I’ve been fortunate to go to Hawaii four times. One of my favorite trips was when we stayed at the Honua Kai resort on Maui.
Hawaii or the Aloha State is the youngest state to join the U.S. and the only one that’s geographically not located in North America. It’s also the only U.S. state that’s completely surrounded by water and made up of islands, has tropical rainforests, and the only state that grows coffee.
Hawaii is famous for its palm tree-lined beaches and surfing spots. In fact, it has 400 named beaches although some of them are too dangerous that swimming isn’t allowed in them. This doesn’t deter statewide and international visitors as tourism in the state continues in an upward.
It’s the ideal island paradise but if you’re looking for something that’s not too mainstream or perhaps you’ve already been to Hawaii and want to go somewhere new, you should scroll down to see which other tropical destinations you need to check out that offer the same tropical vibes as Hawaii or even better.
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Not all South Pacific island destinations are the same. While Hawaii has its own qualities—they’re north of the equator so they are not “South Pacific”—the lovely island of Fiji is one of the most iconic romance paradise-like places on Earth.
It is difficult not to fall in love with the tropical beauty of Fiji, with its rugged cliffs that plunge into blue lagoons, sundrenched beaches and swaying palms. Aside from the breathtaking landscape, Fiji has so much to offer in terms of recreational activities.
Home to Kava—the bitter, mildly sedating beverage—Fiji also has more than 4,000 miles of coral formations that host more than 1,000 species of fish. This is why Fiji is often referred to by diving enthusiasts as the “Soft Coral Capital of the World.
Just like Hawaii, Fiji also has underwater volcanic origins that have matured into diving sites such as the Somosomo Straits, Canyons, Namena Marina Reserve and Dream House.
The top five islands of Fiji are:
The top things to do in Fiji are:
- Decompress on Viti Levu
- Immerse in the beautiful culture of Nadi
- Take a helicopter tour over the Mamanucas
- Experience fire walking on Beqa
- Enjoy Kava on Vanua Levu
- Find pearls in Savusavu
- Be awed by the falls of Taveuni
- Know how it is to live overwater on Malolo
- Play Robinson Crusoe on Matangi Island
Samoa sits halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii—a tiny island home to robust waterfalls, lush mountains and dark cerulean waters. Here you cannot find any mega-resorts and fancy attractions, only pure and intense natural beauty. Just like Hawaii, it was birthed by volcanic explosions. But Samoa’s beauty is more raw yet humble, spirited but well-manicured.
The culture has not changed for centuries even after being influenced by the missionaries of the 1800s. The people retained their old ways (Fa’a Samoa) which is why theirs is still the most traditional and authentic culture in the Pacific societies. In many parts of the island, you will see houses with no walls, not because of underdevelopment, but because the people want to retain their wild and unrestricted culture.
Samoa offers plenty of adventures and from the moment you arrive, you have to give up your watch and tuck away your gadgets. Let your days be ruled by sunrises, lazy midday siestas and wondrous starry nights.
Here are some of the things you can do in Samoa:
- Dive into a waterfall—do it the Samoan way and revel in the hundreds of jaw-dropping waterfalls in the island including Togitogiga Waterfall, Fuipisia falls, Papase’ea Sliding Rocks, Afu Aau falls in Savari, Mu Pagoa Falls, and the Instagrammable To Sua Ocean Trench.
- Swim with the fishes—enjoy the untouched reef in Namua Island or simply don your snorkel gear in Lalomanu Beach. You won’t have to swim far to see turtles and brightly colored fishes. Nearby is Fanuatapu Island and the Aleipata Coast coves where you can swim with eagle rays.
- Swim with endangered turtles—villagers raise baby turtles in the Satoalepai Turtle Sanctuary and release them when they reach 180kg. For just a few dollars, you can swim with the endangered green turtles before they are tagged and released back into the wild.
- Dive and go deeper—the water temperature is almost constant at 26-29 degrees throughout the year and the visibility is close to perfect. There are shallow lagoons where you can learn to dive as a beginner, or go deeper and earn your diving certificate in dive spots such as The Rock. Explore shipwrecks, coral gardens, and sea canyons.
- Take a hike—there are many trails in Samoa, made more perfect by its lush rainforest, rugged coastline and volcanoes. There’s Peapea Cave, O le Pupu-Pue National Park, Tafua Volcano Rim, and Lake Lanotoo National Park.
There are many reasons why Bali is one of the best alternatives to Hawaii as a holiday destination. First off, it is insanely cheap here; even the 5-star accommodations are inexpensive. The people are friendly, the food is great, the culture is unique and there are many excellent surfing spots.
Bali is a lot cheaper than Hawaii and you can eat a feast for under $20. Indonesian food may be an acquired taste, but just like Hawaii, seafood is plentiful and the exploding taste in their cuisine is an experience in itself.
