Island Hopping in Hawaii
5 Best day trips to & from Oahu

Island Hopping in Hawaii inter-island comparison guide & itinerary suggestions. 5 Best Day Trips to/from Oahu to Save Time & Money are listed below. Based on my personal experiences and helping others plan theirs.

Island Hopping in Hawaii

The reasons to island hop and do an inter-island trip in Hawaii are varied. For instance, it's more economical.

The airfare, tour & sometimes the airport transfers are bundled together in a package. This also allows for planning convenience.

You save money by visiting other islands while here rather than scheduling & paying for a separate trip from your home town.

Converesly, previewing another island for a future stay can be made while here. may decide to just see more of Hawaii while here. You never know when or if you'll be able to come back so it makes sense to maximize your time and money while here.



1. Island Hopping in Hawaii-Big Island

Island Hopping in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea crater above viewed from the Jagger Museum lookout


Top sites on Big Island day trips are

  • Volcano
  • Helicopter ride over the volcano
  • Thurston lava tube
  • Black sand beaches
  • Rainbow Falls or Akaka Falls
  • Spot the lava glow at night or hike lava fields
  • *See current eruption status from the National Park Service


    Best things

    Living volcano with hot lava.

    Being able to see it is pretty amazing.

    Lots of valleys, gorges and wildlife with rugged landscapes. Iit's also perfect for people who are interested in adventure activitiesl.

    Worst thing

    If beaches are your thing then you won't care for the Big Island. Although there's black sand they don't have miles and miles of gorgeous white sandy beaches. Most day trips are reserved for exploring the volcano and the more unique features of the island however.


    TIP: #1 Attraction in all of Hawaii. Sells out quickly for one day trips. Book at least 4-6 weeks out.


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    2. Island Hopping in Hawaii-Maui

    Island Hopping in Hawaii Maui

    Black sand beach on Maui during the road to Hana


    Top Highligts are

  • Road to Hana ( w/ black sand beaches)
  • Seven sacred pools of Oheo
  • Paia
  • Haleakala
  • Bike ride down Haleakala
  • Scenic drive along the west coast
  • Helicopter ride over the West Maui mountains in Molokai
  • Best things

    Lots of waterfalls and miles and miles of green valleys. Imagine the classic beauty of Hawaii that is seen in photos.

    Worst thing

    If you are prone to seasickness or motion sickness then the road to Hana not for you. There's something like over 100 turns and one-way Bridges. It's a very curvy road that takes over 3 hours one-way non-stop. Factor in stops and this is a full day affair.

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    3. Island Hopping in Hawaii-Kauai

    Island Hopping in Hawaii Kauai Waterfalls Helicopter Ride

    Viewing wild waterfalls inside Mt Waialeale crater during a helicopter ride on Kauai



    Top Highligts are

  • Helicopter ride (includes seeing the Jurassic Falls waterfall)
  • Drive to End of the Road on the north shore to Ke'e Beach park
  • North Shore
  • Waimea Valley
  • Opaekaa Falls
  • Kilauea lighthouse
  • Hanalei Bay
  • Best thing: The most gorgeous Island in all of Hawaii in terms of natural beauty and is also the oldest It's also a popular location including movies such as Jurassic Park.


    Worst thing: There's not a whole lot to "do". If you're somebody who just wants to relax or enjoys nature, beaches or outdoor adventure activities it's perfect. If you're someone who wants places to go, lots of restaurants and shopping then this island is not for you.

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    4. Island Hopping in Hawaii-Molokai

    Island Hopping in Hawaii Kalaupapa

    One of the historic churces on Kalaupapa


    Top Highligts are

  • Kalaupapa peninsula- Father Damien's history & work with sufferers of Hansen's disease
  • Fly over or take ferry ride from Maui
  • Visit top side of Molokai
  • Best thing: One of the least populated islands in Hawaii that we can visit with only 7400 people living there with only 122 of them in Kalaupapa. I think this is the best thing about the island but for some people it might be the worst thing.

    Molokai is also a virgin island in the sense that it's pretty untamed and hasn't been manicured to suit commercial hospitality and tourism.

    The small impact by man means that it's true beauty has remained in tact. I saw hundreds of wild deer running through the fields and it was stunning to me.

    The peninsula of Kalaupapa hardly has anybody living there except for those who care for the remaining sufferers of Hansen's disease (Leprosy) and the remaining sufferers who are still alive. The buildings look the same back in the turn of the century when Father Damien was there trying to help those with the disease.

    Worst thing: If you're somebody who's not interested in education or Hawaiian history Kalaupapa Peninsula will not be interesting to you.

    As far as the "top side" if you're somebody who is not into relaxing or doing some rugged nature type of activities such as horseback riding or off the beaten track types of activities then you will not like it. It is very slow.

    There is one stop light and one hotel. For some people this is a fantastic but for others this would be a nightmare.

