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Dreaming of a Hawaiian getaway filled with sun, sand, and surf? If you want to make those dreams a reality by traveling to the Aloha State, there are a few key things you’ll need to prepare. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: To travel to Hawaii, you’ll need a valid government-issued ID, enough money to cover your trip expenses, reservations for accommodations and possibly a rental car, appropriate clothing and gear, and an adventurous spirit!

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover all the nitty-gritty details you need to know to plan your ultimate Hawaii vacation, from booking flights and hotels to packing tips and must-see attractions. By the end, you’ll be an expert on everything Hawaii and ready to catch that wave!

Identify Required Travel Documentation


A passport is required for all foreign nationals traveling to Hawaii, including U.S. citizens. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the dates of your trip. If you don’t have a passport yet, be sure to apply early, as it can take 4-6 weeks to receive one.

An awesome tip is to make sure you have at least 2 blank visa pages in your passport before departing for Hawaii.

U.S. citizens can apply for a passport at one of over 7,500 passport acceptance facilities nationwide. The application process includes completing the DS-11 form, getting a passport photo taken, providing proof of U.S. citizenship, and paying the applicable fees.

Expedited passport services are available for an additional $60 plus overnight shipping costs.

Other Acceptable IDs

For domestic U.S. travelers coming from another U.S. state or territory, a valid state-issued driver’s license or ID card can be used instead of a passport. However, children under 18 who are traveling with someone other than a legal guardian may need additional documentation.

The REAL ID Act established minimum security standards for state-issued IDs. By May 2023, domestic travelers must have a REAL ID-compliant card or another acceptable form of ID like a passport to fly within the U.S.

Check to see if your state ID or license qualifies by looking for the REAL ID star logo.

For foreign nationals, other acceptable travel documents include:

  • U.S. Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
  • U.S. Visa with I-94 form
  • Trusted Traveler Cards (Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS)

Book Flights and Accommodations in Advance

Compare Airfare and Hotel Options

When planning a Hawaii vacation, it’s wise to book your airline tickets and hotel rooms well in advance to secure the best rates. Prices typically spike as availability decreases, so Kayak, Expedia, Priceline and airline websites should be monitored for deals.

Aim to purchase airfare at least two months early, and reserve accommodations three months ahead if possible.

It pays to compare multiple sites to find the best airfare and room deals. Packages that bundle flights, hotels and even rental cars can offer additional savings. Consider all-inclusive resorts where meals, drinks and activities are covered by one rate.

Review hotel amenities (pools, restaurants, kids clubs) and location to pick the optimal property.

Consider a Vacation Rental

Along with hotels, Hawaii has an abundance of vacation rental properties to choose from across the islands. These private homes, condos and apartments booked through sites like Vrbo and Airbnb often provide added space, convenience and savings for groups and families.

Rental properties allow travelers to save money by cooking some meals at “home”. They can also offer easy access to island attractions if well located. Carefully vet owners, read previous guest reviews and understand cancellation policies before reserving a unit.

Rentals often book far in advance, so plan 6-12 months ahead for peak seasons.

Have Sufficient Funds and Emergency Money

When traveling to Hawaii, having sufficient funds and emergency money is crucial. Here are some tips:

Calculate Your Expected Costs

Calculate how much your entire Hawaii trip will likely cost, including:

  • Airfare
  • Accommodations
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Activities and entertainment
  • Emergency funds

Prices in Hawaii can be quite high, so overestimating is better than underestimating. Sites like Budget Your Trip can help you calculate expected costs.

Have at Least 20% More Funds

It’s wise to have at least 20% more money than your expected costs. This provides a buffer for any unexpected expenses like:

  • Flight changes/delays
  • Medical issues
  • Lost/damaged items
  • Additional tours or activities

Have Emergency Money

You should also have emergency funds set aside, enough to cover costs if something major happens. Recommendations range from $500 to $2,000+ depending on trip length and budget. Consider covering costs for:

  • Hotel for extra nights
  • Changing flights
  • Replacing lost documents
  • Medical treatment

Carrying emergency money in the form of a credit card and cash is wise. Inform your bank/credit card company before traveling internationally to prevent issues using cards.

Consider Travel Insurance

Purchasing travel insurance can also help protect against financial losses from trip interruptions, cancellations, or medical emergencies. Just be sure to understand the policy’s exact coverages and exclusions first.

