What’s your ideal vacation?
Is it sun, sea, and sand? Or getting in touch with nature and wildlife?
That should give you a hint as to choosing between Hawaii and Alaska for your next trip. A good way to put it? Surfers will love Hawaii, while skiers will love Alaska.
Similarly, families who prefer scuba diving with sharks will enjoy Hawaii more. Families after a whale-watching experience will find nothing more spectacular than that in Alaska.
But if adventure sits at the top of your vacation priorities, Alaska offers better unique opportunities. In contrast, Hawaii’s adventures are more centered around beach activities and volcano sightseeing.
Leaning toward Alaska? Hawaii? Or still unsure? Don’t worry, at the end of this guide, you’ll learn what suits your vacation preferences more.
It’s no surprise Hawaii falls as one of the best bucket list destinations to visit. You’ve heard it from your friends, read it online, and seen hundreds of photos displaying Hawaiian beauty.
Thanks to its warm and bright weather, Hawaii is perfect for sun worshippers and beach lovers. Of course, the sun-soaked destination also appeals largely to surfers.
Hailed as the birthplace of surfing, water sports activities pack a ton of high-octane thrills perfect for outdoor junkies.
What’s more, there are plenty of hiking, sightseeing, and wildlife tours to keep families entertained.
So if witnessing lava flowing from an active volcano sounds interesting to you, Hawaii could be for you.
That said, this sun-drenched, adrenaline-pumping destination isn’t just reserved for the adventurous. Hawaii also makes for a fantastic place to relax, bake in the sun, and enjoy a good book. Remember that book sitting on your shelf that you’ve been telling yourself you were going to read?
In Hawaii, you’ve got no excuses. With great weather year-round (even in winter), it’s easy to cozy up in a beach bed and flip those pages open.
Even better, Hawaii also has plenty of options for honeymooners. Plus, you’ll find a lot of great accommodations, from luxury resorts to modest hotels.
And if you want total privacy, Hawaii has much to offer in terms of exclusive resorts and beaches.
Overall, Hawaii has a lot to offer tourists. Even the local cuisine is an adventure in itself. Needless to say, you’re probably thinking… what else can you do in Hawaii?
On that note, the next part of this guide tells you all that and more.
What Makes Hawaii Unique?
Its Magical Islands
Nature lovers would be pleased to spend a week in Hawaii. But at the same time, would find it too short of a vacation.
Hawaii is home to over a hundred mini islands along with 8 main islands.
Every main island offers a unique character. One is home to the world’s most active volcano. Another is a haven for kayaking, hiking, and backpacking through the wilderness. While the others promise coastal landscapes, scenic mountain drops, and a mesmerizing aloha charm.
So, what exactly are these islands? And which ones should you visit? Here’s a mini rundown of all that Hawaii’s islands have to offer.
Hailed as one of the most popular attractions in Hawaii, every tourist should visit Big Island.
The legendary island is home to the world’s most active volcano, Mauna Loa.
Big Island also has the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, an outdoor lover’s paradise. Families are more than welcome to tour and explore the national park.
For more adventure, stroll through the hiking trails, which feature lava flows, steam vents, and beaches.
Jungle valleys, eye-popping waterfalls, and dramatic cliffs all make up Maui Island.
Driving around Maui Island is the best way to explore the island’s diverse offerings. It’s the scenic route of all routes in Hawaii.
And what’s more, you can end your journey by taking a swim at several of the island’s Zen-like pools. Or, do a quick hike around the stunning Haleakalā National Park.
There’s something about Haleakalā that’s different from Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. The landscape feels too quiet, but graceful and peaceful all at the same time.
What you originally planned as a quick walk along Haleakalā can easily turn into a 3-hour long excursion. The beauty is grand, the sights are one you’ll never forget, and there is much inspiration to be found at Haleakalā.
Kauai’ can easily be thought of as a surfer’s paradise, thanks to its massive breaks. Don’t worry, there are plenty of waves to ride for beginners too.
At Hanalei Bay, surfing is the main attraction.
