How to Get to Hawaii

We’ll Tell You How to Get to Hawaii

We'll tell you how to get to Hawaii and see places like this.

View of Waikiki Beach hotel skyline by Barry Inouye.

How to get to Hawaii? Inquiring minds and potential visitors to Hawaii want to know. The first way is by flying to Hawaii. Most people who want to travel to Hawaii do this. The second longer, but perhaps, more leisurely way to travel to Hawaii is to go there by cruise ship.

How to Get to Hawaii by Air

Fortunately, there are many airlines, domestic and international, that fly to Hawaii. This gives the flying public many options to get to Hawaii. Almost all of the major domestic US airlines fly to Hawaii. This includes: American, United and Delta. Southwest doesn’t offer Hawaii airfare yet; but many in the industry believe they will within the next five years. There are also three regional airlines, Hawaiian, Alaska and Allegiant, that offer daily trips to Hawaii out of their gateway cites on the US mainland.  In fact, Hawaiian offers the most daily flights to and from the Aloha State.

A growing number of international carriers are also flying to Hawaii. For many years, international carriers like Japan Airlines, QANTAS, All Nippon Airways, China Airlines, Air Canada, Philippines, Korean, Asiana, Air New Zealand and Fiji Airways have offered regularly scheduled service to Hawaii. Relatively recent international carriers serving Hawaii include: Jetstar, WestJet, China Eastern Airlines and Air China.

How to Get to Hawaii by Sea

Getting to Hawaii by sea offers some unique challenges for those who are interested in taking this option. Let’s assume you are coming from either the mainland US or Canada. You will need more a week, and often longer, and you will have to travel to one of the North American west coast cities that offer cruises to Hawaii. These include ports like Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego or Vancouver, Canada. Some cruise companies that sail to Hawaii from these ports include Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Celebrity and Norwegian cruise lines.

Cruises on foreign-flagged ship that embark from a US mainland port must continue to an international location before they can make the trip back to their originating port. This is due to US regulations requiring internationally flagged passenger ships to make an international stop before returning to the US. Such international stops include Polynesia, Oceania, Canada and Mexico. This restriction would not apply if you start your cruise outside the US, such as a port like Vancouver. So if you do plan to travel to Hawaii by sea, you’d better prepare to take a longer, but at least, more leisurely vacation.

How to Navigate Through Traffic in Honolulu

Even though visiting Hawaii can definitely be a vacation dream come true, the Aloha State’s largest city, Honolulu, is a busy, vibrant metropolitan area with many of the attributes of America’s largest cities, including rush hour traffic.  One national survey has rated the City and County of Honolulu only behind New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area in terms of traffic congestion. There are a number of reasons for this, including lack of highway options, metropolitan Honolulu’s high population density and lack of public transportation alternatives.

Luckily for cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco as well as Honolulu, most tourists are not deterred by rush hour traffic, and neither should you if you, particularly if know how to best deal with it. Regardless if you are renting a car, taking a taxi or riding on public transportation, here are some tips that you can help you spend less time on the road and more time doing on what you came to Honolulu, Hawaii for.

Drive in the Opposite Direction of Heavy Traffic on H-1 – If you’re staying in Waikiki as most tourists staying in Honolulu do, you’re in luck because if you’re driving outside the city in the morning on Honolulu’s major freeway, the H-1, you’re going opposite the flow of the heaviest traffic. But when you’re returning to your Waikiki hotel, try to return before 3:00 pm or after 7:00 pm as the afternoon rush hour on H-1, as you get closer into the city, tends to not favor one direction over another.

Be An Early Bird – Regardless where you are going, if you can, get up early and head out as soon as you can to avoid the morning rush hour traffic. This will not only get you where you want to go faster, but when you arrive at your destination, it will also tend to be less crowded.

Take Along A Good GPS – If you plan to rent a car, a GPS could be a useful tool while driving in Honolulu. Some of the newer fully featured GPS will not only give you directions; but they can also tell you about traffic conditions and how to avoid them. As they are pretty compact, you can bring it along with you or you can rent one from most rental car companies.

Visit Honolulu During the Summer – Traffic tends to be less congested during the summers because schools and colleges are out during this time. So there is less traffic on the roads during this time, especially during rush hours.

Visit Attractions by Tour Buses – There are numerous tours companies that will conveniently pick you up at your hotel, take you to major attraction such as the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Diamond Head Crater and more, and then take back to your hotel. Even though you might still be stuck in traffic, at least you’re not doing the driving. So when you get to your destination, you’ll be in a better, more relaxed state of mind to enjoy it.

