Guest Bloggers: Aloha Living 
Try as you might, but you can’t drive from Waikiki to check out the volcanic eruption at Kilauea. Hollywood is partially to blame for the widespread impression that all the many wonders of Hawaii can be found on a single island. In fact, there are actually eight major islands (and countless smaller islands and atolls) that make up the Hawaiian Islands.
Each island is very different. Whether you’re trying to decide where to visit on your next island vacation, or looking to buy your first Hawaii property  or picking a place to buy a home in Hawaii, here’s a quick guide to islands of Hawaii.
The most populated Hawaiian Island is probably the one most people are familiar with, home to the bustling tourist mecca of Waikiki, the historic World War II sites of Pearl Harbor, the world famous surf on the North Shore, and much more. There are over 870,000 people living on Oahu, most living and working in the capital city of Honolulu along the south shore of the island.
For the first-time visitor or home buyer, Oahu is usually your safest bet. On the tourist side, the island offers everything from unspoiled natural beauty to a modest nightlife, from high-end stores to a huge variety of one-of-a-kind boutique shops. You can also strike out on your own, or take advantage of countless organized activities and managed attractions.
When it comes to real estate , Oahu has $80,000 condos, $80 million estates, and truly everything in between. Whether you want to live in a high rise, on the beach, on a mountain ridge or deep in a valley, there’s plenty to choose from. Honolulu real estate  offers the widest selection and largest inventory of any island. (As a result, it also has the most Hawaii foreclosures .)
Oahu has the most developed infrastructure, with solid public transportation, fairly ubiquitous Internet connectivity, low unemployment and a wide range of industries (though tourism and the military still dominate). Everything in Hawaii is expensive, but often less expensive in Honolulu, as most things shipped to the state comes through its airport and ports.
You get all the comforts of any American city, but of course, that means Honolulu is also the most crowded, has the worst traffic, and – by sheer math – has the most crime. But don’t panic. In 2010, Forbes magazine still named Honolulu the country’s third safest city.
The Big Island
The largest and youngest Hawaiian Island is the island of Hawaii. Of course, that’s also the name of the state, so most people refer to it as The Big Island. It’s the second most populous island, but that population is spread out over a much larger area. How big is it? All of the other Hawaiian Islands could fit on top of it, with a little room to spare. That’s a lot of Hawaii real estate !
Thanks to all that space, the Big Island offers the widest variety of climates and topographies. There are vast barren deserts, lush tropical rainforests, white sand beaches and snow-capped mountains. (Yes, snow in Hawaii.) Many locals roughly divide the Big Island into East Hawaii and West Hawaii, though of course there’s endless variety in between.
East Hawaii is the green, rainy, slower-paced side of the island. Hilo is the main city, situated on Hilo Bay, and it’s the second largest city in Hawaii. Even so, it feels like a small town. This side of the island is home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, perhaps the main attraction on the island. As far as real estate, it offers everything from affordable but empty and remote lots to multi-million dollar ocean-view estates.
West Hawaii is the sunny, dry, resort side of the island. It’s got the blue skies you expect from Hawaii postcards, and is home to several high-end resorts and resort communities. Kailua-Kona is a bustling commercial and tourist town, and further up the coast, huge developments offer a wide range of condos – popular as vacation or investment properties.
Once considered a runner-up to Oahu, Maui and its many amenities has – in many ways – surpassed the capital city in both appeal and value to both tourists and real estate investors alike. It’s the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, and has the third largest population.
In terms of visitor attractions, Maui may very well be growing the next Waikiki. There are several resort areas, from Kihei, Wailea and Makena to the south, to Lahaina, Kaanapali and Kapalua to the west. All offer the great escape at moderate to high prices, with gorgeous beaches, and great scenery. The whole island has a lot to offer ocean lovers, shoppers, and sightseers. The infamous road to Hana and the summit of Haleakala are unique ways to get away from it all.
