If you’re visiting Hawaii for the first time, it can be a bit overwhelming to choose where to go and when. This gorgeous island chain offers a wide variety of experiences and attractions, and it helps to have the inside scoop and a handy guide that can help you make the most of your trip.
Now that you’ve read the best island to visit in Hawaii for first time visitors, this is companion guide to offer you heaps of helpful information hot tips, and useful advice to plan your trip to Hawaii.
Read more about Hawaii
- Honolulu 2 day itinerary
- Best waterfall hikes on Oahu
- Ultimate 5 day Maui itinerary
- Where is the best area to stay in Maui?
- 13 best beaches in Kona
- Best snorkeling on Big Island
- Kauai in 3 days
- Best luau in Kauai
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Here's what we're covering:
- Visiting Hawaii for the First Time
- Overview of each Hawaiian island
- Frequently Asked Questions
Visiting Hawaii for the First Time
If you’ve always wanted to visit Hawaii and are finally getting ready to make it a reality, you’re no doubt aware that in addition to plenty of excitement, there are also a lot of decisions that need to be made – when to travel, where to go, and how to get around when you’re in the destination. We know how much research and work is involved when visiting Hawaii for the first time.
By using our handy guide, you’ll save yourself plenty of time and stress.
If you’ve started researching flights to Hawaii, you may have discovered that the islands offer a variety of airports. Some islands have more than one airport, and while one may seem more convenient at a glance, it might not be that way in reality.
It’s recommended to always fly into the bigger airports for a few reasons. Number one, you’re likely to have more flight options to choose from. Secondly, the majority of hotels and resorts are usually within easy reach of the major airport.
Most travelers visiting Hawaii for the first time choose to fly to Honolulu on Oahu and then move around from there. Be aware though, that flying to the smaller islands can often involve small, propeller planes.
Activities you want to do
Hawaii is a paradise for outdoor adventures. From snorkeling and hiking to sailing and helicopter flights, there’s a wide range of activities to choose from.
On your first trip to Hawaii, it can be tempting to leave it all up to chance and go where the wind takes you, but if you’re going to make the most of your time on the islands, it’s advisable to do your research and planning on booking things to do in Hawaii well in advance.
One piece of handy advice is to schedule your most important activities early on. A lot of things to do in Hawaii are weather-dependent and may have to be postponed as a result. By planning these early on, you can always reschedule if needed. You don’t want to run out of time to reschedule that must-see experience you had your heart set on.
Booking ahead wherever possible is also highly recommended, especially if you’re visiting Hawaii for the first time in the busiest period. Not only does this ensure you won’t miss out, but it saves you from frittering away your precious vacation time waiting in long queues.
Best time to visit Hawaii
Truthfully, there’s never a bad time to visit Hawaii. That said, depending on the experience you wish to have, certain times of the year can be better than others. When planning your first visit to Hawaii, you want to research the weather and busiest seasons so you can plan accordingly.
Certain times of year are busier than others. School vacation periods tend to be busier in terms of tourist numbers (March, and June to August). Early to mid-December is the quietest period in Hawaii but there’s a spike in tourism around the Christmas and New Year period to be aware of.
If you’re looking for the sweet spot when crowds and costs are low, but the weather is pleasant, then the best time to visit Hawaii is during May and September, as well as April and October.
Cheapest month to visit Hawaii
If you’re visiting Hawaii for the first time on a budget, you’ll be looking for the most affordable time to visit. The increased demand during busier seasons results in an increase in costs. So, if you’re looking to get more bang for your buck, try visiting in the quieter periods.
Spring (April and May) and autumn (September to mid-November) offer reasonable prices, fewer crowds, and generally good weather.
How long should you visit Hawaii?
To really get the most out of your trip when visiting Hawaii for the first time, it’s recommended to plan for a minimum of around ten days.
It’s recommended to see at least two islands per trip. The general rule of thumb is to dedicate between four and seven days per island, especially for your first visit to Hawaii, to allow you enough time to explore.
Which Hawaiian Island has the best beaches
If you’re looking for sprawling, wide beaches of golden sand, lapped by turquoise waters, then Oahu is the destination for you, with Maui coming a close (and less crowded) second.
Oahu is known for its popular beaches on the North Shore, Waikiki, Lanikai Beach, and Hanauma Bay.
