With this thoughtful 10-day Hawaii itinerary, you will learn the best way to experience up to all four major islands and discover what makes each one so special.
Each of the Hawaiian islands has its own unique beauty and spirit that speaks to us individually. There is an energy and pace as tangible as the trade winds themselves and most visitors are genuinely surprised at how powerfully and immediately one of the islands calls to them.
Speak to any non-native living there and you will likely hear the same origin story; “I came for a short vacation but just couldn’t leave.”
The best way to find out which destination is the one for you is to explore them all! Once you get to Hawaii, island hopping is relatively inexpensive and a great way to truly experience what each has to offer.
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10 Day Hawaii Itinerary Overview
This guide is intended to help you craft your ideal 10 day Hawaii itinerary that is personal to you. In it, we will explain everything you need to consider while planning your vacation.
One of the most important aspects of your trip that you will need to plan ahead is how you will get from island to island.
As this is such a crucial detail, we have written a dedicated guide to Hawaii island hopping which is absolutely worth reading as you begin to plan your trip.
Here are the key takeaways from that guide for those who just want the basics:
- ALWAYS BOOK YOUR FLIGHT TO HAWAII DIRECT (if possible)!
If something happens with your connecting flight, such as it being cancelled or you miss it due to being delayed on your first flight, the ripple effects can be devastating to your entire itinerary.
- Because Oahu has the most direct flights and is often the cheapest, it is the recommended place to begin your 10 days in Hawaii.
- Inter-island flights are all the same starting price of $45 through Hawaiian Airlines and all are about 45 minutes of flight time.
- The one exception is between Kauai and Big Island ($108 direct).
- Avoid flights between Kauai & Big Island if possible.
- As the flights to and from Hawaii are the most expensive, they should be the first two you book. Try to arrive and depart from different islands if you want to see them all.
- The best order for island hopping will typically be:
- 4 Islands: Oahu (HNL) –> Kauai (LIH) –> Maui (OGG) –> Kona (KOA)
- 3 Islands: Oahu (HNL) –> Kauai or Big Island –> Maui (OGG)
- You may have to do some math and research to find the cheapest route. This will change only the order of the 10 day Hawaii itinerary below, but nothing else.
- SkyScanner is the best way to find cheap flights using variable searches.
Learn EVERYTHING about traveling between islands and find the best flights:
ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ISLAND HOPPING IN HAWAII
10 Day Hawaii Itinerary At a Glance
Spending 10 days in Hawaii gives you 2-3 days on each island. We recommend allotting them as follows, with the extra days on Oahu and Big Island:
- Day 1-3: Oahu (3 days)
- Day 4-5: Kauai (2 days)
- Day 6-7: Maui (2 days)
- Day 8-10: Big Island (3 days)
Note that this itinerary is intended to be flexible! You may have more interest in one island than another or be affected by flight prices and availability, changing the order in which you travel.
Equally, you may have more than 10 days allowing you extra time. The sections below on each island will still be useful. Simply allocate days as you see fit and consult this guide to help you plan what you do on each island.
The reason we recommend beginning in Oahu is that more non-stop flights are available to this island than any other. As discussed, it is important to book direct flights TO Hawaii, if at all possible.
However, if prices and options are the same, such as the case from Portland PDX which offers identical flights and pricing to each of the islands, the order is mostly unimportant (just avoid flights between Kauai and Big Island as they cost more).
What if I only want to see 3 islands in 10 days?
If you do not want to spread yourself too thin, you can save some time (and likely some money) by eliminating one of the islands and using those regained days elsewhere.
The easiest islands to eliminate are Big Island or Kauai. This is because Oahu and Maui tend to be the cheapest to fly in and out of. Additionally, the inter-island flight between Kauai and the Big Island is the longest and most expensive.
Quick Guide to Each Island
Oahu: The Miami of Hawaii
Incredible white sand beaches with the best nightlife and the largest city in Hawaii. Oahu is mostly about resorts and tourist attractions, drawing people who are more about a fun, curated vacation than exploration. It is by far the most visited island in Hawaii.
Kauai: The Denver of Hawaii
Upscale accommodation and romantic restaurants exist, but the island is most known for its incredible natural beauty. Kauai is best for the hikers, adventure seekers, and nature lovers who see Hawaii as a place to explore rather than somewhere to relax.
Maui: The Los Angeles of Hawaii
Beautiful beaches with lots of high-end visitors, but also appealing to people who like to explore by car. Maui is a mix of upscale vacation, self-drive tourism, and chill-on-the-beach enthusiasts. This is the second-most popular island for tourists.
