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Hawaii for beginners – everything worth knowing and practical tips at a glance

Hawaii is for many the epitome of the South Seas paradise. Palm-fringed beaches and hula-dancing women appear in the mind's eye. But the isolated island world in the Pacific has so much more to offer. For example one of the most active volcanoes in the world or deep gorges and breathtakingly beautiful cliffs. And everywhere exotic flowers that exude beguiling fragrances. The inhabitants live the aloha spirit and nowhere in the world can you discover such a peaceful mix of cultures.

You know the islands from films like "Jurassic Park" and shows like "Hawaii Five 0" or "Lost" and you want to experience Hawaii yourself? Our travel expert Wolfgang has been on site many times and tells you today why he considers the islands to be paradise on earth.

Hawaii – that's how the islands are different

Hawaii consists of a total of 137 islands, but only six of them are relevant to you. The others are either not developed or privately owned. What the islands are different from and which are the most exciting for you, you will now learn.

map hawaii

Oahu – The heart of Hawaii

Most of you will probably land on Oahu or the metropolis Honolulu. In my opinion, this is also the ideal place to acclimatize. By the way, in Downtown you have the chance to visit the only royal palace in the USA.

Panorama of Honululu

With Waikiki is best known, here is also the famous beach – even if for my taste by far not the most beautiful. Hotels are lining up right by the sea and life is raging along Kalakaua Avenue. At the southern end of Waikiki sits the Diamond Head, the landmark of the island.

Located in the north of Honolulu Pearl Harbor. The site reminds Hawaiians of the most painful event in American history.

Once you have left the city behind you and explored the rest of the island, dream beaches, rainforests and pineapple fields determine the landscape.

This is especially worth seeing North Shorewhere up to 10 meters high waves thunder to the shore in winter and daring maneuvers are performed by the best surfers in the world. In the summer, however, the sea is often smooth and you can swim here with Honus (Hawaiian for turtle).

Underwater turtles in Hawaii

The inland hilly region offers some hiking trails through the rainforest and from the peaks you have fantastic views over the island.

If you want to know more about the island, take a look at our post Welcome to Oahu – Tips for Hawaii's Heart.

Kauai – The garden island

A short flight takes you to the neighboring island to the north and into another world at the same time. Here you are far away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and immerse yourself in an exotic garden of Eden. Kauai is the wettest and therefore the greenest Hawaiian island. The capital Lihue has only about 6,500 inhabitants and life is a very leisurely pace.

Landscape in the mountains Kauai

On Kauai no house may be higher than the highest palm. On the east coast you will find long beaches, where due to strong currents, swimming in the sea is not always possible. On the rocky north coast offers the Kilauea Point Lighthouse a fantastic view of the endless expanse of the Pacific. A few kilometers away is the dreamlike Hanalei Bay.

On the south coast you then have the beaches where you can usually swim in the sea. Around Poipu you will find a wide selection of different accommodations.

The island's two main attractions have created nature. For one thing, that is the Waimea Canyon, the second largest gorge in the USA. This is 22 kilometers long and up to 1,100 meters deep. Through the canyon hiking trails and allow you fascinating insights into the unique fauna. Only accessible from the water or from the air is the unique Napali Coast with their cliffs up to 914 meters high. Kauai is a nature lover's paradise.

Of course, the island has much more to offer. Here I have summarized the most beautiful places on Kauai.

Maui – The enchanted island

Located south of Oahu, Maui fascinates with its diversity. It is divided into two regions, which are connected by a flat plane in the middle. The former capital of the Kingdom, Lahaina, is located on a beautiful beach and offers many historical sites.

Whales underwater at Maui

Hawaii is a melting pot of different cultures and so you should not be surprised if you meet the largest Buddha statue outside of Japan. A sacred place of the Polynesian aborigines you can find in the Iao Valley explore. In this valley, King Kamehameha struck the decisive battle that led to the union of the islands into a kingdom.

The larger, southeastern part is dominated by the volcano Haleakala. The name of the 3,000-meter-high mountain means "House of the Rising Sun", so it's not surprising that many visitors leave at 2 in the morning to admire the sunrise on the summit. The landscape of the crater (34 kilometers perimeter of one of the largest in the world) is so similar to the lunar landscape that the astronauts of the Apollo program rehearsed their landing on the planet.

Along the eastern side of the volcano my personal highlight of the island awaits you. The Road to Hana Passes bamboo forests, waterfalls and black beaches in the village of the same name. She rightly counts among the most beautiful scenic roads in the world. Be enchanted by Maui's beauty!

Road to Hana, Maui in Hawaii

Hawaii Island – The Adventure Island

Hawaii Island is about 2.5 times the area of ​​all other islands. Really impressive: here you meet 20 of the 23 climate zones of this earth. As if that were not enough, here is the highest mountain in the world. About 6,000 feet of the Mauna Kea lie under the water and 4,200 feet above it.

