Both islands have plenty to offer, but these two distinct islands cater to different types of travelers and offer distinct coastlines.

Maui, the second largest Hawaiian island, is a well-known resort island with 30-miles of pristine beaches. Aside from a gorgeous coastline, Maui offers lush rainforests, farm-to-table dining and world-class golf. Overall, Maui offers more in the way of resorts, traditional beachfronts and nightlife compared to the Big Island. The landscapes are also a bit more predictable than the Big Island.

Per the name, the Big Island (island of Hawaii) is the largest island comprising the Hawaiian archipelago, twice the size of every other Hawaiian island put together. This huge island features about 266 miles of coastline. Its sheer size allows for a variety of climates across the island. Experience tropical weather at sea-level and freezing cold temperature at the heights of Mauna Kea volcano. It’s even possible to snowboard and ski at the top of Mauna Kea, albeit with no ski lifts to take you to the summit. As a whole, Big Island is able to offer more in the way of diverse landscapes, hikes and volcanic exploration.

Maui Beaches

Maui’s beaches are what you’d typically imagine from a tropical beach. Soft white and gold sands make up most of Maui’s best beach retreats.

On the northern coast of Maui, you’ll find Baldwin Beach Park, Ho’okipa Beach Park, and Honomanu Bay.

Baldwin Beach Park Maui Hawaii

Baldwin Beach Park is one of the most popular beaches in Maui due to its beauty and public amenities, which include a large parking area and public showers and restrooms.

Ho'okipa Beach Park Maui Hawaii

Ho’okipa Beach Park is more known for its water sport conditions, drawing crowds from surfing and kiteboarding enthusiasts.

Honomanu Bay is more difficult to access and more of a hidden local gem. But its surrounding jungles and gorgeous ocean vistas make it worth the trek.

On the southern coast of Maui, you’ll find Makena Beach State Park, Charley Young Beach and Palauea Beach.

Makena Beach State Park Big Island Hawaii

Makena Beach State Park, the most photographed beach in Hawaii, features nearly a mile of pristine white beachfront that’s perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Beware that Makena Beach State Park is divided into Big Beach and Little Beach, the latter being one of Hawaii’s nudist beaches.

Charley Young Beach Maui Hawaii

Charley Young Beach features nearly a mile of golden sand and lava formed tide pools, perfect for paddle boarding and snorkel exploration.

Palauea Beach Maui Hawaii

Palauea Beach is a medium-sized beach frequented by locals. Clear water conditions make Palauea great for diving and snorkeling, but be careful swimming alone here, as there are no lifeguards at this beach.

On the eastern coast of Maui, you’ll find Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hamoa Beach and Koki Beach.

Wai'anapanapa State Park Beach Maui Hawaii

Wai’anapanapa State Park (easy for you to say) is one of Maui’s few black sand beaches and features lush tropical surroundings, deep blue waters and public bathrooms/showers.

Hamoa Beach Maui Hawaii Hana

Hamoa Beach, a crescent silvery-colored beach adjoining the Travaasa Hotel, is a great family-friendly beach with shaded picnic spaces and crystal clear water.

Koki Beach Park Maui Hawaii

Koki Beach is a golden stretch of beach that’s popular among local surfers. Strong rip tides and a lack of lifeguards makes it a more dangerous swim, so use precaution. This beach is perfect for picnics and sunbathing.

On the western coast of Maui, you’ll find Honulua Bay, Kapulua Bay and Ka’anapali Beach.

Maui vs Big Island Beaches Honolua Bay maui

Honolua Bay is a popular surfing and snorkeling spot for more seasoned swimmers. There aren’t any public amenities available at this beach and it must be accessed via boat or by a short jungle hike. This beach is one of the most vibrant and hidden gems on Maui.

Kapalua Bay Beach Maui Hawaii

Kapulua Bay is part of Kapalua Resort, but still open to the public. It’s also a sheltered beach, making it perfect for families looking for calm tides. Watersport equipment is available for rent at the beach activities desk.