The History of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Photo courtesy of Barry Inouye.

Uniqueness of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Almost every national park in America has an interesting story as to how it became one. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii is no exception. But Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s history has aspects to it that are probably unique among the country’s national parks. For example, one of leading proponents in creating the park protected an important Hawaiian natural and cultural treasure. But, at the same time, he was also an instrumental player in the downfall of the Hawaiian monarchy. Also, the park might be the only national park that was later divided into two separate national parks.

Today, visitors from all over the world can still see constant volcanic activity within the park. This is especially prominent in the form of continually flowing lava. The flow has been ongoing since 1983 and adding new land mass to the island. The ancient Hawaiians treated Kilauea volcano and its Halemaʻumaʻu caldera as the sacred home of the fire goddess Pele. The high frequency of its spectacular volcanic eruptions and lava flows have fascinated and intrigued the ancient Hawaiians. But it has also done the same to non-native residents and visitors who were fortunate to see them.

The People Behind the Creation of the Park

One of those individuals was Lorrin A. Thurston. Thurston was a powerful player in Hawaiian politics who was one of the leaders behind the overthrow of  the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. He was also a successful businessman as well as the  founder and publisher of the Honolulu Pacific Commercial Advertiser daily newspaper. This newspaper was the forerunner of today’s Honolulu Star Advertiser.

Thurston had a vested interest in making the area a national park. This is because he had purchased a hotel near the rim of Kilauea Volcano, called the Volcano House. But, he also loved the area and even discovered a lava tube which today bears his name, the Thurston Lava Tube. Thurston leveraged his ownership in the newspaper by publishing editorials in favor of establishing a national park. Such actions would help to protect as well as promote the area. He was the leader of the Territory of Hawaii’s lobbying efforts in Congress, including paying for travel expenses of 50 congressmen to visit the volcano.

Jaggar_and_Thurston_at_Kilauea - enhanced

Jagger and Thurston, second and third from left, at Kilauea. Source: USGS (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons.

However, it was not until volcanologist Dr. Thomas Jagger arrived in 1912, who founded and directed the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, that Thurston’s lobbying efforts became successful. Together, these two individuals were able to convince Congress of the value of creating a national park in the then Territory of Hawaii.

Lava Flow

Freshly hardened lava flow in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Photo courtesy of Barry Inouye.

Official Establishment of the Park

After 10 years of lobbying efforts, Congress passed legislation to create the park. This Congressional action was subsequently approved by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. The park which, was first named Hawaii National Park, became the nation’s 13th national park and was the first that was established within a territory, rather than within a state, of the country. At the time, the park initially only included the summits of Kilauea, Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii and Haleakala on Maui. Later, the Kilauea caldera area was added to the park. In 1960, through an act of Congress, the Haleakala section of Hawaii National Park on Maui became a separate national park, known as Haleakala National Park. While the section of the park on the Big Island then became known as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Worldwide Recognition of the Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is famous domestically as well as internationally. It very popular among the nation’s 59 national parks, often referred to as “America’s Best Idea.” Prominent  international organizations have recognized Hawaii Volcanoes National Park as a scientifically and culturally important site. In 1980, UNESCO named it as an International Biosphere citing it for its important volcanic sites, unique influence on the island’s ecosystem and cultural and historic sites.  In 1987, UNESCO also designated the park as World Heritage Site.

Hawaii Fun Facts

Need to learn about some interesting Hawaii fun facts? If so, please read on. Hawaii is a very small state in the country and comprises very little land mass compared to other countries in the world.  Despite that, the Hawaiian Islands is a worldwide leader in an amazingly large number of areas.  Furthermore, it stands unique compared to other states in the US. The Aloha State’s leadership and uniqueness in such areas constitute our list of Hawaii fun facts.

Areas of Hawaii’s Worldwide Leadership

  • Being nearly 2,400 miles from the nearest continental land mass, Hawaii has the most isolated population on earth.
  • Spanning over 1,500 miles, the Hawaiian Islands is the world’s longest island chain.
  • Hawaii’s Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world and has been continually erupting for the over 30 years.
  • Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii is the world’s tallest mountain when measured from its base on the ocean floor at 33,476 feet.
  • Haleakalā on Maui is the world’s largest dormant volcano, forming more than 75% of the island.
  • Kilauea Iki on the Big Island of Hawaii is the world’s most active volcano.
  • Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii, by volume, is the world’s most massive volcano.
  • Molokai’s north shore has the world’s tallest sea cliffs measuring more than 3,000 feet high.
  • Mauna Kea on Big Island of Hawaii houses the world’s biggest telescope.
  • The Big Island of Hawaii leads the world in harvesting macadamia nuts and orchids.