Pack Appropriate Clothing and Gear

Beach Essentials

When packing for a trip to Hawaii, bringing the right beach essentials is key to having an amazing time. Here are some must-have items to include:

  • Swimsuits – Bring more than one so you always have a dry option. Opt for suits that provide UV protection.
  • Beach towel – Pack a lightweight, quick dry towel or two. Trying to dry off with a damp towel is no fun!
  • Sandals – Protect your feet with waterproof sandals that can handle sandy terrain.
  • Sun protection – With Hawaii’s intense sun, you’ll want hats, UV protecting shirts and dresses, sunglasses, and reef-safe sunscreen.
  • Beach bag – Tote all your essentials in a water-resistant bag. Go for one big enough to carry snacks, books, camera, etc.

Some other handy things to toss in your suitcase include sarongs, waterproof phone cases, aloe vera gel, water bottles with filters, portable speakers, and snorkel sets. Packing well for beach days makes all the difference!

Hiking and Outdoor Gear

In addition to beach time, Hawaii offers incredible hiking opportunities across its islands. Prepare properly for outdoor excursions with:

  • Hiking shoes – Break them in pre-trip! Choose shoes with sturdy soles to handle slippery surfaces.
  • Lightweight, quick-dry clothing – Opt for moisture wicking fabrics that keep you cool.
  • Hat and sunglasses – Shield your face from the intense sun.
  • Day pack – Stash trail snacks, camera, rain jacket, and other essentials.
  • Water bottle and water filtration system – Hydrate often on long treks.
  • Hiking poles – Take pressure off knees during descents.
  • First aid kit – Treat minor scrapes and burns.
  • Headlamp/flashlight – Illuminate dark jungle trails.
  • Insect repellent – Keep mosquitos and other pests away.

According to a 2021 survey by Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, over 30% of visitors go hiking during their stay. Having proper gear allows you to comfortably and safely experience Hawaii’s magnificent trails. Don’t forget the sunscreen and chance for rainbows! 🌈

Research Hawaii’s Top Sights and Activities

Iconic Beaches

Hawaii is renowned for its breathtaking beaches, with options ranging from secluded coves to popular stretches of sparkling white sand. Some of the most iconic beaches in Hawaii include Waikiki Beach on Oahu, Kaanapali Beach on Maui, and Hapuna Beach on the Big Island.

Waikiki Beach is a vibrant 2-mile stretch of sand facing crystal blue waters, with top Hawaiian resorts and restaurants lining its shores. Many visitors also enjoy learning to surf on Waikiki’s gentle rolling waves.

Meanwhile, Kaanapali Beach features over 3 miles of pristine sand and tranquil waters perfect for snorkeling. And Hapuna Beach frequently appears on lists of the world’s best beaches due to its half mile expanse of powdery white sand and calm, reef-sheltered bay.

Volcanoes National Park

No trip to Hawaii would be complete without visiting Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, home of the active Kilauea volcano and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This park allows visitors to explore volcanic craters, walk across older lava flows, watch active lava flowing into the ocean when eruptions occur, and learn about the science and culture of Hawaiian volcanoes.

Some top sights at the park include the Jaggar Museum overlook for views of Halemaʻumaʻu crater, the Thurston Lava Tube formed in an ancient flow centuries ago, the Devastation Trail showing areas affected by eruptions in the 1950s, and the Kilauea Iki Trail traversing a crater from 1959.

Visitors in 2018 were treated to new lava flows and fissures from Kilauea volcano, though activity has been quieter in recent years. Still, around 2.6 million people visited this wondrous landscape in 2021 (Volcanoes National Park).

Water Sports

The warm tropical waters around Hawaii provide the perfect playground for water sports enthusiasts. Hawaii has it all – from laidback snorkeling excursions to heart-pounding surfing and even championship big wave surf meets for the pros.

Some of the top water activities in Hawaii include:

  • Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay on Oahu or Molokini Crater off Maui to spy colorful fish and sea turtles.
  • Watching for whales and dolphins on a catamaran cruise.
  • Paddling an outrigger canoe, a quintessentially Hawaiian experience.
  • Surfing world-famous waves on Oahu’s North Shore or Maui’s Honolua Bay.
  • Plunging into the clear waters on a kayaking, sailing or scuba diving adventure.

The friendly Aloha spirit connects all water sports in Hawaii, where veterans are always willing to share advice with newcomers to their sport. Just be sure to respect ocean safety – never turn your back on the Pacific!


With idyllic beaches, dramatic landscapes, and vibrant culture, Hawaii promises an unforgettable travel experience. By securing your documents, booking travel, budgeting properly, packing strategically, and planning site visits, you’ll be primed for the Hawaii vacation of your dreams.

The aloha spirit is calling – it’s time to answer by putting these tips into action and exploring paradise!

Now that you know how to properly prepare, the only thing left is to book that trip! From hiking volcanic craters to snorkeling with sea turtles, Hawaii’s natural wonders and island culture await. Get ready for a one-of-a-kind tropical getaway that you’ll cherish for years to come with the help of this complete Hawaii travel guide.

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