If you’re thinking about booking a solo trip to Hawaii, you’re in the right place! I’ve been to Hawaii twice now, my second time as a solo traveler. This guide will break down the most important information so you have everything you need to know before you get there.
Let’s jump into it!
Is Hawaii Expensive?
Before you write off Hawaii as a solo trip, know that there are many ways you can travel through Hawaii on a budget. If you’re Canadian (like myself), you’re going up against a stronger dollar (US) and the conversion isn’t great but it’s still doable!
More on this later, as well as solo travel tips to make your trip an outstanding one.
Entry Requirements for Canadians
Since Hawaii is an American state, Canadians are allowed to stay in Hawaii for up to 6 months each year with a passport or NEXUS card that is valid for their entire stay.
At the time of writing this post (January 10, 2023) Canadians are NOT required to complete any PCR or antigen tests. You can check for COVID updates here.
Entry Requirements for EU/UK Citizens
It’s fairly easy for EU and UK citizens to travel to Hawaii. Besides needing a valid passport for the duration of your stay (up to 90 days), you might have to pay a visa ($14 USD). Check here for updated information.
Best Time of the Year to Visit Hawaii
Hawaii is a tropical location and therefore has a great climate year round! You don’t need to be too concerned about the time of year you’re choosing to travel because you’re pretty much guaranteed great weather.
However, there is a rainy and dry season, which could impact your solo trip to Hawaii. The amount of rainfall varies greatly, depending on which island you’re traveling to but as a general rule of thumb, the rainy season is from November to March (November and December are generally the rainiest months). April through October are usually the driest overall but don’t let that discourage you from visiting during the winter!
Both times I visited Oahu were in the winter (January and March) and both were great. I found January to be a great time to visit because it was much drier than my trip in March. But that could have just been the years I was there so take this information with a grain of salt.
You can expect to experience mid-20s to low 30s (celsius) throughout the entire year.
With all of that being said, it’s probably best to visit Hawaii during the shoulder seasons (April and October) as it will be less touristy and you can find cheaper accommodation! You’ll save the most during the wettest months because fewer people will be traveling.
Getting Around Hawaii
When planning your solo trip to Hawaii, you need to consider how you’ll get between islands, as well as transportation on the island.
- Flights – The best option if you’re visiting more than one island. You should definitely book ahead of time if you’re thinking about seeing a few different places, as the prices of flights will be much more affordable! To get an idea of pricing, one-way flights from Honolulu, Oahu to Maui are generally around $39-59 USD. I’d recommend booking roundtrip flights to one island from home and then booking separate one-way flights to other islands (or trying the multi-flight option on Google Flights).
- Buses – Local buses are fairly easy to use but aren’t the best option to get around the islands. Generally, you can get a local bus from the airport into the city for a few dollars and very easily!
- Rental Car – If you drive, definitely pick up a rental car for a few days. I did this with a few people I met at my hostel and it made exploring a lotttttt easier. We were able to drive up to the North Shore of Oahu, discover beautiful beaches that were a little further away and so much more. Turo is a car-sharing app/website that’s generally pretty affordable.
- Guided Tour – If you’re working with limited time, a tour might be the best option for you! I usually prefer traveling in my own time, however, day tours can be a great way to see a place and meet new people. Most hostels will offer tours that handle all of the transportation.
How Long to Spend on A Solo Trip to Hawaii
The length of your trip to Hawaii is entirely up to you as a solo traveler! With that being said, you could easily spend a few months in Hawaii, as there are many other travelers around and so much to see and do on each island.
One thing to keep in mind is budget. If you’re not going to be working while you’re in Hawaii, you might have to keep the trip short. I’d suggest at least one week per island but would opt for 2 weeks if possible (or longer!).
Choosing an Island in Hawaii
What’s the best Hawaiian island? You might be wondering while you’re planning your solo trip and working out where to go or start your journey. Luckily, you really can’t go wrong with any of the Hawaiian islands you choose, so you might want to pick a few!
I’ve only spent time in Oahu personally and thought it was great if you’re a city meets nature person. Honolulu is a big city so there’s a lot to do just within the city but the best part is that it’s surrounded by outstanding nature! I’m talking insane mountains and pristine beaches. So you’re going for the best of both worlds, Oahu might be right up your alley.
It’s the most populated and most visited island in Hawaii so that’s also something to keep in mind. If you want to avoid tourists, you might be better off visiting another island instead.
Here is a bucket list for Oahu Activities:
- Hike – Oahu has some amazing hikes! My favourite by far was the Stairway to Heaven. You can read my full guide here. Koko Crater is another great hike (that’s much easier to access).
- Helicopter Tour – I did a helicopter tour over Oahu when I first visited with my friend’s family. It was an incredible way to see the island from above. It’s a pricey experience but definitely worth it if you’re looking for something unique to do!
- Pearl Harbor – You need to visit this historic site when you’re in Oahu. You need to book a spot ahead of time and there is a range of booking options. It starts at $1 and can go up to $80 if you’re after a tour.
