Has there ever been a harder decision than the choice between Hawaii or Fiji? Two exotic island nations, drenched in sunshine and surrounded by crystal clear waters teeming with marine life. Two stunning vacation destinations packed with activities, adventures, delicious food, and complex history. How will you ever choose?
Don’t worry, we’re here to help. It’s not going to be an easy decision, but there are a few key things to consider when picking between these two spots. So we’ve laid them out for you here to help you make an informed choice.
Will you go for lively, surf-mad Hawaii with its cosmopolitan capital and layered history? Or do you fancy the remote, desert island perfection of Fiji, the soft coral capital of the world? Will you be saying Aloha or Bula? Let’s find out!
Getting There And Around
Possibly the most significant factor in your vacation planning is the ease of access, which all depends on where you’re coming from. Hawaii is a 5-hour flight from LA, but Fiji is double that with a flight time of 10 hours. However, if you’re coming from Australia or New Zealand, maybe adding a tropical break onto a longer trip, you can fly to Fiji in 3-4 hours, but Hawaii would take you around 9.
Once you reach your chosen archipelago, you need to decide whether to stay put or go exploring. Hawaii is made up of over 100 islands, but we generally only count the 6 major islands that tourists can visit. Each of these islands is a fantastic destination in itself, but you can get reasonably cheap, quick flights between them all if you want to explore further.
Most visitors to Fiji arrive on the largest island, Viti Levu, and then venture further out from there. Fiji is made up of 333 islands, and as a general rule, the further you go from Viti Levu, the more beautiful and remote the islands become. You can take ferries between the islands or fly for a faster but more expensive option. The Mamanucas are one of the most popular island groups, located just a 30-minute flight or 1-hour ferry from Viti Levu. Intrepid explorers can head to the far-flung Lau Islands via one of the weekly scheduled planes, by chartering a flight or boat, or joining the locals and going by cargo boat.
Conclusion: accessibility depends on where you’re traveling from and how long you’re willing to spend in the air. Once you arrive, Fiji has far more islands to explore, but the inter-island connections are easier in Hawaii.
History And Culture
Both of these island nations are steeped in the rich history of the Polynesian people who first populated the islands. However, Hawaii, as a part of the United States, has also been heavily influenced by western culture. The current population holds only around 10% native Hawaiian islanders, and you’ll notice a distinctly American style to the infrastructure and ethos.
You can find pockets of authentic Hawaiian culture, but you might have to hunt it out. Around the resorts, it can all feel a bit staged for the benefit of the huge tourism industry. The Polynesian Cultural Centre on Oahu is one of the best places to head for a cultural experience that is about education rather than pure profit.
Visitors will also want to head to Oahu for the Pearl Harbour Memorial site. Here they can view monuments, memorials, and museums dedicated to the tragic events of 1941 and pay their respects to those who lost their lives there.
In Fiji, the Polynesian culture is still the prevalent one. 54% of the population is composed of native Fijians, and their authentic traditions and customs are everywhere, built into everyday life. The second-largest population group is Fijian-Indians, descendants of the Indian people brought to Fiji in the 1800s, and they too have infused island life with their traditions. This layered culture is the result of an interesting past that will appeal to history buffs.
Conclusion: If you’re looking for an authentic Polynesian cultural experience, we recommend heading to Fiji. But if you’re interested in the history of Pearl Harbour, then Hawaii is right for you.
If you’re picturing yourself stretched out on a sun lounger with soft white sand beneath you and rolling turquoise waves nearby, you’re going to be happy in either location. Both of these island getaways come with glorious, world-class beaches, but they do offer different vibes.
Although you can hunt down hidden coves and secret bays in Hawaii, the beaches there are generally busier and more developed than the beaches of Fiji. There’s always something going on on the Hawaiian beaches, and you’ll find plenty of crowds, activities, watersports, concession stands, and facilities. In Fiji, the beaches tend to have a more remote quality. The further from the main island you get, the more deserted they become until you can find yourself alone on a jungle-fringed beach that will fulfill your every desert island fantasy.
Conclusion: If you want your beaches to be lively and more developed, head for Hawaii. If you like them remote and tranquil, then it’s Fiji.
On And Under The Water
Both of these destinations are a paradise for snorkelers with warm, clear, sparkling waters teeming with fish life. Hawaii has excellent snorkeling and dive sites, like protected Hanauma Bay, the dramatic Molokini Crater, and the Kona coast, where you can snorkel with manta rays.
However, Fiji is known as the soft coral capital of the world and offers an unparalleled underwater experience. Head to Taveuni to snorkel the famously vibrant Rainbow Reef, or visit Kadavu Island to dive the 100km long Great Astrolabe Reef, home to turtles, sea snakes, reef sharks, eels, pufferfish, and sea horses. Or just wade in off any of the beaches to snorkel with all manner of underwater wonders.
