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Hawaii Island Hopping: Explore the Hawaiian Islands

Hawai'i is a collective of 137 individual islands, eight of which are inhabited, but only six can really be visited and these six could not be more different. To get the complete impression of the expanse, the beauty and above all of all the special features, you should definitely visit several islands as a tourist in Hawaii.

The dream of Hawaii. The thought of deep orange sunsets. The sound of the sea as the waves roll over. The gentle sounds of the ukulele. The laughter of the hula dancers, who elegantly swing their hips from right to left. Hawai’i. A paradise. The hawaiian islands – a beautiful spot on the other side of the world. The dream of Hawaii.

Hawaii is the 50th state in the USA and yet very different from the rest of this huge country. The island state is characterised by authenticity, honesty and charm that you would not find in any other US state. Hawai’i is a collective of 137 individual islands, eight of which are inhabited, but only six can really be visited and these six could not be more different. To get the complete impression of the expanse, the beauty and above all of all the special features, you should definitely visit several islands as a tourist in Hawaii.

How it works

If you decide to go island-hopping in Hawaii, you should look for airline tickets early. Meanwhile there are no more ferries connecting all Hawaiian islands. The only daily ferry services run between Moloka’i, Maui and Lana’i.

For all other island routes the three local airlines Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele Airlines and Makani Kai Air are possible. It is important to note for all travellers in Hawaii that although most air tickets are cheap, they rarely include luggage. The best option is simply to travel with hand luggage. If you can’t, you have to expect to pay at least 30 euros per piece of luggage at the airport check-in. In addition, Mokulele Airlines, for example, only uses small Cessnas. Every single piece of luggage, including hand luggage, must be checked in for a fee. The advantage: flying over Hawaii in a small propeller plane is definitely worth it. The sightseeing flight is basically included in the airfare.


The starting point of most Hawaii journeys is the island O’ahu. It is not the largest of all Hawaiian islands, but the most touristy. This is mainly because the majority of international airlines fly to the airport of the Hawaiian capital Honolulu: Honolulu International Airport, officially also Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

Facts about Oahu:

  • Main airport: Honolulu (HNL)
  • Width: 42 kilometres
  • Length: 64 kilometres
  • Population: 953,207
  • Recommended travel time: 5-7 days
  • The right choice for: Surfers, roadtrip lovers & shopping lovers

What to do in Oahu?

Some Hawaiian experts may advise against spending much time on O’ahu. Their reasoning: the other islands are more scenic and less touristically developed. Nevertheless, Oahu is full of sights.

Honolulu is the capital of Oahu and the entire US state of Hawaii. It is not only the commercial centre of the island, but also the home of the world-famous Waikiki Beach. Every evening several tourists make a pilgrimage to this beach to watch the orange-pink sunset, if they have not spent the whole day here anyway. Waikiki has great waves for beginner surfers – absolutely recommendable.

Visit Pearl Harbour

From Honolulu Highway 1 leads to Pearl Harbour, probably the most historically famous place in Hawaii and in any case the most tragic. What became a place of horror during the Second World War is today an open-air museum that offers an intensive insight into the history of the USA. Not only can you look at the warships sunk by the Japanese armed forces in World War II, but you will also be guided through a film and several exhibitions through the detailed course of events in World War II in the USA.

Oahu North Shore: A surfer’s dream

Past Pearl Harbour it goes directly towards North Shore, the north coast of O’ahu. It is famous for its dream waves, which make many surfers hearts beat faster. But before you land on the coast, you cross what set the Hawaiian economy in motion several years ago: endless pineapple fields. The most famous refuge is by far the Dole Plantation, but even along the highway leading to the North Shore you can see the brown-green fields with your own eyes.

Oahu’s North Shore is dotted with gorgeous surf spots where the rising sea spray radiates a very special flair. If the surfing conditions are good, photographers bustle beside numerous spectators at the roadside and observe by gigantic lenses the experienced surfers, who dare themselves in the distance on the gigantic waves.

Oahu East Side: What to do on the East Coast?

The East Coast of Oahu is still quite unknown, but is full of highlights. On a good day you can watch dolphins and whales in the distance on the rugged coast. Also some rock ledges have formed in the course of time in such a way that from time to time high water fountains blow very photogenically through narrow rock holes. Many bays here invite you to relax and swim – something the rough coast of the North Shore can’t exactly claim for itself. Some road trip lovers may also reach their limits here, because winding serpentines lead along hills, which immediately remind of the dinosaur adventure film Jurassic Park and form a good contrast to the bright turquoise of the ocean in their lush green.

Oahu South Shore: Hawaii’s best kept secret

Also the South Shore, the south coast of Oahu is absolutely worth seeing – both from above and below. If you want to go high up, you can visit the Diamond Head Crater from Honolulu or drive up the serpentines along the Tantalus Highway to get a full picture of O’ahu. But the South Shore is also beautiful down in the valley, with old factory buildings that have become trendy galleries and hip shopping centres.

Big Island

Big Island was actually called Hawai’i Island. A name that has since disappeared, as the entire state of Hawaii is now known to call itself so. The name Big Island, however, is no coincidence, as the island is by far the largest of all Hawaiian islands. This is mainly due to the fact that two active volcanoes are slumbering on it, which constantly produce lava and thus let the island grow bigger and bigger in the course of time.

Facts about Big Island:

  • Main airport: Kailua-Kona (KOA) and Hilo (ITO)
  • Flight time from Honolulu: 45 minutes
  • Area: 10,432 square kilometres
  • Population: 186,738
  • Recommended travel time: 7 days
  • The right choice for: Adventurers, road trip lovers & hikers

What to do on the Big Island of Hawaii?

