Budget
  13. Which Has Better Weather?
  14. Which Is The Better Choice? 
An infographic pitting Australia vs Hawaii and showing some of the key differences that will be discovered later in the article.

A Quick Overview: Hawaii vs Australia

Hawaii: A Quick Overview

Hawaii is a U.S. state, situated around 2,000 miles away from the mainland. Compared to every other state, it has several unique characteristics – it’s the only state outside of North America, for example, and the only one to be spread out across an archipelago.

A little over 1.4 million people live here, with a large percentage based in and around the state capital of Honolulu.

There are 137 islands in total that form the Hawaiian archipelago, but most are uninhabited.

The vast majority of the state’s population (over a million people) live on O’ahu, with most others spread across the other “main islands” of Hawai’i, Maui, and Kaua’i.

The islands are famed for their distinctive landscapes, with vast volcanos, rugged coastal cliffs, exceptional wildlife, and dense tropical rainforests.

People have been living on the Hawaiian islands for around a thousand years, with European and American explorers arriving in the 18th century.

Their arrival signaled great change for the islands, which eventually lost their independence and became part of the United States. However, Hawaiian culture, cuisine, and customs are still much more Polynesian than American.

Hawaii is also known far and wide as one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations. It offers the ultimate island getaway experience that so many people crave, with world-class beaches, wonderfully friendly locals, distinctive traditions, and exciting cultural experiences.

With fine dining and luxury accommodation too, there’s nowhere on Earth quite like this.

Young woman looking out at the beautiful ocean view.
iStock.com/kieferpix

Australia: A Quick Overview

Australia is a large country in Oceania, surrounded by both the Indian and Pacific Ocean. It’s made up of the large mainland, the island of Tasmania, and many smaller islands surrounding the mainland coast.

In terms of population, Australia dwarfs Hawaii – more than 26 million people live here. It’s also much vaster, being almost the same size as the whole of the continental U.S.

The geography of Australia is exceptionally diverse.

There are deserts, rainforests, mountains, and more, with a large central zone, known as the Outback, being mostly uninhabited.

Some of the world’s greatest beaches are also found on Australia’s coast, which runs for over 21,000 miles, and the nation is known for its fascinating wildlife, including kangaroos, koalas, and deadly snakes.

Indigenous, or Aboriginal, Australians have been living in this part of the world for millennia. But, just like in Hawaii, European settlers eventually arrived, triggering huge changes.

British settlers originally used Australia as a penal colony, shipping convicts across the globe. They later founded more colonies and cities, and the country developed rapidly in the decades that followed.

As in Hawaii, tourism is a big part of the Australian economy, with millions of visitors each year.

Travelers often settle in the big cities, like Sydney, which is renowned for its iconic opera house, or Melbourne, the cultural heart of Australia.

However, there are many other places to visit around “The Land Down Under,” from Kakadu National Park to the sunny, surfing haven of the Gold Coast.

Stunning wide angle aerial drone view of the Sydney Harbour with the Opera House, a cruise ship and many skyscrapers in the background. Taken near the suburb of Kirribilli. New South Wales, Australia.
iStock.com/Wallix

Which Is Best For Activities?

Next, let’s take a look at just some examples of the many fun activities you can find in both Hawaii and Australia.

Naturally, since both of these places – especially Australia – are quite large, we won’t list every single thing there is to do.

Instead, we’ll focus on a sample of the most popular places to see and things to do, so you can see which may suit your own vacation preferences.

Hawaii: The Activities

Most visitors to Hawaii will base themselves in the big city of Honolulu. That’s one of the best spots to soak up some island culture and learn more about Hawaii’s past.

History buffs can tour the Pearl Harbor Memorial, for example, or visit Iolani Palace, which once served as the royal residence for Hawaii’s rulers.

Prefer to lose yourself in nature? If so, there are some fabulous natural expanses to explore, like Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

This park extends across more than 340,000 acres, encompassing two active volcanoes, otherworldly landscapes, hiking trails, lava tubes, and even ancient petroglyphs, carved into the rock by native islanders, many centuries ago.

Since Hawaii is an island state, surrounded by warm Pacific Ocean waters, aquatic activities are also very popular here.

Visitors can take fishing trips, hoping to reel in a colorful Mahi Mahi, for instance, or dive down to meet manta rays, snorkel with sea turtles, or swim alongside dolphins. Kayaking and sailing provide even more options to enjoy the water.