If you’d rather stay on top of the water, then your options are endless in either location. Kayaking, SUP boarding, sailing, and fishing are available all over these islands. And of course, there’s the surfing. Hawaii is world-famous for its waves, and the surf culture is a part of everyday life. Take lessons on famous Waikiki Beach, or test your skills against some of the best breaks in the world. Fiji might not be quite so famous, but it’s not short of a break or two. Pro surfers can find world-class waves on the Mamanucas, while beginners can learn the art of wave riding on the main island of Viti Levu.
Conclusion: If you have a passion for diving and snorkeling, we’d recommend Fiji. If surfing world-famous waves is your dream, it has to be Hawaii.
These destinations are so naturally beautiful that each has served as the background for some huge Hollywood movies. In Hawaii, you can take tours of the landscapes made famous by Jurassic Park and Lost, while in Fiji, you can visit the island home of Tom Hanks’s Castaway.
Hawaii’s islands are a hikers paradise with mountains, gorges, national parks, volcanic craters, coastal cliffs, and thickly jungled interiors just waiting to be explored.
In Fiji, you can find hills to climb, pineapple plantations to wander, volcanic hot springs to soak in, and endless islands to explore. Most of the nation’s population lives on just two of the 333 islands, leaving hundreds of islands deserted, untouched, and undeveloped. Perfect for island-hopping adventures.
Conclusion: White sand beaches, crystal clear waters, jungle topped islands, volcanic landscapes, these destinations have equally incredible landscapes.
Restaurants And Nightlife
This is one category where Fiji cannot compare. Hawaii is the outright winner for thriving nightlife and cosmopolitan restaurants. Each of the main islands of Hawaii has its own nightlife hub, like the Kona coast of The Big Island or Lahaina in Maui. But real party hunters will want to head to Honolulu on Oahu. There you’ll find everything from dive bars to world-class clubs and cabaret nights to rooftop lounges.
You’ll also find a huge range of restaurants serving every imaginable global cuisine. Choose from American chains, high-end fusion restaurants, five-star eateries, and family-run diners. Leave the main strips to find smaller, authentically Hawaiian joints and budget-friendly options.
In Fiji, you’ll find a couple of nightlife hubs, mostly around Nadi in Viti Levu. But once you head out to the smaller islands, nightlife is really not on the agenda. Then it’s more about peaceful sunset cocktails, maybe accompanied by a local acoustic band or some entertainment laid on by your resort.
The restaurants in Fiji are all about the traditional Polynesian fare. So, if you love tropical fruit, freshly caught seafood, and an abundance of coconut, prepare to delight your tastebuds. Of course, the high number of Indian residents means you’ll also find excellent South Asian food, but you won’t find many other global cuisines or fine dining options.
Conclusion: Although we love the food in Fiji, for nightlife and variety of restaurants it has to be Hawaii.
Sadly neither of these vacation spots come cheap. Hawaii is consistently listed as one of the most expensive places to visit in the US. It offers few budget accommodation options and is packed with expensive bucket list activities like helicopter flights over active volcanoes, ATV tours, bungee jumping, and skydiving. All that plus high-end restaurants and bars, and the opportunity to do some luxury shopping in Honolulu, you can spend money easily in Hawaii.
Flights to Fiji aren’t cheap, and cruising between the islands to find your perfect spot will take a chunk out of your budget. But, once you’re on your dream island, you’re likely to spend less than you would in Hawaii. While you can find those same bucket list activities if you want to, the pace of life is calmer, and you’re encouraged to spend more time relaxing and soaking up the scenery. Here, your money will likely be spent on sunlounger cocktails, snorkel rental, and handmade souvenirs from the traditional craft markets.
Conclusion: if you’re traveling from the US, Hawaii is cheaper to get to but probably more expensive once you arrive. Fiji might cost more, especially if you want to find the perfect island getaway, but once you’re there, your money will go further.
Hawaii or Fiji: Conclusion
You might have noticed we haven’t picked a winner for any of these categories. This is not because we’re bad decision-makers, but because it’s all about personal choice. These two dream destinations may seem similar, but they offer two different vacation styles, and only you know which one is right for you.
So, if you’re looking for a blissfully tranquil beach holiday, where the island culture is authentic and the snorkeling, sailing, and diving is world-class, then Fiji is the one for you.
But if you want your vacation to come with buzzing nightlife, refined cuisine, luxury shopping, surfing, hiking, and bucket list adventures, then we think Hawaii is the destination for you.
We hope this has helped you decide, but remember, when it comes to Fiji or Hawaii, there is no wrong choice!