What is the best way to travel inter-island? What is best depends on what you prefer. Here’s a run down of what services are available and the pros and cons of each option.
Island hopping has changed over the past few years. Aloha and Go! went out of business, leaving two fewer jet airlines. Then the Hawaii Superferry revved its engines, adding ferry service between Oahu and Maui, but now it’s pau because it never performed an environment impact statement.
Airlines remain the gold standard for inter-island travel, and there are a few choices.
Hawaiian Airlines (website: Hawaiianair.com ) offers the most direct jet flights out of Honolulu International (HNL) to all of the other islands. If you’re starting on another island, however, you’ll likely have to connect in Honolulu. Hawaii partners with American and the OneWorld alliance.
Direct flights from the Mainland occur more frequently to neighbor islands, and ultimately, this saves the most time and hassle. Check these airlines websites: Air Canada, Alaska, American, Continental/United, and Hawaiian.
Jets are always loud, especially if you are sitting behind the wings. Consider investing in hearing protection. I always fly with Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones for Apple devices, White(wired, 3.5mm). On longer flights, I often layer these over Lysian 35dB Foam Earplugs.
Pros: Fast jet service with easy connections to Mainland flights.
Cons: TSA hassles, direct flights between neighbor island cities can cost more, and long flights can damage hearing.
Pro Tip: Sit up front to get on and off in less than half hour.
Commuter airlines offer a more laid-back alternative. Because these airlines operate smaller planes (i.e., prop planes or puddle jumpers), they don’t use the main airport terminals. Did you catch that? No main terminals. That means no airport security hassles! It’s almost to good to be true, but it is. If you don’t mind riding in a small plane, you don’t have to bother with TSA. In other words, you can save heaps of travel time without interrupting that easy island vibe you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
- Kona-based Mokulele Airlines (website: mokuleleairlines.com ) operates 9-seat Cessna 208B Grand Caravan turboprop aircraft.
In addition to avoiding TSA and offering more direct flights between neighbor island cities, they fly at lower altitudes than jets do, providing passengers unparalleled views of Hawai’i’s magnificent scenery – pristine coastlines, spectacular mountains, frozen lava flows, plunging waterfalls and frolicking whales. An interisland flight on a commuter airline could substitute for a costly aerial tour. Airfares are typically comparable to or less than jet service.
Pros: Frequent direct flights between neighbor island cities, no TSA hassles, killer scenery.
Cons: Small planes make for longer, bumpier rides.
Pro Tip: Ask the captain which side of the plane overlooks the land and sit on that side.
Ferry – No Longer in Service
Update: As of June 30, 2009, the Superferry is sunk. They company filed for bankruptcy protection in May and now wants to ditch the two high-speed catarmans, leaving Hawaii taxpayers on the hook for a cool $50 million in harbor improvements to accomodate them (read recap of how the Superferry sunk).