Researching your trip from Australia to Hawaii? We’ve done the research for you with our essential list of top sites for Hawaii travel planning and inspiration.
There’s no place on earth quite like the handful of sun-drenched, mid-Pacific islands affectionately known as the Aloha State, and Australian travellers are wise to the fact. Here you’ll find palm-fringed turquoise lagoons, lush rainforests, secret gardens, sandy beaches, inviting waterfalls, wild rivers rushing through rugged canyons, and towering volcanoes.
It’s easy to see how the world’s longest island chain has captured Australia’s heart, with more of us yearning to explore the unknown magic of Hawaii as a holiday in its own right, or as an exotic stepping stone to its adopted mother country, the United States of America. On arrival in Oahu, Aussie explorers are never disappointed – the Hawaii of Hollywood films and South Seas literature really does exist.
Hawaii is home of the world’s most active volcano, the crater of Kilauea on Mauna Loa. Volcanic activity is the natural force we have to thank for Hawaii’s epic natural scenery. Think coastlines of soaring cliffs rising straight up out of the ocean, large rocks of lava protrude from the water along the shore, and because of all colour, from gold, red, black, and even green sands, caressed by waves great and small.
Each of Hawaii’s six main islands is separate, distinct, and infinitely complex. There’s far too much to see and do that it’s no wonder Aussies are flocking to the Aloha state year after year.
To help you plan your trip we’ve scoured the internet for the best Hawaii travel tips.
Hawaii is the 50th and most recent U.S. state to join the United States and is the only U.S. state located in Oceania. Made up of a string of hundreds of islands across a volcanic archipelago, Hawaii is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, in the central Pacific Ocean. At the southeastern end of the archipelago, we find the eight main islands, Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui and the Island of Hawaiʻi. The last is the largest island in the group; it is often called the “Big Island’ or ‘Hawaiʻi Island’ to avoid confusion with the state or archipelago.
Typically, tourists enter Hawaii via Honolulu International Airport on the island of Oahu.
Fun fact: The Aloha state once went be a very different name, albeit briefly – thankfully. Captain James Cook called the islands that he ‘discovered’ in 1778 the Sandwich islands, to honour the Earl of Sandwich, of all people. Fortunately, King Kamehameha I united the islands under his rule by 1819 as the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Hawaii is tantalisingly close to Australia, especially when you’re jetting off from the east coast. Entry via Hawaii’s international airport at Honolulu is a comfortable 9h 45m duration flight from Sydney.
The flight options to Honolulu are plenty with Jetstar flying direct from Melbourne 3 times a week in 10h 30m, and Qantas, Hawaiian Airlines and Jetstar taking care of the Sydney route with a 9h 45m flight. Brisbane also gets a direct 9h 15m flight to Honolulu with Hawaiian Airlines and Jetstar.
Connecting flights are available for Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart and Gold Coast.
Black Sand beach of Punaluu. Image: travelchannel.com
Nearly twice as big as all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined, the sheer size of Hawaii Island, or Big Island, can be inspiring. Hawaii Island was formed by five volcanoes, two of which – Mauna Loa and Kilauea -are still active volcanoes and erupt intermittently, sometimes spewing fiery lava streams flowing down the mountains to the sea. With all this volcanic action going on, the landscape is incredibly diverse and you’ll find all but two of the world’s climatic zones within this island’s shores.
The north and southeastern coast of Hawaii is protected by high cliffs with silvery waterfalls falling over the edge and into the ocean below. See more on Big Island at GoHawaii.com
- Black Sand beach of Punaluu, on the southeastern Kau coast
- Active volcano Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, 45 mins south of Hilo (major centre, and home to Big Island’s airport)
- Snorkel with manta rays or take a a night boat tour on the Kona Coast
- Horseback riding with Hawaiian Cowboys in the upcountry ranchlands of Waimea
Honolulu, Oahu Island Hawaii from the air
Oahu, with its iconic capital of Honolulu and Waikiki beach, is the Hawaii tourists know best. The place is incredibly beautiful, with two mountain ranges hugging a valley of green rolling plains, white sandy beaches stretching on for ever and a day, epic waves calling surfers to Banzai Pipeline up at North Shore, and Diamond Head in Honolulu – an extinct volcanic crater – keeping a watchful eye over sun-drenched Waikiki beach.
You’ll find the majority of hotels and resorts in Waikiki, but you’ll also find three renowned Oahu resort areas on the North Shore, the Leeward Coast and in the Kahala area of east Honolulu. Get to know more about Oahu at GoHawaii.com
- Learn to ride the waves in Waikiki, the birthplace of surfing
- Catch the big-wave surf action on Oahu’s famed North Shore
- Climb Leahi (Diamond Head) for soaring views of Waikiki beach and Honolulu
- Swim in pristine waters at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Iao Valley, Maui Island, Hawaii. Credit myiaovalley.com
Maui was formed by two volcanoes and is often called the ‘Valley Isle’ because of the many canyons that cut into the islands two mountain ranges. Haleakala, the highest point on Maui,also contains the world’s largest dormant volcanic crater, at least for now. Haleakala is considered active and is expected to erupt sometime within the next 200 years.
Taking a slower pace than Oahu, Maui is dotted with quaint towns, artist communities and eateries that have been around for generations. Head to Wailuku for pastries from a “mom and pop” bakery, or head to Lahaina for a taste of Maui’s famed farm to table cuisine. From shimmering beaches and sacred Iao Valley to migrating humpback whales and sunset on Haleakala, it’s not surprising Maui was voted the “Best Island” by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler for more than twenty years. Get to know more about Maui at GoHawaii.com
- See humpback whales on a tour departing from Lahaina Harbour
- Reconnect with nature in Central Maui’s Iao Valley State Park, home to Maui icon, the 1,200-foot Iao Needle.
