2022 Travel Guide to Hawaii

Hula halau dancers dressed for a performance. (Photo via Hawaii Tourism Authority Tor Johnson)
Scott Laird
by Scott Laird
Last updated: 8:00 AM ET, Sun January 23, 2022

What You Need to Know About Hawaii Travel in 2022

Hawai'i is at the pinnacle of many travel bucket lists, but the past two years have been fraught for the Aloha State's visitor industry, as industry and government leaders struggle to find the balance between protecting the state's population from COVID-19 and maintaining tourism - the primary driver of Hawai'i's economy.

There's cautious optimism going into 2022, as Hawai'i's entry requirements change with the nature of the pandemic, and as the screening processes put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 begin to mature.

Hawai'i is in an extraordinary position. Discussions on beginning to reign in visitor numbers were just beginning in 2020 at the outset of the pandemic, just before tourism demand took its biggest-ever dive. It rebounded in the Summer of 2020 so quickly that visitor industry infrastructure was stretched to the limits, with frustrating results for everyone involved.

The new year hopefully promises more stability in Hawai'i's visitor industry. Hawai'i visitors can hope to return - in ways that contribute to local communities and result in enjoyable, relaxing experiences for visitors. Read on to learn more about vacationing in Hawai'i in 2022.

Practical Travel Info/Safety

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when anticipating travel to Hawai'i in 2022 is to follow the state's requirements for COVID-19 vaccination and testing when entering from the Mainland, as well as the protocols outlined by each county. Not only is it the right thing to do, there has been at least once instance where visitors were arrested for forging vaccine proof.

Visitors should also maintain vigilance when engaging in the following activities in Hawai'i:


Hikers should stay on designated trails, be sure not to enter areas marked off-limits, and not hike beyond their ability. The state spends significant money and resources each year rescuing hikers who are stuck or injured, and visitors who wish to hike should stick to trails that match their experience.


Visitors should take care when swimming in areas without lifeguards, and should pay attention to the condition warning flags posted along many beaches. The Pacific often appears calmer than it really is, and strong surf, currents and undertows can sweep inexperienced swimmers out to sea.

Wildlife Viewing

Much of Hawai'i's ocean life is protected by federal and state law; many species have minimum distances for safe viewing. Visitors wishing to view wildlife should not attempt to feed or interact with wildlife, and maintain adequate distance so that the animal would proceed as though humans are not present. The fines can be steep for violators, and ignorance of the law isn't an excuse.

Visiting Cultural Sites

A common cultural site in Hawai'i is heiau, or temples built by pre-contact Native Hawaiians. When visiting these sites or other ruins, it's important not to touch or climb on the rocks and structures. Visitors should also not leave offerings of leaves, rocks, or other items (without following Native Hawaiian cultural protocols, such offerings are simply garbage, which is considered a desecration; they also consume state resources for their disposal).

Visitors should also avoid seeking out "secret" spots promoted in some guide books or by word of mouth. When in doubt, check with the Visitor's Bureau for each island - many "secret" spots are not promoted by the Visitors Bureaus or reputable tour companies for reasons of safety, environmental impact, or cultural sensitivity.

Hawai'i has a wealth of beautiful sites and spectacular vistas - visitors should follow the Hawaiian concept of pono (behavior that is correct, appropriate, respectful) by only visiting areas that are ready for and have invited tourism activity.

It should also be noted that smoking is prohibited on all of Hawai'i's beaches and in state parks.

Check out the Hawaii Tourism Authority's page on Traveling Responsibly in the Islands of Hawai'i.

Best Destinations

Of the eight main Hawaiian Islands, six are open for tourism activity, and they each have their own personality - equal, but distinct, compared to their neighbors in the chain.

Hawai'i Island is known for towering dormant volcanoes and currently-active ones, lava flows recent and ancient, and a host of farms growing everything from coffee to macadamia nuts.

Maui, known as the Valley Isle, is famous for the otherworldly Haleakala crater and the sugar sand beaches at Ka'anapali and Wailea.

Molokai is one of the state's least developed islands, offering travelers a glimpse at life in rural Hawai'i - it's so sparsely populated that there are no stoplights, but there's plenty for travelers to explore, from the world's highest sea cliffs to virtually untouched beaches.

Lana'i is the least populated of the six major islands, and is dominated by immense diversity in landscape ranging from beaches to mountain valleys with two treasured luxury resorts.

O'ahu, also known as the Gathering Place, hosts a wealth of attractions, from energetic Waikiki to laid-back beach towns like Kailua and Haleiwa, a haven for surfers.

