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Hawaii is Bigger Than It Looks

Hawaii is Bigger Than It Looks

If you grew up in the United States—and especially in its vast interior, where a four-hour drive to the nearest city is considered “normal”—then many other places in the world can seem small. Entire countries in Europe, and especially other US states, like Hawaii.

I remember the first time I visited the Hawaiian islands well. “I’ll be able to see everything!” I declared confidently as I drove off from Honolulu Airport in a rental car, prepared to spend just two days on Oahu and three on Maui. I wish I’d known then how ignorant I was!

Generally speaking, you should assume your decision about how many days in Hawaii to spend is inadequate, maybe woefully so. This might sound dramatic, but please allow me to explain what I mean.

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Think of Hawaii as a Country, Not a State

If you’ve ever wondered about the best island in Hawaii—and certainly, if you’ve ever done any research toward answering this question—then you can guess what I’m about to say. Each Hawaiian island is its own destination; you might think of it as its own state-within-a-state. This (its size and island geography, as well as its diversity and eclecticism) makes Hawaii more like a country than a state itself.

I have a feeling that consulting resources such as will make you inclined to agree with me. The practical benefit of adopting this viewpoint is that you will devote enough time to exploring Hawaii. This in turn will allow you to gain a deeper understanding for its natural and cultural richness. You know, as you would when exploring an entire country.

Popular Hawaii Trip Ideas

3-5 days in Hawaii


The majority of travelers I speak with only plan to spend 3-5 days in Hawaii, if you can believe it. While this isn’t a totally worthless trip length, you should be realistic about what you can see. Namely, only one island, and maybe only part of it, depending whether you have three days or five days.

One week in Hawaii


This is a more realistic answer, when it comes to how many days in Hawaii. You can split a week in Hawaii between Oahu and Maui, and see both of these islands without having to rush. Alternatively, you could simply dive deep into one of them, which would probably be my preference. 

Two weeks in Hawaii


Two weeks in Hawaii is really the least you can afford to spend there, and see all four of the major islands—Oahu and Maui, plus Kauai and the Big Island. This would give you 4-5 days on each island, allowing you to see highlights, and even dig deeper with Kona Coffee farm tours and Jurassic Park helicopter rides.

One month in Hawaii


This might seem like an overly long Hawaii itinerary, but trust me: If you want to see all the islands, and you want to do so without being rushed, it’s really ideal. This would give you at least a week on each of Hawaii’s major islands, which unlocks some serious possibilities for exploration!

Hawaii for digital nomads


On one hand, Hawaii is an expensive place—many traditional digital nomads probably can’t afford it as a base. On the other hand, if you work remotely and earn six figures, Hawaii can be an exotic place to set up shop for a while, but without having to get a visa or even use your passport.

Is Hawaii Worth Visiting?

Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in the world, so this might seem like a bizarre question to ask. But because so many people fail to prepare adequately for their trips, they arrive—and even sometimes leave—disappointed. So in general, I’d say that the more you can do in advance to set proper expectations, the more you will eventually agree with me that Hawaii is worth visiting.

More to the point, if you make the decision about how many days in Hawaii you should spend in a sober and realistic way, this will make sure you don’t feel rushed on your trip, or like you missed something. If you only have five days and can’t budget, trim down your itinerary. Or if you’re flexible, add a few days to make sure you don’t leave feeling exhausted and unfulfilled.

Other FAQ About Your Trip to Hawaii

How many days are enough in Hawaii?

There is no one answer to this question, unfortunately. How long you stay in Hawaii will depend upon a whole host of factors, including how many islands you plan to visit, and how extensively you wish to explore each of them. A general rule of thumb is that you should spend as long as you can—and longer than you probably think you need.

Is 7 days enough for Hawaii?

With 7 days in Hawaii, you can deeply explore one island, or take a quicker and more superficial trip through two adjacent ones, such as Oahu and Kauai, or Oahu and Maui. However, you definitely shouldn’t try to squeeze more than this into a week-long Hawaii trip.

Is 5 days in Hawaii worth it?

5 days in Hawaii is worth it if you plan to stay only on a single island. In particular, Oahu and the Big Island are places where you can cover a lot of ground—and make a lot of meaning—in just 5 days. But this is not really enough time to island hop, or to do anything close to it.

The Bottom Line

I’ll be frank: You probably aren’t budgeting enough time in Hawaii. Indeed, when approaching the question of how many days in Hawaii, you should think of the Aloha State not as a US state, but as its own country. Whether because of its island geography, or due to its surprisingly spartan infrastructure, Hawaii is a place you usually need weeks, not days to see. This is true except when you stick to a single island like Oahu or Maui. Need personalized help putting your Hawaii adventure together? I do hope you’ll consider hiring me as your Travel Coach.


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