Although Hawaii undoubtedly has better beaches, there are untouched and virgin beaches in Bali that are only minutes away from Kuta. Being just one island, it is easier to get around and you don’t have to fly to get from one island to another.
Being close to the equator, the country enjoys a year-round tropical weather. You can surf in Bali all throughout the year, so you don’t have to wait for the winter season waves of Hawaii.
Here are the top things to do in Bali:
- Bali is a spiritual and cultural place, so you can fully immerse yourself in the local traditions by visiting the temples. Bask in the serenity and peace of Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.
- Rent a bike and feel the wind against your face as you cruise along the Ubud rice fields. Hire a local tour guide for a more educational experience.
- Pick your surfboard up and hit the waves with locals in Kuta, Uluwatu, Nusa Lembongan and Canggu
- Watch the sunrise on the summit of Batur Volcano
You don’t have to fly out to distant places to enjoy the tropical vibe of Hawaii. Although the beaches of Hawaii and Miami are entirely different from each other, they are both great and have excellent surf destinations.
The Atlantic-facing coastline of Miami is popular for its white sandy beaches and warm water that are perfect for boating, swimming, and surfing. The summer months can be hot and humid with a scattering of monsoon-like thunderstorms, but in the spring and fall, the place is temperate and tropical. Miami is also perfect for party-goers because of the numerous nightspots, clubs, and restaurants along the beach.
Best places to go in Miami:
- There are 16 beaches in Miami, but one of the most popular is Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park Beach with its 75 outdoor grills for barbecue parties. The beachfront stretches for 3 miles so there are sporting options for golf, softball and soccer enthusiasts.
- If you are looking for a quieter beach to just lay back and enjoy the sun, Virginia Key has Matheson Hammock Park Beach. You can have a picnic while enjoying the perfect sunset view over the skyline of Miami.
- For party animals, South Beach has hip party clubs and art deco hotels.
- Haulover Beach in Bal Harbour is a sweet spot for surfers.
Popularly known as the birthplace of reggae, Caribbean’s Jamaica draws in flocks of tourists with its reef-lined beaches and lush rainforests. Food, drinks, and accommodation in Jamaica are way cheaper than Hawaii, and the cuisine is excellent.
Here are the best beaches in Jamaica:
- Boston Bay Beach
- Seven Mile Beach
- Doctor’s Cave Beach
- Cornwall Beach
- Reggae Beach
A holiday in Jamaica is never complete without going to the Bob Marley Museum. Explore the history of reggae and its roots and enjoy the music at beach parties.
6. Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is home to Punta Cana, a resort area with a long stretch of beaches far from the cities. It was developed as a tourist destination in 1969 and has grown to be a tourist hotspot with more than 2.4 million guests per year.
One reason for Punta Cana’s popularity is its accessibility. It is located on the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic and has its own airport, which is just 10 minutes from the resort area. Flight time is only 3 hours from New York, with easy to acquire flights compared to Hawaii’s 5 hours flight from the West Coast.
Punta Cana is also very inexpensive. Compared to Hawaii resorts, the all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana cover all drinks, meals and room fees. You can even rent a condo at an affordable price if you wish to stay longer.
In terms of climate, it is warm and tropical all year round. Averaging at 80 degrees daily, the sunny weather is another big attraction for winter-weary tourists all year.
Here are 8 Punta Cana beaches you can choose from:
- Playa Juanillo
- Playa Blanca
- Punta Cana Beach
- Bavaro Beach
- Arena Gorda
- Playa Cabo Engano
- Cabeza de Toro
- Macao Beach
The Caribbean is Hawaii’s stoutest competition. But there are many reasons why many tourists choose Barbados instead of Hawaii. For one, Barbados has direct flights every day from major US and UK cities and the flight time is shorter by half compared to Hawaii.
Both the Caribbean and Hawaii have a diverse culture being a melting pot of different races, and the richness of their culture is expressed through festivals, music, art, and dance. What makes Barbados different is the interaction rate of the locals with tourists. The popular Bajan hospitality is almost coveted by visitors as much as its tropical allure.
Hawaii has incredible seafood, but the Barbados palate brings food to another level by preparing their food with incredible flavors influenced by the different cultures such as Asian, African and European. World recipes are given the Caribbean vibe and enhanced by the freshness of the ingredients.
Here are the famous Barbados beaches you must visit:
- Bath beach
- Crane beach
- Accra beach
- Miami beach
- Silver Sands
- Gibbes beach
- Archer bay
Hawaii and Maldives are both mesmerizing islands with fantastic beaches. Where Hawaii takes pride in their diverse gold, black, green and red sandy beaches, Maldives is unbeatable when it comes to their blue lagoons and extensive reefs.
The Maldives, however, wins when it comes to cost. Flights to the Maldives are way cheaper than to Hawaii, and the luxury accommodations are not as pricey as in the top Hawaii hotels and resorts. This means you can stay longer in the Maldives for less.
