Hawaii: How To Travel Between Islands – Inter-Island Hopping

Hawaii is a place full of majestic not just one but several Hawaiian islands to visit. When you go to Hawaii, island hopping is a must for you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty that this amazing place has to offer.

With the growing demand for traveling from one island to another, the good news is there are several convenient ways for you to travel with the established routes and comfortable transport.

As long as you have an ample amount of time for your vacation plus an extra budget, inter-island hopping is an extraordinary experience that will have you completely enchanted by the natural beauty of the Hawaiian paradise.

To guide you in your escapades, we have prepared all the necessary information on how to travel between the Hawaiian Islands.

Below are the pieces of information that you need to know to do inter-island escapades in the lovely Hawaiian Islands.

How Many Islands Can You Visit in Hawaii?

Before you start your Hawaii island hopping trip, first you need to know the number of islands that you can visit in Hawaii to plan your time better.

All the Hawaiian islands are 137 in total out of which are 8 major Hawaiian islands and the rest are smaller islands but not all can be visited.

Local tourists and international travelers are only allowed to island-hop in Hawaii among six Hawaiian islands namely Maui, Lanai, Kauai, Molokai, Oahu, and the Island of Hawaii or also known as the Big Island.

The other two uninhabited islands Niihau and Kahoolawe are forbidden to be visited because these islands serve as critical habitats for endangered species and to preserve the heritage of these islands.

Flying Between Islands

Now that you have the information about the Islands that you can visit, the most frequent mode of how to island-hop in Hawaii is by flying in either a helicopter or an airplane between islands in Hawaii.

Airplane Flights

Air travel to different Hawaiian islands

One of the most efficient ways to travel between islands is by airplane. The major airports with frequent flights in Hawaii that you should know of for your Hawaiian island hopping are Kona International Airport, Honolulu International Airport, and Hilo International Airport.

There are other airports on multiple islands too such as Lihue Airport, Molokai Airport, Hana Airport, and Kapalua Airport.

Inter-island flights are mostly dominated by Hawaiian Airlines but Southwest Airlines offer impressive deals for flight to the Big Island, Kauai, or Maui.

The other airlines that offer direct flights for island hopping in Hawaii are Mokulele Airlines, Makani Kai Air, and Lanai Air.

You can take direct flights for your inter-island travel in the islands of Hawaii by booking at one of these airlines but the destinations can be limited to certain places, especially for the smaller airlines.

When you travel with Hawaiian Airlines as your choice, you should consider signing up for the Hawaiian Miles Loyalty program. You can exchange the unused points for Hilton Honors Points that you can pay for your hotel stay anywhere in the world. Here are the places for flights with Hawaiian Airlines:

  • The Big Island through Kona Airport and Hilo Airport.
  • Maui through Kahului Airport.
  • Oahu through Honolulu International Airport.
  • Kauai through Lihue Airport.

Southwest flies to similar islands that Hawaiian Airlines flies to. You can earn Rapid Reward Points for booking flights that you can redeem for any Southwest Airlines flight. Here is the list of inter-island flights for Southwest Airlines:

  • Oahu through Honolulu International Airport.
  • Kauai through Lihue Airport
  • Maui through Kahului Airport
  • The Big Island through Kona Airport and Hilo Airport

Mokulele Airlines on the other hand provides the only option for Hawaii island hopping flights to Molokai and Lanai. Aside from the mentioned places, the other islands where Mokulele Airlines flies to are:

  • Oahu
  • Maui
  • The Big Island.

Aside from taking direct flights between the islands, there are airplane tours for your great Hawaii island-hopping adventure. You will get to see the breathtaking aerial view of a Hawaiian island of your choice from up above.

The Best Hawaiian Airplane Tours

Oahu to Big Island – Fly to the Volcanoes National Park

Washin Air Honolulu Airplane Sightseeing Scenic Flight Tour

Volcano Sightseeing Flights from Kona

Helicopter Flights in Hawaii

Island hopping in Hawaii via helicopter tours

One of the most enthralling ways to travel between Hawaii islands is by riding a helicopter.

A helicopter flight will give you an aerial perspective of an island that you can’t experience if you are on land or by boat.

You will be able to see the lush green mountains, beautiful sandy beaches, and stunning coastline while flying in a helicopter.

There are different helicopter tour companies that you can choose from that offer different kinds of packages for flights between the islands depending on your preference.

The most common type of helicopter tour is the circle island tour which will give you a complete view of the island that you are visiting.

Please note that helicopter tours do not allow you to bring your suitcase as you will depart the island once as designated by your tour schedule.

The Best Hawaiian Helicopter Tours

Kauai Eco Adventure Flight from Lihue

Majestic West Mountains, Waterfalls & Molokai Helicopter Tour

Taking a Ferry Service Between Islands

Ferry service to travel between islands in Hawaii

Ferry service to your Hawaiian island choice is another thrilling way to island hop in Hawaii. You may get a chance to see dolphins or humpback whales on your sea travel on top of the calming ocean view on your ay to an island of Hawaii.

This is also a great option for those who want to avoid flying and want to take a more leisurely approach to island hopping in Hawaii. It is important to remember that the ferry service is only for people and not for cars.

