Hawai’i is an island chain located in the Pacific Ocean. The travel options are therefore quite clear and limited formally to planes, ferry or cruise ship. The major gate to Honolulu from Europe is Los Angeles or Vancouver.
Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is served by major international airlines. As a recommendation of this Hawaii Guide, European travellers can best use London Heathrow as a gate to Honolulu. From here, affordable flights operated by Virgin Atlantic or British Airways will take you via Seattle or Los Angeles to Honolulu. An alternative would either be flights operated by Air France from Paris Charles de Gaulle or operated by KLM via Amsterdam and Seattle.
If you are already in the US, you can also fly directly to Maui, Kauai or Hawaii Island.
Ferry and cruise ship:
Getting to Hawaii by boat is not that easy. There are no direct connections from Europe to Hawaii, as the distance is far too large. However, cruise enthusiasts, can travel to one of the Pacific ports and embark on a cruise ship heading to Hawaii.Popular ports to get to Hawaii by ship are Vancouver (Canada), Seattle (USA), San Francisco (USA), Los Angeles (USA), San Diego (USA), Ensenada (Mexico), Lima (Peru) or Valparaiso (Chile). The main ports in Hawaii are Honolulu, Lahaina, Hilo and Kawaihae. The following providers have a cruise to Hawaii in the program:
- Carnival Cruise Line: From Vancouver (Canada) to i.e. Kahului (Maui), Hilo (Big Island), Kona (Big Island) or Honolulu (Oahu) within a 12-day-roundtrip
- Holland America Line: From Seattle (USA) to i.e. Victoria (Canada), Lahaina (Maui) or Hilo (Big Island) within a 19-day-roundtrip
Hawai’i is the 50th state of the United States and has the same entry requirements like the rest of the country. Most travellers can participate in the US Visa Waiver Program and will be allowed to stay in the country for up to 90 days. This requires a valid passport, as well as the electronic entry permit, also known as ESTA, which must be requested online in advance. Once the ESTA entry permit has been approved, it will be valid for two years.
The American Consulate provides information about the entry requirements for other nationalities in the respective home country.
The official language in Hawaii is English. Nonetheless, more and more Hawaiians are going back to speaking the native Hawaiian language, reminiscent of the Maori language in New Zealand and the Cook Islands.
Aloha: Aloha is probably the most important word in the Hawaiian language and means much more than just “hello” and “goodbye”. It is part of the Hawaiian life philosophy. It is mostly spoken not only by the word aloha, but by an Aloha spirit that has spread far beyond the Hawaiian island state into international music and culture. Parts of this spirit include health, tolerance, harmony and respect.
Mahalo: Mahalo means “thank you” and puts an even bigger smile on every Hawaiian’s face.
Best time to travel
Bad weather? This is never the case in Hawaii and that is why Hawaii is also known as a year-round travel paradise, even though Hawaii is teeming with climate zones. While in the coastal regions, it is mostly warm and sunny, it can get chilly on the volcanoes and in some areas, such as the Road to Hana on Maui, which is incredibly humid.
Basically, Hawaii has two seasons: the summer, which lasts from May to October, and the winter, which lasts from November to April. Peak temperatures in Hawaii reach 32 degrees in August, i.e. in summer, while it cools down to just 26 degrees in winter. Also, there are more rainy days in winter and for example in December at 10 a month.
The best time to travel to Hawaii is from May to October.
Hawaii uses US dollars.
Using credit cards in Hawaii:
With credit cards from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, payments in Hawaii are usually no problem. Even small sums can be paid here by credit card. The fees vary depending on the financial institution.
Where to find ATMs in Hawaii:
ATMs in Hawaii are usually located in the mainstream supermarkets, petrol stations and in the popular streets of the cities.
Using the Debit card in Hawaii:
With the debit card you can rarely pay in Hawaii. So it would be best if you leave at home.
Let us be honest in this Hawaii Guide: Hawaii is not cheap compared to other popular sunny travel destinations like South Africa, Fiji or Indonesia. It can happen that accommodation prices per night cost just less than 300 USD. This is mainly because on some islands, such as on Lanai, the number of hotels is very small or some of the guest houses are true traditional houses.
Nonetheless, there are a few alternatives that do not make your Hawaiian holiday a total financial disaster:
Airbnb is widely used in Hawaii. Accommodation varies from rooms in private family houses to small guest houses to luxury tents in your own garden. Prices are around 80 USD per night.
Travelling to Hawaii is a great alternative for those who love being outdoor (camping) and travel at the time when Hawaii is pleasantly warm. On most campsites, the prices for one pitch per night are around $ 15. If you don’t want to travel with all your equipment, you can buy a simple tent, a camping mat and sleeping bags on site at the Walmart supermarket. All in all, this should not cost more than $ 70 for two people. Barbecues are available at most campsites as well. If you also want to save, you can register for example at Camp Olowalu. At this campground on Maui, an entire tent equipment can be rented for $ 25 per night.
