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Hawaii Vacation Travel Tips

Hawaii license plate.

Hawaii license plate, courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson.

Overview of the Islands

Hotels and Interisland Travel – Panda Travel ® partners with numerous hotels, ranging from luxury resorts, villas and condos to more affordable accommodations. View our selection of Hawaii Hotels, with a list categorized by island to find the perfect package and savings for you. Panda ® also has great deals on Hawaii interisland travel where your interisland flights, hotel and rental car are offered in a discounted package.

Oahu – As there is so much to do on Oahu, it is important to plan ahead.  After you’ve had a chance to stroll on Waikiki Beach, and explore festive Downtown Honolulu, make sure you visit the World War II memorials. Get tickets ahead of time for Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, so you won’t face the disappointment of being turned away on busy, tourist-packed days. If you have the time, plan to leave Waikiki and Honolulu to take a Circle Island tour which will highlight the whole island for you or rent a car and travel on your own.

Part of the fun of vacationing in Hawaii is getting to enjoy the range of culinary diversity. From Polynesian foods to European and Asian flavors, Oahu has it all. Waikiki Beach has a number of great buffets of Hawaiian favorites such as fresh poke, kalua pig and lomi salmon and Duke’s Waikiki is not one you’ll want to miss. On the North Shore, you’ll need to try a serving of creatively flavored Hawaiian shave ice from unique places like Matsumoto Shave Ice in Haleiwa. While you are in the North Shore, after seeing Sunset Beach, Banzai Pipeline and other famous beaches in the area, make sure to visit Hawaii’s famous Polynesian Cultural Center, where you can listen to music, taste food and watch dances from every Polynesian culture. The options are limitless on Oahu. Find out more details on our Oahu Island page.

Couple relaxing at a waterfall, Maui

Couple relaxing at a waterfall, Maui, courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson.

Maui – Arguably one of the most popular islands in Hawaii, Maui has endless adventures to experience and tourist attractions to see. Lounge at picturesque Ka’anapali Beach or take a whale-watching cruise from the historic town of Lahaina. Explorers will want to hike Haleakala, Maui’s dormant volcano or horseback ride in Haleakala National Park. Be sure to attend an authentic Hawaiian luau, where you and your fellow visitors can learn to hula dance and enjoy freshly cooked kalua pig on a warm summer night. Take the legendary Hana Highway on the eastern side of Maui, where nearly 60 bridges and countless beautiful road-side waterfalls await you. Hike through a great succession of dreamy falls in one of Hawaii’s most stunning areas in the region, the Seven Sacred Pools. You will want to be camera-ready at all times on this island of diverse landscapes. For more details about the activities that await you in Maui, look more in-depth on our Maui Island page.

Kauai – Described as “The Garden Isle,” Kauai is one of the most unspoiled islands to visit. Take a matchless tour of the verdant Fern Grotto which begins with a river cruise up the Wailua River. If you are a hiker, be sure to venture to the western side to see Hawaii’s “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon, where few humans have ever fully explored its depths. Whether you take a kayak, hike on foot or helicopter ride over the Na Pali Coast, the ragged green mountains will take your breath away. Campers can travel through the largely unpopulated western side of the island or travel on an 11-mile journey from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach, by renting camping permits for $20 per person a night (with 5 nights maximum). For true camping enthusiasts and hikers, Hawaii’s Koke’e State Park also has strenuous but extremely rewarding trails. Film buffs can take tours on the sets of over 60 films shot on location in Kauai and there is plenty of Hawaiian history to be delved into here beginning with the Koloa Heritage trail. Start planning your trip to Kauai now on our Kauai Island page.

Big Island of Hawaii Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is definitely worth seeing, even if you are vacationing on another island. Home to the world’s most active volcano, which slowly changes the shape of the island over time, on the Big Island you can observe it all first hand. On Crater Rim Drive visitors can experience volcano-made landscapes, tropical rainforests, craters and ocean overlooks. We advise visiting the Kilauea Visitor Center to augment your trip with fun information and facts about the volcanoes. On your way back be sure to stop by a Black Sand Beach for a glimpse of the iconic ebony-colored shoreline. Visit Waipio Valley, filled with taro fields, waterfalls and glorious flowers surrounded by enormous steep mountains. Enthusiastic star-gazers can soak in celestial views at the summit of Mauna Kea. For those who want to support the “farm-to-table” philosophy in Hawaii, the Hilo Farmer’s Market is rated one of the top markets in the State. For more details about the Island of Hawaii, check out our Big Island page.

