Today we are answering one of our most frequently asked questions: How Big is Hawaii? We get this a lot, because most maps of the United States present Hawaii in a little box just off the coast of California, which is very misleading.
That little box makes Hawaii seem much closer to the mainland United States than it actually is. Plus, it makes it hard to gauge its size once you get here.
So many visitors wonder if they can visit multiple islands in one day, or how they travel between the Hawaiian islands.
That’s why we’re here – to help you understand the ins and outs of Hawaii so that you can plan a fun and worthwhile vacation.
Read on to learn more about Hawaii’s size and get some great travel tips for island-hopping.
How Big is Hawaii: The Quick Answer
Hawaii has a total area of 10,970 square miles. Of that area, about 6,400 square miles are land, and 4,500 are water.
If you measure the full distance of the 135 islands of Hawaii, it stretches about 1500 miles from east to west. But it’s not nearly that far between the eight main Hawaiian islands (Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kooholawe, and Hawaii Island). In fact, it’s about 350 miles from Nihiau to Hawaii Island (the Big Island)
Hawaii’s Distance from Major Cities
One of the most interesting things about Hawaii is that it’s the most isolated populated area on Earth. Here, we are nearly 2,400 miles from California and over 3,800 miles from Japan.
The six-hour plane ride from the west coast will make you really feel Hawaii’s isolation. But how far apart are the islands once you get here?
The Distance Between Hawaiian Islands
One of the things many visitors wonder about is the distance between islands. I’ve had people ask if there is a bridge that connects the different islands. There is not – most islands are only accessible via plane ride.
So what does that mean for your vacation?
When asking how big is Hawaii, people will also ask things like, “Can I see a volcano on the Big Island one afternoon while staying in Waikiki?” Or, “Can I make dinner reservations on Maui if I’m staying in Kauai?”
It’s possible to make an impulse decision to fly to another island, but it’s also possible to get stuck there without a return flight if it is a busy holiday weekend, as a friend of mine learned. The planes fill up, and airfares increase with popularity, just like flights anywhere else.
There are also cruises that travel among the islands, but they are neither fast nor cheap.
Some tourists seem disappointed that they can’t easily visit all the islands in a week by “island hopping” on a ferry or water taxi for a few dollars.
Understanding Hawaii’s Size
To better understand the distance between the Hawaiian Islands, I compared its miles with distances in the continental US. Here’s what I found:
If we put the Big Island on Washington DC and move 350 miles up the eastern coast of the United States, Kauai/Niihau ends up near Springfield, Massachusetts.
That’s from the District of Columbia through Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and into Massachusetts.
Someone planning a vacation to Washington, D.C., would try to catch a shuttle to a town five states away. They might make it part of an overall vacation itinerary to the East Coast but would not plan to visit museums in New York City and Philadelphia on the same day, for example.
It is fun to travel to more than one island on a Hawaii vacation, and it is very possible. But Hawaii is big, so visiting different islands involves time, money, and ideally, some planning to fully enjoy.