Hawaii vs Alaska: Which Should You Visit in 2024?

Trying to decide between a tropical paradise and the rugged wilderness for your next vacation and considering Hawaii vs Alaska?

These two states offer vastly different travel experiences but both can provide unforgettable adventures. Each destination has so many unique things to offer from the warm, sandy beaches of Hawaii to the icy glaciers of Alaska.

They are vastly different- we’re talking about the US’s largest and fourth smallest states. Both take quite some time to get to and offer remarkable, dramatic nature.

Let’s go ahead and compare the two destinations to help you decide which one is right for you!

Hawaii vs Alaska: What is each famous for?

Both famous for being not contiguous states, Hawaii and Alaska actually have a few similarities. However, starkly different climates and geographies mean these two states are often popular for different reasons.

What is Hawaii famous for?

Hawaii is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, known for its stunning beaches, lush tropical rainforests, and vibrant culture.

This chain of islands sees millions of tourists each year, with the most popular islands being Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai, followed by the much smaller islands of Lanai, Molokai, and Niihau.

From its iconic beaches to its breathtaking volcanoes, there is no shortage of things to do and see in Hawaii. Adventurous activities like surfing, hiking, whale watching, and snorkeling are popular with tourists and locals.

In addition to its great outdoors, Hawaii is also known for its delicious cuisine, which features a mix of flavors from various cultures, including Hawaiian, Asian, and Polynesian. Some musts when in Hawaii include poke, fish tacos, spam musubi, Hawaiian barbeque, banana bread, dole whip, and shaved ice.

And, of course, Hawaii is famous for its traditional hula dance and lively luaus, which are a prominent part of local Hawaiian culture.

What is Alaska famous for?

Alaska is the largest state in the USA and is known for its vast wilderness and natural beauty, from majestic mountain peaks and stunning glaciers (like these epic glaciers!) to wild rivers and sprawling forests.

It is home to some of the most iconic scenery in the world, including Denali National Park, the highest mountain peak in North America, and Wrangell-St. Elias, the largest national park in the United States.

Alaska is also famous for its abundant wildlife and stunning landscapes. The state is home to many diverse wildlife species, like moose, brown bears, black bears, wolves, caribou, and Dall sheep.

Additionally, Alaska is famous for its fishing (some of the best salmon in the world!), history of gold mining, and dog sledding. Alaska’s native culture, spectacular scenery, and incredible wildlife make it a destination like no other in the USA.

Check out this article to learn more in depth about the 12 things that Alaska is famous for that you won’t want to miss on your visit!

And if you’re not familiar with Alaska, here are some crucial things to know before you visit!

Hawaii vs Alaska: Types of Nature

Rugged mountains, volcanoes, abundant wildlife, and Pacific coastlines are some similarities that Hawaii and Alaska share. But, as you’d expect, these two epic vacation destinations differ a lot when it comes to nature.

If you’re a visual person, you can check out this article on the most beautiful places in Alaska and this one on the most beautiful places in Hawaii to compare the two.

But we’ll also discuss that here; let’s get into what makes these two natural wonders unique.

What is nature like in Hawaii?

Hawaii is home to some of the world’s most stunning and diverse natural scenery. It’s truly a remarkable example of a tropical paradise.

Hawaii has something for everyone, from its wide array of tropical rainforests and waterfalls to its white, yellow, black- and even green and red- sand beaches and volcanic mountains.

Hawaii’s lush vegetation, crystal clear waters, and countless species of marine wildlife make it the perfect destination for those looking to reconnect with nature.

With a diverse range of activities, from hiking and swimming to kayaking and whale watching, Hawaii is an ideal destination for travelers looking for adventure both on land and in the water.

What is nature like in Alaska?

Nature in Alaska is a beautiful and powerful force. There’s a reason why it’s called “The Last Frontier” and is known as the last great wilderness in the United States. Alaska is largely untouched, made up of roughly 365 million acres, with only 160,000 acres encroached upon by humans.

