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Maui and Oahu top best U.S.A. places to visit

Kitch ‘n Cook’d Maui Potato Chips and Sam Sato’s Dry Noodles are two
must-haves while visiting Maui.. not to forget Tasaka Guri Guri!

U.S. News just published the results of a 2014 survey on the top 20 best places to visit in the U.S.A.. The rankings were based on a formula combining online reader votes, along with the opinion of reputable travel writers.

With that, Maui came out number #1 “No ka oi!” , where U.S. News summarized The Valley Isle as such:

“Maui is not nearly as large as the Big Island, nor is it as small as Lanai, as bustling as Oahu or as quiet as Kauai. For many Hawaii vacationers, Maui is just right — offering a taste of just about everything the Aloha State has to offer, from impressive wildlife to intriguing history and culture. While on a visit here, you can shimmy alongside professional hula dancers, golf along coastal fairways, snorkel alongside five different types of sea turtles or simply lounge along some of Hawaii’s most notable beaches.”

I couldn’t have described it better, and very well deserved pick for the top spot… I LOVE Maui!

Puna the traveling Tiki Gnome is happy to be lounging on the beach
at the 8th best place to visit in the U.S.

Honolulu – Oahu made it within the top 10 of those 20 as the 8th best place to visit in the U.S., where U.S. News summarized The Gathering Isle as such:

“Oahu blends cosmopolitan luxury and breathtaking scenery more than any other Hawaiian island. The state’s capital city, Honolulu, showcases the island’s urban appeal. Nearby you’ll find a host of cultural and historical sites, from the austere USS Arizona Memorial to ornate ‘Iolani Palace. In the nearby Waikiki neighborhood, a skyline of high-rises and resort hotels contrasts with sprawling white-sand beaches. For a taste of rural Hawaii, visit the North Shore. Here, you’ll find the most brilliant blue waters and meandering hikes. But those three spots aren’t all Oahu offers. Its high-class restaurants, vibrant cultural events, and wild nightlife further showcase this island as a “Gathering Place” of Hawaiian culture.”

Again, I couldn’t have described Oahu better. They also made this footnote:

“Oahu is a foodie’s paradise From celebrity chef steakhouses to mom-and-pop joints, the island’s restaurants serve up varied and delicious cuisine.”

This island is TOTALLY a foodie’s paradise, as this blog itself strives to showcase.

And it’s only getting better, as our talented local chefs take Pacific Rim Cuisine to the next, next level with new restaurants such as James Beard nominated M&W near Ala Moana and Town in Kaimuki. While old school mom ‘n pop classics dust off the cabinets and rejuvenate themselves by opening fresh new locations, as did Highway Inn at Kaka’ako, Kamehameha Bakery at City Square, and coming soon, Liliha Bakery at Nimitz.

Not to mention the influx of specialty ethnic cuisine that’s making a big splash in Honolulu, such as the scores of new ramen shops from Japan, along with the already well established eateries serving up the best Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Okinawan, Taiwanese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes you can find this side of Kaena Point.

Being this is about best places to visit in the U.S.A., Oahu is also an excellent place to discover top notch all American steak houses served with an island touch, such as BLT Steak, D.K’s, Ruth’s Chris and Wolfgang’s in Waikiki, and Morton’s and Signature Steak & Seafood at Ala Moana. Burgers are also making waves here with “enthusiasts” burger joints popping up all over, including Honolulu Burger Company, Kua Aina, The Counter and Teddy’s.

Vegetarians and health fanatics visiting Oahu will also find tasty options, including the incredible Greens ‘n Vines Raw Vegan Gourmet Restaurant in Kaka’ako, along with excellent vegan and organic deli delights at Down To Earth at University and Kapolei, and of course Whole Foods in Kahala and Kailua.

And that’s just a nip in the bud. Go through the archives of this blog, and head on over to Yelp and TripAdvisor to review the many more great places there are to dine here on Oahu.

U.S. News 2014 readers and critics choice survey:
20 Best Places to Visit in the U.S.A.
#1. Maui
#2. Yellowstone
#3. Washington D.C.
#4. San Francisco
#5. New York City
#6. San Diego
#7. Yosemite
#8. Honolulu – Oahu
#9. Orlando  – Walt Disney
#10. U.S. Virgin Islands
#11. Anchorage
#12. Cape Cod
#13. Chicago
#14. Jackson Hole
#15. Grand Canyon
#16. Charleston
#17. Las Vegas
#18. New Orleans
#19. Seattle
#20. Aspen

While I agree any of the main Hawaiian islands deserves a spot in the top 10, I find it hard to believe Las Vegas, New Orleans, Seattle and Aspen are at the bottom of the top 20 list. You can vote whether you agree or not with each choice at the U.S. News story page on this. There’s some interesting comments there as well.

