Below you'll find some of the experiences I made, while I was on vacation in Hawaii in August 1999. Since this happened a while ago it might be a little bit out of date.
So this is only a short and very rough review of Hawaii:

When to go to Hawaii and how long to stay

Any time of the year is fine to go to Hawaii. Temperatures range in between 20 and 25 °C, you'll usually have small warm rainshowers a day (except of the eastcoast of Big Island where it rains a lot), the humidity is acceptable and you always have a light breeze. It's a very nice climate for traveling and hiking. If you are into windsurfing (or like to watch it) the winter season (especially december) would be your choice. The winds are much stronger than in summer and surfer from all over the world get together at Hawaii.
Considering the length of your stay I would suggest to spend at least one week on every island. Especially if you like hiking there are so many things to see that even one week is too short. Unfortunately, most of us don't have the time to spend more than 4 weeks a year on vacation. Therefore, you'll maybe have to concentrate on 2 or 3 islands. For me, Molokai and Kauai are the most beautiful ones, the first for its remoteness and the second for its lushness. Big Island is of course also a major attraction but if you've seen volcanos before it's certainly not a must, unless you take a helicopter flight to see the erupting vent and the flowing lava. Maui is also very lush and beautiful but already quite crowed and this gets even worse on Oahu.

Getting to Hawaii

There are lots of companies who fly to Hawaii from almost all over the world. Your first destination in Hawaii is Honolulu International Airport on Oahu. From there you can take smaller planes to the other islands.
If you start from the continental US prices start as low as 300$ (westcoast) and the average is between 600 and 700$ roundtrip. I happened to pay 600$, an offer I found on the internet so you should check this out. Flying time is around 5-10 hours depending on your starting point.
From Germany prices are around 1200 Euro, strongly depending if you fly offseason or not. At certain times there are fares way below 1000 Euro. Flight time from Germany is around 20 hours and you have to switch planes in the continental US.

Getting around in Hawaii

By bus:

The only reasonable bus system exists on Oahu. I never tested it so there is not much I can tell about it, but there are lots of information on the internet. I never saw any public bus on the other islands so I bet there is no public transportation system.
Unless you book guided tours I would strongly recommend to take a rental car.

By air:

In order to get from one island to the other airplanes are the only possibility. There are no ferry connections between the islands since the surf is usually to heavy. Prices for island hopping are quite moderate, around $50 per flight. Some travel offices sell discounted flight coupons (also over the internet) which are especially useful if you travel with some friends. It's like a blanquo check where you fill in your name and flight number and you'll get your boarding card. It's not necessary to make seat reservations, there are usually enough vacant seats.

By car:

Like in the rest of the US a car is a definite MUST. If you like to travel on your own a rental car gives you the flexibility to reach any place you want. Actually, there is no other way to reach the major attractions of Hawaii. Prices range between 200 and 300$ a week. Except for Molokai (where you only have 3 or 4 rental car companies), every island has a whole lot of rental car companies. The big ones like Hertz and Avis are located at the airports but it might also be worthwhile to check out the smaller ones. They usually offer better rates and also pick you up at the airport.

Camping in Hawaii

There are lots of camping facilities on any of the islands although the qualitiy varies. The best maintained campsites can be found in the National Parks and usually also in the state parks. County parks are somewhat strange because their quality strongly varies with the location. So before you pitch up your tent, make sure that this is a decent spot without theves and drunks. The general rule is: the further away from populated areas the safer.
As for the prices: National Parks and State Parks don't charge you a cent, although for the latter you'll have to get a permit prior arriving at the state park. In my opinion this is absolutely unpracticable, because you simply can't plan your whole vacation and where to stay on a specific date. Plus, it doesn't seem that the goverment is very eager about the permits. We tried once to get a permit for Kokee State Park on Kauai and the guy who was in charge of that didn't even seem interested. So we basically pitched up our tent wherever we wanted to, no matter if we had a permit or not. It happened only once that a ranger came and wanted to see the permit but then you can still argue that you didn't know and only want to stay for one night. They're not gonna throw you off the park, I think they only want to make sure that they don't have drunks on the campsite. Also, for most of the parks there is a time limit for your stay (from a couple of days up to 2 weeks). County parks charge you up to 3 dollar per person which is still very cheap.
If you're not able to find a campsite or if it rains too heavy, there are also reasonably priced motels along the highways or in the larger cities. Prices between $30-50 a night for a double room.

Groceries and prices

Every town has at least one supermarket with the usual US selections and pricings (a bit more expensive than in the continental US though). There are also small shops at the tourist roads where they sell fresh fruit.

I hope, that helped a little bit for those of you who are planning on going to southeast of the States. If you have questions, email me.

Home - Attractions and Hikes of Hawaii