There are an endless amount of activities and adventures to be had when you visit Hawaii. This island chain may be one of the most remote and isolated locations in the world, but it’s also packed full of unique attractions and unreal natural beauty. It’s a top destination for travelers across the globe thanks to world-class beaches, amazing surf, and active volcanoes.
But with so much to see, it’s hard to know how to best spend your time here. That’s why many people turn to a guide book for quick advice on the best beaches, activities, and attractions in Hawaii. High numbers of visitors coming to the major islands every year mean that there are many different guides out there as well.
Let’s take a look at some of the best guide books out there to help you plan your trip and make the most of a magical stay.
How to Use a Guide Book
Just as there is no one way to travel, there is no one way to use a guide book. With that in mind, I would suggest using any of the books you’ll find here as just that – a guide. While they can provide you with some great information and point you in the right direction, the real magic to any trip is when you allow some adventures to develop on their own.
And Hawaii is certainly full of magic. Put the top attractions and activities you want to see or do while you visit on your itinerary, but be sure to leave some time open just to get out and explore. Ask locals their favorite locations. Learn about the history and culture of the islands. Be more than just a tourist. Step outside of your comfort zone and really get a feel for the place. You’ll be happy you did.
Best Overall Hawaii Guide Books
These guide books all cover a lot of ground and explore each of the major Hawaiian islands. Any of these will make a good travel companion and are packed full of tips and suggestions to help you enjoy your time here.
If you only bring one thing to the Big Island THIS is what you want to bring along. This one book made our first vacation 10 times better. When we created this site to help bring the treasures of the Island to the web, this book was the benchmark. If it’s on the island its in the book. It has the authors’ personality and obviously is their opinion but we found most of their assessments were spot on. Some of the other books below are nice add ons but this has to be the first book you start with in your guidebooks. We know you’ll thank us later.
Lonely Planet is one of the best-known names in the guide book game for good reason – they always put out quality information that will lead you to unique and memorable destinations all across the world. This guide book is focused on all things Hawaii and is recommended because it takes both a budget and luxury approach to travel here.
The book features many full-color detailed maps, sample itineraries for each island, and reviews of hotels, restaurants, and a whole lot more. If you only read one guide book before or during your trip to Hawaii, this would be the one. It also provides a good background on the islands’ history and culture, which is essential to understand before coming here.
This is another excellent guide book for your Hawaiian adventures. A nice feature about this book is that locals wrote a large portion of the content. That means you’ll get genuine insight from the people that live here, not just a summary of other traveler’s experiences. This comes in useful when you want to venture off the beaten path or discover some of the best food or experiences away from the resort crowd.
It’s also packed full of beautiful photos, over 40 maps, and sample itineraries. You’ll also get a crash course in some Hawaiian phrases to use that can help you show thanks and respect to the locals you meet during your stay. Fodor provides you with another in-depth resource that will give you more than enough to explore throughout this book’s 592 pages.
This is another option from one of the big names in travel publishing. Frommer’s Hawaii 2020 is a recent edition with plenty of quality information to keep you busy on your trip. It covers a wide range of attractions and activities, from the best beaches and hikes to some fine dining and world-class lodging across all of the major islands. This one is a bit more adventure-oriented with tips for exploring the jungles, oceans, beaches, and forests.
Another highlight of Hawaii 2020 is a section on money-saving tips. This can be useful for any traveler to Hawaii whether you are trying to camp or staying at a 5-star resort. Many maps and itineraries are scattered across the book, and though it lacks in the historical department a bit compared to the other options above, it’s still a useful resource.
Best Hawaiian Island Specific Guide Books
If you have the chance to visit multiple islands during your trip to Hawaii, consider yourself lucky. If you only have time for a single island, don’t fret, you’re still in for a fantastic experience, and these island-specific guide books can help you out.
The island of Hawaii is also known as The Big Island. It’s by far the largest of the islands and has a smaller population than Oahu or Maui. Fodor’s guide gives you an inside look at all the great activities that can found here. From watching a volcanic eruption at the summit of Mauna Kea to the Kohala Coast’s iconic beaches and everything in between, this book will have you covered.
We mentioned it before. It is THE must-have book if you come to the island. Don’t forget this book
O’ahu is the most populated Hawaiian island and is well known for its vibrant nightlife and legendary surf. But there are plenty of other attractions and sights to see across the island as well and this Lonely Planet guide will walk you through some of the best attractions from the city to the sea. You’ll get trusted travel advice, high-quality maps, and reviews of some of the most popular lodging and dining locations.
Kauai is the least populated and oldest island. It has some rugged terrain and hard to access beaches, making it a top destination for active travelers looking for adventure. This guide will give you access to those adventures and much, much more. It’s an accurate insider’s look at majestic Kauai and all of its inherent beauty. It’s one of the least visited major islands, so use the guide book to your advantage if you find yourself here.
Best Hawaii History Books
I’m going to include a few good books here to serve as a guide to the unique history and culture of the Hawaiian islands. Learning about Hawaii before visiting is thoroughly recommended to provide you with essential background and increased respect.
This is a great look into the history of Hawaii and its current culture. James L. Haley paints a vivid picture of these islands and how they have changed over the years. From the rule of King Kamehameha I to the controversial annexation of Hawaii into the United States, this book is well-written and informative. It’s a highly recommended read for any visitor wishing to understand these islands and their people better.
This a book that is intimidating in size but enlightening in scope. It’s an epic look at the history of Hawaii, as told by James Michener. The book reads like a novel but paints an accurate historical picture of the first settlers of Hawaii with their beliefs and tribulations fueling a journey into unknown seas under unknown stars. It follows this history into more modern times, and even though this was written in 1959, it still holds up strong.
If you take the time to read a few of these books before your trip to Hawaii, you’ll be better informed and be able to take full advantage of everything the land and sea here have to offer. Be sure to bring at least one of the above along with you as well – a good guidebook is essential reading for every island adventure.