Best Tips and Advice for Planning a Trip to Hawaii in 2018
Planning a trip to Hawaii is many people’s dream of an exotic island paradise vacation, comparable to the Caribbean in many respects. The sun, the palm trees, and the flying fish. But the Hawaii islands also have volcanos, grass skirts and more to potentially enjoy.
Contrary to popular mistaken belief, Hawaii is not a single island, but the largest one of an archipelago of eight islands, referred to under the umbrella name of the State of Hawaii, since it makes up one of the United States of America. Geographically it’s even more confusing, as the Hawaii islands belong to the US but are situated on the same continent as Australia and New Zealand.
We are going to look into all of the Hawaii islands in this article to really make your planning a trip to Hawaii as easy and well–informed as possible. Leaving virtually no stone unturned as to what you can do out there, plus the considerations you must make when planning a trip to Hawaii.
WHAT IS THE BEST ISLAND TO VISIT IN HAWAII?
As we have already mentioned, you have a choice of eight islands to visit in the Hawaiian Archipelago. It really is impossible for us to say which is the best island to visit in Hawaii when they each offer their own respective features in terms of tourism. It would also be rather unfair. So, we will let you form your own opinion of the best island to visit in Hawaii – that is, if you can bear to stick to just one!
We have listed them in order of size, for your convenience.
Hawai’i (or Hawaii) “The Big Island”
Bearing in mind this is the largest of the eight, and this is why the archipelago, and, by extension, the state gets the name Hawaii. Formed out of a constantly–erupting volcano that rose out of the sea (which we will go into later in the article), there is a wealth of amazing things for you to see and do on your visit.
Of course, touring the Hawaii volcanoes takes the spotlight, but a close second has to be manta ray snorkeling, sessions for which are usually held at sunset.
Maui “The Valley Isle”
Coming in second in terms of its size, Maui also gives its name to the “county” in which other Hawaii islands also belong. This island is the place to see some very sweeping and photogenic valley views, as its nickname may imply.
However, if that is not quite your scene when visiting the Hawaii islands, Maui is also home to huge surfing and windsurfing culture. The watersports fans among the readers here may find that idea more inviting.
O’ahu (or Oahu) “The Gathering Place”
Birthplace to a number of well–known stars such as Bette Midler, Nicole Kidman, Jason Momoa and even Barack Obama. This Hawaii island earns its nickname quite justifiably, for it is the most populous in the State of Hawaii. That is, around two-thirds of the state’s population live on O’ahu.
It is home to some of the most recognizable places and names in the Hawaii region, such as Waikīkī Beach, Honolulu and, of course, Pearl Harbor. We will get onto all of those a little later in the article. A couple of the Hawaii volcanos (albeit dormant ones) can also be seen here.
Kaua’i (or Kauai) “The Garden Isle”
Although it may be the fourth–largest of the Hawaii islands, Kaua’i is the oldest island in the archipelago. The volcano from which it is formed was still erupting over 4 million years ago. Kaua’i is where you go to find the Waimea Canyon State Park, which is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Incomparable panoramic views and photo opportunities, ripe for the taking.
Moloka’i (or Molokai) “The Friendly Isle”
Part of the Maui County, this member of the Hawaii islands neighbors the island of O’ahu closely enough that you can see the lights there. Lāna’i and Maui are also visible from certain points on Moloka’i.
This island is revered for its pineapple production, though that doesn’t gain it the nickname “The Pineapple Isle” (see below). Instead, it is referred to as “The Friendly Isle.” From what research and reports have told me, this is a nickname given in irony. Moloka’i is not among the Hawaii islands really recommended for tourism. It is the home of the true Hawaiian culture, rather than commercial hotels and restaurants.
Lāna’i (or Lanai) “The Pineapple Isle”
Another Hawaii island that falls into the Maui county jurisdiction. The entire island was once a huge pineapple plantation, hence why it gains the moniker “The Pineapple Isle.” Its reputation as a tourist destination is not as good as some of the other Hawaii islands. When planning a trip to Hawaii, you may want to consider Lāna’i as a day–trip or even as a passing stop while you tour the Hawaii islands.
There is an absence of real touristic facilities, such as shopping malls. Furthermore, most attractions are only available via off-road vehicle, which will be restrictive to visitors with limited mobility.
Ni’ihau (or Niihau) “The Forbidden Isle”
That does sound like something out of a low–budget horror or adventure film, doesn’t it? Probably one of the few Hawaii islands where English is not the primary language; instead the locals speak the native Hawaiian tongue. Access to the island is limited, as its name would imply since it is actually privately owned.
So when planning a trip to Hawaii, if you cannot possibly leave without seeing Ni’ihau, research when one of their rare supervised safaris are on and coordinate your visit accordingly.
Kaho’olawe (or Kahoolawe) “The Target Isle”
So, we may have lied slightly when we said there were eight possible answers to the question “What is the best island to visit in Hawaii?” The smallest of the Hawaii Islands – Kahoolawe, another member of Maui county – has no permanent residents; its population has always been very sparse. This is due to the lack of available fresh water there. It is by no means a tourist destination at all; in fact, these days, the natives use it for their own cultural and spiritual observances.