Areas of Hawaii’s Uniqueness Compared to Other States

  • Hawaii is the only state in the country that grows coffee, cocoa and vanilla beans.
  • Ka Lae, popularly known as South Point on the Big Island, is the southernmost point in the United States.
  • Covering over 1,500 miles, Hawaii is the widest state in the United States.
  • Hawaii is the only state in the nation with its own time zone, Hawaiian Standard Time.
  • Hawaii is the only state in the nation with a tropical rain forest.
  • Iolani Palace on the island of Oahu is the only royal palace in the country.
  • Hawaii is the only state comprised entirely of islands.
  • Hawaii is the only state in United States where Caucasians are in minority. In fact, every race and ethnicity is a minority in Hawaii.
  • Hawaii is the only state that honors a king when it celebrates every June 11 as King Kamehameha Day.

Popular Hawaiian Flowers

Being given flowers from Hawaii, whether they are in the form of a floral arrangement, a bouquet or especially a lei always makes for a special gift of Aloha.  The Aloha State’s warm but temperate climate, fertile soil, clean air and abundance of rainfall often make it an ideal place for exotic flowers to bloom and thrive.  Hawaii has a diverse range of flowers of all kinds; but there is a universal commonality for almost all of them, which is:  almost all of them are not originally from Hawaii.  They were all at some time brought into Hawaii where they have found themselves an ideal home.  Here is a sampling of some of the most popular and well-known ones.

Protea – This flowering plant was originally introduced into the island of Maui in the mid-1980s and was imported from South Africa as well as from Australia.  These unusually looking, but stunningly beautiful, flowers with brightly colored stamens and pistils are known for their ability to last a long time in a vase or even when they are dried, and because of that, have become a very popular flower that is exported to many places in the world.

Bird of Paradise – This popular ornamental plant is originally from the Cape of Good Hope area of South Africa. It is so called because its brightly colored and ornate flower resembles al bird that would come from a tropical area. Even though it does not share a close resemblance, it is a close relative of the banana plant. This plant is popular in Hawaii and can be found growing and thriving in the home of many local residents.

Heliconia – This popular ornamental plant is related to the bird of paradise and the banana plant; but is originally from South and Central America. The plant, which is sturdy and can last a long time after they are cut and displayed in vases, can grow up to 6 feet tall. Like the bird of paradise, you can find a number of the 22 species found in Hawaii growing in the yards of many local residents.

Anthurium – This plant with its waxy and glossy flower was brought to Hawaii in the late 1800 from, of all places, England. It can last very long in a vase, making it very popular as a flower arrangement. While the flower can last a relatively long time, the plant needs a lot of water and requires protection from the sun and wind. The anthurium is one of Hawaii’s biggest exported flower and nursery products.

Pikake – This fragrant flower, otherwise known as the jasmine, is a very popular flower in Hawaii, particularly for lei-making. The plant is originally from India. When used in lei-making in Hawaii, its buds, rather than the bloomed flowers, are used. Typically, a number of pikake strands are combined in a lei with a greater number of odd numbered strands indicating how popular or important the recipient is to the one giving the pikake lei. In Hawaii, pikake leis are usually given to female prom dates.

Ginger – Is another fragrant flower with a lovely lingering scent used in lei making. The plant is originally from eastern India. As they are very delicate, much skill is needed to make leis from the ginger plant. Furthermore, because they do not last very long and because of the effort required to make them into leis, those who receive them in the form of leis can well appreciate their transitory beauty as well the skill and patience that went into making them.

Historic Lighthouses in Hawaii

There are a number of historic lighthouses in the Aloha State that you might want to visit on your next trip to Hawaii.  In addition to their historic value, many of them offer commanding views of the Pacific Ocean as well as great opportunities to view a wide range of marine wildlife.  And best of all, they can be seen and experienced for little or no cost.

Kilauea Lighthouse – The Kilauea Lighthouse was built in 1913 and is located on the northern part of the island of Kauai. The facility is unique in that it is the only lighthouse in the state of Hawaii that is opened to visitors.  In addition to serving as a vital navigational aid to mariners, the Kilauea lighthouse was famous during World War II for offering radio beacon signals to aviators who had veered off course on their way to landing on one of Hawaii’s military airfields.

