Hawaii is one of the world’s most popular and awe-inspiring vacation destinations. Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world visit the Hawaiian Islands to immerse themselves in the aloha spirit of the unique Hawaiian culture, explore Hawaii’s incredibly diverse and breathtakingly beautiful landscape, participate in the thrilling outdoor activities, and bask in the spectacular views of the sunrise, sunset, and nighttime.
If you’ve been dreaming of exploring Hawaii’s lush tropical rain forests, volcanic deserts, soaring mountain peaks, dramatic waterfalls and the crystalline blue waters of the mighty Pacific Ocean, this guide will tell you everything you need to know to plan the trip of a lifetime. This essential, all-inclusive guide covers all the aspects of planning and visiting the state of Hawaii so it can be used by anyone – from travelers visiting the islands for their honeymoon, parents traveling with their children as a family, individuals looking for a lively adventure, and couples who wish to immerse themselves in island culture.
In the first part of the guide, you will get to know Hawaii through some factual information about the islands, including their locations, size, population, geographic features, culture, and history. This general information is helpful no matter what you plan to do in Hawaii as it can help you plan your travel and prepare you for the tropical weather.
In the second part of this guide, you will learn about what each of the islands has to offer so you can create a bucket list of your travel goals. To ensure that you get to do everything you desire, you will learn about travel between and around the islands, as well as how to choose the ideal time for your trip. Knowing what to pack will enhance your comfort, so you will receive some helpful tips on packing for yourself and your children if you are traveling as a family. With these tips up your sleeve, you’ll be ready for a successful and memorable trip to the Hawaiian Islands.
In the third section of the guide, you will learn what to do once you’re in Hawaii and how you can immerse yourself fully in the Hawaiian culture. This section explores in details the glorious natural wonders, tourist attractions, activities and adventures of each island. It also explores the Hawaiian cuisine and suggests some of the best new foods to try. The final section also contains a chapter dedicated to information on how to stay safe during your visit, including tips for water, land and general safety.
Getting to Know Hawaii
Hawaii is one of the most remote and isolated places on the planet, yet it makes the wish list of many who want to take the vacation of a lifetime. A series of volcanic islands that have turned into a tropical paradise, Hawaii is bedecked with warm, crystal clear waters, sparkling beaches and unforgettable sunrises and sunsets.
Hawaii consists of eight major islands and 124 smaller islets that are spread across a vast area of 6,459 square miles. All of the islands were created through volcanic activity in a hot spot in the Pacific plate's crust. This process started more than 70 million years ago, while dinosaurs still roamed the planet, and over the course of millions of years it built a large undersea mountain range, the tops of which are now the familiar Hawaiian Islands. In about 50,000 years, another seamount, Loihi, is expected to rise above the Pacific waters to become the ninth major Hawaiian Island.
Out of eight major islands, six are open to visitors: Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and Hawaii. These islands are where most facilities such as hotels, restaurants, stores and public services are located. Each one of them has its own distinct personality and its own types of activities, sights to see, and adventures to try.
Altogether, Hawaiian Islands are home to 1.43 million people that come from various ethnic backgrounds: Asian, Caucasian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, Alaska Natives, African Americans, Hispanics, and more. They share two common languages – English and Hawaiian.
Hawaii's natural world is an incredible display of diversity, beauty, and so many interesting contradictions. There is everything one can imagine, from lush rain forests and cascading waterfalls to blue lagoons fringed with stately palm trees, colorful beaches, active volcanoes, rivers, canyons, deserts and estuaries.
While exploring the Hawaiian Islands, you can witness some of the amazing beauty that nature has to offer, including flowering plants like bell ginger and royal purple bamboo orchids tucked away under the lush canopies of the forested areas. While touring the mountain peaks, you can see deeply colored black maidenhair ferns, delicate beach poppies bursting with bright red, deep pink, and yellow colors, as well as the unique cabbage-on-a-baseball-bat, which looks other-worldly. As your eyes take in the colors, your nose can smell the enchanting fragrance of the Hawaiian gardenia and Oahu white hibiscus.
All these brightly colored flowers attract incredible butterflies and insects, while the low laying ferns attract non-flying birds who seek cover under the richly colored dense leaves. Travelers the world over come to Hawaii to observe the islands' birds, including the yellow billed cardinal, Apapane (Hawaiian honeycreeper), and the fiery skipper.
More than 90 percent of the fauna in Hawaii are only found on the islands, including the Hawaiian goose nene, Hawaiian owl pueo, and the Indian mongoose. Other animals, including mammals such as pigs, sheep, goats, horses, rats, cats, and dogs have come to the islands through human contact. Interestingly enough, Hawaii has only two native mammals – the monk seal and hoary bat.
Hawaii has a spectacular marine life as well. Many travelers spend their time snorkeling to get a glimpse of the Moorish idols, rays, and unicorn fishes. A visit to the islands is a chance to see all of these animals as well as sharks, migrating whales and dolphins, sea birds, turtles, and more.
A brief history of Hawaii
The earliest known human settlement on Hawaii occurred about 1,500 years ago, when the first Polynesians landed their canoes on the Big Island of Hawaii. Using only celestial navigation, they traveled for about four months all the way from the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific, and crossed more than 3,500 miles before they reached Hawaii. To survive this long journey, they brought with them banana and coconut tree seeds, dogs, hogs, and portable water supplies.
About 500 years after the Polynesians arrived, settlers from Tahiti came to the islands. They brought their religious practices and instituted a strict hierarchy based around the so called kapu system. The kapu system was a social taboo system that defined how people should behave. It guided practically every aspect of Hawaiians' lives, from lifestyle and gender roles, to religion and politics.
By 1778, the famous Captain James Cook landed on Kauai, which initiated the influx of Western civilization to the islands. Cook died only one year later, at the hand of a Hawaiian warrior during a fight in Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii.
The culture of the Hawaiian Islands continued to develop even as property conflicts occurred between various chieftains. In 1791, conflicting chieftains were united by North Kohala, born Kamehameha, who also united all of the Hawaiian Islands into a single royal kingdom some twenty years later. After Kamehameha's death in 1818, kingship was taken over by his son who abolished the ancient kapu system the following year.
Shortly afterwards, Protestant settlers came to the islands, bringing Christianity and standardizing the Hawaiian language system. Then, in 1893, a peaceful but controversial coup was performed by American colonists who controlled most of the Hawaiian economy. The year of the coup marked the end of the Hawaiian Kingdom and Hawaii became a United States territory in 1898.
Throughout the 20th century, large plantations fueled the growth of the Hawaiian economy and brought an influx of immigrants from Japan, China, Portugal and the Philippines. Growth of the Hawaiian economy was abruptly interrupted on December 7, 1941 when Japanese kamikaze fighters launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Oahu, forcing the United States into World War II.
Japan signed its unconditional surrender to the United States on September 2, 1945, on the USS Battleship Missouri that can still be seen in Pearl Harbor today. The Hawaiian Islands successfully recovered from the war and become the 50th state in the U.S in 1959.
Over the past thirty to fifty years, Hawaii has seen significant modernization. The cities and towns on some of the islands now resemble those of the mainland United States. Retail establishments and malls regularly operate around the islands and there are large hotels and resort getaways that used to be hard to reach.
The urban center of Hawaii is Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. It is also the state's capital, the largest city in Hawaii, and home to around 60 percent of Hawaii's residents. Among the islands, the Big Island is establishing itself as a center for education, research and science, especially astronomy, alternative energy, ocean research, meteorology, and marine biology.
Despite urbanization, Hawaii has retained its ancient charm. The revival of traditional values, celebrations, dance, and other cultural expressions, as well as maintenance of the Hawaiian language have made Hawaii a gathering place for 8 million visitors who come to the Islands every year to enjoy the spirit of aloha – loving kindness.
Hawaii in popular culture
Hawaii is a common subject in popular culture so it doesn’t surprise that the Islands show up in so many popular movies, books, and songs. Numerous TV shows and movies, such as Hawaii Five-0, Pearl Harbor (2001) and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) are set and filmed in the Aloha State. The Islands also inspired many popular books in a variety of genres, including Cloud Atlas, The Descendants, and From Here to Eternity.
Famous Hawaiian artists such as Gabby Pahinui played in movies and all around the world, while songs like Little Brown Gal motivated people to get on the dance floor. Today, the traditional Hawaiian hula dance keeps inspiring classes on the subject throughout the United States.
