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The Ultimate Hawaii Travel Guide

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

Heavenly Hawaii: the only state in the United States of America that is made up entirely of islands (137 to be precise).

From the thriving capital of Honolulu to the rugged landscapes of Maui, each of the seven inhabited islands offer variety for natives and non-natives alike.

Got a trip to the Aloha state pencilled in the diary or plan to venture there at least once in your life but not sure what to do, where to stay or where to eat? Not to worry - I’ve got you covered.

Having recently spent a week amongst the many palm trees, sandy beaches and long rolling hills, read on for my ultimate Hawaii travel guide.

How to Get to Hawaii

First thing’s first, getting to Hawaii can be tricky due to its remote location in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean.

That said, it’s totally worth the trip!

US residents can fly direct from Los Angeles’ LAX airport with Hawaiian Airlines and be in Honolulu within six hours. Canadians, on the other hand, can fly direct to Honolulu with a range of airlines (such as Delta, Air Canada and WestJet) and get there in six hours and twenty minutes.

How to Get Around Hawaii

Even though seven Hawaiian islands are inhabited, only four are frequently visited by national and international tourists: the Big Island, Oahu, Maui and Kauai.

To get from one to the other, you have to take an inter-island flight by Mokulele or Hawaiian Airlines, which takes between 20 and 50 minutes.

Don’t like the idea of having to get on another plane? No worries - Molokai and Lanai can also be reached by ferry from Maui.

Getting Around Each Island

Once you’re on one of the four main islands, you might want to take advantage of the multiple inter-island bus tours that Hawaii has to offer.

Prefer arranging your own transportation? That’s okay - you can opt for shuttle buses, taxis, Uber or public transportation instead.

Having said that, I suggest renting a car to see and do as much as you can during your time in the Aloha state. My boyfriend and I got a Jeep via Avis Car Rental for every day of our trip apart from our two-year anniversary.

On this day, we drove around in a Polaris Slingshot via Turo Rental, which I highly recommend to everyone. It was the best experience!

Where to Stay in Hawaii

You can find an abundance of accommodation options in Hawaii, no matter which island you choose to travel to.

Personally, I usually prefer to stay in a hotel or Airbnb, but we opted for an Airbnb for this vacation. (Click here to get $45 off your first Airbnb stay!)

Why? Well, because we were there during high season and all hotel prices had tripled as a result! Not cool.

What to Do in Hawaii

As there are different islands to explore in Hawaii, deciding how to spend your time can feel a little overwhelming. I get it.

(And if I was creating a Hawaii travel guide for all of them, we’d be here all day!)

Having said that, I managed to squeeze in the following activities during our seven days and six nights in Oahu (and so can you!):

- Ala Moana Centre (great and vast shopping mall)

- Diamond Head (volcanic cone that is sure to wow)

- Halona Blowhole (rock formation and blowhole off of Hanauma Bay)

- Snorkelling at Hanauma Bay (you can see everything from colourful tropical fish to green sea turtles in the waters here)

- Makapu’u Point Lookout (you can hike to the lighthouse which takes 30 minutes)

- Lanikai Pillbox (this hike provides a panoramic view of Lanikai Beach in North Shore)

- Waikiki Aquarium (a special look into Hawaiian aquatic life and the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean)

- Fireworks and live music at Barefoot Beach Cafe (the fireworks happen every Friday close to Hilton hotel in Honolulu around 7:45 PM for 15 mins)

- Consolidated Theatre (for movie night)

- Jurassic Park Tour on Kualoa Ranch (check out this 4000-acre movie location on the North Shore which is also a working cattle ranch)

In addition to the above, be sure to hit up the below beach spots:

- Ala Moana Regional Park (a pretty park on the edge of the beach)

- Waikiki Beach (one of the most popular beaches in Oahu)

- Sandy Beach Park (where you can find strong waves for surfing)

- Lanikai Beach (try out the different food trucks on the North Shore while you’re there, especially famous Giovanni’s Shrimp and Ray’s Kiawe Broiled Chicken)

- Turtle Bay (where you can often spot turtles)

Needless to say, each and every one of them truly took my breath away for a different reason.

Where to Eat in Hawaii

Finally, what’s a Hawaii travel guide without a list of food recommendations? Exactly - nothing.

That’s where I come in. (All my fellow foodies, rejoice!)

If you love Korean and Japanese cuisine, I highly recommend the following restaurants in Honolulu:

- Sura Hawaii

- Marukame Udon Waikiki

- Shirokiya Japan Village

- Musubi Cafe Iyasume for breakfast

- Ginza Barium Tonkatsu

Alternatively, if it’s authentic poke (a much-loved Hawaiian dish) or fresh seafood you’re after, try one (or some) of the below in Honolulu:

- Ahi Assassins Fish Co

- Ono Seafood (this was my fave!)

- Foodland (a supermarket that provides fresh and cheap poke daily)

- Poke Bar (this is a franchise present in Vancouver but the Honolulu one is fresher)

- KCC Farmers Market (for grilled abalone on Tuesdays and Saturdays)

Oh, and if you’re a coffee shop lover and want to know the best Hawaiian hotspots for a hot cup of joe, donuts and yummy Acai bowls, look no further than the following:

- Coffee Gallery (North Shore)

- Island Brew Coffee House

- Hawaiian Crown

- Nalu Health Bar & Cafe

- HiBlend Health Bar

- Leonard’s Bakery

Put it this way: it’s impossible to go hungry or thirsty when you’re in the Aloha state!

Making the Most of This Hawaii Travel Guide

Figuring out the logistics of Hawaii can feel challenging as a new visitor, which is why I wanted to make life easier for you with this Hawaii travel guide.

Whether you choose to follow all of my recommendations or just pick a few that suit you best, one thing’s for sure: you’re bound to have an amazing time in a place that truly feels like paradise on earth.

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