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Winter is here in New York, so our next trip to Hawaii has been on my brain. Last year we were fortunate enough to spend three weeks traveling to Maui and the Big Island. I’d say from the minute we flew back home, we have been mentally planning our next visit! Since I so often get asked about Hawaii trips, I am sharing with you my best Hawaii Planning Tips!
Hawaii Planning Tips
This is the question I most often get, and a question you can LABOR over for years. I am going to help you choose, by breaking it down for you very simply, with a few words about each of the four main islands:
Oahu – Pearl Harbor, Disney Aulani, urban feel (Honolulu). Lots to do, but hustle and bustle.
Maui – Beach goers, families and honeymoons. Moderate amount of nightlife.
The Big Island – Beautiful beaches, slow pace, natural sight seeing, no nightlife.
Kauai – Remote, beautiful beaches. Honeymooners, no nightlife.
Where to stay?
Once you narrow down which island(s) you need to think about accommodations. Resorts are popular, of course, but definitely consider booking a stay one of these fabulous Hawaii vacation homes.
A vacation home is a popular Hawaii accommodation because most Hawaii trips are longer, and therefore you are more likely to crave the comforts of home. For us, staying in a vacation home allowed us to have more space, cook our own food, and do our own laundry. Eating out is expensive in Hawaii, especially eating at a resort, so being able to grocery shop and make some meals at home will allow you to splurge on amazing meals out!
Plan your flights and itinerary
Once you sort out the islands you would like you visit, you need to book your flights, both to and from home, and within the islands as well. Based on personal experience, I would recommend visiting two islands in a 2-3 week trip. Recently a friend went for about 10 days and visited all four islands. Needless to say, all of the schlepping around overshadowed the fun she had!
From New York, you can fly direct to Honolulu only. From the west coast you can fly direct into Maui, The Big Island or Kauai. On our recent trip, since we wanted to bypass Oahu, we chose to layover in LA and proceed directly to Maui. Prices, schedules and availability might force your hand of where you want to start your Hawaiian adventure (and something to consider if you are trying to purchase a round trip ticket to and from the same island).
Travel between islands necessitates flying. On our recent trip, we moved from Maui to Kona via a 10 seater Cessna on Mokulele airlines. Using Google flights, I stumbled upon a flight that was significantly cheaper than those on Hawaiian Airlines. When we arrived at the airport to head to Kona, we found out we were on a commuter airline! This turned out to be a great way to save a little money and offered us a unique experience we will never forget!
Right now, there are two airlines that operate inter-island flights, Hawaiian (which also travels from the mainland and destinations in Asia/Australia) and Mokulele. These flights tend to be under an hour and under $70 each way. If you are a nervous flyer, I definitely recommend booking with Hawaiian, as their planes are larger and more like the commercial airlines you are used to flying.
Renting a Car
In 2005, when hubby and I first visited Hawaii, we flew into Kona (after spending a few days in Waikiki) and literally got off the plane, looked at each other and said, “I guess we should rent a car.” Unless you plan to stay only in Honolulu, you will need to rent a car to get around!
You can read my best Car Rental Tips, but I would recommend renting the smallest car that you need, if you have budget in mind. The car rental companies do not let you take the cars off paved roads, so you will not be 4×4’ing over rugged terrain. If you are interested in doing that, you can rent jeeps by the hour or day!
It is also worth noting that on the islands, traffic moves slowly. Clearly we are not talking LA at rush hour, but many main roads have only one lane, and the flow of traffic peaks around 40mph. So budget more time to drive places than you would on the mainland.
Planning the fun stuff
After you get your flights and accommodations sorted, now its time to plan all the fun stuff! You don’t want to over plan each minute of your trip, but any big tours or luaus that you want to attend – be sure to make reservations ASAP. The best stuff will book up and you don’t want to be disappointed!
On our Hawaiian trip, a Molokini Crater snorkeling tour and a Luau were our big activities, and big expenses! I did book each of these well in advance. It’s hard to sort through all the options, but look for tours that have consistent good reviews. I used pinterest to plan our Hawaii trip – I loved reading first hand experiences from families and travelers. I also, like with all things travel, checked for online discounts and Groupons for the things I wanted to book.
Once you plan some of the big activities, you can fill in the rest of your days with trips to the various national parks, and of course the best beaches in the world! Remember, beaches in Hawaii are either free or have a minimal charge to park! I’m also pretty confident there is no such thing as a bad Hawaiian beach!
And my best Hawaii planning tip – Don’t forget to make time in your plans to stop for a shave ice! Be sure to sit back, relax, and enjoy the magic of the Hawaiian Islands!
OTHER AWESOME HAWAII POSTS:
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