A FIRST APPROACH
Which Hawaii Is Right for You?
Here's a snapshot of defining experiences on the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, and Oahu: majestic landscapes, traditional dances and dishes, and beaches for every water sport. Get a sense of which ones fit your travel style and your budget.
5. Molokai's sea cliffs hem in a beautiful peninsula with a troubled past: From 1866 to 1969, Kalaupapa National Historical Park was the site of forced quarantine for people suffering from Hansen's disease, then known as leprosy. The 1.5-hour mule ride down a vertiginous cliff trail is now a right of passage for intrepid travelers ($175).
6. The demise of Hawaii's main interisland ferry service has made flying the only viable option. There are several daily flights to each island, with in-air time typically less than 45 minutes. Go! and the posher Hawaiian Airlines offer jet service; they're locked in an ongoing fare war, with one-way tickets from $49. Island Air and Mokulele Airlines operate select, slightly cheaper flights on smaller, prop-driven planes. Online booking sites include all these airlines, but you'll generally find better fares through the airline websites.
7. Admission to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is free, via a first-come, first-served ticket system. The wait can be as long as two hours during peak periods, so it's best to arrive as close as possible to the memorial's 7:45 a.m. opening. From Waikiki, the #20 and #42 buses stop directly at the Memorial Visitor Center. Plan on at least an hour and a half one way by bus or 45 minutes by car.
There are two noticeable seasons in Hawaii: the drier months (May to September) and the wetter months (October to April). Seaside variations between the two average about 9 degrees Fahrenheit. The winter surf season runs from October through February on north- and west-facing beaches; the summer months bring good surf to the south-facing beaches. Whale-watching season begins in November and tapers off by May. September through early October can be uncomfortable, as prevailing tradewinds die off and give way to Kona weather—low wind and high humidity—that occasionally blankets the islands in vog, the volcanic haze from Kilauea's eruptions.
• Six-pack of locally brewed Maui Brewing Company CoCoNut Porter: $9–$10.
• Combination plate at Ono Hawaiian Foods, a local institution on the outskirts of Waikiki: $15.50.
• 2008 average daily hotel room rate, calculated statewide: $201.43.
• Button-down aloha shirt designed by noted Hawaiian clothier Sig Zane: $79.
• Orchid lei from Cindy's Lei Shoppe, in Honolulu's Chinatown: $7–$30.