hawai'i visitor guide
Sailing is a popular way to explore the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, but if you're planning to sail or motor around the islands, you may be wondering how long it will take. The answer to this question depends on several factors, such as the distance between islands, the type of vessel, and the speed of the boat. In this blog post, we'll take a look at how long it takes to sail from O’ahu to the other major Hawaiian islands, as well as how long it takes to circumnavigate O’ahu itself.
what to expect from weather in Hawai'i
First, it's worth noting that the Hawaiian Islands enjoy a subtropical climate, with temperatures that generally stay between the mid-60s to mid-80s (Fahrenheit) throughout the year. However, the weather conditions can vary depending on the time of year and the specific island you're visiting.
In general, the summer months from May through September tend to be warmer and drier, with more predictable weather patterns. The winter months from October through April can bring more rain and cooler temperatures, as well as the possibility of stronger winds and larger waves.
When sailing around the Hawaiian Islands, it's important to be aware of the local weather forecasts and any potential hazards such as storms, strong winds, or rough seas. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides up-to-date weather forecasts and marine weather alerts for the waters around Hawai'i.
Additionally, it's important to be aware of the water conditions you may encounter when sailing around the islands. Hawaii's waters can be home to a variety of marine life, including dolphins, sea turtles, and whales (depending on the time of year). However, you may also encounter strong currents or rough seas, particularly around the northern and eastern shores of the islands.
Inter-Island Cruises and Charters
While you can take cruise ships between islands, we recommend against larger cruise ships for a number of reasons (see this blog). There are smaller yachts that travel inter-island, and most will have an itinerary of 4-5 days. However, many of these companies have been cited and fined recently for mooring or anchoring in off-limit locations overnight. Make sure you travel with a reputable charter.
Overall, while sailing around the Hawaiian Islands can be a beautiful and rewarding experience, it's important to be aware of the weather, water conditions, and reputation of the company you choose to charter with to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.
O'ahu to Big Island
The distance between O’ahu and the Big Island of Hawai'i is approximately 150 nautical miles one way. If you're sailing at a speed of 5 knots (a moderate pace with a sailboat), it would take approximately 30 hours to make the journey if you’re sailing non-stop. However, it's important to note that the actual time it takes may vary depending on weather conditions, currents, and other factors.
The type of sailing vessel you choose will also impact how long it takes to sail to the Big Island. A sailboat or catamaran with a cruising speed of 5 knots would be ideal for this journey. However, a powerboat with a cruising speed of 10-15 knots could also make the journey in a shorter amount of time. Since sailboats are more stable through choppy water, the trip will likely be more comfortable while sailing (and definitely more of an adventure) than if you’re in a larger motorboat. The ‘Alenuihāhā Channel, between Maui and Big Island is a notorious crossing, with tradewinds funneling between the tall mountain peaks on both islands, often creating gusts of wind (40-50 knots) and steep waves. It’s aptly named, with ‘Alenuihāhā meaning great billows smashing, in reference to the high seas encountered here.
O'ahu to Maui
The distance between O’ahu and Maui is approximately 75 nautical miles one way. If you're sailing at a speed of 5 knots, it would take approximately 15 hours to make the journey. Again, the actual time it takes may vary depending on weather conditions and other factors.
The Kaiwi Channel between O’ahu and Maui is also notorious for high winds and steep waves that funnel between the islands. During rare calm days, the channel is swimmable, however, more often than not, tradewinds howl through, creating steep white-capping waves.
O'ahu to Kaua'i
The distance between O'ahu and Kaua'i is approximately 90 nautical miles one way. If you're sailing at a speed of 5 knots, it would take approximately 18 hours non-stop to make the journey. As always, the actual time it takes may vary depending on weather conditions and other factors and a comfortable sailing experience could be much closer to 24 hours of non-stop travel. There are also fewer harbors on Kaua'i, so depending on which coastline you sail to it could take more time to reach your destination.
If you're looking to sail around O’ahu itself, the distance is approximately 100 nautical miles. If you're sailing at a speed of 5 knots, it would take approximately 20 hours to complete the journey. But there are a number of places to anchor along the way, so a more comfortable trip would be spread out over several days to see and experience multiple coastlines on O’ahu.
A sailboat or catamaran with a cruising speed of 5 knots would be ideal for this journey. However, a powerboat with a cruising speed of 10-15 knots could also make the journey in a shorter amount of time. A typical itinerary for sailing O'ahu will be spread over 2-3 days to see multiple sites on the island and make the journey more relaxed.
Sailing around the Hawaiian Islands can be a fantastic way to explore their beauty and see the stunning scenery from a unique perspective. The time it takes to sail from O’ahu to the other major islands, or to circumnavigate O’ahu itself, will depend heavily on the conditions. Most people do not realize that sailing between the islands is a substantial undertaking that, while rewarding, is much more intense than a simple day sail! Adventurers must be prepared for overnight stays onboard, rough seas, and crossing deep ocean channels. At Sailing Eternal Tides we don't do any inter-island charters, but can take you on an amazing sail around the South-Shore of O'ahu.