10 Days In Hawaii Itinerary

With only ten days to spend in Hawaii and six main islands to choose from, planning your Hawaiian vacation can be a challenging task. In this guide, we’ll explore an itinerary for spending up to 10 days in Hawaii. This itinerary mainly focuses on the very best islands in Hawaii which strike a healthy balance between beach and breathtaking natural beauty. Let’s get started!  

10 Days in Hawaii Overview
Here’s how we’ll split our time in this sample itinerary:
  • Part I: Oahu or Maui – 2 days
  • Part II: Big Island – 4 days
  • Part III: Kauai – 4 days

Visiting Hawaii? Sample itineraries, guides to the best spots, and the must-see highlights in five islands await you in the Hawaii Travel Guide collection. Aloha!

Hawaii Travel Guide - Cover Image
Pro Tip

if you are the type of traveler who likes to take it slow and if you really want to strike a good balance between sightseeing and relaxation, consider splitting your entire 10 days in Hawaii between Kauai and the Big Island (5 days in each).  

The Best Islands In Hawaii

Watch this video countdown of the top 5 islands in Hawaii (you might need to disable your ad blocker).

Part 1: Oahu or Maui (2 Days)

The first leg of this 10 days in Hawaii itinerary requires a bit of decision making, although your international or mainland-based flight might dictate it. Spend the first two days on the island of Oahu or arrive directly at Maui, from where you can catch an inter-island flight to the following leg of the journey.

Option A: Oahu

Start your Hawaiian adventure in Oahu, the main international gateway to the island chain and home to roughly 70% of the state’s population. I was pleasantly surprised on my visit to the island despite “warnings” of the “concrete jungle” from friends and residents of other islands. If it weren’t for its swelling population, Oahu might top the list of the most beautiful islands in Hawaii.

Quick Finds

Where to Stay?

Since you only have two days in Oahu, I recommend staying in the Honolulu area, either in Waikiki Beach for the action or in the Manoa neighborhood for a quieter stay. Still, if you’re looking for a place to stay outside Honolulu, Kailua is the best option.

Day 1: Museums or Diamond Head & Waikiki

Spend your first day in the Honolulu area, either visiting the Pearl Harbor National Memorial or the Bishop Museum, or heading on a morning hike to the summit of the Diamond Head Crater (advanced reservations required). From the summit, enjoy awesome views of Waikiki Beach, our next destination. Back on level ground, head to one of the most famous beaches in Hawaii. Waikiki is the place to see and be seen in Honolulu. Body surfing, swimming, shopping, dining, or just beach bumming – Waikiki is a perfect way to relax on your first afternoon.

Waikiki Beach from Diamond Head - Honolulu Hawaii
Waikiki from Diamond Beach
Hiking Diamond Head - Honolulu -Oahu- Hawaii
Diamond Head

Day 2: Scenic Road Trip

On the second day in Oahu, rent a car and hit the road. Head out of Honolulu and drive along the south coast. Admire Hanauma Bay from above or snorkel in its amazing coral reef, see the Halona Blowhole in action, and hike to Makapuʻu Point before wrapping things up in gorgeous Waimanalo Beach. Alternatively, you can take the scenic Pali Highway and explore the beautiful windward coast before heading back to town via the famous surfing beaches of the north shore.

Hanauma Bay - Oahu - Hawaii
Hanauma Bay
Cliff jumping - Laʻie Point State Wayside - Oahu - Hawaii
Laʻie Point State Wayside
Waimanalo Beach - Hawaii - Oahu
Waimanalo Beach
Pro Tip

Here’s an in-depth Oahu itinerary, where you can choose the days that work for you. For a quick look at the island’s best spots, check out the top things to do in Oahu.

Option B: Maui

Alternatively, start the first leg of your 10 days in Hawaii on the island of Maui, one of the world’s most famous islands. Maui is far from its image on the global tourism scene as an absolute paradise, mainly because of years of uncontrolled development, but it does have pockets of absolute beauty.

Quick Finds

Where to Stay?

Since you only have two days in Maui, I recommend taking a deep breath and deciding what’s more important: beaches or sightseeing. If it’s the former, I recommend basing yourself either on Maui’s south shore, around Kihei, Makena, and Wailea, or in the Kaanapali resort area of West Maui. If it’s the latter, look for places around Kahului, Wailuku, or vibrant Paia.

Day 1: Scenic Road to Hana

Spend your first day in Maui driving the slow-going scenic road to Hana, ranking high on the list of best scenic drives in Hawaii. The Hana Highway crosses 54 one-lane bridges and nearly as many waterfalls on Maui’s tropical and wet northeast coast. Along the way, hike in a giant bamboo forest to a towering waterfall, make landfall on black and red sand beaches, and go for a dip in natural swimming pools fed by waterfalls.

