Chip Wass

Fantasy Islands: Oahu's neighbors, according to their images

Hawaii (aka The Big Island)
The youngest of the islands and still growing with each lava surge into the sea (hence its nickname). It’s widely perceived to have a youthful spirit and is considered the Island of Adventure, which is embodied by an active outdoor culture that finds its most extreme expression in the Ironman World Championship, held in Kailua-Kona every year.

Lush tropical forests. Cascading waterfalls. Jagged emerald cliffs. Billed as the Garden Island, it’s regarded as the place to soak up nature in all its unspoiled splendor. Visitors expect to do a lot: hiking, surfing, kayaking, whale-watching. They just expect to do it all at a slightly slower pace.

Hippies and Haleakala, sure. But Maui is seen as more than back-to-the-earthers and hikers inching up to that famous crater rim. Nicknamed the Valley Isle, because so much of it sits between two mountains, it is also known for hip hotels, high-end resorts, pristine beaches and vistas that call to mind a postcard sprung to life.

When billionaire Larry Ellison bought this, the smallest of Hawaii’s inhabited islands, he was widely seen as having purchased two islands in one. In a short shuttle ride, visitors can travel from the balmy coast at Manele Bay to a pine-studded resort at higher elevation. It’s like Tahoe in the tropics. Or the other way around.

Other than privately owned Nihau (the so-called Forbidden Island, which is only open to visitors on a limited basis), Molokai is seen as the most tourist-shy of the islands. There are no traffic lights, only a small handful of hotel rooms and no buildings over three stories high. Yet, Molokai’s nickname is actually the Friendly Isle — and those in the know will tell you that it lives up to that billing as a relaxing place to experience Hawaii as it used to be.

AMERICAN AIRLINES offers six peak daily flights to ­HONOLULU (HNL), four peak daily flights to KAHULUI (OGG), two peak daily flights to LIHUE (LIH) and one peak daily flight to KONA (KOA).

­US AIRWAYS offers three peak daily flights to ­HONOLULU (HNL), two peak daily flights to KAHULUI (OGG), one peak daily flight to LIHUE (LIH) and one peak daily flight to KONA (KOA).