Choosing Your Ideal Hawaiian Island
Like many visitors to Hawaii, you may be wondering which Hawaiian island to visit. Each of the islands is beautiful in its own unique way and offers fantastic opportunities to explore, relax, and just soak in the beauty of the tropical paradise. However, with all the diversity of sights and experiences, choosing the right ones is an important decision.
Because there are so many islands making up Hawaii, and they are located over a vast area, you will need to decide which of the incredible places are best suited to your personality, your personal needs, budget and expectations for fun and comfort. If you are traveling to Hawaii with young children, you will also want to consider the crowds, local services, and places to get out and have fun or go on a group adventure.
In this chapter, you will learn the basic information about climates, plants and animals, amenities, activities, and accommodations on the six Hawaiian Islands that are open for visitors – Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, Kauai, Lanai, and Molokai. This information will help you choose your ideal Hawaii destination and plan a vacation you will look fondly upon for years to come.
The Gathering Place
The third largest of the Hawaiian Islands and home to more than two thirds of Hawaii’s residents, Oahu is a true gathering place. Every year, it is visited by 4.7 million travelers who are drawn in by its vibrant mix of natural wonders and its unique fusion of ancient Hawaiian and modern Eastern and Western cultures.
Oahu is full of beautiful, out of the way places to visit with your partner or family. It is surrounded by the majestic Koolau Mountains on the eastern coast, which gives you the opportunity to see incredible flowering plants, tall palms and lush rain forests. You might also choose to visit one of the delightful beaches, as the island is home to three of the state's most popular and family-friendly beaches.
One of those beaches is the famous Waikiki beach that flanks the eastern part of the state’s capital of Honolulu. Honolulu spreads over 30 miles of coastline on the island's southern edge and offers the feel of old Hawaii with all the 21st century amenities. Its glittering lights, active arts scene, fabulous night life, boutique shopping, and delectable foods make Honolulu a true urban oasis in untouched natural surroundings.
If you love water sports and have always dreamed of trying out your skills on a surf board, be sure to visit the island's north shore where big wave surfing was founded and perfected. During the wintertime, the surf is up, the water is warm and the waves are great. The snorkeling is great in Hanauma Bay. If you'd prefer more rest and relaxation, the beach is calling your name. Join in with visitors from around the world and soak in the sunshine, dip your toes in the surf and run your fingers through the fine sand.
The best time of the year to visit Oahu is from April through October when the weather is mild and dry. The island is budget-friendly and ideal for families traveling with kids. You will find easy hiking trails, affordable rental houses and plenty to do within just a short drive from the center of Honolulu.
TIP: For the best experience, go during the summer months when there are fewer crowds and less city traffic.
The Valley Isle
Maui is Hawaii's second largest and second most visited island. It receives about 2.4 million annual visitors who come to enjoy and marvel at its natural wonders. Maui’s most amazing natural feature is definitely an isthmus that stretches all the way from 10,023 foot Haleakala Crater at the center of the island to the vast canyons of western Maui's mountains. The isthmus is filled with numerous fertile valleys full of glistening waterfalls that have earned Maui its nickname ‘The Valley Isle.
If you love a challenging drive, you must try out the Hana Highway. Its twists and turns are what movies are made of and the scenery is second to none. Visitors looking for a sense of adventure can also experience climbing dormant Haleakala and West Maui volcanoes. On Haleakala, you can watch incredible sunrises that will tickle your senses of beauty and peace. Be sure to bring your binoculars to spot some of the rare flowering plants, birds and butterflies living on the mountain.
Along the southern coastline, you can enjoy the expansive, clean beaches and try your hand at building the world's greatest sandcastle. Experts consider Maui's beaches to be the best in the world, but you will really have to go and experience their rolling waves, glistening sands, and delightful marine life for yourself. You can visit some of the best whale viewing areas in the world at point Lahaina or go snorkeling along the coast. On the north shore, you can practice your skills at wind surfing and kiteboarding.
Maui's small towns cater to those looking for a restful and quiet getaway. It is an ideal destination if you are a first time traveler to Hawaii or if you are bringing young children. There are minimal crowds, easy to explore natural areas, and just enough adventure to keep your teenagers happy. It is also known for its locally grown foods and its fun Asian fusion restaurants, which are perfect if you are traveling with little kids. The island has many lavish resorts, but also peaceful private rentals.
TIP: Maui is one of the warmest and windiest islands of Hawaii, so dress accordingly during your adventurous stay.
The Big Island
Not only is the Big Island the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago, but it is also the largest island in the whole U.S. In a land area of 4,028 square miles, which is more than all of the other Hawaii Islands combined, the Big Island offers incredible natural diversity. It has everything from pristine beaches and lush rainforests to snowcapped mountains and lava deserts.
Around the coast, you can partake in some of the world's best deep sea fishing. If you like active sports, the clear and warm ocean is excellent for snorkeling and diving, as you can see manta rays, dolphins and vibrantly colored tropical fish. If you are into astronomy or just love to observe the nighttime sky, Hawaii has the best site for astronomy on Earth.
The Kailua Kona area is popular for visitors who enjoy shopping and dining out, as the restaurants offer local specialties such as pineapple smoothies and rich, darkly roasted locally grown coffee. If you are seeking a bit of luxury, the Kohala beaches have many marvelous accommodations.
For adventurous guests, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located in the east, near Hilo. The park's volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, will inspire your kids' imaginations and be the topic of adventure stories and legends for their lifetimes. From the verdant green surroundings of the forested areas to the challenging hiking and horseback riding trails, there is something for everyone to do.
TIP: If you are sensitive to the heat or have breathing issues, you may want to stick with the areas in the north and center of the island.
The Garden Island
When people think of Hawaii, Kauai is often what comes to mind. This island is the northernmost and oldest and has rare natural beauty that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. It is called ‘the Garden Island’ because more than 97 percent of its land area is in its natural forested and mountainous state. The unspoiled beauty of panoramic rainbows lingering over graceful waterfalls, untouched sunny beaches, soaring cliffs hovering over dramatic canyons, and misty purple mountains topped with lush forests draws more than 1.3 million visitors to Kauai every year.
If you desire a quiet and secluded getaway with plenty of relaxation and privacy, Kauai is the place for you. Visit some of the laid back small towns as you stay at private bungalows or small hotels that deliver personalized service and food and drinks to your heart's content. Drink in the layered colors of the Waimea Canyon, or explore the delicate and vibrantly colored flowers at the Limahuli Garden.
If you’re traveling with your family or partner, Kauai is a great place to reconnect. You will enjoy the easy going beaches and the slow pace of the island, as well as the natural play areas, child-friendly playgrounds, and shallow waves close to shore.
TIP: If you do not like rain, be sure to stay off of the island's north shore.
Lanai is a small island that is surprisingly quiet and out of the way of any crowds. It is an ideal place for luxury, romance and privacy. You will find much to do, including excellent snorkeling and driving through the Garden of the Gods, which is a beautiful field of boulders that glow in jewel tones of red and purple at sunset.
The dusty back broads of Lanai will take you through a former pineapple plantation and to Lanai City, where most of the island's permanent residents live. You can stay in family owned and operated bed and breakfasts or one of the two luxurious all-inclusive resorts.
TIP: Lanai is out of the way and may not be the best choice for families with young kids or budget travelers.
If you want to immerse yourself in the ancient cultures and traditions of Hawaii, Molokai is a must-see as most of the island's residents are Native Hawaiians. You can explore this mostly undeveloped tropical island's authentic culture by attending a luau and truly relaxing away from the crowds.
This is the ideal destination for people who want to immerse themselves in Hawaiian life, including the local tastes, sounds and activities. From horseback riding on a bumpy trail to fishing along the secluded beaches, you can really rest your soul here.
Adventurers who are ready for an incredible challenge can climb the world's tallest sea cliffs while staying at the affordable local accommodations with traditional Hawaiian foods.
TIP: This is the place to go if you do not want to fall into any tourist traps or deal with lines or traffic.
Picking the Best Time for Your Trip
Timing a trip can be a challenge regardless of the place you’re traveling to. The reason for this is very simple: it’s always difficult to predict the weather with certainty more than a week or two in advance. However, what is possible to do is look to historic weather information and general season and climatic trends of the place you’re planning to visit. That can give you a good idea of what kind of weather to expect during different times of the year.
This chapter offers information about the best time of the year to go to Hawaii based on usual weather and climate patterns, as well as the high and low tourist seasons. Keep in mind that weather conditions can be unpredictable so it is nevertheless advisable to consider up-to-date forecasts before and during the trip.