Back on dry land, you can tour botanical gardens, drive your way along breathtaking coastal roads, hike through the rainforests, visit volcanic craters, zipline past secret waterfalls, and so much more.

Simply put, for lovers of the outdoors the options are almost endless, but there are also plenty of super museums and malls for the rainy days.

Hawaiian sunset with sailboat and mountains
iStock.com/Jonathan Ross

Australia: The Activities

In Australia, Sydney is one of the best places to be. It may not be the official capital of the country, but it certainly feels like it, with bustling streets, lively nightlife, and iconic landmarks, like the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

It’s also here that you’ll find the world-famous Bondi Beach – Australia’s closest rival to Hawaii’s legendary Waikiki Beach (more on both of these famous beaches later!)

But Sydney is far from the only city worth visiting in Australia. Perth, Brisbane, and Melbourne are all worth checking out, for varying reasons, from their culinary scenes to their museums, galleries, gardens, live entertainment, sport, and shopping areas.

There are also lots of zoos and wildlife centers where you can meet Australia’s intriguing animals, like koala bears and wombats.

If you prefer a more authentic escape into nature, Australia has lots of jaw-dropping national parks.

There’s Purnululu, with its fascinating rock formations and dramatic cliffs, for example, or Kakadu, home of ancient Aboriginal rock art and towering waterfalls. Hiking, kayaking, bike rides, and even jeep and 4WD tours are some of the most popular ways to get around.

If you don’t mind getting wet, Australia also has an exceptionally long coastline, and so much to do on, along, or even under the water.

You can set sail along the coast, scuba dive at the Great Barrier Reef, drive along the Ocean Road, meet penguins at Penguin Island, admire the candy pink waters of Hutt Lagoon, swim with whales, and much, much more.

Overall, despite being totally different places, Hawaii and Australia have a lot of similar activities to offer. They’re both paradises for outdoor adventurers, with lots of wildlife activities and great places to hike and explore.

However the big difference is probably that Australia has many more cities and urban activities, while Hawaii is relatively pristine and undeveloped outside of Honolulu.

Mother koala with baby on her back, on eucalyptus tree.
iStock.com/AlizadaStudios

Which Is Better For Beaches? 

Hawaii has around 750 miles of coastline. Australia has over 21,000 miles. That’s a huge difference, but even though Hawaii’s coast is significantly shorter, it still has a long list of very impressive, beautiful beaches to rival some of Australia’s greatest sandy spots.

Waikiki Beach is the most famous example in Hawaii. Tourists have been flocking to this spot for decades, and it’s one of the most photographed beaches in the world, perfect for surfing, sunbathing, and mingling with the locals.

Waimea Bay is another prime surfing spot, with various competitions held here each year, while the remote beaches of Polihale State Park and Polihua are perfect for romantic strolls and private family picnics; you might also spot some whales, dolphins, or turtles during your stay.

Many of Hawaii’s beaches stand out primarily for their beauty, backing onto lush, green forests or enjoying awe-inspiring mountain views.

Hamo Beach, for example, is indescribably pretty, while the sugary sands of Mauna Kea will keep you coming back again and again.

In Australia, Bondi Beach is the most iconic spot of must-see sand. Always busy and lively, this is a super beach to people-watch, with a great mix of beautiful locals and quirky travelers from all over the globe. It’s also one of Australia’s best surfing spots, when the tides are right.

And when compared to Hawaii, Australia has many longer, bigger beaches.

Whitehaven Beach is a fabulous example, stretching on for several miles with the silkiest, smoothest sands. Turquoise Bay, over in Western Australia, also seems to go on and on, and is a fine spot for snorkeling, with colorful coral and tropical fish just off the shore.

If you can make the trip over to Tasmania, beaches like Wineglass Bay are certainly pretty enough to rival Hawaii’s best. Meanwhile, back on the mainland, Lucky Bay is super for kangaroo spotting and Hyams Beach has sand so white, it almost looks like snow.

Overall, if you love spending time by the sea, you’ll adore Hawaii and Australia.

The Land Down Under definitely has more beaches, and a wider range of options spread out across its extensive coastline. It also has bigger beaches for people who like to spread out and claim their own patch of sand, but you’ll have to travel further to reach each beach.

