A trip to Hawaii can be fun, but planning it can be intimidating, especially for first-time visitors. The following is a Hawaii vacation planning guide to help novice travelers.
1. Plan When to Go
While Hawaii doesn’t really have seasons like the continental US, it does go through wet and cold cycles every year. The “wet” season, which is the nearest thing Hawaii has to a winter, lasts from October to March. The “dry” season or Hawaiian summer lasts from April to September.
Hawaii tends to be mild and balmy. Daytime temperatures during the wet season tend to be in the low 80s, while they will be in the upper 80s during the dry season. At night, temperatures can drop by about 20 degrees – so travelers may want a jacket or sweater if they’re outside at night. Check out what to pack for a trip to Hawaii here.
Hurricane season runs from June to November. Fortunately, Hawaii rarely gets hit by a storm.
The “wet” season is the busiest travel season in Hawaii simply because it is still warmer than most of the US. December and January are especially busy because of the holidays. Consequently, the hotels and flights will be particularly expensive.
Humpback whale migrations run from October to May, with February being the peak month. People wanting to go whale-watching should schedule their vacation accordingly.
2. Decide Island to Stay
You might think about what is the best island to visit in Hawaii for the first time. It depends on the traveler wants to do. People who want to go whale-watching, for example, will generally see the most whales around Maui. Travelers should consider what they want to do and then pick the island or islands most likely to meet their wishes.
Hawaii has eight major islands, and six of them are open to tourists. A common mistake made by travelers is to try to see as many islands as possible – which leads to a lot of time spent in airports, on planes and checking into hotels as opposed to doing anything fun. Traveling from one island to another requires taking a plane or chartering a private boat. The only exception is the public ferry that runs from Maui to Lanai.
Given that, unless somebody is spending the whole winter or a similarly long time on Hawaii, they would be better off if they picked one or two islands and explored them thoroughly.
3. Overview of the Islands
Oahu, which is sometimes called “the Gathering Place,” is the most developed and densely populated island. Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, is located on its southern shore and is near the naval base Pearl Harbor. Other cities located on Oahu include Kailua and Kahuku. Attractions on Oahu include the following:
- Waikiki Beach
- USS Arizona National Memorial at Pearl Harbor
- North Shore, a popular surfing destination
Hawaii, which is about the size of Connecticut, is the largest island and is thus often called “the Big Island. Hilo is its biggest city, and Kailua Kona or “Kona” was once the home of several Hawaiian kings. Attractions in Hawaii include:
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, that is home to Mauna Loa, the world’s largest volcano
- Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail
- Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park
Maui, the second-biggest island, is sometimes called “the Valley Isle” after the plain between the West Maui mountains and the Haleakala National Park. It is home to several resort towns including Lahaina, Kapala and Kihei. Attractions include:
- Road to Hana, one of the world’s most beautiful drives
- Molokini Crater, a snorkeling destination
- Haleakala National Park
Kauai, the “Garden Isle,” is considered the most beautiful of the Hawaiian islands. It is also the oldest island and is home to such natural wonders as the Napali Coast, Hanalei Bay, Waimea Canyon and the Wailua River. Its main city is Lihue that includes such attractions as the Menehune Fish Ponds and the Kauai Museum.
Molokai or “the Friendly Isle” has less development than most of the other islands. It is home to the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, that had originally been a leper colony, and the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center, that had once been a sugar mill.
Lanai once belonged to Dole Foods and thus has the world’s biggest pineapple plantation. There are also several resorts on the island.
4. Best Hawaiian Beaches For Swimming
Hawaii is justly famous for its beaches, and visitors have many choices. Waikiki Beach is the most famous – and crowded. It draws over 4 million visitors per year. It is also a great place for surfing lessons. Other choices include:
- Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (Oahu), an excellent place for snorkeling
- Lanikai Beach (Oahu), President Obama’s favorite
- Punaluu Black Sand Beach (Hawaii Island)
- Makena Beach (Maui)
- Poipu Beach (Kauai)
5. Accommodations in Hawaii
Travelers will have their pick of vacation rentals in Hawaii. Hawaii has everything from luxurious resorts to bed and breakfasts to rental homes. The choices may vary depending on the island. Both Maui and Kauai are known for their many bed and breakfasts. Waikiki Beach and a few other places have historic hotels that date back to the early 20th century. Wailea on Maui is known for its luxury resorts. Other towns offer accommodations with a distinctly Hawaiian vibe. Travelers should consider the type of hotel they want, their budget, the hotel’s location, and any must-have amenities. A traveler on a business trip would probably want a hotel with a conference room and similar facilities, for example.
Hawaii for first timers can seem like an overwhelming prospect, but a carefully-planned trip could prove enjoyable for everyone.