ETHICAL TRAVEL TIPS WILL BE MARKED LIKE THIS: ETT
The first step to enjoying Hawaii is getting there!
You'll usually have a fairly long flight to Hawaii (at least 5-6 hours). The price of your flight (especially if going with multiple people) could be one of the largest costs in your trip, so it needs to be planned accordingly and with enough time in advance to capitalize on discounts and good deals.
In this guide we try to help you decide when, how, and where to book your ticket to Hawaii, while offering you some sustainable and ethical choices with locally owned airlines.
COVID-19 AND FLYING TO HAWAII
Domestic travelers coming from the US no longer have any covid restrictions during travel. International travelers do still have to follow international protocol. See more restrictions and preparation information in our guide on How To Prepare For Your Trip To Hawaii (Pre-Trip Research)
How long does a flight to Hawaii take?
It firstly depends on how many stops are in your flight from your local airport to Hawaii. Every stop typically adds a few hours of waiting time to your trip. (You don't want to have anything less than a 1-2 hour layover to ensure you do not miss any connecting flights!) You might be able to find a few direct flights, but plan to spend at least twice the cost of a ticket with a stop or two.
Secondly, almost every flight from the mainland to Hawaii first arrives at Honolulu (HNL) on the island of O‘ahu. From there, you'll board an inter-island flight to get to Maui, The Big Island, Kauai, Molokai.
Make sure you balance the cost of your ticket with the amount of stops and take in to account the stop between an outer island and Oahu.
HOW MUCH DOES A TICKET TO HAWAII COST?
The price you can expect to pay for a ticket to Hawaii really depends on the location you are departing from (the farther away usually the more expensive it is), the tourism season in Hawaii (busy season is more expensive and slow season is cheaper), and the time your flight arrives (usually the earlier in the day you board your flight, the more expensive it is).
These topics will be covered in the following sections.
To give you a very brief idea, here is the estimated cost for a single ticket from a few different places at a few different times.
- LAX (LA, CA) to HNL (Honolulu, Oahu) Nov 8-Nov 16 7am - Roundtrip $257
- BTV (Burlington, VT) to KOA (Kona, Big Island) Aug 1-Aug 5 6am - Roundtrip $3619
- MCO (Orlando, FL) to OGG (Kahului, Maui) Jan 2 - Jan 7 815pm - Roundtrip $1572
- SEA (Seattle, WA) to LIH (Lihui, Kauai) April 11- April 20 925am - Roundtrip $456
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO BUY A TICKET TO HAWAII?
There are two possible answers to this question.
First: Demand for tickets during high season and holidays usually raises the price per ticket dramatically.
Secondly: There is usually a perfect "sweet spot" to book your ticket in advance to find the best deals.
HOW FAR IN ADVANCE SHOULD YOU BOOK YOUR FLIGHT TO HAWAII TO FIND THE LOWEST AIRFARE?
For this answer, I'll show you a few examples to see the exact changes. Remember, look at a few different dates during your trip research to find the best price. Turn on the "Flexible Dates" when searching for flights to look through a whole month of price costs.
Using an example of traveling from Seattle, WA to Honolulu, Oahu here are the costs where the only difference is the amount of time before the booking.
2 weeks before my trip starts: Roundtrip $908
4 weeks before my trip starts: Roundtrip $800 (but half the tickets are already sold out)
4 months before my trip starts: Roundtrip $719
6 months before my trip starts: Roundtrip $418
1 year before my trip starts: Roundtrip $462
It seems that the closer you are to your travel dates, the more expensive your flights can get. 6 months to 1 year seems to be the sweet spot for ticket purchases (taking in to account high season and holiday seasons as well).
WHAT ARE THE CHEAPEST MONTHS TO VISIT HAWAII?
The cheapest time to fly to Hawaii is during the tourism "low season". Not only is low season more cost effective, but it is more sustainable for the islands. ETT During high season, there is much more people on each island than resources available. You typically see water shortages, food shortages, and huge spikes in electric costs and utilities for local residents in these seasons. There is also more tourists in local hospitals that take up limited medical resources and much more traffic due to the spike in vehicles on the road.
In low season, there are less people and therefore, more resources available for both local residents and travelers. Tickets are also cheaper and luau tickets, waterfall adventures, manta dives, and similar activities are also lower priced with more available dates.
If you have the ability and luxury to plan your vacation in those months where demand for tickets and resources are low, you should definitely try to do so.
If your only available dates are during high season, just take this in to account when planning and when traveling.
The low season is usually April - June and September - Late November. Cheapest tickets can also be found around January after the holiday rush and September before the holiday rush.
OUR FAVORITE AIRLINES THAT FLY TO HAWAII
There are plenty of airlines with flights to Hawaii, and many people will find the cheapest or first flight they can and book. However, there are a few airlines that originated in Hawaii, have the bulk of their employees based in Hawaii and give back to their local communities. They also typically have great customer service and aloha attitude.
#1 HAWAIIAN AIRLINES
Hawaiian Airlines consistently has a high level of customer service and also often offers good promotions directly on their website. ETT: Not only that, but they were originated in Hawaii and now, even though they are international and one of the top 10 largest airline companies, they have their main offices based in Hawaii, and continuously offer assistance and community service to their local communities on island and in the cities they service. Out of all the large airlines, your dollars will stay in the local Hawaii community the most with this Hawaii based airline.
Find their best prices for your trip directly at the Hawaiian Airlines official website.
#2: MOKULELE AIRLINES
This is a locally owned and family owned airline in Hawaii. They are typically known to be the best "island hopper" by using a charter plane that holds less than 20 passengers and can cheaply and quickly transport you from island to island. However, they do have flights and partnerships that travel to and from the mainland. ETT If you have the luxury, we always recommend flying with the local family owned airlines to keep the majority of your money in the islands.
Find their best prices for your trip directly at the Mokulele Airlines official website.
#3 SOUTHWEST AIRLINES
With no connection to the Hawaiian Islands, Southwest Airlines is just known locally for their low prices all around for all Hawaii flights. They also usually have deals on their website.
More details on the Southwest Airlines website.
INTER-ISLAND FLIGHTS (BETWEEN THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS)
If you are vacationing in Hawaii and want to see more than one island (and you should if time permits!), you will probably be taking several interisland flights. These are short (~ 1 hour) flight between the different Hawaiian Islands. We ALWAYS recommend Mokulele Airlines if possible and available. If Mokulele is not possible, we secondly recommend Hawaiian Airlines. Try to travel at the end of the day (think after 7pm) so you can enjoy the bulk of your day on island and not waste precious day light in an airport.
You don't want to island hop so frequently that half your trip ends up being in an airport. Balance your island hops so you have at minimum 4 full days on each island (Maui, Kauai, Oahu, Big Island) and maybe do a 2 day hop to Molokai or Lanai if possible. If it is your first time to Hawaii, either try to pick one island or try to plan a longer trip so you can stay on each island as long as possible. The activities on each island will seem endless and you'll run out of time.
OUR LAST PIECE OF ADVICE "HTT"
No matter your budget, time constraint, or resources available for your trip, traveling to Hawaii is an amazing experience, but it is also a privilege. When you can, book with locally owned companies. When you can't, book with companies who give back to the islands and the people. And when you can't do that, breathe. Not everything is possible to do. As long as you travel with intention and have aloha in your heart for the islands you are visiting, that will make all the difference.
Remember to visit Hawaii ethically and respectfully, so that there can be a Hawaii for you to come back to 🖤