Hawaii has the advantage of being much more compact, making it easier to hop from one sandy spot to another. Plus, with its towering mountains and coastal forests, it may be the best choice for people who want dramatic sunsets and beautiful surroundings to admire.

Port Douglas beach and ocean on sunny day, Queensland, Australia
iStock.com/mvaligursky

Which Is Better For Nightlife? 

If you enjoy staying out late, partying in the pubs and clubs, you’ll also want to know about the nightlife scenes in both Hawaii and Australia.

In Hawaii, Honolulu is the main nightlife destination to choose, as this is where most of the locals and tourists tend to gather.

There are some super open-air bars down by the beach, along with rooftop lounges, live DJ performances, and some funky nightclubs, like District and Sky Waikiki.

In Australia, there are many more places to choose from if you love to party.

Melbourne is the trendiest city of all, with a near-endless selection of dive bars, underground clubs, and live music venues to go along with its craft beer bars and coffee shops. Sydney has spectacular nightlife too, especially by the beach.

Byron Bay is another prime party hotspot in Australia, with friendly, hippy-style vibes and beach parties, while places like the Gold Coast, Cairns, Darwin, and Perth have even more clubs, bars, and live entertainment from late afternoon through to the early hours of the next morning.

Overall, Australia is definitely the better nightlife destination, with a much wider range of places to go. But you can still find fun cocktails and lively vibes in Hawaii too.

Multiracial friends having fun dancing together outdoor at beach party - Soft focus on left girl face
iStock.com/DisobeyArt

Which Is Better For Hiking & Outdoor Adventures? 

If you’re planning a trip to either Hawaii or Australia, it’s highly likely that you love the great outdoors. With majestic landscapes and endless hiking trails, coastal walks, bike rides, and more, these are two of the very best destinations for outdoor adventure.

But which is best? Well, Hawaii has the advantage of being much smaller. That means you can have easy and rapid access to everything from rainforest tours to mountain climbs, volcanic adventures, scuba diving spots, and so on.

Plus, with such dramatic scenery, you’re guaranteed to find jaw-dropping views, no matter where you choose to hike, ride, kayak, or climb.

Over in Australia, there are far more places to hike and enjoy outdoor activities. You can lose yourself in the rainforests of Lamington National Park, admire Aboriginal rock art in Kakadu, spot rare birds in Freycinet, or pay homage to the massive sandstone monolith of Uluru.

You can even dare an adventure into the Outback, but it’s best to bring a guide, as it can be quite dangerous!

Whether you’re into mountain climbing, cycling, hiking, kayaking, or something different, Australia has it all.

However, the downside when compared to Hawaii is that everything is much more spread out across Australia, and it can take hours or even a full day’s trip to reach some of the national parks or famous hiking trails.

So, if you prefer convenience, with lots of activities and guided nature tours within easy reach, opt for Hawaii. If you prefer more diverse adventures and a wider range of landscapes to explore, Australia is the better option.

Na Pali Coast from drone
iStock.com/ShaneMyersPhoto

Which Is Best For Shopping? 

Shopping is another way to pass the time during your trip to either Hawaii or Australia. And, for this category at least, there’s not a lot of competition….

Given that Australia has way more cities and a bigger population, it’s definitely the better choice for shopping, with many malls, markets, and store-lined streets to check out.

Melbourne and Sydney are both fantastic places to shop, with lots of different stores to check out.

Sydney is great for luxury items, fashion, jewelry, and footwear, while Melbourne has a whole host of quirky shops and antique stores to go along with its markets and malls. Brisbane and other cities have big shopping districts, too.

In Hawaii, most of the best shopping can be found exclusively in Honolulu. The Aloha State’s biggest mall – Ala Moana Center – can be found here.

There’s also the lively Aloha Stadium Swap Meet each weekend, outlet malls, and plenty of fun souvenir stores if you’re looking for great gifts for friends and family back home.

Overall, Australia definitely has a much broader, bigger shopping scene. Hawaii is better for unique souvenirs, but not too much else.

Female tourist with backpack bag taking photos of Sydney Harbour Bridge during summer vacation trip.
iStock.com/Kitsada Wetchasart

Which Has The Best Food? 

There’s some great food on the menu in both Hawaii and Australia, but the best destination for you will mostly depend on your personal tastes and preferences.

Naturally, given Hawaii’s location and ‘watery’ surroundings, seafood is the main source of sustenance.

