2 Weeks Exploring Hawaii: Island of Hawaii, Oahu & Kauai
Picture Hawaii, and what comes to mind? Beaching, surfing, palm trees, island vibes. But there’s so much more to the Hawaiian Islands than meets the eye.
Hawaii is an adventurer’s playground, a photographer’s dream location, and a travelers bucket list destination. It’s made up of a chain of volcanic islands located southwest of the USA in the Pacific Ocean.
We spent 2 weeks exploring the Island of Hawaii, Oahu, and Kauai and loved every minute of it! Here’s our full itinerary, which includes all the practical information you need to start planning your trip.
Island 1: Island of Hawaii (Big Island)
The Island of Hawaii is the youngest and largest of all the Hawaiian Islands. Nearly twice the size of all the other islands combined, it is still growing.
There are two main cities on the Island of Hawaii - Kona is on the West side, and Hilo is on the East. We stayed in Kona, which is the more popular of the two, and loved the vibe and energy that came along with it.
The Island of Hawaii exceeded all our expectations as every corner brings with it dramatically different landscapes and exciting new adventures. From cascading waterfalls, to glittering, black sand beaches, scenic hiking routes and majestic volcanoes, the Island of Hawaii is an explorers paradise!
We recommend that you spend at least 4 days here. but even longer if you have the time!
Things to do on the Island of Hawaii
1) Explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
One of the main attractions on the Island of Hawaii is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is easily accessible and a must visit.
We spent an afternoon exploring here and ended our day by watching the most incredible sunset. The sky was bright pink as we stood there, on the rim of the crater, with steam rising from the volcano, and mingling with the dusky shades of the sky.
It was a surreal experience and one of those “pinch me” kind of moments.
Costs to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
We joined Epic Lava’s Volcano Park Tour and met with their team at the Kilauea Visitor Center.
The tour prices start from $125 per person for the 4-hour tour, which we highly recommend. Their guides are extremely passionate about the island, and the history behind the park.
If this is out of your price range, you can also visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park independently.
The entrance fee is only $25 per car which gives you access for the whole week.
2) Go canoeing
After arriving on the Island of Hawaii, we were so excited to get out and about! We checked into our hotel and headed straight to the beach, got a canoe and paddled out into the ocean for sunset.
You can rent canoes from Kona Boys Beach Shack on Kona Beach.
3) Take part in a Hula Class
The hula dance is synonymous with Hawaii but not many people know the meaning behind it or get a chance to experience this unique dance firsthand.
The Hula dance expresses the local beliefs and their culture, as well as respect for the environment around us. Learning more about the Hawaiian culture was a great introduction to our stay on the Hawaiian Islands.
4) Go snorkeling with Manta Rays
Snorkeling with Manta Rays at night was a magical experience and one of the highlights of our time in Hawaii.
They are huge and may seem quite scary at first, but they’re calm, gentle giants.
Our manta experience was organized by Anelakaia Adventures, an eco-friendly tour operator in Hawaii. We ventured out from Kona and made our way into the ocean on a canoe with no engine.
Snorkeling at night when you’re surrounded by Manta Rays can be quite intimidating, but our guide made sure that we were relaxed and felt safe before getting in.
The tour costs $109 per person and is worth every penny.
5) Go for a hike
When you’re visiting the Island of Hawaii, adventure is on your doorstep. And the best way to take it all in is to explore on foot. This is exactly what we did when we visited Pololu Valley, the northernmost valley of the extinct volcano, Kohala.
As we stood there, high up on the cliffs, we watched the waves as they crashed in all their might against the rocks below.
The Pololu Valley hike is towards the North of the island, about 1.5 hours’ drive from Kona. The route is well marked and not crowded. Highly recommended!
6) Visit a black sand beach
Pololu Beach is a black sand beach on the northern coast of the Island of Hawaii. The bay is surrounded by towering cliffs and is completely deserted.
