Guide To Island Hopping In Hawaii

Airplane wing above Hawaii.

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Island hopping in Hawaii? You’ll need a strategy and a good idea of what to expect from each of the islands. Flying routes and airlines have changed over the years, so here’s an easy guide on flight options when island hopping in Hawaii and how they differ from each other.

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About island hopping in Hawaii

Oahu, Maui, Big Island and Kauai

For the most part, travelers will hop on one of the major airlines servicing the 4 larger Hawaiian islands: Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai. These airplanes tend to be miniature versions of the large commercial planes you’re probably familiar with, but they still come with comfortable seating and a flight attendant or two depending on the size of the airplane or number of people.

Hawaiian Airlines: Comfortable flight with a local staff that likes to add that special island touch to their service. This usually comes in the form of their snack or beverage, or an enthusiastic flight attendant sharing their knowledge of the islands.

Southwest Airlines: They came into the scene in early 2019, which many local residents were enthusiastic about as the competition would hopefully drive interisland prices down.

Mokulele Airlines: Small commuter airplanes with no flight attendant. In fact, you’ll probably be able to see (and hear) the pilot. You’ll walk out to the plane and the pilot will tell you where to sit based on how much they think you weigh. Not a good idea for those uncomfortable on planes or get car sick easily, but it’s a fun experience.

NOTE: Hawaiian and Southwest fly between the larger airports: Honolulu, Oahu (HNL), Kahului, Maui (OGG), Hilo, Big Island (ITO), Kona, Big Island (KOA), Lihue, Kauai (LIH). Because of the smaller sizes of their aircrafts, Mokulele also flies to Waimea-Kohala, Big Island (MUE), Kapalua, Maui (JHM), Hana, Maui (HNM), Hoolehua, Molokai (MKK), Kalaupapa, Molokai (LUP), Lanai City, Lanai (LNY).

Flights to and from Molokai and Lanai

Hawaiian Airlines does occasionally offer flights to Molokai and Lanai, but it only happens once in a while when the economy is stable and business is going well for them. There are so few people on Molokai and Lanai (and fewer tourists), that it’s more of a service of goodwill so local residents living on Molokai and Lanai can get to the other islands to see family, go to the hospital, and have access to facilities and resources not available on their island.

Mokulele Airlines is a reputable local company that is known for flying to the smaller islands and airports in Hawaii. I’ve flown with them several times and the experience is particularly fun for kids as you feel the rumble of the airplane and see the cockpit from your seat. I have many memories flying back and forth from Oahu to Molokai for family fishing trips!

Tours for island hopping in Hawaii

Besides flying commercial, there are also interisland day trips that will arrange a one-day island hopping trip. This is a great option for those who don’t want to go through flying to a different island, changing hotels, and organizing activities. Instead your flights and tour will be handled on their end – all you have to do is show up. Here’s a list of interisland day trips you can consider.

Lanai – Maui ferry

If you’re on Lanai or Maui, you can buy a ticket to ride the ferry that goes back and forth between the two. The ride is relaxing and it’s a great way to get out on the water and see the islands from a different perspective.

Reserve your ferry ticket from Lanai to Maui

Reserve your ferry ticket from Maui to Lanai

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