WHERE CAN I SEE THE HAWAII VOLCANOES?
The Hawaii volcanoes are responsible for the islands we know and love in the Hawaiian archipelago. Technically, the Hawaii islands are the tops of these massive volcanos, which began erupting underwater and never stopped. A couple still hasn’t, it may surprise or excite you. So, when you are planning a trip to Hawaii, maybe include a guided tour of one of the active volcanos on the island of Hawaii in your itinerary.
Five of the key Hawaii volcanoes belong to the island of Hawaii, and three of them are still active. Maunaloa and Kilauea are the Hawaii volcanoes where guided tours are available – obviously operated at a safe distance from the molten lava flow.
The third is Loihi, which is actually still underwater. However, as it continues to erupt, it is suspected that it will form an additional island to the archipelago. Eight Hawaii islands will become nine soon enough – maybe even within our lifetime!
Dormant volcanoes on the island of Hawaii include Maunakea and Hualalai, while on the other Hawaii islands there is Leahi on O’ahu and Maui’s Haleakala.
PLANNING A TRIP TO HAWAII – THE PARTICULARS
Visas and Permissions
As the Hawaii islands form the US State of Hawaii, the same entry rules apply as those on the mainland. That is, any travelers that are not American citizens must have a valid visa and passport to enter Hawaii.
However, there are a few notable exceptions. Australian citizens, for example, can remain in Hawaii with only a valid passport for up to 90 days. Staying any longer than this period will then require a visa as usual.
Money is a relatively simple process in the Hawaii islands. They belong to the USA, after all, so they use the US Dollar. Withdrawing money is also no different than on the mainland.
For the most part, citizens of the Hawaii islands speak English. A great asset for many travelers. However, there is also the native Hawaiian language, which is only spoken by a couple of thousand people nowadays and primarily on certain islands, such as Ni’ihau. As such, this travel guide won’t give you the basics in the language, as it’s highly unlikely you will require them while you travel the Hawaii islands.
Much like the Caribbean, the weather in the Hawaii islands is consistently warm across the year. The summers tend to get quite humid, however. In short, when planning a trip to Hawaii, it is best to pack light, loose clothing.
Unless, of course, you are planning on going on some of the mountainous or canyon hikes while you tour the Hawaii islands. You will need suitable walking gear for those sorts of activities. But don’t stint on swimwear and beachwear, either. All those beaches and water sports opportunities should not be wasted!
Food and Drink
Hawaiian cuisine has been formed only in part from its ancient ancestry. It has otherwise been influenced by Japanese and Portuguese visitors (among others). Delicacies to try include Lau Lau, Spam Musubi (sushi made with fried spam instead of raw fish) and Poi.
If you would rather stick to what you know but have been planning a trip to Hawaii that is relatively cheap, keep your eye out for coupon booklets at public transport stations. These will help you save a few dollars across your trip.
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN THE HAWAII ISLANDS
The hub of tourism and hospitality of all the Hawaii islands really belongs to O’ahu. It is celebrated for its comfortable and inexpensive hotels, where the service is generally regarded as friendly, helpful, informative and knowledgeable.
When planning a trip to Hawaii, you need not worry about any less–abled members of the party. The Hawaii islands – again, particularly O’ahu – cater very well to tourists with disabilities of all severities.
Let’s have a little closer look into some of the main points of interest there, which are famed throughout the world as icons of the Hawaii islands.
Of all the beaches in the Hawaii islands, Waikīkī is definitely the best–known to tourists and locals alike. Providing you arrange your accommodation correctly, even disabled tourists will find getting down to the beach reasonably easy.
Once you get there, you’ll know what to do. Sunbathe, surf, swim, etc. Don’t waste a minute.
If you fancy a walk towards true Hawaiian culture and history, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, also known as The Pink Palace, is just down the road from Waikīkī Beach. Even if you fancy a change of scenery from your current accommodation – they cater for non–resident visitors.
What Island is Honolulu on?
It may surprise you, but Honolulu is the capital of the State of Hawaii, rather than the island of Hawaii. In fact, the city is not even situated on that island at all. Honolulu is placed on the third–largest island in the archipelago – O’ahu.
Helicoptering to Pearl Harbour
If you find a place offering helicopter rides around Pearl Harbor, you must not refuse. By extension, if you’re feeling very brave or daredevilish, take a ride in an open–door helicopter.
From the sky, the views are truly amazing. See the Hawaii islands in their entirety from your position.
Visit a Pineapple Plantation
Trips are available to visit pineapple plantations when you visit one of the Hawaii islands. Whether this is on O’ahu, wherein it is often included as an excursion on many cruise lines or one of the others such as Lāna’i.
Even though these are places of industry and agriculture, visitors have often remarked on the beauty of the pineapple plantations. And, of course, it should go without saying that a chance to taste a pineapple from a plantation should never be passed up. The flavors are unparalleled.
DON’T FORGET TO BUY…
With so much to see in so many places, it’s difficult to find a travel guide that caters to all the Hawaii islands. This guide from Michelin is one of the few, so if our little article hasn’t quite done it for you, we recommend buying this instead.