The island state is famed for its delicious “poke bowls,” offering a mix of seafood, veggies, sauces, and more, There are lots of tasty, fresh fish dishes to try, as well as fruity desserts and flavorful stews.

In Australia, there’s much more of a focus on classic family comfort foods; Aussies love burgers, pies, and BBQ meat. So, if you enjoy that kind of grub, you’ll have a very happy time Down Under.

In addition, given the fact that Australia has had plenty of immigration from Asian nations over the years, there are also lots of good Thai, Japanese, and Chinese eateries to check out.

Overall, the choice is yours. If you absolutely adore seafood and rich, flavorful, organic ingredients in every dish, opt for Hawaii. For delicious comfort foods and Asian delights, head to Australia.

A girl eating and enjoying Hawaiian Ahi Poke Bowl on Waikiki Beach
iStock.com/mirnet

Which Is Better For A Family Trip? 

If you’re planning a family trip and trying to choose between Hawaii and Australia, you’ll need to think carefully before making your mind up.

Both of these destinations can be amazing for kids and grown-ups alike, but they offer very different experiences.

In Hawaii, you’ll find lots of luxurious family resorts quite easily, and everything is pretty bunched up and easy to access, especially if you stay in Honolulu.

Kids will love the beaches and wilderness in Hawaii, and there are plenty of adventure tour companies ready to guide you into the forests or make arrangements for kayaking and other activities. It’s all very touristic and convenient.

Over in Australia, you’ll generally have more independence and much more choice about where to go and what to do.

There are also lots of family attractions, like zoos, aquariums, theme parks, water parks – Hawaii has some of these things, but not as many as Australia – so it’s easier to find activities to please kids of any age.

Overall, Australia definitely has more to do, but requires a little more planning and traveling around – unless you simply pick a city like Sydney and don’t go anywhere else.

Hawaii has fewer big family attractions, but still has more than enough to keep little ones and older kids happy with its amazing landscapes, exciting beaches, and rich wildlife.

Happy family - mother, kid in snorkeling mask dive underwater, explore tropical fishes in coral reef sea pool. Travel active lifestyle, beach adventure, swimming activity on summer holiday with child.
iStock.com/B Raro

Which Is Better For Couples & Honeymoons? 

Couples, too, can have a tricky time trying to choose between Hawaii and Australia. There are arguments to be made for both locations, and the best choice for you and your partner will mostly come down to personal preference.

If you’re looking for relaxation, romance, and an island escape you’ll never forget, head to Hawaii. It’s got lots of luxurious hotels, extraordinary food, and genuine “wow factor,” all over its many islands.

Plus, with everything being close together, it’s easy to do different things each day, without having to worry about long travel times from place to place.

In Australia, you’ll need to spend more time getting around to see all you want to see.

The general vibe isn’t quite as romantic in Australia, but you’ll easily find many more museums, galleries, shops, restaurants, bars, and typical touristic hotspots dotted around, allowing you to have a more action-packed itinerary and a longer trip.

Couple walking on Waikiki beach Hawaii vacation. Happy couple in love relaxing at sunset on tourist famous travel destination in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii.
iStock.com/Maridav

Which Is Better For Backpackers? 

Both Australia and the Hawaiian Islands are terrific backpacking destinations, drawing in lots of adventurers each and every year.

Hawaii has multiple hostels dotted around its main islands, with very cheap nightly rates. This is great for mingling with other travelers and planning trips together, and it’s surprisingly easy to get around from place to place or even hop between the islands with boats and planes.

Plus, with so many great hiking trails and natural spaces, your thirst for adventure will easily be satisfied here.

Australia, too, has many hostels in its major cities and is a famous backpacking destination. Depending on where you choose to stay, it can be much cheaper than Hawaii, and there are lots of excellent cultural activities and attractions, coupled with the beaches, waters, forests, and national parks.

With so much to see and do, backpackers won’t get bored, but you might get a little tired on the long rides from city to city.

Overall, both destinations can appeal to backpackers and budget travelers, but Australia gives you more options for less money and is the more popular backpacking spot.

Backpacker using her phone in a hostel
iStock.com/Rawpixel

Where To Stay According To Your Budget:

Australia

Budget: SKYE Suites Green Square is made up of modern boutique suites in a fantastic location. The rooms are stylish and the outdoor swimming pool the perfect compliment to the sunny Sydney weather. See photos and rates!

