Breaking Down TripAdvisor’s 5 Best Islands in the USA

Every year TripAdvisor releases Travelers’ Choice awards, highlighting the crème de la crème of hotels, beaches and islands.

Let’s take a look at the top 5 islands in the USA on their 2016 list.  I’ll share some some of my photos and my thoughts on honeymoon suitability of each island.

1. Maui, Hawaii

The number one entry on the TripAdvisor list is no surprise.  Maui has become a mainstay atop “best island” lists due in part to excellent beaches, lush jungle and a mountaintop that rises above the clouds.  Known as the “Valley Isle” for the isthmus that runs between the two large volcanoes on the island, it is replete with natural sights.

Maui Hawaii Haleakala Moonscape The Honeymoon Guy
The terrain on Haleakala leaves you wondering if you’ve left Earth and landed on a different planet! The top of the volcanic mountain also makes for a great vantage point for romantic viewings of the sunrise/set. Photo ©The Honeymoon Guy

Along the northern edge of the island lies a road that hugs the scenic coastline.  Alongside the road, there are more waterfalls than you can count!  Follow the road all the way to the eastern edge of the island and you’ll arrive at the Seven Sacred Pools near Hana.  The drive is the main attraction on this journey, but the pools are certainly a fitting conclusion.

On the western coasts, particularly in the Wailea area, you’ll find luxurious accommodations which are just what many honeymooners covet.  You’ll also find the quaint but fun town of Lahaina – the perfect complement to the natural wonders of the island.

We made Maui our first stop on our around-the-world honeymoon and it didn’t disappoint.  We stayed 3 nights in Wailea at the Andaz Maui (free using Hyatt award nights) and 3 nights in Kaanapali at the Sheraton Maui (free using SPG points), enabling us to check out world-class beaches, the fun town of Lahaina, Haleakala and more.

You can use free night awards from the Chase Hyatt credit card signup bonus at hotels such as the Andaz Maui, shown here, or even at the all-inclusive Hyatts in Jamaica, Cancun and Los Cabos! You can save over $1,000 with the free night awards.
The Andaz Maui, shown here, is one example of the luxurious (and in this case chic) lodging options on Maui.  Our stay at the hotel was all the sweeter because it was free with the use of Hyatt free night awards. Photo ©The Honeymoon Guy

We used the Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook before and during our visit; it is one of the best guidebooks ever created (no exaggeration!).

Maui is an excellent honeymoon destination for:

  • Nature lovers
  • Beach aficionados
  • Scuba divers and snorkelers
  • Romantics

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 16 out of 17

Related Posts: Should You Do the Road to Hana on Your Maui Honeymoon?


2. Key West, Florida

This small island at the tip of Florida is unlike any other.  It has a unique “anything goes” culture and a party atmosphere.

For East Coasters, it’s a short flight and drive away – it won’t take you more than a few hours to reach by air and the drive to the island, from the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area, is one you’ll always remember (Southwest has many flights into Fort Lauderdale, making this a great option for holders of their Companion Pass). For parts of the drive, it seems as if you are driving into the ocean.  Once you’ve arrived you can choose between visiting famous bars, Hemingway’s old house or a waverunner tour around the island.

Key West is small and flat so it doesn’t have the variety to compare to an island like Maui.  It does have quite the character though, making it a good choice for eclectic types.  A visit to Key West can also be easily combined with a stay in one of the other keys to mix things up.

The close to each day in Key West should be celebrated with a sunset viewing from Mallory Square!

Key West Florida Honeymoon Sunset
I snapped this photo of the sun setting from Mallory Square on Key West. Libations flow freely at the square which is home to many great street acts. Photo ©The Honeymoon Guy

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Card 50,000 50k Point Offer Image The Honeymoon Guy

Key West is an excellent honeymoon destination for:

  • Free spirits
  • Partiers
  • Scuba divers and snorkelers
  • People watchers
  • Newlyweds limited to trip duration of a few days

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 13 out of 17

Related Posts: Six Terrific, Unconventional Honeymoon Destinations

3. Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu’s sister island Maui gets more of the love from honeymooners but the home to Hawaii’s capital is no slouch itself.  I spent two full weeks on Oahu and left with quite the appreciation for the island’s offerings.