Its towering mountains, vast forests, and stunning glaciers are really incredible. The summer brings long days of sunshine, warmer temperatures, and a variety of outdoor activities. Meanwhile, the winter brings a blanket of snow, snow sports, and a chance to explore frozen wonders.

The wildlife in Alaska is just as varied and beautiful, with a wide range of animals, from grizzly bears and bald eagles to moose and whales. Nature in Alaska is an experience that is sure to awe and inspire.

Hawaii vs Alaska: Notable Destinations

Deciding which state to visit is important, but knowing where to go within each state is just as important. With Hawaii and Alaska being popular vacation destinations, let’s explore the popular destinations that each offers.

What are Hawaii’s most notable destinations?

Hawaii is one of the most popular islands to visit in the world, and it is no surprise that it has some of the most remarkable and notable destinations. In fact, each island has so much to offer.

From the world-famous beaches of Waikiki and the stunning beauty of Maui to the awe-inspiring volcanoes of the Big Island and the lush rainforests of Kauai, Hawaii is the perfect vacation destination.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation, an adventure-packed exploration, or a cultural journey, the Hawaiian islands have it.

It’s true, though, that each island has a bit of a different vibe. They also offer different things to see and even different types of nature. Here’s a guide on how to choose which island is best for you!

What are Alaska’s most notable destinations?

Alaska is a stunning state full of unique and notable destinations.

Some of its most famous destinations include Denali National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, and the charming cities that make up Southeast Alaska.

If you fly into Anchorage, you can drive to a lot of Alaska’s most popular towns- in fact, the drive from Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula is incredibly scenic (see what I mean here!). And you can also drive to Denali National Park. Here you’ll find Mount Denali, the highest peak in North America. Exploring Denali National Park offers visitors a chance to explore some stunning North Alaskan landscapes.

Kenai Fjords National Park is a stunning marine protected area with breathtaking views of the Kenai Fjords and unique marine wildlife. While you can only explore Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield (pictured above) while on land, boat tours allow you to see the majority of Kenai Fjords.

The best way to explore this part of Alaska is by car. Here’s my modifiable Alaska itinerary– we had the most epic road trip! It includes the most charming coastal towns like Seward, Homer, and Valdez. You definitely should check it out if you’re planning to drive around Alaska!

A southeast Alaskan cruise is a great way to explore the small, charming towns in this part of Alaska. There essentially is no way to travel by land from notable coastal cities like Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and more. However, you can take flights to go island hopping, too. Here are some notable things to see in Southeast Alaska:

  • Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking glaciers and wildlife and is a must-see for any traveler.
  • Juneau, Alaska’s capital, is home to incredible sights like the Mendenhall Glacier.
  • Sitka is a charming fishing village located on the coast of Alaska and is the perfect spot to relax and take in the stunning views of the coastline.
  • Ketchikan is a great gateway to Misty Fjords National Park.

Hawaii vs Alaska: Top Things to Do

We’ve covered several categories comparing Hawaii vs Alaska, and maybe you already feel like you’ve made a decision. But before you make up your mind, let’s get into the best things to do in these two destinations. While some things are similar- like helicopter tours, fishing, hiking, and whale watching- there are plenty of differences between the two. Let’s explore them!

Top things to do in Hawaii

Hawaii offers a variety of activities to please all types of travelers.

From lounging on some of the best beaches in the world to exploring its active volcanoes, there are plenty of activities to enjoy in Hawaii.

On Oahu, visit Waikiki beach to experience this famous tourist spot, take a boat tour around the islands to go snorkeling or scuba diving around coral reefs and marine life, or hike up to the top of Diamond Head for breathtaking views. (Check out this article for more of the best things to do on Oahu!)

On Maui, exploring the lush rainforest and waterfalls of the island along the Road to Hana is a popular thing to do. Those looking to experience the local Hawaiian culture can visit a luau or participate in a hula dance- we loved attending the Old Lahaina Luau. And Iao Valley State Park and Haleakala are musts! (Check out this article for more of the best things to do on Maui!)

Between Volcanoes National Park and Mauna Kea, the Big Island offers plenty of volcanic activities- though you’ll want to check ahead of time to see if there are any active lava flows. (Here’s an article on the best things to do on the Big Island!)

