8 Amazing Days Island hopping the Aloha State of Hawai’i!
I brought in my monumental birthday with the most amazing trip to Hawai’i. It was my first time traversing to the state, and it was truly a trip I’ll never forget!
My husband to be (boyfriend at the time) and I took our trip during November 2022. This is considered off-season. There were still many people visiting and crowds at certain tourist spots, but not as crowded as I can imagine the summer is.
The weather was hot but not unbearable. We enjoyed learning about the culture of Hawai’i, eating some good food, and enjoying the breathtakingly beautiful scenery.
We spent 8 days and 9 nights in Hawai’i! If you’re looking for ideas or planning an epic trip to the Aloha state like us, here’s what we did!
Which Islands did we visit?
There are 137 islands of Hawai’i. However, there are 8 islands that are more commonly recognized as the main islands: Hawaiʻi, Maui, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi, Oʻahu, Kahoʻolawe, Kauaʻi, and Niʻihau.
We visited 3 of the main islands! Starting in Oahu, then going to Maui, and lastly, a quick stop on the big island, Hawai’i! Each island truly had their own uniqueness and beauty.
In my opinion, and shallowly based on where we stayed and visited, Oahu had the busy city life vibes. We stayed in Honolulu, but we were able to venture some outside of the city center. It was more fast paced and a large mix of people from everywhere. Great for nightlife adventures and shopping if that’s your thing. You’ll also find some great hiking trails.
I found Maui to be a little more laid back with views out of this world. The landscape from Oahu differs from Maui because I wasn’t overwhelmed with skyscrapers and city infrastructure. Maui had even more of a tropical paradise feel and very relaxing due to the slower pace. When I go back to Hawai’i, I will visit Maui first!
The Big Island, considered the youngest and biggest island, again, has an entirely different vibe than the other islands we visited. The Big Island had a more, “country-living” vibe. It’s also home to an active volcano that briefly erupted a couple weeks after we left in late November 2022!
I do want to note that all but one of our stays in Hawai’i was booked through the Marriot Bonvoy Hotel loyalty program. My husband is all about earning status and reaping rewards from our travels.
So, if you’re also a Loyal Marriot traveler, like us, then you’ll know all of the hotels mentioned in my post can be booked through there. My experience and thoughts are my own and I recommend the Marriot Bonvoy experience!
If you’re planning on island hopping, look into booking with a local, regional airline. Instead of spending a lot with one of the major airlines, we opted for the smaller planes.
Mokulele airlines was affordable and a nice experience. Not only that, but these smaller plane options also offer a stunning view of the islands from above. We booked about 2 months ahead as we were setting up our itinerary so the prices we got were really good!
For two adults, this was our total, one-way, flight prices (Not including baggage fees):
- From Honolulu to Kapalua – $148
- From Kapalua to Kona – $168
- From Kona to Kapalua – $288
- From Kapalua to Honolulu – $200
Since these are smaller planes, you do not get to pick your seat. The day of the flight, once you have checked it, they assign your seat based on your weight and the weight of all traveler’s luggage. Yes, they will most likely ask for your body weight especially if it is a full flight. It’s about a 10-passenger plane. Don’t be shy!
I would also only recommend this airline if you will be traveling light. You do get a carry on but it is around $20 for your 1st checked bag and $30 for your 2nd checked bag. If you’re traveling with a lot of bags, not only can it get expensive, but in the event your luggage is too heavy, it may not be able to make the flight.
Here’s our legendary Itinerary for exploring the depths of Hawai’i.
This is an overview of our day to day visiting the islands. From tourist places to restaurants, I have it listed here. Just know, we planned this trip with time to relax and enjoy each place without feeling rushed. We really wanted to be able to explore on our own but also hit some of the hot spots!
Travel Day and Night 1 – Aloha Hawaii! Arriving in Honolulu
We arrived in Honolulu from LAX around 10PM at night via American Airlines. From the airport, we grabbed our Hertz car rental and headed to our hotel.