Big Island: The Seattle of Hawaii
Slow pace with the friendliest people and a lot of natural beauty to explore, but more effort is required. The Big Island is best for people who value space, seclusion, and budget over manufactured and lavish experiences.
Getting Around the Hawaiian Islands
The public transportation options in Hawaii are typically very limited. With such precious little time, the best options for getting around will be to rent a car or to arrange tours that pick up from your hotel or nearby.
With longer visits, a rental car would always be the recommended method of exploring the Hawaiian islands. However, this may or may not be the right approach for a 10 day itinerary for Hawaii which includes all 4 islands.
Renting a car on each island means filling out paperwork every time you land and dealing with inspections and drop-offs every time you depart. Apps like Turo can make the process quicker, but they also tend to require pick-up in obscure locations and do not have the same level of obligation to customer satisfaction.
For short 2-3 day visits like those suggested in this Hawaii itinerary guide, you may want to consider traveling by Lyft or Uber and arranging tours for the activities you want to do specifically.
Most islands have the best beaches within walking distance of the major resorts and tourist hubs. Places like Kihei on Maui, Poipu on Kauai, and Waikiki on Oahu all have numerous beaches within walking distance. Kona on the Big Island is a bit trickier, but still manageable.
If you would prefer to rent a car, you can look into pricing and availability for rentals here.
If you prefer to travel by tour, you will find links to tour operators for each recommended activity in the appropriate section.
Packing for 10 Days in Hawaii
You will absolutely want to ensure you fit everything you need for your 10 days in Hawaii into carry-on luggage. As you will be flying from island to island, costs can stack up quickly if checking bags, not to mention the time lost checking and retrieving your luggage.
For help learning what to pack and a printable checklist, consult our ultimate Hawaii Packing List Guide.
Don’t forget anything for your 10 day Hawaii vacation:
ULTIMATE HAWAII PACKING LIST
Hawaii Itinerary Day 1-3: Oahu
The first stop on your wild 10 day Hawaii island hopping itinerary is the most popular of them all; Oahu!
As discussed, we recommend making Oahu the first stop only because there are more cities that fly non-stop to Honolulu (HNL) than to any of the other Hawaiian airports. This will not affect some of you depending on your city of departure, however, and is not written in stone.
People who visit Hawaii looking to live in a real-life postcard and to see famous places typically like Oahu the most. It is home to famous movie locations like Jurassic Park, historic sites like Pearl Harbor, and world-famous beaches like Waikiki.
That is not all Oahu is, though. What most never discover is the remarkable natural beauty of the island, particularly the east and north shore. Despite the reputation as a noisy, busy tourist trap, there is truly something for everyone from the cocktail-sipping-sunbathers to the isolation-seeking explorers.
Best for: People who prefer resorts and tourist attractions; those that are more about a fun vacation than exploration, as well as beach enthusiasts.
Suggested: PLANNING A TRIP TO OAHU: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
How Many Days in Oahu
Of the Hawaiian islands, Oahu is famous for having the most thriving city life, best beaches, and curated tourist experiences. People who value these things should take at least 3 days here, while those who shudder at the thought of resort crowds and tourist traps may only need 2 days.
Don’t worry if cities and crowds are not your thing though, there are still plenty of amazing natural places to discover. What’s more, the best beaches in Oahu are actually located far away from the busy resorts and make for excellent day trips.
We avoid cities and crowds by any means necessary and still enjoyed Oahu more than we ever expected to.
CONSIDERING MORE TIME OR OAHU? CHECK OUT OUR
COMPLETE 5-7 DAY OAHU ITINERARY
Where to Stay on Oahu
For clarity, Honolulu is the major city of Oahu and may have more options beyond hotels and resorts, but will not necessarily be on the beach. Waikiki is a neighborhood of Honolulu and the main beach and resort area. It is always busy but one of the best places to stay in all of Hawaii if you don’t mind crowds.
For longer stays, more options open up, especially the remote and beautiful Oahu North Shore. With such little time, however, you are better off staying nearer to the airport and island hub as this is where most tour pick-ups and such will exist.
Best Things to Do in Oahu
Oahu is famous for its beaches and resorts, but most people don’t realize how much there is to see and do on the island!
With its rich history, both native and colonial, world-class beaches, majestic mountains, lush rainforests, and remote regions all waiting to be discovered, you will definitely wish you had more time to explore no matter how many days you get!
