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Hawaii | The Ultimate Travel Guide

When to do, where to stay and what to do once you arrive on these Pacific islands.

Updated

NaPali Coast in Hawaii

Hawaii is the perfect blend of adventure, culture and relaxation in the North Pacific Ocean. This US state comprises of eight major islands, which you can hop between via ferry.

Throughout the island, you'll uncover volcanos, hiking trials, golden beaches, family-friendly activities, romantic resorts and hammocks strung across palm trees.

Various budget and luxury airlines fly direct from Australia to Hawaii, making it an ideal escape for those seeking an island getaway.

Latest Hawaii travel deals

Groupon Groupon

Up to 70% off hotel stays and vacation packages

Go Oahu Go Oahu

Save up to 55% on attraction tickets

Cruise Direct Cruise Direct

Up to USD$1,000 OBC with Norwegian Cruise Line

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Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Airlines

No change fees on flights

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Getting around in Hawaii

Hawaii is best explored by car as many of its most famous sights are not within walking distance.

You can use public transport to get around to all the major attractions; but for the ultimate experience of the islands' lava desert, jungles, beaches and mountains, hire a car.

Some of the top spots to explore are Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Honokaa black sand beach, Waipi'O Valley, and Mauna Kea for star gazing.

Hawaii comprises of multiple islands. The most popular for tourists are: Oahu (where Honolulu is), Maui, Kauai, Hawaii Island (Big Island), Molokai and Lanai.

Hawaii public transport

  • Types of transport: Most of Hawaii's main islands are serviced by bus. TheBus is a public bus that transports visitors on Oahu while the Waikiki Trolley is a tourist bus that runs along select tour routes. On Maui you can get around on the Maui Bus Transit System, the Kauai Bus is available on Kauai Island, while Hawaii Island has the Hele-On Bus. There is no public transport on Molokai or Lanai. Two interisland ferries operate daily. One takes passengers from Molokai to Lahaina and Maui the other takes passengers between Lahaina and Manele Bay on Lanai.
  • Paying for transport: Single tickets for TheBus cost US$2.50 and allow for up to two connections; pay upon boarding. The Maui Bus Transit System costs US$2 per trip or US$4 for a day pass; pay when boarding. Kauai Bus fares are US$1 per trip. Tickets for the Hele-On Bus must be paid for in exact change when boarding and cost US$2 for a single trip.
  • Getting to and from the airport: TheBus has three routes numbered 19, 20 and 31 that service Honolulu's International Airport. Buses are located on the second-level roadway by the centre median strip and run every 30 minutes. An on-demand, door-to-door SpeediShuttle is also available and can be prebooked online. Is it available from Honolulu, Kahului, Kona and Lihue airports.
  • Best apps for getting around: Use DaBus app for getting around Oahu. It provides information such as where the closest bus stop is, real-time bus arrival and a search for stops by street name. For the Maui Bus Transit System, use the Maui Bus Routes app that allows you to see routes even when offline. Kauai Bus and Hele-On Bus do not have apps.

Taxis and rideshare

  • Taxi: Taxis can be found at taxi stands, major shopping malls, the airport and business centres. Hailing a taxi from the side of the road is not the norm in Hawaii. Call in advance to prebook.
  • Rideshare: Lyft and Uber are both available in Hawaii. For an idea of cost, Uber costs about US$48 to $63 from Honolulu International Airport to the city centre. Uber currently serves all major islands except Lanai.

Hawaii car rentals

Renting a car on any island in Hawaii is very popular because it is the best way to see all of the sights.

Avis, Budget, Hertz, Enterprise, National and Advantage all service Honolulu International Airport. Use DriveNow to compare prices and find the best deal.

See our latest car hire deals and compare prices for rentals in Hawaii

Hawaii airport transfers

Transfers to and from all major airports in Hawaii are available in both shared and private vehicles. You can book it in advance with Viator and Jayride.

Shared Arrival Transfer: Maui Airport to Hotel
Shared Arrival Transfer: Maui Airport to Hotel

Viator

Shared Round-Trip Transfer: Honolulu Airport to Hotel or Cruise Terminal
Shared Round-Trip Transfer: Honolulu Airport to Hotel or Cruise Terminal

Viator

Private Departure Transfer: Big Island Hotels to Kona International Airport
Private Departure Transfer: Big Island Hotels to Kona International Airport

Viator

Must-try food in Hawaii

Hawaii is home to a number of unique dishes that were inspired by the islands' tropical flavours and Asian influences.

We share the best dishes and treats to try while visiting and tell you where you can find them on Maui and in Honolulu.

Plus we've got you covered with the trendiest bars for an evening cocktail.

  • Laulau: Fish, chicken or pork is wrapped in taro leaves and cooked in a hole in the ground under a rock until the meat turns smoky and soft, and the leaves take on a cooked spinach consistency.
  • Poke: This can be served in a variety of ways, including on its own, tossed with a salad or as a poke bowl, which is a bowl of rice with the "poke" piled on top. You could liken poke as being the Hawaiian version of Japanese sashimi, but instead of thinly sliced fish it consists of thicker chunks. It doesn't have to be raw fish either that's used, but can be other seafood such as octopus. Most commonly however, it's tuna.