Luxury: If you want the best view in the city, then stay at the five-star Park Hyatt Sydney. You’ll wake up to the Sydney Opera House outside your window at a hotel on the water which is known for its excellent facilities and service. See photos and rates!

Hawaii

Budget: Located in the heart of Waikiki, 2 minutes walk to the famous Waikiki Beach and surrounded by shopping and dining is the luxury boutique Halepuna Waikiki hotel.

This four-star hotel will stretch budgets, but the panoramic views of the ocean and city – alongside the gorgeous infinity pool – will be worth it. See photos and rates!

Luxury: Montage Kapalua Bay on Maui is one of those hotels we all wish to stay in one day. It’s extravagant beachfront luxury on a 24-acre landscaped resort with unparalleled views to the sea and beach access. It’s everything you’d expect of a five-star resort and more. See photos and rates!

Morning drone view of palms on deserted beach with gentle waves on Maui, Hawaii, USA.
iStock.com/Living Moments Media

Which Is Cheaper? 

Of course, we also need to take cost into consideration, and the main thing to know is that the price of a trip to Hawaii will usually be higher than one to Australia. Although that said, it all depends on where you choose to stay and which activities you do.

For example, Sydney is quite expensive. In fact, you might spend more on a week in Sydney than a week in Honolulu.

However, if you decide to stay in Brisbane, Melbourne, Cairns, or some other part of Australia, you’ll typically spend a lot less.

Since Australia is so big, there are far more options in terms of hotels and places to eat, so it’s way easier to plan a budget-friendly trip.

In contrast, the small size and limited selection of Hawaii can make things trickier for budget-conscious travelers.

Cityscape image of Sydney, Australia with Harbour Bridge and Sydney skyline during sunset.
iStock.com/RudyBalasko

Which Has The Best Weather?

Let’s end our comparison of Hawaii and Australia with a look at the weather conditions across these two destinations. They’re situated in very different locations, with Hawaii in the Northern Hemisphere and Australia in the Southern Hemisphere, but both are famed for their warmth and sunshine.

Hawaiian cities like Honolulu enjoy warm temperatures all year long. In fact, the temperature is surprisingly consistent in Honolulu throughout the year, typically peaking around 89°F (31°C) and rarely dipping below 67°F (19°C). 

In other words, it’s warm and comfortable for more or less the entire year. Of course, depending on which island or city you visit, the conditions may vary slightly, and Hawaii can have heavy rains from November through to March, in particular, but it’s generally a very sunny and pleasant place to be.

Judging the weather in Australia is quite difficult, due to the vast size of the country. It has multiple climates, with tropical zones, oceanic regions, and vast swathes of arid, desert lands with high temperatures and very low levels of precipitation.

For the purposes of this comparison, we’ll focus on the climate in the most-visited cities, like Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

In general, the main Australian cities enjoy hot summers and mild winters. Temperatures never drop too low, but they also rarely reach the same highs as Honolulu. So, if you’re looking for the warmest vacation destination, Hawaii is the place to go.

It’s also worth noting that, since it’s situated in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia has its warmest temperatures around January and February, rather than July and August. This is something to keep in mind when picking your travel dates.

Kangaroo at Lucky Bay in the Cape Range National Park near Esperance, Western Australia
iStock.com/John Crux

Hawaii vs Australia: Which Is The Better Choice?

Overall, it’s very tricky to compare Hawaii and Australia, and almost impossible to say that one place is better than the other. They both have their own unique advantages, and they’re both beautiful, exciting, engaging places to go.

However, if you have to pick just one, Australia is easier to recommend. That’s simply because it’s so much bigger, with a broader range of cities and activities to appeal to everyone.

Whether you’re a history buff, culture vulture, sports fan, family of four, young couple, or group of adventure-loving buddies, you’ll find lots to smile about in Australia.

At the same time, Hawaii is a very magical destination, perfect for people who want to truly get away from it all.

A genuine island paradise, it has more than enough forests, beaches, fabulous food and thrilling experiences to keep travelers happy.

And if you’re looking for a place where you can swim with dolphins one day and climb a volcano the next, Hawaii is the one for you.

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  • Wandering our World

    Hi and welcome to Wandering our World! This article was written by one of the Wandering our World team - a team of travel enthusiasts who live around the globe.