Gorgeous beaches, lush mountains, and an aloha spirit are just some of the reasons Hawaii is a top travel destination. But with several alluring islands, hundreds of hotel options, and so many things to see and do, planning a getaway to the 50th state can be daunting. That's where we come in. After traveling around the islands and exploring all the natural attractions, watching entertaining luaus, and feasting on delicious Hawaiian food, we've created the ultimate schedule for a Hawaii vacation. Whether you're going on a romantic honeymoon, a family vacation, or an adventure-packed friend getaway, here's the best 10-day Hawaii itinerary.
Days 1 to 4: Maui
The second-largest of the Hawaiian islands, Maui is a stunning destination that offers an ideal combination of natural beauty and modern conveniences. After landing at Kahului Airport, travelers should rent a car — a necessity for exploring Maui — and head for one of the many upscale beach resorts on the western coast, where the weather is drier, warmer, and sunnier than the east coast. Golfers will want to stay in the Kapalua area, which is home to the highly regarded Kapalua Plantation Course and Bay Course, while those looking to get some shopping done should stay in Wailea. After checking in, get into vacation mode by heading to the nearest beach (all are public throughout Hawaii) and ordering a tropical drink.
Pack the next few days with an equal mix of poolside and oceanfront lounging, plus outdoor recreation. Before arriving in Hawaii, book a sunrise or (less popular) sunset tour of Haleakalā National Park, a 10,023-foot dormant volcano that often tops travelers’ lists of must-do Maui experiences. Most tours include round-trip hotel transportation, two meals, and a guided hike up to the summit. (Pro tip: Bring a jacket as it’s cold at the top.) Another worthwhile natural attraction is the Nakalele Blowhole on the northeastern coast. It’s a geyser where seawater trapped in an underwater lava tube powerfully shoots out of the lava rock. Rainbows often form in the mist and a nearby heart-shaped hole formed in the middle of rocks makes for an Instagram-worthy photo opportunity.
Another must is the Road to Hana drive, which begins near the airport and ends in the small town of Hana, home to the spectacular all-inclusive Travaasa Hana. The route consists of over 600 hairpin turns and 59 one-lane bridges, but the natural beauty along the way makes the white-knuckle driving worth it. While it can be driven in about two hours, most travelers spend more time than that, stopping at spots such as Twin Falls Waterfall, Upper Waikani Falls, and the black-sand Honokalani Beach at Waianapanapa State Park. Don’t skip the fresh, warm banana bread at Aunty Sandy’s, or the coconut-based ice cream at Coconut Glen’s.
Where to Stay in Maui
Travaasa Hana: This rustic-luxe property overlooks Hana Bay in the middle of Maui’s lush, secluded east coast and offers all-inclusive packages. It has 71 stand-alone bungalows featuring separate tubs and showers, couches, and big furnished terraces with garden or ocean views. Expansive grounds house two outdoor pools, a hot tub, a lovely spa, a wellness pavilion, tennis courts, and a small fitness center, plus a couple of dining options.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua: Situated on 54 beautiful acres, this 466-room resort offers a luxury getaway on a secluded beach in the famous Kapalua resort area. It boasts top-notch restaurants, a stellar spa, a three-level outdoor pool with an adjacent kids’ pool, a well-stocked fitness center, and beautifully landscaped grounds. Elegant, contemporary rooms have flat-screen TVs, furnished balconies, and marble bathrooms with separate tubs and showers.
Grand Wailea – A Waldorf Astoria Resort: With 780 rooms, two massive pools, four restaurants, and a 50,000-square-foot spa, the Grand Wailea wows with its grandiose scale. Rooms are upscale and well-equipped, and there’s ample to keep families, couples, and groups of friends entertained all day.
Days 5 to 7: Oahu
Oahu is the most popular island in Hawaii for its bustling city of Honolulu, kid-friendly Waikiki, convenient airport, and popular attractions. The Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is under a 15-minute drive from Honolulu’s center, which has high-rise buildings, tons of shopping opportunities, and a plethora of chain eateries (such as Ruth’s Chris Steak House) and local restaurants serving Hawaiian, Asian, and seafood fare. Most travelers will want to stay in Waikiki for ease and the calm beaches, but those looking for a more secluded, peaceful getaway should consider the North Shore or Kailua areas.