There’s also some interesting comments in CNN’s report on this article here. One reader says they’ve “never been to Kawaii” (Kauai). lol


15 thoughts on “Maui and Oahu top best U.S.A. places to visit

  • June 26, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    I agree that Maui’s #1! Of course, I’m more than a little biased, living here on the Valley Isle. But I agree with the assessment by US News. Maui’s not too big but not too small, not too busy yet not too slow. To me, it’s just right!

    As for the rest of the list, I’ve been to most of the place, with the exception of Orlando, US Virgin Islands, Anchorage, Charleston, and Aspen. I value nature over the hustle and bustle of the city, so I’d rate Yosemite and the Grand Canyon over cities such as Washington D.C and New York City. Also, while I enjoyed Yellowstone, I’d rate Yosemite higher than it. Yosemite’s probably my favorite national park that I’ve visited (and I’ve visited quite a few). But I can see that the historical value of Washington DC and the city life of New York City would rank those cities high on the list as well. To each their own.

  • June 26, 2014 at 5:00 pm


    In all fairness, it would also be safe to say Maui is a “Spare No Expense” travel destination, being if not one of, the most expensive place to visit on this list. From the airfare and hotel, to the gasoline, which is one of the highest priced in the nation per gallon ( a rent-a-car is a MUST on Maui)… Maui WILL cost you.

    Still, Maui is so worth it for the ULTIMATE island vacation getaway!

    And of course, like any other destination, wherever in Hawaii, go and do as the locals go and do for the best deals and completely immersed cultural experience.

    • June 27, 2014 at 1:21 pm

      Yep, I know that Maui will definitely cost you but as they say, that’s the cost of living in paradise! And we (my wife and myself) don’t mind it too much, we just have to watch what we spend, try to buy things on sale, etc.

      Being that Maui (and the state of Hawaii as a whole) is the ultimate island vacation getaway, I wonder what is the ultimate vacation getaway for Hawaii residents? We’re sometimes asked by visitors, “Since you live in Hawaii, where do YOU go on vacation?” For my wife and myself, Disneyland is at the top of the list. =)

  • June 27, 2014 at 1:56 am

    I you and all in new life. Oahu is best and hope rail make it so different from other islands for sure. Dim sums is so easy to get everywhere on Oahu and okazuya food very good.

  • June 27, 2014 at 2:46 am


    Well there’s an idea: mandate a charge of an additional 2 cents per manapua, pork hash & half moon and line list it on the receipt as “transit tax”. Folks not in-the-know will just think its some vague fee in how their dim sum is produced. In 10 years, with all the manapua and pork hash sold, we should have covered at least the cost of one or two pillar holding up the track!

    Hmmmm, now I’m pondering what other specific grindz on Oahu sold in massive volume we could mandate the additional 2 cents “transit tax” on to cover rail construction costs?

    Matsumoto Shave Ice
    Liliha Bakery Coco Puffs
    Kamehameha Bakery Poi and Glazed Donuts
    Leonard’s Malasadas
    Zippy’s Chili
    Napoleon’s Bakery Napples
    Rainbow Drive Inn Loco Moco
    L&L BBQ Mix Combo Plate Lunch
    Helena’s Pipikaula
    Young’s Fish Market Laulau
    Foodland Previously Frozen Ahi Poke
    7-Eleven of Hawaii SPAM Musubi
    Hormel of Hawaii SPAM regular and 25% less sodium
    Gouviea Portuguese Sausage
    Costco of Hawaii Hot Dog & Drink Combo
    McDonald’s of Hawaii… everything on the menu
    Pizza Hut of Hawaii 2 large, 1, 2 & 3 toppings pizza coupon combo
    Coca Cola of Hawaii Coke (the soda)
    Heineken of Hawaii Beer
    Starbucks of Hawaii Coffee, Latte and Mocha

    All of the above: add 2 cents “transit fee” per item sold.

    Of course, participating businesses listed above would be waved of any applicable federal taxes, only state GE tax. I mean, hey, a dozen malasadas x 2 additional cents each is just shy of a quarter in change out of your pocket. No big deal. ;-)

  • June 27, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    Pomai and David,

    In 2013 Condé Nast Traveler annual reader’s poll ranked Maui “Best Island in the World” for the 21st year and over 17 years as “Best U. S. A. Island”.

    As far as Maui being high cost it’s all relative to what you are comparing the costs to.

