Hawaii is a bucket-list destination for many travelers. If you’ve spent the past couple of years dreaming of a visit to the Aloha State, it’s time to start planning your vacation.
Domestic travelers no longer need to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test or register with the state’s Safe Travels program. But some businesses may still require or encourage the wearing of masks. Your Travel Leaders travel advisor will have the latest information.
Here’s a guide to the major islands:
Oahu is home to the capital, Honolulu, where you’ll find the famous Waikiki Beach and historic sites, including Iolani Palace and the USS Arizona Memorial. The Aloha Festivals, Hawaii’s largest cultural celebration, returns with a block party on Sept. 17, followed by the 76th annual Floral Parade on Sept. 24. The Hawaii Food & Wine Festival will be held from Nov. 3-6, with a lineup of more than 150 chefs, culinary personalities and winemakers. (The Food & Wine Festival also takes place Oct. 20-23 on Maui and Oct. 28-29 on the island of Hawaii.)
The Big Island of Hawaii is the largest in the chain. It’s home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you’ll find two active volcanoes, Maunaloa and Kilauea. You can choose from hiking trails or take the Crater Rim Drive around the summit of Kilauea. The Punaluu Black Sand Beach— a result of volcanic activity — is one of the island’s most unique spots.
Maui, the Valley Island, is beloved for its 30 miles of beaches, where you can go surfing, snorkeling, swimming or sunbathing. But Maui’s charms go beyond beaches. Haleakala National Park is known for its spectacular sunrises and sunsets, as well as hiking trails where you can explore the island’s natural beauty. From December through May, you’ll find some of the world’s best whale watching in the waters off of Maui. The island is also a paradise for golfers, with more than a dozen courses to choose from.
Kauai is known as the Garden Island for its lush valleys, jagged cliffs, cascading waterfalls and tropical rainforests. Outdoor adventures include kayaking on the Wailua River, snorkeling on Poipu Beach and hiking in Kokee State Park. You’ll find a laid-back atmosphere and rich culture in the island’s small towns.
Lanai is the smallest inhabited island you can visit. It has more of a rustic, secluded atmosphere but offers world-class amenities, with luxury resorts and championship-level golf. To explore more remote locations, you can travel along the island’s rugged back roads in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.
A high percentage of Molokai residents have Native Hawaiian ancestry, and they’ve preserved their rural lifestyle. You can explore the island by taking a mule ride along the cliffs leading to Kalaupapa National Historical Park. The Nature Conservancy leads a monthly hike in Kamakou Preserve, in the mountains of East Molokai, home to more than 200 species of native plants.
Looking for an easy way to visit the Islands? Check out a cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Pride of America. The ship is based in Honolulu and is the only cruise ship registered to the United States. The ship only does seven-day cruises around the Hawaiian Islands.