HRPoke

  • Manapua: This treat is similar to the Chinese steamed pork dumpling, and is likewise filled with a sweet pork stuffing. Its Hawaiian name literally translates to "delicious pork thing", and you certainly get what it promises.
  • Spam Musubi: Spam is a popular product in Hawaii, and a snack that's good to eat on the go is Spam musubi. The Spam, which is like a thick piece of ham with a strong flavour, is glazed with soy sauce and sugar, then wrapped in rice and seaweed.
  • Saimin: The ultimate Hawaiian comfort food, saimin is a seafood-based broth with noodles, topped with ham, green onions and fish cake. It's heavily influenced by Chinese noodle soup, Japanese ramen and Filipino pancit, made of wheat noodles (like Chinese soup), served in dashi (like ramen) and topped with wontons (Chinese) or gyoza (ramen). Like pancit, it can sometimes be fried.
  • Shave Ice: The must-try dessert on Hawaii is shave ice, which is ice that is finely shaved and flavoured with syrup from a tangy fruit called lilikoi, and coconut. You can top it with all manner of goodies such as ice cream, mochi balls or condensed milk.

Food tours and cooking classes

With so many local dishes to sample, the best way to experience as many as you can is to take a food tour. Let a local expert explain the history behind each dish, and get a taste of all the Hawaiian flavours.

Frequently asked questions about Hawaii

Which Hawaiian island is cheapest?

For accommodation costs, dining and island activities, Oahu is considered to be the cheapest of the Hawaiian islands.

Which island is Honolulu on?

Honolulu is situated on Oahu. It is the capital and largest city within the state of Hawaii.

Which Hawaiian islands have volcanoes?

There are currently three active volcanoes in Hawaii. Hawaii Island (also known as the Big Island) is home to Mauna Loa and Kilauea which visitors can view in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984, but Kilauea has been erupting non-stop since 1983.

Loihi is situated below the surface of the water just off the southern coast of Hawaii's Big Island. Loihi has been erupting since 1996 and could result in an additional Hawaiian island in the distant future.

The Hawaiian islands are constructed entirely from volcanoes, be they inactive or active. As such, there's at least one on every island!

Does Hawaii have sharks?

Hawaii does have sharks. In the region of 40 different species of sharks are known to be in the waters around the Hawaiian islands. Only eight have been frequently seen close to the shore. The most commonly seen are the White Tipped Reef Shark, Scalloped Hammerhead Shark, Tiger Shark, Galapagos Shark, Gray Reef Shark and the Sandbar Shark. Of these, the Tiger Shark and the Galapagos Shark are the aggressive ones, with the others having the potential to be dangerous if provoked.

On which Hawaiian island is Pearl Harbor located?

Pearl Harbor is a lagoon harbour. It can be found on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, and is situated west of Honolulu. Most of the harbour and surrounding land is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. The headquarters of the United States Pacific Fleet are also situated on Oahu.

Which Hawaiian island is best for families?

Home to Hawaii's Disney resort and a multitude of other family-friendly accommodation, we think the best Hawaiian island for families is Oahu.

Does Hawaii have winter?

Most of Hawaii experiences two seasons. Hawaii's summer runs from April through to October. Its winter follows from October back through to April. Winter sees the majority of the rainfall in Hawaii, as well as some snow.

Does Hawaii have daylight saving?

Hawaii has never observed daylight saving time under the Uniform Time Act. Hawaii chose to opt out of the Act's provisions in 1967.

Is Hawaii safe for tourists?

Hawaii is relatively safe for the most part within the tourist spots. However, there are a number of hazards holidaymakers should be on the lookout for:

  • Jellyfish: Yep, Hawaii has these too. They're particularly prevalent after a full moon. Keep an eye out for the stringy tentacles of the box jellyfish as a sting from one of these will need immediate attention.
  • Sharks: These sea predators are not uncommon, even in the shallower waters.
  • Endangered or ill-tempered animals: Hawaii is home to some species of endangered animals, as well as some that can be vicious or even dangerous. Pay attention to signs and respect the advice provided.
  • Lava rocks: Cooled lava rocks are scattered throughout the islands of Hawaii. They can be amazingly hot or razor sharp, so express caution if you feel the need to touch one.

Aside from these natural hazards, we would also advise Aussies to stay alert and protect their personal safety and belongings – especially in Waikiki. Consult the island tourist offices if in doubt and avoid deserted areas.

Does Hawaii have Zika?

Zika is not currently circulating in Hawaii. There have been no locally acquired cases of the Zika virus and all of the cases identified in Hawaii have been travel-related and contracted outside of Hawaii. Aedes species mosquitoes that are known to transmit Zika virus are present in Hawaii. As such, it is very important that if you are travelling to Hawaii, you take the necessary precautions to prevent being bitten by a mosquito. It is safer for anyone pregnant or trying to conceive to avoid Hawaii until the Zika crisis has passed.

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