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Getting Around Hawaii

Interisland Flights

The major interisland carriers have cut way back on the number of interisland flights. The airlines warn you to show up at least 90 minutes before your flight and, believe me, with all the security inspections, you will need all 90 minutes to catch your flight.

Hawaii has one major interisland carrier, Hawaiian Airlines (www.hawaiianair.com; tel. 800/367-5320), and two commuter airlines, Island Air (www.islandair.com; tel. 800/323-3345) and Mokulele Airlines (www.mokuleleairlines.com; tel. 866/260-7070). The commuter flights service the neighbor islands’ more remote airports and tend to be on small planes; you’ll board from the tarmac and weight restrictions apply.

A Weeklong Cruise Through the Islands

If you’re looking for a taste of several islands in 7 days, consider Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com; tel. 866/234-7350), the only cruise line that operates year-round in Hawaii. NCL’s 2,240-passenger ship Pride of America circles Hawaii, stopping on four islands: the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, and Oahu.

By Car

The bottom line: You will likely need a car to get around the islands, especially if you plan to explore outside your resort—and you absolutely should. Public transit in the islands is spotty—Oahu has an adequate public transportation service, but even so, it’s set up for residents, not tourists carrying coolers and beach toys (all carry-ons must fit under the bus seat). So plan to rent a car.

That said, Hawaii has some of the priciest car-rental rates in the country. The most expensive is the island of Lanai, where four-wheel-drive vehicles cost a small fortune. Keep in mind, too, that rental cars are often at a premium on Kauai, Molokai, and Lanai and may be sold out on any island over holiday weekends, so be sure to book well ahead. In fact, I recommend reserving your car as soon as you book your airfare.

To rent a car in Hawaii, you must be at least 25 years of age and have a valid driver’s license and credit card. Note: If you’re visiting from abroad and plan to rent a car in the United States, keep in mind that foreign driver’s licenses are usually recognized in the U.S., but you should get an international one if your home license is not in English.

At Honolulu International Airport and most neighbor-island airports, you’ll find many major car-rental agencies, including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty. It’s almost always cheaper to rent a car in Waikiki, or anywhere but at the airport, where you will pay a daily fee for the convenience of renting at the airport.

Gasoline--Gas prices in Hawaii, always much higher than on the U.S. mainland, vary from island to island. Expect to pay around $4 a gallon, and as much as $5 a gallon on Lanai and Molokai. Check www.gasbuddy.com to find the cheapest gas in your area.

Insurance--Hawaii is a no-fault state, which means that if you don’t have collision-damage insurance, you are required to pay for all damages before you leave the state, whether or not the accident was your fault. Your personal car insurance may provide rental-car coverage; check before you leave home. Bring your insurance identification card if you decline the optional insurance, which usually costs from $9 to $45 a day. Obtain the name of your company’s local claim representative before you go. Some credit card companies also provide collision-damage insurance for their customers; check with yours before you rent.

Driving Rules--Hawaii state law mandates that all car passengers must wear a seat belt and all infants must be strapped into a car seat. You’ll pay a $92 fine if you don’t buckle up. Pedestrians always have the right of way, even if they’re not in the crosswalk. You can turn right on red after a full and complete stop, unless otherwise posted.

Road Maps--The best and most detailed maps for activities are published by Franko Maps (www.frankosmaps.com); these feature a host of island maps, plus a terrific "Hawaiian Reef Creatures Guide" for snorkelers curious about those fish they spot underwater. Free road maps are published by "This Week Magazine," a visitor publication available on Oahu, the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai.

Another good source is the University of Hawaii Press maps, which include a detailed network of island roads, large-scale insets of towns, historical and contemporary points of interest, parks, beaches, and hiking trails. If you can’t find them in a bookstore near you, contact University of Hawaii Press, 2840 Kolowalu St., Honolulu, HI 96822 (www.uhpress.hawaii.edu; tel. 888/UH-PRESS [847-7377]). For topographic maps of the islands, go to the U.S. Geological Survey site (www.pubs.usgs.gov).

Stay off the Cellphone

Talking on a cellphone while driving in Hawaii is a big no-no. Fines range from $100 to $200, and double in school or construction zones. An Oahu woman was even ticketed for talking on her cellphone while parked on the side of the road! Save yourself the money; don’t use a cell while you are driving.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.