Fly Away to Your Ideal Hawaiian Getaway This Year
Surrounded by beautiful blue water, rich in history and full of diverse tropical landscapes, the Hawaiian Islands attract all kinds of travelers—all of them eager to soak in the islands’ uplifting Aloha Spirit.
The archipelago, which sits over 2,000 miles away from the contiguous United States, has a handful of main islands you can visit—each with its own unique experiences and identity. And now through the rest of this year, Alaska Airlines is flying nonstop from Portland (PDX) into four of them; the Island of Hawaii (KOA), Kauai (LIH), Maui (OGG), and Oahu (HNL).
All are sure to show you the beauty of Hawaiian culture and boast stunning beaches. But some islands are more suited for an adventurer’s journey of a lifetime, while others are better fit for a sunseeker's dream holiday.
So, before you get packing for your island getaway (FYI, you score a free checked bag if you book with the Alaska Airlines credit card), learn more about each island’s features to find the perfect one for your visit to “the Aloha State.”
Island of Hawaii (KOA)—Hawaii’s Island of Adventure
The Island of Hawaii is nearly twice the size of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined — hence its nickname as the “the Big Island.” And with so much land to traverse comes a lot of diverse geography—like lush rainforests and cascading waterfalls in Hilo, unique black sand on Punaluʻu Beach, and enormous volcanoes spread across the land.
Alaska Airlines flies into Kona on the west side of the island, known for its coffee farms, calm waters, and deep-sea fishing. But no visit to “Hawaii’s Island of Adventure” would be complete without exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a few hours' drive from Kona. The park is home to Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and has over 150 miles of trails where you can walk on lava fields and take in awe-inspiring volcanic views.
Keep the adventure going and sign up for a swim with manta rays off the coast of Kona. Yes, really! An experience unique to this island, a nighttime snorkeling tour will bring you for a short cruise into the Pacific Ocean, where you'll light up the waters to watch some of sharks' closest relatives feed on plankton.
Kauai (LIH)— Garden Island
Slow down and take it easy on Kauai, the northernmost of the islands, known for its laid-back vibe and scenery so beautiful that Hollywood has chosen to film here for decades.
Filled with tropical rainforests and defined by a rugged coastline and jagged cliffs, 90% of Kauai is inaccessible by car, which makes hiking one of the best activities for getting to know the “Garden Island.” Or scope out stunning views via a kayaking trip on the Wailua River or via a ziplining tour across the mountains and valleys of Kauai's backcountry.
The main town on the island is Lihue, and that’s where you’ll fly in. The calm waters of Kalapaki Beach nearby are a perfect spot for anyone who wants to learn a water activity like surfing or paddle boarding, as the beach is partially sheltered from the open ocean by a large break wall. And just a short trip north of town is Wailua Falls, a magnificent 80-foot-high waterfall that spills into a rocky pool.
Maui (OGG)—The Valley Isle
One of the more luxurious and romantic of the islands, Maui has a little bit of everything you’d want in a Hawaiian vacation. The island is lined with 30 miles of picturesque beaches, many of which are top spots for snorkeling, paddle boarding and simply swimming in the Pacific. Most of the beaches sit on the west side of the island and on the north end. Also on the northern point of the island is Kahului, where you'll touch down to begin your adventure. Luxury resorts with ocean views, cabanas and adult-only pools make this island one of the top destinations for a couple's getaway.
Head east to the legendary Road to Hana, a narrow, winding journey that will take you through 620 curves, over 50 bridges and past waterfalls and rainforests. You can drive this epic adventure on your own, or join a tour and let a professional guide handle the intense voyage.
If you find yourself in Maui in winter, be sure to add whale watching to your itinerary. Humpback whales are known to travel to warmer waters during this time and are fond of the shallow waters near Maui.
Oahu (HNL)—The Heart of Hawaii
For a quintessential Hawaiian vacation, head to Oahu, the “heart of Hawaii.” You’ll fly into Honolulu, where vibrant neighborhoods offer plenty to explore. A visit to the world-famous beaches in Waikiki is a must. Just a few miles east is Kapahulu Avenue, which features unique shops and some of the best local food in Honolulu (you can't leave Hawaii without trying a poke bowl!).
Be sure to budget time for historical sites as well, like the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and Bishop Museum, which celebrates Hawaiian natural and cultural history.
While Oahu is perhaps best known for its bustling capital city, the rest of the island charms with paradisiacal surf towns like Haleiwa. Located on the North Shore about an hour drive from Waikiki, this beloved surfing spot is also known for its art scene, featuring galleries and unique boutiques.
After a day watching the waves and relaxing on the beach, cool down with a classic Hawaiian treat at Matsumoto Shave Ice, where people from all over the world flock for a taste of this island staple.