Families with older kids can spend the day enjoying water sports like snorkeling with sea turtles in Oahu’s Hanuama Bay Nature Preserve or taking surfing lessons in Kihei, Maui. For a break from the sand, head to the Honolulu Zoo, hike to Manoa Falls, ride horses at Kualoa Ranch, or explore the rich history and culture of Oahu and its sister islands at the Bishop Museum, where the interactive displays are designed just for kids. On Maui, the volcanic Haleakala National Park offers the chance to peek inside a crater, then take a looooong bike ride all the way down from nearly the top of the volcano. For kids who love to snorkel, hop on a boat and head out to Molokini, a volcanic atoll where the snorkeling is world-class.
Where to Stay in Hawaii
For family-friendly accommodations on Oahu, stay at the Sheraton Waikiki. The hotel’s Helumoa Playground Pool offers fountains and water slides to keep the little ones busy for hours. And when parents need a break, the kids camp offers outings to various destinations around town. For Maui vacations, book one of the best Hawaii all-inclusive experiences at the Royal Lahaina Resort. This beachfront destination offers multiple pools, private garden cottages, and tennis courts.
When it comes to picking accommodations for your Hawaiian vacation in Maui or Oahu, both offer a spread of options that lean on the pricier side compared to the other islands.
The bulk of Maui’s accommodations are concentrated on the south and west side of the island.
The budget tier begins with shared hostel dorms that average $50 per night, while middle-range hotels with decent facilities cost approximately $250.
But what steals the show are the island’s luxurious beachfront resorts.
Sprawling estates with private white sand beaches, grassy lawns, spacious rooms and luxurious facilities.
Some come attached to golf courses and on-site restaurants. No wonder prices per night can go from $500 up.
Staying in Oahu
Oahu isn’t far behind on the price point, although its metropolitan means a wider range of accommodation.
Because people jostle for space along Waikiki Beach (Oahu being the most populated island in Hawaii).
In fact, exclusive beachfront houses can go for $700 per night. The accessibility may be worth it though. There are cheaper options, of course.
Hostel beds offer slightly more competitive prices at $40 per night; regular hotels cost between $150 and $350 depending on their ratings.
Keep in mind that any accommodation near the coast is going to cost a lot more.
Beaches in Maui
Maui’s laidback charm extends to its sandy beaches, luckily free of the suffocating crowds you’ll find at Oahu’s most popular spots.
It’s a big plus for those who are looking to get away from people in general and have some beach time.
The calm waters along Maui’s coast makes it much easier for young swimmers to handle.
Another boost comes from the unique nature of several Maui beaches – how often do you get to play on red or black sand?
And we haven’t even mentioned the massive turtle invasion yet!
Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach, the red sand Kaihalulu Beach and One’uli Black Sand Beach are stunning backdrops for photoshoots.
Ka’anapali Beach with 3 miles of soft white sand is a really pretty sight against the bright blue waters.
Nightlife in Maui
Maui’s nightlife veers on the wholesome side, with most bars and restaurants spread out between Kihei, historical Paia and Lahaina’s Front Street.
Happy hour reigns from 3 PM to 6 PM, combining refreshing cocktails and sunset ocean views.
While there are a few nightclubs with dance floors, you’ll most likely pass time with classic pub fare, a drink in hand and live music.
You might be disappointed by the lack of mad parties, but Aloha Friday will keep your spirits up!
Combining performances, delicious food, art vendors and outdoor venues, this Friday town party is the epitome of laidback fun.
Sunset cruises and luaus also fall under ‘nightlife’ in Maui. Do expect to end the night and go home by 10 PM though.
Outdoor Activities in Maui
Maui is an extremely generous sponsor of outdoor adventure, leading you through underwater adventures and up towering volcanic peaks, while rewarding you with stunning views.
Sprawling Haleakala National Park, home of the Haleakala Crater, is an unmissable giant, but it’s the winding Road to Hana Highway that will keep you on the road for days.
Waterfalls and botanical gardens (like mystical Ohe’o Gulch) dot the famous drive; not to mention 30 miles of beaches – with black lava sand no less!
Beyond the coast are snorkeling islets like Molokini, close enough for a day paddle out.
Outdoor activities are diverse indeed! Not only can you do the essential hiking and beach lounging, horse riding and four-wheeler tours also bring you to the heart of Maui’s wild terrain.
Farm tours are a must if you’re upcountry; take your pick of pineapple, coffee, lavender and protea.
