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.
Getting the perfect selfie is great, but when it comes to exploring the spectacular blowholes to Hawaii, it's not worth the risk. Located in Kauai, South Coast, Sprouting Horn has one of the most striking landscapes. Like other blowholes, it is surrounded by protective fences to prevent onlookers from getting close and being either knocked down by the direct force of its 50-foot water or dragged out to sea. Because the consequences can be deadly, enjoy these mesmerizing sights from the lookout.
When it comes to hiking in Hawaii, you may be tempted to break the rules. Walking where you're not supposed to or trying to wander at night are the quickest ways to get into trouble. The best way to avoid calling the rescue helicopter is to start early enough so you'll have plenty of light. Additionally, if a sign says a trail is off-limits, there are plenty of other paths.
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.
The Big Island and Oahu are just two of the six main islands to explore. Kauai's has lush tropical beauty and a peaceful vibe, making it an incredible getaway. Maui has gorgeous waterfalls and plenty of surfing. Lana'i is the smallest island but is known for luxury. Then there's Moloka'i, a quiet, rural island that eschews the commercial trappings and is all about the spirit of aloha. With so much to enjoy, don't limit yourself to one or two islands.
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.
Chain restaurants are familiar and comfortable, but on an exotic vacation, it's time to step out of your comfort zone. Some of the most delicious foods live in those food trucks or hole-in-the-wall restaurants that the locals flock to daily. These are the dishes that will tickle your palate and expand your foodie repertoire.
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.
Expensive resort towns are designed to attract a lot of visitors. But you don't really have the chance for a well-rounded experience by staying there. Give yourself the best opportunity to fully experience Hawaii. Small towns give you the prospect to get to know the locals and have a better understanding of what island life is really like.
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.