Hawaii climate at a glance
Hawaii's weather patterns are much different than those of the mainland United States. Because the state is located 2,500 miles from the nearest large land mass, winds and rains behave differently. The Pacific Ocean exerts a considerable influence on the weather, delivering year-round mild temperatures that are generally consistent from season to season. Light to moderate northeasterly winds tickle the islands most of the time, making strong storms a rare occurrence.
One of the interesting characteristics of the Hawaiian climate is that there are areas like small pockets on each island where the winds, elevation and geography make dramatically different weather conditions than in places that are just a few miles away. This is why your exact destination will determine the type of weather that you should plan for while visiting the Hawaiian Islands.
For example, Mount Waialeale on Kauai is the wettest spot on the planet while Waimea Canyon, less than 10 miles away, is nearly a desert. On the island of Hawaii, Hilo receives an astonishing 180 inches of rain annually, while Puako, just 60 miles away, receives less than 6 inches.
Seasons and rainfall
Because of Hawaii's latitude near the equator, it really only has two seasons. The warm and dry season, which corresponds to summer in the mainland United States, takes place from about April to October. The locals call this season Kau. If you like warm, dry and sunny weather, you should visit Hawaii during this time.
The rainy and cool season runs from November through March. The locals call this season Ho’oilo, and it is similar to a Florida winter. During Ho’oilo, the north and east sides of each island have more rain showers, while the southwestern portions of the island remain drier and warmer.
Hawaii's diverse topography also plays a big role in the weather conditions. Larger weather patterns such as El Niño and La Niña also influence the Islands' weather, delivering cooler and wetter conditions during an El Niño year and warmer, drier conditions during La Niña.
Hawaiian winds are more complex than the simple breezes that develop on the mainland. The trade winds blow most of the time in a northeasterly to east northeasterly direction and, thanks to them, Hawaii enjoys natural weather moderation and humidity control. The winds essentially act like an air conditioner by refreshing and dehumidifying the air. The greatest impact of these trade winds occurs on the north and eastern coastlines of the Hawaiian Islands, leaving the rest of the area warmer.
The winds are at their peak during the summertime, while only affecting wintertime weather about 40 to 60 percent of the time. In the absence of any trade winds, there may be no wind at all or a southerly breeze known as Kona winds. In the summertime, Kona winds create hot and humid weather, while during the winter months they deliver occasional storms and cloudier conditions.
Overall, Hawaii boasts mild and comfortable temperatures all year long. The coolest weather is in February and March, though by no means will visitors need woolen socks and caps. The warmest months of the year are August and September, but the differences between these times is only about 8 degrees Fahrenheit.
At the southern beaches, daytime summer highs average 85 degrees Fahrenheit, while wintertime highs are 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Nighttime low temperatures are just 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the daytime highs. Each island's high temperatures differ slightly from the next, with the northern islands being cooler on average than the southern islands.
Elevation also exerts considerable effects on the temperatures. For each 1,000 feet you climb in elevation, the temperature decreases by 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If you plan on a hike to the peak of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii, the temperature could drop by 35 degrees from the base to the peak of the mountain.
If water sports are a big part of your vacation plans, you are in luck, as the ocean temperatures remain remarkably constant throughout the year, averaging a pleasant 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 74 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.
Hawaii has a high travel season, which is typically from the middle of December through the middle of April each year. This is also the whale migration period, which is a popular sightseeing event for tourists.
The peak tourist season is during the last two weeks of December, when people visit the islands for a holiday getaway. You can expect big crowds in Honolulu's public beaches and prepare to pay higher rates for hotel rooms, rental cars, airfare, and equipment rental. Many resorts fill to capacity, so you will need to reserve your accommodations early.
Another high season takes place from June through early August, when families travel because their kids are on summer vacation. There are actually two other, shorter high travel seasons, which include the week around American Thanksgiving and the last week of April through the beginning of May. This period is the Golden Week and includes three popular Japanese holidays.
The slower travel season is mid-April through mid-June and September through mid-December. September, October and November are widely considered to be the best time of the year to visit Hawaii because the weather is generally fantastic, airfare and accommodation rates are low, and the beaches and other attractions are less crowded.
Getting to and Around Hawaii
In this chapter, you will learn everything that you need to know in order to get to your Hawaiian vacation and make the most of your travel time. This includes all the details about available transportation and accommodation options, entry requirements, travel visas for international guests, and the best ways to get around each island or travel from one island to another.
Getting to Hawaii
Due to Hawaii's remote location in the Pacific Ocean, there are only two ways to get there: via plane or boat. Most people prefer flying as it is faster and you can time your flight so that most of your travel time is overnight.
Most travelers in the United States can take a plane from the nearest airport to their home and arrive in Hawaii on the same day. From the West Coast of the United States, the flight is about 5 to 6 hours, non-stop. If you are flying from New York, Miami or another East Coast city, your flight will take about 12 to 14 hours. The primary airport for passenger airliners is Honolulu International Airport on the island of Oahu. It serves as the main gateway to Hawaii for most of the state's visitors. A few airlines offer direct flights to Kona International Airport on the Big Island, but if you have plans to visit Molokai or Lanai, which have no direct flights, your best bet is to fly into Honolulu and then use a ferry service to get to your desired destination.
Once you do land at the airport of your choice, you will likely experience some jet lag. Depending on the timing of your visit, you will gain anywhere from 2 to 6 hours of time compared to the time when you left the U.S. mainland. To mitigate the effects of jet lag on your body, plan to spend your first day on the island resting and relaxing. Try to eat and sleep at the local time, as this will help to get your body on the Hawaiian schedule.
As a citizen of the United States, you do not need a passport to enter Hawaii. However, you will need to bring along your driver's license or state identification in order to board your plane. Citizens of every other country, including Canada, will need to have a valid passport to enter Hawaii.
If you are a citizen of a country that belongs to the U.S. Department of State's Visa Waiver Program, you may be able to come to any of the Hawaiian Islands without a visa and stay for up to 90 days. In order to do this, you will need to meet the program's eligibility criteria and have a return ticket back to your home country or an onward ticket to your next travel destination. To participate in the program, you will also need to register online at the Department of State's website at least three days before your visit to Hawaii. All other visitors to Hawaii will need to obtain a tourist visa from a U.S. consulate office.
Note that if you enter by way of port while on a cruise ship, the rules for your entry may be different than if you enter through an airport. You will need a U.S. passport to disembark from the ship and enter Hawaii.
Getting around Hawaii
Traveling within the Hawaiian Islands is easy to do and generally affordable. Each island's transportation modes are different, but you can get around to most tourist attractions, shopping centers and cities by way of shuttle bus, taxi, mass transit bus, rental car or ferry.
Oahu has the greatest amount of transportation options because it is the most populous island. Significantly smaller, Molokai and Lanai have the fewest options so you will need to make your plans in advance to ensure that you have a method of local transport. Overall, cars and buses are the most widely used forms of transportation once you are on one of the Islands.
Getting around by car
Hawaiian Islands generally have low car rental fees, even though fuel prices are much higher than on the U.S. mainland. The lone exception is the island of Lanai, where rates are considerably higher than on the other islands.
Most of the major car rental services are available at Honolulu International Airport and the other major airports throughout the islands. To rent a car, you need to be at least 25 years old, have a valid, unexpired, and non-suspended driver's license and be a holder of auto insurance. You must also have a credit card to pay for the rental and deposit. If you want to be sure a car will be available, especially if you’re traveling during high tourist season, try to make reservations prior to your arrival. That way, you will enjoy lower rates and you are more likely to get the size and style of vehicle that you prefer.
To avoid incurring a hefty fine and putting yourself and other passengers at risk, be sure to buckle your safety belt and use an infant car seat for children. Note that the state of Hawaii prohibits cellphone usage while driving, and being caught using one may result in you receiving a fine of $92 to $150. Keep your eyes on the road at all times and remember that pedestrians always have the right of way – even if they are not in a designated cross walk.
Getting around by bus
Public transportation by bus is available on Oahu, Hawaii, Maui and Kauai. Mass transit on Oahu is provided through TheBus, which will take you around the entire island for $2.50 per ride. On the Big Island, you can use Hele-On Bus to ride for free from the south at Ocean View all the way north to Kawaihae, but the bus does not serve the airport. On Maui, the public bus system runs from upcountry to Haiku and through the southern, western and central areas of the island. On Kauai, there is limited bus service between Hanalei and Kekaha and the per-ride fare is $2 per person.