    I am originally from New England and my 2013 MS Excel spreadsheet of daily costs when compared to back in New England 2013 (Rhode Island to be exact) item to item shows that I am saving over $15,500 a year (over $110,000 in 8 years) living in Honolulu than back in Rhode Island even though Honolulu has been cited as the 2nd most expensive city to live in in the U.S.A. by a lot of financial advisor websites (Manhattan, NYC, NY is 1st). Go figure!

    If you read the Honolulu Star Advertiser Business Section today you would have seen where Maui came in ranked 4th place nationally in cost for a family of 4 renting a vacation rental a week by TripAdvisor.

    A weeklong stay for a family of four in a Maui vacation rental costs about $2,277.81, making the Valley Isle the fourth most expensive market in the U.S., according to the travel site TripAdvisor.

    Maui’s food costs were the most expensive of the top 15 markets at $41.14, 58 percent more than TripAdvisor’s average of $26.03. A restaurant meal for four on Maui goes for $148.70, easily topping $132.89 in Martha’s Vineyard, the most expensive U.S. market for a vacation rental. The average was $116.46. Accommodations on Maui came in at $1,971.97, while a week in Martha’s Vineyard is $3,409.94 on the TripAdvisor index.

    Markets with total costs higher than Maui’s were Martha’s Vineyard at No. 1, costing $3,661.13; La Jolla, Calif., at $2,497.44; and Miami Beach, Fla., at $2,465.12.

    Martha’s Vineyard is a 100 sq. mi. island 7 to 9 mi. off mainland Cape Cod, MA. coast in New England. If you think costs are high in Hawaii try living in New England for a while and you’ll have a greater appreciation for living in paradise with the best weather on the planet.

    • June 28, 2014 at 9:37 am


      I can tell you worked a lot with statistics in your career. My father was a statistician intern for the Honolulu Advertiser while he was finishing his MBA. Total math nerd. Me on the hand pretty much suck at math, only because I choose not to be interested in it. 1+1=3, right? That formula seems to plague my life. lol

      I think $2,277 is a fair estimate for a weeklong stay for a family of four on Maui. On average it costs about half that for the two of us on average every time we hit Maui for about the same duration, including air, hotel and car. Thankfully I can fly on Hawaiian Airlines (HAL) buddy passes (super cheap, albeit standby) thanks to mom. Something I’d NEVER do for mainland flights, especially to the west coast where your chances of getting on in the standby line are almost nil, even with the high seniority she has. HAL flights heading EVERYWHERE are typically FULL, even now for red-eye flights.

      Meal costs on Maui aren’t much higher than Oahu, depending of course where you dine. A three-course meal with wine at a typical fine dining restaurant in Waikiki will cost around $150 for TWO, and no way four. Just a bit higher on Maui.

      I’ll pass on Martha’s Vineyard. Makes Maui sound like a bargain. Thanks! Oh, also, I think Maui came in higher than Martha’s Vineyard on food costs, only because Maui has way better restaurants, so folks dine out more while on the Valley Isle. Wat-tah!

      If you want to see heaven on Earth, try visiting Makawao on Maui. It’s probably one of, if not the most beautiful places on this planet that’s not on a beach, yet you can see the ocean, along with the GORGEOUS mountain plains of Haleakala. In a word, I’d say Makawao, and overall “upcountry” Maui (including Pukalani and Kula) is magical.

  • June 28, 2014 at 1:10 am

    Pomai, I grew up on Oahu and is still city kind of guy. I did visit neighbor islands but find Oahu my kind of place still. I do like San Francisco also. Not a lay back person at all.

    • June 28, 2014 at 9:48 am


      As U.S. News summarized, I think Oahu has the best of all worlds. You want country? Head on out to Waimanalo or the North Shore. You want city shopping, entertainment and nightlife? Honolulu has it all, and then some, all the way ’til 4am daily.

      I also agree about San Fran’. LOVE the bay area!

  • June 28, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Been to Makawao, Maui and yes it is beautiful; best Maui red hot dogs are at Fukushima Store down the road about 4 mi. in Haiku, as a matter of fact since 1968 and almost every year thereafter, I’ve vacationed in the Hawaii Islands for 1 to 2 weeks at a time. I’ve spent over 3 months total on each island exploring trying to decide which island I would relocate to.

    Did you know Waianae has been ranked the best beach town in all of Hawaii and it is definitely country out here with 20 miles of the most unspoiled and pristine beaches and parks left on Oahu that have not been over-run by tourists?

