You’ve dreamed about your Hawaiian vacation for months, and the time has come to wing 2,500 miles across the Pacific. If you’re visiting Hawaii in April, May, September or October, expect to experience the best weather, fewer crowds, and fair rates. Leave your mainland stress and time-crunch persona behind. Relax and plan on making the most of time spent in the warm sunshine and wild beauty found in the Hawaiian Islands. Take care, however, to avoid mistakes that can spoil your overall experience.
Bring along your swimsuit, beach towel, gym or walking shoes, sunglasses and a hat. Help preserve Hawaii’s oceans and marine life by using a reef-safe sunscreen. This sunscreen not only helps prevent dangerous sunburns and the risk of cancer for you, but it also helps protect aquatic life. And don’t forget to bring cash. Major banks are scarce, and ATM fees add up. Life in Hawaii is expensive for locals and those in the service industry, such as servers, hotel bells, valet staff, and tour guides, rely on tips, so cash on hand is a must.
The culture in the islands is carefree and casual, so feel free to wear loose fitting and comfortable shorts, cotton tees or shirts, flirty skirts, capris, and sundresses. Flip-flops and sandals go everywhere. The tropical air is often humid, so choose clothing in breathable fabrics that are wrinkle-free and lightweight such as cotton or linen. Pack a lightweight sweater or jacket for cool evenings.
Unless you plan to plant yourself on the beach for the duration of your vacation, rent a car. The main island offers public transportation, cabs, and Uber or Lyft, but many of the other islands do not. Don’t pass up the opportunity to take in all of Hawaii’s splendor: rent a car. Rental cars are easily identifiable on the islands and are often targeted by thieves. Never leave anything of value inside the car or in the trunk.
All beaches in Hawaii are public, including those in gated communities, at resorts and on private property. Although an off-the-beach abode may not afford you constant ocean views, it may encourage you to strike out for more off-the-beaten paths for hiking, birding or maybe an awe-inspiring scenic drive. These residences are generally less expensive, so you can spend more money on exotic cocktails or fine wine while relaxing on a lanai watching an incredibly beautiful sunset.
Beach warning signs are not put in place to spoil your vacation. They are there to protect you from strong currents, sharp coral, stinging jellyfish, sharks or water contaminated with waste. Beach and nearshore signs help you determine if your water skills are adequate for that area. For example, a yellow square posted sign means the area is a good choice for sunbathing, snorkeling, swimming, and surfing. An offshore sign is important for boaters and kayakers. If you don’t feel comfortable at that beach, walk a bit. You can easily find another.
The most common causes of death in ocean waters is drowning and shark attack. When you swim, snorkel, scuba dive or surf alone, there’s no one to help if you run into trouble. You can ensure a safer water experience by buddying up and choosing beaches with lifeguards or enjoy water sports with licensed tour companies.
This stunning national park sports two active volcanos: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The Mauna Loa volcano towers over the rainforest and tropical wildlife at 13,679 feet above sea level. If you want spectacular photo ops, no-fee camping, breathtaking views, hiking, and fresh air, this is the spot. The Hawaiians believe it is bad luck to remove lava rock or sand from the park, and it’s illegal. Instead, help the local economy when you visit locally owned shops for arts and souvenirs.
Remember, all the beaches in Hawaii are for free to the public, and that includes the animals who come onto the sand to refresh and relax in the sun. You can often spot Hawaiian monk seals taking up space in the sand. These seals have a nasty disposition, so keep your distance. Another frequent beach visitor is the docile green sea turtle. Both species are protected and endangered, so give them plenty of space for your safety and theirs.
Does this sound silly? You’re on the beach after all. However, the unspoken law of ‘bare footedness’ pertains here, a cultural norm that goes back to colonial plantation days. Unless you are specifically told to leave your shoes on when entering a home, always remove them. Rentals may have signs asking you to respect this custom. Locals have mild anxiety about this, so please try to honor this tradition.
Why fly thousands of miles to a tropical paradise only to choose a chain restaurant that’s common on the mainland. Hawaii abounds with Mom and Pop restaurants that serve delightfully tasty local comfort food. Try a homecooked meal of seared ahi tuna, a savory saimin noodle soup, a kimchee poke bowl or passion fruit pie at a local spot. Two Hawaiian chains you do not find on the mainland are Zippy’s and Kono’s.