Island Hopping in Hawaii

Although Hawaii is one U.S. state, it is made up of many islands. Each one has something different to offer visitors. As a result, it can be difficult to choose which island to go to. Fortunately, you don’t have to remain on one island if that’s not what you want out of your vacation. In fact, you can visit all of the islands during your vacation by island hopping.

Hawaii makes it easy, fast and convenient to travel between islands. The primary method of inter-island travel is by air and a number of commercial and private airlines offer rides for travelers. All flights last less than an hour which makes it easy to island hop. However, it might not be worth your efforts to visit each island if you are on a short vacation. Continue reading below to learn more about inter-island travel in Hawaii, how to do it and whether it’s worth it.

The Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii is comprised of more than 100 islands. However, only seven are inhabited and open to visitors. Read below to learn about what each island has to offer so you can better decide which ones you want to visit during your trip.

Hawaii Island

The Big Island, or what is simply known as the island of Hawaii, is the biggest island in the whole chain. It is home to three volcanoes, including the most active one in the world, Kilauea. One of the most fascinating things you’ll find about the Big Island is it has 11 climate zones. So, you will experience tons of variety when you visit the island of Hawaii.


The island of Maui is famous for its beaches. It is also home to some scenic sunrises, sunsets and highway drives. Moreover, Maui is the place to go if you want to see whales. This island is a top vacation spot and filled with luxury resorts as well as natural attractions and activities. You could say that Mauai has it all.


The small island off the coast of Maui has some of the highest cliffs in the world. It has two volcano range and the Earth’s longest fringing reef. This island is perfect for visitors who want to experience traditional Hawaiian culture as much of the population comes from Hawaiian ancestry.


Oahu is Hawaii’s most populated island as it is the center of the state’s government. Thus, it is the most modern island in the chain. It is filled with museums, nightlife, surfing competitions and cocktails. However, it still offers the tranquility of waterfalls and forests and small surf towns.


Kauai is one of the least developed islands of Hawaii. With its untouched forests and valleys, it’s no wonder it’s known as the Garden of Isle. The island is also known for its rugged mountains and coastline as well it’s breathtaking Na Pali Coast. As a result of its lush beauty, it is a perfect destination for both newlyweds and nature-lovers.


Lanai is much smaller than the other Hawaiian Islands. In fact, it is so small that Lanai City is the only town. While it originally served as a large pineapple plantation, it is now home to two resorts and golf courses. The roads on the island are unpaved and much of the original land is undeveloped and intact. This is the perfect place if you really want a getaway.


Nihau is the smallest inhabited Hawaiian island. However, it is not open to tourism, but you may be able to sign up for a tour. Currently, there are approximately 130 residents on the island. It is primarily used as a base for Navy installations and sanctuaries for sea birds.

How to Island Hop

Commuter airlines are available to guests who want to travel between islands. Mokulele, Hawaiian Airlines and Pacific Wings are the primary commercial airlines that provide inter-island flights. Unlike international airlines, these are smaller and fly specifically between the Hawaiian Islands. As a result of this specificity, travelers can easily find a suitable flight on any of these airlines.

Honolulu International Airport is the hub for all travel in and out of Hawaii. Thus, you are best off starting your journey there. When planning your logistics, you must keep an eye out for direct flights as they will be the fastest. Connecting flights can take hours. This is especially important if you are traveling from the Big Island to somewhere like Kauai as many flights connect in Oahu.

Air is the fastest way to get from one island to another. Ferries only travel from Maui to Lanai. However, if you have the time, you can take an island-hopping cruise. Before you embark on your inter-island journey, it is important to make a few important decisions:

  • Which islands you want to go to
  • The best route to take
  • How long you will be on each island
  • How long traveling will take including estimated wait times

Is it worth visiting all the islands in one trip?

Visiting all of the islands of Hawaii in one trip is an ideal plan. However, the feasibility depends on what you want to get out of the trip and how much time you have.

Many travelers visit Hawaii to get onto “island time” in which troubles melt away and stress of everyday life is forgotten. Island time is slow and encourages travelers to go with the flow and smell the roses. This can be difficult if you are running around the islands trying to see everything at once.

Frequent visitors to Hawaii suggest spending several days on one island before hopping to the next. With six full islands to discover, you could spend an entire month exploring.

If you have 30 days to vacation in Hawaii, checking out every island will allow you to create unforgettable memories. Taking your time at each island can help you get onto island time – and never want to get off.

However, if your time is limited to a one or two weeks, it may be more beneficial to either stay on a bigger island or hop two islands. This way, you can experience the differences on each island while still having time to get to know each location.