Dreaming about a trip to Hawaii? We sat down with three AAA Travel Counselors—Malou Livelo of Daly City, California; Linda Baehr of Walnut Creek, California; and Margaret Haas of Redding, California—to answer your Hawaii questions so you can make this dream trip a reality.
Vacation Now: How do I know if a trip to Hawaii is right for me?
Malou: If you’re looking for a tropical destination with unlimited outdoor activities, both water- and land-based, and friendly local people, then Hawaii is right for you.
Margaret: Hawaii is America’s tropical paradise. It’s perfect for travelers who want it all—plenty of fun in the sun, water sports, hiking, sightseeing, road trips and cultural immersion.
VN: Should I visit more than one island on my trip, or stay in one place?
Malou: I always suggest that first-time visitors staying seven days or fewer visit just one island. You’re able to experience more and make the most of your time without having to rush to the next destination.
Margaret: For travelers who have more than a week to spend in Hawaii, visiting more than one island is a great plan. If you’ve never been to Hawaii, plan to spend at least three nights in Waikiki; from there, you can visit the nearby World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and enjoy the famous Waikiki Beach. Then get a true island experience by visiting one of the outer islands. I recommend no fewer than four nights on an outer island so you can see all the unique sights and do all of the unique activities there.
VN: Is cruising an option in Hawaii?
Linda: Yes. You can cruise roundtrip from San Francisco on a 15-day sailing. Or you can fly to Hawaii and go island-hopping aboard a weeklong cruise to various Hawaiian islands.
VN: What is each island known for? How do I decide which islands to visit?
Malou: Deciding which island to visit can be a tough choice. For first-timers, I recommend Oahu, which is known for the world-famous Waikiki Beach, the North Shore and the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Oahu is also the most popular destination in Hawaii. Travelers looking for a quieter Hawaii experience will enjoy Maui. There, you’ll find Ka’anapali Beach, one of the best beaches in the world, as well as the state’s highest peak in Haleakala National Park, plus world-class snorkeling and even opportunities for whale-watching from November to March. Kauai is famous for Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
Margaret: Hawaii—the Big Island, as it’s called—is famous for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Visiting the charming town of Kona (the namesake of Kona coffee), viewing petroglyphs and ancient Hawaiian fishponds or going deep-sea fishing are all popular activities on the Big Island. I also recommend adding the Dolphin Quest dolphin attraction at the Hilton Waikoloa and a visit to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens to your list. Kauai is truly the Garden Isle; it’s best known for its lush rainforests, tropical gardens and the dramatic Napali Coast, which is only accessible by boat. Kauai is also less inhabited, so it tends to be a bit quieter and more laid back. Molokai is the least visited of the islands. With fewer flights and only a handful of options for accommodations, it’s a bit more difficult to get to, but it could be perfect for you if you’re looking to get off the beaten path.
VN: When is the best time to visit Hawaii? How far in advance do I need to book?
Linda: The weather is Hawaii is usually 82 degrees year-round with occasional showers, so it’s a great destination any time. The best prices are usually available in May, October, early November and early December. December and January typically have the most rainfall, especially in Kauai. Holidays are a popular time to travel to Hawaii, so book early—at least six months out and up to 340 days in advance—for all holiday travel.
Malou: Although Hawaii is a year-round destination. Spring and fall are the best times to find smaller crowds and better prices.
VN: Can I find great deals on travel to Hawaii if I book last minute or in the off-season?
Malou: Yes. The off-season offers better deals, but keep in mind that booking last-minute often means your airfare will be more expensive.
Margaret: Finding a good deal is possible if you’re flexible on dates and interested in traveling during the off-season.