Which Island is Right for Your Hawaii Camper Van Rental Adventure?
30 Jun 2023
With Campervan Hawaii RV rentals available on 3 of Hawaii’s most popular islands, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii, we are often asked which is our top pick for exploring by campervan in Hawaii. Each island is unique and offers a different vacation experience, so we want to share some information to help you choose the island that is right for your Hawaii campervan adventure. I’ve listed them in order of size (smallest to largest), but don’t let an island’s stature fool you..as they say, sometimes the best things come in small packages!
This island’s nickname, “The Gathering Place” is well suited as it is home to the majority of our state’s diverse population. And just as the population is diverse, so are the options for places to camp, eat, play, and explore! The bustling city of Honolulu and world famous Waikiki Beach offer an exciting array of dining and cultural experiences, and when you’ve had your fill of city life, you can hop in your campervan and be relaxing in the Hawaiian countryside in under an hour.
Oahu is the oldest island in our list, making most of its 227 miles of coastline sandy, which translates to: BEACHES! This island boasts the majority of Hawaii’s long sandy beaches, some of which are regularly included in “Best Beaches in the World” lists. There are beautiful, easily accessible, beaches on every shore so if your vision of paradise is stretches of warm, fine white sand- Oahu is the place for you!
This island is also the crown jewel of the state’s surfing community. In fact, one of the best Hawaii campervan campgrounds, Malaekahana Beach Campground, is only 15 minutes from the Banzai Pipeline surf break where the world renowned Billabong Pipeline Masters surf contest has been hosted since 1971. Between the legendary waves crashing on the North Shore during winter months (November-February) and the gentle surf breaks of Waikiki, Oahu offers great conditions for both experienced surfers and novices alike.
You may not expect it, but Oahu also has some of the best hiking in the state too! The island was formed by 2 volcanic mountain ranges which have a multitude of well documented trails winding throughout them. From the super easy Waimea Falls trail in Waimea Valley Nature Preserve, to the steep but quick Lanikai Pillbox climb, to advanced ridge hikes such as Olomana, there’s a trail suitable for everyone’s skill level in “The Gathering Place”.
“The Valley Isle” is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, and for good reason! This is the 2nd largest island in our state and its shoreline is a mix of rugged sea cliffs with sweeping vista views and tropical beaches where lazy palm trees sway in the trade winds. Just thinking of Maui fills my mind with visions of rainbows, waterfalls, whales and some of the most gorgeous sunsets I’ve ever seen!
Maui offers some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii, both right off shore and by charter boat to nearby Molokini Crater and Lanai island, so if you dream of swimming with sea turtles (Honu) and watching whales play in warm tropical waters, come to Maui and dive in! I want to note that our Honu are year long residents, but the whales only visit during winter months (November-April), so if you want to vacation with them, make sure to book your campervan while they are here!
One of the most popular activities and biggest draws to Maui is the world-famous Road to Hana. This scenic drive covers 64 miles of winding coastline, with dramatic cliff and ocean views, and crosses 59 bridges where waterfalls flow from the volcanic mountain above. The drive is a spectacular daylong adventure, and one of the best parts of a Campervan Hawaii rental is that you can spend a night or 2 at Waianapanapa Campground or Kipahulu Campground and take your time exploring this remote side of the island before driving back.
Haleakala National Park is another top destination for both locals and visitors. Every vehicle in Campervan Hawaii’s fleet is permitted to make the 10,000 foot climb to the summit of one of the world’s largest dormant volcanoes, and we highly recommend that you carve out time during your stay for it! You will be rewarded with panoramic views of the seemingly oil-painted crater, discover highly endangered Silver Sword plants dotted along the landscape and, as the english translation “House of the Sun” implies, a Haleakala sunrise and/or sunset is not to be missed! The temperature at this altitude gets extremely cold and can dip below freezing once the sun is down, so if you are planning on visiting here, make sure to pack some warm clothes to wear. Especially if you decide to book a night at Hosmer’s Grove Campground, which is inside the park (about 3000 feet below the summit) to witness the first rays of dawn from above the clouds, without the early morning drive up the winding roads!
As you may have noticed, each island has a nickname, but Hawai’i Island’s nickname, “The Big Island”, is by far the most widely used and well deserved! This is the largest island in our state, nearly twice the size of all the other islands combined, and consists of 4 of the world’s 5 major climate zones, making it the most ecologically diverse place in the United States.
The Big Island is the youngest in the Hawaiian chain, home to 2 of the most active volcanoes on the planet, the southernmost part of the United States, and an adventurer’s dream! From the glistening black sands of Punalu’u, to the molten lava of Kilauea and ice capped peaks of Mauna Loa inside Volcano National Park, to the tropical rainforests of Hilo, this island is wild, rugged and begging to be explored! Here, the beaches come in an array of colors- black, white, and green, yes green!..thanks to olivine crystals that washed out of the volcanic cinder cone that formed Papakolea Beach cove. It is commonly known as “Green Sand Beach” and is 1 of only 4 in the entire world! Since the island is still so (relatively) new, there are fewer stretches of soft sandy beach and the coastline is rougher than the other islands in our list, but there are some picture perfect beaches along the Kohala Coast for sun lovers to bask and relax on.
If you’re a coffee lover, the drive through South Kona will be absolutely tantalizing! You may want to make sure you have extra room in your suitcase because some of the world’s most celebrated beans are grown here and there are a multitude of coffee plantations that offer tours teaching you how that steaming cup of joy that you enjoy every morning is made. Another popular adventure is the Manta Ray night snorkel or dive, where you commune with the gentle giants as they come up to the surface to feed on plankton. There are plenty of exciting adventures to be had as you drive around the Big Island and as our guest, you will receive our Camping on Activity Guide for whichever island you choose to make sure you don’t miss our stops along the way!
You can’t go wrong when picking the island you want to experience. The sun shines, tradewinds blow, and surf plays on the shores of each one and the Aloha Spirit vibrates from the land and its people no matter which you choose! Also, we offer our 10% weekly discount for multi-island trips totalling 7 nights or more, so if you can’t decide, book a Campervan Hawaii rental on 2, or even all 3, and explore them all!
We have a great team standing by, happy to help plan your perfect Campervan Hawaii experience, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or would like a quote for your dream Hawaii camper Van-cation!