Below are the most popular activities and the best things to do in Oahu.
Go Beach Hopping
Oahu is home to the best beaches in Hawaii (apologies to Maui). When you see those white sand paradises with swaying palm trees and crystal clear water on a Hawaii travel guide, it is usually Oahu that you are seeing.
While Waikiki is the most famous and easiest Oahu beach to get to, some of the best ones are scattered throughout the island.
If you only take one day on your 10 day Hawaii itinerary to enjoy some beach time, save that day for Oahu. In particular, be sure to visit the unspeakably picturesque Lanikai Beach in the Kailua region on the southeast shore.
Having just arrived in Hawaii, the easiest way to adjust to island time is to acclimate with your toes in the sand; that’s just science!
Visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial
The Pearl Harbor National Memorial is the most visited attraction in Hawaii with over 2 million visitors each year. The site is managed by the National Park Service and includes five historic sites that honor the devastating events that occurred here during World War 2 and changed the course of history.
Visits to Pearl Harbor Visitor Center are free and no ticket is required for the museums. The USS Arizona Memorial program does require a ticket, however, the tickets are free.
There is no longer a walk-in first come first serve ticket system. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that advanced reservations are made online at recreation.gov. Half of the tickets are released 3 months ahead of time and the rest are made available at 3pm HST the day before.
Typically we would not recommend booking a tour to visit Pearl Harbor as tickets are free. However, if this is a must-see for you and you’re unable to reserve your free ticket, then a tour may be a good option. By booking a tour, not only is transport taken care of but you are guaranteed entry to Pearl Harbor National Monument and USS Arizona Memorial.
Kualoa Ranch (Jurassic Park)
Kualoa Ranch is perhaps most famous for being the filming location for Jurassic Park. As such, it is often referred to as Jurassic Park or Jurassic Valley.
The spectacular area is a 4000-acre private nature reserve and working cattle ranch, and one of the most popular attractions on Oʻahu. There are a number of tours offered each day at Kualoa Ranch including movie, ATV, e-bike, horseback, sailing, and farm tours. All of the tours offered are highly rated and typically take you to the same area, the Kaʻaʻawa Valley.
Regardless of which tour you choose, you will become immersed in the spectacular verdant folds of the valley, while learning more about the stories, legends, and past uses of the area.
Oahu North Shore
The Oahu North Shore has been made famous by surf legends, songs, and even popular cinema such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall. This is a reputation well deserved as the North Shore offers equally beautiful and picturesque beaches with far less people than the Waikiki and Honolulu region.
If you want the tropical aloha vibes of Hawaii without the hustle and bustle of crowded resorts and cities, you may find your Oahu home on one of the many magical beaches to the north.
For the truly adventurous, you can even go on a shark dive to come face to face with wild sharks from the inside of an underwater cage.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden
You don’t need to be interested in flowers or gardening or photography to enjoy Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden (though it helps)!
Full transparency, we don’t usually include manicured nature on our Hawaii itineraries as we prefer it to be naturally occurring. However, the scenery at this particular garden is truly breathtaking and has become one of the most popular Instagram photo stops on Oahu.
If you want a break from the cities and resorts and high rises, take the H3 out to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden and tie it into a trip to some of the amazing south shore beaches of Oahu!
Hike Diamond Head
Diamond Head Crater is one of the most Hawaii’s most iconic sights. Not only does it provide a spectacular backdrop for Waikiki, but it is also home to one of Oahu’s best hikes.
Don’t worry if adding a hike to your 10 day Hawaii itinerary doesn’t appeal to you – you can still enjoy views of Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach while sipping on a cocktail!
For those of you that prefer a more active vacation, you will be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views. From atop the 760ft (230m) summit, you will look out over Koko Head to the east and Honolulu to the west.
It is worth noting that as of May 12th, 2022 all out-of-state visitors must have an advanced reservation to enter Diamond Head State Monument. More information about reservations and entry fees can be found on the State Parks website.
Additionally, the last entrance for hiking the trail is at 4pm and the gates are locked at 6pm daily, at which time all visitors must have left the park.
Again, while tours are not required to hike Diamond Head, it can remove the hassle of transportation and reservations. You can find Diamond Head hiking tour options here or using the button below.
Climb the Stairway to Heaven?
The Haiku Stairs, aka the Stairway to Heaven, was once the most popular hike in Hawaii. Unfortunately, it was closed down in 1987. Still, visitors continued to do the hike illegally even after a security guard was put into place.