We stayed at the Laylow Waikiki in Honolulu. Great spot that was in the city and good for walking to close by restaurants and shops. Also, it’s a nice walk to the beach if you don’t mind. Or, a quick uber or Lyft ride.
Day 1/Night 2 – Honolulu – All Day Bus tour to the Polynesian Culture Center
Our tour for the day was purchased through the Polynesian Culture Center. This was booked about 2 months in advance.
Along with tickets to the center, we also got the Circle Island tour is $75 per person. This includes transportation from your hotel, or close by, through various stops around the island, and then drop off at the Polynesian Culture Center. We got up at 6AM for a bus tour and ride from close by our hotel. The guided bus tour took us around the island while the driver gave oral facts and history of the different areas.
One of the first major stops was at the Dole Plantation. Who doesn’t love pineapples? Although slightly cliché, this is a popular tourist spot. We had time to grab some of the famous Dole whip and walk around for a bit.
After some time on the tour, the bus drops everyone off at the Polynesian Culture Center. Truly, if you do nothing else, this is a must see on your tours of Oahu. The Culture Center is a beautiful representation of the mixture of Polynesian and Melanesian cultures that make up the islands.
The Culture Center is divided into sections, and each section represents a different Polynesian island and their unique culture.
We had a private guided tour as part of our Super Ambassador lūʻau package. We spent a couple of hours touring the facility, learning about the history and culture, along with viewing various performances.
Later in the evening, you are treated to a luau presentation and buffet style dinner.
Lastly, at around 7PM, there is a performance called HĀ: Breath of Life Show, where many of the day entertainers come together in a play that tells the life story of a Polynesian family.
One word: AMAZING!
We then head back to our bus, and it drops us back to the original pick-up location.
Day 2/Night 3 – Honolulu – Pearl Harbor
In the morning, we enjoyed breakfast at the restaurant at the hotel.
After breakfast, we drove out to the Pearl Harbor National Harbor. It’s free to enter the visitor center and to visit some of the museums.
We did have to pay a $1 reservation fee for tickets to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. We also paid a general admissions fee to go to the USS Missouri Museum for $34.99. My husband is a veteran, and this was at the top of his list to see.
We ended the evening with meeting up with friends for dinner at Duke’s Waikiki. I personally was not a fan of this restaurant as I can’t even remember what I ate. A nice family restaurant if you’re looking for something for everyone in the family.
Day 3/Night 4 – Birthday fun in Honolulu!
This was our birthday! Yes, you heard that right, OUR birthday. My husband and I share the same birthday. So, this was our day to celebrate one another.
We did breakfast and Sweet E’s, which is one of Honolulu’s hottest breakfast places! My husband said it was some of the best fried rice he’s had! Really tasty.
Walking distance from there, is the famous Leonard’s Bakery, with fresh baked Malasadas. This was highly recommended, and the line was extremely long when we walked over there. Worth the wait.
We then went for a couples massage at Siam Thai Massage and Spa. A pleasant and relaxing experience.
The end of the evening, we had dinner at the Halekulani Hotel’s Orchids Restaurant.
Day 4/Night 5 – Flying to Maui
We drove to the airport to drop off the rental and catch our flight with Mokulele Airlines to Maui.
The flight was about 45mins on a Cessna plane. We landed at Kapalua Airport (JHM).
When we arrived, we grabbed an Uber to the Ritz Carlton Maui. Check out my Tik Tok to see how it looked!
After taking in the gorgeous hotel, we then grabbed a ride to pick up our motorcycle rental with Eagle Rider.
We then took some time to ride around the island and grabbed dinner at Down the Hatch. I highly recommend the shrimp tacos!
For the evening, we took some time to relax at the hotel and the pool since we had an early morning to prepare for.
Day 5/Night 6 – Maui – Road to Hana
We woke up around 4AM to begin our ride out to the Road to Hana. This way, as we got out to the main highway, we could not only take in the scenery, but enjoy the sunrise before it got too hot.
