Hawaii Island Hopping Tips

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Hawaii Island hopping is a common desire for vacationers, and while it’s possible, there are some important considerations to remember.

Hawaii Island hopping has evolved over the years, and it’s no longer as simple as hopping on a plane on a whim. “Back in the day,” you could come to Hawaii and decide to go to another island more easily while here. Visitors could purchase island-hopping packages and jump around at will! Planning in advance is recommended now due to potential limitations in flight availability and the possibility of higher costs if you wait until you arrive in Hawaii. Additionally, since Hawaii is in such demand, finding affordable accommodations at the last minute in the best areas is an issue. That said, if you’re flexible with your flight times and hotel choices, you can still enjoy the spontaneity of island hopping.

Airline Carriers

inter island hopping
Hawaii and Southwest are the primary inter-island carriers.

The only way to get between the islands is by plane. The two leading carriers for Hawaii Island Hopping are Hawaiian and Southwest Airlines. Mokulele Airlines is a smaller commuter airline that offers service to Molokai and smaller airports in the island chain. Southwest uses larger planes, flying the 737 MAX, accommodating 174 passengers. Hawaiian uses mostly Boeing 717-200s, which seats 123-128 passengers. Both airlines offer referred seating, but since the flights are so short, First-class eating is unnecessary for most people.

Hawaii’s Airports

While there are eight Hawaiian islands, visitors who want to opt for Hawaii island Hopping can only travel to six, so ensure you book the correct airport to avoid the common mistake of ending up at the wrong one. These are the available airport sand codes.

haw2013 map
Hawaii’s Airports

Oahu HNL (Honolulu International Airport)
Maui OGG (Kahului Airport)
Maui Kapalua JHM (West Maui Airport) *Very limited service
Maui Hana HMN Airport *Very limited service
Kauai LIH Lihue Airport
Kailua Kona KOA (Big Island)
Hilo ITI Hilo Airport (Big Island)
Lanai LNY Lanai Airport *Very limited service

Pricing Considerations

Prices can be competitive and typically range from $60 to $110 per hop, depending on flight times. Generally, the least expensive flights are early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Hawaiian Airlines has the most flights, offering 170 per day, while Southwest offers 90. If you plan to check into your hotel later, a morning flight will allow you to engage in an activity before checking in, typically around 3 p.m. The choice of airport can also impact your travel experience, so understanding the proximity of airports to your hotel is important. Using a local travel company for scheduling can help ensure a smoother experience.

Flying to another Island for the Day

Another option for Hawaii vacationers is island hopping packages, allowing you to fly to another island, pick up a rental car, and return on the same day. This works well if you want to visit the Hilo side of the Big Island, especially if the volcano is active. Hawaii’s islands are relatively close, with flights taking as few as 20 minutes. It’s recommended that you plan this well before you arrive in the islands, rather than trying to do it on the fly when you get here, because you may need more time to get the flight you want or secure reservations for activities due to availability issues.

Multi Island Packages

Multi-island destination packages are highly recommended for travelers with a week or more of vacation time. They offer a diverse experience of Hawaii and the opportunity to explore more than just one island. If you plan on visiting two islands, choose ones that contrast with each other since Hawaii’s islands have very different topographies. It would be best to spend at least four nights on each island. If you want to see all the islands, you should plan to be here for a minimum of 10 nights and 11 days.

While it’s tempting to wish for teleportation to make travel easier and cheaper, the memories and experiences gained through travel are always priceless. Exploring multiple Hawaiian islands can provide a rich and rewarding vacation experience despite the costs and logistics involved.

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