Inter - island travel
The fastest and simplest way to get from one Hawaiian island to another is by flying. There are three inter-island airlines, namely Hawaiian Airlines, go!, and Mokulele Airlines. You can also use a cruise ship or ferry between islands, although this means that your ability to explore each of the islands at your leisure will be limited.
In Hawaii, you can take advantage of all sorts of accommodations. You can choose from hotels, luxurious resorts, quaint vacation homes, leisurely bed and breakfasts, rental condominiums, and youth hostels. But before you make arrangements on where to stay, it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each type of accommodation.
There is a wide range of hotels on Hawaii. Most of them offer daily maid service, free parking, on-site laundry facilities, and a pool, but you can expect to have a short walk or drive to the beach. Hotels are generally great for convenience and privacy, just make sure you won’t mind occasional (or continuous) noise from the lobby lounge.
Resorts offer everything that hotels do, plus more. They typically have direct private beach access with cabanas and chairs, as well as pools, spas, fitness centers, and on-site bars and restaurants. Many have their own golf course and programs for children so that adults can have some private time together. Practically everything you could want is right there – at a significantly higher price, though.
Condominiums are like multi-bedroom apartments and are ideal for families. They come with fully equipped kitchens, laundry rooms, and living spaces, and sometimes offer additional optional services like child care. Condominiums provide all the space you need and a great deal of privacy at an affordable price. Still, the lack on-site restaurants and the location of condominiums in densely packed resort areas might be a turnoff for some.
Vacation rental homes are a great choice if you are staying in Hawaii for several weeks or longer, especially if you’re travelling as a family. They offer a lot of space and complete privacy, and are usually equipped with a kitchen for cooking your own meals, a phone, and laundry facilities. Before you book your vacation rental home, take heed of one thing: there’s usually no maid service, which means you’ll be doing your own cleaning.
Bed and breakfast
In Hawaii, bed and breakfast can mean different things. It can be a room with toilet on the owner’s private property or a traditional B&B where couples and individuals get a private room but share the living area and toilet facilities with other guests. Some of the main advantages of staying at a bed and breakfast are definitely their affordability, friendly atmosphere, and built-in tour guide or concierge through the hosts. On the other hand, you will have a general lack of privacy and will need to follow the host's timeline for breakfast and bedtimes.
Packing Your Bag
Nearly every traveler faces a dilemma of figuring out what to pack for a trip to Hawaii. Airline fees and restrictions, activities you will do, climate and weather conditions, and the dress code for locations on your itinerary all play an important role in the decision-making process. Taking all these factors into consideration, this chapter will provide information about the must-have items for traveling to Hawaii, including clothing, footwear, personal care items, and more. It will include guidance on dressing for Hawaii's micro-climates as well as tips on special items you will need if you are traveling with kids.
Since Hawaii's weather is generally the same from season to season, you can rest assured that this packing list will be valid no matter when you plan to visit the islands.
Thanks to Hawaii's year-round mild and pleasant temperatures, you won’t be needing the wool socks and long underwear even during the cold season. Daytime highs are usually in the mid-70s to the mid-80s, which means that most people will feel comfortable wearing casual clothes made of cotton, rayon or linen. These breathable fabrics help to wick away perspiration and are easy to iron and launder.
For men, tee shirts, polo shirts, shorts, and a pair of long trousers is an ideal set of clothes for a Hawaiian trip. Ladies can also bring tee shirts, polo shirts, breezy blouses, tank tops, casual shorts, capri pants, sundresses, and a pair of slacks. Unfortunately, short, flouncy dresses are not a good idea due to the strong breezes blanketing the islands.
Because the Islands have a relaxed vibe, these casual clothes will be fine for most locations in Hawaii. Even at the resorts and luxurious restaurants dress code is ‘resort wear’ so there’s really no need to bring a suit and tie or evening gown unless you are attending a specific event that requires it.
Having a pair of long trousers is helpful for outdoor activities like zip lining, hiking around the volcanoes, and horseback riding. If you climb up the mountain peaks or go out in the evening when the weather is cooler, you will feel more comfortable with your legs covered. You may also wish to bring a cardigan sweater or shawl for watching the stars in the evening hours.
If you plan to visit the islands' rainforests or have mountain hiking on your list of activities, bring along a lightweight rain jacket or plastic poncho to help you stay dry. Haleakala and Mauna Kea often have regular daytime rain showers. At the peaks of these mountains, you will also be exposed to much colder temperatures so wear layered clothing that is wind and water resistant and pack a hat and gloves if you’re particularly sensitive to cold.
Bring the same items for kids as you bring for yourself. For children who are still in diapers, a few extra pairs of pants can be helpful in case of accidents.
Your choice of footwear will be important for your comfort throughout the vacation. Bring a pair of flip flops, which are great for visiting the beach and pool. You can also wear them through airport security lines so that you do not have to remove shoes and socks. Since removal of shoes is traditional in the Native Hawaiian and Asian cultures of the islands, flip flops are also easy to take on and off when visiting a home or entering a bed and breakfast.
Flip flops, sandals, and other comfortable, lightweight shoes will allow your feet to breathe as you explore the islands, but you will also need to bring a pair of close toed shoes. These will be essential if you plan to do some hiking or zip lining, as this type of activity is unsafe with open toed footwear.
TIP: Avoid buying a new pair of shoes right before your trip, as trying to break them in could be painful to your feet, giving you blisters that make it hard for you to walk.
Most people going to Hawaii plan to spend a considerable amount of time on the beaches. Bring along two swimsuits per person so that one is dry and ready to wear while the other is in the laundry or drying. A cover-up or sarong is also essential, as most of the resort areas request that guests be dressed modestly in common areas such as the lobby or bar. If you want to go diving or swimming, a pair of reef shoes will help to prevent cuts to your feet.
You can leave all of the sports equipment and specialty gear at home, as the beachfront stands and tourist shops have ample supplies at affordable prices or for a small rental fee for items like boogie boards and snorkeling gear.
Sunscreen is a must-have, as the sun's rays are intense at Hawaii's near-equatorial location. The peak intensity of the sun is from 11:00 am until 2:00 pm, although the sun is stronger in Hawaii than people in the mainland U.S. are used to. Even on cloudy days, the UV index can be high enough to cause a sunburn on unprotected skin. While shopping for sunscreen, choose a type that is biodegradable and safe for coral reefs. Traditional sunscreens usually include ingredients that are damaging to the precious coral environment.
Consider taking polarized sunglasses to help cut glare from the ocean and a hat to shade your face and scalp from sunburn. A water bottle is also essential as it will help to keep you hydrated while outdoors.
In addition to some warm layering clothes and waterproof garments, you will also benefit from having a backpack to carry your hiking essentials. One of them is certainly mosquito repellent. A hike through the rain forest may turn you into a feast for mosquitoes, so definitely remember to purchase some repellent once you reach your destination. For any mosquito bites that you do get, have an anti-histamine cream or stick. Also, in case the sun sets before you complete your hike, have a flashlight in your backpack to ensure you get back safely.
Personal medicine and first aid kit
If someone in your travel party experiences a small injury, having your own mini first aid kit can avoid an emergency trip to the pharmacy or paying a premium in a hotel gift shop. The Transportation Safety Administration allows travelers to bring a zipper top, quart size bag with small containers of medicines in their original containers. You can include your prescription medication, over-the-counter pain reliever, antacids, allergy medication, vitamins, ginger candy if you get motion sickness, antibiotic cream, and bandages.
Before you leave, double-check that you’ve packed personal essentials you can’t do without, such as glasses, contacts, and prescription medicines. Be sure to have cash and your credit card, as well as all the important documents including driver's license, passport, flight tickets, rental car details, and health and car insurance cards. Don’t forget your chargers, too!
Special regulations to keep in mind
If you are older than the age of 21, you may bring in up to 1 liter of wine or liquor to Hawaii, 200 cigarettes, 100 non-Cuban cigars or 3 pounds of smoking tobacco. You may also bring up to $100 worth of gifts for your friends or hosts.
Hawaii prohibits the import of any foods, including fruit, cooked meat and canned food. Also banned from entry to Hawaii are live plants, including flowers, tropical plants and vegetables, as well as seeds. These regulations related to the import and export of uninspected plants and animals are enforced by the USDA so expect to be screened by agricultural officials.
If you are a citizen of another country, you may carry in or take home up to $10,000 in United States or foreign currency without making a declaration at customs. Sums more than that must be declared to the U.S. Customs service upon entering or leaving Hawaii. You will also need to complete form CM.