Day 2: Haleakala Crater

On day two, drive to the summit of the Haleakala Volcano (3,055m or 10,000 feet). From this windswept spot, watch how this giant shield volcano creates Maui’s unique weather and peer into the Mars-like crater from a number of spectacular roadside lookouts. An even better option is to hike part of the Sliding Sands Trail to get a close look at the unique colors of the crater, the desert flora, and the bizarre cinder cones.

Pro Tip

If long hikes are less your thing, swap hiking in Haleakala for one of Maui’s best beaches or book a morning snorkeling tour in Molokini Crater.

Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach - road to Hana - Maui Hawaii
The Red Sand Beach in Hana
Pipiwai Trail Hike Bamboo Forest - Road to Hana - Maui Hawaii
The Pipiwai Trail
5 Days In Maui - Hawaii - Post Cover
Sliding Sands Trail
Pro Tip

Here’s an in-depth Maui sample itinerary, where you can pick and choose what works for you. For a quick look at the island’s best spots, check out the top things to do in Maui.

Part 2: The Big Island (4 Days)

The second leg of our 10 days in Hawaii itinerary takes us to the Big Island. You could fit the rest of Hawaii’s islands inside the Big Island and still have plenty of space. That’s how big the “Big Island” is. It is by far the most diverse destination in the archipelago, an island where you could theoretically ski, get soaked by torrential rain, and work on your tan at the beach – all on the same day. The Big Island has something for everyone, and it’s usually served in a low-key and unpretentious manner.

Quick Finds

Where to Stay?

To reduce driving time and maximize sightseeing on the opposite coasts, I recommend splitting your time evenly between the sunny Kona Coast on the island’s west side and the tropical (and obviously wetter) Hilo side on the east coast. However, this is not a must. It just means longer driving times or getting an early start when needed.

Day 3: Kona Beaches & Snorkeling

Spend a relaxing first day on the Big Island on one (or more) of the Kona Coast’s fine beaches. Go for a swim, body surf on the waves, and snorkel in Kealakekua Bay or Two-Step Beach – two of the best snorkeling spots on the island. For sunset, head to Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park or the Old Kona Airport for breathtaking colors and sea turtles.

Kua Bay Beach - Big Island Hawaii
Kua Bay Beach
Snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay
You may also like
green sea turtle beach - Kaloko-Honokohau - Big Island Hawaii
Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park

Day 4: Waipio Valley & the Kohala Coast

On your second day, hit the road and head north to explore the Kohala Region. Visit historical small towns that seem to be stuck in the 1950s, like Waimea and especially Hawi. They are especially interesting on market days. Next, head to Pololu Valley or Waipio Valley. Hike to the valley floor and enjoy a picnic lunch or an afternoon on their rugged beaches.

Pololu Valley Lookout - Big Island Hawaii
Pololu Valley Lookout
Waipio Valley Overlook - Big Island Hawaii
Waipio Valley Lookout
View of Waipio Valley from the Muliwai Trail - Big Island Hawaii
Waipio Valley

Day 5: Hilo & Around

We’ll turn our attention to the Hilo region on the third day on the Big Island. If you’re staying in Kona, slice through the heart of the island via Saddle Road to reach the east coast. Start the day at busy Akaka Falls, and then drive to Hilo via Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. In Hilo, check out the farmers market and have lunch at Suisan Fish Market.

Akaka Falls - Big Island Hawaii
Akaka Falls
Hilo Farmers Market - Big Island
Hilo Farmers Market

In the afternoon, take to the skies on a scenic helicopter flight to see lava flow, or head to Lava Tree State Monument Park and explore the remote Puna region. You can also time the drive back to Kona to coincide with a magnificent sunset next to the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center and stick around for some stargazing.

Sunset on Mauna Kea - Woman watching sunset - Big Island Hawaii
Sunset in Mauna Kea

Day 6: Volcanoes National Park

Spend your final day on the Big Island in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the hallmark of any visit to the island. Get to know the Kilauea Volcano from up close via hikes such as the Kilauea Iki Trail, scenic drives such as the Chain of Craters Drive, and underground thrills in the Thurston Lava Tube. Before returning to Hilo or Kona, ask park rangers if any worthwhile post-sunset lava viewing areas are open.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island - Kilauea Iki Crater
The Kilauea Iki Trail
Holei Sea Arch - Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island
The Holei Sea Arch at the end of Chain of Craters Rd.
Thurston Lava Tube view inside - Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island
Thurston Lava Tube
Pro Tip

Here’s an in-depth Big Island itinerary for spending up to the 5 days. Pick and choose the days that interest you the most. For a look at top spots, check out the top things to do on the Big Island.