Ka'anapali Beach Maui Hawaii

Ka’anapali Beach is a public stretch of beach that runs alongside several shops, restaurants and bars. This beach is appealing to large families or groups who might want to engage in a variety of activities within a close area. This beach is also located amongst many of Maui’s top resorts like Marriott’s Maui Ocean club and The Westin Maui Resort. Lifeguards, bathrooms and showers are available at Ka’anapali Beach.

See Maui Exchange Properties

Big Island Beaches

Many of Big Island’s beaches are colored by the island’s heightened volcanic activity, making for black and green sand. White sandy beaches can still be found in some areas of Big Island.

On the northern part of Big Island, by Kohala and Waimea, you’ll find Waipi’o Valley Beach, Kauna’oa Beach, and Hapuna White Sand Beach.

waipi'o valley beach, big island, hawaii

Waipi’o Valley, home of ancient Hawaiian kings, is also home to a gorgeous black sand beach. Getting to this beach requires a long hike and the beach is known for dangerous currents, so proceed with caution.

mauana kea beach, big island, hawaii

Kauna’oa Beach or Mauana Kea Beach is a half-mile sugar white sand beach with calm waters. But Hapuna’s most exciting time of day comes at night when the Manta Ray’s come to feed on masses of plankton. The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel uses a floodlight to attract plankton for a late night Manta Ray show, thus the aptly named Manta Ray Point at Hapuna Beach State Park.

hāpuna beach state park Big Island Hawaii

Hapuna White Sand Beach is a beautiful beach, but also one of Big Island’s most crowded. An alternative activity to swimming, sunbathing or snorkeling here is to hike the Ala Kahakai coastal trail, which runs through Hapuna White Sand Beach.

On the southern tip of Big Island, you’ll find Papakolea Green Sand Beach and Punalu’u Black Sand Beach.

papakōlea green sand beach Big Island Hawaii

Papakolea Green Sand Beach is more remote and require longer hikes to access. But the unusual green sand and calm swimming conditions make it worth the effort.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is another remote beach that’s popular for spectating Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles and hiking. Snorkeling can also be fun in the calmer coves adjoining Punalu’u. This beach area features picnic areas and restrooms but does not have a lifeguard.

On the eastern part of Big Island, by Hilo, you’ll find Isaac Hale Beach Park, Richardson’s Beach and Ocean Park, and Carlsmith Beach Park.

Isaac Hale Beach Park Big Island Hawaii

Isaac Hale Beach Park only recently became a black sand beach after the 2018 volcanic eruption on Big Island. The eruption also created several thermal ponds, kind of like natural hot tubs! These ponds are not cleaned/treated so enter at your own risk!

Landscape with turtles in Richardon ocean park near Hilo, Big island, Hawai
Landscape with turtles in Richardon ocean park near Hilo, Big island, Hawaii

Richardson’s Beach and Ocean Park is a black sand beach that’s frequented by families due to its calm waters and tide pools. A marine conservation area within the park makes for superb snorkeling and water visibility. Richardson’s Beach has a lifeguard, shower and restrooms available.

Carlsmith beach park is one of best places to swim and snorkel close to Hilo. Lava and a reef protect the inner swimming area, making it almost like a swimming pool.

Carlsmith Beach Park, right down the road from Richardson’s Ocean Park, is protected by a surrounding lava and reef barrier making it perfect for children. There isn’t a beach exactly, but a lawn and walkway to enter the water. Think of it as one giant lava formed pool! Turtles also frequent this cove, and lifeguards, restrooms, showers and picnic areas are available.

On the western part of Big Island, by Kailua-Kona, you’ll find Manini’owali Beach and Kamakahonu Beach.

Manini’owali Beach is a white sand beach surrounded by lava rocks at the rear. Dolphin sightings are common off the coast here and the snorkeling is spectacular during calm tides. This beach requires a short walk from the parking area and does not include any public amenities.

Kailua-Kona, United States Big Island Hawaii

Kamakahonu Beach is directly next to King Kamehameha Hotel, and is a well-known children’s beach. Located in a heavily sheltered bay, there are almost no waves at Kamakahonu, making it perfect for small children learning how to swim and snorkel. Beach equipment rentals are available on site.