It’s a great outing to pair with the Pololu Valley hike above, even in the rain!
7) Make some delicious Kona coffee
We joined UCC Hawaii and got our hands dirty roasting our very own coffee in Kona. The team explained the entire coffee-making process and we enjoyed a few cups of our freshly roasted coffee after!
The coffee tour costs $45 per person which includes 2 bags of coffee with your own custom label.
8) Check out the largest waterfall in Hawaii
At 135m high, Akaka Waterfall is Hawaii’s largest waterfall and one of the best places to visit on the Island of Hawaii.
It’s located east of the island, close to Hilo. The waterfall is a short walk from the parking lot and entrance is $5 per car.
Where to eat on the Island of Hawaii
We were so impressed with all the vegan options available and highly recommend the below restaurants on the Island of Hawaii.
Sweet Potato Kitchen
Sweet Cane Cafe
Conscious Culture Cafe
Under the Bodhi Tree
Where to stay on the Island of Hawaii
Luxury: Fairmont Orchid - This luxurious resort is the perfect place to return to after a full day of exploring. They also have kayaks, SUP’s and snorkeling equipment which you can use and there are turtles right on the beach in front of the hotel.
Budget: We love staying in self-catering apartments when we’re traveling. Not only are they cheaper than hotels, but you can also prepare your own meals so you save costs by not eating out. Places like Knigge Farms and this condo are the perfect budget-friendly accommodation options on Big Island.
Island 2: Oahu
After a few days exploring the Island of Hawaii, we were excited to move on to Oahu.
Although it’s a smaller island when compared to the Island of Hawaii, Oahu has a lot of attractions and the beaches here are some of the best in Hawaii.
Things to do in Oahu
1) Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Reserve
This is the day we were most excited for! Kualoa Ranch is a 4 000 acre nature reserve located on the East coast of Oahu.
Remember the movies Jurassic Park, Jumanji, Mighty Joe Young, and Godzilla? And who can forget Lost or 50 First Dates! Well, Kualoa Ranch is the filming location for all of these. How crazy is that!
There are various tours starting from $40 per person, going up to $150 depending on your preferences.
2) Watch dolphins on a boat tour
The highlight of all our trips involves some sort of adventure, and this was no different!
We headed West of Oahu for a boat trip where we spent the morning watching dolphins and free-diving.
This 4-hour boat tour with Wild Side Speciality Tours costs $175 per person which includes your snorkeling gear, lunch, snacks, and water.
3) Explore Haleiwa
Haleiwa is located on Oahu’s north shore and is famous for its big waves and great beaches.
This is where all the big surfing competitions take place so if you’re here at the right time, you might be able to watch the pro’s as they take on some of the biggest waves in the world!
4) Explore the streets of Kaka’ako District:
A street art community project was started by Pow Wow Worldwide which showcases the talent of the community. Head to the Kaka’ako District to check it out!
It really is incredible to see just how creative people are, and how we can express ourselves through different forms of art.
5) Swim with turtles
We can never get enough of turtles, so we headed to Laniakea Beach. There are so many secret spots nearby where you’ll have the beach to yourself.
As Marie was gently floating in the water, a turtle mistook her bright yellow bathing suit for algae and bit her. A moment we won’t forget too quickly!
6) Go beaching at Waimea Bay
Waimea Bay is a beautiful beach on the north shore of Oahu. It’s a great place to go swimming, snorkeling, and surfing. We even saw an eagle ray!
We met up with Nolan, a local photographer who we’ve been following for quite some time and it was great getting the chance to meet him and create some awesome content together.
7) SUP Yoga
Doing yoga is an integral part of our daily routine and we were put to the test in Oahu when we did yoga, on a stand-up paddle board, in the middle of the ocean!
It was a beautiful way to take in our first sunset on Oahu Island in Hawaii.
Our session was lead by Yoga Floats at Waikiki Beach. It cost $40 per person for the 1.5-hour yoga class.