Outdoor Activities in Oahu
Oahu boasts its own impressive volcanic remains – like the mammoth Diamond Head crater on the edge of Honolulu.
Pretty plants? Why, yes, Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden and Lyon Arboretum offers hundreds of acres of landscaped gardens and tropical rainforest.
Many spirited hikers have checked off hikes like the Maunawili Falls Trail, Pillbox Hike, Koko Crater Railway Trailhead, Diamond Head and more.
Oahu is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching and experience some of the most impressive marine mammals up close.
Kualoa Ranch is a favorite for those who want preserve, park and film site all in one.
But what Oahu really spoils you with, is an endless swath of famous beaches.
There are beaches for every water activity you can think of making it perfect for water sports enthusiasts; snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, windsurfing – even taking a boat ride and swimming alongside sharks.
Things to Do: Cultural & Historic Attractions
Historic Attractions in Maui
With most of Maui developing along the coastline, many of its quieter attractions are scattered over the island.
Peeks into Maui’s culture and history revolve around the various industries that propelled it along.
Maui Tropical Plantation and Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum are two such examples; learn about Maui’s sugarcane and pineapple production past!
Whalers Village Museum explores its whaling history, while the Ulalena Show at Maui Theater and Te Au Moana are much livelier, artistically-inclined showcases.
You do have to dig for Maui’s history – where you have the towering religious structure of Pi’ilanihale Heiau in Kahanu Garden, you also have hidden villages frozen in time.
It’s easy to skimp on these abandoned spaces or bypass sacred sites due to modern cover-ups.
Historic Attractions in Oahu
Oahu, home to the capital of Hawaii, is a brimming trove of cultural and historical tidbits.
Former royal residences and plantations are now open for tours; Iolani Palace, Dole Plantation and Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art are estates turned museums.
Polynesian Cultural Center and Bishop Museum treat you to history through performances and natural history exhibits, while Honolulu Museum of Art is a more modern addition.
Most notably, Oahu displays significant war history. The historic site of Pearl Harbor now shelters reminders of why peace is necessary.
Step into the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum to learn more about WWII.
For more peaceful pursuits, the Byodo-In Temple is an elaborate Buddhist structure in the mountains.
Shopping in Maui
Maui likes its one-of-a-kind shops, boutiques and surf shacks. Surely you’ll agree, as you browse quality galleries, handicraft stores, specialty shops that sell lavender and locally made goods.
For unique stops, drive through the northern shore and upcountry slopes.
Saturday raises an opportunity for the cool weekly swap meet – think jewelry and other handmade goodies.
That’s not to say that it’s completely left out of the ‘famous brands’ loop.
Popular names like Lululemon, Louis Vuitton, Cos, Kate Spade and Sephora can be found alongside local designers.
Shopping in Oahu
Hawaii’s shopping haven is none other than Oahu. As you can expect from a metropolitan city like Honolulu, there are huge malls like Ala Moana Center and shopping-centric Kalakaua Avenue.
There’s even an International Marketplace and an outlet in Waikele.
If you like a good mix of high-end brands and mid-range shops, Honolulu is where it’s at.
For more budget-friendly shopping like swap meets and cute stores, drop by the Windward Coast and North Shore.
Dining in Maui
Maui has blossomed in recent years, having graduated from standard American fare and mahi-mahi to innovative experiences.
Lahaina takes the lead, featuring celebrity-owned restaurants, popular breweries and plenty of restaurants with local dishes.
Drawing from fresh catches and farm-grown produce, international chefs have introduced remarkable restaurants like Mama’s Fish House, Ka’ana Kitchen at the Andaz Resort and more.
That’s not to say that Maui has cornered the market on high-end dining.
Some of its best eateries remain low-key and humble, including Paia Fish Market and budget-friendly Da Kitchen.
Dining in Oahu
Oahu’s high population gives it a natural advantage in the dining scene – the sheer number of restaurants and flavors offered are impressive.
It’s defined by the variety of international cuisines that carved out niches for themselves.
Dim sum restaurants serve alongside Portuguese bakeries; you can sniff out loco moco, Filipino lumpias and fresh grinds by Kahuku Food Trucks.
Upscale dining has also staked claims in the various hotels and oceanfront buildings.
The best way to get there: an organized tour
What do these excursions offer?
You must keep in mind that the specific details of the excursions may be modified depending on the company you hire for the experience. However, in general terms, this type of excursions depart before 07h so that you can make the most of the day.