While it no longer serves as a lighthouse, since 1985 it has become the focal point of the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Here at the refuge, in addition to the scenic coastal vistas, you can see the marine wildlife such as seabirds, like the Laysan albatross and wedged-tailed shearwater, and marine mammals, such as the green sea turtle and humpback whale. The Kilauea Lighthouse was even depicted in several scenes in Disney’s popular animated movie, Lilo and Stitch.

Kalaupapa Lighthouse – This lighthouse, the tallest in the State of Hawaii, was completed in 1909 in response to the increasing amount of maritime traffic in the Kaiwi Channel which separated the islands of Oahu and Molokai. Kalaupapa was an ideal location for the lighthouse because it was located on a long peninsula that jutted out 2 miles into the sea from the north side of the island of Molokai. But Kalaupapa was also the isolated quarantine home for those in Hawaii who were afflicted with Hansen disease, then called leprosy. Initially, lawmakers were reluctant to build a strategically important navigational aid and to have personnel stationed nearby to those who were afflicted with the then incurable Hansen disease.

At 138 feet tall, the Kalaupapa Lighthouse is not only the tallest lighthouse in Hawaii, but it is also reputed to be the tallest one in the Pacific. Today, the lighthouse and the nearby settlement, still home to those once afflicted with the now curable Hansen disease, are part of the Kalaupapa National Historic District, which is administered by the National Park Service.

Makapu’u Lighthouse – Makapu’u Lighthouse, located on the eastern tip of Oahu, was built in 1909 for the same reason as Kalaupapa Lighthouse, which was to provide an urgently needed navigational aid in response to the increasing amount of ships sailing though the sometimes treacherous Kaiwi Channel. The lighthouse is the only one its kind in the US that was outfitted with the then technologically advanced hyperradiant Fresnel lens and, back then, was the largest one of its kind ever built.

The land that surrounded the lighthouse was declared surplus by the Coast Guard and was transferred to the State of Hawaii in 1987. Since then, the road to the lighthouse has become one of the most popular hiking trails in the entire State of Hawaii park system. The trail offers spectacular views of the rugged surrounding coastline, seasonally migrating humpback whales and the beautiful Hawaiian sunrise.

Things to Do In Waikiki

There are many great things to do in Waikiki.

View of Waikiki skyline by Barry Inouye.

Looking for things to do in Waikiki?  Most people who visit the Aloha State end up staying in the Waikiki area of Honolulu on the island of Oahu. This is because this is where almost all of Oahu’s and the State of Hawaii’s hotels are located.  More than half of the State of Hawaii’s 54,000-plus hotel room units are located on Oahu.  And most of them can be found in Waikiki.  So if you are the typical visitor to Hawaii, chances are that you will be spending some time in the Waikiki area. And generally speaking, you will either be staying at a hotel or visiting the sights at this world renowned tourist destination area.  Here are some of the many and interesting things to do in Waikiki.

Spend Time on the Beach

There is the world famous Waikiki Beach and other surrounding beaches right at your doorstep.  So take advantage of it.  You can swim, sunbathe, body surf or surf.  If you don’t know how to surf, there are a number of places in Waikiki that can teach you how.  Many tourists may not be aware that the beaches in Waikiki are, for the most part, not naturally formed ones.  Much of the beach areas are made up of sand imported from other places from Hawaii as well as from outside of Hawaii. Others may not know that besides Waikiki Beach, there are also the Duke Kahanomuku, Fort DeRussy, Gray’s, Queen’s Surf, Kapiolani and Sans Souci beaches, all in the Waikiki area. Plus, even though some large Waikiki hotel properties might be directly fronting them, by law, all beaches in the entire State of Hawaii are public.

Go to a Museum, Aquarium or Zoo

Within close walking distance of your hotel in Waikiki, you can visit the US Army Museum of Hawaii in the Ft. DeRussy, the Waikiki Aquarium and the Honolulu Zoo. The US Army Museum is located in what used to be a coastal defense fortification. It showcases memorabilia from the early Hawaiian era to the Vietnam War. The Waikiki Aquarium is a relatively small, but interesting, place to get a better perspective of the wide variety of sea life. The aquarium focuses on Hawaiian reef sea life, such as those that can be found right off Waikiki.  Nearby, the Honolulu Zoo is also worth seeing as it features nearly 1,000 animals and numerous family-oriented events. Also, it is the only zoo in America founded by a sovereign monarch.