Most travelers are aware of the attractions on the south side of the island – Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, to name a few – but the North Shore is what wowed me most.  Think secluded beaches with sea turtles which will eat seaweed out of your hand.  It’s so beautiful that the producers of Lost chose it for filming many of the show’s scenes!  In the winter you’re likely to see waves as tall as houses!

One of the best snorkeling bays  – Hanauma Bay – on earth can be found at the southeast tip of the island.  The curved shape of this volcanic cone topography creates a bay filled with beautiful fish.

Oahu Hawaii Hanauma Bay The Honeymoon Guy
Hanauma Bay, a marine life conservation area, offers incredible snorkeling. Shuttles are available to/from Waikiki hotels for a small fee. Photo ©The Honeymoon Guy

One of the most memorable activities during my vist to Oahu was taking to the skies in a powered hang glider.  To be out in the open air high above the beautiful terrain of Hawaii left me feeling like I had temporarily morphed into a bird!

Oahu is an excellent honeymoon destination for:

  • Nature lovers
  • Beach aficionados
  • Snorkelers
  • City lovers

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 15 out of 17

4. Island of Hawaii, Hawaii

That’s right – three of the top five islands in the US, according to TripAdvisor, are Hawaiian islands.  The third of the Hawaiian group, and fourth overall, is the “Big Island.”

The Big Island is the youngest of the Hawaiian islands so its topography is generally rocky and black.  Its most famous attraction is the Volcanoes National Park, which is home to Kilauea.  The volcano is one of the world’s most active and visitors can often get up close to the natural wonder.  Because the island is not covered with much dirt due to its young age the waters immediately surrounding it are void of runoff sediment, leaving them crystal clear.  That makes the Big Island an excellent choice for snorkelers and scuba divers.  The intro scuba dive I did during my visit to the Big Island was breathtaking – visibility was great and the sea life was magnificent.

Though much of the surface of the Big Island is consistent, the climate varies tremendously across the island.  Scientists generally agree that the island has at least 8 of the 13 climate sub-zones.

Hawaii Big Island Sunset from Hilton Waikaloa Village The Honeymoon Guy
The sunsets from the Hilton Waikaloa Village, located in the Kona area, are stunning!

The “Big Island” is an excellent honeymoon destination for:

  • Nature lovers
  • Volcano seekers
  • Scuba divers and snorkelers

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 14 out of 17

Related Post: Reader Request: Vic Wants Three Free Roundtrip Hawaii Tickets

5. Mount Desert Island, Maine

The island in the number five slot is quite a bit different than the four that precede it – it is not tropical in any way.

In fact, Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park, is situated way up north, off the coast of Maine.  Its location combined with its natural beauty make it especially attractive to hikers that don’t mind colder weather.

The great beauty of the national park is complemented by the towns, such as Bar Harbor.  Quiet in the winter, they spring to life in the summer with the many visitors to the island (the year-round population on the island is only about 10k but over 2 million tourists visit each year).

Acadia National Park 02
Mount Desert Island in Maine is home to Acadia National Park, shown here. The island is the second largest in the contiguous US and home to incredible natural landscapes. Photo by Plh1234us
Mount Desert Island Field River The Honeymoon Guy
The terrain and vegetation in Acadia National Park varies from rocky, hilly and harsh to flat and grassy. Photo by @benjamindunbar

Mount Desert Island is an excellent honeymoon destination for:

  • Nature lovers
  • Hikers
  • Cold-weather lovers

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 13 out of 17

The rest of TripAdvisor’s Top Ten Islands in the USA for 2016

6. Hilton Head, South Carolina

7. Amelia Island, Florida

8. Marco Island, Florida

9. Chincoteague Island, Virginia

10. Mackinac Island, Michigan

What do you think of TripAdvisor’s rankings?  Do you agree with my commentary on the top 5 islands? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Five Best Islands USA Honeymoon TripAdvisor

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