There are ample things to do in Oahu, but certainly the top attraction is Diamond Head, a dormant volcano crater located just a 15-minute drive from Waikiki. The hike up 560 feet is challenging and, at times, quite steep, but doable for most ages and fitness levels, taking about 90 minutes to two hours round-trip. Hikers are rewarded with stellar views of the crater, Honolulu, and the Pacific Ocean. For sea-level fun, the North Shore offers tourists a chance to watch professional surfers ride huge waves at one of the many annual surf competitions (in the winter months), or just to walk along the pretty beaches, spot some sea turtles, and enjoy a shaved ice. Snorkeling and zip-lining are also popular activities on Oahu.
Of course, other top activities in Oahu include visiting the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, USS Arizona Memorial, and Battleship Missouri Memorial. The Pearl Harbor National Memorial honors over 2,000 Americans who died during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Entry to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, two museums, and exhibits along the harbor, as well as the USS Arizona Memorial, are free. Pearl Harbor is about 20 minutes away by car from Honolulu.
Where to Stay in Oahu
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort: This 3,386-room resort is the largest hotel in Hawaii, essentially an upscale village with its five towers, nearly 20 bars and restaurants, dozens of shops, five swimming pools, direct beach access, and separate lagoon. Everything from surf lessons to a regular luau are on offer here, and the rooms are well-equipped.
Sheraton Waikiki: This Sheraton is an upscale beachfront hotel that’s home to multiple restaurants, excellent ocean views, and family-friendly activities. It stands out for its sheer size and great location, and guests can expect bustling shops and nightlife venues that are packed with both guests and Honolulu locals. It has an adults-only infinity pool with a great view of Waikiki Bay, and another pool with a 70-foot waterslide.
Ke Iki Beach Bungalows: For travelers wanting to be in the North Shore area, this hotel offers a value-oriented getaway. There are 11 beachfront bungalows sitting just above the sand on the picturesque North Shore. Although bungalows are low-frills and there’s next to no facilities here, the beautiful beach makes it a quality option.
Hotels in this story
Days 8 to 10: Kauai
In contrast to Oahu, Kauai is less developed and more rugged, offering a beautiful, lush landscape for travelers seeking a laid-back and adventure-filled getaway. Although other Hawaiian islands have ample greenery, waterfalls, and gorgeous beaches, Kauai is nicknamed “Garden Island” for the tropical rainforest covering much of its land. It’s an ideal place for travelers who love hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling. Plus, helicopter tours are popular for those looking to see the terrain featured in “Jurassic Park” from above. Don’t miss Waimea Canyon State Park, known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” thanks to the 10-mile-long and 3,600-foot deep canyon. Travelers can hike, drive, or take a helicopter tour of the park.
Along the north shore is the area of Princeville, which is convenient for sightseeing and offers several luxury resorts, golf courses, and pretty beaches. Visitors are also close to Queens Bath, a swimmable sinkhole where snorkelers can spot colorful fish and sea turtles. (Pro tip: Go at low tide, when the waves are calm, and wear hiking shoes.) Princeville is near the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, which is famous for its mountainous shoreline that stretches 17 miles. While many opt to see the park by boat or helicopter, adventurers can make a reservation to hike the 11-mile Kalalau Trail, where they’ll be rewarded with waterfalls, beaches, and spectacular cliff and ocean views.
On the east coast, close to the Lihue Airport, is Wailua, which offers several affordable hotel options, multiple grocery stores and fast-food outlets, and the oceanfront Wailua Golf Course. Outdoor activities abound, including driving to Opaeka‘a Falls and Wailua Falls, hiking the two-mile Sleeping Giant Trail with gorgeous vistas, and lounging along one of the many beaches. Heading to the southern coast, travelers will find Poipu, which has a few golf courses, a surf school, a gorgeous beach, and the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail that runs along the coast.
Where to Stay in Kauai
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa: One of the best luxury resorts on Kauai, this 602-room property is located in Poipu and draws travelers with spacious, Hawaiian-inspired rooms, three incredible pools, a massive saltwater lagoon, tons of dining options, a posh spa, a twice-weekly luau, and immaculate tropical grounds.
Princeville Resort: The 251-room Princeville Resort is considered by many to be the premier luxury option in Hawaii, and given the stunning setting overlooking Hanalei Bay, it’s hard to disagree. Guests can expect warm, sophisticated decor, suites with personal butler service, world-class golf, and a memorable breakfast buffet on a terrace with gorgeous ocean views.
Kauai Marriott Resort: This 356-room upscale resort is located close to the airport, attracting travelers with a beautiful beachfront setting, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, and one of the largest pools in Hawaii. Rooms have balconies, flat-screen TVs, and coffeemakers.
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