Between its palm-fringed beaches, sparkling clear waters and endless days of sunshine, it isn’t hard to see why Hawaii is on most people’s bucket lists. America’s 50th state is one of its most scenic, but making the most of your stay requires some planning. The archipelago is made up of eight islands, but two of those (Niihau and Kahoolawe) are forbidden. That leaves Hawaii Island, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu for you to choose from – and they all have their unique charms. Whether you’re planning a once-in-a-lifetime (we hope) honeymoon or a whirlwind budget tour, there are a few things you’ll need to know beforehand. Take a look at our top tips on how to travel Hawaii before you set off.
Top tips on how to travel Hawaii
1. Travel to one island
You might have your heart set on an island-hopping adventure, but unless you’ve got bottomless pockets, getting between the islands is fairly tricky and expensive. Most of the islands are spread wide apart, with the exception of Maui, Moloka‘i and Lana‘i, so you’ll need to fly with the local airline to get there. Don’t underestimate the islands either – each of them is extraordinarily diverse too, home to tropical jungles, arid deserts and some of the tallest mountains in the United States.
Moloka’i is one of the cheapest destinations for travellers, while Maui is the most expensive.
2. Save money by eating like a local
You’ll find all the big burger joints, pizzerias and coffee shops you’re used to at home, which is great if you’re pining after home comforts – but not so great if you’re trying to save money. Prices are generally higher than on Mainland too because goods need to be shipped here. Instead, deep dive into the local scene, and save a few pennies at the same time, by tucking into tasty local delicacies like laulau (pork wrapped in taro leaf) and kululo (taro and coconut cream pudding) for dessert. Remember that locals tend to eat early too, so make sure you don’t head out too late.
It’s worth making reservations too. In the wake of the pandemic, the hospitality industry in Hawaii is dealing with huge employee shortages and there may also be restrictions on running restaurants at full capacity.
3. Hire a moped or a car
Public transport on most of Hawaii’s islands is reasonably unreliable, so if you’re looking to travel any great distance it’s worth considering a car rental or downloading a taxi-sharing service app. If the prospect of flying around the island on two wheels doesn’t terrify you, try hiring out a moped. Beyond the freeways, most of the roads are winding and narrow, so well suited for motorbikes and mopeds.
Or you could use some of that pedal power and hire a bike. Some islands – including Maui – are excellent for cyclists, boasting a wide network of cycle lanes and a range of brilliant bikes to rent.
4. Pick your season carefully
Hawaii can be extraordinarily expensive, particularly during peak season. If you’re looking for ways to push your pennies further, it’s worth considering a shoulder season trip, between April and June or September and mid-December. The weather doesn’t promise total consistency like the summer months, but you’re almost always guaranteed warm and sunny days. Or, if you’re looking to see humpback whales, visit in the winter. You’ll get the best whale action from January to March, but November and December are good spotting months too.
5. Keep ocean conservation front of mind
As well as offering endless snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities, it’s important to remember that the ocean is a delicate ecosystem that requires protection – and everyone has a part to play. For instance, make sure you’re using reef-safe sunscreen. Most sunscreens, even those in Hawaii, contain oxybenzone which harms coral reef systems; it bleaches and kills them.
Federal law also requires all ocean users to stay at least 100 yards from humpback whales, Hawaii’s state marine mammal. There’s also a recommended 50 yards viewing distance for other sea life such as dolphins, endangered green sea turtles and monk seals.
Plastic is a huge problem for Hawaii’s oceans. In fact, the state recently banned plastic bags, so you’ll need to carry your own or pay for a reusable one.
6. Book your accommodation in advance
Luxury travellers are well-catered for in Hawaii, it’s home to some of the biggest blockbuster hotel chains in the business. Even the biggest hotels offer reduced rates for advanced bookings. Budget travellers will need to plan carefully. B&Bs are usually the best way to go, and each island tends to offer at least one budget hostel geared to surfers. It’s worth checking local independent hotels for special deals too. For example, on Maui, the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel offers affordable packages offering rental car, breakfast, pools and airfare. Airbnb is chock-full of options too.
7. Pack some layers
True, Hawaii has warm weather year-round, with pleasant temperatures between 73°F and 86°F (22.7°C and 30°C). But it’s also an archipelago of microclimates, so you should be prepared for lots of different weather situations. Trust us, you’ll need a sweater if you’re thinking about taking in that ever-popular sunrise at Haleakala.
Need some more tips on the subject? Take a look at our handy guide on what to pack for Hawaii: the essential list.