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#TravelTuesday Q&A: How Many Islands To Visit on a Hawaii Vacation

Hawaii Vacation | Kauai, Hawaii

Q: Hi Playground, I’m planning a vacation to Hawaii for my family of four (husband and I and my two surfing teens, ages 15 and 19). We’ve got 10 days total, including travel time from New Jersey. It’s our first times visiting and I want to visit three islands, but I heard that might be too many? I’d love to see the volcanoes and maybe Pearl Harbor and get out and explore. What do you think? ~ Thanks! MR

Related: #TravelTuesday Q&A: Beachside Getaways in Waikiki, Hawaii

A: Hello MR, You’ve come to the right place to talk Hawaii!

I love the tropical Aloha State and I’ve been talking to lots of other families who are adding the tropical Pacific Ocean state to their travel calendars.

Hawaii Vacation |  Waikiki, Hawaii. Waikiki Beach at Hilton

I’m also the editor of Frommer’s Easy Guide to Hawaii, and our official guidebook advice is one island per week. Now I know it seems like you have two weeks to travel, but remember that you’re going to have a travel day on either side of that 10 days (it’s a minimum of 11 hours to get from the East Coast to Oahu), so now you’re looking at 8 days in paradise. Since there are no boats between islands (except for the ferries to Maui’s out islands, Lanai and Molokai), you’ll have to fly — which means paying for four inter-island airfares, and most likely renting a car every time you land to explore the island (this is the norm unless you want to stay put at a resort, which it doesn’t seem like you do).

With all of that said, though, I think you could squeeze in two islands in that time and still have time to enjoy the beaches and gorgeous blue waters of these island paradises.

Hawaii Vacation |  USS Arizona Memorial Hawaii
An aerial view of Pearl Harbor showing the USS Arizona Memorial on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. This memorial marks the location where more than 1,000 sailors and Marines were killed on the battleship USS Arizona (BB 39) during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan/Released)

My suggestion would be to fly direct into Oahu from Newark on United (that’s a nonstop, 11 hour flight). Tip: Book your USS Arizona, Pearl Harbor Memorial tickets before you leave home; they always sell out. Then spend a day on the urban beaches of Waikiki, which your teens will love for its surf and sand.

Hawaii Vacation |  Volcanoes National Park Hawaii
Lava lake in Halema‘uma‘u Crater at Volcanoes National Park (credit: NPS/J. Wei)

Next, hop a plane to the Big Island to see Volcanoes National Park, the only active volcanos in the United States park system. The drive from Kona, where most hotels are located, to the park is about 3 hours, so plan on spending the entire day on your volcanic expeditions.

One other suggestion: Add Maui to a Big Island itinerary to visit Haleakala National Park, a dormant volcano. Maui also offers lots of fun adventure activities for teens (surfing, snorkeling, zip lining, horseback riding)

Have a great vacation!

 Have a family travel question?
Email Melissa at
Photo Credit: VisitMaui/Maui Tourism


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