Kaua'i earns its moniker "The Garden Isle" with lush vegetation and spectacular vistas from Waimea Canyon and the spectacular Na Pali Coast.

5 Best Attractions

Hawai'i's top attractions include:

Iolani Palace

The only royal palace on U.S. soil, Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu has been mostly restored to its original state and is open to visitors for tours. Visitors can see the Dining Room, Music Room, Throne Room and suite of rooms where Lili'uokalani, Hawai'i's last Queen was held under house arrest after her overthrow by U.S.-backed business owners.

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon on Kaua'i is known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific", with rainbow-colored stone layers tiering down through the stone canyon walls capped with lush vegetation, waterfalls, and often rainbows. Part of a state park, Waimea Canyon will have access and parking fees for non-residents beginning in April 2022.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Located on Hawai'i Island, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park sits between Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes. While Mauna Loa has been dormant since 1984, Kilauea remains one of the world's most active volcanoes, erupting more-or-less continuously since 1983. The current eruption began in September 2021, and is still ongoing with brief pauses in activity as of January 2022. The national park manages viewing sites and informs visitors on current activity status at the park Visitor's Center.

Lahaina Town

Lahaina, on Maui's sunny west coast (Lahaina means "relentless sun" in the Hawaiian language), and its charming waterfront with structures dating from the 19th century is a top attraction on Maui. Visitors can dine waterfront and watch the boats bobbing in the harbor with vistas of Lana'i across the channel or poke through art galleries featuring local artists.

Halawa Valley

On Molokai's northeast coast, Halawa Valley is abundant in natural beauty (the drive from the ridge into the valley offers spectacular views). Visitors can visit the public park and explore the beach and stream, or take a cultural hike (with a guide only, as much of the valley is private land) to Mou'ula Falls, learning about the history of the valley and its inhabitants, stopping to view ancient petroglyphs along the way.

Must See 2022 Events

While many events in 2022 may yet be postponed or canceled as the COVID-19 situation evolves, here's a working list of what to expect in the Islands of Hawai'i in the coming year. It's worth noting that many festivals have not yet begun planning for 2022 because the situation remains in flux.

Koloa Plantation Days (Kaua'i) - July 23 - 31 - Celebration of Koloa's multiethnic sugar plantation heritage, with outdoor events and activities

Hawaii Food & Wine Festival (Maui, Hawai'i, O'ahu) - October/November - a cavalcade of culinary events with world-renowned chefs in support of Hawai'i producers, growers, and ranchers

Best Places for Families

Hawai'i is almost purpose-built for families. Both Hawaiian and Hawai'i's immigrant cultures place strong emphasis on familial bonds and raising children, and Hawai'i's sun, sand, and sea are perennial draws for families with children of all ages.

In particular, families will enjoy Waikiki Beach's calm surf, and the protected lagoons of Ko Olina, fronted by Disney's Aulani resort and the Four Seasons O'ahu. On Kaua'i, the calm waters of Poipu Beach are a draw, as well as the recently refurbished waterslide and extensive pool complex at Grand Hyatt Kauai.

Maui's Four Seasons Resort (known to TV fans as the "White Lotus") boasts a separate adult pool, but also a well-loved kids club and activities for families. on Hawai'i Island, a protected cove at Fairmont Orchid for wading and snorkeling is almost designed for swimmers both young and old.

Hawai'i's commercial luau are also a draw for families, including the Smith's Family Luau on Kaua'i, Paradise Cove Luau on O'ahu, and Royal Lahaina Luau on Maui.

Best Places for Couples

Lana'i's secluded Four Seasons is a top spot for couples, particularly honeymooners looking to splurge. With a fabulous spa, world-class golf course, and some rooms boasting views of the sunrise peeking over the peak of Haleakala on nearby Maui, this hotel is a top spot for romance.

In Waikiki, the famed "Pink Palace of the Pacific", the Royal Hawaiian, is a perfect place to rent a beach umbrella for two and take in the views of Le'ahi (Diamond Head) and sip mai tais from the eponymous Mai Tai Bar. Romantic evenings can be had under the banyan tree at Halekulani's House Without A Key.

On Maui, Fairmont Kea Lani's restaurant Ko offers intimate outdoor dining and distinctive dishes like tableside hot stone seared ahi and inventive cocktails with nods to Hawai'i's plantation past.

