Find out how many islands to visit based on how many travel days you have.
General: DIY / How-To
How many islands should you try and visit during your Hawaii vacation? This is a common question among new visitors as well as returning visitors. While there is no right or wrong answer here, as a lot depends on your travel style, but we'll give you some guidelines to go by.
Big airports suck up precious time
The problem with inter-island travel is just the amount of time you lose in transit. It takes time to pack your stuff up, check out of a hotel, get to the airport, return a rental car, get through security, and get on the plane. From there you have flight time and then have to get bags, get a rental car or shuttle, travel to the new hotel, check in, and unpack. That adds up to 4-6 hours of lost time which, for most, will mean losing at least a half day of vacation fun. Don't forget the stress that traveling adds!
We don't recommend inter-island travel unless you have enough total vacation time on the islands to make it worth your while. How much time is needed? Let's map it out.
1 WeekTraveling to Hawaii for just a week or less? Pick your island and stick with it! You'll find plenty to do on any the main islands for an entire week. A week on Lanai or Molokai is likely a bit too much time for most unless you're really into exploring (or relaxing).
2 WeeksIf you're coming to the islands for around two weeks then you have plenty of time to travel to two islands. You can split it up evenly or maybe spend 5 nights on one island and the rest on another depending on what you want to see more of.
3 WeeksYou've got around 3 weeks to spend? Lucky you! This is enough time to spend on 3 islands. If you're a power vacationer then you could do 3 islands and do a day trip to Lanai or Molokai as well.
4 Weeks Or MoreWhat sort of work are you in that you can take 4 weeks off? We may want to change jobs! If you have 4 weeks or more to spend in the islands then Hawaii is your oyster. You can easily visit 4 to 5 islands in that amount of time. You might consider spending a week on the 4 main islands and then doing a day trip to Molokai or Lanai (or both!).
What About Day Trips?Day trips are a great way to get a quick taste of another island. Inter-island flights are easy to get and usually cheap. Leave early in the morning and come back in the evening or late at night. Since you don't have to pack bags and deal with rental cars (use shuttles or taxis) it's not as big of a deal as staying on multiple islands.
The downside is that it's hard to get a full taste of another island in just a day. If I were to do an inter-island day trip I'd probably go to a smaller island like Lanai or Molokai and do some tours and activities that they offer. Or maybe rent a car when you arrive and just drive around and explore the island for a day. Airports on these smaller islands are also often very quick and easy to deal with in terms of TSA security (meaning, lines are usually short compared to larger airports).
Another good day trip option is taking the ferry from Maui to Lanai. You don't have to deal with airports and the trip itself is part of the fun.
Bottom LineThis is all just meant as a guide. Inter-island travel sucks up a lot of your precious vacation time so make sure you have enough overall time. If you don't, stick with one island for maximum enjoyment. On the flip side, there is nothing wrong in staying on a single island no matter how long your vacation is. Either way, make sure to factor in time to rest and relax or that fun vacation may not be as fun as you'd hoped. Next up, you're probably asking Which Hawaiian Island Should I Visit?
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