On Kauai, we did a helicopter tour to get a bird’s eye view of the stunning NaPali coast below- you can only see it via boat, plane, helicopter, or hike! We also loved Waimea Canyon State Park, Queens Bath, and Hanalei Bay. (Here’s our Kauai itinerary- it includes the best things to do on Kauai!)

Top things to do in Alaska

Alaska is a vast and beautiful landscape with many activities and experiences for tourists. From seeing the majestic Northern Lights and exploring the glaciers to fishing and whale watching, there’s no shortage of things to do in Alaska.

Start with a trip to Denali National Park and Preserve and explore the stunning mountain terrain. With over 6 million acres of land to explore, you’ll find plenty of wildlife and activities to engage in.

You can also take a scenic flight over the park or go dog sledding.

If you visit at the right time, you can even witness the incredible natural light show of the Northern Lights. This phenomenon can sometimes be seen in different places around Alaska, but the best viewing spots are in the Fairbanks area.

You can also try your hand at fishing for salmon, halibut, and other fish or go kayaking and paddleboarding in the many lakes and rivers.

Hawaii vs Alaska: How much does it cost to visit?

Both Alaska and Hawaii and popular vacation destinations, meaning last-minute deals and vacation packages are common. Yet, if we break it down, how do they compare?

How much does it cost to visit Hawaii?

Visiting Hawaii can be a dream vacation for many people, but it is important to understand the cost of a trip before you go.

Generally, a trip to Hawaii can cost anywhere from around $1,000 USD to more than $5,000 USD depending on the length of stay and type of accommodation.

Airfare is usually the biggest expense, with round-trip tickets from the mainland ranging from $400 USD to $2,000+ USD.

Other major expenses include hotels, car rentals, and activities. (Looking for a luxury stay on Maui? Here are the best spots! Considering where to stay on Oahu? Check here!)

Food costs vary depending on where you eat and how often, but a typical daily food budget is around $60 USD per person.

Ultimately, the cost of your trip is up to you and your budget.

How much does it cost to visit Alaska?

Visiting Alaska can be an unforgettable experience, but it can also be quite costly.

Airfare and lodging are the two biggest expenses for Alaska travelers, with most flights from the continental United States costing between $400 USD and $1000 USD round trip.

Accommodations can range from camping to high-end lodges and can cost anywhere from $20 USD per night to hundreds of dollars per night. Interestingly enough, it’s hard to find a luxury hotel in Alaska. Keep that in mind if you’re looking for a luxury vacation, as Hawaii may be more suited to your tastes!

Our most expensive hotel is pictured above– it’s as luxury as off-the-grid glass-roof domes can be! But to see the northern lights at night from the comfort of your bed, it’s worth it! Here’s a guide on where to stay in Alaska’s most popular towns.

Food, transportation, and activities will also add to the total costs, so it is important to plan ahead and budget appropriately. There are some activities and experiences like these that are definitely worth paying for, though!

In addition, visitors should also factor in the cost of travel insurance, as well as possible taxes and fees.

And last thing I want to note about cost is that there are plenty of free things to do in Alaska, too, so keep that in mind!

Hawaii vs Alaska: What is the weather like each season?

Hawaii and Alaska are polar opposites when it comes to weather. Looking for a winter wonderland? Visit Alaska in the winter. Escaping the summer heat and looking for mild weather? Visit Alaska in the summer. Looking for a warm beach holiday any time of the year? Visit Hawaii. Let’s get into a bit more detail:

What is Hawaii’s weather like in each season?

Hawaii has pleasant weather all year round, but the weather in each season can vary significantly.

In the winter (December through February), temperatures tend to stay relatively mild, with an average temperature of 75-85° F.

Spring (March through May) is slightly warmer and drier, with temperatures ranging from 80-90°F.

Summer (June through August) is the warmest and driest season, with temperatures between 85-95°F.

Fall (September through November) is similar to spring, with temperatures between 80-90°F.

