Maui vs. Oahu: How Do They Compare?

If you’re thinking about a trip to Hawaii, two of the most frequently visited islands are Maui and Oahu. You may be dreaming of Maui helicopter tours or lounging on the beaches of Waikiki, so how do you decide?

Of the eight islands, Maui and Oahu are by far the most visited.

Learning the differences between Maui and Oahu can help you make a decision while you’re planning your dream Hawaiian vacation.

The Basics

Oahu is an island that tends to evoke a strong response from visitors. If you love it, you really love it, but for some people, they don’t prefer it.

Oahu is very densely populated. Honolulu alone has a population of almost a million people, while Maui’s total population is 144,000.

What’s unique about Oahu compared to Maui is that there really is something for everyone. If you like surfing, you can go to the North Shore. If you like an urban feel, stick around Waikiki and Honolulu. If you want a secluded experience, there’s Ko’Olilna.

There’s a lot of traffic on Oahu, however, and again if you’re in Hawaii, there’s no mistaking the fact that you’re in a big city.

Maui is much more truly tropical and could be what you envision as far as an island vacation. The pace is slow, and the beaches are beautiful.

Both are going to be truly once-in-a-lifetime to experience, but if you have an idea of Hawaii in your mind, Maui might be more in line with that.


Oahu is the economic center of Hawaii, and it’s home to Honolulu, which has the biggest airport in Hawaii. The Honolulu airport services flights from around the world, some of which are direct.

After Oahu, Maui is the second-most visited Island, and you can find one-stop flights from cities like New York, and there are direct flights from Los Angeles.

Both are pretty accessible.


Oahu is often described as the island with the consistently best weather in Hawaii. The tourist season is in both the summer and winter, so these are the times you’ll see the most crowds, and the prices will be highest. If you want to find better deals, you might consider visiting Oahu in May, September or October.

Maui tends to have more rain from November to March, and it’s most popular in June and August, and December and March.


Both Oahu and Maui do have beautiful resorts, with the majority of Oahu’s being in Waikiki. Waikiki is much more crowded than the resort areas in Maui, though. It can be tough to even find a spot on the beach.

Maui has more of the spacious resorts, where you can feel like you’re truly secluded.

The Beaches

Oahu has beautiful beaches everywhere, with some of the most popular along with Waikiki, including Lanikai and Waimea Bay. The beaches are crowded and not great for swimming in some cases because the waves get big, thus the appeal for surfers.

Maui has snorkeling, calmer water, and fewer crowds. Popular snorkeling spots in Maui include Napili Bay and Kapalua Bay.


Oahu has a lot more to do. You couldn’t get bored if you tried, because there’s everything from hiking and waterfalls to nightlife in Oahu.

Maui is a much quieter place, and almost all the activities are centered around nature and the outdoors.

In Oahu, you could very easily go straight from the beach to a night on the town.

The Cost

Anywhere you go in Hawaii is going to be expensive, but Oahu wins in this area. You can plan on spending significantly less on average in Oahu than in Maui.


In Oahu, you’ll want to go to Waikiki Beach of course, because it’s the most famous and has been drawing in tourists since the 1950s.

There’s also Lanikai Beach which is often described as one of the most beautiful in the world.

You can see Pearl Harbor if you visit Oahu, and you shouldn’t miss Paradise Cove. Paradise Cove is one of the largest luau shows in Hawaii, with fire dancers and true Hawaiian traditions.

If you go to Maui, you should do a helicopter tour because you won’t forget it, and you should drive the Road to Hana. You might also want to hike to the Haleakala Crater at sunrise.

As you can see, both Oahu and Maui would make for a wonderful vacation. Opt for Maui if you want something quieter, slower, and more remote, and Oahu if you want more variety and action.

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.

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