Hawaii is a safe travel destination. Nevertheless, no obviously important and expensive valuables should be left in the car. Please take note of the current travel and safety advice and refer to the federal offices’ recommendations.
Flights within Hawaii:
Since the last ferry service in Hawaii was discontinued in 2009, it is now only possible to travel by plane from island one to another. The following airports are possible departure and arrival destinations:
- Kauai: Lihue (LIH) and Port Allen (PAK)
- Maui: Kapalua West Maui (JHM), Hana (HNM) and Kahului (OGG)
- Hawaii / Big Island: Kona (KOA), Hilo (ITO), Upolu (UPP), Waimea-Kohala (MUE)
- Lanai: Lanai Airport (LNY)
- Molokai: Kalanpapa (LUP) and Molokai Airport (MKK)
Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele and Makani Kai fly within Hawaii. Important: For domestic flights, no baggage is included on most fares. It is best to fly only with hand luggage. It is also important to note which machine is used for the respective flight. In Mokulele, for example, there are mostly small Cessna machines, in which all baggage must be checked in at the airport for a fee of just under 30 euros per piece of luggage. The fares for flights from one island to another are usually quite cheap. So if you book early, you can get a fly from 50, – USD.
Flight times from Honolulu (Oahu):
- To Kauai (Lihue): 30 minutes
- To Maui (Kahului): 30 minutes
- To Maui (Kapalua): 30 minutes
- To Molokai (Molokai): 20 minutes
- To Lanai (Lanai): 25 minutes
- To Hawaii Island (Hilo): 40 minutes
- To Hawaii Island (Kona): 35 minutes
Using buses in Hawaii:
Public buses run on all Hawaiian Islands except for Lanai and Molokai. On Oahu, “The Bus” connects the main points, on Maui the “Maui Bus” Kauai the “Kauai Bus” and on Hawaii Iceland the “Hele-On Bus“. Although Oahu has the most sophisticated bus system, it is not possible to say that buses are trustworthy travel agents in Hawaii. On average, a bus ride costs 2-2.50 USD for adults (1.25 USD for children).
Using trains in Hawaii:
Trains on Hawaii are now only a tourist attraction. Although a train runs between Ewa Mill and Kahe Point on Oahu, but it is only there for touristic purposes. On a journey through train, you can have an insight into the history of sugar plantations. The trip lasts 90 minutes, takes place on Saturdays and Sundays and costs $ 15 per person. More information can be found on the website of the Hawaiian Railway .
Best Taxi and Co.:
Taxi driving is possible on all islands of Hawaii, though not cheap. Especially on Maui, Big Island and Oahu, it is therefore not very useful for trips.
Hawaii by Rental Car and Co.:
Renting a car in Hawaii is by far the simplest way to get from A to B quickly. You’ll find the major providers of the industry at all airports on the Hawaiian islands.. In most cases, shuttles will take you from the airport terminal directly to the rental car company.
Roads are very well developed on the islands of Hawaii. As a traveler, one should not forget to strap on, because that is obligatory in Hawaii. Also, the top speed on the roads is 45 miles/h (about 72 km / h) to 55 miles / h per hour (about 88 km / h) on highways and 35 miles / h (about 56 km / h) very pleasant.
For those who like to travel with campervans: Unfortunately, this has not arrived in Hawaii so far. Although there are some campsites, there are no caravan rentals. The alternative for those looking for adventure is renting a Land Rover with a tent on the roof.
Scooter and bike rental in Hawaii:
In some cities in Hawaii, such as Honolulu on Oahu or Kona on Hawaii Island, scooters and bicycles can be hired on an hourly or daily basis. Prices vary depending on the season and island. Examples for scooter rental companies are the following:
- Hawaiian Style Rentals and Sales
- Scooter Rentals in Honolulu
- Big Island Harley Rentals in Kona
- Hawaiian Cruises in Kihei.
Taking the boat and ferry in Hawaii:
Between Molokai, Maui and Lanai, there are several daily ferries that connect the islands. However, big car ferries are no longer available in Hawaii. The existing big ferry had to stop operation due to environmental damage caused.
The majority of Hawaiians are now Christian.
As a travel destination, Hawaii poses no health challenges. However, if there are any problems, local medical care is well-developed, but expensive. A foreign health insurance is therefore essential when travelling to Hawaii.
Hawaii has a mild tropical climate with increased rainfall at the end of the year. Therefore, especially at the beginning of the journey, care should be taken to ensure that the body is acclimatised. Lots of fluids and vitamins are therefore important.
Please refer to the site of the WHO for detailed health information for the designated travel destination.