Due to the endless trespassing, the Honolulu City Council voted unanimously in September 2021 to actually remove the stairs. A budget has been set aside, but the trail is still there for now.
We are in no way recommending this hike. We are only including this information as we know many people visiting Oahu have this on their itineraries. There is no legal way to hike the Stairway to Heaven, despite some local guides who may offer a private tour.
More Oahu Travel Guides
Hawaii Itinerary Day 4-5: Kauai
Kauai is the smallest, rainiest, and least-visited of the four main Hawaiian islands. And yet, many visitors like it most of all!
If you see your 10-day trip more as travel and adventure than as a relaxing vacation, you may be one of those people.
Understand that in much the same way that Oahu is not just cities and resorts despite its reputation, Kauai is not just jungle and hiking. You won’t find anything like the high rises of Honolulu or the adult Disneyland of Waikiki, but Princeville and Poipu certainly know how to cater to visitors who come to Hawaii to be pampered.
Best for: People who see Hawaii as a place to be explored more than have a holiday. It is about adventure and activity, not just sunbathing and cocktails.
Suggested: PLANNING A TRIP TO KAUAI: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
How Many Days in Kauai
As a general rule, we would recommend 5-7 days in Kauai to truly experience everything the Garden Isle has to offer. With so many islands to visit in less than 2 weeks, however, Kauai is probably the one you will want to take the least amount of time at, or even eliminate altogether.
Kauai is the smallest of the 4 major Hawaiian islands, which means you can see an awful lot in just 1-2 days. This includes most, if not all, of the highlights.
If your Hawaii itinerary has more than 10 days and/or you care more for nature and adventure than for beaches and resorts, 3-4 days is plenty of time to knock out most of the very best things to do in Kauai.
Alternatively, you can always skip this island in favor of allowing more time on the other islands, especially Oahu and Maui. The best thing to do is to scroll down and browse the photos and top attractions below. If they don’t interest you as much as extra beach / shopping days, wipe Kauai off your itinerary and allow yourself more time on the other islands.
Where to Stay in Kauai
For the best regional understanding of Kauai, we have written (and encourage you to read) the Where to Stay on Kauai Complete Guide. This explains the pros and cons of each area and helps make sense of navigating the island.
The short answer is this: Poipu on the South Shore and Princeville on the North Shore are by far the most popular places to stay on Kauai. If you had at least 4-5 days in Kauai, we would recommend you split your time between both to minimize your time driving around the island.
However, if you only have about 10 days in Hawaii, you will most likely want to stay in Poipu. This is the better option for short visits as it is closer to Lihue airport (LIH), Waimea Canyon, Wailua Valley, and most of the Na Pali coast tour pick-up points. Also, Poipu tends to get the least rainfall on the island with some beautiful beaches nearby.
Still undecided on where to stay? Read our complete guide:
WHERE TO STAY IN KAUAI: BEST AREAS & HOTELS
Best Things to Do in Kauai
Kauai is the best Hawaiian island for hiking, exploring, and outdoor adventures. This is a place where the true treasures are hidden and require effort, or at the very least, hiring a guide or tour to get you there.
Below are the top things to do on the Garden Isle with limited time; those true bucket-list items. However, there are a ton more to consider. For a full list of all the best options, be sure to have a look at the Best Things to Do In Kauai Complete Guide.
Na Pali Coast Tour
If there is only one thing you do in Kauai, you absolutely must do a tour of the Na Pali Coast. This incredible landscape is one of the most amazing natural marvels you will see in your life!
Regardless of which tour you choose, we recommend booking it for as late in the day as possible! The light is best on the Na Pali coast when the sun is hitting it, which won’t be until late afternoon. Some companies offer sunset and dinner cruises, and that is a beautiful time to be on the water!
The biggest advantage of a boat tour is that you get a lot more time for your money. For young and active travelers, we highly recommend a raft tour. These smaller boats allow you to explore the coast in a unique way, giving you access to the sea caves and waterfalls that dot the Na Pali Coast.
If you have younger children or are less interested in a bumpy ride, you will want to consider a catamaran tour of the Na Pali coast for a smoother ride and a higher priority on comfort.
Witnessing the Na Pali cliffs from the sky is truly an incredible experience. If you’ve never been on a scenic flight before, it’s also a great excuse to tick it off your bucket list!
The unique birds-eye vantage point allows appreciation for the rugged landscapes in a way you’ll never forget. There are many different tour providers offering scenic flights over the Na Pali coast to choose from.
