7 Days In Hawaii Itinerary

The Hawaiian Islands have something for every visitor type. It’s a paradise that has somewhat managed to retain a chunk of its pristine beauty despite mass tourism. Over the course of one week in Hawaii, scratch the surface and experience some of the top highlights in the islands you’ll visit. This guide highlights an itinerary for spending 7 days in Hawaii. The itinerary and mix of islands is based on my experience of island hopping in the chain over four months. Let’s get started!

If you’re spending more time in Hawaii, check out these itineraries for spending up to 10 days and up to two weeks in Hawaii.

7 Days in Hawaii Overview
Since you only have a week in Hawaii, this active sightseeing itinerary focuses on two of the best islands in Hawaii: the Big Island (3 days) and Kauai (4 days). I do not recommend trying to squeeze a visit to a third island in just one week. The Big Island is served by many mainland U.S. airlines as well as a few international carriers, so getting here without having to stop in Honolulu is certainly possible. If you have your heart set on visiting Maui, pair it with Kauai or the Big Island using this Maui itinerary for spending up to 5 days on the Valley Isle.

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

Hawaii Travel Guide - Cover Image

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: The Big Island (3 Days)

We’ll start this week in Hawaii itinerary on its largest island. There’s a good reason why the Island of Hawaii is better known as the “Big Island”. You can theoretically fit the rest of the islands in the chain inside the Big Island and still have left over space. The island is by far the archipelago‘s most diverse destination. It’s where you can start the day skiing in the mountains, get soaked by torrential afternoon rain in the rainforest, and enjoy the sunset at the beach. Another Big Island plus is the vibe. It’s usually very low-key, unpretentious, and sometimes authentically rugged.

Quick Finds

Where to Stay?

Since you only have three days on the Big Island, I recommend either basing yourself for the entire stay on the sunny Kona Coast or around Hilo on the tropical (and obviously wetter) east coast. If you’re coming to the Big Island for “heavy sightseeing” (especially Mauna Kea and the Kilauea Volcano) – the east coast is preferred and will reduce your driving times. If you wish to mix a beach day along the sights of Kilauea, you can get away with staying on the Kona Coast.

Sunset with palm trees - Kona - Big Island
Sunset on the Kona Coast

What to Do?

This 7 days in Hawaii itinerary focuses on “heavy sightseeing”. The three days on the Big Island do not include a beach day. However, swap one of the days for a beach day or extend your stay on the island. Use this Big Island itinerary for spending up to 5 days.

Day 1 – Waipio Valley & Mauna Kea

If you’re staying on the Kona Coast, start your first day with a drive north to the Kohala Region. Pass through the paniolo capital of Waimea and catch a glimpse of snow-capped Mauna Kea on the way. You’ll eventually make it to the Waipio Valley Lookout.

Waipio Valley Overlook - Big Island Hawaii
Waipio Valley Lookout

If staying on the Hilo side, start your morning at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. Stroll through its enchanting grounds, which slope to a rugged beach. Continue your journey north to Akaka Falls and pause for a coffee/lunch break in the tiny town of Honomu. On the drive, you’ll be treated to awesome coastal views as you push north to the Waipio Valley Lookout.

Waterfall in Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens - Big Island
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
Akaka Falls - Big Island Hawaii
Akaka Falls

Waipio Valley is the Big Island’s most majestic valley. However, to get down to its beach and hiking trails, you need a 4WD or walk down one of the steepest roads in the U.S. Still got some time? Make the long journey to Mauna Kea to watch the sun set beneath the cloudline. After sunset, do some stargazing from one of the clearest spots in the world for observing the night sky.

View of Waipio Valley from the Muliwai Trail - Big Island Hawaii
Waipio Valley
Sunset on Mauna Kea - Woman watching sunset - Big Island Hawaii
Sunset on Mauna Kea

Day 2 – Hilo & Around

Start day two in Rainbow Falls. Mornings are the best time to catch the spectacle for which this waterfall is named (take scenic Saddle Road if staying on the Kona Coast). Afterward, head to Hilo – the Big Island’s largest and most Hawaiian town. It’s always market day (though Wed and Sat are the busiest), so stock up on fresh produce and enjoy the sights and sounds of a proper market. Have lunch at Suisan Fish Market – home of the best poke bowls in the Big Island – and continue south to check out the beaches, Lava Tree State Monument Park, and thermal pools.