Exploring Hawaii’s Natural Wonders and Tourist Attractions
Deciding where to go and what to see can be difficult, so this chapter details some of the most interesting sites and sights on four most visited Hawaiian Islands – Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii. You will learn about natural wonders as well as popular tourist attractions that will leave you with memories that will last for a lifetime.
Your visit to the Garden Isle should include a stay on the Napali coast, which offers velvet green cliffs and cascading waterfalls that race into deep and narrow valleys. Along the water's edge are vividly colored flowers. At the top of the cliffs, you will enjoy panoramic views of the crystal blue Pacific waters. You can even see some relics of the past Polynesian residents, including their agricultural terraces and sophisticated barrier walls.
At Waimea Canyon, which is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, you can look in awe at the lava beds, which plummet more than 3,600 feet. The canyon stretches on for 14 miles and boasts over 40 miles of trails with incredible lookout points for your viewing pleasures. The nearby road will take you into Kokee State Park. This park offers dense forests with additional places to explore and learn about the islands. Kokee Natural History Museum is a must-see, as there are inspiring exhibits of plants unique to Kauai.
In the small, relaxed town of Hanalei, you can visit some of the oldest settlements on the island, pick up a few fun souvenirs at the shops and enjoy some fresh fruit and cool drinks at the local restaurants. There are art galleries where you can spend a quiet afternoon. At Waioli Mission House and Church, you could attend a Sunday service and listen to some new hymns sung in Native Hawaiian.
If waterfalls are on your wish list of things to see, then be sure to spend a day at Hanalei Bay. From the golden sand to the volcanic ridges interspersed with waterfalls, your eyes will delight in the beauty. The coastal waters boast colorful coral reefs and glistening aquamarine water that is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. See if you can spot the sunken ship and discover a new treasure!
Just a short drive away, you can visit one of the best beaches in the United States: Poipu Beach. The tombolo sandbar and a lava rock peninsula create a shallow, sandy pool ideal for kids to splash in while the adults relax nearby. Try out your skills at fishing, surfing or swimming or pull out your binoculars to spot pods of humpback whales or playful Hawaiian monk seals.
Kauai is also home to many of Hawaii's splendorous waterfalls. The silvery rushing water of Wailua Falls is one of Kauai's most popular destination, while the rushing water of the 40 foot Opaekaa Waterfall creates breathtaking pools of fresh water ideal for swimming.
Oahu's best destinations live up to the island's name as The Gathering Place. Waikiki is a lively city that used to be the place where Hawaiian royalty came to relax. There are world-class hotels, vibrant night clubs, luxury shopping and fine dining. However, Waikiki is most famous for its Waikiki Beach. Though narrow, its 11.5 miles of soft sand with sunken planes, ships and reefs make it an incredible place to go diving and swimming. See if you can spot a few Moorish idols or sunfishes as you explore the coastal waters.
At Pearl Harbor, you can see the large oysters for which the area is named. The harbor continues to be the home of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet and the National Historic Landmark and memorial serve as an important remembrance of December 7, 1941.
If you enjoy nature, a visit to the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is much deserved. It is the island's most popular place to go snorkeling because it has a volcanic crater that breached the water, creating a warm and calm place to swim and snorkel. The fragile marine life includes more than 50 species of rare and beautiful creatures, including the humuhumunukunukuapuaa, which is Hawaii’s state fish.
At the northern shore, there are 7 miles of pristine beaches that have perfect conditions for surfing. In the summer, conditions are ideal for beginners, while in the winter, professional surfing competitions take place on the 30 foot waves that roll into the shore. Nearby Haleiwa Town offers a historic plantation where you can enjoy a gourmet meal. Be sure to explore the quaint galleries and eclectic shops during your visit.
If you are up for an adventure, the jagged cliffs of Nuuanu Pali Lookout offer you a 1,000-foot view of the island's coast, making you feel sky high. Thanks to the typically beautiful weather, you can see the neighboring Kaneohe and Kailua, Mokolii, and Coconut Islands from the stone terraces. As the mighty winds blow across the cliffs, you will feel like you are the king or queen of the world.
Maui, also called the Valley Isle, is home to the ancestral village of Lahaina Town, which once functioned as the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. It then became a famous whaling village and today belongs on the National Register of Historic Places. Lahaina Town has abundant charm and rich history. Its charisma and culture reflect the people who live there. You can explore more than 40 art galleries with exquisite pieces made by the locals and natives of the Hawaiian Islands.
You will find works made of ceramic, scrimshaw and woodwork. This community is also a great starting point for whale watching from December through May each year. Any time of the year is excellent for snorkeling, sailing and taking sightseeing cruises to spot the pods of dolphins.
Strap on your hiking boots and set foot on the Lahaina Historic Trail and take a self-guided tour. You can learn about the history of whaling and plantation management as well as the ways that the Hawaiian economy blossomed in the 20th century. At Makena Beach State Park, referred to by the locals as the "Big Beach", you can enjoy the sparkling blueish green waters as the golden sand beacons you to build a castle or two. There are places for playing tennis and great restaurants to satisfy your hunger after a full day of swimming.
You can also take in the spectacular view of Molokini, which is a volcano with a half sunken crater. Walk off your dinner with a challenging hike on the rock-paved and deep green foliage lined trails.
In nearby Iao Valley State Park, you can explore more than 4,000 beauty filled acres of this 10-mile-long park. It is the home of the Iao Needle, which is Maui's most recognized natural landmark. At 1,200 feet high, its vibrant green color and bountiful foliage are backed by clear pools and majestic mountain peaks. Through the clearings, you can see the richly colored floral gardens and enjoy a snack in the well-appointed picnicking areas. This park is of cultural and historical importance also, as it is the site of the 1790 Battle of Kepaniwani. In this battle, reigning King Kamehameha defeated the army of Maui in its attempts to bring the Hawaiian Islands together under a sole leader.
You may also want to add Haleakala National Park to your list of places to visit in Maui. While on the park's trails, you can see endangered and rare plants and animals, including flightless birds like the Hawaiian goose. The park has the highest peak at 10,023 above sea level and is the home of the world's largest dormant volcano. You can see its glorious, sometimes snow-capped peak from everywhere on Maui and from some of the other islands on clear and dry days.
The mountain's name of Haleakala means House of the Sun and it is the best place on the island to see the sun rise. This moniker is derived from Hawaiian folklore about a minor god called Maui who lassoed the sun as he stood on the mountain's peak.
When you are ready to head back to civilization, take the Hana Highway. This scenic roadway takes you to the peaceful little Hana Town on the rugged eastern coast of Maui. The highway is known for its challenging drive, which includes an astonishing 600 hairpin turns to keep you awake. Be sure to take your turn on the 59 narrow bridges that span across the little streams, rivers and canyons of the island. Your awe-inspiring scenery will include lush rain forests, deep natural pools at the bottom of towering waterfalls, and dramatic views of the stunning Pacific Ocean.
Get a feel for the earthiness of Hawaii at the Kailua-Kona Village. This is a historic and exciting town centered on the Kona Coast. While it used to be a relaxing retreat for royalty, today it offers a diverse array of water, land and air sports to challenge and stimulate you. Along Alii Drive, you can stop for a bit of shopping and linger on for the live music and dancing after dark. Try visiting Ahena Heiau as well, a reconstructed temple and the resting place of King Kamehameha I that was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
In the Waipio Valley, you can set your eyes upon lush cliffs that soar more than 2,000 feet into the air, broken up only by glistening waterfalls that cast rainbows on the pooled water below. You can ride on horseback along the trails and get to know each of the area's 100 residents.
In addition to having the largest dormant volcano on the planet, Hawaii is also home to one of the most active. In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you can see both Kilauea and Maunaloa. Lace up your hiking shoes and set foot to the 150 miles of trails through craters, deserts and tropical rain forests. Immerse yourself in the natural history of Hawaii at the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum of volcanoes after visiting the Nahuku or Thurston lava tubes. If you stay after dark, the Halemaumau crater casts a marvelous glow.
At Ka Lae, climb to the top of stark cliffs which overlook the never ending waves of the Pacific. This area offers ancient temple ruins, carved lava rock loops, and statues for good luck with fishing.
Finally, visit Hilo, Hawaii's most metropolitan village. The area surrounding it has the Rainbow Falls, incredible orchid fields and rain forests awaiting your exploration. Stop in to the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and see rare Bengal tigers and exotic flowers known only on Hawaii.