But also, Hanalei Bay ranks as one of the best beaches in Hawaii. That means Kaua’i isn’t reserved solely for surfers. It’s also a paradise for lazy sunbathers and sunseekers.
If you’d rather spend your afternoons cracking open a cold brew or sipping a fine cocktail, that’s fine too.
Near Hanalei Bay is a pier that features barbecue grills and comfy benches ideal for a relaxing afternoon.
Only the brave dare to ride the waves in O’ahu.
At the same time, many consider O’ahu’s North Shore as a rite of passage for all surfers. If you want to earn your place in Hawaii’s golden community of surfers, brave through the waves at O’ahu.
But it’s not just surfer traditions and monster waves that make O’ahu a great place for surfing. There’s also ‘Iolani Palace, which evokes a deep sense of Hawaii’s historical roots. For a mini break and a quick change of pace, visiting ‘Iolani Palace is a great place to visit.
After a visit to ‘Iolani Palace, be sure to check out Waikiki Beach. There’s no better place to relax and spend a lazy afternoon than on this iconic sun-drenched beach.
Recharge With Hawaii’s Adventurous Quests
You can think of Hawaii as the ultimate backpacking destination. Or as having the best naturistic hikes in the world. You could even go as far as to say it’s an underwater wonderland truly worth exploring.
What about the volcanoes?
There’s no doubt Hawaii has plenty of volcanic landscapes to keep outdoor lovers coming back for more. But look past the volcanoes and lava, Hawaii still has much to offer for the adrenaline seeker—
The Na Pali Coast is one of them.
Often referred to as the Garden Isle, Na Pali exudes exceptional beauty. It’s a landscape you won’t always find on postcards or magazines and is truly meant to be saved as a memory.
How do you explore the Na Pali Coast? Two ways, either through scuba diving or via a boat tour.
Between the two, a boat tour is the best option. Why? Because it grants you the best views, from waterfalls and caves to arches and dramatic cliffs.
Now if sailing the Na Pali Coast sounds too soft of an adventure, perhaps biking Mauna Kea suits you more.
However, the Mauna Kea bike trail is no ordinary straight path. It’s actually… a downhill bike ride that starts from the summit, which is about 4,000 meters (13,123 ft) high.
Excited? Nervous? Pumped? You should be.
Biking through Mauna Kea is one of the most epic outdoor adventures you could ask for in Hawaii.
For a bucket list experience, hike the Kalalau Trail.
The trail ranks as one of the most beautiful in the world. For the truly adventurous, add the Kalalau Trail to your list of must-do outdoor activities. Along the trail, you’ll see coastline views of the Na Pali Coast, including Kauai’s valleys and coastlines.
Apart from all the adventure you’re getting on land, Hawaii also has several underwater experiences. It all depends on your preference, really.
You can kayak the scenic Wailua River and into a secret waterfall to bathe in its magical waters. Tunnel Beach offers the opportunity to snorkel with turtles at tunnels.
On Big Island, you can dive with manta rays and see abundant underwater marine life. Then, you can also go swimming with the sharks in Oahu and spot several shark species from the safety of your cage.
Altogether, whether it’s land or water adventures you’re seeking, Hawaii surely doesn’t disappoint.
The Local Food Is a Must
At first glance, Hawaiian food seems to be an eclectic, messy mix of ingredients mushed together. Is Hawaiian food more seafood? Barbecue?
The answer is that local Hawaiian food leans towards Polynesian fusion. And instead of a mushy mix, it’s more of a vibrant combination of seafood, local ingredients, and delicious flavors.
Imagine a ceviche but minus the acidity and instead, a bolder, soupy flavor. Instead of smaller pieces of raw tuna, imagine thicker cuts and a wider range of seafood options. In Hawaii, this is commonly known as poke. And it’s more than just a staple local dish, but rather, a way of life for Hawaiians.
Modern poke dishes incorporate rice, salad, or even noodles to make them similar to a rice bowl. However, in Hawaii, it’s purely just that: thick seafood chunks. Although paired with Hawaiian local ingredients too, of course.