- Beach Days – There is no shortage of gorgeous beaches on Oahu! Lanikai Beach isn’t far from Honolulu (30 min drive or just over 1 hr bus). It’s often seen as the best beach in Oahu, known for its white sand, clear water and snorkel opportunities. Kailua Beach is another great beach just past Lanikai worth checking out!
- Visit the North Shore – Take a day trip up to the North Shore to explore the sea life or for some incredible surf. If you plan your trip correctly, you could be there just in time for some of the biggest surf competitions in the world.
- Surf Lesson – If you’re a beginner, definitely test the waters with surf lessons in Waikiki. The waves are small so it’s a great spot to get some practice.
The Big Island Activities
The Big Island of Hawaii is a great choice if you’re looking to hike up active volcanoes, soak in waterfalls and learn about its ancient history.
Here is a bucket list for Big Island Activities:
- Explore Waterfalls – There are an immense number of waterfalls to visit on the Big Island. It’s home to the most famous waterfall in Hawaii – Alaska Falls. There are a few options for ziplining past the waterfalls, which sounds like a must.
- Visit Black Sand Beaches – It’s not every day that you get to experience a beach like this … Punalu’u Beach is made up entirely of black volcanic glass. It’s great because you won’t find many tourists there and might even see a few green sea turtles there!
- See Lava Up Close – You can’t go to the Big Island without a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Book an evening tour to see the lava glow at night!
Maui is your spot if you’re all about uncovering hidden gems, gorgeous beach days, surfing and hiking.
Here is a bucket list for Maui Activities:
- Watch the Sunset Above the Clouds – Maui is filled with insane hikes but Haleakalā National Park is a must! This is the spot to go if you want a once in a life experience of watching the sunrise peak over the clouds on a mountain.
- The Road to Hana – This is one of many scenic drives in Hawaii. It’s a long one that’s about 12 hours. You’ll see visit beaches, waterfalls and go through a national park. However, tourists have started to overrun this route, making many locals angry. Just something to keep in mind if you’re planning to do this road trip!
- Beach Days – Maui has some great beaches but is also home to manta rays . You can book a tour to swim/dive alongside them.
Despite Lanai being a small island, there are so many fun things to do there for the first time! It’s definitely the best island if you’re looking for a little bit of alone time during your vacation.
Here is a bucket list for Lanai Activities:
- Beach Days – Hulupo’e Beach is the main beach on this island with warm waters and a beautiful bay for snorkeling. Depending on the time of year, you might be able to catch some dolphins or humpback whales from this beach! There’s also an amazing shipwreck beach, named (you guessed it) Shipwreck Beach or Kaiolohia.
- Visit the Petroglyphs – Lanai is home to ancient pictorial writings known as the Poaiwa Petroglyphs. You can get there by starting at Shipwreck Beach and following a hiking trail to Poaiwa Valley where you’ll come across the petroglyphs.
Molokai is an adventure-seeker’s paradise! It’s still largely untouched by tourism, making it a great spot if you want to find some hidden gems or uncover parts of Hawaii most people won’t see.
Here is a bucket list for Molokai Activities:
- Beach Days – Papohaku is known as one of the best beaches in Molokai. It’s far from the main town but has some of the best sunsets! Other great beaches on the island include Dixi Maru, Kepuhi Bay and Pohakumauliuli.
- Halawa Valley – With the help of a guide, you can hike from the Halawa Valley to Moaula Falls. It will take you around 3 hours but has some of the best views in all of Hawaii!
- Explore the Barrier Reef – The south side of Molokai borders the longest barrier reef in the US. There aren’t many great beaches on this side of the island but if you take a kayak out and paddle out, you’ll reach crystal clear water where you can snorkel.
If you’re after beautiful views and water activities, Kauai is one of the best destinations for you! Like the other islands, it has warm weather year-round, outstanding canyons and cliffs and crystal-clear water!
Here is a bucket list for Kauai Activities:
- Visit the South Shore – This part of the island is known for it’s laidback and relaxed vibe, as it’s a great surf spot.
- Explore Waimea Canyon – Known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’, a visit here is simply a no-brainer.
- Chase Waterfalls – Wailua Falls is the most popular waterfall in Kauai but there are plenty of others to visit during your stay!
How to Travel Hawaii on a Budget
While it’s certainly possible to travel to Hawaii on a budget, it’s going to be a bit of a challenge!
The biggest obstacles to keep in mind are accommodation and food. That’s where I seem to spend most of my money when I’m traveling so if you’re able to find cheap places to stay and make some meals for yourself, it’s definitely doable.
* Remember that if you’re eating at restaurants, tipping is expected. Servers in the United States make a very low wage and therefore rely on tips for most of their income, so you should always be prepared to tip 15-20% at a minimum!
