Hawaii is an endless array of natural wonders, sophisticated nightlife, vibrant culture, international dining, and all those beautiful beaches. Add the warmth of a tropical sun and you really do have something close to paradise.
The Aloha State can also be on the expensive side but it's not out of reach. This Hawaii guide will help you find the cheapest possible airline tickets, along with FareCompare's search site, where you can easily compare airfare and save.
Where is Hawaii?
Hawaii - the 50th state in the U.S. - can be found in the central Pacific Ocean. There are eight main islands:
- Oahu: Home of the state capital, Honolulu, and the most popular destination thanks to a wide array of tourist facilities.
- Maui: Probably the next most popular Hawaiian destination with natural beauty like waterfalls and beautiful views.
- Hawaii: Often referred to as the Big Island.
- Kauai: Nicknamed the Garden Island thanks to its lush rainforest.
- Molokai: Visitors call this island the Friendly Island.
- Lanai: Sometimes known as the Pineapple Island (formerly home to vast plantations).
- Niihau: Little if any tourism is on this island.
- Kahoolawe: An unpopulated island, also with little if any tourism.
The Best Attractions in Hawaii
Honolulu gets the most space because it gets the most visitors. Some descriptions come from an earlier FareCompare guide to Honolulu but all information has been updated.
- Diamond Head: Early British sailors mistook sparkling stones in this edifice for diamonds, but it's actually the remains of an old volcanic eruption; hike along the crater’s rim and have a camera ready because the views are spectacular.
- USS Arizona Memorial: The resting place of more than a thousand sailors who were killed when the battleship Arizona was attacked by the Japanese in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The sunken ship is now a National Monument viewed by more than a million visitors a year.
- 'Iolani Palace: Now a National Historic Landmark, the one-time home of Queen Liliʻuokalani is the only royal residence used by a reigning monarch in the U.S. Now a museum, 'Iolani's downtown location makes for easy access.
- Waikiki Beach: A beautiful stretch of white sand and warm, clear water revered by sunbathers and surfers alike. Purists may dismiss glitzy Waikiki with all those high-rise hotels as being a bit too touristy but that doesn’t stop millions of visitors from calling it paradise. Bring your sunscreen.
- Opaekaa Falls: Take in this breathtaking natural wonder from the roadside, visit a taro farm in Hanalei or art galleries in Hanapepe.
- The Road to Hana: Follow the looping 52-mile drive to Hana for some of the prettiest views on the planet including rainforests, waterfalls and brilliant seascapes.
- Hulopoe Bay: A beautiful beach, and when you're done basking in the sun, visit the dramatic rock formations at Keahiakawelo, and check out the luxury resorts.
Big Island of Hawaii
- Volcanoes: Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and yes, you may even see some flowing lava from Kīlauea.
Flight Times to Hawaii
Sample flight times on non-stop routes to Hawaii:
From San Francisco: 5 hours
From Tokyo: 8 hours
From Sydney: 10+ hours
Best Time to Visit
There are actually two ideal times of the year to visit Hawaii. Many locals say the best weather occurs during April, May, September, and October.
- Dry season (less rain): April through October
- Rainy season (more rain): November through March.
Popular Hawaii Destinations
While Honolulu is the favorite tourist destination, island-hopping is easy thanks to inter-island service from local airlines including Hawaiian and Mokulele Airlines.
Click the island to find best deals to these major Hawaiian airports.
- Oahu: Honolulu International Airport (HNL), the port of entry for most U.S. and international visitors.
- Maui: Kahului Airport (OGG).
- Kauai: Lihue Airport (LIH).
- Lanai: Lanai Airport (LNY).
- Big Island of Hawaii: Kona International Airport (KOA).
Note: Wi-Fi is free throughout Honolulu International but may not be available (yet) at some of the smaller airports. All offer taxis, rental cars, and some bus or shuttle service.
Airlines to Hawaii
When it comes to Hawaii, everyone wants to just get there and to take the easiest route possible. And airlines do their best to meet these needs.
- Discount airlines: Allegiant Air flies to Honolulu from Los Angeles and Las Vegas but not on a daily basis. Virgin American launched flights to Honolulu and Maui from Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2015 but it remains to be seen what will happen now that Alaska announced its acquiring Virgin America (don't worry, Alaska has plenty of flights to the islands). There has been lots of speculation that Southwest Airlines will jump on a Hawaiian route or two but that hasn't happened - yet.
- Other U.S. airlines: Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, and United all offer flights to Hawaii. We often see especially good prices on Alaska and Hawaiian (check the Deals Blog) but good prices are usually matched by competing airlines.
- International airlines: So many carriers fly to Hawaii that it's easier to list countries and continents of origin. These include flights from Canada, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.
5 Ways to Find Cheap Flights to Hawaii
1. Know where to fly
Generally speaking, the cheapest gateway cities to Hawaii are these three (click the name to find the best deal).
Tip: Prices can and do change, depending on the departure city. Compare fares to be sure which island is cheapest for you.
2. Know when to fly
Travel in off-peak seasons. Hawaii is warm and beautiful year-round but try to avoid the peak holiday seasons to avoid crowds and save money; peak seasons include the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving in late November, and Christmas and New Year's from late December into early January. Another busy and expensive period are the U.S. summer months from mid-June to late-August.
When to find the best deals: Prices drop dramatically in the last week of August. You can also find better deals in off-peak periods including March and April as well as September, October and November. Again, always compare fares and dates to be certain you're flying during the cheapest time period.
Tip: Fly on weekdays. Even if you can't fly during an off-peak period, you can still save a little by flying midweek because it is generally cheaper than weekends.
3. Travel from the West Coast
The best deals are almost always out of U.S. West Coast cities including California's San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, and Los Angeles. Other good deals can be had from Portland, Ore. and Seattle. We've also seen some very cheap fares from smaller West Coast cities such as Bellingham, Wash. plus deals from inland cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix.
Tip: Fly a discount carrier to a West Coast city, and fly to Hawaii from there. Consider breaking up your trip with an overnight stay on the West Coast so you don't miss your flight in the event of delays on the other leg of your trip.
4. When to buy Hawaii tickets
Knowing when to shop is key to getting a good deal.
Best shopping window: From 4 months to 21 days before departure.
Best day to shop: Tuesday afternoon is a great time to begin since many airlines launch fares sales early in the day and by about 3 p.m. eastern time, the competitors have matched the lower prices.
Tip: Sign up for FareCompare airfare alerts - Hawaii deals will come to you in real-time.
5. Always compare fares
Before you ding your credit card, be sure to compare airfares with FareCompare's search site. It's quick, it's easy, and it could save you money.
Tip: No single airline always has the best deal, so if you don't compare, you could pay too much.