Some of these include limu-kohu (a rare seaweed variety), kukui nuts, and Hawaiian sea salt.
For any first-time visitor, trying Hawaiian poke is a must. You can find it just about anywhere in Hawaii too.
Another great local food to try? A Hawaiian plate.
Think of a Tex Mex plate but instead of grilled meat, you get a generous serving of fresh seafood. Essentially, a Hawaiian plate is poi (taro), macaroni salad, rice, coconut cream pudding, and three kinds of poke.
You also have Cow Pig Bun Burgers which are probably the closest you’ll find to American cuisine. There’s also Saimin, which in essence is a Chinese egg-noodle soup.
Saimin is like a congee dish that uses local Hawaiian ingredients instead of your usual Chinese cuisine.
Lastly, Hawaiian deserts are definitely one of the best you’ll find. There’s strawberry mochi, coco puffs, Hawaiian Acai bowl, shaved ice, and croissada (it’s like a croissant).
Don’t miss out on a Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie either. This is perhaps going to be an instant favorite for any sweet tooth.
Or for something more daring and unique, go for mac and cheese pancakes.
So, there you have it. Hawaiian food is indeed unique, and worth a bite for every first-timer.
Epic Resort Choices
Beaches, scenery, volcanoes, and outdoor adventure. What more can you ask for in a vacation in Hawaii?
Well, there’s just one more worth mentioning. And it’s something serenity seekers and honeymooners will love.
When it comes to resorts and hotel accommodations, this is where Hawaii also truly shines.
Beautiful coastal views, sugar-soft sand, relaxing cabanas and beach huts, and relaxing vibes. If relaxation is your main priority, Hawaii might just be the best choice.
Plus, the tropical weather year-round is perfect, especially for snowbirds that want to escape the cold.
As many would say, several of Hawaii’s resorts are heaven on earth.
Among the several paradise resorts, Hotel Wailea located in Maui stands at the top.
The Ritz-Carlton Residences located a stone’s throw away from Waikiki Beach is also an excellent choice.
Ko’a Kea Resort is another resort haven for families, couples, and singles.
Finally, the Grand Hyatt Kauai is another perfect choice for families. For more options, here are a few excellent resort picks in Hawaii:
- Prince Waikiki
- Halepuna Waikiki
- Montage Kapalua Bay
- The Kahala Hotel & Resort
- Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection
Alaska’s climate is characterized as an arctic tundra. So, in other words, it’s the complete opposite of Hawaii.
For serious adrenaline junkies, Alaska is the perfect destination to spend a vacation in.
And did you know? Alaska has more volcanoes than Hawaii. About 130 volcanoes, 50 of which are classified as active.
Compared to Hawaii’s tropical landscape, Alaska’s landscapes are just as stunning and beautiful.
Alaska is well-known for its beautiful fjords, white-capped mountains, and conifer forests. There are also glaciers, blue ice caves, and icebergs all around Alaska.
Safe to say, Alaska is just as a nature’s paradise as Hawaii.
When it comes to unique experiences, Alaska dominates in this department. For instance, glacier hiking is a novel experience you won’t find elsewhere.
And don’t forget, one of Alaska’s main attractions is the Northern Lights.
A beautiful spectacle like the Northern Lights is an experience limited only to a few places on Earth.
To help you learn more about what Alaska offers, the next part of this guide tells all.
What Makes Alaska Unique?
Unforgettable Landscapes and Scenery
Alaska’s landscapes are like no other place in the world.
Mountain glaciers, national parks, and fjords are just some of its many awe-inspiring landscapes.
The Denali National Park and Reserve is the most well-known. And is definitely a must-visit.
But in the open vastness that surrounds Alaska, there’s much more beauty to see all around.
The Mendenhall Glacier is the most scenic among Alaska’s ice landscapes. There’s a frozen river nearby that is also just as beautiful.
Inside the Mendenhall Glacier are also ice caves that tourists are free to explore and tour around.
There’s also Hatcher Pass, a rugged landscape filled with alpine lakes. Here, you can go hiking, mountain biking, and even snowmobiling in winter.