The west coast is a semi-desert and dominated by black lava. In the northwest in the Hapuna Beach State Park is one of the few white beaches. Most of the others are black lava beaches.

South from Kona You can taste one of the best coffees in the world directly on the coffee plantations. Nearby is the Place of Refuge, a truly magical place and well-preserved temple of the Polynesian aborigines. Ka Lae is the southernmost point of the US and the home of the green Papakolea Beach.

Waipio valley on Hawaii Island

On the east coast you will discover many waterfalls in the rainforest. If you are on the coastal road from Hilo to Waipio Valley You will also pass many exotic gardens. The hilly highlands in the north are home to what was once the largest US ranch. Meanwhile, the Parker Ranch is divided into smaller plots.

From Hilo from you reach the highlight of Hawaii, the Volcanoes National Park, Its centerpiece is the Kilauea which is continuously active since 1983. Mostly the volcano is peaceful and you can get as close to the lava flow as anywhere else in the world. This island thrills with nature and culture.

Molokai – the nature island

If you want to spend a quiet and relaxing holiday, you are right here. Molokai has a single traffic light. Most of the inhabitants are descended directly from the Polynesian aborigines and so it is not surprising that you can also explore correspondingly authentic culture in a great diversity here. This is also one of the reasons why this island is no longer developed touristically. The inhabitants fear that their culture is lost.

But that does not mean that visitors are not welcome here. At the Papohaku Beach, one of Hawaii's longest white beaches, you are almost alone. Separated from the rest of the island by the world's highest cliffs is the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Because of its isolated position, the lepers were banished here. Father Damien, a Belgian priest, devotedly cared for these patients and became the first Sacred Hawaiian in 2009.

Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park

Lanai – The luxury island

The smallest of the inhabited islands is a place of contrasts. It used to be a single pineapple plantation. Today there are two luxury resorts on Lanai that leave nothing to be desired and two championship golf courses.

In contrast, the remainder consists of untouched nature and secluded beaches. The interior of the island conceals many traces of Polynesian culture. A bizarre landscape of red lava stones can be found in Keahiakawelo, also called "Garden of the Gods". Incidentally, Lanai can also be reached by boat from Maui.

Island hopping – the best way to explore paradise

It would be a great pity if you take the long journey and then visit only one island. Each is different and has its own distinctive sights. So take your time and enjoy the South Seas paradise. If you take three to four days per island, you manage to see the most important sights. For Hawaii Island you should maybe take some more time. To get from one island to another you have to fly. The frequency of the connections, it feels but almost like bus driving. Check-in takes place at vending machines. There are no printed tickets. So it's really easy to get from one island to another.

In Waikiki / Honolulu you get along well with public transport. A rental car costs only unnecessary parking fees, which are very high miest. If you want to explore the rest of Oahu, I recommend you hire a rental car on a daily basis. Or you can take part in one of the many excursions offered here. On all other islands it is advisable to have a rental car. There is only a limited supply of public transport there.

If you do not want to plan the trip yourself, you can also book a ready Hawaiian package. Depending on the offer, hotels, intermediate flights and individual excursions are included. Just take a look and see if there is something suitable. Alternatively you can of course also advise you in the travel agency.

FTI has arranged special prices for many flights – in any case, please inquire at the office or via our service hotline for suitable flight offers!

The 10 most beautiful sights in Hawaii

The Hawaiian Islands offer a sheer variety of attractions and you will not be able to see it all. Therefore, we would like to introduce you to highlights below that you should not miss.

1st Napali Coast, Kauai

The colorful cliffs of this stretch of coast you must have seen! There are three possibilities for this:

  • You sail with the catamaran along the cliffs and keep coming back to spots where you can snorkel well.
  • You're watching the coast on a helicopter flight from the top
  • If you have a lot of time, you'll walk over the 35-kilometer Kalalau Trail in two days.

Sightseeing flight Na Pali

2. Hanalei, Kauai

One of the most romantic bays of the islands awaits you in the north of Kauai. You may know her from the movie "The Descendants". In the town Hanalei there are small boutiques and galleries to discover.

3. Waimea Canyon, Kauai

The Grand Canyon of the Pacific impresses with spectacular rock formations and a diverse flora and fauna. There is a trail that leads you along the edge of this natural wonder. In a helicopter flight you see him in connection with the Napali Coast.

Waimea Canyon

4. Diamond Head, Oahu

An approximately two-hour, sometimes steep ascent brings you to the top of the landmark of Honolulu. It's worth the effort, because you'll be rewarded with a fabulous view over the island. Do not forget to take enough water with you.

