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Hawaii Island Hopping: Everything You Need to Know

Are you looking for a guide to Hawaii island hopping? This guide from a Hawaii local has everything you need to know about traveling between islands.

Hawaii island hopping is a pretty popular way to see multiple islands within one Hawaii trip. But the logistics can be a little tricky. Whether its by plane or ferry, here's a some info on how to do Hawaii island hopping.

When many tourists come to Hawaii, they decide to do some Hawaii island hopping. In other words, they choose to visit multiple islands on their trip over. So here are four steps to help you plan your Hawaii island hopping adventure.

Start by Picking Your Islands

The hardest part of island hopping in Hawaii is actually pick which islands to visit — without going overboard. You don’t want to squish the four major islands of Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai into one week-long trip. You’ll just be exhausted and you won’t actually see much of any island.

Instead, limit yourself. I’d recommend at least four to five days per island, for the most part. That means, if you want to see two islands, a 10-day trip would be ideal.

As for which Hawaiian Islands to visit, that’s always the question. The bottom line is that each one has its own iconic landmarks and its own unique vibe, so it depends on your personal preferences. But here’s a quick breakdown.

Oahu's Diamond head with loads of surfers in the water in the foreground

Oahu

Home to Honolulu, Waikiki, North Shore, and Pearl Harbor, Oahu is the most popular Hawaiian Island to visit. It’s also the only Hawaiian Island with any amount of nightlife, so if that’s something you’re looking for, Oahu’s the place for you.

Maui

Maui is generally considered to be the most romantic of the islands. While it’s also great for families, you’ll find lots of honeymooners here, watching the Haleakala sunrise, visiting Iao Valley, and driving the Road to Hana.

Big Island

If you’re coming to see a volcano in Hawaii, the Big Island is where you’ll want to go. While the volcanoes aren’t currently erupting (as of late 2023), you can still visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Parks for lava rocks and steam vents galore.

Since the Big Island is so large, it’s actually broken down into two parts: Kona and Hilo. Hilo’s main highlight are the volcanoes — and it’s epic waterfalls. It’s probably rainier than you’d expect from a Hawaiian city. Kona, on the other hand, is where you’ll find all of the sunshine and golden beaches of your dreams (Kua Bay, anyone?).

ridges of Kauai's Na Pali Coast

Kauai

I always call Kauai a hiker’s paradise, because that’s what it is! Home to Waimea Canyon, Kokee State Park, countless waterfalls, and the Na Pali Coast, you could easily spend weeks just exploring the hikes on this beautiful island.

Lanai

The itty bitty island of Lanai doesn’t get all that many visitors — although there are two Four Seasons hotels. Those who visit this island are looking for peace and quiet, a few unique things to do, and a touch of island luxury.

Molokai

While larger in size than Lanai, Molokai welcomes even fewer tourists, and that’s because it really doesn’t have the infrastructure for them. When visiting the tiny island of Molokai, be prepared to live the quiet life of the 7,000 locals — without any tourist-focused frills.

Hawaii island Hopping Mokes

Figure Out Transportation Between Islands

The transportation between the islands is actually pretty easy, simply because there aren’t that many options.

Can You Walk from Maui to Oahu (or Generally, From One Island to Another)?

Let’s get this common question out of the way right off the bat. No, you can’t walk between any of Hawaii’s major islands. They’re dozens — if not, hundreds — if miles apart, and the water gets VERY deep.

Can You Take a Ferry from Maui to Oahu (or Generally, From One Island to Another)?

Once upon a time, we did have a ferry that ran between the major Hawaiian Islands, but that was quickly shut down due to environmental concerns. So no, you can’t take a ferry from Maui to Oahu — or between any of the four major islands (Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island).

That said, there are still ferries that run between the islands of Maui county (Maui, Lanai, and Molokai). And I’ve gotta say, these ferry rides, while a smidge pricey, are absolutely magical. You can even see dolphins as you sail along the bright blue waters!

While not the conventional method of Hawaii island hopping, you can take a cruise off into the sunset to explore Hawaii's islands.

Can You Take a Cruise Between the Hawaiian Islands?

Yes! While this is a more out-of-the-box transportation option (and generally not recommended for Hawaii island hopping if you’d like to spend more than one day on each island, which I’d recommend), it is an option.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America has been sailing its way through Hawaii’s four main islands for as long as I can remember. With a 7-day round trip route to and from Honolulu, this option is quite cost-effective (as opposed to starting or ending in an alternative port, due to inter-island flight prices). Prices start from $949 per person, depending on the season, sale, and size of the room.

For a more unique cruising adventure, try UnCruise’s Hawaiian Seascapes itinerary. Hopping between Maui, the Big Island, Lanai, and Molokai, you’ll get to visit some of Hawaii’s lesser known islands and experience some true local culture. Prices start from $5,900 per person, depending on the season, sale, and size of the room.

Can You Fly Between the Hawaiian Islands?

Yes, you can fly between all of the Hawaiian Islands, and this is often the chosen transportation option for Hawaii island hopping. This is the option that I most often choose when going between Hawaii Islands, simply for the sake of availability and convenience.

You’ll only really have two airlines to choose from — Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest Airlines — but that’s all you need. Take advantage of their flight deals ($39 one-way, thanks to Southwest!) when they happen.

Get to the Fun Stuff

Once you’ve got the transportation figured out for your Hawaii island hopping journey, you can get to the fun stuff. Where to stay, where to eat, what to see – that’s all up to you. Of course, I have my opinions, but ultimately, it is up to you.

 

Looking for more Hawaii planning tips? We’ve got you covered.

Have you ever tried Hawaii island hopping? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

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28 Comments

  1. Great post! I’d love to head to Hawaii one day, sounds so beautiful and relaxing. The idea of exploring multiple islands makes it even more enticing!

  2. Hawaii has a special place in my heart as my parents used to live there and my husband proposed when we were on Maui after visiting Oahu and the Big Island. If I go back one day, I’d love to see Kauai. But there’s just so much to do and see on the Hawaiian Islands sometimes it’s hard to even decide what islands to visit.

    1. Ooh that’s so exciting! If you need more local tips, take a little bit to snoop around the blog :).

  3. You’ve answered some very important questions about Hawaii that were on my mind for a long time. So, thank you! This will come in very useful when I plan a trip to Hawaii

  4. I remember island hopping in Hawaii with my parents when I was younger. We did the Big Island-Oahu route. I need to go back to visit the other islands of Hawaii such as Kauai. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips.

  5. I visited Maui last year and am in love with the island! i need to go back to Hawaii to check out the rest. I heard Kauai and the Big Island are stunning!

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