Kodiak Island, also hailed as Alaska’s largest island is a dream come true for explorers.
For those that want to spend a day in solitude and wander in nature, Kodiak Island is the place to be.
There’s also Valdez, which according to the locals, shows one of the best views of the Alaskan Coast.
But it’s not just sitting and admiring the view that tourists can do in Valdez. You can opt to kayak along the glaciers, visit the nearby waterfalls, or go glacier hiking.
Alaska is home to hundreds of landscapes that all boast scenery like no other.
And for any first-time visitor, you wouldn’t even want to play with your phone. You won’t even want anything else but to breathe, take in the sights, and feel all the nature around you.
Tons of Wildlife Viewing Opportunities
You wouldn’t believe the vast variety of wildlife around Alaska. Arctic foxes, polar and brown bears, and beluga whales are just some of the wildlife you can spot.
But it’s more than that.
Don’t mistake wildlife spotting in Alaska the same as visiting the zoo.
Around Alaska, you’ll spot a ton of wildlife in its natural habitat.
Imagine witnessing moose grazing a meadow. Or a brown bear catching salmon along a waterfall. These are all natural and beautiful sights found all over the Alaskan wilderness. And you’d be hard-pressed to not want to see more.
Where do you find these wildlife opportunities?
A visit to Denali Park will grant you plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities. The habitat in Denali Park is home to several species of wildlife that will surely catch your attention.
But if you want to see even more, book a wildlife spotting tour with the Alaska Wildlife Guide. Located in Fairbanks, Alaska, you can sign up for a day trip and see all the wildlife you want.
There are also cruise tours that allow you to see wildlife, along with Alaska’s landscapes.
Lastly, don’t miss out on whale watching either.
Whether you’re seeing it on land or via boat, there’s something about whale watching you can’t put into words. The experience is spectacular, joyous, peaceful, and full of wonder, all at the same time.
A Cornucopia of Adventure
Alaska promises the best of both worlds. Apart from its already stunning scenic beauty for outdoor lovers to take in, there are also a ton of high-octane activities.
When it comes to adventure, the better question to ask is, where do you even start?
Dog-sledding is an experience even the whole family can do, and a must for all that visit Alaska.
Reserved for the truly adventurous souls, though, is glacier hiking.
A better way to put it? Glacier adventures. After all, Alaska is home to over 100,000 glaciers, and you have a lot of options to explore hundreds of them.
Note that glacier hiking isn’t the only hiking opportunity either. You’ll find plenty of hiking trails ranging from beginner to advanced to expert and to challenging.
You’re also welcome to do a multi-day hiking excursion. Some of the most recommended include Kesugi Ridge, Resurrection Pass, and Chilkoot Trail.
Prefer to stay outdoors the whole way?
Fortunately, Alaska has no shortage of camping sites. There are cabins available for public use too, but it’s hard to beat pitching a tent in a place like Denali Park.
Overall, there’s no denying that Alaska is cloud nine for adventure seekers.
The Perfect Destination if You Want a Serious Break
Having access to hundreds of breathtaking landscapes is definitely one way to relax in Alaska. But there’s more to this state than simply connecting with nature.
Accommodations, parks, and picture-perfect towns also rank high on Alaska’s list of relaxation spots. Safe to say, Alaska is full of weekend getaways perfect if you truly want to get away from it all.
For nature lovers, Kodiak Island and Glacier Bay National Park are your best choices. Not only will you be able to reconnect with nature, but with wildlife too. On Kodiak Island, you even have fishing opportunities to catch trout, salmon, and halibut.
There’s also Kenai Fjords National Park, home to over 40 glaciers and a wide variety of marine animals.
Now while reconnecting with nature is indeed a relaxing activity any time of the day, Alaska has more up its sleeve.
Enter quaint towns such as Sitka, Fairbanks, Homer, Nome, and Anchorage.
Each town has its own personality, giving tourists plenty to explore and discover.