Here are the activities you can do in the Maldives:
- Glass boat riding
- Scuba diving
- Catamaran sailing
- Jet skiing
- Underwater walking
If you’re stuck in the Hawaii or Mauritius battle, here are some reasons why you should pick Mauritius. In terms of cost, Mauritius wins. Most travel deals to Mauritius already include activities such as catamaran cruises, spa treatments, and water sports.
The beaches in Mauritius are comparable to those of Bali; they are more languid and laid back, so if you are looking for total relaxation, Mauritius is for you.
Here are the amazing things you can do in Mauritius:
- Visit Port Louis and its Central Market Bazaar
- Go deep sea fishing for black marlin, blue marlin, and yellow tuna
- Go to Caudan Waterfront and visit the museums
- Visit Chinatown
- Immerse yourself in the local culture in Mahebourg
- Discover Ile Aux Aigrettes where unique flora and fauna can be found
- Check out 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites—Le Morne Cultural Landscape and Aapravasi Ghat
10. Lakshadweep Islands, India
The beautiful islands of Lakshadweep are quickly becoming a favorite honeymoon destination, where couples can find serenity and intimacy in the laps of the Laccadive Sea. With 36 islands to visit and discover, you will be awed by the luxurious resorts, sun-kissed beaches, and picture-perfect greenery.
Here are the 6 best islands in Lakshadweep:
- Agatti Island
- Bangaram Island
- Kadmat Island
- Kavaratti island
- Kalpeni island
- Minicoy island
Five hours south of Hawaii, the jewels of Tahiti lies in the splendor of the Pacific Ocean. The islands feature tranquil lagoons teeming with sea life. Hawaii’s beaches and coasts face the open ocean, Tahiti’s, on the other hand, are mostly reef protected. This makes the islands a top destination for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Here are the top Tahiti Islands to consider:
- Le Marche
- Bora Bora
Belize is another Hawaii alternative that should be on your list. It is less crowded than any of the previous destinations we listed, but it offers everything you may want on your holiday including hiking, ancient ruins tour, snorkeling, and diving.
Belize has Ambergris Caye where you can go parasailing and zip lining, as well as spelunking and scuba diving. Robles Point is one of the most intimate and secret beaches in the world, so don’t miss out on spending an entire day getting lost here.
Unplugging is encouraged in Belize. Live free from social media and the Internet and enjoy the seclusion while staying in a mountainous resort. Blancaneaux Lodge is an excellent choice, with rooms equipped with plunge pools and private decks.
Belize is also home to the Great Blue Hole, the sinkhole that holds the secrets to the Mayan civilization collapse. It is by far one of the most Instagrammable places on Earth.
There are many other interesting places to go in Belize:
- Belize Barrier Reef
- Victoria National Monument
- Caracol and XunantunichRuinss
13. Cook Islands
Cook islands have everything a tropical paradise has to offer—sun, sand, food, cerulean waters. Just like Hawaii, Tahiti, and Fiji, Cook Islands is home to hospitable and friendly people which makes your stay more worthwhile.
Compared to Hawaii, however, getting to the Cook Islands is cheaper by far. There are airfare deals for as low as $899 round-trip and you can even cut this by half if you use coupon codes.
The main island, Rarotonga, famous for its large lagoon is very easy to explore because it is just one landmass. There are no high rises, no convenience stores, no fast food, and yes, no stop lights. The Cook Islands is how Hawaii was like 50 years ago.
Here are some cool things to do in the Cook Islands:
- Resorts offer sunset cocktail cruises on the lagoon
- Go whale watching at the Whale and Wildlife Center and Café
- Call Karl Jackson and have him take you on a Tik-E (electric tuk-tuk) tour. The New Zealander expat will tell you everything you need to know about Cooks Island
- Try out the cafes on Rarotonga and sample the awesome seafood dishes
14. Perhentian Islands
Perhentian Islands in Malaysia is another popular Southeast Asia tropical destination. There are two main islands in Perhentian—Kecil (small) and Besar (big). Both islands offer excellent snorkeling and diving locations with reefs and crystal clear water that hosts a plethora of sea life such as sharks, sea turtles, and reef fish.
Things to do in Perhentian:
- Snorkeling in Shari-la resort and D’Lagoon
- Diving in Coral Bay
- Get off the beaten track and discover the quaint fishing villages along the coast
Another inexpensive holiday destination that can be a great Hawaii alternative is the Philippines. With more than 7,000 tropical islands rich in fantastic beaches, amazing waterfalls, lagoons, limestone formations, underground rivers and caves, and charming villages, there is something in the Philippines for everyone. Almost all kinds of adventures can be done in the Philippines, and it is cheap, too!
Here are the famous places in the Philippines you must not miss:
- Palawan—features El Nido beach and one of the wonders of the world, the UNESCO Heritage Puerto Princesa Underground River
- Mayon Volcano
- Ifugao Mountains
- Bohol’s Chocolate Hills