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    5. Island Hopping in Hawaii-Oahu

    Arizona Memorial Pearl Harbor Interior View smaller

    Inside the Arizona Memorial looking down at the sunken ship below


    Top highlights of Oahu

  • Arizona Memorial
  • Battleship Missouri
  • Dole Pineapple Plantation
  • North Shore
  • Pali Lookout
  • Halona Blowhole
  • Hanauma Bay Lookout
  • Kailua & Lanikai beach
  • Best thing: Oahu is home to Pearl Harbor which is the #1 attraction on the island. If including a circle island tour you'll get to go to the Dole pineapple plantation and see the North Shore where the big wave action takes place in the winter time.

    You'll also get to drive past many movie locations on the island full of history as well as visit many scenic lookouts for fantastic photo opportunities.

    Worst thing: The traffic is horrible and it's crowded. Waikiki has been compared to a Manhattan on the beach or Las Vegas on the beach. It's very commercial and tourist driven. However I suggest to everyone to get the heck out of the city and visit other parts such as the north shore or Kailua.

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    Island Hopping in Hawaii FAQs

    Can I do more than one day trip?
    What are the basic considerations?
    Are the tours guided?
    Can I do it unguided?
    What kind of vehicles are used?
    Will they pick me up at my hotel?
    What's the time range of an island hopping trip?
    When should I book an inter-island/island hopping trip?
    Information needed prior to booking a day trip
    Will the trip still run if the weather's bad or raining?
    How long does it take to fly between islands in Hawaii?

    Island Hopping in Hawaii Molokai Reef

    Helicopter ride over the coral reef off the coast of Molokai

    Can I do more than one day trip?

    Yes you can.

    I would caution you however to space them apart.

    For instance I wouldn't go to Hawaii on a Monday and then Big Island on a Tuesday. I would give myself at least a day break between each island because they are long days and you don't want to wear yourself out.

    What are basic considerations for taking a day trip?

    I would say that the three main considerations for a day trip are:

    1. Cost

    I would say that the average cost is between $400 and $500 per person including taxes. This will include airfare and if on the island of Oahu roundtrip airfare transers if staying in Waikiki.

    2. Weather & Clothing

    If going to the Big Island to visit the volcano I would take a roll up plastic poncho similar to the ones that can be found at drug stores for $1-$2. That side of the island is prone to drizzly weather and rain at times.

    Expect it to be raining quite a bit during the winter months of December, January & February. The rain tends to be off and on. I would also take a light sweatshirt. The volcano is above sea level quite a bit and it can be chilly, particularly at night.

    If you plan to hike or walk on the uneven terrain of the volcano itself off the side of the road or to walk through the Thurston Lava Tube then I would take sneakers or other closed toe shoes. If you want to walk around the black sand beach then slippahs (flip-flops) are fine.

    I don't think that you need special shoes for the other islands. If doing a doors-off helicopter then you have to wear shoes that won't slip off. If they're sandals then they must have an ankle strap preventing them from coming off. You'll also need to secure long hair in a ponytail.

    I think a light sweatshirt or similar is good for all tours. Everybody has their own idea of comfortable air-conditioning on a vehicle and you might find the night to be a little chilly.

    3. Non-refundable

    The tours run rain or shine and the only time that they might be canceled would be an instance such as a hurricane threat, road closures or something like that.

    The reason for this is because of the airfare involved in the cost of the price. The airlines aren't flexible so the tour operators can't be either. With this in mind make sure that you are clear on the date that you can go. They might let you reschedule it due to extreme circumstances but it's probably going to be pretty expensive if you do.


    4. Bring money

    Most tours are no-host meaning that meals aren't provided. They will stop for lunch and dinner if the tour runs that long but you'll need to pay for your food.

    Bring cash in addition to a credit or debit card because some stop-overs may only accept cash. This could be a road side farmer's market, souvenir or snack stand.

    Also if you like your driver it's customary to tip him or her at the end of the evening. The amount is up to you. Anything is appreciated but $10, $20 or even more is normal. They spend hours with you and most don't get paid very much per hour so they'll be very grateful.


    Are day trip TOURS guided?

    Yes they are.

    If choosing one of the pre-packaged deals that includes airfare and the tour then a guide is also included.

    guide itself and then picking you up at the airport then those are guided they usually pick somebody who is very knowledgeable and the topic area. However


    Can I do a day trip unguided?

    Yes, you can if you're booking your own trip.

    This would mean that you are booking yoiur own airfare, arranging for your own airport transfers if on Oahu and renting a car. If you wish to do one of the package tours then these are all guided.

    A tip would be to arrive at your island of choice between 7:00-9:00 in the morning and then get the last flight out at about 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening. You need to arrive 1 hour prior to flight times (not 2) for inter-island flights in Hawaii.

    Once you land pick up your rental car and go.