The most common type of ferry service available for your Hawaiian vacation is the Maui to Lanai Ferry which is pretty convenient if you are on a Maui vacation and just looking for a relaxing day trip island-hopping adventure.

The Maui to Lanai Ferry will take you on a short 30-minute ride from Maui to Lanai. The ferry runs between Manele, Lanai, Lahaina, and Maui.

From Maui, the following are the departure times of travel you can book:

  • 6:45 am
  • 9:15 am
  • 12:45 pm
  • 3:15 pm
  • 5:45 pm

From Lanai, the following are the departure times of travel you can book:

  • 8:00 am
  • 10:30 am
  • 2:00 pm
  • 4:30 pm
  • 6:45 pm

The best way to enjoy this ride on a ferry between Hawaiian islands is by bringing your food and drink and enjoying the scenery as you cruise through the waves to your final destination.

Recommended Ferry Deals

Maui to Lanai Ferry Boat Shuttle from Lahaina Harbor & Manele Bay

Lanai Snorkel Tour – Maui to Lanai Day Trip (from Lahaina Harbor)

Booking a Cruise to Travel Between Hawaiian Islands

Cruise options to travel between islands in Hawaii

Booking a cruise is another fantastic way of traveling between Hawaii islands.

This is a great option especially if you are looking for an all-inclusive vacation where your accommodation, food, and activities are already taken care of.

One of the advantages of booking a cruise for island hopping in Hawaii is that you will be able to visit multiple islands in one trip and experience different kinds of activities on each island.

You can also take advantage of the different kinds of amenities that are available onboard the cruise ship such as the swimming pools, spas, and fitness centers.

The downside of booking a cruise is that you will be limited to the schedule of the cruise ship so it is important to do your research before booking a cruise.

The most common type of cruise that visits the Islands in Hawaii is the 7-day roundtrip cruise from Honolulu.

Recommended Cruise Deals

7 Day Cruise from Honolulu Round-Trip

Royal Caribbean International

Norwegian Cruise Line

Length of Time to Travel Between Islands

Traveling between the islands varies depending on the mode of transportation you are on. The fastest way is via an airplane which takes around 30 minutes to an hour between flights.

The next fastest way is through a helicopter tour which takes around 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the tour you choose. The slowest way is taking a ferry ride that can take up to 2 hours depending on the ferry schedule.

Cost to Travel Between Islands

The cost of traveling between the islands also varies depending on the mode of transportation you choose.

Flying is the most expensive option with rates starting at $70 per person but if you book ahead you can get some food deals. The next most expensive option is taking a helicopter tour which can start at $150 per person.

The least expensive option is taking a ferry ride which can start at $30.

For cruises, the starting amount per person for a 7-day trip costs around $1680.

Island Hopping Tips

There are a few things you need to take note of before starting your inter-island hopping adventure in Hawaii as follows:

Check the Weather Forecast

The first thing you need to do is check the weather forecast of the island destination that you are planning to visit.

The ideal time to visit most of the Hawaiian islands is between mid-April and early December when the weather is sunny and dry.

But if you are planning to visit the Big Island, the best time to go is from late April until early November.

The reason behind this is that the Big Island experiences wetter weather than other islands in Hawaii due to its location near the ITCZ or Intertropical Convergence Zone.

The ITCZ is an area where the north and south trade winds come together which also happens to be the breeding ground for several hurricanes.

That is why it is important to check the weather forecast of your planned island destination to avoid getting stranded in a hurricane.

Check the Prices of Airfare and Accommodation

The second thing you need to do is to check the prices of airfare and accommodation in your planned island destination.

The reason behind this is that the prices of these two essentials tend to go up during the peak season which is from mid-December to early April.

So, if you are planning to visit Hawaii during the off-peak season, you can save a lot of money on airfare and accommodation.

Check the prices of Inter-Island Flights

The third thing you need to do is to check the prices of inter-island flights.

The reason behind this is that the prices of these flights tend to go up during the peak season which is from mid-December to early April.

So, if you are planning to visit Hawaii during the off-peak season, you can save a lot of money on airfare.

Plan your Itinerary

The fourth thing you need to do is to plan your itinerary.

The reason behind this is that you need to know which island you are going to visit first and which island you are going to visit last.

You also need to know how many days you are going to spend on each island.

The best way to do this is by using a map of Hawaii.

Mark the islands that you are planning to visit and plan your route from one island to another.

Recommended Time on Each Island to Explore all Tourist Spots

If you have enough time on your great Hawaiian vacation and would want to know how long it will take to explore all the possible lovely sights on each island of Hawaii then this is for you. Below are the recommended times of stay on each island to immerse yourself in the beauty each island has to offer:

  • Oahu – 3 days
  • Maui – 2 days
  • Big Island – 3 days
  • Kauai – 2 days
  • Molokai – 2 days
  • Lanai – 2 full days

There you go, all the helpful information that you need for your island hopping adventure in the Hawaiian Islands. By now you should know how to travel between islands in Hawaii, enjoy your stay!

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Article by Kyle

Digital nomad since 2010. I spend my time traveling around the world learning about new cultures and languages. I've lived in 4 continents and still have a lot left to explore!