Which is the cheapest island in Hawaii to visit
Oahu offers the best value among all the Hawaiian Islands for tourists. There is a wide range of accommodation options to choose from, as well plenty of activities, attractions, and bookable tours to enjoy, ensuring you can always find a deal.
In addition, Oahu offers excellent public transport to save you on car rental fees too.
Renting a car in Hawaii
While most islands in Hawaii offer some form of public transport, you may find yourself needing to hire a car for part of your vacation. While Oahu has a great public transport system which makes getting around a breeze, other islands are best explored in a rental car, like Maui, Big Island, and Molokai.
Generally, renting a car in Hawaii is relatively inexpensive, with 4x4s costing slightly more. Be prepared for slightly higher gas prices in Hawaii than on the mainland, with some islands having even higher gas prices. Molokai and Lanai have the highest gas prices.
If you’re considering renting a car on your first visit to Hawaii, it’s best to book in advance. Especially if you’re visiting in the busy season when the demand is high and rental agents often sell out.
Overview of each Hawaiian island
Can’t decide which islands to include when visiting Hawaii for the first time? We’ve summarized each island below to give you an idea of what to expect to help you plan which island to visit in Hawaii.
Sometimes referred to as ‘The Gathering Place’, Oahu is the third-largest island and the most populated island in the chain. The island offers a unique mix of East and West, as well as a variety of distinctive regions, and is the best island to visit in Hawaii for first-time visitors.
From big city living in Honolulu, the historic Pearl Harbor, and Waikiki’s beaches to the rugged North Shore, there’s plenty to see and explore here.
Also, don’t discount how green it is on the island with the best trails near Honolulu and waterfalls you can hike to.
Maui is also known as the ‘Valley Isle’ and is known for the sacred Iao Valley, incredible postcard-perfect beaches (some offering great snorkeling sites), and amazing whale watching. Explore bamboo forests, waterfalls, volcanic craters, and iconic red and black sand beaches.
Some of the most popular things to do are the sunrise at Haleakala National Park and driving the Road to Hana.
As the second most visited island, there’s a wide range of accommodation, shopping, dining, and activities in Maui to choose from.
This lush paradise is also known as ‘The Garden Isle’. From Napali Coast’s jagged, forested cliffs to lovely beaches and waterfalls – one of the best ways to explore the island’s natural beauty is on a hike or on a helicopter flight overhead. Kauai offers a more rustic experience than Oahu and Maui.
Swim, snorkel, and suntan on Poipu Beach, see the Kilauea Lighthouse, hike through Kokee State Park, or take to a kayak on the Wailua River for all the adventure you can handle.
The youngest and largest island in the chain is not as green as other islands. Instead, it offers unique lava landscapes and an active volcano, as well as white sand beaches, waterfalls, and towering mountains.
Discover the geological wonders at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the lush tropical valley of Hilo, and the unbelievable black sands of Punaluu Beach on Big Island.
MORE RESOURCES ON BIG ISLAND
Must-see Big Island waterfalls
Offering a handful of luxurious resorts contrasted with rugged, off-the-beaten-path adventures, Lanai may be the smallest island but it’s not short on adventure. From secluded beaches, world-class golf, hiking, and horse-back rides, there’s no shortage of activities on Lanai.
MORE RESOURCES ON LANAI
Home to the highest sea cliffs in the world, Molokai is only 38 miles long and 10 miles across at its widest point. Offering an authentic experience of the traditional Hawaiian lifestyle, the island is the most unaffected by mass tourism.
Explore the cliffs leading to Kalaupapa National Historical Park or discover Papohaku Beach, outdoor adventures abound here.
MORE RESOURCES ON MOLOKAI
Frequently Asked Questions
If it’s your first time visiting Hawaii, Oahu will feel like a must although it’s entirely okay to break from that norm and start with Maui. Kauai is a favourite for most though so make sure you consider that island. Lastly, there’s the Big island if you want to see the volcanoes and the most rugged of terrain.
When you go to Hawaii for the first time, you’ll want to do it all but our advice is to plan your trip according to how many days you have and what you’re more interested in as you evaluate each island. Two islands is a great combination for a first trip with popular ones being Oahu + Maui or Oahu + Big Island.
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