Molokai – History and nature lovers will find an abundance outdoor activities on one of least developed of all the major Hawaiian Islands. Visitors can take deep sea fishing tours offshore or do wild boar hunting excursions in the Molokai wilderness. Experience a mule ride down the winding cliffs of the island to Kalaupapa National Historical Park, which is regarded as one of the more inspirational places in Hawaii when considering the sacrifices of those who administered who were afflicted with Hansen’s disease here. Wrap up your vacation with a helicopter ride to the furthest reaches of the isle and catch a glimpse of majestic waterfalls and formidable mountains. For more information on the history of Molokai, be sure to check out our synopsis and travel details on the Molokai Island page.

Lanai – This is the perfect island to deeply rest and relax. Enjoy one of the beautiful resorts on Lanai or leisurely play golf just feet above the ocean while enjoying views of neighboring Hawaiian Islands on the horizon.

Island Activities

Itinerary – They say the more you plan, the more you maximize your vacation. Bring a list of activities you want to do, with the days and times they are booked. If you are picking up your rental car, print out all the confirmation details and carry them with you for easy reference. If you have planned a sunset cruise or surf lesson, put that on your itinerary. We have a great list of activities in Hawaii if you are running out of ideas. Bring your day-to-day list with you so nothing falls by the wayside. Even if you want to do nothing more than lounge at the beach, prioritize that on your schedule.  After all, the only thing you should have to work on is your tan.

Helicopter Tours Soar through the skies and weave through canyons and deep valleys, soaking in the landscapes and seascapes of these dynamic islands. Many say that the greatest parts of Hawaii are only visible from the air. Check out the tours you can book with Panda Travel ® for Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours.

Volcanoes National Park Watch the magma ooze and hiss as it hits the ocean and feel the thrill of seeing an active volcano change the face of the Big Island. Travelers can hike through tropical rainforests and over volcanic craters. Visiting this National Park will give you a greater interest and new respect for volcanoes after you witness some of the devastation left in their fiery wake.

Hiking, Biking and Camping Each island has innumerable hiking trails of ranging difficulty. So whether you want to bike down from the summit of Haleakala National Park or venture off on a camping trip in the mountains of Kauai, there is enough nature in Hawaii to satisfy the most outdoorsy of vacationers.

Snorkeling, Kayaking, Windsurfing and Surfing – Snorkel in Hanauma Bay, where the marine life nature reserve teems with colorful fish. Kayak through one of the many rivers on Kauai, catch the surf on the famous beaches of Oahu or take a windsurfing lesson on a breezy day on Maui.

Paddle surfer on Hawaii beach

Stand up paddle surfer. Courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson.

Travel Check List

Sunscreen – People tend to underestimate the power of the sun rays in Hawaii. Make sure you wear sun block at all times and have it ready for reapplication in your bag, as the humidity and sporadic rain showers may necessitate reapplying. There is nothing worse than a severe sunburn on vacation to keep you indoors.

Hat and Sunglasses – With as much time as you will be spending outside, you want to make sure you are ready for long hikes in the rain forests or lazy afternoons at the beach. Too much sun exposure can be exhausting, so don’t forget your bottled water and sunny weather gear.

Umbrella – It is not unusual for the tropical Hawaiian Islands to experience brief rainy spurts during the day, so be sure to bring a slicker or umbrella if you do not have a raincoat handy.

Hiking Shoes – Be sure you have a decent pair of shoes with you for the more rugged terrain of Hawaii’s mountain trails. Some places (such as the volcanic areas on the Big Island) can have very rough and sharp roads, so ensure that your feet will be properly protected.

Aloha Spirit – This may be most important of all, as it is easy to feel entitled when on vacation. Remember you are visiting someone’s home, and that you are being welcomed with the spirit of Aloha. Expect everyone you meet to be kind and you will seldom be disappointed. Attitude is everything and there is no better way to enjoy a Hawaiian holiday than beginning and ending with a smile on your face.

Awards and Affiliations

  • Hawaii's Best 2011
  • Hawaii's Visitors and Convention Bureau
  • American Society of Travel Agents
  • Authorized Disney Vacation Planner
  • CLIA
  • BBB Accredited Member
  • Globus Tour