What to Know About Inter-Island Travel with 5-Day Travel Guides

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With the long-awaited arrival of spring comes sweet spring break. It’s a brief respite to catch up on some R&R and to explore our favorite islands. Whether you’re a resident, first-time visitor, or on your fifth Hawaiʻi vacation, a quick day trip to a nearby island can be the gateway to a relaxing getaway or a memorable adventure. And with summer fast approaching, it’s never too early to start planning your inter-island trips.

Travel between islands

It may come as a surprise that there are over 100 islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. Although there are dozens of small islets and several atolls, there are only eight main islands. You probably already know that the most popular islands to visit are Oʻahu, Maui, Hawaiʻi Island and Kauaʻi.

From beaches and trails to activities and cuisine, each island is distinct in its topography and culture. Fortunately, with a little planning, island hopping is easy and an exciting way to experience Hawaiʻi. Airplane is the most common and in many cases the only way to travel between islands.

Fly between the islands

Aerial view of the great Napali coast on Kauaʻi.
Photo: Getty Images

Hawaiian Airlines, South West Airlines and Mokulele Airlines are the three main airlines that offer daily flights between the islands. On average, Hawaiian Airlines operates 170 inter-island flights per day. Southwest also offers dozens of daily flights to airports throughout the state.

For the more adventurous travelers, Mokulele Airlines has a fleet of 208EX Grand Caravans. Due to the small size of the aircraft, every seat is considered first class, making the flight feel like a charter experience.

Regardless of the airlines, you can expect most flights to last an hour or less with spectacular aerial views of dramatic coastlines and the vast Pacific Ocean.

Airports

The state’s largest hub is Oʻahu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, commonly known as Honolulu Airport (HNL). Oʻahu is often the destination and take-off point for many transpacific flights. From this airport, it takes about 30 minutes or less to reach the neighboring islands.

Among the neighboring islands, you may find more than one airport. This means you have to be careful where you choose your final destination. In Maui, the main airport is Kahului Airport (OGG), which offers direct flights to the continental United States and daily flights to other islands. However, there are two much smaller airports, Hana (HNM) and Kapalua (JHM). These airports are located in more remote areas and further away from car rental agencies.

On the island of Hawaii, travelers can fly into Kona Airport (KOA) on the west side of the island if they plan to explore the Kailua-Kona area, known for its shoreline beaches. picturesque. But for travelers who want to explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the active volcano, Kīlauea, flying into Hilo Airport (ITO) on the east side of the island, will bring you closer to these natural wonders.

On Kauaʻi, there is only one major airport, Lihue Airport (LIH) in southeast Kauaʻi. This is also the case on Lānaʻi with Lānaʻi Airport (LNY). Although there are direct flights to Kauaʻi from the continental United States, the only flights to Lānaʻi come from Honolulu or Kahului.

Traveling by ferry

An aerial view of Lahaina Harbor in Maui, Hawaii

Lahaina Harbor
Photo: Getty Images

Jtravelers can also arrive at Lānaʻi by boat through Expedition Ferry service. Departing from Lahaina Harbor on the west side of Maui, ferries arrive at Manele Harbor. Expeditions Ferry offers daily round trips, with a one-way trip lasting approximately one hour.

What to do in 24 hours

So you’ve decided to island hop! Now what?

One of the hardest parts of planning a trip to Hawaiʻi is deciding what to do. Traveling between islands might leave you with limited time on each. With `ono food to taste, trails to discover and beaches to discover, we’ve put together our five 24-hour guides on each island with links located below.

Oʻahu

Oʻahu has it all: pristine beaches, rugged hiking trails, award-winning restaurants, cultural museums and bustling city life. We will admit that it is difficult to spend a single day on this island. While there’s tons to do, we’ve crafted an itinerary that’s packed with a variety of must-sees and the best this island has to offer.

LEARN MORE: YOUR 24-HOUR O’AHU ROUTE

maui

For decades, the valley island has been a favorite among visitors, and for good reason. There’s only so great diversity when it comes to Maui’s scenery and activities. There aren’t many places in the world where you can watch the sunrise from atop a volcano, do yoga with goats, and end the day watching the sunset on a beach. Experience a slice of what Maui has to offer with this 24-hour itinerary.

LEARN MORE: YOUR 24-HOUR MAUI ITINERARY

Kailua-Kona, Island of Hawaii

While the West Side is arguably the most popular destination on the island of Hawaii, it is the most certainly the driest side. In Kailua Kona, you can find long stretches of barren lava rock formations, uncrowded beaches, and world-famous Kona coffee – on almost every corner! This route takes you a bit past Kailua-Kona’s main visitor center, so you’ll need to rent a car for this adventurous day.

READ MORE: YOUR KAILUA-KONA 24-HOUR ITINERARY

Hilo, Island of Hawaii

From coffee beans to sweet potatoes, it seems like everything grows on the island of Hawaii. And nowhere is this more evident than in Hello. Incredibly lush, you can find small businesses, boutiques, and natural wonders around every corner in Hilo. In this city, there is more than enough to fill a day’s itinerary. To make things easier, we’ve put together a 24-hour guide because some of the best things on the Big Island are the easiest to miss.

READ MORE: YOUR 24-HOUR HILO ITINERARY

Kauaiʻi

With the nickname Garden Isle, Kauaʻi boasts emerald valleys, lush rainforests, rugged cliffs and turquoise beaches. While there are endless opportunities to experience Kauaʻi’s great outdoors, you don’t want to miss out on visiting local businesses either. We’ve mapped out your 24-hour route to Garden Isle.

READ MORE: YOUR 24-HOUR KAUAʻI ROUTE

These routes were published in our September/October 2021 digital issue. Read the here.

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