Enjoying Hawaii’s Activities and Adventures
In this chapter, you will learn about some of the best activities and adventures that Hawaii has to offer. Whether you are a beach lover and enjoy building sand castles and combing for seashells or you are looking for the adventure of your lifetime, you will find it on the Hawaiian Islands.
ou do not have to be an expert swimmer or diver to enjoy the spectacular coastline adventure of snorkeling in Hawaii. Beginners and experts alike can glide through the unblemished coral reefs, view the sea turtles hiding among the rock formations and follow along the vibrantly colored fish as they zigzag through the pristine waters. As you swim through the crystal blue Pacific Ocean, see if you can spot the Hawaiian state fish, which is the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa.
If you are a bit more adventurous, scuba diving around the continental shelf of Hawaii's lively marine environment may be the activity for you. You can delve into the sea's deepest secrets, spotting colorful corals and getting up close and personal with Moorish idols and more. You might find yourself diving alongside of a dolphin or going at a more leisurely place next to a honu sea turtle.
As one of Hawaii's most popular water sports, kayaking allows you to explore the quiet secluded bays, pristine sand bars and glistening beaches. You can paddle through the spectacular coastal marshes and forests as well as the underwater lava tubes. See what creatures might be awaiting you around the next bend of the sea caves.
As you paddle along the shore, try to spot some of the majestic tropical birds, spinner dolphins, and sea birds. If you are visiting between December and April, you may be able to catch a glimpse of humpback whales as they breach. And if your itinerary includes Kauai, you can also do some river kayaking with rain forests within touching distance from the sides of your vessel.
Even if you have never surfed before, this is the ultimate activity to do in Hawaii. The islands have just the right winds, tides and geography for any level of surfer. You can take a quick lesson on technique, positioning and safety and then get right on your board and revel in the view and thrill of the ride. If you want to become a better surfer, there are well-seasoned professionals who will work with you to make your wave riding dreams come true.
Cruising is a wonderful couples’ activity and is also great for families. Relish in the view of the seaside cliffs and spot pods of dolphins as they playfully swim alongside of the boat. If you would like something a little more romantic, a sunset cruise allows you to see the rich jewel tones of the evening sky as you enjoy a glass of wine and candlelit dinner for two. Shortly after the sun sets, you can count the stars, relax on the comfortable deck and enjoy the salty ocean breeze tickling your skin.
Whether you are a nature lover at heart or you are simply interested in the fauna of the Hawaiian Islands, whale watching is one of the most memorable activities you can engage in during your stay. Humpback whales are an endangered species and travel through the region from December through April each year. They have their babies in the warm Hawaiian waters, so you can spot their whole family groups frolicking together at sea. Try out a tour on a glass-bottomed boat for an awesome experience.
The landscapes of Hawaii are like nowhere else on Earth. There are amazing lookout points where you can view the land and sea for dozens of miles. Try out challenging forest paths through lush foliage where ground dwelling birds and beautiful butterflies abound. Coastal trails offer a challenge that is welcome for seasoned hikers. Explore everything from volcanic craters and deep valleys to rain forests and waterfalls. There are easy hikes for the whole family and challenging tours where you can see incredible exotic flowers and rare animals. Honeymooners and couples celebrating a special anniversary could partake in a hike that ends at lookout where the breathtaking sunsets are leisurely enjoyed.
If you want to see more of the islands, a bike tour is a great start. You still get to see all the natural wonders but at a faster pace. The rugged terrain will give you a great workout. You can then head into a town at a more leisurely pace and take a break at a family owned shop for a cool and refreshing drink to revitalize your body.
Get up close and personal with nature by camping in Hawaii. Fall asleep to the sound of the waves crashing to shore and wake up to the joyful singing of the birds calling to one another. At night, you will have an uninterrupted view of the Milky Way. Rent some camping gear and add a bit of spark and excitement to your vacation.
Zip lining is one of Hawaii's most popular activities. You can go it alone as a thrill seeker or watch the faces of your travel companions as they delight in the experience. You will soar above the Hawaiian rain forests, glide over waterfalls, and breathe in the warm island air. There are zip tours for beginners that include platforms, while experts can make their hearts pitter-patter with faster and longer lines.
Parasailing allows you to soar above the Pacific blue water. As a high speed boat tows you, you'll be treated to a bird's eye view of turtles, underwater reefs and schools of fish. The wind rushing around you will be the only sound you hear.
A thrilling helicopter tour allows you to see almost all of Hawaii's spectacular geography and learn about its history. By helicopter, you can get a glimpse into places that are otherwise inaccessible, such as the live lava flows.
Eating in Hawaii
As you’re preparing your Hawaiian dream vacation, your mind is probably buzzing with questions. ‘What to eat in Hawaii?’ is very likely one of them. Well, this chapter has the answer to your question. It will present to you Hawaiian cuisine in all its richness and show you all the incredible dining options that Hawaii offers. From local foods to Hawaiian Regional Cuisine, you will learn how to choose the best dishes from each restaurant's menu and how to appreciate Hawaiian culinary tradition, its rich history, and diverse ethnical influences.
Local Hawaiian Cuisine
Hawaii's local cuisine is a delightful experience of flavors that reflects Hawaii’s history, the diversity of its peoples, and the incredible richness of the Islands’ natural resources. It was and continues to be influenced by many cultures around the world, especially by the nations of the Pacific Rim who were some of Hawaii’s earliest settlers. At the same time, it is deeply rooted in the Islands’ natural bounty of tropical fruits, fresh seafood, and hearty grains that are often picked, transported, delivered, and cooked within 24 hours.
The origins of Hawaii’s local cuisine are associated with the Islands’ earliest settlers – the Polynesians. When they embarked on a journey that would eventually land them on the Hawaiian Islands, the Polynesians brought with them a few basic staples that included niu (coconut), taro, chickens and pigs. These foods formed the base of Hawaiian cuisine. Many centuries later, in the 1800s, Chinese, Portuguese, and Japanese plantation workers brought distinct flavors from their own backgrounds. All of these influences would meld together into what is known today as local cuisine.
You will notice that most Hawaiian local foods share four major characteristics:
- Sticky, medium-grain white rice, prepared without butter or salt;
- Plentiful soy sauce, which is often mixed with strong spices such as dried or freshly grated ginger, garlic, and green onions;
- Grilled or braised meat, chicken, and fish;
- Freshly caught seafood, especially ahi (yellowfin tuna), which is locally harvested from the Pacific coastal waters.
These foods are inexpensive and filling and create the mainstay of what is eaten by the natives on a daily basis. They’re often considered to be comfort foods because they satisfy the body's cravings for sweetness, saltiness, meatiness, and flavor. Some of the best options can be found at small, out of the way shops, locally owned and family operated diners, public fish markets, and sidewalk food carts and trucks in the larger cities of Honolulu and Hilo. Even the shopping center food stalls offer a broad array of these hearty meals, served in disposable plates to be eaten with chopsticks.
Local dishes you must try
When visiting a new place or an old favorite, indulging in the local foods is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture and location. Even if you are not a foodie and are generally cautious, trying some of these great options may help to expand your culinary horizons. So, while in Hawaii, be sure to try some of these unique specialties:
1. Spam musubi : This is the gold standard of Hawaiian snacks. It is a combination of rice, fried canned ham, and dried seaweed.
2. Manapua : This is a basic of what the locals eat. It is similar to dim sum and consists of fluffy steamed buns that are filled with sweet roasted pork, chicken or beans, as well as chopped onions, peppers, and sometimes cabbage.
3. Loco moco : This filling dish is made of rice, a hamburger without the bun, and is topped with a fried egg. Brown gravy is ladled all over the top and a sprinkle of shoyu (soya sauce) decorates the edges. You can request a healthier option by replacing the beef patty with fish, a veggie burger or brown rice.
4. Shave ice : Cool off on a warm day with this local favorite which combines finely shaven ice with flavorful syrups such as passion fruit, salted plums, and coconut. You can eat it with ice cream, condensed milk, frozen and blended azuki beans or mochi balls.
5. Plate lunch : This is Hawaiian fast food and consists of sticky white rice, pasta salad, and a meat of your choice, such as grilled mahi mahi (common dolphinfish) or fried chicken.
6. Malasadas : This delightful pastry from the Portuguese culture is a deep fried doughnut coated with white sugar and sprinkled with cinnamon.
