How to Plan a Trip to Hawaii

by  Melissa Klurman | Feb 13, 2020
Black-sand beach in Hawaii
Black-sand beach in Hawaii / Focqus, LLC/iStock

America’s own tropical paradise far surpasses any movie or film about the Pacific Island state when you visit in person. There are beaches in hues of red, gold, white, yellow, black, and green; sparkling waterfalls; soaring volcanoes; and colorful fish swimming in aqua waters circled by swaying palm trees.

It's not just its natural beauty that makes Hawaii so special. There’s a unique culture inherent in these islands, complete with distinct food, flora, fauna, folklore, and attractions that not only set it apart from the rest of the United States, but the world as a whole. Every island has its own special flavor, so you’ll want to keep returning to the Aloha State to sample them all.

Diamond Head Crater, Honolulu / Vito Palmisano/iStock

Things to Do in Hawaii

There are four popular tourist islands in Hawaii (Oahu, Big Island, Maui, and Kauai). Each destination offers visitors unique, bucket-list-worthy experiences.

Oahu: Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii, is located on this popular island, which is best known for the wide golden sands of famed Waikiki Beach. Here you’ll find a tidal wave’s worth of beachside hotels to base your island stay — plus restaurants, shops, and nightlife with a distinct urban tropical flare. Oahu is also known for the Pearl Harbor Memorial National Park, a moving tribute to the heroes who perished here during World War II. 

Big Island/Hawaii Island: With the largest island in the Hawaiian island chain, you get two names — and what feels like two vacations. Spend time on the reef-protected lagoons and beautiful beaches along the Kona and Kohala coasts, where you can go snorkeling and boating. Next, head to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, one of the most spectacular and unique natural areas in the United States. Here, you can witness the fiery flow of lava erupting from the still-active volcano.  

Beach in Maui / Hotaik Sung/iStock

Maui: Magical Maui is one of the most diverse (and popular) of the islands. Here you’ll find some of the best beaches in the state, including the mile-long strip of Kaanapali, bejeweled with a necklace of hotels that follow it along the coast. To the south is golden Wailea Beach, where you can spot rainbows of tropical fish and green sea turtles. At the center of the island is the spectacular Haleakala National Park, a 10,000-foot extinct volcano where the sunrise viewing has inspired so many artists. (Fun fact: Its name means “House of the Sun.”) The famed Road to Hana is a switchback passage that traverses some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Lush rainforests, wondrous waterfalls, lava tubes, and flowering gardens lead you down to the black-sand beaches on the eastern side of the island. 

Kauai: Known as the Garden Isle, Kauai is home fabulous beaches, emerald-green rain forests, and a topography so distinctive and dramatic that it served as the setting for both the Jurassic Park movies and Lost. The island also has an array of quiet beaches and quaint towns, like Hanalei. It's also an outdoor adventure paradise. Take a boat ride along the Nā Pali Coast to view cliffs and waterfalls that plunge into the sea; hike the trails at the vast Waimea Canyon (known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific); or kayak at Huleia National Wildlife Refuge

Waimea Canyon / rebelml/iStock

What to Pack for Hawaii

For the most part, Hawaii is the land of bathing suits and flip-flops. Lightweight clothing is often worn, and sundresses, t-shirts, and shorts are acceptable to wear almost everywhere (men might need long pants at upscale restaurants). However, if you’re planning to visit Haleakala National Park, Volcanoes National Parks, or other up-country areas, expect the temperature to drop enough to warrant a fleece and long pants. Planning on seeing sunrise from the top of the volcano? You’ll need a coat, gloves, and hat, too – yes, even in Hawaii!

How Far Is Hawaii from California

There are multiple direct flights from California to the Hawaiian Islands, most range from five hours (Los Angeles to Maui) to six hours (Los Angeles to Honolulu). 

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