See Big Island Exchange Properties

Which island is right for me?

Both Maui and Big Island have an abundance of amazing beaches. What you should really consider is what type of travel you prefer, laid-back or active. Maui’s resorts, thriving nightlife, and easy access beaches will best serve travelers who like to unplug and relax on vacation. Big Island is for those seeking lots of activity. Many of Big Island’s most brilliant beaches are guarded by lush jungles and lengthy hiking trails. If you enjoy hiking and exploration, then Big Island is probably the destination for you.

Be sure to check out THIRDHOME Rentals for more Hawaii travel opportunities.

Ever planned a wedding? It’s a seemingly never-ending gauntlet of picking linens and politely arguing with vendors. The honeymoon, in theory, should be a welcome reprieve from all the stresses of wedding planning, but travel planning can be just as demanding. That’s why THIRDHOME offers seamless happily-ever-afters through its Travel & Concierge department. THIRDHOME‘s Travel & Concierge department doesn’t just book your plane tickets and hotel, they book your entire honeymoon experience. Read more to find out what that full-package experience means.

Lauren Parks recently returned from her honeymoon in Maui. Check out what she had to say about her curated experience!



Liz (THIRDHOME‘s Director of Travel & Concierge Services) was AMAZING! Our honeymoon was AMAZING! Everything about our THIRDHOME Travel & Concierge service was AMAZING! 


Liz provided my husband and I with so many different food options, excursion options and shopping spots. We knew Maui wasn’t going to disappoint! We talked on the phone a few different times and she told us all the best places to hit during our week stay in Hawaii. She knew what to pass on and the places we just had to see!


She was so passionate about Maui and had been there a few times herself- she got us so excited! Liz sent us an organized list of a ton of different options that she recommended. From that list, all we had to do was tell her what we wanted to do and it was planned! I mean how easy (and we needed easy during wedding planning)!


She booked us a car for the week and it was so easy to pick up at the airport!


From the moment we checked into the Kea Lani Resort we were treated like royal guests!  Liz booked us the best room and we really felt at home the entire stay. We went snorkeling, went to dinner at the famous Old Lahaina Luau, went on a helicopter tour (our favorite), had dinner at Mama’s Fish House (a must) and drove the road to Hana.


It was an amazing week and we made memories that will last a lifetime!


Thank you, Liz, for everything you did. Get ready to help us plan our next trip!

– Lauren Parks

honeymoon liz

With 28 years of travel planning experience, Liz Bates is a maestro of curating unforgettable experiences.

Click here to learn more about all the happily-ever-after concierge offerings.

To plan your honeymoon through THIRDHOME‘s Travel & Concierge program contact Liz at today!

What are THIRDHOME members saying about their luxury home exchange trips (to Spain and Hawaii) this week?


Spain PGA Catalunya

La Selva at PGA Catalunya | Caldes De Malavella, Spain

This designer villa offers a supreme location. PGA Catalunya is ranked the number one golf course in Spain. You can play golf at the property, take a 20 minute drive to the beaches at Costa Brava or explore Barcelona, which is only an hour away. This villa has a private swimming pool, 4 bedrooms, an electric golf cart, gourmet kitchen and more!

THIRDHOME member Marilyn says: “We had a wonderful stay at a villa at PGA Catalunya – two beautiful golf courses! Also a wonderful hotel with spa located on the property.” click here to read more of Marilyn’s review


Hawaii Luxury Vacation Home

Blue Sky Villa Maui | Lahaina, Hawaii

Blue Sky is a spacious 5-bedroom home located on oceanfront property. This house has an open-air concept where many of the exterior walls are retractable windows, which ensures you can enjoy the wonderful ocean breeze. All of the living room and dining room furniture matches the guest capacity of the home, so if you bring a large group, everyone can enjoy time together.

THIRDHOME member Steve says: “The huge fully opening walls, triple water complex and proximity to the ocean are mesmerizing.” click here to read more of Steve’s review


Members, click here to view all available weeks and plan your next THIRDHOME trip. Remember, you must be logged in to your account to see availability.

Want more information about our luxury home exchange club? Click here to learn more about THIRDHOME.

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