A visit to the Hawaiian Islands presents an array of choices, from the dramatic landscape of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island to the gentle shores of Waikiki on Oahu to the amazing Road to Hana on Maui. Traveling between islands requires a little strategy to maximize a stay in paradise. Read below to gather travel tips that will help you master your island hopping adventures and discover which island of Hawaii is right for you!
Hawaii's only major commercial airline remains Hawaiian Airlines, which offers routes to all major islands and the US mainland, as well as Samoa, Australia and more. Small carriers like Mokulele Airlines and Pacific Wings provide puddle-jumper service between islands. The average flight time between the main islands is anywhere between 20 and 45 minutes! This fast inter-island travel will have you saying “Aloha!” to a new island in no time, and you can get rental cars at the airports to do your Hawaii travel around the islands.
There are only two inter-island passenger ferry services in Hawaii. The Molokai Ferry departs twice daily from Lahaina, Maui, to the nearby island of Molokai, and takes about 90 minutes. The Maui-Lanai Expeditions Ferry departs five times a day from Lahaina, reaching Manele Bay on Lanai in 45 minutes. Depending on what your travel goal is, it may be smart to consult a travel guide to find the best traveling option between the major Hawaiian islands, especially if you’re looking for round-trip options.
Most inter-island flights go through Honolulu International Airport on Oahu, although occasionally one can find direct flights from the Big Island to Maui, for example. If flying from the Big Island to Kauai, one will most likely make a quick stop on Oahu before catching the connecting flight. The Big Island offers two airports, the Kona International Airport and the Hilo International Airport, which service the major airlines like Southwest Airlines and United to the mainland U.S. On Maui, most flights come into Kahului Airport, which is centrally located near the tourist enclave of Kihei. All neighbor islands, including Lanai, Molokai and Kauai, have commercial airports. All destination islands can be reached from Honolulu International Airport and makes a quick day trip to a different island, or a full scale Hawaii vacation, easy and fun!
Hawaii consists of eight major islands: Oahu, Hawai’i, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Kauai, Kahoolawe and Niihau. The largest island in the chain, the Big Island is located at the southernmost end of the state, while Kauai occupies the northwestern end of the chain. The County of Maui includes the islands of Molokai, Lanai and Maui. Known as the "Gathering Isle," Oahu attracts the most visitors to its shores, thanks to the famous sandy beaches of Waikiki and the many metropolitan offerings of Honolulu. Other popular destinations on the islands include Waimea, Kapalua, Haleakala, Lihue, Koa, Lāna, Kalaupapa, Wailea, Waimea Canyon Waikiki Beach, and Kailua. When you’re Hawaii island hopping, be sure to hit all the best spots and spend your time snorkeling, at Volcanoes National Park, and on the many beaches along the north shores and Na Pali Coast!
If planning to visit more than one island, consider the fact that travel time between islands can eat up at least half of the day, after all, is said and done. Instead of trying to visit as many islands, consider exploring one island in-depth, like the Big Island for example, which is the size of all of the other islands combined. Or book in Waikiki for a few days for shopping and beaching, then travel to another island, such as Kauai, for the remainder of the trip. If you’re visiting for the first time, it might be best to keep it simple. Many activities can be done on each individual island, from viewing gorgeous waterfalls and watching humpback whales, so you won’t miss out if you don’t choose to travel!