Table of Contents
- Island Hopping in Hawaii: how to do it right
- Options for island hopping in Hawaii:
- Is it easy to travel between the Hawaiian Islands?
- How much does it cost to travel between the Hawaiian Islands?
- How long does it take to travel between the Hawaiian islands?
- Island-hopping in Hawaii: Fast Faqs
- Should you visit multiple islands on your trip to Hawaii?
- Get a good deal on a rental car while island hopping
- Maui’s Best Whale Watching Tour: Ultimate Whale Watching Rafts
- The Best Whale Watching Tour from Puako Bay, Big Island
- Whale Watching Adventure from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Island Hopping in Hawaii: how to do it right
When you’re making the big trip to Hawaii, you might plan on island hopping. But what’s the easiest way to get around? And is it worth the trip?
Island hopping in Hawaii is absolutely worth it. The islands are all incredibly different and it’s easy to get from island to island. But it’s important to know that island hopping can be time consuming so you want to make sure your trip is long enough for these extra travel days.
To help you plan your trip, let’s get into the details.
Options for island hopping in Hawaii:
If you’re looking to island hop in Hawaii, you have a few options. Depending on what islands you’re traveling between, you can get there by airplane or ferry. You can also book an inter-island cruise or a guided tour to island hop for a day.
Let’s look at these options little more in-depth:
1. Flying between Hawaiian islands
Flying between the Hawaiian islands is the most popular and least expensive way to island hop.
Commercial Airlines offering inter-island flights:
There are three commercial airlines that offer inter-island flights in Hawaii:
The largest operator of flights to and from Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines has the inter-island routes covered. On Hawaiian Airlines, you can find direct flights between Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island. Hawaiian Airlines flies into the major airports on each island: Honolulu, Oahu (HNL), Kahului, Maui (OGG), Lihue, Kauai (LIH), Kona, Hawaii (KOA), and Hilo, Hawaii (ITO).
The newest entrant to inter-island travel, Southwest Airlines operates on similar routes to Hawaiian Airlines. You’ll get direct flights between the four major islands. Known for their low-cost fares, they’re generally your cheapest option for inter-island flying (though Hawaiian Airlines has extremely competitive fares).
Mokulele Airlines operates small, turbo-prop planes that fly from the main airports as well as smaller airports on the islands. It is the only airline to fly to both Molokai and Lanai. On the Big Island, it flies out of Hilo (ITO) and Kona (KOA) as well as Waimea-Kohala Airport (MUE). And on Maui, it flies out of both Kahului (OGG) as well as Kapalua (JHM). Just like the other airlines, it also flies out of Honolulu (HNL) and Lihue (LIH).
Airports on Each Island:
Each Hawaiian island that you can visit has at least one airport, which makes island hopping a breeze. The airport code for each airport are:
Daniel K. Inouye Airport in Honolulu (HNL)
Kahului Airport (OGG)
Kapalua Airport (JHM)
Hawai’i (Big Island):
Hilo International Airport (ITO)
Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport (KOA)
Waimea-Kohala Airport (MUE)
Lihue Airport (LIH)
Laia’i Aiport (LNY)
Molokai Airport (MKK)
Flight times between Hawaiian islands:
To give you an idea of just how quick these flights are, these are some sample times from Southwest Airlines:
|From Honolulu Airport (HNL) on Oahu to…|
|Kahului (OGG)||40 min|
|Hilo International Airport (ITO)||55 min|
|Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport (KOA)||45 min|
|Lihue Airport (LIH)||40 min|
2. Taking a ferry between the Hawaiian islands
If you’re traveling between Maui and Lanai, you have the option of taking a ferry. Expeditions Lanai operates ferry service for the 45 mile trip between the two islands.
Here’s a video of our day trip to Lanai using Expeditions Lanai to island hop:
If you’re looking to take a ferry to Molokai, you’re out of luck. Unfortunately, while a ferry used to operate between Maui and Molokai, that service stopped in 2016.