Best Places for Group Travel

Hawai'i's larger resort communities are best suited for group travel. Hawai'i faces a residential property crunch, and groups seeking vacation rentals or vacation homes should be careful only to rent from operators that have posted or provide state or county license numbers, to ensure rentals are appropriately zoned and overseen.

Large groups will be best suited for the state's largest resort areas: Waikiki on O'ahu, Poipu or Kapa'a on Kaua'i, Ka'anapali, Wailea, or Kapalua on Maui, and Kailua/Kona or Kohala on Hawai'i Island. Most attractions and outfitters are happy to work with groups large and small - larger groups can even benefit from dedicated charters, particularly on ocean excursions.

Best Places for Solo Travel

Solo travelers won't have much trouble virtually any place in the Hawaiian Islands - it all depends on whether solo travelers wish to mingle or strike out on their own.

Solo travelers seeking vibrant, energetic experiences will be most at home in Waikiki and in Honolulu, or in Maui's resort centers and Lahaina. Outside of those areas, a sleepier resort vibe tends to be the order of the day (on Kaua'i, most restaurants aren't open much later than 9 p.m.).

Regardless of where they're exploring, solo travelers, in particular, should take care not to leave valuables in their cars or on the beach while they're swimming; solo swimmers should also stick to beaches with lifeguards or significant crowds in case of emergency.

Best Foodie Destinations

Honolulu and its environs are a foodie paradise. In addition to industry favorites like Side Street Inn and MW Restaurant, foodies flock to annual street fairs and markets in Honolulu, in particular the Kaka'ako Farmer's Market at Ward Village. Another popular farmer's market is on Saturday mornings at Kapiolani Community College, but foodies in search of the best produce at any time can always head to the O'ahu Market in Chinatown most days until 3 p.m.

There are also numerous farmers markets (days and times vary) on Maui, Hawai'i Island, and Kauai. Most markets feature local produce in addition to locally made foods.

Best Places for Adventure Travel

Adventure travel has unfortunately been a pain point for the state's visitor industry as of late. While many adventure travelers operate well within the guidelines of ethics and safety, there has been a significant increase in hikers going off designated paths onto private property or sacred lands and sites. Adventure travelers should stick to reputable guides and tour operators, and obey all posted signs and directions given by local residents.

Kaua'i's Na Pali Coast is a draw for adventure travelers, but soft adventure activities like ocean excursions and helicopter tours are the safest way to see this spectacular landmark.

Soft-and-supervised adventure travelers can also enjoy mountain tubing on Kaua'i, parasailing on O'ahu and Maui, and snorkeling or scuba diving Hawai'i's 1,200 miles of reefs, including night snorkeling encounters with manta rays off the Kona Coast on Hawai'i Island.

Best Places for Sports Enthusiasts

Hawai'i is a state that likes spectator sports. Local residents root on the University of Hawaii team at invitationals on O'ahu or at away games on the Mainland. College football fans cheer their teams on at the Hawaii Bowl each December. Volleyball is also a popular spectator sport on O'ahu, with particular interest in the UH Men's and Women's Teams.

Surfing was born in Hawai'i, and every November and December the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing takes up residence on O'ahu's north shore to take advantage of the world-class winter surf. Golf is also widely played in Hawai'i, with many of the public and private courses hosting world-class tournaments.

Unique to Hawaii

While luxury resorts, ocean activities, shopping and golf can be found at other resorts, it is Hawai'i's vaunted culture that make the islands unique. The state's culture is an intoxicating brew of indigenous Hawaiian traditions mixed with those introduced by immigrants from around the Pacific Rim.

Although dance is practiced by people throughout Polynesia, only in Hawai'i does it take the form of Hula. Visitors can see hula at various shows around the state, from pan-Polynesian revues at commercial luau (which have evolved over the years to demonstrate greater authenticity by more correctly calling out dance traditions that have been introduced, such as those from Tahiti and Samoa) to halau hula competitions like the Merrie Monarch festival (which isn't selling tickets to the general public in 2022 because of venue occupancy limits).

Hawai'i's multi-faceted musical traditions are also on full display throughout the state, with many of the top performers of slack key guitar or ukulele performing every day throughout the islands, everywhere from shopping centers to resort terraces.

Hawai'i's culture has become beloved the world over. Nowadays there are hula troupes in California and Japan, ukulele fans virtually everywhere, and legions of potential visitors dreaming about their next vacation in Hawai'i Nei.

Your guide to traveling in the Aloha State in 2022.

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Scott Laird

Scott Laird

Scott is a freelance travel writer who has logged a million-and-a-half miles onboard flights around the world in search of...

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