Shop Till You Drop

All along Waikiki you will find places to shop. Here, you can find a wide range of shopping opportunities. This includes high end designer clothiers and jewelers, convenience stores, souvenir shops and a number of large shopping centers. The largest shopping centers in Waikiki are the Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikiki Shopping Plaza and DFS T Galleria.

Spend Time on or Even Under the Water

You can go sailing on a fast moving catamaran or even take a submarine ride. Here, you can see a sunken ship and airplane as well as loads of Hawaiian reef fishes that school around them.  Catamaran sailing and the Atlantis submarine ride are available at the Hilton Pier. They are located in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki.

Get Some Fresh Air, Exercise and Great Views

Runners can take a brisk and invigorating morning jog along Kapiolani Park and then along the Ala Wai Canal and back to your hotel. If you like to hike, you can take a city bus taking you to a tunnel that leads into Diamond Head Crater. From there, you can take a short, but exhilarating, 45 minute hike up the crater summit. It will take you through old World War I era fortifications. They include a system of underground tunnels, steep and long stairwells and concrete observations points. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best commanding views of Waikiki.  Diamond Head summit is also a great place to view the Hawaiian sunrise. Many visitors make the early morning trek up the crater to see this morning spectacle.

View of Wakikiki from Diamond Head

View of Waikiki from Diamond Head summit. by Barry Inouye.

Hidden Hotspots on Oahu

Queen Lili'oukalani Gardens, one of the hodden hotspots on Oahu.

Waterfall at Queen Lili’oukalani Botanical Garden by Barry Inouye.

Like to take the path less taken whenever you travel? If so, the Gathering Place of Oahu has many such locales. Looking for a less crowded, out of the way attraction or some great eating place that only the local residents know about? If so, this Hawaiian Island definitely has them. Here are our recommendations for such hidden hotspots on Oahu.

Lili’oukalani Botanical Garden

Right outside downtown Honolulu in the middle of a secluded residential area is an idyllic botanical garden. It once served as the private park of Hawaii’s Queen Lili’oukalani. In an area shaded by monkeypod trees and Hawaiian plants, you can find a small but beautiful waterfall and pond. They are surrounded by a small but picturesque park. It’s a perfect place for a picnic and some scenic picture taking. But you’d better bring some mosquito repellent. Plus, parking is here very limited.

View from Diamond Head summit.

View from Diamond Head summit by Barry Inouye.

Diamond Head Lookout

Conveniently situated near Waikiki, there is a trail that starts from inside Diamond Head Crater that leads to its summit. The stimulating hike up the trail can take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, which will take you through a winding maze of old World War I coastal defense fortifications, dimly-lite tunnels and steep, long stairwells. Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded by some of the best commanding views of Waikiki and its surrounding areas. It’s also a favorite place to watch the beautiful Hawaiian sunrise.

View of Honolulu on way to Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park.

View of Honolulu on way to Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park by Barry Inouye.

Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Park on Tantalus

Located in the Makiki area of Honolulu, this state park offers arguably the best panoramic views of Hawaii’s capital city, Honolulu. To get here, you’ll have to drive through winding road lined with homes perched on hillside properties. After you see the gate to the park, drive past it up the hill. Once you reach the parking lot, walk a few feet to a covered observation area and then take in the majestic views of Hawaii’s largest and most vibrant city. As this place is higher up in elevation and blessed with cool winds, it’s a great place to hang out on a warm and humid summer day.

Ka’ena Point

Found on Oahu’s most extreme northwestern point, Ka’ena Point is an isolated spot on the island and features some of Hawaii’s most rare endemic coastal plant life. It’s also a great spot to view native Hawaiian seabirds as well as to catch a glimpse of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal basking on the seashore. Be prepared to do a bit of hiking as the paved road ends as you get closer to the point. Be aware that you should not enter the water here as the surf is very rough and because there is a very dangerous rip current offshore.

Eat the Street

Since 2011, on the last Friday of each month from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm, the who’s who of Honolulu’s food trucks vendors converge in the Ka’akako area, which is conveniently located near Waikiki, to offer a wide range of prepared foods. The food types on display here range from your typical Hawaii plate lunch fare to fancy gourmet dishes. This monthly has grown to become one of the most popular food gatherings in town.

Helena’s Hawaiian Food

This iconic hole-in-the-wall place that specializes in Hawaiian food has been prominently featured on national TV. Why? Because if you like Hawaiian food, many locals will tell you that this is the place to go. It’s located in the Kalihi area of town an older unassuming wooden building on School Street. However, be aware when you go here that parking is very limited and service is first come first served. Plus, it only opens from Tuesdays to Fridays until 7:30 pm.