Hawaii Island Hopping

The Ultimate Guide To Hawaii Island Hopping

With over 130 islands scattered across 1,500 miles in the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii offers incredible diversity and natural beauty for travelers looking to island hop. From lush rainforests to volcanic landscapes, Hawaii’s islands each have their own unique adventures. This ultimate guide covers everything you need to know to plan your Hawaii island hopping trip.

Overview of the Main Islands

Hawaii’s islands fall into four main regions–Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai. Here’s a quick overview of the highlights of each:

Hawaii Island

As the largest Hawaiian island, the aptly named Hawaii Island has a little bit of everything. Highlights include Volcanoes National Park, home to active volcanoes and lava flows, as well as Hilo town, Akaka Falls, and Waipio Valley. The west side of the island offers beaches like Hapuna Beach and the resort area of Kona. Hawaii Island offers a great mix of outdoor activities, culture, beaches, and natural sights.


The second largest island, Maui is one of Hawaii’s most popular destinations. The island has over 30 miles of sandy beaches along its western and southern coasts. Highlights include the historic town of Lahaina, the Haleakala volcano, and the scenic Road to Hana drive along the north coast. With its combination of adventures, nightlife, and picturesque landscapes, Maui attracts over 2 million visitors annually.


Home to Hawaii’s capital Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, Oahu is the most visited Hawaiian island. It’s easy to see why with attractions from Pearl Harbor and iconic Diamond Head crater to famed North Shore surf spots. While it has high-end resorts and dining, Oahu also has scenic hikes and cultural experiences. The blend of city, nature, history and beaches makes Oahu a well-rounded island hopping destination.


Known as Hawaii’s “Garden Isle,” Kauai is the greenest Hawaiian island thanks to its tropical rainforests covering the interior. Besides its verdant landscapes, Kauai offers incredible beaches, including Hanalei Bay, Poipu and Kee Beach. Outdoor adventurers love the Napali Coast for its towering sea cliffs. With its lush forests, waterfalls and quieter pace, Kauai offers a reprieve from some of Hawaii’s more heavily developed islands.

Getting Around Between Islands

With Hawaii’s islands spread across such a wide area, flying is the easiest way to island hop. All of Hawaii’s major islands are served by airports, so you can either take direct flights between islands or connect through Honolulu.

Hawaiian Airlines and Mokulele Airlines offer regular inter-island flights. You can often find discounted deals, especially for one-way flights to start or end your island hopping journey. Flights take anywhere from 30 minutes (between adjacent islands like Oahu and Kauai) up to 1 hour between Hawaii Island and more remote destinations like Kauai or Maui.

For a cheaper but more time-consuming option between some islands, you can opt for passenger ferries or take the public bus that allows transportation of checked luggage across to other islands. However, flights provide the most flexibility and time-efficiency when traveling between most islands.

Best Islands for…

Each Hawaiian island has its own personality, so your itinerary will depend on the type of vacation you’re seeking. Here’s a breakdown of the best Hawaii island hopping for certain interests:


For rugged adventures, Hawaii Island can’t be beat with active volcanoes, waterfall rappelling, zip-lining, and opportunities to hike, snorkel or dive along the Kona or Kohala Coasts.

Kauai is also ideal for active explorers who want to kayak the Napali Coast and trek through rainforests to secret waterfalls.


All the Hawaiian islands have amazing beaches, but for sheer numbers and variety, Maui offers over 30 miles of exceptional beaches like Kaanapali, Kapalua, Makena and the famous black sand beach at Waiʻanapanapa State Park.

Oahu is also hard to top for its mix of top surf beaches on the North Shore and resort beaches in Waikiki.


For epic waves, serious surfers flock to Oahu’s North Shore during the winter surf season from November through February when swells can reach 30 feet high. For year-round surf, Maui’s west and south shores offer beginner to advanced waves.

The north shores of Kauai and Hawaii Island also serve up plenty of surf spots too.


All the major islands have great hikes, but Hawaii Island is the best for really getting out into raw, natural environments. For diverse hiking from rainforest to volcanic crater trails, head to Hawaii Island national parks like Volcanoes National Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Kauai’s Waimea Canyon State Park and Koke’e State Park are also prized for picturesque canyon and rainforest hikes.


Newlyweds flock to Maui for its mix of luxury resorts and spas along with dreamy beaches and waterfalls for romantic backdrops. Kauai is also popular for honeymoons due to its natural beauty.