5. Kaneohe Bay, Oahu

The bay is one of the most photographed places on the island. Especially popular with locals are trips to the sandbanks, which come to the surface at low tide. Nearby is the Valley of the Temples, with a replica of a 950-year-old Byodo In Temple in Japan. Jurassic Park was shot on Kualoa Ranch.

Byodo In Temple

6. Polynesian Cultural Center, Oahu

If you are interested in the Polynesian culture, you should plan a day in this open air museum. Every people introduces itself in a typical village. In the early evening we will go to a luau (Hawaiian feast) followed by a brilliant show in which you will get to know the dances of these peoples. In this park, there is also one of the famous Moai figures from Easter Island, which is also part of Polynesia.

traditional dance in Hawaii

7. Road to Hana, Maui

One of the most beautiful scenic roads in the world leads you through 600 hairpin bends and over 59 partly single-lane bridges. Along this road bamboo forests grow and in many small side valleys there are enchanting waterfalls. On the ocean side black lava beaches and blow holes waiting to be discovered.

8. Haleakala, Maui

The 3,000 meter high volcano is part of the eponymous national park. The sunrises on its summit are spectacular. From Paia you drive in serpentines about 100 kilometers through forests and meadows to get to the summit. In the park you can see the Hawaiian state bird, the Nene Goose.

Haleakala sunrise

9. Volcanoes National Park

Experience first-hand how all destructive lava creates new life. It is particularly fascinating when you see on a boat trip how it pours into the sea. If your time permits, plan for this park two or more days and explore it on the many trails.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

10. Place of Refuge

The Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historic District is a magical place. The nobles came here because there is supposedly a lot of energy flowing here. The temple complex has been completely preserved and restored. There are only a few places on the islands where the life of the indigenous people is depicted so vividly.

Five beaches in Hawaii that you should visit

Of course, Hawaii also has real dream beaches. In addition to the aforementioned Hanalei Bay, we give you a few recommendations for unforgettable beach days.

1st Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

The most famous beach of the islands must be seen, even if it is by far not the most beautiful. A narrow strip of sand separates the hotels from the water. If you continue towards Diamond Head, the beach will be quieter and wider.

Waikiki Beach

2. Hanauma Bay, Oahu

The bay is actually a crater of an extinct volcano and nature reserve. The beach was voted best of the US in 2016. Especially popular is the State Park with snorkelers who explore the fascinating underwater world here.

Hanauma Bay

3. Kaanapali Beach, Maui

At about 4.8 kilometers long white beach everyone will find his favorite place. When planning the hotels care was taken to ensure that there was enough space for those seeking relaxation.

4. Poipu Beach, Kauai

On this beautiful beach you will find ideal conditions to splash in the waves. At the end is Nukumoi Point, where the endangered Hawaiian monk seals love to snooze in the sun.

5. Hapuna Beach, Hawaii Island

This is one of the few white beaches on the island of Hawaii. To get here you have to drive your car through the black lava landscape in the west of the island. When snorkeling, you'll also meet a manta ray here.

Information and tips for travel preparation

exotic fruits

What's the best way to get to Hawaii?

For the outbound flight, it is advisable to book an early flight from Europe via San Francisco or Los Angeles. There you can still reach a connecting flight to Hawaii and arrive at the same day in the evening. This reduces the jet lag a bit. You should not immediately go to bed, but the first evening to end with a walk.

A stopover on the mainland of the USA makes more sense on the return flight, otherwise you spend two days in various aircraft. That's pretty nice.

For the flights you have to keep in mind that the flights from the mainland to Hawaii and back are considered as domestic flights and therefore – at least in the economy – there is no free food. When changing trains, however, you normally have enough time to buy some food and drinks at the airport. So you get some exercise after sitting for a long time.

In a direct return flight you usually have two stops in the US. The first on the west coast and the second on the east coast, so two domestic flights without free meals.

When is the best time to go to Hawaii?

The islands are a year round bathing destination. The average temperature is around 29 ° C from May to October, and around 25 ° C in winter. February is the best month since many Americans escape winter from the mainland on the islands. Incidentally, if you want to watch whales you should go to Hawaii between January and April.

What should I pay attention to when entering the country?

Before you leave, you have to take care of an electronic entry permit for the US – you can easily do that online. This should be done at least 72 hours before departure. The further immigration formalities you then do at the first airport in the US, on which you land. So plan enough transfer time. Exact information you get on the page of the Foreign Office.

Time difference: What time is it in Hawaii?

The time difference in summer is -11 hours at European time, in winter it is -12 hours.

The Hawaiian Islands are a longing for many, and rightly so. Get infected by the Aloha Spirit and immerse yourself in a world so different from anything you've ever seen. Take your time and discover paradise on earth. You will also find attractive offers for your Hawaii trip with us.

Updated April 2019

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