I’ve spent ample time in Thailand exploring all the islands and mainland cities, and by ample I mean almost 12 months now. I’ve spent the last month exploring the Hawaiian Islands in addition to spending time on two previous trips.
Several people have asked me to compare The Hawaiian Islands vsThai Islands. So here it goes:
Here are some initial observations:
Differences: the number of luxury hotels in Thailand far surpasses the number in Hawaii. Thailand is much less expensive, as you might expect. The weather can be very different.
Similarities: it can be relatively inexpensive to fly from island to island in both Thailand and Hawaii. For the most part, the locals are very friendly in both places.
By the island:
Oahu: home to Honolulu, the capital city of Hawaii, Oahu is the busiest of the islands. Waikiki, the main tourist area is like the Rodeo Drive of Hawaii with Gucci and Gap on the same block. Honolulu traffic can be congested and frustrating at times, this reminded me of parts of Bangkok, but none of the Thai islands. The best comparison to Thailand I can make is that Oahu is like a mini Thailand unto itself with Waikiki like a small Bangkok with neighboring Koh Samet or Hau Hin similar to the North Shore and other Oahu beaches.
Maui: Maui County consists of the islands of Maui, Lānai, Molokai, Kahoolawe, and Molokini. But most visitors will spend their time on Maui Island with a few heading to Lanai or Molokai. Maui reminded me most of Koh Samui with it’s small towns, mountains, and coves and rock-lined beaches. Like Koh Samui, many use Maui as a jumping off point for day trip to the surrounding islands, for snorkeling trips and for whale watching trips.
Kauai: at only 550 square miles, Kauai offers a huge diversity in it’s landscape and weather conditions. Mt. Waialeale is in the center of a rain forest and is known as the “wettest spot on Earth,” with measured rainfall over 450 inches a year! The island is remarkably lush and green and is called “The Garden Island.” For this reason, I like to compare it to the Phang Nga province of Thailand which is home to Khao Lak, Phuket and Phang Nga town itself. Kauai has seven micro climates including desert-like conditions on the west side, semi-arid tropical weather at the beaches, cool mountain forests at Waimea Canyon, pastoral plains on the upper east side and tropical rain forests in the interior. I have found the Phang Nga region to be very similar. The further north you go, around Khao Lak for example, you will find rain forest. In Phuket you will find tropical weather. Another similarity are the bugs. Both Kauai and the Phang Nga province are the most buggy areas of The Hawaiian Islands and The Thai Islands.
Hawaii Island: known as The Big Island, Hawaii Island is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii Island reminds me a lot of Krabi because of its diversity. There are beautiful beaches, small towns and mountains. Hilo is the most populated city, but most tourists head to Kona and Waikoloa areas of the island. Hawaii island is home to three active volcanos and you may not have known this, but Thailand is home to two extinct volcanos.
Both locations, The Hawaiian Islands and The Thai Islands, have a lot to offer visitors. Is there an advantage to one over the other? Well, depending on your location, travel times to Hawaii can be 1/2 of what it takes to get to Thailand. On the flip side, you’ll spend a lot less money on lodging and food in Thailand. Both Thailand and Hawaii offer unique cultural experiences, but in Hawaii English is the primary language spoken. In Thailand you’ll find primarily Thai speakers though many speak some English and some are bi-lingual ( I wouldn’t let that prevent me from going to Thailand.) Hawaii can be much cooler than Thailand. Both are humid, but I find most of Thailand to much more humid than Hawaii.
What does it boil down to comparing The Hawaiian Islands vs The Thai Islands? Personal preference I think. Look at what you want to see and do, how much you want to spend, how much time you have to explore and what your vacation goals are. Personally, I would rather go to Thailand after having spent the last month in Hawaii. Hawaii is stunning but expensive and I’d rather spend my money seeing and doing things rather than on hotels, rental cars, etc…
What do you think?
It is cheaper to get to Hawaii though
Thailand gets my vote -love them both but like you said you can travel cheaper and longer in thailand
@Robert P – Yes, it can be cheaper paying outright, but sometimes there are great deals and w/miles/points it can often be less.
I loved reading your thoughts. I just booked a ticket to Hawaii (Big Island) and already am dealing with having to hunt for deals! Sure is expensive 😉
@Becky – when are you going? Casey just found a great deal w/Airbnb – like $166/night w/use of car.
My wife and I are going to Khao Lak in February 2014. Any must dos that you can recommend? My wife wants to ride an elephant so we are looking at the natural park there. We love beaches which is why we have chosen this location. Hear it is wonderful!
@Kevin – where do you plan to stay in Khao Lak? It’s a great location for day trips. Depending on where you are, you could do island trips in the Andaman Sea or in Phang Nga area. Kayaking is a great activity there. I don’t know any good nature parks there, but the hotels likely will if no one here has been to any. Khao Lak is known for its beaches and slow pace.