In Fairbanks, you have the Chena Hot Springs Resort. Here, you can soak in warm waters surrounded by falling snow, thick conifer trees, and a beautiful mountain landscape.
The town of Nome is all about remote wilderness and scenic hikes. So if you’ve been aching for a backcountry experience in solitude, Nome is the place to visit.
There’s also Homer, which is a coastal town home to fjords, coastlines, mountains, beaches, and forests. In Alaska, Homer is considered to be the cultural capital, offering a host of art galleries, museums, and live music venues.
The best way to explore Homer is to hop on a kayak and paddle along Kachemak Bay.
Should I Go to Alaska or Hawaii?
Alaska and Hawaii are dream destinations for nature lovers and serenity seekers, no doubt. But when choosing between the two, it all depends on what type of experience you’re after.
Hawaii offers tropical weather experiences, leaning strongly towards sun worshippers and beach lovers. Whereas Alaska has an abundance of cold weather experiences and might be better for serious adventurers.
Alaska also has more national parks, landscapes, volcanoes, and mountains compared to Hawaii. So if your idea of a vacation leans more towards landscape and scenic beauty, Alaska is better.
This isn’t to say though that Hawaii is lacking in that department. You’ll find a lot of adventurous excursions in Hawaii, along with volcano tours and outdoor activities.
That being said, if you prefer to explore and try new outdoor activities, Alaska comes out on top.
If you love getting up close to wildlife and nature, Alaska might also be the better choice. Hawaii has its fair share of wildlife variety but doesn’t compare to Alaska’s vast wilderness.
Then again, Hawaii’s island charm and amazing resort options make it a magical place to vacation in. When it comes to sun, sea, and sand, there’s no denying Hawaii is the better choice.
Beaches, tropical vibes, and a broad selection of resort and accommodation options. Not to mention, a wide array of underwater activities for outdoor lovers and families.
Both are amazing places, to tell you the truth.
And there’s truly no right or wrong answer here. But if you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy the cold as much, Hawaii might be a great place to visit. Especially if you’re traveling with kids. Or if you prefer laid-back sun-drenched vibes spent in the sand, resort, or in the water.
In contrast, if you see yourself as someone who enjoys thrilling adventure, Alaska takes the win. Plus, it’s hard to say no to Alaska’s surreal landscape, rugged wilderness, and scenic beauty.
Hawaii vs. Alaska Vacation Cost
Hawaii and Alaska are fairly expensive places to spend a vacation in. But as a whole, including food and accommodations, Alaska is more expensive.
Because Alaska has harsher conditions than Hawaii, most of the food has to be imported. Plus, several areas around Alaska are uninhabitable.
Note that Alaska is the largest among all states, but is also the most sparsely populated. Alaska has several unique accommodations but offers slim pickings compared to Hawaii.
Although costs are higher in Alaska, the adventure that awaits any traveler, though, is truly worth it.
In Hawaii, costs are more varied. Some islands are more expensive, while others are affordable. In other words, it’s easier to find cheaper accommodations and meals in Hawaii overall.
You can also splash out on luxurious beach resorts and high-end gourmet in Hawaii compared to Alaska.
There’s no denying Alaska’s food options are diverse and excellent. But with regard to prices, Hawaii is still the cheaper option.
Why Is Alaska Cold and Hawaii Hot?
Alaska is located close to the Arctic Circle, making it much colder. Also, Alaska is situated in an extreme northern location. This also contributes to Alaska having the longest and coldest winters in North America.
Geographically, Alaska is located farther up north so the sun shines at a lower angle in Alaska. During winter, this means Alaska receives less sunlight and sees a more dramatic drop in temperature.
Additionally, Alaska’s cold climate is largely influenced by its landscape. Because Alaska is surrounded by oceans and mountains, this contributes to its cold, oceanic climate.
The Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska are major contributors to Alaska’s cold weather patterns and climate. It’s also worth noting that Alaska is the coldest state in the United States of America.
Hawaii, on the other hand, is situated close to the Equator. In effect, its climate and weather are much warmer having a closer proximity to the sun. This is also known as the latitude effect, leading to warmer temperatures year-round in Hawaii.
