Hawaii vs Alaska: Everything You Need to Know

Alaska and Hawaii are the last two states to join the Union, and they are both quite popular destinations for domestic tourism in the United States. Hawaii’s sandy, sunny beaches are the classic image of a relaxing vacation, and Alaska’s expansive wilderness is perfect for all kinds of outdoor sports and activities. Most often, residents of the continental U.S. will take a plane to either one of these states for a visit, and both are ready to accommodate tourists all year round with luxury hotels, quaint cabins in the wilds, helicopter tours, and everything in between. But some tourists may have a preference for where they visit, and they should know what sets each of these states apart. Not to mention how many retirees may want to move to these states (10,000 Americans reach the retirement age of 65 each day, after all).


This island state draws in big crowds, especially during spring and summer, and anyone taking a tour there should be ready to rub shoulders with many fellow tourists (both Americans and international guests). In fact, Hawaii is made up of several islands in a row, and the third-largest, O’ahu (“the gathering place”) may be the most popular of all (and the most densely populated). Residents include many native Hawaiians and a number of Asian Americans, making this a diverse state to visit indeed.

What can a tourist do in Hawaii? The beach is the go-to answer, and guests may go swimming here as well as snorkeling, and visit Hawaii’s natural bounty up close and personal, such as fishes and coral reefs. Scuba diving is popular here too, and scuba divers can rent a boat to dive off of and explore the coast on their own terms. For tourists who would rather stay relatively dry, it’s a good idea to find tour boats and check out Hawaii’s marine life and islands from the comfort of the boat’s deck (be careful to not fall over the railing).

Taking tours by boat is a great call, but there is yet another option: touring Hawaii by air. How? Many helicopter and plane tour companies are available across Hawaii, and these companies will bring tourists on board to see a panoramic view of the islands from up high. While up there, the tourists can put on headsets to hear each other and the tour guide over the noise of the vehicle, and the tour guide will explain local history and nature facts, as well as answer any questions the tourists may have. Such vehicles will fly in all but the worst weather, and if the helicopters end up grounded, the tourists should inquire about refund or rescheduling policies (which may vary).

Booking these aerial tours will take some work, and early, too. Bookings may go fast for helicopter and plane tours during Hawaii’s busy season, so an interested tourist can go online and find time slots that fit their schedule, then book a ride several months in advance. And if their Hawaii trip plans are not yet defined and the tourist really wants to take that aerial tour, perhaps they can book an available helicopter tour slot and plan the rest of the vacation around it.

Exploring Hawaii, or just enjoying the beach, means being prepared in other ways too, such as booking plane tickets and hotel rooms far in advance, just to be sure. For safe fun on the beach, tourists are urged to bring sunscreen lotion and apply it to all exposed skin, and they should also bring along a wide umbrella and a beach towel to create a little camp during their beach stay. It’s also a fine idea to bring along a cooler to store drinks in, and the tourists can bring along a beach ball, netting, and stakes to play a fine game of volleyball at the beach. But be safe about it; heed all signs and other warnings about hazardous wildlife, such as sharks or jellyfish. Also, if anyone gets sunburn or steps on something sharp or needle-shaped in the sand, be prepared to find and visit local urgent care centers (not necessarily a hospital) right away so the victim can get professional care.

Hawaii’s beaches are also a great place for a destination wedding; many outdoor wedding venues are beaches or parks or gardens, and Hawaii’s beaches may be just the thing an adventurous couple wants. Usually, beach weddings are less formal than ballroom ones, and it’s a good idea for everyone to wear lightweight, light-colored suits and gowns to stay cool. Women’s gowns should be a few inches above the sand so they don’t drag around and get dirty, and men can roll up their pants legs to their knees or so. Anyone here can either wear sandals or go barefoot, and to keep the sun off everyone, a party tent can be rented.


Alaska is not a frozen wasteland; in fact, it has a lot of greenery as well as snowy mountains, and outdoor enthusiasts will have a lot to do up there. Just to name one example, Alaska is home to 17 of the 20 tallest peaks in the U.S., and this state also has plenty of forests, cliffs, rivers, lakes, and more. This diverse state should not be confused with Antarctica in terms of features and terrain.

Alaska is thinly populated even when the native peoples are counted, though it does have larger cities like Juneau and Anchorage where urban-minded tourists can stay comfortable. These cities are home to museums, historic buildings, restaurants, and much more, not to mention perfectly modern and comfortable hotels to stay in. But tourists in Alaska are likely coming this far north for the outdoor adventures.

Alaska is a great placed for fishing, for example, and ice fishing is a time-honored sport on this state’s many frozen lakes. Many cabins and shacks can be found and rented, and some handy tourists might even build or bring along their own shacks. Meanwhile, an angler can go fishing in Alaska’s many streams and rivers, to catch salmon and other cold-water species. Meanwhile, big game hunters will find a lot to like about Alaska, since they can hunt game like bears, moose, elk, and other species they might not find in their home state. Many of these hunters and anglers will rent cabins out in the wilderness as lodgings, which are conveniently close to good fishing or hunting spots and feel more appropriately rugged anyway (compared to a modern hotel).

A tourist in Alaska doesn’t have to fish or hunt to have a good time up there, though. This state also offers helicopter and plane aerial tour companies, and a tourist can rent them just as they would in Hawaii. Meanwhile, it’s also good fun to go dog sledding, a time-honored sport that can’t be done anywhere else. Tourists can also go hiking and observe or sketch wildlife they find, from birds to flowers, and they can also go hiking or rock climbing as they please. Don’t forget kayaking, which can be great fun on Alaska’s wild rapids.

What about checking out Alaska’s glaciers in person? Some helicopter tours in Alaska may allow passenger tourists to disembark whenever the vehicle lands on a peak, and the tourists can check out Alaska’s glaciers up close. Meanwhile, Alaska (like Hawaii) is a popular place for exotic destination weddings, usually during warmer weather. This involves choosing and booking a spot, then flying all out-of-state guests to the nearest city or large town and booking hotel rooms for them, not to mention taxis or similar transportation. Many hotels offer bulk discounts to guests who rent many rooms at once, a good way to save money. Some wedding parties may choose wedding glacier packages instead, which are smaller and more intimate wedding ceremonies in Alaska. This involves the bride, groom, and just a few other people who fly up to a glacier on a helicopter and have their ceremony with a great view, in total privacy. Some of these glacier wedding packages come with extra amenities too, such as wine bottles.

There is no “right” or “wrong” tourist spot to visit, but Hawaii is popular for a reason, and it’s a great place to consider for an outdoor destination weddings. Meanwhile, outdoor enthusiasts should keep Alaska on their radar, and look into hunting or fishing packages (or helicopter tours) so they can really see what that enormous northern state has to offer.

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