What’s the best itinerary for Hawaii? In this article, I’ll share my itinerary for 17 awesome days on Oahu, Maui, and Big Island.
Day 1-6: Waikiki, Oahu
In this itinerary for Hawaii, we start at the airport in Honolulu. Waikiki is the place to be, Honolulu’s most famous neighborhood, filled with skyscrapers, shopping malls, and a gorgeous beach. This is the place to relax on the beach for a couple of days. My tip: go to Queens Beach, this beach is quieter compared to Waikiki Beach with all the hotels.
It’s also easy to explore the island from Waikiki. You don’t need a car, because there are plenty of buses (which is called The Bus). A day ticket will for The Bus costs you $5.50. If you want to explore the north or east side of the island, it’s easy to rent a car for a day.
Must-sees on Oahu:
– Pearl Harbor
– Diamond Head
– Hanauma Bay
– Kualoa Ranch (Many movies and television shows were filmed at this ranch, like Lost and Jurassic Park. It’s only possible to visit the ranch by tour)
– Kahuku (food trucks)
– Waimea Bay
Hostel tip $: Polynesian Hostel Beach Club
Airbnb $$: Studio op de 38e etage – Have you never booked an Airbnb? You get €25 off when you use this link for your first booking op je eerste verblijf.
Hotel tip $$$: Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Waikiki
Day 7 and 8: Road to Hana, Maui
After picking up your rental car, drive to the east and follow the signs to Hana. The road follows the northern coastline and there’s a lot to see on the road to Hana. A great stop is Ho’okipa Lookout. When I was there, I immediately saw some huge sea turtles swimming around. The more you go east, the more narrow the road gets, and there will be more curves. So take it slow! You’ll be driving in a rain forest, see lots of bamboos, and several gorgeous waterfalls. Close to the village of Hana, you’ll be able to visit Waianapanapa State Park, which has a beautiful black sand beach. Hana a cute little town, with a couple of hotels and restaurants. A great place to stay for a night or two, there is plenty to see and to do in the area. You can go snorkeling, visit some of the beautiful beaches, go hiking and explore waterfalls.
Day 9: Haleakala National Park
To get to Haleakala National Park, you have to drive back the same way where you came from. At some point, you’ll go left and follow the signs to the park. There’s a long and winding road to get to the top (make sure to get fuel before driving up there). On the top of the mountain (at 3000 meters), you’ll have a fantastic view of Maui and Big Island. The landscape in Haleakala National Park is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and it looks surreal. I highly recommend going for a short hike and follow the trail into the crater. Even if you only have 4 days in Maui, Haleakala National Park is a must see.
Day 10 and 11: Explore the southwest coast of Maui
From Haleakala National Park, you’ll drive to Wailea-Makena, a very touristic spot with lots of hotels and resorts. There are a lot of beautiful beach parks and beaches along the coast. Don’t forget to take your snorkel gear, because there are some fantastic spots for snorkeling. There are also plenty of restaurants to enjoy a good meal, but you’ll find the best food at the food trucks! The best place to stay is in Lahaina (a nice historic town) because you can easily explore the east and northern coast of Maui from here.
Day 12 and 13: Explore the North and East coast of Big Island
It’s time for the last island from this great itinerary for Hawaii: the island of Hawaii! Most people call this The Big Island because it’s the largest of all the islands. You definitely need a car to travel around this island. There are two different airports, and in this itinerary, it’s best to start from Kona Airport. From here, you’ll follow the coastline in the northern direction. On the way, you can visit several beach parks to relax.
After that, you follow the road along the northern coast in the direction of Hilo. On the way, you can make a stop at Akaka Falls State Park, a great place to look around see the beautiful waterfalls. I choose to stay in the small village of Pahoa, to enjoy the local life. If you prefer larger cities, I’d recommend booking something in Hilo. From Pahoa (and Hilo) it’s easy to explore the west coast of the island and you’ll see some of the lava that covered the island during the volcano eruption in 2018.
Day 14: Volcanoes National Park, Big Island
Volcanoes National Park is a must-see on Big Island. At some places, you’ll see steam coming from the earth, lots of craters and lava fields. It’s highly recommended to follow the Chain of Craters Road all the way to the Hōlei Sea Arch. Along the road, there are several stops with trailheads. One of my favorites was the one to Pu`u Loa Petroglyphs. Here you can see some ancient drawings in the lava rocks.
If you’ve seen it all in Volcanoes National Park, it’s time to drive down south and visit Punalu’u Black Sand Beach on your way to Kailua. This is the place to see green sea turtles chilling on a black sand beach.
Day 15, 16 and 17: Kailua, Big Island
During your last couple of days, you’ve got some time to relax on the great beaches on the east coast of Big Island. Some beautiful places are Ho‘okena Beach Park, Captain James Cook Monument, Kahalu’u Beach Park, Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area, and Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park. Whatever you do, take your snorkel set with you at all times. Kailua is a great place to stay, with lots of shops (get your souvenirs!) and restaurants.
Itinerary for Hawaii: some extra tips
– Do you have more than 17 days? Add the island of Kauai to this itinerary.
– Take your time for each island! Personally, I found five days on each island to be perfect for a first visit. Although, I could’ve stayed longer on Big Island.
– Hawaii is expensive, so prepare yourself for that. Every island has a Walmart, but prices are three times as high as in mainland USA. Which is not weird, when you realize they have to fly everything in. Hotels and restaurants are expensive as well. I was able to go camping and cook my own meals half of the time, which really helped me to keep my costs within my budget.
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