Waimea Canyon & Koke’e State Park Drive
The Waimea Canyon is also referred to as “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” It is one of the largest and most spectacular canyons in the US. Fittingly for “the Rainbow State”, even the color palette of their canyon looks like a rainbow melted into it!
Most of the helicopter tours of the Na Pali coast will also fly over the Waimea Canyon as a bonus. However, you can easily see this yourself on a self-drive tour if you are renting a car, or with a tour company if not.
If you are driving, continue along Koke’e Road into Koke’e State Park for some amazing views of the Na Pali cliffs. The young and able should include the short Kalepa Ridge Trail hike on their Kauai itinerary on the same day as Waimea Canyon State Park. This is the best hike in Kauai for seeing the Na Pali cliffs by land. However, be sure to read the complete guide to the Kalepa Ridge Trail first as there are some safety and legal considerations you need to understand.
Explore the Wailua Valley
The Wailua Valley region features a lush rainforest with plenty of jungle to explore by foot, paddle, or tire.
The most popular and noteworthy activities are exploring several of the best waterfalls in Kauai (including Secret Falls and Wailua Falls) and kayaking the Wailua River.
If adventure is your thing, you can search for Secret Falls by renting a kayak and traveling up the river on your own, or hire a guide to take you there. Of course, some people prefer to just paddle upstream to enjoy the jungle that surrounds them. Either way, this is one of those bucket list Kauai things to do.
Hanalei Bay & Kauai North Shore
The most famous and popular region of Kauai is Hanalei Bay on the north shore. No other place in Hawaii has golden sand tropical beaches colliding with such lush rainforest, and the result is astounding beauty.
Princeville is the nearest town and the one most people choose to stay in. For short visits, we actually recommend staying in Poipu on the south shore as discussed in the “Where to Stay in Kauai” section above, but a day trip and even a sunset at Hanalei Bay should definitely be included in your itinerary.
Time, interest, and physical ability permitting, photographer’s in particular should also consider the short walk down to Queen’s Bath. Here, you will find one of the most photogenic volcanic coastlines in The Rainbow State.
Hike the Na Pali Coast
Most of the Na Pali coast is inaccessible by land due to the sheer, vertical cliffs. However, there are two trails that provide beautiful views to enjoy by foot.
The first and most famous is the Kalalau Trail which begins at Ke’e Beach on the north shore. We highly recommend this trail for those who have more than 10 days in Hawaii and can take an extra one in Kauai. However, it is unfortunately too long and difficult to prepare for if you only have 1-2 days. If you do have more time, you can find out more about the hike and permits required on the Hawaii State Park website.
For people with only 2-3 precious days in Kauai and so much to see, you should instead consider the Kalepa Ridge Trail. This short hike has some legal and safety considerations that you need to truly consider, but it does fit nicely into a road trip to Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park.
More Kauai Travel Guides
You can find plenty more helpful resources for planning your time on Kauai with these popular guides to “The Garden Isle”:
- BEST THINGS TO DO IN KAUAI: THE ULTIMATE KAUAI BUCKET LIST
- WHERE TO STAY ON KAUAI COMPLETE GUIDE
- 5-7 DAY KAUAI ITINERARY
- PLANNING A TRIP TO KAUAI ULTIMATE GUIDE
- KAUAI PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE
- BEST DESTINATIONS FOR SUNSET IN KAUAI
- COMPLETE KAUAI WATERFALL GUIDE
- HIKING THE KALEPA RIDGE TRAIL: KAUAI’S BEST HIKE
Hawaii Itinerary Day 6-7: Maui
The next stop will be a flight over to Maui. If you’re coming from Kauai, be prepared for a sudden change of pace from the moment you land!
Much like Oahu, Maui is busy and popular all times of year. The good thing is that the infrastructure has been well implemented for touring by car, with easy access to beaches and attractions.
Because there is such a diverse mix of wild and upscale, Maui is perhaps the best place to take an extra day if you happen to have one, or decide on a 3-island itinerary.
It has picturesque beaches, both popular and secret, amazing turtle and whale viewings, and otherworldly natural marvels such as Red Sand Beach. Additionally, it’s home to charming historic towns, upscale shopping and dining, and everything you dream of doing on a Hawaiian vacation.
Best for: People who want a little bit of everything; some lavish, upscale options, nature to explore but mostly by car, famous and secret beaches, something for everyone.
