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Hawaii: If Maui seems more crowded than usual, it is. Here's why.

You won't be the only person visiting paradise these days. Hawaii, land of inspiring sunsets and iconic beaches, broke several tourism records during 2015.

And it was the so-called neighbor islands, not the capital's home island of Oahu, that experienced the greatest growth.

A record 8,659,357 people visited the Aloha State last year. According to figures released last week by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, that figure is a 4.1% increase over 2014.

Oahu, with world-famous Waikiki Beach, continued to see the highest overall number of visitors, but its growth was lower than that of three other islands.

Maui led the way with visitor volume up 4.9% to more than 2.5 million people. What they spent climbed 5.9% to $4.3 billion.

Kauai’s nearly 1.2 million visitors represented an increase of 4.3%. However, visitor spending soared by nearly 14% to $1.6 billion.

Visits to Hawaii Island (a.k.a., the Big Island) were up 3.8% to 1.5 million. Tourists spent $1.9 billion, but that’s less than a 1% increase over 2014.

On the outdoors front, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park gained 139,655 more visitors in 2015 than the year before. A total of 1,832,660 visited the national park in 2015.

Oahu welcomed 5.3 million people visitors, marking a 2.8% increase year-on-year. Their spending, however, dropped by 1% to $7.3 billion.

“Most of the build-up [in tourism] after the recession was on Oahu,” the tourism agency's Daniel Nahoopii said, adding that’s why growth there wasn’t as high last year.

“Maui has a strong appeal to the West Coast market,” said Nahoopii, who heads the agency's tourism research team. “We have multiple resort areas. It’s a big island with a lot to do.”

A whopping 40% of 2015 visitors to Hawaii came from what the tourism authority calls the “U.S. West,” the 11 states west of the Rocky Mountains, including, of course, California.

And 3.5 million of “westerners” spent time in the islands last year, a year-on-year jump of more than 7%.


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