Related read: Is Lanai Worth a Day Trip? Yes…and here’s why.
3. Cruising between the Hawaiian Islands
If you’re set on seeing multiple islands in a short period of time and you don’t want to fly, taking an inter-island cruise is an option. Norwegian Cruise Line offers options that depart from and return to Oahu, making stops on the neighbor islands.
4. Guided day trips
If you’re looking to island hop just to make a day trip to Pearl Harbor, your best bet might be to go with a guide. Why? Guided tours offer an efficient and stress-free way to see as much as possible in a short day trip. Rather than needing to make reservations, book and pick up a rental car, and navigate a new spot, a guided trip can take care of the headache for you.
Read more about our favorite experience island-hopping for our Pearl Harbor day trip.
Is it easy to travel between the Hawaiian Islands?
Traveling between the Hawaiian islands is easy. The flights are short — 30 to 45 minutes in the air. Just enough time to get a glass of water or POG (Passion Orange Guava juice) if flying Hawaiian Airlines.
How much does it cost to travel between the Hawaiian Islands?
Depending on when you want to travel and how far in advance you book your tickets, travel between the Hawaiian islands can be very reasonable. Flights can be found as cheap as $39 each way on Hawaiian and Southwest Airlines.
How long does it take to travel between the Hawaiian islands?
Flights between each Hawaiian island are short: expect them to last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes for a direct flight. But even though the flight itself is short, when you’re island hopping in Hawaii, the entire process can easily take 4 to 5 hours (door to door). You’ll need to drive to the airport, return your rental car, go through security, fly to the next island, pick up a new rental car, and check into your hotel.
Expect your travel day to take even longer if you aren’t able to get a direct flight. Many of the inter-island flight options require a stop in Honolulu before heading onto your final destination.
Island-hopping in Hawaii: Fast Faqs
Are there ferries between the Hawaiian Islands?
There is only one ferry between Hawaiian islands and that is the ferry from Maui to Lanai. There used to be a ferry between Maui and Molokai, but that ferry service was discontinued in 2016.
Cheapest way to travel between Hawaiian islands
The cheapest way to travel between Hawaiian islands is to fly. You can find inter-island flights for as little as $39 each way, depending on when you want to travel and how far in advance you book.
Easiest way to travel between Hawaiian islands
For most people, flying is the easiest way to travel between the Hawaiian islands. Southwest, Hawaiian Airlines, and Mokulele Airlines all operate plenty of flights each day that will take you between all of the islands.
If you’d prefer to have all of the island-hopping details taken care of for you, then the easiest way to travel between the islands is on a cruise ship.
Should you visit multiple islands on your trip to Hawaii?
If you have the time, you should consider visiting multiple islands on your trip to Hawaii. Each island offers something very unique and different. But make sure you’re giving yourself enough time on each island before moving to the next. We generally recommend that you spend at least 5 days on each island that you visit. Ideally, you’ll be able to spend a little more time on each island to fully experience it as well as relax.
Yes, you can spend less time on an island but your trip will likely feel rushed and you’ll miss out on some of the features that make each island so unique and spectacular.
Get a good deal on a rental car while island hopping
When you get to a new island, you’ll probably need another rental car. Don’t spend more than you need to. We love using Discount Hawaii Car Rental when we island hop. By using them, we’ve saved thousands of dollars over the last two years (seriously). They work with national carriers and you don’t need to pay anything in advance to secure your reservation.
Trust us, Discount Hawaii Car Rental is really that good.
I'm the co-founder, with my husband Jordan, of The Hawaii Vacation Guide. We live on Maui with our toddler Henry and our sweet but quirky dog Hattie. I am a planner! I love to plan island-hopping adventures, days out on Maui, and everything in-between. I spend a lot of my time on our SUP and my favorite time of year in Hawai'i is whale season!
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