For those that want to call Maui home , the island’s real estate market is strong, with median prices below but easily comparable to those on Oahu. Maui sees as much activity in condos as it does in single family homes, with continuing high-end resort development bumping up property values in many neighborhoods . There is an abundance of vacation rental properties  on Maui, even though they are heavily regulated.
Maui also has among the highest numbers of Realtors per capita of any island, let alone any region in the country. With as many as three percent of Maui residents carrying real estate licenses, you’ll either have a lot of options, or a lot of competition.
Kauai is the oldest and among the smallest of the main Hawaiian Islands. Essentially a round dot on a map, the island is about 70 miles around, with one main highway wrapping most of the way around (though the Na Pali coast on the northwestern rim of the island is undeveloped).
Home to one of the wettest spots on earth, its lush green landscape is cut with deep valleys and tall waterfalls. Kauai also has some of the longest and widest stretches of white sand beaches in the state. Some of the most dramatic mountain vistas can be found on Kauai, towering over the many small and diverse towns scattered along its rim.
A popular destination for people looking to get away from the typical tourist traps, Kauai is more rural but nonetheless has an economy that relies largely on tourism. Indeed, Kauai has the most pronounced love-hate relationship with development. On one hand, many people are flocking to nab their piece of paradise, mostly in gleaming resort condos along the north ends of the island. On the other, strict regulations and occasional protests often stop construction and commerce in its tracks.
Island real estate  on Kauai is always in flux, because there’s so little of it. The most active properties are condos, ranging from modest apartments to luxury oceanfront resorts. Nonetheless there is a healthy range of single-family homes, as well as more than a few multimillion dollar estates.
There isn’t a single stoplight on Molokai, and what few businesses there are often close up shop before sunset. With a population of about 7,000 people, it’s just about the most rural main island you can easily visit, and it is often described as the most Hawaiian island as well.
Much of the island is inaccessible, or accessible only by boat, small plane, or donkey. But the island’s largely untouched natural beauty is second to none. As on Kauai, the few permanent residents on Molokai have long resisted large-scale developments, turning away planned resorts and offering instead small hotels, and condo and vacation home rentals.
There isn’t much to do on Molokai, but that’s the point. You can admire the striking sea cliffs and tall waterfalls, or make a pilgrimage to the historic town of Kalaupapa (where Saint Damien tended to the sick). You can go hiking, biking, swimming or sunbathing. But generally the less you do, the happier you’ll probably be.
In terms of real estate, the market is very small, and fairly slow moving. There are usually fewer than 200 active listings at any given time, most clustered at the remote and dry west end of Molokai or along the central south shore. Considering the deliberately slow pace of growth, you probably wouldn’t buy a Molokai property as an investment. And you really shouldn’t consider living there without spending a lot of quality time experiencing the place.
Like Molokai, Lanai also boasts of its lack of traffic lights. Its population hovers below 3,000. But Lanai is also the home to two incredibly luxurious world-class resorts.
The island has been privately owned for much of modern history, much of it serving as the world’s largest pineapple plantation for much of the 20th century under James Dole (of the Dole Food Company), and now as a world-class getaway under billionaire David Murdock.
Apart from condos within the resort complexes, most of the properties available for sale on Lanai are single family homes, many in Lanai City. Prices range from a quarter of a million dollars for a modest cottage to nearly three million dollars for a custom oceanview home. There are also luxury homes clustered around the resorts in Koele and Manele.
The smallest of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands, Niihau has been wholly owned by the Robinson Family since 1864. Most of its 130 or so residents speak Hawaiian as their first and only language, and very few people outside the family ever get to visit.
The smallest of the eight main Hawaiian Islands, Kahoolawe is uninhabited. For more than 50 years, the U.S. military used the island for target practice, hitting it with bombs, missiles, and massive test explosions. In 1994, the U.S. military formally handed control of Kahoolawe back to the state of Hawaii, and modest efforts are now underway to recover and restore what remains of its historic, cultural and natural resources.