- Take one of the world’s most scenic drives to the remote town of Hana on Maui’s eastern coastline.
- Explore three miles of white sand and crystal clear water at Kaanapali Beach, home to many of Maui’s top hotels and resorts.
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USA VISAS FOR HAWAII
The Aussie government’s Smartraveller site is our go-to for the really important stuff on all foreign travel, including the U.S. On tourist visa rules for Australian’s visiting Hawaii on holiday, Smartraveller says:
If you are visiting the United States for business or pleasure, you may be eligible to be admitted for up to 90 days under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) on an ESTA . If you wish to work, study, or stay for more than 90 days, you are not eligible for entry under the VWP on an ESTA and you must obtain a visa before travelling.
Before setting off to Hawaii, Australian passport holders travelling under the VWP must apply for an ESTA at least 72 hours prior to travel. The cost is US$14 and is payable online by credit card.
While ESTA makes travel to the U.S a relative breeze, it’s important to know that the United States administers a strict entry regime and you may be refused entry if you do not comply with its requirements, even if you have already obtained travel authorisation under the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA).
Australians with a criminal record (regardless of how minor or how long ago the offence took place) should ensure they seek advice from their nearest United States Embassy or Consulate about their visa requirements for entering or transiting the United States.
Because entry and exit requirements can change, contact your nearest Embassy or consulate of the United States for the most up-to-date information.
Also worth mentioning: the United States has specific requirements regarding locks used on airline baggage. See the Transport Security Administration’s website for further details.
There is a general threat from terrorism in all regions of the U.S and unfortunately that risk is deemed to be heightened at present.
The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issues detailed alerts through its National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) when it receives information about a specific or credible terrorist threat within the United States.
In a list of potential U.S safety risks, Smartraveller also cautions Australian travellers to protect themselves from opportunistic crimes, which may lead to violent crimes. Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your property against petty crime. Don’t leave passports in rental cars, especially in the boot, as rented cars can be targeted by criminals.
Hawaii is prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and volcanic activity including lava flows, ash falls and debris avalanches. Yet, flash flooding is probably the one to keep an eye out for the most as heavy rain makes parts of each of the Hawaiian Islands susceptible to flash floods. Heavy rain can turn a small, quiet river into a cascading one that sweeps everything away that comes into its way.
To learn more about what to do before, during and after a natural disaster, visit the Federal Emergency Management website.
It’s also a great idea to register your Hawaii travel details with Smartraveller to stay in the loop via their emergency email service.
The standard of medical facilities and care available in Hawaii is comparable to Australia. The costs however, are far from comparable. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Medical costs in the United States are extremely high. A visit to a doctor in the United States for even minor complaints can cost several hundred dollars, excluding laboratory tests or medication costs. – Smartraveller.
In the absence of accepted health insurance (or proof of ability to pay), payment would generally be required up front, or at the very least, a deposit or ‘good faith’ payment on admittance. Always direct any requests for funds to your travel insurance provider first; only pay the hospital if you’re advised to do so by your travel insurance company.
As is the case just about anywhere in the world with a warm climate, mossies can be a problem as outbreaks of endemic mosquito-borne illnesses (including dengue fever) are a possibility. Insect repellent is a must.
Also know that that illness caused by naturally occurring seafood toxins such as ciguatera, as well as scombroid (histamine fish poisoning) and toxins in shellfish can be dangerous (see Queensland Health’s factsheet).
If you’re planning on renting a car in Hawaii, check the driving rules before turning on the ignition! International Driving Permits are generally not required in the US but it is helpful to carry one. To be double sure, check the requirements with your car rental company before leaving Australia for Hawaii.
Each country has its own laws and the U.S is no exception. Smartraveller’s U.S. advice reminds us that Australian visitors are subject to the local laws of United States, including ones that appear harsh by our standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can’t get you out of trouble or out of jail. The police and military retain extensive powers of detention, arrest and search and there are limitations on judicial redress for decisions made by authorities.
It’s smart to research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay. Here’s what to look out for in particular:
- The Federal legal age for purchasing and drinking alcohol in the United States is 21.
- Penalties for drug-related offences are severe and provide for minimum mandatory sentences.
- Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
- Some medications that can be purchased without a prescription in Australia may require a prescription in the United States and you can be arrested for possessing medications for which you do not have a prescription. Information on prohibited and restricted items, including medications, is available on the United States Customs and Border Protection website
- If you overstay your legal entry (I-94) into the United States, you can be arrested, detained for 90 days or longer, deported and likely barred from re-entering the United States in future.
CULTURE AND LANGUAGE
Hawaii is the most ethnically and racially diverse state of any state in the union, a mix that includes Caucasians, Americans of Japanese descent, and Polynesians, among others. Native Hawaiians have held on to many of their customs and traditions despite the influx of non-natives over the years. Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. that has an official native language.
GoHawaii.com offers a great intro on the Hawaiian Hula, while We-Hawaii.com covers Hawaiian mythology and customs in greater detail.
THE BEST OF HAWAII
Sometimes you just want to cut to the chase and experience the big hitters, right? For an awesome range of top Hawaii guides, we love GoHawaii.com for their concise recommendations and themed curations.
Here you’ll find their Beaches of Hawaii Guide, Romantic Spots Guide, and Guide to Eating Like a Local among in-depth guides on Hawaii’s Big Island, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai.
HAWAII PLUGS AND ADAPTORS
You’re probably travelling with an armload of devices, so keeping those gadgets charged will be a priority. Bring an adaptor, as the type of socket used in the United States, including Hawaii, is type a and b, whereas in Australia we use type I.
You’ll need travel insurance before heading to Hawaii to ensure your dream island getaway stays as perfect as possible. Check out our easy and budget-friendly Travel with Jane options here.