Suggested: PLANNING A TRIP TO MAUI: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
How Many Days in Maui
With only 10 days in Hawaii, you will have to decide which two islands deserve an extra day. It is definitely worth considering one of them for Maui as there is just so much to do.
Understand that Maui and Oahu are comparable in size. The biggest difference is that many of the best things to do on Oahu are based in the major city of Honolulu. However, Maui offers a diverse mix of astounding nature, iconic beaches, and paradisiacal experience.
In other words, readers who prefer cities and resorts will want the extra time on Oahu, while those of you who prefer to be active and explore the natural world should spend at least 3 days on Maui.
As a general rule, we recommend a 5-7 day Maui itinerary, just not on a 10-day Hawaii visit!
Where to Stay in Maui
Kihei is the most central option and features a wider range of accommodation options such as AirBnBs, condos, and hotels for most budgets. It is also closer to the restaurants, bars, and many beaches and shops.
Wailea is a bit pricier and further south which will increase drive times. However, it is best for higher-end travelers looking for a bit of luxury.
If you want more information with a full detailed breakdown of where to stay and why, open our Complete Guide on Where to Stay on Maui in another browser.
Still undecided? Find out more:
WHERE TO STAY ON MAUI; BEST AREAS, HOTELS & RESORTS
Best Things to Do in Maui
Maui and Oahu are thought to have the best beaches in Hawaii. You will certainly find some of the softest sands and postcard-worthy shores during your visit, but there is so much more to see!
The Road to Hana is one of the most famous scenic drives in the world, the channel between Maui and Lanai is a freeway for migrating whales, and the luaus here are the best in Hawaii, to name a few activities.
While there is plenty more to see and do with 2-3 days in Maui, below are some of the absolute can’t miss activities.
Snorkel the Molokini Crater
If you look off the southern coast of Maui, you may notice a small, unusual island in the distance. What you are actually seeing is the extinct volcanic crater of Molokini. It is a protected marine reserve and is considered to be the best snorkel spot in Maui.
As such, it makes for an incredible underwater adventure. You can expect pristine conditions and a reef abundant with life. While snorkeling you can spot manta rays, an array of tropical fish, sharks, and turtles that inhabit the coral reef.
The only way to visit Molokini Crater is by tour. There are a number of tour companies to choose from. Many also include stops at Turtle Town, which as the name suggests is a great place for spotting turtles.
Go Beach Hopping
Maui is most famous for its beaches and its sunsets. If you are staying in the Kihei area as recommended, you could walk to literally a dozen beaches in one day. You shouldn’t, but you could!
Learn about all 15 beaches in our
COMPLETE KIHEI BEACHES GUIDE
If you are the adventurous type or just prefer quiet beaches to those with services and amenities, it’s worth noting that there are some incredible secret beaches on Maui where you are all but guaranteed to have the place almost to yourself.
Our personal favorite is the Makena Cove Secret Beach in the Wailea-Makena region just south of Kihei. If photography is of interest, this one is a can’t miss!
Drive the Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is considered one of the best scenic drives in the US and is absolutely worth including in your 10 day Hawaii itinerary! It is one of those bucket-list items that demands a place on your schedule.
For most people, we recommend renting a car to start very early and following this Road to Hana itinerary for a self-guided tour. In it, we explain everything you need to know for planning a day trip and seeing as much as possible, including the otherworldly Red Sand Beach as well as the best 25 stops on the Road to Hana.
The other option which may be easier for most is to simply book a tour. There are some real advantages to this, especially with such a compressed schedule. A tour allows you to see most of the highlights with a guide who can maintain pace and also provides hard-to-get permits for Waianapanapa State Park and the world-famous Holokalani Black Sand Beach.
Whale migration season runs from November through May, with peak season falling between January and March. During these times, the channel between Maui and Lanai off the west coast becomes a whale highway!
You do not need to book a tour for whale watching as you will see plenty right from the beach this time of year. However, you may want to consider one if you want the best chance to get up close and personal with these gentle giants of the ocean.
One of the most beautiful places to get immersed in the island’s volcanic nature is at Haleakalā National Park. Visiting the summit for sunrise is considered by many to be one of the best things to do on Maui.
However, due to its popularity, you will require a reservation for visiting Haleakalā Observatory at sunrise. It is also worth noting that the drive from Kihei to Haleakalā Visitor Center is 1h 25 minutes (45 miles) through winding switchbacks.