7. Poke : This is a rich dish made of chopped raw fish, seaweed, and is served on a bed of rice. Ahi (yellowfin tuna) is the most commonly used fish in this dish. A dressing of sesame oil, onion, salt and roasted kukui (candlenut) is drizzled over the top.
8. Saimin : This filling meal is a soup made of egg noodles and chicken or fish broth. It is topped or served with green onion, dried seaweed, steamed fish cakes, barbecued pork, and a vegetable egg roll. This is the ultimate multicultural Hawaiian dish.
9. Luau : Named after the party, this dish is a combination of vegetables and a meat such as pork or chicken or salted butterfish. These are wrapped up in taro leaves and then a layer of ti leaves and slowly steamed to create a savory flavor.
10. Kalua : This is a traditional Hawaiian celebration food. It is a pig roasted whole underground in a sealed pit of hot stones buried in the ground. Its smoky flavor is rich and salty.
11. Poi : This is often considered Hawaii's most famous food. It is steamed and mashed taro. This food is often served with richer foods because it is nutritious and low-calorie. It is also a common first food for babies.
12. Lomi salmon : This is like a salmon meatball consisting of salted salmon, tomatoes, green onions, and pepper.
Casual and fine dining: Hawaii Regional Cuisine
Just two decades ago, Hawaiian fine dining was only copycat dishes from the mainland. The food was delicious, but it was unable to bring out the best of unique local ingredients. Luckily, things changed for good in 1991. It was this year that twelve of Hawaii’s most famous chefs, including Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong and Peter Merriman, joined forces and partnered with local farmers to create a new fusion cuisine. Dubbed Hawaii Regional Cuisine, this cuisine blended Hawaii's ethnic flavors and fresh, seasonal, handpicked ingredients with world cuisine.
Today, Hawaii Regional Cuisine can be experienced in a number of mainstream restaurants throughout the Islands. Some of the most popular dishes include seared fish with Ka'u spicy orange sauce, lilikoi (passion fruit) shrimp, sweet potatoes, crab and taro cakes, Kahua lamb, and breadfruit vichyssoise.
Besides Hawaii Regional Cuisine, Hawaii has a number of other great gourmet restaurants: contemporary American, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Asian, seafood, tapas, sushi, BBQ, gluten-free and more. The prices and the quality of food can vary significantly so it’s always good to first check the restaurant online, both through their official website and online reviews. Hawaii travel guidebooks can also come in handy as a good source of information, even though online reviews tend to be more unbiased.
Vegetarians and vegans
If you don’t eat meat or animal products, the good news is that your options are expanding in Hawaii. From ice cream to gourmet vegetarian and vegan restaurants, you can pick what best suits your mood. You can also purchase foods at the local shops and farmer's markets. Farmers offer familiar foods as well as exotic tropical options like mangosteen, guavas, tangerines, and fresh pineapple.
Most regular restaurants can also make a meal meatless, while ethnic eateries like Thai and Korean restaurants usually have extensive meatless options on their menu. However, bear in mind that these dishes might be prepared with commonly used fish sauce and flakes, shrimp paste, and chicken stock. They’re also likely to be cooked next to and with the same utensils as meat, eggs, and dairy, which means they may contain a small amount of these ingredients. Make sure to check these things with the waiter before ordering your meal!
Hawaiian dining habits and customs to remember
If you are staying at a bed and breakfast or visiting a friend's home, remember that meals in Hawaii are eaten slowly and oftentimes outdoors. They’re very informal, served family style with regular cutlery and chopsticks available. But even though Hawaii has a relaxed pace, meals are usually served on a specific schedule, with breakfast at 6:00 am sharp, lunch at noon, and dinnertime at 6:00 pm. Of course, these times are much more flexible if you’re eating outside.
If you get invited to someone's home for a meal, arrive early and bring dessert. Be sure to remove your shoes before entering the house and to always accept leftovers before you go. Finally, no matter where you dine, from someone's house to the fanciest restaurant in downtown Honolulu, you can relax and be comfortable in your casual clothing. You will not need a suit or tie.
Immersing Yourself into Hawaiian Culture
The beauty of the Hawaiian culture is one of the state's most prized resources. From the fantastic legends around the volcanoes to the customs and music, the culture is much different from what is found on the mainland. This is because of Hawaii's remote location, which allowed few outside influences to disturb the ancient traditions. The earliest Polynesian settlers arrived around 300 AD, followed by groups of people from other locations around the world. Each of these diverse groups brought their own practices, spirituality, and lifestyles that make up the Hawaiian culture today.
In this chapter, you will learn everything you need to know about this incredible culture. This includes everyday customs, Islands’ traditions and values, the importance of music and dance to Hawaii’s way of life, and the ancient spiritual beliefs of the natives that have survived until today. The chapter will also include some tips on etiquette as well as useful phrases in the Hawaiian language that will help you enjoy your interactions with the locals.
Aloha: The spirit that permeates the Hawaiian culture
The expression aloha is the most commonly used word in the Hawaiian language. Its full meaning is indescribable to anyone who is not a native Hawaiian, but it encompasses greetings, goodbyes and the expression of love. But aloha is so much more than just a word – it is a complete way of life. As the core value of Hawaii, aloha represents compassion, love, and respect in one’s interactions with the land and with others, be it with family and friends or just casual passers-by in the street.
Aloha is so important and basic to Hawaii that Hawaii's nickname is "The Aloha State." So, as soon as you arrive on Hawaiian soil and you’re greeted with an aloha, take this meaningful expression to heart and cherish it throughout your stay.
Ancient Hawaiian beliefs: the source of love and care for the land
Care and respect for the Earth and other fellow beings has been a longstanding tradition since Hawaii's ancient times. For the earliest settlers, everything had a mana or spiritual essence so they made no difference between gods and nature. Each god had a kinolau, or earthly counterpart such as an animal, tree or type of weather. For goddess Pele, those were volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, and fire. For her sister and rival, Poliahu, it was snowfall, ice, and Mauna Kea.
The idea that gods and nature were the same was put into practice in the way that ancient Hawaiians cared for their surroundings as one would care for a parent. The custom is still followed on the Islands so each person visiting Hawaii is expected to take good care of nature. Take nothing, especially not Pele’s lava rocks, and leave behind only your footprints.
Many other aspects of the ancient Hawaiian religion were forgotten as Christianity took over as the major religion. Today, the ancient beliefs continue to live mostly in widespread superstitions such as that which says that removing lava rocks from the Islands brings bad luck. A glimpse of the ancient religion can be experienced in local ceremonies that are held at religious sites such as the ancient temples of heiau, as well as places that shelter petroglyphs and representations of ancient Hawaiian gods – tikis. These locations hold a deep rooted respect for Hawaiians so visitors should show their respect by remaining on marked paths and leaving a small offering of flowers, fruits or nuts.
Understanding Hawaiian customs: a lei given with love
One of the most appealing ways to express aloha is to give or receive a lei. A lei is a garland of fresh flowers, seashells, feathers, and even nuts and seeds. It is made by hand through sewing, braiding or stringing the items together. In the past, leis were used to heal the sick and pacify the gods, while today they are a sign of welcome, celebration or congratulations. They can also be given for no particular reason other than spreading the spirit of aloha and giving pleasure to the recipient.
After receiving a lei, you should not remove it while you are in the presence of the giver. Wear it proudly, as it represents healing, bonding, and peace. Drape it evenly over your shoulders so that it hangs over your upper chest and back. Keep in mind that wearing a lei intended for someone else, putting a lei on by yourself or throwing a lei in the garbage or are thought to be harbingers of bad luck. When finished with your lei, dispose of it by returning it to the Earth.
Finally, if you purchase a lei to bring home, make sure that it does not contain prohibited items such as seeds that cannot be transported between Hawaii and the mainland United States.
Hawaiian dance and music
One of the cultural hallmarks of Hawaii is definitely hula, the native Hawaiian dance. While most people have seen the "Hollywood hula" in movies, the original dance called kahiko hula is actually much different. It was developed by the Polynesian settlers not for sensory enjoyment but as a way to record history and pass legends on from one generation to the next. Hula dancers learned it both as an art and science, with strict and engaging practices and historical lessons on the techniques.
The dance uses hand movements along with repetitive footwork designed to enthrall the audience. It is accompanied by musical instruments that maintain a rhythm and give flow to the story. In ancient times, those were usually hollowed gourds, sticks, bamboo pipes, and rattles filled with dried beans, nuts or seeds, while modern hula makes use of string instruments including the ukulele, guitars and bass guitar.