From Honolulu you will take a plane to Maui and once at the destination airport you will start a road trip that will take you through the highlights and best attractions of the island.
There is much to see and enjoy on the island of Maui and while the list of attractions may vary, some of the featured activities include: Visiting and touring Waianapanapa State Park (one of the most beautiful in all of Hawaii); seeing Puahokamoa Falls or Wailua Falls; passing through the old Paia plantations and, of course, an excursion to see the unique black sand beach of Hohokalani (a beach formed by lava pebbles from volcanic cliffs).
These are almost always shared excursions that take place in small to medium sized groups (from 8 to 20 participants). The organizing company provides travelers with all transfers; round-trip airfare, transportation from the hotel in Waikiki to the airport and transportation in private minibus through the various points of interest in Maui.
- Price: For this type of adventure you will pay about 580€. The price includes all transportation, entrance fees and round trip airfare on the Oahu-Maui route.
- Duration of the trip: It is a full day group tour so you should reserve at least one day of your itinerary for this activity.
- Recommended if… you are visiting Hawaii for several days, for example 5 days on Oahu or more, and you want to see new destinations. It is highly recommended for travelers who travel to this destination for the second time and like the idea of venturing into new territories, you will have a lot of fun.
How to Travel From Oahu to Maui, Hawaii
When you take your dream vacation to Hawaii, you naturally want to see more than one of the Hawaiian islands. But closing the 80-mile gap between Oahu and Maui isn’t as easy as hopping on a ferry or hiring a shuttle. Treacherous currents between the islands throughout the year deliver stomach-rolling 20-foot swells. Inter-island cruises take a minimum of seven days to get from Honolulu to Oahu, making air travel the only viable option for direct travel between the two.
Flight time for inter-island flights isn’t too long, making island hopping accessible, especially if you can find cheap flights for your round-trip. This is especially important if you’re doing day trips, but airfare isn’t usually too bad, especially if you’re flying Hawaiian Airlines.
Fly the Friendly Skies
If you’re planning to split your vacation time between the two islands, booking through major airlines that fly to both such as Hawaiian, Virgin, Alaska and United are often the best way to save money. Planning an itinerary that flies to Honolulu and continues to Oahu after a few days is often as cheap as just flying to one or the other, according to Travel Pirates. Depending on the time of year, buying the leg between Honolulu, Oahu and Kahului, Maui, can run $150 or more.
Book a Commuter Flight
Saving money isn’t necessarily the only factor in booking air travel from Oahu to Maui, however. It might be worth it to spend a little more and get a better view of the scenery as you’re traveling. Get a bird’s-eye view of waterfalls, whales and more on these flights, which fly at a lower altitude than jets. Commuter flights also save the time and hassle of passing through TSA checkpoints since they don’t fly out of the main airport terminals.
Mokulele Airlines even lets your pet fly with you in the cabin at no extra charge – providing it’s well-behaved. The daily commuter flights travel from Honolulu-to-Maui destinations that include Hana, Kahului and Kapalua. First-class leather seating offers an excellent view, but limited under-seat storage has limits of 15 pounds and maximum dimensions of 22 inches tall by 14 inches wide and 9 inches long. There’s also an extra charge for baggage, with rates increasing the more bags you bring.
All-in-One Travel Deals
Booking all-in-one travel deals can include your accommodations and flights on Oahu, Maui, or the Island of Hawaii for a single price. A sample itinerary might consist of a flight from the mainland to Honolulu where you’ll stay for three nights. Travel on to Maui on day 4 for an additional three nights before departing for a direct flight back to the continental United States from Honolulu International Airport through Southwest Airlines or United. This is a great travel tip if you want to check in for your vacation and not have to worry about anything after you say Aloha.
All-in-one travel deals give you the flexibility to add on excursions and tours much as you would when taking a cruise. The travel packages don’t always include transfer from the airport to your hotel, however, so check out transportation services like rental cars. Likewise, when booking excursions, check to see whether the adventure picks up at the hotel, or if you must make your way to a specified location via ferry service or other public transportation.
Hawaii has so much to offer, from snorkeling to seeing humpback whales to touring Pearl Harbor to enjoying the north shore beaches, the major islands like the Big Island, Kauai, and the island of Oahu have many attractions. But don’t forget about lesser known places too, including Waikiki, Hilo, Molokai, Kona, Lihue, Haleakala National park, Lahaina, Lanai, and Kihei, among many others.