Your Hawaii Inter-Island Travel Guide
Sure, you’re about 6 hours away from the mainland, but with the variety of things to do in Hawaii, you’ll feel like you’re traveling to a new destination with each island you visit. We’ve created this inter-island travel guide so you can make the most of your PCS.
First, we’ll start with the Islands…
The Hawaiian Island chain is made up of six main islands:
Oahu (where you’re most likely moving)
Hawaii Island, also known as Big Island
However, the islands that are most frequented by tourists are Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Big Island, so for this guide, we’ll focus on the last three. As we said, you’ll most likely be moving to Oahu, so no need to travel there — plus we already have some awesome guides with things to do and what to eat on Oahu! So be sure to check out the other blogs.
There are two main airlines that travel between the islands: Southwest and Hawaiian. Airlines like United and American will also allow you to island-hop, but schedules are more sporadic.
Southwest is the newest airline to fly between the islands and it’s a great option for the military. Here’s why:
No change fees
2 FREE checked bags
Affordable — the airline frequently has sales with $39 one-way flights
However, Hawaiian Airlines is still a good option — they offer on average 170 inter-island flights daily! If you’re bound to a specific schedule, Hawaiian might be a better choice.
There’s also another local airline, Mokulele Airlines, that offers low-fare, inter-island flights.
Now that you know how you can get there, we’re sure you’re wondering how long it will take. Flight times are about 40 minutes. Yep, you’ll be on your vacation in no time. In fact, airport check in to landing can take as little as two hours.
OK, so you’ve figured out how you’re getting to another island, but where will you stay? Many hotels offer military discounts which help make the cost of inter-island travel even more manageable. Some hotel chains that specifically offer military discounts are Castle Resorts, Marriott, Aqua-Aston, and IHG.
Which island is the most family-friendly?
Our pick for the most family-friendly Hawaiian Island is actually Oahu, but since that one doesn’t count (since you’ll be here already), we’d pick Big Island and Kauai as the next best options!
On Big Island, you can go swimming with manta rays, hike in Volcanoes National Park, visit a lava tube, and snorkel at pristine spots like Kealakekua Bay. In Kauai — the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain — you can go tubing with Kauai Backcountry Adventures, go on a boat tour and snorkel along the Na Pali Coast and hike in Waimea Canyon.
Which island is the most affordable?
The most affordable island to visit is Big Island. You’ll find hotels for between $100-$200 a night and dining will also cost a little less. On the flip side, of the three islands we’re featuring in this guide, Maui is the most expensive. In Maui, you’d be lucky to find a hotel for $250 a night — lodging is just pricey on the Valley Isle.
Best time to travel
That truly depends on what you want to see, but since you’ll be here for a few years you’ll have the flexibility to travel in the offseason. The high season for travel to Hawaii is summer — which is June through August — and December, around the holidays. The shoulder and low seasons are September, October, November, February, March, April, and May. During these months you’ll find that hotels are more affordable and flights are cheaper too! However, keep in mind that November through March is our “winter” AKA our rainy season, so the weather might be a bit more unpredictable.
Other than flying, the only way to travel between the Hawaiian Islands is to take an all-island cruise. These generally make stops at Oahu, Maui, Big Island and Kauai and are between 7-15 days. Some cruise lines that offer all-island boat trips are: Princess, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean.
Don’t forget about the MWR to book your inter-island travel! You can book activities and excursions, hotels, flights and car rentals. The MWR prices are even more discounted than if you were to book using a military discounts yourself. On Oahu, you can find MWR offices at the NEX at Pearl Harbor and Fort Shafter.