What Does Alaska and Hawaii Have in Common?
Both Alaska and Hawaii are beautiful destinations and are also home to a lot of nature. They are also popular tourist destinations and hold a special appeal for all travelers.
There’s no doubt both Alaska and Hawaii offer a pleasurable experience for all travelers. And although their weather and climates are extreme, they are still behemoths when it comes to vacation choices.
Plus, Alaska and Hawaii are states that came into being around the same time, specifically in 1959. Furthermore, there are several areas around Hawaii and Alaska that aren’t connected by road.
This is why both Alaska and Hawaii have eponymous commercial airlines. Lastly, another quality that makes Alaska and Hawaii common is that both are states of the United States of America.
Where Are Alaska and Hawaii Located?
Alaska and Hawaii are US states located in the Pacific region. However, Alaska is located in the northernmost area of North America.
Whereas Hawaii is located southwest of the US and situated in the central Pacific Ocean.
What Region Are Alaska and Hawaii in?
There are 5 states located in the Pacific region: Hawaii, Alaska, California, Washington, and Oregon.
Why Is Alaska and Hawaii Part of the Pacific Region?
The reason why Alaska and Hawaii are part of the Pacific region is because they both border the Pacific Ocean.
Specifically, Alaska is bordered by the Arctic Ocean in the north and the Pacific Ocean in the south. Whereas Hawaii is completely surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.
Is Hawaii Close to Alaska?
Hawaii is considered to be far from Alaska. Hawaii is also 2,800 miles (4,400 km) away from Alaska.
Is Alaska or Hawaii Closer to the US?
Alaska is a lot farther from the US than Hawaii is to the US.
To be more specific, Alaska is about 2,834 miles or 4,561 kilometers from the United States. Hawaii, on the other hand, is 2,000 miles or 3,200 kilometers from the United States.
How Far Is Alaska From Hawaii?
The shortest distance from Hawaii to Alaska is 3,072 miles or 4,944 kilometers. Take note this is the air travel distance between Alaska and Hawaii.
Is Alaska or Hawaii Further West?
Surprisingly, Alaska is the furthest state west compared to Hawaii. Although Hawaii is located very far west of the Continental US, Alaska is still the farther west state.
Are Alaska and Hawaii in the Same Time Zone?
Generally, Alaska and Hawaii are not in the same time zone. There are a few areas in Hawaii that have the same time zone as certain parts of Alaska.
However, it’s safe to assume that both do not have the same time zone. To be more specific, Alaska is 1 hour ahead of Hawaii.
It’s also worth noting that the Aleutian Islands and St. Lawrence Island in Alaska have different time zones. These islands in Alaska follow the standard time zone in Hawaii.
What Time Zones Are Alaska and Hawaii in?
Alaska’s time zone (Alaskan Standard Time) is GMT -9. Whereas Hawaii’s time zone (Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time) is GMT -10.
Are Alaska and Hawaii States?
Alaska and Hawaii are considered the 49th and 50th states of the USA, which came after World War II.
Of all the US states, Alaska is the largest while Hawaii is the 8th smallest.
How Far Is Alaska From Hawaii by Plane?
Alaska is roughly 6 hours away from Hawaii by plane. The shortest air travel distance between the two is 3,019 miles or 4,858.6 kilometers.
Alaska to Hawaii Distance by Boat
The distance from Alaska to Hawaii by boat is 2,525 nautical miles or 4,492 kilometers. On average, it takes 2 to 3 weeks to get from Alaska to Hawaii.
This is also assuming that you sail at a speed of 5 knots (5.7 miles per hour). That’s roughly around 18 days in total. It is possible to get from Alaska to Hawaii by boat in a shorter time, as short as 6 days to a week.
However, the average sailboat sails at 5 knots per hour (5.7 miles per hour). If you board a cruise ship, the average speed is around 30 knots per hour (34.5 miles per hour). At this speed, it should take between 3 to 4 days to get from Alaska to Hawaii.