Food & Drinks
Hawai’i cuisine is a colorful mix of those nationalities and cultures that have made it to the paradise island chain over time. Whether Indonesian, Japanese, Philippine or Korean – there are certainly almost all Asian cuisines in Hawaii. But, of course, classic American fast Food kitchen with all its chains is found in Hawaii too .It is not uncommon to find Starbucks right next door to McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.
Luau: Traditional Hawaiian cuisine
Nevertheless, there are still restaurants that serve Hawaiian cuisine. The traditional Hawaiian feast is called Luau. It is cooked in an oven. A pit is dug into which hot lava rocks are placed, giving the food a very special flavor. Usually pork (Kalua pork) is cooked in here for four to eight hours. Today, a Luau today, however, takes place mainly in hotels or in specially built for tourists “traditional villages”.
Fish, fish, fish
As in many other island states in the world, the people in Hawaii also a lot of fish. The following species of fish are particularly popular in Hawaii, which, by the way, have mostly different names than the usual ones:
- Ahi: Yellowfin tuna
- Onage: Red Snapper
- Opakapaka: Pink Snapper
- Akule: Mackerel
- Mahi Mahi: Gold Mackerel
- Ono: Dory or freshly caught fish
- Hapuupuu: Grouper
- Aku: Bonito tuna
- Kumu: Mullet
- Tombo: white tuna
- Au: Marlin / swordfish
Poke: Probably the most famous dish from the Hawaiian kitchen is Poke. It is raw fish mixed with salt and algae, as well as individually selected ingredients and served in a bowl of rice.
Fish-burger: Apart from the fact that the burger culture is certainly not traditional Hawaiian, there are variations in the island paradise of the otherwise so heavy meatball. A lot of restaurants offer delicious fish burgers, where freshly caught fish is grilled or fried, which is a fresh and above all healthy alternative to the normal burger.
Taro: Purple root
Several years ago, Taro root was cultivated, boiled, mashed and eaten in Hawaii. Even today there are small bistros and kiosks that offer homemade Poi, which is the Hawaiian word for porridge from the Taro root. Taro belongs to the family of the Araceae plant and is a starchy tuber.
Endless Appetizers: Pupu
Hawaiians love appetizers so much that they have given them a separate name: Pupu, which are small snacks, either eaten before dinner or just for as a side for a beer or a drink.
Intended for big eaters: Plate Lunch and Loco Moco
Some dishes in Hawaii are reminiscent to a time when there were a lot of hard-working men on the islands, all of whom were hungry. Back then, plate lunch or Loco Moco were invented for them.
The former is a plate full of rice, macaroni salad with meat or fish. The meat varies depending on the restaurant and ranges between Kalua pork, Japanese Katsu chicken, Teriyaki beef, Korean barbecue or Mahi Mahi fish. Plate Lunch is mostly found in local restaurants or local chains, such as Rainbow Diner on Oahu. Loco Moco in turn, is another option for those who are particularly hungry. It is a hamburger pattie served with egg on rice and served with thick gravy.
Alcohol in Hawaii
Apart from the fact that Mai Tai, a cocktail of rum, orange liqueur, amaretto and lime juice, comes from Hawaii, a handful of breweries have now settled in this paradise. Be it the Kona Brewery on Hawaii Island or the Maui Brewery on Maui – the beer is delicious, you’ll have a whole lot of choice and the bottles are beautiful
At a glance
What can I do in Hawaii? What are the best places to visit in Hawaii? What are the top things to see in Hawaii? Well, there a billions of things to do in your Hawaii holiday. We’ll give you a short best of Hawaii list in our Hawaii guide and hope to inspire you for your next big adventure.
Hawaii is an island paradise located in the Pacific and consists of eight islands: Hawai’i or Big Island, Maui, Kaho’olawe, Lana’i, Moloka’i, O’ahu, Kaua’i and Ni’ihau. Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau Island are among the islands that are rarely visited. The former is the smallest island of the island nation and is completely uninhabited and located close to Maui, the latter is protected by the local community in a way that travelling there as a tourist is basically impossible.
Basically, the Hawaii Island State is a unique mix of breathtaking volcanic landscapes, vast seas, huge dream waves and a wonderful culture that should be discovered. Each island has its own special charm.
What is the best island in Hawaii?
O’ahu: Surf dreams and big city flair
O’ahu is not only the island on which the capital of Hawaii, Honolulu, is located, but also the starting point in the island adventure for most travelers. This is where most international airlines land and from here it is easiest to travel on to neighboring islands.
O’ahu is a potpourri of all Hawaiian cultures who have found their home here through immigrants. South of this island is a touristy developed and offers with Waikiki one of the dream destinations for Hawaiian visitors. While the west coast of the island is relatively unspectacular, the north coast is breath taking. Here, the dream waves that have not only lured the surf founder Duke into the sea is present.