    Waianae leads among islands’ best beach towns
    Hawaii neighborhoods dominate the top 20 in a U.S. market report
    By Star-Advertiser staff

    POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 24, 2014
    LAST UPDATED: 09:27 a.m. HST, May 24, 2014 Honolulu Star Advertiser

    Waianae and Wailuku are among the top five beach housing markets in the U.S., according to a new analysis.

    California-based RealtyTrac sought to find the top 100 U.S. beach housing markets based on average temperature, percentage of sunny days, percentage of days with good air quality, and crime rates.

    The top 100 were then filtered according to median value of single-family homes and condominiums, from lowest to highest. The median value in all top 20 markets is below $1 million.

    “Buying near the beach is one of the best ways to ensure a property will appreciate in value,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “Whether buying for retirement, a vacation home or a primary residence, homes located in quality beach towns benefit from virtually unlimited demand and a finite supply of land to build on.”

    Hawaii accounted for 11 of the top 20 beach town housing markets, the most of any state, led by Waianae. An average temperature of 76 degrees, 74 percent sunny days, 100 percent days with good air quality and a crime grade of B boosted Waianae into the 100 best beach towns, and a relatively low median home value of $309,328 helped it rank No. 3 among the top 20.

    Other Hawaii beach towns among the top 20 were Wailuku at No. 4, Kahului at No. 7, Kihei at No. 9 and Lahaina at No. 12 — all on Maui — and Ewa Beach at No. 8, Waipahu at No. 10, Honolulu at No. 13, Pearl City at No. 14, Kaneohe at No. 15 and Kailua at No. 18 — all on Oahu.

    The top beach town, Hobe Sound, Fla., has a population of less than 15,000 and is in Martin County about halfway between West Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie. Hobe Sound had an average temperature of 76 degrees, 64 percent sunny days, 98 percent of days with good air quality and a crime grade of A+. The town ranked No. 1 on the list thanks to its low median estimated market value of $191,189 for homes and condos.

    The top 20 markets were listed by RealtyTrac as follows:
    1. Hobe Sound, Fla.
    2. Naples, Fla.
    3. Waianae, Oahu
    4. Wailuku, Maui
    5. Marco Island, Fla.
    6. Los Osos, Calif.
    7. Kahului, Maui
    8. Ewa Beach, Oahu
    9. Kihei, Maui
    10. Waipahu, Oahu
    11. Morro Bay, Calif.
    12. Lahaina, Maui
    13. Honolulu, Oahu
    14. Pearl City, Oahu
    15. Kaneohe, Oahu
    16. Dana Point, Calif.
    17. Seal Beach, Calif.
    18. Kailua, Oahu
    19. San Clemente, Calif.
    20. Key Biscayne, Fla.
    Source: RealtyTrac

  • June 28, 2014 at 2:26 pm


    Ewa Beach is considered a “prime place” in the US? Oh please. Tsss. lol If I were to relocate, it would most definitely be Maui, either in South Kihei, or somewhere upcountry. Perhaps when I retire.

    • June 28, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      It’s funny that Wailuku came in 4th in the best beach towns. There’s virtually no beaches in Wailuku. There are a couple of stretches where there is some sand but nothing like the resort beaches in Wailea and Kaanapali. And the beaches aren’t really in Wailuku. They’re in Waiehu and Waihee, which I guess are a part of Wailuku. But if you ask any Maui local where the beaches in Wailuku are, they’d laugh at you.

      • June 29, 2014 at 2:05 am


        The “PRIME PLACES IN THE U.S.” list Ken presented doesn’t have “beach” as part of its feature. Otherwise, hell, Makawao, Pukalani and Kula has a “beach”… at least within visual sight! lol

        The towns on Oahu farthest from the ocean would be anywhere central, such as Mililani and Wahiawa, which also have the highest elevation and coldest temperatures on the island. Manoa valley also. You’d have to drive at least 20 minutes out from those locations to reach a beach. Wow, so far! lol

        • June 29, 2014 at 9:29 pm

          I think the “Prime Places in the US” list is the beach town list.

          See: “Waianae and Wailuku are among the top five beach housing markets in the U.S., according to a new analysis.” and “Other Hawaii beach towns among the top 20 were Wailuku at No. 4”.

          That coincides with the “Prime Places in the US” list.

  • June 30, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    California-based RealtyTrac sought to find the “top 100 U.S. beach housing markets” based on average temperature, percentage of sunny days, percentage of days with good air quality, and crime rates plus ****“cost of housing”****.

    Not how much beach was in the town or how close the beach town was to the beach; I guess as long as you can see water it is considered a beach town according to CA standards. How much you’ll pay now for property verses how much you’ll pay later.

    Just remember you pay $20,000 for HI property now and sell for $1 million later!!!


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