Oahu offers the most dining, nightlife and activities for honeymooners who want a blend of excitement and romance.

Family Trips

For keeping all ages entertained, Oahu tops the list with kid-friendly museums like the Children’s Discovery Center, ample calm beaches, and active excursions from kayaking to dolphin swims.

Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii also rate highly for families with their beaches and mix of activities.

Sample 7-10 Day Itinerary

With so many amazing islands to explore, planning your optimal route is vital. Here’s a sample 7-10 day island hopping itinerary:

Days 1-3: Oahu

Spend your first few days enjoying Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, and iconic sites like Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head. Get a mix of history, city life, and island adventures.

Days 4-6: Kauai

Fly to the “Garden Isle” of Kauai to hike and kayak along the lush Napali Coast and Waimea Canyon. Relax on Poipu Beach and take a boat ride along the cliffs.

Days 7-8: Hawaii Island

Fly to Hawaii Island and explore Volcanoes National Park and watch lava flows meet the ocean at night. Hike through rainforests to waterfalls.

Days 9-10: Maui

End your island hopping on Maui, ranked the world’s best island for its stunning beaches and scenery. Drive the Road to Hana, watch the sunrise from Haleakala summit, snorkel at Molokini Crater.

Tips for Island Hopping in Hawaii

  • Book inter-island flights in advance – Prices fluctuate and seats fill up so book early for deals between islands.
  • Pack light – When island hopping, luggage can add up so it’s ideal to pack light in a carry-on and backpack only.
  • Rent a car – To properly explore each island, renting a car provides flexibility so research best rental companies as options vary by island.
  • Check accommodation transfer options – Some hotels offer airport transfers, or you can use taxis/shuttles to get to your lodging upon island arrival.
  • Leave extra time for inter-island travel – Flights can be delayed between islands, so avoid planning activities right after arrival to give wiggle room in your itinerary.
  • Consider an island hopping pass deal – Look into bundling inter-island flights and accommodations to save money on island hopping packages.
  • Focus on 2-4 islands – It’s better to get a feel for a few islands than try seeing them all and spending half your trip in transit between islands.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to island hop in Hawaii?

The best way to island hop in Hawaii is by flying. Airlines like Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele Airlines, and others offer regular inter-island flights that are the fastest and most convenient way to travel between the islands.

How much does it cost to island hop in Hawaii?

The cost to island hop by air averages $100-$200 roundtrip between the main islands. You can sometimes find cheaper deals around $60 one-way. Taking ferries or buses can be cheaper at around $60-$80 per ride but takes much more time.

How many days do you need on each island in Hawaii?

Most travelers recommend spending at least 3-5 days on each of the main Hawaiian islands to experience the highlights at a comfortable pace. You may need 5-7 days on larger islands like the Big Island of Hawaii.

How do you travel from one island to another in Hawaii?

Besides flying, you can take passenger ferries or buses between Maui, Oahu and Kauai. There are no direct ferries or buses to Hawaii Island. Flying is the only option to directly reach Hawaii Island.

What is the cheapest way to get to other Hawaiian Islands?

The cheapest way to get between islands is by bus or passenger ferry. Buses allow transport of luggage and run around $70 per ride. Ferries cost $60-$80 per trip but have limited luggage allowances. These options take 2-3 times longer than flying.

How long is the ferry ride from Honolulu to Maui?

The ferry ride from Honolulu, Oahu to Lahaina, Maui takes around 2.5 hours each way. Keep in mind there is limited luggage space and no overnight ferries between islands.

How much money should I take to Hawaii for 10 days?

For 10 days in Hawaii per person, budget around $1,500-$2,000 minimum. This covers basic accommodation, a rental car, food, and activities. Budget more if staying in luxury hotels or taking expensive tours and outings. Flights within Hawaii also add to costs.


With its mix of adventures, beaches, culture and scenery, Hawaii island hopping offers the ultimate tropical getaway. Each island has its own flavor so you can pick those that suit your interests, from surfing on Oahu to hiking volcanoes on Hawaii Island. Focus on 2-4 islands and leave flexibility for transfers and recovery time between islands. However you plan your route to island hop through Hawaii, embracing the Aloha spirit and gorgeous landscapes is sure to provide an unforgettable tropical escape in the Pacific.

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