If you plan on visiting independently, we recommend exploring the official Haleakala NPS site. You will find everything you need to know about the park, including reservations, hiking information, as well as planners, maps, and important park alerts including closures.
With only 10 days in Hawaii, it is worth considering taking the stress out of scoring reservations and driving switchbacks in the dark by booking a tour to Haleakalā. You’ll find that there are several tour options, explore these different tours using the button below.
Pro tip: Pack warm clothes! You will be at 10,023 feet (3,055m) in elevation so it’ll be much cooler than the beach, particularly at sunrise!
Feast at a Sunset Luau
If there is one thing you must try to include on your 10 day Hawaii itinerary, it is to attend a traditional Hawaiian luau. While each island has them, Maui has the most famous, and most would agree, the best.
During a luau, the beauty of Hawaii is showcased through food, traditional dance, and storytelling. We thoroughly enjoyed “The Feast at Mokapu” luau at the Andaz Resort but it only takes place two days per week.
However, there’s no need to fret if it’s not available for your days on Maui! There are many other luau options on Maui with excellent reviews. Use the button below to browse other options and see which are available during your visit.
More Maui Travel Guides
Many people consider Maui the best Hawaiian island. We have written an extensive list of additional guides to help you plan your time in Maui, with some of our most popular including:
- HAWAII PACKING LIST: A printable essential packing list + 25 useful items to consider
- 5-7 DAY MAUI ITINERARY: How to see the entire island in one week or less
- WHERE TO STAY ON MAUI: The best places and areas to stay on the island
- PLANNING A TRIP TO MAUI: Step by step guide for planning your first visit to Maui
- ROAD TO HANA STOPS: The Top 25 places to visit on the Road to Hana
- ROAD TO HANA ITINERARY: How to plan for a 1-2 day self drive.
- BEST MAUI PHOTO SPOTS: 15 best places for photographing Maui
- SECRET BEACHES OF MAUI: The 10 most incredible hidden beaches on the island
- MAUI SUNSETS: The Top 10 places & activities for watching sunset in Maui
- KIHEI BEACHES GUIDE: Photos, locations, and descriptions for all 15 beaches in Kihei
Hawaii Itinerary Day 8-10: Big Island
The trip of a lifetime ends with Kona and the Big Island of Hawaii. Here, you will discover some of the most magical landscapes, snorkeling, and wildlife encounters of all.
While there are fewer cities with non-stop options from Kona than from Oahu or Maui, there are still quite a few available, and far more than Kauai. Also, direct flights are less important when coming home for most people as delays will not impact an entire pre-planned vacation!
What’s more, the Kona airport is very small and rather lovely. It is the best airport to arrive and/or depart from in terms of experience.
Big Island Overview
Best for: People who value space, seclusion, and budget over manufactured and lavish experiences with a sense of adventure.
How Many Days on Big Island
For 10 day Hawaii itineraries, we recommend spending 3 days on the Big Island. This is not just a clever name, the Big Island is huge compared to the rest of Hawaii, and travel times are much longer.
As there is a lot to see and so much ground to cover, you should make sure you allow yourself time to experience the highlights.
Where to Stay on Big Island
First, understand that “Kona” can refer to the entire west side of the island, a region spanning as far north as Waikoloa, or the town of Kailua-Kona.
For most people, the best area to stay on the Big Island is in Kailua-Kona town. This is near the airport, beautiful beaches, a walkable and charming historic town, and is the most central point to begin your adventures.
The other option worth considering is the resort region of Waikoloa on the Kohala Coast. This tends to be more expensive and is farther away from many of the activities you will likely want to include in your Hawaii itinerary, but the resorts tend to be built on the best beaches. If you are not renting a car, this can be a big advantage.
Best Things to Do on Big Island
The Big Island is the youngest of the Hawaiian islands and is still being formed as we speak. This perpetual volcanic activity is experienced throughout the entire island, from the lava-rock fields to the black sand beaches, and even an active lava lake within Volcanoes National Park.
The Big Island is also known for having the best snorkeling in all of Hawaii!
Manta Ray Night Snorkel or Dive
If you only do one thing on the Big Island, do the manta ray night snorkel (or dive if certified) This is unanimously the most memorable experience visitors have on their trip to Hawaii.
Note that you do not even need to know how to swim or snorkel to do this, though it is less intimidating if you are comfortable with both.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Not many people actually get to behold the savage power of mother nature as evocatively as looking into an active caldera with a bubbling molten lava lake.