While you can have rain each season, usually Hawaiian rain showers don’t last very long. Also, you’ll typically find that some parts of the island are sunny while other parts may be rainy. While this is usually the case, note that there are definitely exceptions to this- usually in the rainy season from November through March.

Rain or shine, here are some great packing tips for your trip to Hawaii!

What is Alaska weather like in each season?

Alaska’s weather varies greatly throughout the year, with each season bringing its own unique climate.

Springtime (April through May) in Alaska is typically cold and wet, with temperatures ranging from 30-50°F.

Summer (May through September) temperatures often reach the mid-50s and higher, and it is not uncommon for storms and rain to occur. We had one day where it rained almost all day when we visited in late August. Fortunately, this only happened for one day out of our two week trip! If you’re planning a trip to Alaska in August, here’s our experience of Alaska in August.

Fall (September through November) brings cooler temperatures and more rain, with temperatures ranging from 28-55°F.

Winter (November through March) in Alaska is cold and snowy, with temperatures averaging from 0°F to -30°F. However, temperatures can reach below -60°F in some areas.

Alaska’s weather is unpredictable and can change quickly, so visitors should always prepare accordingly. Here’s a guide for what to wear on your Alaska trip!

Is there any time of year you shouldn’t visit?

Knowing when to book your holiday is important, but it is also just as important to know when not to. So when should you not visit?

Is there any time of year you shouldn’t visit Hawaii?

Not really. There are certain times of the year that are not ideal for visiting Hawaii, but even so, it’s worth visiting any time of year.

The summer months of June through August tend to be the busiest, with higher prices and bigger crowds. However, winter months can bring higher waves and strong currents to the beaches, making some of them dangerous for swimming.

For a combination of the best weather and fewer people, plan your trip for the spring or fall.

We’ve visited Hawaii in January, February, August, September, and November and have had a wonderful time in all of those months!

Is there any time of year you shouldn’t visit Alaska?

Yes, there are certain times of the year when you might want to avoid visiting Alaska. The summer months are generally the busiest, and prices tend to be higher. Additionally, roads may be more crowded and hotel rooms may be more difficult to find. However, this is the prime time to see the beauty of Alaska without worrying about adverse weather and closed roads.

Winter months can be especially dangerous due to icy roads and extremely cold temperatures. For these reasons, most avoid visiting Alaska during the winter months.

Check out this post on when to visit Alaska for more details!

In conclusion…

I’ve fallen in love with both of these states and if I had it my way, I’d visit both every single year. I’d visit Alaska between June and September and Hawaii any time of the year.

I hope this post has given you a better idea of which location to visit!

To sum it up:

Hawaii is best for: those looking for warm weather adventure or relaxation. With sunny skies, white sand beaches, and rolling waves, Hawaii is the place to sit back and relax if that’s what you’re after. You can also do plenty of adventurous activities too.

Alaska is best for: landscape photographers, adventurers, getting off the beaten path, and cold weather experiences. Spectacular glaciers, breathtaking national parks, and abundant wildlife make Alaska a dream destination for nature lovers.

So there you have it! Hawaii and Alaska are both amazing destinations for a vacation. Hawaii offers warm, tropical weather, beautiful beaches, and plenty of activities to do and see. On the other hand, Alaska offers epic glaciers and sprawling mountains.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and what kind of vacation experience you are looking for. Hawaii is the better choice if you are looking for a relaxing beach vacation, luxury stay, or a tropical adventure (psst.. it’s great for a babymoon! That’s where we went on ours!). However, Alaska may be the better option if you’re looking to escape the heat or are craving a big adventure in the vast wilderness.

Either way, you won’t be disappointed! These two states are my favorite states in the USA, hands down!

And to learn more about Alaska and Hawaii,

Safe travels!


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About the author
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
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2 Responses

  1. Aloha Jasmine! I’m absolutely LOVING your posts and all your beautiful photos. 🫶🏼 I live on Oahu and reading through your blog makes me really happy because of how authentic and candid you are AND how accurately you describe allll the different aspects of experiencing Hawaii! Mahalo nui loa for capturing and sharing the beauty of the islands with the world in such a wonderful way 🙏🏽🌺🤙🏼

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