Where to eat in Oahu
As with the Island of Hawaii, Oahu has endless options for vegans, and we loved the food here
Govinda’s Restaurant. This spot serves the most delicious vegan and vegetarian buffet for $12 all you can eat. They’re only open during lunch time.
Beet Box Café
Mud Hen Water
Kahumana Organic Farm & Cafe
Where to stay in Oahu:
Island 3: Kauai
Kauai was the last stop on our Hawaii itinerary. We were welcomed to the island with a morning shower but that didn’t stop us from getting out and exploring!
Kauai is often overlooked by tourists who have limited time and choose to visit other islands, such as the Island of Hawaii and Oahu instead. But the secret is out: Kauai is our favorite place in Hawaii!
Things to do in Kauai
1) Boat trip to the Napali Coast
Words can’t describe just how incredible the lush green forests, towering mountains, and out-of-this-world scenery are that makes up the Napali Coast on Kauai Island.
It’s located on the northwest of Kauai and the best way to experience this gorgeous coastline is with a boat cruise. We explored caves, saw countless dolphins and several giant turtles.
For $130 per person, you’ll get 6 hours on the ocean including food, refreshments and snorkeling gear. We highly recommend Kauai Sea Tours for this.
2) Take a dive into Wailua Falls
Wailua Falls is a 50m high waterfall on the east of Kauai.
If you walk down the trail you’ll reach the pool at the bottom where you can swim beneath the falls. It’s not crowded and a must-visit spot in Kauai.
3) Take a drive to Hanalei Bay
Hanalei Bay is the biggest bay on the north of Kauai Island. The beaches here are beautiful and it’s worth stopping by and exploring the town.
4) Visit Turtle Cove
You’re almost guaranteed to see turtles at Turtle Cove! This was such a fun experience for us because not only are there turtles in the water, but you also get to swim in a cave.
5) Explore Queens Bath
Queens Bath is a tidal pool north of Kauai that has been separated from the sea by lava rock! It made for a great trip and is a must-do on Kauai Island.
Where to eat in Kauai
Papayas natural foods
Java Kai Kauai
Where to stay in Kauai
Plantation Hale Suites: We stayed here for 3 nights and paid $450 in total. It’s a great price considering how expensive some of the other accommodation options in Hawaii can be.
How to get to Hawaii
Most international flights to Hawaii arrive into Oahu. To get to the Island of Hawaii and Kauai, you’ll need to catch a domestic flight from Oahu. Both islands are about 40 minutes away and a return flight will cost about $145.
How to get around the islands
The Hawaiian Islands are best explored by car.
Renting a vehicle for the duration of your stay will allow you to have the flexibility to move around as and when you please. You can also explore the islands and enjoy the quiet and hidden parts that not many people get to see.
We paid $120 for a 3-day rental which included insurance.
The best time to visit Hawaii
Hawaii is top of most traveler’s bucket lists and so the best time to visit is between September and November when it’s not so busy.
Peak season is December to March, and you’ll find that everything will cost a bit more during this time.
Unfortunately, Hawaii is one of the more expensive destinations we’ve visited, but if you plan your trip in advance, you can save quite a bit of money.
A bottle of water costs between $1-4 and simple lunch at a local cafe will set you back $12-$30 per person. If you’re looking to go on a dinner date with your partner, expect to pay $20-$40 per person. This excludes the 15-20% tip that is expected.
If you’re traveling on a budget, it’s best to stay in a self-catering apartment where you can cook your own meals as all of those costs add up. We paid $29 for snacks and groceries for 3 people to make dinner at our apartment and we highly recommend that you look at doing the same.
Bali and Sri Lanka are far more affordable travel destinations. But the Hawaiian Islands are unlike any place we’ve explored before.
Our trip to the Island of Hawaii and Oahu was organized in collaboration with @gohawaiiuk to raise awareness for sustainable tourism. Thank you for having us on your beautiful islands and we can’t wait to return!