Discover Your Perfect Hawaiian Island Trip
The world’s most well-trodden paradise, Hawaii nevertheless remains a tropical dream come true. Complete with golden beaches, lush rainforests, smiling grass-skirted hula queens, and year-round 80 degree weather. All six of the visit-able islands offer Aloha spirit and a postcard-perfect setting. Hence, at the same time, each has its own specialty and personality. Follow this guide to your perfect Hawaiian island trip, and let the adventure find you.
Honolulu (Oahu) – On the Cheap in the City
A lot of people will tell you there’s no way to do Hawaii on a budget, but they clearly haven’t done their Honolulu homework . If you have a family, the condo rental and AirBnB route is a great way to go. Similarly, the locals always opt for the Ala Moana Hotel, which is away from the Waikiki madness and has kitchenettes in most rooms.
Want low-cost activities? Stroll Waikiki Boulevard at dusk, when the glow from torch-style street lanterns echoes the moonlight. On Friday at 8 PM, catch the live fireworks at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Check out the landmark hotels: the “Pink Lady” or the Halekulani. If you have a car, visit Diamond Head, the Pearl Harbor memorial and the USS Missouri. Luncheon for a few dollars at one of Chinatown’s many Asian hole-in-the-wall hideaways. Snorkel Hanauma Bay, drive to the North Shore to ogle the surfers or spend an afternoon relaxing on idyllic Waimanalo Beach.
Maui – Families
The most touristy towns in Maui are Kihei on the south end and Lahaina on the west side. Both are full of mid-priced family-friendly hotels, busy restaurants and souvenir shops. South of Kihei is Wailea, the ritzy South Maui resort district where places like the Grand Wailea and the Four Seasons charge upward of $500 a night. Similarly, the West Side has its own version: Kaanapali, home of the Hyatt Regency and the Westin.
All the Kihei and Wailea beaches are fairly and well-trafficked, with tiny-to-small surf. Ditto for Black Rock in Ka’anapali. They’re good for splashing and snorkeling. But no guarantees you’ll see many fish, though. If you really want to check out undersea life, take the whole family on an Atlantis Adventures submarine ride. The submarine departs from Lahaina Harbor, along with hundreds of other boats offering whale watches, snorkel cruises, fishing and tons of other activities. If you prefer to stay on land, check out the Maui Ocean Center in Maalaea. One can’t-miss daytrip is the famed Road to Hana. Above all, block out an entire day, because this road trip should not be rushed. Stop in Paia and pick up nibbles to keep youngsters content along the way.
Kauai — Romance
Because it has zero nightlife, a handful of restaurants, and countless picturesque spots to smooch, Kauai is the perfect island for twosomes. Even if you’re here with kids, you can leave them at one of the day camps: Camp Hyatt (Grand Hyatt in Poipu), Kalapaki Kids (Kaua’I Marriott, Lihue) or Keiki Aloha (Princeville Resort, Princeville). Then you can sneak away for a romantic adventure and make this your perfect hawaiian island trip. Watch humpback whales at Mahaulepu Beach in Poipu or relive the romance of Bali Hai at Lumahai Beach on the North Shore.
Big Island – Outdoor Fun
If you stay on one of the Kohala Coast hotels, it’s easy to feel completely isolated from the rest of the island. There may be nothing to do besides play golf and sunbathe. For you, we have three words: Rent. A. Car. So you can get out of the hotel and experience the Big Island’s many outdoor adventures.
Cycle the Ironman course (the uber-route of the islands-) or take a much easier route through the coffee plantation and the hills. Bring the whole family to an inland Kohala ranch, either for daytime riding or an evening cookout. Snorkel, swim, or if you are on the East side, hike the rainforests of Hilo.
Molokai – Culture
A small island with the largest concentrations of Hawaiians anywhere in the state, Molokai is lauded as the “friendly” island—but it’s also the most culturally intriguing. Mix eco-tourism with island fun at the Kamakou Preserve. Don’t miss the hike to Pepe’opae Bog Trail—you’ll never forget it. Experience island agri-tourism at Molokai Plumerias, Molokai Coffee Plantation and Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm. For a real local experience, stand outside Kanemitsu’s Bakery at midnight when the first loaves of cinnamon apple Molokai bread come piping-hot out of the ovens.
Lanai – Golf Day trip
This tiny island is not for kids—there’s basically nothing to occupy them. That said, it’s only a brief ferry ride from Maui, so if you want to escape for a day, you can always cruise over and play a few rounds of golf beachside at Manele Bay or upcountry at the (soon to reopen) Lodge at Koele. Come evening, board the ferry and head back to Maui in time for dinner.
Still can’t find your Perfect Hawaiian Island Trip? Check out our guide to Off the Beaten Path Adventures on the Big Island