The roads are extremely narrow, and there are times when crossing certain areas and bridges that it is only one car at a time to pass. Patience is needed if you’re planning on driving out there on your own instead of taking a tour.
We also stopped at a café on our way! It’s located at mile marker 29. There’s only a few other stops and small restaurants along the way so it’s best to have some food packed and be fueled up before going.
On our route, we also made reservations to stop at Waiʻānapanapa State Park, most commonly known as the Black Sand Beach. In order to gain entry, you do have to reserve time slots and pay an entrance fee and parking fee if you are not a Hawai’i resident. You can do so by visiting here!
Depending on the time of year you are going, you can also stop to do some whale watching! I was really looking forward to seeing some, but I was not lucky. November is the beginning of whale season, but peak seasons are closer to January time frame in case that’s something you’d like to see.
Day 6/Night 7 – Maui – Grandma’s Coffee Shop and Flying to the Big Island
For our final day in the beautiful island of Maui, we took a ride out to Grandma’s Coffee Shop. It was a little over an hour to get out to Kula. This is deemed one of the top spots in Maui! So, we had to give it a try.
A very nice, down to earth vibe and the staff was extremely nice. We grabbed some coffee, a guava juice, and a slice of cake.
Grandma’s Coffee shop is perfect for a morning cup of coffee and for grabbing breakfast or lunch.
We dropped off the motorcycle at Eagle Rider, and then headed back to the hotel to grab our bags and leave for our flight.
The flight was in the evening so there was no rushing. We had to take an Uber to Kahului Airport (OGG) to catch our Mokulele Airlines flight.
We arrived on the Big Island around 9PM at night, at the Kona International airport. There, we got another rental car, and checked in to the Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Club.
Day 7/Night 8 – The Big Island – To Kilauea volcano – Back to Honolulu
We were spending less than 24 hours on the Big Island. So, we had to make the best use of our time. My husband was absolutely determined to visit the island just to see the volcano. So, we did!
As crazy as it sounds, we got up at 4AM to drive out to the national park to see Kilauea volcano. It was about 50 miles from our hotel to the volcano. This is one of the active volcanoes on the island. And, as I mentioned earlier, the exact volcano that would erupt about 20 days later!
We watched the sunrise and got a glimpse of the steamy volcano in all its glory. Pretty cool.
We also took some time to walk around the park and walk around some of the underground tunnels. It kind of felt like we were on the set of Jurassic Park and at any moment, a raptor would come out from the bushes.
By noon we had made it back to the airport to catch our flights back to Honolulu via Mokulele airlines. We flew from the Big Island to Maui, then from Maui to Honolulu.
Once back in Honolulu, we then made our way to our final hotel destination, The Halekulani!
This hotel, ladies and gentlemen, is absolutely the best! This was also a surprise from my husband. We had the pleasure of staying in the Ocean Suite which included a king bedroom, one full bathroom and a half bathroom, along with a kitchen area and a private balcony. A true luxury.
For the evening, we proceeded to have dinner with friends at a restaurant across from the hotel at Roy’s Waikiki. We dined outside and the food was incredible!
Day 8/Night 9 – Honolulu
This day happened to be Saturday and also opening weekend of the movie Black Panther. We initially had this day in our plans as our final day to just rest and relax. We started off with breakfast at the hotel (This was included with our package).
Then we went to the movies.
Afterwards, we enjoyed 60-minute massages at the hotel and then continued to rest into the evening.
For dinner, we had reservations for La Mer, Hawai’i’s only AAA Five Diamond and Five-star restaurant. This was a five-course dining experience.
I could not have asked for a better ending to our amazing trip.
Day 9/Night 6 – Honolulu to LAX then Home
So many great days and experiences in Hawai’i. We packed up our bags and headed to the airport for our trek home.
The Aloha spirit is contagious and addictive. Mahalo.