General Planning

This page discusses some general guidelines we suggest you use for planning your trip to Hawaii.

  • Give yourself enough time. We live in Minnesota, and typically face 8-10 hours of flying to get to (and from) Hawaii. Combine this with jet lag and the logistics of getting settled in, means that a week is not enough time. We try to plan our vacations for two full weeks. If you're on the west coast of the US, your travel time is much less, and a week long vacation is fine.
  • Don't try to do too many islands. There's no reason you have to visit all the islands in one trip (even if it's perhaps the only trip you'll take). For a two week vacation, two or maybe three islands are enough. For a one week vacation, stick to one.
  • The islands are bigger than you might think. The Big Island of Hawaii is big; it takes 3-4 hours to drive from one side to the other. While the other islands are smaller, you are still looking at lengthy drives to get across the island. Figure out what you want to do, and find a place to stay nearby.
  • Get some good guidebooks, and read them in advance. A lot of the best spots in Hawaii are not listed in rental car maps or brochures you'll pick up at your hotel. For example, many of the best beaches are accessible only by dirt roads, or poorly marked trails. We've provided some recommendations for good guidebooks.
  • Look for deals. We like staying at nice hotels, but have found it possible to get good deals most of the time. Some of the big resorts offer 2-for-1 room deals for families, or golf packages that discount the room. And many standard packages your travel agent will find may look like standard room rates, but include a rental car and Hawaii's exorbitant occupancy (soak the tourist) taxes.
    • Here's a great deal we stumbled into. If you are a Public TV or NPR member, you may have received a MemberCard good for local discounts (primarily at restaurants). You may not realize that you can order "travel cards" (for $6.75 handling) that gives you discounts in Hawaii and in lots of other locations. We've gotten the Hawaii card a couple, and used it 3-4 times in a couple weeks - probably saving $50-60.
  • Go anytime of the year. When our children were in school, we tended to go during the summer, but have also had good visits in the fall and spring. There is "winter" in Hawaii, characterized by possible storms (remember Hurricane Iniki) and slightly cooler temperatures. Don't confuse rain with storms. Due to the tall mountains and the east to west trade winds, the windward (eastern) sides of most of the islands tend to be plush and rainy year round, and the leeward (western) tend to be dry year round.
  • Look for local events. Some of our most memorable events have been activities oriented towards locals, not tourists. These include several craft fairs in Honolulu, a slack key guitar festival in Maui, and a Hawaiian crafts event on the Big Island. We just bumped into these, or happened to notice something in the newspaper. Check this calendar of events.