The coastal road leads along the many surf spots and provides the perfect base for a mini road trip. The east coast of Oahu is more humid and is reminiscent of Jurassic Park. Here juicy green rocks meet the shallow sea, which invites you to swim. For road trip fans, the south coast of Oahu offers unique serpentines roads and views. Historically, it is in the center of Oahu, where Pearl Harbor is situated.
Hawaii Guide insider tip: When exploring Honolulu, come and say hi to Fred Kamaka at Kamaka Ukulele Hawaii. This guitar store produces ukuleles and offers free tours – mostly held by 93 year old Fred himself.
Hawaii: Volcanic archipelago and island of extremes
Hawaii Island is not only the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands, but also the largest and is therefore also called Big Island. Just because the entire island state bears the same name as this island, Hawaii Island is rarely called so.Big Island is the volcanic island of Hawaii. Just after the Kona airport you will land as a visitor on a street that has been created on the right and left of recently solidified lava. There are five volcanoes in Big Island, of which Mauna Loa is the world’s most active volcano and Kilauea is the only volcano in the world that you can almost drive by. You can visit Kilauea in the Volcano National Park.
But that’s not all that Big Island has to offer, because the island is teeming with possible excursions, such as the highest mountain in the world, that’s right here. Mauna Kea is 4205 meters high and probably the best point to witness the breathtaking sunset over the Big Island. Meanwhile, a gravel road leads to its top, but it requires a car with four-wheel drive. If you do not have that, you can also drive to the visitor center – the view is at least as beautiful as at the top.
The coast of Hawaii Island is fantastic : lava beaches, bright green palm trees, turquoise sea and dolphins, which splash excitedly on the water surface. From time to time turtles can be seen early in the morning. It certainly will not get boring on the Big Island and if so, a visit to one of the many coffee plantations or the Kona brewery will not hurt.
Maui: Chic beauty
Maui is often referred to by many as the Hawaiian Island, which is the most expensive and attracts celebrities. However, reducing the island to this is not correct, because here are some things that make Maui a unique paradise.
Especially in the period between January and March up to 10,000 humpback whales from the cold Alaska move to the coast of Maui. With the naked eye, these giants can then be seen from the beach jumping and jumping with their little ones. If you want to observe them even closer, you can book a whale watching cruise with one of the numerous providers, which is usually also connected with a little break while snorkeling.
But not only is the water world on Maui is impressive. Just like Big Island, there is also a volcano on Maui, the Haleakala, which can be visited. This is best done at sunrise. If you are looking for more adventure, you can venture one day on the Road to Hana – a road that runs through the rain forest in the city of Hana, which offers several curves and often a unique natural spectacle.
Kauai: Dinosaurs at home
The green island paradise Kauai not only looks like Jurassic Park, No, it was also the venue of the Spielberg classic. Narrow valleys, beautiful beech trees and huge rocks alternate along the famous Napali Coast and impresses every visitor. If you have a little more time, you can be impressed by the Waimea Canyon.
Lanai: Luxury hits desolation
Although Lanai is the most centrally located island compared to other Hawaiian Islands, it is also the only one that is mostly visited by day visitors. A day trip from Maui offers enough time to visit the beaches and the famous Hulopoe Bay. There are hardly any overnight accommodations options on Lanai and if so, they are expensive luxury hotels.
Molokai: Origin of this paradise
If you are looking for the original Hawaii, you will certainly find it on Molokai, because this little island paradise is considered to be the most authentic and Hawaiian island in the entire island state. There is not much going on here and that’s a good thing. However, we recommend to visit Kalaupapa National Park and Halawa Valley.
Hawaii is certainly not a cheap destination. Therefore, whoever decides to spend their holiday in Hawaii, should have enough time to prepare. It is also important not to travel during the main holiday season in the Americas but rather during other period such as in January like it is in other countries. At this time (holidays in the Americas), activities and especially hotel prices are once again more expensive than normal.
For a week’s vacation in Hawaii you should expect together for the rental car, hotel, food and excursions expenses of with less than 1200 USD.
Most of Hawaii’s restaurants and cafes offer Wi-Fi. Also, the reception is good on all islands. Anyone planning a visit to the mountains of the island state can expect little or no reception.
Hawaii guide insider tip for SIM cards and mobile internet in Hawaii:
Highly recommended are offers from AT & T. You can easily buy SIM cards in one of the many Walmart stores. For travelers who stay in Hawaii for about two to three weeks, we recommend the $ 40 offer, which includes 6GB internet. AT & T has by far the best network on all Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaii’s spirit and culture can be best prepared for through literature from the islands. Here are our top books for a trip to Hawaii:
- The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
- Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
- The Shoals of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands by Gavin Daws