We outfitted six male Hawaiian geese, or nene (Branta sandvicensis), with 45-g solar-powered satellite transmitters and collected four location coordinates d−1 from 2010 to 2012. We used 6193 coordinates to characterize migration corridors, habitat preferences and temporal patterns of displacement for 16 migration events with Brownian bridge utilization distributions (BBUD). We used 1552 coordinates to characterize stopovers from 37 shorter-distance movement events with 25% BBUDs. Two subpopulations used a well-defined common migration corridor spanning a broad gradient of elevation. Use of native-dominated subalpine shrubland was 2.81 times more likely than the availability of this land-cover type. The nene differed from other tropical and temperate-zone migrant birds in that: (1) migration distance and the number of stopovers were unrelated (Mann–Whitney test W = 241, P < 0.006), and; (2) individual movements were not unidirectional suggesting that social interactions may be more important than refuelling en route; but like other species, nene made more direct migrations with fewer stopovers in return to breeding areas (0.58 ± 0.50) than in migration away from breeding areas (1.64 ± 0.48). Our findings, combined with the direction and timing of migration, which is opposite that of most other intratropical migrants, suggest fundamentally different drivers of altitudinal migration.