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Heading West

After three trips to Europe with my wife and her mother that were mostly planned using RS materials, and especially all of you, This time I am looking in another direction.....Hawaii. I know this is a primarily a Europe site, but this category does say "Beyond Europe" so Hawaii should count, right? Anyway, I would like to travel there in September like we did in Europe, rental car, public transportation and small hotels or B&Bs on several islands. My problem is not knowing where to start. Unfortunately there is no, but there ARE all of you and I'm hoping someone can help. Any advice or suggestions will be appreciated. Thank you.


Posted by
8586 posts

The best resource I found are the "Hawaii Revealed" series of guidebooks: Oahu Revealed, Maui Revealed, etc. They have lots of good info on Hawaii through the back door.

Posted by
10331 posts

I will second the suggestion of the Revealed books. A rental car is necessary on all islands other than Oahu. The week we spent in Waikiki we used the bus, except one day we rented a .car to drive around the island. You can even take the bus to the Polynesian Cultural Center.

How long do you plan to be there?

Posted by
3392 posts

I grew up going to Hawaii for the summer since my uncle lived there so I know the place quite well. I've gone back many times as an adult with my family so here's my two cents.
As for public transport, I wouldn't count on that. The only thing they have in most places is local bus service, "DaBus", and it's not really set up for tourists. Definitely rent a car so that you can easily get to the beautiful beaches and valleys on your own time.

When we go, we use either VRBO or airbnb to find places to stay. There are some small hotels and B&Bs scattered around. One of our favorites is on Kauai in Kilauea North Country Farms Their two cottages are next to their organic fields and you are welcome to pick and eat whatever fruit or veggies you want. They don't serve breakfast but they do bring a breakfast basket which, for us, was all we needed! This is the only place we repeatedly go back to because we usually try to find different places to stay for a new experience each time we go.
Each island has a unique flavor so you need to decide which Hawaii you want to see! Oahu is pretty built up with the bustle of Waikiki, north shore surfing, and the long winding roads around the windward side of the island. Kauai is very lush and green, much less inhabited than Oahu. Most tourists stay in Poipu so once you get out of there it's not as overrun with bermuda shorts and sunburned skin. Take a sunset catamaran cruise around the mountains on the north end of the island - one of the best things to do in Hawaii! Maui is also less inhabited but with a strong tourist infrastructure. Lahaina and Kaanapali are the touristy areas. Drive up to the dormant Haleakala Volcano to watch the sunrise, drive the crazy winding road to Hana and count the waterfalls, or go out on a boat to see the Humpback whales. The big island of Hawaii is really big. The low parts of the island are where the tourists stay, the cowboys raise cattle and ride horses in the upcountry, and you can go see the active volcanoes in Volcanoes National Park. Lots of driving because of the size of the island but a very different place from the other main islands.
All of the islands have stunning beaches. My favorites are Ke'e Beach on Kauai (beautiful views of the mountains, sea turtles in the water, and roosters on the beach) and Lanikai Beach on Oahu (sugar white sand with multi-million dollar houses inhabited by movie stars). The further south you go in the island chain, the warmer the water, and the better the snorkeling.
No matter which island (s) you pick you'll have a great time!

Posted by
2081 posts


google is your friend.

there are travel books on Hawaii too. Rick Steves doesn't have the corner on travel books.

There are also some members on here that live in Hawaii and hopefully they will chime in.

just an for your info, you can start just as you would on a trip to Europe. Its no different and as an Engineering Professor told us, "don't make it anymore difficult than it is".

This is what i discovered on my Hawaii trips but I've only been to Ohau and Kauai so far..

  • traffic in Ohau sucks and depending on where you decide to stay if you do, parking can be a PIA.
  • Waikiki is touristy, but its something to see/experience if you can.
  • If you go to pay your respects at Pearl Harbor, budgets some extra time to take the bus onto Ford Island. Note that its still an active base and the only way you can get on there (if your a civil) is by the tour bus. The USS Missouri is there along with the Air Museum.
  • i go in January where the weather is more mild but warmer than here so I don't know about Sept weather.
  • you can get puddle jumpers from island to island. the last time i went it was like a 75 USD ticket.
  • Kauai is the oldest island and is called the "Garden Island". Its also suppose to be the more quite one. So far Kauai is my favorite and i always go back there when I'm in Hawaii.
  • the last time i was in Kauai, it appeared they have a bus system. don't know how extensive it is, but i always rented a car there.
  • there are COSTCOs on Kauai, OHAU and Maui. Don't know about the other islands, but i would bet there are. In any case, if you decide to find a condo/apartment to rent, most people i know raid COSTCO for food and save $$ that way.
  • there are mosquitoes in Hawaii too.

happy trails

Posted by
10344 posts

Jim, you've already gotten good posts and should get more.
As mentioned above, there are some regular contributors to this Forum who spend a lot of time in Hawaii.