Big Island of Hawai’i: Volcano National Park

Big Island can be roughly divided into two parts: East Coast and West Coast. The east coast with its centre Hilo is the perfect starting point for a trip to the Volcano National Park or to the largest mountain in the world, the Mauna Kea. The west coast is more touristically developed and therefore also offers the typical resort hotels. But here too there are some highlights: Coffee plantations, breweries and picturesque dream beaches.

The Volcano National Park is by far the most exciting destination on Big Island. Over endless landscapes, visitors can drive almost completely into a crater and pass miles of lava fields that seem so unreal that they quickly think they are in another world.

Visit Mauna Kea on Big Island

But also the Mauna Kea should not be missed at all. The highest mountain in the world can be visited on a gravel road. The majestic mountain not only offers the best view over Big Island – especially during sunset – but is also the best gateway to the crystal clear starry sky of Hawaii.


Maui, this is paradise. Maui, those are beautiful sunsets. Maui, these are sundowners, course menus and hotels that invite you to dream. Many people know Maui as the picturesque Hawaii. The one you know from countless commercials and cruise catalogues. But there is also another side to Maui, the active side that makes campers’ hearts beat faster and gives nature lovers and water rats a lot of pleasure.

Facts about Maui:

  • Main airport: Kahului (OGG)
  • Flight time from Honolulu: 55 minutes
  • Area: 1,884 square kilometres
  • Population: 144,444
  • Recommended travel time: 5 days
  • The right choice for: Surfers, romantics & road trip lovers

Things to do in Maui:

Don’t miss out: Whale Watching in Maui

Maui can be roughly divided into two parts: the small western part and the larger eastern part. The western tip of Maui used to be home to many whalers. Today, especially in the months between January and March, several tourists make a pilgrimage here to observe the humpback whales. They take the long way from distant Alaska to Maui to have their young here. This coast is also home to many resorts, most of which have their own private beaches. Behind it, however, further north, there are winding serpentines that lead past surf spots – which are famous for their mostly huge waves.

Get lost on the Road to Hana in Maui

The eastern tip of Maui is characterized by a very popular excursion destination: the Road to Hana. As the name suggests, the road leads to the city of Hana, has over 100 turns and numerous bridges and thus offers the best basis for a one-day mini road trip through the often tropical rainforest area.

Start your day and visit Haleakala National Park for sunrise

Between both parts, however, hides another highlight that should not be missing during a holiday on Maui: the Haleakala National Park. Most tourists come here at sunrise to watch the sun squeeze through the clouds and Maui slowly awaken. If you catch a good day with a clear view, you can even see Mauna Kea in the distance.


There’s not much going on on Lana’i, but the luxury here is hard to beat. The small island specialises in the highest class of travel and offers visitors a truly luxurious experience. There are only two resorts here and hardly any opportunities for those who need to keep an eye on their travel budget. The only real alternative to the expensive hotels is the camping site in Hulopoe.

Facts about Lanai:

  • Main airport: Lana’i (LNY)
  • Flight time from Honolulu: 35 minutes
  • Area: 364 square kilometres
  • Population: 3,102
  • Recommended travel time: 2 days
  • The right choice for: Luxury lovers and short travellers

A day trip by ferry from Maui to Lana’i is recommended. One day by rental car on Lana’i is enough to visit Hulopoe Bay, Puu Pehe (Sweetheart Rock), Lanai City, Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach) and Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods).


Kaua’i is green. Kaua’i is hilly. Kaua’i could easily be home to several dinosaurs. Although it was “only” the scenery for the Spielberg classic, it is still strongly reminiscent of the film’s mystical surroundings.

Facts about Kaua’i:

  • Main airport: Lihue (LIH)
  • Flight time from Honolulu: 40 minutes
  • Area: 1434.60 square kilometres
  • Population: 65,689
  • Recommended travel time: 3 days
  • The right choice for: Nature lovers and fans of Jurassic Park

If you want to visit Kaua’i, you shouldn’t miss the Napali Coast. The row of steep hills, lush greenery and hidden bays is simply unique. However, there is no road here. This means that a visit to the breath-taking coast can either be done by helicopter or by kayak.

Die Straßen auf Hawaii sind für den Mietwagen perfekt

Speaking of kayaking: Water fans also get their money’s worth on Kaua’i. Waimea Canyon is not only one of the rainiest places in the world, but also the home of the Waimea River. Four days should be enough on Kaua’i to see the most important corners. But if you really want to enjoy nature and maybe plan a little camping adventure, you should definitely stay longer.


Moloka’i is said to be the most pristine of all Hawaiian islands. Culture and traditions are still preserved here. These are good prerequisites for getting a deep insight into everyday life in Hawaii and getting to know the customs of the US-American island state.

Facts about Moloka’i:

  • Main airport: Molokai (MKK)
  • Flight time from Honolulu: 40 minutes
  • Area: 673.4 square kilometres
  • Population: 7,345
  • Recommended travel time: 2 days
  • The right choice for: Adventurers and culture lovers

The Kalaupapa National Park, unlike its name would suggest, is not a national park with beautiful landscapes or rich wildlife. On the contrary: it is a historical memorial where many leprosy patients were treated several years ago. Today the place can be visited. There are guided tours and even patients who report on that time.

Those who like it rough in a natural way should travel to Halawa Valley, the longest inhabited valley of Hawai’i. Here it seems time has stood still. Fishing is done as it was hundreds of years ago, chickens are free and the living standards are still very traditional.

Moloka’i is also an island with few hotels and accommodation. If you want to camp, you should bring all your own equipment, as there are not many shops here.

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