Part 4: Kauai (4 Days)

Your 10 days in Hawaii are about to reach their climax in the final leg. The “Garden Isle” is blessed with such immense natural beauty that even a quick trip to the gas station counts as a scenic drive. It is the oldest of the major Hawaiian islands, home to some of the wettest spots on the planet. Given its geological “head start,” Mother Nature has had millennia to erode Kauai’s volcanic peaks and carve its lush interior into absolute works of art. The main reason to visit Kauai is the outdoors and to get as close as possible to experiencing that “paradise” of a feeling.

Quick Finds

Where to Stay?

Like in the Big Island, I recommend splitting your time in Kauai to reduce driving times and maximize sightseeing. This is not a must, but Kauai’s north and south shores are where most of the action lies. On the north shore, stay in the vacation community of Princeville or the paradise setting of Hanalei. In the south, Poipu is a top choice for families and resort-goers, while Hanapepe is more laid-back. You can also “compromise” and base yourself between Lihue and Kapa’a on the central coast.

Day 7 – Lihue to Poipu

Spend the first days in Kauai exploring the region between Lihue and Poipu. Start at beautiful Wailua Falls and drive to historic Koloa for lunch. Grab an afternoon nap or enjoy a picnic lunch in Shipwreck Beach (Poipu Beach is better for small children), and later hike part of the coastal Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail. For awesome sunset views, head to either Salt Pond Park on the Poipu side or to Menehune Fishpond Overlook on the Lihue side.

Wailua Falls
Shipwreck Beach - Poipu - Kauai - Hawaii_2
Shipwreck Beach
Eroded sharp limestone sea cliffs - Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail - Kauai, Hawaii
The Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail

Day 8 – Waimea Canyon

Get an early start and drive the length of scenic Waimea Canyon Drive. Grand Waimea Canyon is also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, and for good reasons. Top optimize your time in this busy area, drive to the end of the scenic road, and work your way back down to avoid congestion at the scenic overlooks in Koke’e State Park and Waimea Canyon. If you’re up for a morning hike, start the day on the spectacular Awa’awapuhi Trail. In the evening, head to Luau Kalamaku for the best traditional Polynesian show in Kauai.

The Awa’awapuhi Trail
Pu’u Hinahina Lookout - Waimea Canyon - Kauai
Waimea Canyon
Luau Kalamaku - Kauai - Hawaii - Tahitian dancing
Luau Kalamaku

Day 9 – Road Trip to Hanalei Bay

Head up the coast to lovely Hanalei Bay on your third day on the island. En route, gaze at Wailua Falls if you skipped the earlier opportunity on day seven. Make advanced reservations to visit the bird sanctuary at the scenic Kilauea Point and grab lunch nearby at the Kilauea Fish Market. Post lunch, head to Kauapea Beach (Secrets Beach) or spend the rest of the afternoon at stunning Hanalei Bay. Along the way, check out the views from the Hanalei Valley Lookout and go for a stroll in town (Saturday mornings are market days).

View of Kilauea Lighthouse and peninsula - Kauai
Kilauea Point
Hanalei Bay - Kauai, Hawaii
Hanalei Bay
Hanalei Valley Lookout - Kauai, Hawaii
Hanalei Valley Lookout

Day 10 – Na Pali Coast

Our 10 days in Hawaii are coming to a close with an exciting fourth day in Kauai. Get an early start and drive to Ke’e Beach. It’s part of Ha’ena State Park, and you’ll need to make advanced reservations to enter Kauai’s most visited region. Alternatively, take to the skies in a scenic helicopter flight along the Na Pali Coast and over the impenetrable island’s center. From Ke’e Beach, hike part of the Kalalau Trail – one of the best hikes in Hawaii. Relax post-hike in Ke’e Beach, or drive to Tunnels Beach – the best beach in Kauai!

Ke'e Beach from Kalalau Trail - Kauai, Hawaii
Ke’e Beach
Na Pali Cliffs from Kalalau Trail - Hiking in Kauai - Hawaii
The Kalalau Trail
Tunnels Beach Kauai - mountain and lagoon
Tunnels Beach
Pro Tip

Here’s an in-depth Kauai itinerary for spending up to 5 days on the island. For a quick look at the island’s highlights, check out the top things to do in Kauai.

More from Hawaii

I hope you’ve found this 10 days in Hawaii itinerary helpful in building your own Hawaiian adventure. Want to see more of Hawaii? Guides to the best beaches, scenic drives, and plenty more are all waiting for you in the Hawaii Travel Guide collection. Aloha!

Hawaii Travel Guide - Cover Image

Pin These Images To Your Favorite Boards!