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How to best see & photograph all 4 Hawaii Islands in 15 days

How to best see & photograph all 4 Hawaii Islands in 15 days

Old Jul 20th, 2018, 06:58 PM
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How to best see & photograph all 4 Hawaii Islands in 15 days

Greetings everyone !!

...I am back again after a long hiatus, with another crazy itinerary request, this time for Hawaii.

We are a family of 3, which includes a 5 yr old boy, still planning a 15 day trip, having almost decided to cover ALL the 4 islands.

We will be there in the first 2 weeks of Sep and need advice on how to best cover these 4 islands.

I love driving and photography, with my main interests being Nature, Hikes, Scenic drives, Volcanoes, Night Photography (stars, milky way) and fun places for a family

Some specific questions:
1. I am flying from East coast and planning to cover Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Big Island, in that order. Is there anything specific I should consider, apart from the inter island flight cost and how many days should I keep for each island. I TOTALLY understand that even 1 week maybe less for EACH island, but 15 days is ALL that I have.
2. Keeping in mind Sep first 2 weeks, which parts of the 4 islands should I be staying at, to avoid rain and more importantly save on accommodation cost
3. What kind of accommodation would be least expensive? I will be taking rentals at all islands and don't mind staying inland to keep the costs low
4. Night photography is a top priority for me and I am looking for specific dark areas which would be best...for most of these I will be going alone - Haleakala, Mouna Kea for sure, which others ?
5. What are the absolute must see photographic places for - Waterfalls, Mountains, Beaches, anything picture postcard like, across all 4 islands ?
6. What would be a best family place/s in each island, something that my son would like?

Overall I would also like to keep the costs at a minimum, so any other pointers would be greatly greatly Appreciated.

....As I have always mentioned earlier, this Forum has always, always helped me plan out my trips efficiently...so Thanks in advance to all

Can't wait to hear from all of you....

- Manish
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Old Jul 20th, 2018, 09:44 PM
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Just a quick comment (I've only been to HI three times so not the expert some other Fodorites are). With just 15 days including the flights from/to the east coast I honestly don't think you can do four islands. Especially with a 5yo along. Plus on such a fast pace you don't have the luxury to wait for nights with clear skies places like Mauna Kea and Haleakala.

Hopefully others will have concrete advice for you.
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Old Jul 21st, 2018, 09:24 AM
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Well, I did it once - when I was young and probably foolish - 14 days, 4 islands. It's a lot of traveling - does your 15 days include your days to and from Hawaii from the East Coast? Assuming it does --

Day 1 - arrive Oahu and settle in. Bedtime will likely be quite early because you'll still be on East Coast time.
Days 2 - Full day.on Oahu - Waikiki area
Day 3 - Full Day on Oahu - north shore beaches
Day 4 - Full day on Oahu - east (Kailua, Pali, Diamond Head)
Day 5 - Fly to Maui - arrive by noon. Half day.
Day 6 - Haleakala and upcountry
Day 7 - Iao Needle
Day 8 - Road to Hana
Day 9 - relax
Day 10 - fly to Kauai. Arrive by noon. Half day.
Day 11 - North shore.
Day 12 - North Shore.
Day 13 - Waimea Canyon and Kokee Park
Day 14 - back to Oahu
Day 15 - fly home

I tried - no time for the Big Island. I honestly don't remember how we did it.
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Old Jul 21st, 2018, 09:26 AM
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The only option for getting from island to island is to fly. The flights for the three of you will eat up a lot of your budget, so I'd suggest that you need to decide whether you want to experience Hawaii or just photograph it. Visiting all four islands is certainly possible, but you'll be spending a lot of your time packing and unpacking, waiting in airports, etc. While there are child-friendly activities on all of the islands, usually the thing that is the biggest hit with children is the beach. And you are thinking about not staying at the beach to save money. This may be penny wise and pound foolish. Only you (and you partner) can decide what works best for you.

Starting form the idea that you will visit all 4 islands, here are things to think about:

Flights: You can fly from Oahu to any of the islands, but inter-island flights from the other islands are more limited. For instance, I know you can fly from Kauai to Maui, but you would have to fly though Oahu to get to the Big Island. And the Big Island has two airports. So look carefully at the various flight schedules.

Accommodations: Usually, least expensive accommodations will be AirBnB or VBRO rentals. Be aware that there are areas where such rentals are allowed, and areas where they are not allowed. You may be able to do almost as well with a package deal from Costco, for instance, at a less expensive beach resort.

Car Rental: You wil need a car on each island, and that can add up, Sometimes rental cars are at a premium, though I don't think you'll run into problems anywhere in September. Shop around for the best price, and check again before you go to see if you can get a better price. With a car and a few days, you can cover a lot of ground on the smaller islands, the Big Island, as people like to say, is BIG and you will need considerable time to visit areas that are very different form each other.

"What are the absolute must see photographic places for - Waterfalls, Mountains, Beaches, anything picture postcard like, across all 4 islands" No one can answer that for you. And there are enough postcard views that you could spend all of your time on any one island and completely fill your time.

