Planning your Hawaii trip
How to get here
For the most part your options are pretty limited on how you get to Hawai'i. You can come by boat or by air, and that's just about it. Either method of transportation is fine, but we personally prefer to arrive by air. A long cruise can 'spoil' the joys of arriving on Hawai'i's shores by simply taking too long. There is something to be said about that built up anticipation of just waiting to step foot on the island.
That's why we recommend flying as the best travel method. You can leave home and arrive in paradise on the same day, and even for travelers on the far east coast of the mainland, it's only a 12-14 hour flight. OK, so that's not exactly a short flight, but it beats coming by boat. Besides, that plane ride gives you a chance to peruse your travel books and plans to refresh your memory before you arrive. Just don't expect to jump off the plane and start 'doing it all' after you arrive.
That said, for some of you this next paragraph is going to be redundant and obvious, but for others it will be good information to have.
Perhaps you've flown on long trips before and perhaps you haven't. We're going to assume most folks have likely never flown on a flight over 5-7 hours before and we're also going to assume that most visitors utilizing our website are from the mainland United States. If you're traveling from even further east, like Europe, then you'll need to adjust our advice as needed to accommodate you. If you're traveling from the west, like Australia, then take our advice in reverse.
When traveling from the west your jet-lag will be worse coming than going. But most visitors are coming from the east, and whether you're coming from sunny California or chilly New York the shortest amount of time you'll be on a plane is about five to six hours. If you're flying from New York, Boston, or most any other town on the east coast you can expect to add another four to five hours to that number. In general, planes will have to fly into headwinds on their way west toward the islands, and thus you will notice your flight to the islands taking longer than your trip back home. Most visitors who are heading to the islands of Hawaii or Kauai may have to first make a stop in Honolulu, as there are few flights that fly directly into Kona, Hilo, or Lihue airport. If you're flying to Molokai or Lanai, you can definitely count on a stop in Honolulu or Kahului on Maui. Many flights do fly directly into Kahului on Maui if you're visiting that island.
Regardless of how long it takes you to arrive, the fact of the matter is you likely will experience some jet lag arriving, even from the east, so take it easy that first day and get some rest. Depending on when you visit you'll gain between two to six hours (Hawai'i does not observe daylight saving time) if coming from the US mainland. Our advice to travelers is always the same, attempt to keep your schedule close to what you had back home. Other websites and guidebooks will tell you to covert yourself to Hawai'i time as soon as possible, but we won't. Here's why:
If you're coming from the east coast in the spring, as an example, you're going to gain six hours during your flight. So if you leave at 6 a.m. and arrive at 4 p.m., you've actually been awake a lot longer than it sounds. Back home it's actually 10 p.m. when you arrive in Hawai'i, so you've already had a full day. We believe that by keeping to your regular schedule you can avoid the worst cases of jet lag, plus you'll have a leg up on most other travelers. If you can continue to get to bed early after sunset in Hawai'i, say around 8-10 p.m. Hawai'i time, then you can get up a lot earlier than most visitors and hit the road far ahead of the crowds. For an east coast traveler, even a wake-up call of 5 a.m. in Hawai'i is the equivalent to 11 a.m. back home. It is our opinion you should use this to your advantage. When all is said and done it will also make your journey back home a lot easier too. Losing three to six hours heading home to the west is a lot harder than most people think.
Regardless of how you arrive in Hawai'i, take it easy the first day you arrive. A good night's rest and a good meal after a long day's journey will refresh you for the rest of your vacation. Also, leave the fast-paced mainland behind you, relax to Hawai'i's lifestyle now.
Let's be honest, traveling to Hawaii isn't cheap. Almost any mode of transportation to arrive on these beautiful shores is going to cost a pretty penny. Booking a room here isn't the deal some folks are used to when they travel (though you can find bargains if you look), occupancy is almost always high, and thus so are the prices. And the cost of importing all the goods to these islands is passed on to you by merchants, especially at the grocery store and gas station. The only real break you'll catch is with a rental car, competition is fierce, and the prices reflect it.
As a traveler to Hawai'i you will likely come under one of two conditions, the budget traveler or the traveler looking to live the high life. Believe it or not, Hawai'i may be just about the only place you can choose one style over another and leave with the same experience. Most people who have tried both lifestyles have reported having just as good a time either way. So whether you conscientiously save money in Hawai'i by seeking out great deals or alternatively spend loads of money on resorts, tours, and fine dining, you'll likely leave with the same great experience.
That's the magic of Hawai'i - the real gift is what's around you, the natural beauty of the island, the people, and the friendly atmosphere. Sure you can buy great things, participate in amazing activities, and eat in first class restaurants while here, and we certainly encourage travelers to live life in Hawai'i to the max. On the same token, we also encourage everyone to enjoy the best part of Hawai'i, the part that's free to everyone... the spirit of Aloha.
Ultimately, our point is you don't have to spend a fortune on Hawai'i to have a good time. Our website and physical guidebooks are primarily designed for those on a budget who want to get away from their hotels and condos to see the great outdoors, participate in fun activities that won't break the bank, and experience life on Hawai'i like a local would.
Our last suggestion regarding money is to pay for most of your bills and purchases in Hawai'i with credit, debit, or check. Traveling with cash, even in Hawai'i, is usually never a good idea. There are countless stories told about folks who have lost their money and thus lost their fun. On a recent trip around the islands we ran into one poor soul who had lost his wallet containing all his money on a beach. You can cancel checks and plastic cards, but you can't replace your cash. This isn't to say you shouldn't bring any cash, but as a general rule of thumb we would suggest purchasing most things with an alternative payment form. If nothing else, it keeps record of if for future review (which may or may not be a good thing - 'Those earrings cost how much?')
Planning your trip Online
Whether you are a fan of the internet or not it is arguably one of the greatest tools available in the world today. Entire companies are built upon it, as was our own originally for over four years, and it has become a great asset for travel planners everywhere.
Online travel companies like Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Orbitz.com, etc offer travelers the chance to book every aspect of their vacation in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. Your flight, rental car, and accommodations can all be booked together to save you even more money. Plus, you can mix and match various combinations of flights and rooms to create the perfect deal for you.
Our favorite online company to book through is Expedia. We've used them for countless trips and every time been pleased with their services. While a rarity to have to call and talk with customer support, even that was a pleasant experience, and we were helped courteously and quickly. Expedia now also offers additional 'activity packages' during your checkout, including the option to be greeted with a lei at island airports. While always wise to compare prices, we have found that most of their 'activity packages' are reasonably priced in comparison to other companies.
If you're looking for more information on our favorite activities, see our 'Top Activities' and "Must See and Do" section on each island.
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