Hilo Farmers Market - Big Island
Highway 137 - Big Island - Hawaii

Day 3 – Volcanoes National Park

Spend your final day on the Big Island in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Get acquainted with the Kilauea Volcano from up close via hikes, scenic drives, lava tubes, and more. Start the day on the Kilauea Iki Trail, followed by an underground visit to the Thurston Lava Tube. Then, complete the Chain of Craters Road and catch Pacific Ocean views from the Holei Sea Arch. Stick around for sunset and ask park rangers for any open lava viewing areas. Alternatively, take to the skies on a scenic helicopter flight to watch fresh lava flow.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island - Kilauea Iki Crater
Kilauea Iki Trail
Thurston Lava Tube view inside - Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island
Thurston Lava Tube
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Pro Tip

Here’s an in-depth Big Island itinerary, pick and choose the days that works for you. For a quick look at the island’s highlights, here are the top things to do on the Big Island.

Part 2: Kauai (4 Days)

Your 7 days in Hawaii are about to reach their climax with the visit to Kauai. Known as the “Garden Isle,” Kauai is blessed with immense natural beauty. Even a quick trip to the gas station quickly turns into a scenic drive. Kauai is the oldest of the major Hawaiian islands. It’s home to some of the wettest spots on our planet and to the largest concentration of “hippies” and vegans in the state. Given its geological head start, Mother Nature has had millennia to erode Kauai’s volcanic peaks and carve its lush interior into works of art. Come to Kauai to experience the beautiful outdoors.

Quick Finds

Where to Stay?

Though it’s not a must on a four-day visit, I recommend splitting your stay between the north and south coasts. On the tropical north shore, stay in the vacation community of Princeville or the paradise setting of Hanalei. Down south, Poipu is a top choice for families and resort-goers, while Hanapepe is more laid-back. If you prefer not to swap accommodations midway, you’ll need to get an early start on the days visiting the opposite coast. You can also stay “in the middle” between Lihue and Kapa’a.

Hanalei Bay Beach - Kauai - Hawaii
Hanalei Bay

What to Do?

Our days in Kauai are a mix of scenic drives with quick stops along the way, hiking, and beach time. Kauai also has several farmer’s markets worth working into your itinerary based on market days.

Day 4 – Lihue to Hanapepe

Spend the first day in Kauai exploring the area from Lihue to Hanapepe. Pause for a picnic lunch in Poipu Beach and pick up the coastal Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail to the secluded Maha’ulepu Beach for some sun and snorkeling. On the walk back, check out Makauwahi Cave – one of the richest fossil sites in Hawaii. For awesome sunset views, head to either Salt Pond Beach Park on the Hanapepe side or to Menehune Fishpond Overlook on the Lihue side.

Makawehi Point - Mahaulepu Heritage Coastal Trail - Shipwreck Beach - Kauai Hawaii
Shipwreck Beach
Eroded sharp limestone sea cliffs - Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail - Kauai, Hawaii
Mahaulepu Heritage Trail
Sunset at Salt Pond Beach - sunset in Kauai - Hawaii
Salt Pond Beach

Day 5 – Waimea Canyon & Luau

On day two in Kauai, get an early start and drive the scenic Waimea Canyon Drive. Admire the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” from dozens of lookouts. Continue to Koke’e State Park, where you can pick up a few hiking trails and enjoy spectacular views of the Na Pali Coastline. If you’re the active type, avoid the urge to stop at the scenic lookouts and start the day with the Awa’awapuhi Trail, where a rocky ledge from which incredible views of the Na Pali Coast awaits you. In the evening, head to Luau Kalamaku for the best Polynesian dance show in Kauai.

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

Day 6 – Road Trip to Hanalei

On day three in Kauai, head up the coast to Hanalei Bay. En route, gaze at Wailua Falls from its lookout, stop for lunch at the Kilauea Fish Market, and visit the bird sanctuary at the Kilauea Lighthouse (reservations required). Spend the rest of your day in Hanalei and its gorgeous bay – the largest in Kauai – and celebrate a successful day with sunset drinks at the Tahiti Nui Bar & Restaurant.

Wailua Falls
Taro patches in Hanalei - Kauai, Hawaii
Taro field in Hanalei Valley
Hanalei Bay - Kauai, Hawaii
Hanalei Bay

Day 7 – Na Pali Coast

On day four, get an extra early start and drive to Ke’e Beach. Stretch your legs and hike part of the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapiai Beach. From the beach, you can further head inland to Hanakapiai Falls (entry permit required). After the strenuous effort, get some beach and snorkel time at Tunnels Beach – the best beach in Kauai!

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

Here’s an in-depth Kauai itinerary, where you can pick and choose the days that works for you. For a quick look at the island’s highlights, here are the top things to do in Kauai.

More from Hawaii

I hope you’ve found this 7 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!

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