Unsolicited advice: Consider choosing two islands for your time in Hawaii. Two islands will give you a good variety of photographic opportunities and will allow you to explore and enjoy the islands. Choosing two islands should free up enough in your budget to stay on or near a beach, which the others in your party will appreciate.

Good luck to you in planning this.
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Old Jul 24th, 2018, 07:49 AM
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Boy, I wouldnít do that trip. Iíve been to Hawaii multiple times and Iíve found staying on one island is the best. When you change islands you lose almost the whole day. Packing, dropping off car, getting to the airport, etc. but most importantly, it ruins the relaxed vibe youíve been cultivating! What we like to do is stay at two locations on an island. Such as Waikiki and Turtle Bay , or Kona and Hilo. It allows you to really explore each area without driving all over the place. Itís fun to pack up the car and take off to s new location! Not stressful at all!
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Old Jul 25th, 2018, 10:03 AM
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I don't think there is anyway to do a "least expensive" kind of trip when you are going to 4 islands in 2 weeks' time. The plane fares alone for 3 people are not going to come cheap! And you should pencil out how much time it will take changing islands (be realistic - each time you will: pack and leave rental unit, get to airport, return car, wait for flight, take flight, get new rental car, get to next rental home... that's a lot of time and effort that is not enjoyable or really seeing much of anything special x 4!).
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Old Jul 25th, 2018, 02:08 PM
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OP has posted this on two other forums (Lonely Planet and TA) and has not returned to reply.
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Old Jul 25th, 2018, 03:06 PM
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What forum on TA? I haven't seen it. But I'm on Oahu there.
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Old Jul 27th, 2018, 03:52 PM
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Thanks Everyone....as always, truly appreciate your inputs, including the suggestions and concerns.
All my flights are booked and I am onto the hotels currently, and it is expensive

Few more questions:
1. Any suggestions for cheaper options for Oahu and Maui specifically. Should I prefer one over the other between Airbnb and VRBO?

2. What would be the best place/s for snorkeling in these 4 islands?

3. Is the Helicopter ride worth the expense, and if so, any cheaper options?

4. Should I try any if the boat trips, like the submarine one?

5. Best places for kids ?

Thanks...the last stretch here for my planning and booking !!
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Old Jul 27th, 2018, 04:38 PM
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Just my experience - we did a submarine ride on the Big Island and thought it was very expensive and pretty lame. We didnít see much, and it wasnít clear either.
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Old Jul 27th, 2018, 05:00 PM
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When on Kauai, a boat trip to the NaPali coast is highly recommended. I'm not a fan of helicopter rides, so haven't done one. Some people say it was the peak experience of their trip.

It really doesn't matter whether you go with air BnB or VBRO, what matters is the specific properties.
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Old Jul 28th, 2018, 02:21 PM
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Too bad your flights are booked.
I was going to suggest you shift budget dollars from airfare to beach lodging, by visiting only two islands. Travel less, and stay in nicer places.
That’s way too much moving around with a 5 year old, in my experience. Good luck, though.
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Old Jul 30th, 2018, 09:35 AM
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If money is a concern no I would not do things like helicopter rides and boat trips. Those are budget busters for sure.

Seriously the best place for a kid that age is probably the hotel pool, a public park (Fort de Russy and Kapiolani in Waikiki are both large and beautiful) or the beach. Buy floaties and sand toys. Maybe the Zoo would be of interest?

I've stayed at these two hotels in Waikiki and they are about as affordable as it gets (and both have nice pools for the kid) - Waikiki Sand Villa and White Sands Hotel.
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Old Aug 1st, 2018, 07:18 AM
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Often, booking directly with the owners is less expensive than either Airbnb or VRBO. We have a couple rentals and I received a direct booking for three nights the other day; our base rental rate is the same but if they had booked on Airbnb instead of with us directly, it would have cots $80 more in Airbnb fees.

Keep in mind, according to the newspaper last week, Mayor Caldwell said there are 10,000 short term accommodations on Oahu. Most of them will not be available directly because they are only on listing sites - no web sites of their own. Further keep in mind this interesting tidbit...out of the 10,000 only 800 - 900 are legal short term rentals.

There's a brewing storm coming over illegal short term rentals in Hawaii (everywhere). Booking an illegal one might end up getting caught up in a future crackdown and result in no place to stay very suddenly.

Here are properties that are zoned for vacation rentals in Waikiki:
https://www.hawaiiliving.com/blog/condotels-in-waikiki/

When you get out of the tourist area, into residential areas, you might get cheaper rates but you are more likely to be staying in an unpermitted short term rental.
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Old Aug 1st, 2018, 08:14 AM
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Re: helicopter tours

I would do one strictly for photography sake. Do it alone rather than all 3 of you, and look for one that either caters to photographers or runs during the better photography times of day (mid day would be bad). Going alone will help save money and I doubt your 5 year old will get as much out of it as you will.
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Old Aug 1st, 2018, 02:30 PM
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Good advice from TJM about being careful about illegal rentals if you decide to rent condos or houses instead of staying in hotels.
On Kauai, besides the helicopters, there is also a fixed wing plane called Wings Over Kauia which gets good reviews and costs about half. I personally prefer the Na Pali coast boat tours.
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