Whether your idea of paradise is a lush, remote rainforest, a secret surf spot, or a white beach that stretches for miles, Hawaii has an island for you. In a tropical paradise where luxury knows no limits, it’s easy to splurge on extravagant accommodations, designer spa treatments, and endless rounds of golf.
But what if you want to see the best Hawaii has to offer on a limited budget? That, of course, is where vacation rentals come in. Summer is the most popular time of year to visit the Aloha State. Use this handy guide to help you decide which island to visit in Hawaii—and where to stay without breaking the bank.
Island of Hawaii
Home to rainforests, rugged trails, and one of the world’s most active volcanoes, the Big Island is undoubtedly among the best places to stay in Hawaii. At 4,050 square miles—nearly twice as large as all the other islands put together—this scenic destination claims 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones, which means you’ll see everything from desert conditions on the Kohala Coast to lush rainforests around Mauna Kea. Aside from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, top places to visit include the capital city of Hilo, Historic Kailua Village, and Holualoa, a charming town in Kona coffee country.
Although it’s the capital of the Island of Hawaii, Hilo isn’t your everyday tourist town—and that’s all part of its charm. Natural wonders aside, the covered sidewalks and old-timey storefronts make Hilo a picturesque place to visit. Sandy shores give way to mountains and dramatic waterfalls like Waianuenue Falls and Akaka Falls to the north. When you’re not visiting the Pacific Tsunami Museum or the Imiloa Astronomy Center, you might find yourself shopping at the local farmer’s market, picnicking at Liliuokalani Park, or catching a movie at the Palace Theater.
Once you’ve decided which island to visit in Hawaii, you still have to pick a place to stay—and when it comes to the Big Island, Pahoa is a perfect choice. You’ll be minutes from prime snorkeling spots, natural hot springs, and tropical trails, not to mention the black sand beach at Kaimu Beach Park. Nicknamed the “hippie capital” of Hawaii, Pahoa is an old mill town with cottage rentals perched on cliffs and nestled in coconut groves. Spend the morning at Makuu Farmers Market, then explore Lava Trees State Park, where a trail winds past unique lava molds of old tree trunks.
A gem on the Kohala Coast, Waikoloa boasts sublime temperatures in every season: 71–85° in the summer and 62–78° in the winter. Waikoloa is one of the best places to stay in Hawaii thanks to its championship golf courses, beautiful beaches, and lush landscape. The Anaehoomalu Bay features a soft, sandy beach and calm water—ideal for families who want to kayak, snorkel, or swim. Other attractions include the Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve and the Beach Course at Waikoloa Beach Resort, a must-play for all golfers. Book an oceanfront condo near the bustling shore or a private home in a nearby neighborhood for extra space (all without breaking the bank!).
Say “Aloha” to incredible outdoor adventures in Kailua-Kona, a seaside town where outdoor activities range from night snorkeling and parasailing to kayaking and surfing. Even the most casual beachcomber will be smitten with the striking landscape, but the scenery isn’t the only reason Kailua is one the best places to stay in Hawaii. With thriving coffee farms, historic landmarks, and natural attractions like Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, this spectacular region has something for everyone. Spend the afternoon shopping in Kailua Village, deep-sea fishing off the Kona Coast, or watching the dolphins from Kailua Pier.