As Anita mentioned, one of the first and most important decisions to make is which island or islands to go to. Each island offers a surprisingly different mix of terrain, more population/less population, more nightlife/less nightlife, more hiking/less hiking, and so on.

There are many websites that will help you make the initial decision of which island(s).

Posted by
10331 posts

I've been to Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island (Hawaii), and have spent at least a week on each of those islands. They are all very different from each other and all offer very different things. You might want to decide just what kind of experience you're looking for. You mention going to several islands, so that would give you a nice mix. Note that the Big Island is larger than all the other islands combined, so distances are further. If you would like to take a helicopter ride while in Hawaii, the best islands for that are Kauai and the Big Island.

Posted by
244 posts

I too love the Maui Revealed books. We have been traveling to Maui for the last 10 years staying for about 2-3 months at a time in the winters. Unfortunately because of those books, what used to be "hidden finds" in Maui have now all been revealed. So now they are very touristy. We have spent time in all the Islands, with Maui being our favorite. If you want to get a glimpse of Oahu I would suggest flying into there and using public transportation to get around. Once you get into Waikiki you can walk everywhere or hop on a bus and grab a tour that leaves out of the city. I would say you only need a few days there then be on to Maui- or the Big Island, depends what your into. The beaches on Maui are amazing but if your into lava fields and rain forests I would hit the Big Island, staying on the Kona side and renting a car to get around. You will also need a car in Maui. We have stayed all over that Island with the south end- Wailea/Kihei area being our favorite, less touristy, more laid back. All the huge resorts are in Kaanapali, which is nice too but much more commercialized. The other thing I like about the south end is its not far to get to Paia or upcountry, or Maalaea. There are MANY condos to choose from. A 2 bedroom at the Mana Kai would be perfect for you guys. Its a great location and has beautiful views. But there are more economical places too- like the Maui Vista. Hope this helps. If you have any other questions feel free to ask.

Posted by
559 posts

Thanks to all of you. I went to the library and read through several of the "Reveal" guidebooks. Most interesting. I am wondering about an itinerary that would allow 3-4 nights each on Maui, Kauai and The Big Island and two nights on Oahu. In Europe it was easy to hop a train, bus or rent a car to get from point to point. What is it like getting from island to island and is it easily done? In what order should we see them and do you use open jaw tickets or just fly in and out of Honolulu? Thanks.

Posted by
10331 posts

I know that from where I live I can get a direct flight to both Oahu and Maui. Depending on where you fly from you can possibly get a direct flight to Oahu (Honolulu) or you might have to change planes. Either way, flights between the islands are frequent.

I would plan on spending a minimum of 3 nights per island, which will only give you 2 full days. You haven't said how many total nights you'll have. You would need a car everywhere except Oahu (Honolulu), as I mentioned in a previous response. I would either start or end the trip on Oahu. Other than that I would look at flight times to determine the sequence of the islands.

Posted by
5697 posts

Usually easiest to fly into Honolulu and take inter-island flghts. We have rented condos (and in fact actually owned one on Kauai for a few years but, alas, not any more) and much prefer condos to hotels. Recommend Suite Paradise for Kauai rentals at Poipu Kai -- great beach for kids.

Posted by
23420 posts

There is a Charles from Hawaii who frequently posts in General Europe. Might send him a PM.

Posted by
2528 posts

Depending on the flight times, direct flights to the island (or first island) of choice can be worthwhile rather than flying to Honolulu and then taking another flight. Personally, Honolulu and Oahu generally do not exhibit nearly as much appeal as that found on the other islands. However, the USS Arizona Memorial is a must see if you do visit Oahu.

Posted by
559 posts

Thanks to all of you for the places/things you recommended and the advice you provided. I have booked our trip to Hawaii in September, 16 days in total which will give us 14 days in the islands. My wife and her mother are thrilled. I was able to pay for our flights with United Airlines miles and six night of our lodging with Hilton points. The rest I'm still working on by looking for B&Bs and/or apartments or condos. We are excited about this trip and appreciate your help in making this so easy to put together. I'm sure I will have many other questions before we leave, but I wanted to take a minute just to say thanks. You should all be in the travel business...... come to think of it, perhaps you already are. :)