The Best Budget Accommodation in Hawaii
Accommodation in Hawaii can be expensive, which isn’t great if you’re traveling solo. Luckily, there are a few budget options to keep in mind:
- Hostels – I’m not going to lie to you, the hostel options in Hawaii aren’t the best. They’re nice but there aren’t many places and they’re definitely on the higher end of budget travel! I spent a week staying at The Beach Waikiki by ALOH (dorms start at $52 USD). If you’re lucky you might find a spot at a hostel that’s $39 USD/night but they get booked up quickly. *PRO TIP: Book directly through the hostel’s website for a better rate!
- Housesitting – If you sign up for platforms such as Trusted Housesitters, you can get free accommodation in exchange for a few household chores or taking care of pets while the owners are gone. This is definitely one of the best options if you’re planning a longer trip on one island.
- Au pair – If you’re looking for a private room in Hawaii, you might want to consider becoming an au pair. This is another great option for a longer stay, as you’ll be working with a family over the course of a few months. Generally, you’ll have your own room and have to work 20 ish hours a week but have the rest of the time to explore the island!
- Work trades – If you’re open to working with animals, picking fruit on a farm, or doing some work around a hostel, websites like Worldpackers can help you find free accommodation in exchange for a little work! I’d definitely recommend working with a hostel because it’ll be the best way to meet other travelers.
- Eco Stays – WWOOFing is similar to Worldpackers but they’re focused on sustainable stays and permaculture.
1 Week Budget for Hawaii
If you’re wondering how much you’re likely to spend for one week in Hawaii, this is the absolute minimum you should have saved.
- Accommodation – $350 USD/week (~$50/night at a hostel) – This can be less if you find a work-trade or try out one of the other options I mentioned for budget accommodation!
- Food – $70 USD/week – This is an estimate if you’re planning on making most of your food. It could be less if you’re doing a work-trade and will have some meals included OR it could be more if you choose to eat at restaurants.
- Transit – $100 USD/week – This is definitely on the low end. This will cover your public transport to and from the airport and perhaps sharing a car with a few people in a hostel for a day or two!
- Activities – $100 USD/week – Luckily, there are heaps of free or cheap activities to do in Hawaii (mostly out in nature). You could spend a lot more on activities if you want but there are so many ways to have fun for free as well!
Total = $620/week – ~$20/day.
Making Friends in Hawaii
Any solo trip can feel a little daunting at first. How are you going to meet new people? Will you even make any friends? I used to think that way alllll the time and I still catch myself doing it on occasion (even after traveling to 35+ countries)! So you’re not alone.
The best thing to keep in mind is that you’re pretty much guaranteed to make friends when you’re on a solo trip to Hawaii! People are super friendly so you can easily strike up a convo with someone on the beach.
With that being said, hostels are BY FAR the best place to meet other solo female travelers. I’ve met most of my travel friends that way! If you’re not super keen on staying in a dorm room, you can always book a private room and still get to meet other people staying there in the common areas.
If you’re still a little nervous about making new friends in Hawaii, read my guide about making friends while traveling or living abroad here!
Responsible Tourism in Hawaii
Before you pack your bags for your solo trip to Hawaii, It’s important to consider how to travel respectfully and responsibly while you’re there.
Locals have expressed that they wish tourists would do these things before coming to Hawaii:
Learn about the culture and history
It’s important to put a little effort into getting to know the culture and history of the people who live in the place you’re visiting – and Hawaii is no exception! Do some research beforehand so you can try to understand Hawaiian culture better when you arrive and show the people respect. After all, you’re a visitor in their home, so if you could try to learn a few common Hawaiian phrases and stories, you’ll show the locals you care.
Connect with locals
Connecting with locals is by far one of the best ways to truly get to know a place. It’s easy to surround yourself with other tourists but it’s so important to connect with Hawaiians. They’re known to be very hospitable and want to share their culture with others. If you’re open to it, you can learn a lot from the people of Hawaii and make a few friends along the way!
Support local businesses
When purchasing anything in Hawaii – from food to gifts for family or anything in between – think first. Are you buying from a local or a huge corporation that’s running a bunch of gift shops? Try seeking out locally owned businesses to keep the money within Hawaii and supporting those who can really use it!
Don’t share the location
I’ll admit, I’m guilty of doing this myself but lately, I’ve been thinking more about leaving locations as a mystery when posting online. With everyone turning to social media to find their information, putting the exact location of a beautiful waterfall, for example, is a surefire way to encourage too many tourists to visit. While it’s great to share nature with others, too many tourists visiting one particular spot ruins it for everyone and can also harm wildlife and nature.
Give back to Hawaii
While a vacation in Hawaii is great, consider joining a beach cleanup or volunteering a few hours of your time to another eco-project. Hawaii has SO much to give to us tourists and deserves a little love as well!
Ready for Your Solo Trip to Hawaii?
Hawaii will never disappoint so if you’re thinking about taking a solo trip to Hawaii, just do it! It will be a trip to remember and the best part is, you’ll always have a new island to explore.
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