    TIP: Book the rental car AHEAD of time. Sometimes there's no cars available on the outer-islands, particularly if arriving on a cruise ship or special event day. Cruise ships arrive in Hilo on Tuesdays, for example.



    What kind of vehicles are used?

    The vehicles used depend on the company and also on the type of tour.

    It could be a small commercial vehicle such as a 25 seater mini-coach however if you're on the island of Oahu it could be a 50 seater motor coach.

    If going to Maui and doing the Road to Hana it has to be a smaller vehicle because of the size of the roads. Some companies use a 12-13 seater but most are usually under 20-25 seats.



    Will they pick me up at my hotel?

    Yes you will be picked up at your hotel if staying on the island of Oahu AND if staying in Waikiki.

    If staying in Ko Olina on the west side or another part of the island then you can drive to the airport. Your plane tickets will be issued to you electronically and all you have to do is check in with the airlines. Once you arrive to your destination the tour company will pick you up along with the others who flew over with you.

    If staying at a private condo in Waikiki then you'll be picked up at a nearby hotel.

    If you're staying on an outer Island then you'll have to drive yourself to the airport, fly over to the destination island and then join the rest of the tour group. The company will give you detailed instructions on where to meet the vehicle for pick up.


    What's the time range of a day trip?

    Generally all day starting very early in the morning and arriving back late evening.

    Kalapaupa on Molokai is the shortest starting at about 8:00 am and returning back at about 3:00 pm.

    For example, most trips will pick you up in Waikiki between 4:45-5:30 am and return back at about 10:00 pm.

    The actual flight times might be 7 am leaving and 8:00 pm returning but factoring in airport transfer times, the need to check in for flights 1 hour prior, etc makes the day longer. The exact times vary depending on the trip chosen.

    If staying outer island factor in the amount of time to drive to the airport, checking in an hour prior, flight times, etc. The actual tour is sandwiched inbetween the logistics of all of this.


    When should I book an inter-island/island hopping trip?

    I would say the sooner the better but at least 4-6 weeks out ESPECIALLY during peak times such as summer and Christmas.

    The very minimum I would say is 2 weeks. I've seen so many people be left out in the cold if they wait until they arrive.


    One of 2 things usually happen:

    1. It's not available

    2. If it's available they have to pay an airline surcharge. This means that you have to pay the difference between the cost of the package trip and the going airfare. The package trips include airfare and the cost of the tour. The tour companies negotiate a flat rate for airfare ahead of time so that they can offer it at a set price to tourists.

    As availability of seats on the planes dries up the price goes up. This could mean that the airfare has gone up $50, $100, $200 or $400 EXTRA!!! If you want to go then you'll have to pay this difference on top of a package trip that might already cost $400.



    1. Names of everyone going EXACTLY as it appears on the government-issued ID that you'll be using for travel.

    International travelers will need to use a passport while US domestic travelers can use a drivers license. The children of US domestic travelers do not need to have a passport or special ID.

    If there is a middle initial then you will need this information. IF IT DOES NOT MATCH EXACTLY you will be given a hard time at the airport and very possibly not be able to board.

    2. Date of birth

    3. If doing a helicopter ride then know the body weights and heights of everyone involved. Kg or cm is fine. No need to do a conversion.

    4. The date that you want to travel. If it's not available you will be contacted and given other available options. BE CLEAR because it is non-refundable once it's booked.



    The short answer is YES.

    These trips run rain or shine so don't expect to get a refund if you don't like the weather. Rescheduling is tricky and you could be faced with additional fees such as airfare change fees over $100 PLUS the cost of the difference in airfare.

    Exceptions to the rule that I've seen are the Road to Hana being closed down due to impassable roads because of wind and rain. The tour company will work with you in a circumstance like that. Another situation that I saw once was when the Big Island was under threat of a direct hurricane hit. The airlines and tour companies worked with people in that circumstance as well.



    Using Oahu as a base point (approximate & based on actual air time):

    Oahu to Maui-36 minutes

    Oahu to Kauai-30 minutes

    Oahu to Molokai (Kalaupapa)-25-30 minutes

    Oahu to Big Island (Hilo)-40-45 minutes

    Kauai to Big Island (Hilo)-1 hour, 10 minutes

    Maui to Big Island (Hilo)-23 minutes


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    Island Hopping in Hawaii-Tours & Prices

    Prepackaged tours that include roundtrip airfare & tour are below. If on the island of Oahu airport transfers from Waikiki are included as well.

    In all other cases you'll have to make your own way to the airport.

    Everyone is emailed their e-ticket information and boarding passes can be printed out at the airport. You can do it from your hotel within 24 hours of the flight by looking up the name on the overall reservation.

    Regardless, you'll be told what airline as well as the times and flight numbers.


    From Oahu to Big Island, Maui, Kauai or Molokai

    From Maui to Oahu, Big Island, Molokai or Lanai

    From Big Island to Oahu

    From Kauai to Oahu


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