Surfer riding a blue wave on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii


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Most of the state’s accommodation is on the island of Oahu in Waikïkï, a city with great nightlife and busy beaches. On the island’s North Shore, surfers from around the globe come to ride the huge suicidal looking waves that pound the shoreline.

Beach bums in need of some rest and relaxation should head to Maui (also good for windsurfing and whale watching), while hikers looking for stunning scenery and plenty of clean air will love Kaua‘i.

Meanwhile, the Big Island is home to Kïlauea, the world’s most active volcano which has been spewing out lava since 1983.

Lana‘i is essentially a holiday home for those  with big bucks while Moloka‘i, the most traditional and homey of all the Hawaiian islands, is a good choice for travellers on a budget.

Wanderlust recommended experiences in Hawaii 

  1. Look out for the real Hawaii
  2. Hike in the forest and watch dawn from the summit of a volcano at Haleakala National Park
  3. Visit Pi‘ilanihale Heiau – a 600-year old Polynesian temple set on Maui’s dramatic coastline
  4. Feast your eyes on incredible sweeping views over the mountains at The Waimea Canyon
  5. Go whalewatching on Kaua‘i’s breathtaking Na Pali coast
  6. Hula ‘til dawn during the Kauai Polynesian Festival in May 

Wanderlust tips for travel in Hawaii

  • Moving around the islands is expensive so if you’re on a budget,  it's best to find an island you like and stick to it.
  • You might find that Moloka'i island is the cheapest destination overall for travellers.
  • Save money by eating like a local. Abandon your usual staples (box cereal, pop, anything that has to be freighted onto the island) and embrace locally caught seafood, tropical fruits and save a bundle.
  • Sparkling pineapple wine is delicious and refreshing on a hot day.
  • Locals tend to eat early, so don’t leave it too late to go out to dinner.

Further Reading

Travel in Hawaii: vital stats

  • Capital of Hawaii: Honolulu
  • Population of Hawaii: 1.3 million
  • Languages in Hawaii: English
  • Time in Hawaii: GMT – 10
  • International dialing code in Hawaii: + 1 (808)
  • Voltage in Hawaii: 110AC, 60 Hz
  • Visas for Hawaii: Hawaii visas
  • Money in Hawaii: US dollar ($). Tipping is expected in restaurants, bars and taxis. Guides appreciate a tip too. Leave about 15%. Credit cards are vital in Hawaii: you’ll need one to secure car rentals and hotel bookings. US dollar travellers cheques are widely accepted.
  • Hawaii tourist board:

When to go to Hawaii

The weather varies little year round – slightly hotter in summer (May-October), with a bit more rain in winter (November to April). 

International airport

Honolulu International Airport (HNL) – 6km from city centre

Getting around in Hawaii

With the exception of Maui, Moloka‘i and Lana‘i the Hawaiian islands are spread far apart and the only practical way of visiting several is to fly with the local airline Hawaiian (

Cars can be hired through any of the main agencies. Mopeds are more suited to island driving, especially beyond the freeways where the roads are narrow and windy. Maui in particular is great for cycling as all the major roads have cycle lanes. Public transport is minimal.

Hawaii accommodation

Accommodation in Hawaii is geared towards those with cash to spend: resort hotels are big business. One rung down the chain are the high to mid-range hotels which are worth reserving in advance.

Budget travellers will need to rely on B&Bs (nb - not all of them include breakfast) as American-style motels are virtually non-existent. The larger Hawaiian islands have at least one budget surfer hostel.

Hawaii food & drink

Hawaii has all the burger chains, pizza joints and coffee shops of anywhere else in the US, albeit with a little more pineapple thrown in.  Local specialities include laulau (pork or fish wrapped in a taro leaf).

The root of the taro plant is also used to make a sweet pudding. Hawaii has wonderful fish (and consequently very good Japanese sushi restaurants). Another simple local favourite is saimin – a clear soup packed with noodles and other goodies. Knocking back a few Mai Tais or Blue Hawai‘s is a must. Vegetarians will have little trouble.

Health & safety in Hawaii

Check with a doctor that your vaccinations are up to date and be sure to take out adequate travel insurance. If you plan to swim or surf, stick to official beaches and keep an eye out for warning flags.

Hawaii has a real problem with thefts from cars, to the point where locals often leave their doors open to avoid paying for broken windows; follow their lead by not leaving anything on display in your car.

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