A trip to Volcanoes NP is special any time of day, but is even more powerful at night. Seeing the earth glow an otherworldly red as lava bubbles swell and burst while the stars twinkle overhead is something worthy of every bucket list.
Snorkel at Captain Cook Monument
The Big Island is considered the best island for snorkeling in Hawaii, and the best spot on the best island is at Captain James Cook Monument.
While it is technically possible to reach this cove on a self-tour, a long drive and even longer hike are required. The easiest and most enjoyable way to discover the underwater paradise at Captain Cook Monument is to book a morning tour that delivers you to two of the best spots on the island.
You are almost guaranteed to see dolphins from the boat and maybe even from the water, with a high likelihood of spotting some turtles as well. You are 100% promised to see one of the most vibrant coral gardens in the Pacific Ocean and a vast assortment of colorful tropical fish.
Green / Black Sand Beach
Two of the most unusual and best beaches of Hawaii are found in a remote region along the south shore of Big Island. Unsurprisingly, both owe their unusual tints to their volcanic heritage.
Papakolea Beach, aka Green Sand Beach, is a sheltered cove featuring olive-colored sand and beautiful blue and green water. The strange color is derived from a rich deposit of the mineral “olivine”. But more than that, Papakolea is home to the softest sand on the entire Big Island.
Just down the road is one of the most famous black sand beaches in Hawaii called Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. This pebbly shoreline is not as comfortable but is amazing to see. It is also a sea turtle sanctuary and you are almost guaranteed to see a resident honu (Hawaiian for sea turtle) on a visit.
Note: The most famous Black Sand Beach in Hawaii is Honokalani Black Sand Beach on the island of Maui.
Beach Hopping in Kona
Most people planning their holiday to Hawaii have tropical beaches on their minds. As you may recall, we recommend staying near Kailua-Kona or Waikoloa on the Kona side of the island as these are the two regions with the closest proximity to beautiful beaches.
You can read all about the best beaches in Kona in this complete guide, or just visit the ones closest to your accommodation. The important thing is you take some time to enjoy them, especially on your final few days in Hawaii.
EXPLORE THE BEST BEACHES IN KONA
The rich volcanic soil and perfect climate of the west coast of Big Island is ideal for coffee growing, and Kona coffee has become a world-famous commodity.
If you are a coffee enthusiast, consider visiting one of the farms to learn more about it and taste it right from the source!
More Big Island of Hawaii Travel Guides
If you would like more help planning your time on the Big Island, you may find some of these other guides to the island useful:
- 5-7 DAY BIG ISLAND ITINERARY
- PLANNING A TRIP TO BIG ISLAND ULTIMATE GUIDE
- BEST BEACHES ON BIG ISLAND
- BIG ISLAND PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS
- BEST BEACHES IN KONA
Hawaii Itinerary Budget & FAQs
How much does a Hawaii trip usually cost?
Expect to spend between $500-$1000 per day in Hawaii; this includes $300-$600 per night on accommodation, $80+ for food and drink, $100-$200 on transportation and entertainment, plus flight costs.
Contrary to popular belief, the accommodation cost is the most significant (even more than flights!) If you can find a way to reduce accommodation costs, you can actually travel to Hawaii for far less.
How much should I budget for 10 days in Hawaii?
The average person should budget $5000 – $10,000 per person for 10 days in Hawaii if they plan on island hopping. This breaks down per person as follows:
- Flights to/from Hawaii: $500-$1000
- Inter-island flights (3 total): $150-$300
- Food & Drinks: $500-$1000
- Accommodation (1-2 people): $3000-$6000
- Transportation: $250-$500
- Tours / Activities / Misc: $600-$1000
How many days do you need in Hawaii?
Ideally, you would want 7 days per island to allow time for exploring and relaxing. However, a well-constructed 10 day itinerary would allow you to see the highlights of all 4 major Hawaiian islands.
Is 7 days in Hawaii enough?
7 days in Hawaii is enough to see 1-2 islands, but you would want at least 10 days if you want to begin adding more.
Is 10 days in Hawaii enough?
10 days in Hawaii is enough time to briefly experience each of the 4 major Hawaiian islands if your itinerary is well-prepared and planned ahead of time. It is more time than you need for one island, but those who prefer a slower pace may wish to just explore 2-3 islands with less than 2 weeks available.
Where should I go in Hawaii for the first time?
Oahu is the most tourist-friendly island and the easiest to navigate for first-time visitors. Because it is the most popular, it also has the most extensive infrastructure and the widest variety of tours, transport options, and services available.