Since the recession, island-hopping has become increasingly more cumbersome. The ferry connecting Oahu to Maui and the Big Island went bankrupt. Aloha Airlines went under. Go, Mesa, and Mokulele Airlines combined forces. And as if that's not confusing enough, baggage fees seem to escalate every time I go to the airport.
But fear not, affordable inter-island travel IS possible, and remains somewhat popular for both tourists and locals. The main airlines paving the skies include Hawaiian, Go! Mokulele, and Island Air.
Hawaiian is the most established inter-island airline. Mainlanders and locals alike choose Hawaiian for overseas and inter-island flights. Its web site's Inter-Island Trip section allows customers to build their own packages with flights, hotels and rental cars. And as always, Hawaii residents pay less for the packages. Hawaiian even offers an online trip planner and "Vacation Toolbox" to help the hungry traveler choose themes and create itineraries. After choosing a destination, such as "Lana'i," users select a theme like "Romance" or "Outdoorsy." A long list of accommodations, beaches, activities, and restaurants matching your theme pop up on the screen. These include prices and ratings. You can add as many recommendations as you wish to your virtual shopping cart, or write them down and check prices elsewhere.
Hawaiian's flight prices are hardly different from their competitors and range from around $50-$100 one-way. Of course, prices always depend on the season and how far in advance you purchase.
Go! Mokulele advertises itself as "Hawaii's lowfare airline," but only offers specials going to and from Maui and Kauai. Give or take a few dollars, their specials tend to be $40-60 one-way. Regular-priced one-way tickets to or from these destinations tend to cost between $60 and $100. It's a no-frills airline that gets passengers from A to B. Most customers are thrilled to know that middle seats don't exist on Go! Mokulele aircraft.
The lesser-known Island Air offers packages with tourist attractions and lodging such as Cirque Polynesia, Hotel Lana'i, Makani Kai Helicopter tours and car rentals. It serves Hawaii-grown coffee on all of its morning flights, too. Prices also hang in the $50-$100 range.
All three airlines charge $10 for your first checked bag and $17 for the second.
The only public boat travel currently in operation is the Maui-Lana'i ferry. One-way tickets cost $30 for adults, and $20 for children. Ferries run to and from Lahaina, Maui and Manele, Lana'i five times daily. Watching whales in the winter, as well as dolphins and flying fish year-round makes for an incredibly "scenic" route. See the Web site for more details:
Below are links to airlines described above.