The costumes of hula are also an important part of the storytelling. They traditionally included a pau or skirt, ankle bracelets made of small bones, and a lei for both men and women who were topless during the dance. However, modern costumes are more modest and they include a long skirt and a top or a muumuu (loose dress) for women, and pants or a malo (wrapped cloth) for men.
You may wish to visit during one of Hawaii's three annual hula events, which include the Merrie Monarch Festival, Crowning of Miss Aloha Hula, and the King Kamehameha Traditional Hula Event and Chant Competition. And if you want to try hula for yourself, you’ll find that many of the resorts offer free beginner's lessons.
Get to know the music culture of Hawaii
Music is a very important part of the Hawaiian culture and Hawaii's music is definitely unlike any other music style in the world. It first evolved from ancient chants and simple beating of drums and was later influenced by American missionaries who came to the Islands in the 1880s, bringing stringed instruments like guitars and the now symbolic ukulele with them.
Through the years, Hawaiian music has grown to include a wide range of music styles, from the traditional style with Hawaiian lyrics and steel guitars to the hapa haole which uses Hawaiian melodies with English words. With multicultural and ethnic influences from Jamaican to Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese, Hawaiian music is like a melting pot of the world. It uses so many fun techniques that you may never hear the same song twice during your stay.
Some of the best ways to experience Hawaiian music include local performances, island festivals, and local radio stations. For a full out Hawaiian cultural affair, go to a luau where you can watch hula, listen to the music, try the pig roast, and watch the stars as they wink from above.
Useful tips and etiquette
Aloha is a culture of politeness, so it is important to be respectful and practice courtesy everywhere that you go. Avoid references like "Back in the States," because you still are in the United States. Try to learn a few native Hawaiian words and use them properly while conversing with the locals.
Simple actions like shaka as thanks, hello and goodbye will take you far with the locals. To do this, make a fist, stick out your pinky and thumb, point them away from you and draw a letter "J" in the air. This is used in place of a hug or handshake. And if you need an easy conversation starter, talk about Las Vegas!
While driving, take your time and be polite. Avoid the horn except a short toot to greet someone you know. If the view strikes your fancy, pull off to the side so that traffic can move past you. When you get out and explore the natural wonders, avoid removing even the tiniest flower and leave behind just your good wishes.
While out and about, keep your place in line. Dress nicely, leaving the bikini and swim trunks for the beach. Provide all service workers with a generous tip and a word of appreciation.
Glossary of useful Hawaiian words and phrases
- Ae - Yes
- A hui hou - Good night
- Aina - Land
- Aloha - Greeting or farewell
- Aloha aina - Love of the land
- Aloha ahiahi - Good evening
- Aloha auinala - Good afternoon
- Aole - No
- Broke da mouth - ‘Broke the mouth’, absolutely delicious
- Ehia - How much is this?
- E komo mai - Welcome, come in
- Grinds - Food
- Hale - House or building
- Haole - A person who is not a native Hawaiian, especially a white person
- Hapai - Pregnant
- Kama’aina - A person born and raised on the Hawaiian Islands; a long-term resident
- Kane - Men
- Keiki - Child
- Kona - Leeward side, sheltered from the wind
- Lua - Bathroom, toilet
- Mahalo - Thank you
- Makai - Seaward, towards the sea
- Malihini - A newcomer or stranger among the Hawaiian people
- Mauka - Inland, towards the mountains
- Mele - Song
- Olelo Hawaii - The Hawaiian language
- Ono - Delicious
- O (...) kou inoa - My name is (…)
- O wai kou inoa? - What is your name?
- Pau - Finished, usually used with jobs and meals
- Wahine - Women
Staying Safe During Your Trip
In this chapter, you will learn about the potential hazards and dangers that you might encounter during your stay in Hawaii. Don’t worry, Hawaii generally is a safe place to visit, but there are still some common safety hazards you should be aware of. Avoiding them is essential to your enjoyment and the safety of your trip.
Safety tips are organized into sections based on the activities you might be planning to do as well as the places you might be planning to visit during your vacation. They’ll tell you how to stay safe without missing out on the best that Hawaii has to offer.
Ocean and beach safety
If Hawaii is the first time that you have been in an ocean environment, you may not be aware of the potential dangers that the ocean can have hidden underneath of its crystal blue waters. By following a few basic safety precautions and paying close attention to your surroundings, your time in the Pacific Ocean at Hawaii can be safe and enjoyable.
The Hawaiian water conditions can change from calm with little wave movement to waves surpassing 30 feet in height during a strong tropical storm. In most cases, the waves are between these conditions, with usual heights of 3 to 5 feet. Offshore winds and currents can be stronger than expected and can change without any warning, so take care to stay close to shore. Avoid heading out on a kayak, sailboat or surfboard if there are any warning signs or weather alerts in the area. If you are unsure about what a sign means or if the ocean looks more active than you are used to, do not be afraid to ask a lifeguard.
Always keep your eyes on the water, as a strong wave can come up behind you and knock you off of your feet without warning. Sharks are common of the coast of Hawaii and are at their most active during the hours between dusk and dawn. Also, bout 7 to 11 days after a full moon, box jellyfish come to the shores of Oahu, so be on the lookout for these stinging creatures. If snorkeling is on your list of activities, take care to avoid touching the corals. Their exoskeletons are fragile yet sharp enough to cause a deep cut.
You can get real-time updates about ocean and beach conditions on hawaiibeachsafety.com.
Stream, river and pool safety
Just as you need to keep track of oceanic conditions, it is also important to pay attention to inland weather while visiting Hawaii. Watch how quickly water flows in streams, as a rain shower up in a higher elevation could quickly lead to flash flooding in the valleys. Stream and river depth can change quickly during a downpour.
If you are crossing any streams, watch the water level closely. When you need to cross a stream or river at its ocean outlet, travel further inland to make your crossing because rip currents often form at the mouth of the river or stream due to the mixing of fresh and salt water. Consider using a hiking stick to help maintain your balance.
If you choose to swim in an inland stream or river, avoid swallowing any water because it could be contaminated with leptospirosis, bacteria that can cause infections. If you have any cuts or scrapes on your skin, cover them before entering the water.
Before entering any of Hawaii's beautiful state parks, be sure to sign in with the park rangers. Observe all warning signs, as these are in place to alert you to potential hazards. Always check the weather conditions for your itinerary with the National Weather service. Flash flooding is common due to the afternoon rain showers, especially in the forested and mountain areas. Consider your ability to climb steep trails and how changes in oxygen levels and air temperatures might affect your endurance.
Know how strenuous your trail will be so that you can plan ahead for taking breaks. Stay on the paths and watch your footing with each step. Let someone know of your hiking path and about what time you plan to return to camp or the ranger station. Try to plan to return at least 1 hour before sunset. Hawaii's equatorial location means that twilight is minimal and darkness comes quickly. If possible, avoid hiking alone.
Protect yourself by wearing proper footwear, lightweight clothing to protect you from sunburn, a sun hat and sunglasses. Sunscreen and mosquito repellent can help to protect you from skin injuries. Avoid eating any fruits or plants along the trails, as many wild plants are poisonous. Look out for scorpions in the dry areas and large centipedes in the wet areas. Pay attention to any kapu signs, as these indicate "no trespassing."
Vog is a mixture of sulfur dioxide gas, steam, dust, carbon dioxide, and other pollutants. It is released from the molten lava of Kilauea's continuous volcanic eruption as it enters the ocean. Vog is present on the Big Island and as far away as the islands of Maui and Oahu when the winds are weak. There is even a vog season, which takes place during the fall and winter months when the Pacific Ocean's trade winds that blow the gases out to sea are diminished.
Exposure to vog may cause you to cough and experience a burning feeling in your eyes, nose, and throat. People with chronic lung disease, asthma, heart disease, and women who are pregnant should avoid being exposed to vog.
Keeping your valuables safe
In Hawaii's populated areas such as Hilo and Honolulu, you will be pretty safe. Most car break-ins happen in remote areas like the roadside parks and parking lots and these events are typically smash and grabs in which the thief will take any visible valuables like cash and cameras. For this reason, try to park in places where your car is visible. Lock its doors and avoid leaving any valuables or belongings in plain sight. If you choose to store valuables in the car's trunk, put them there before getting to your destination so that nobody there sees you stashing them.
Don’t forget to keep track of your belongings while swimming at the beach, as unattended items are easily snatched. Try to leave any valuables in your hotel's safe.
While near water, keep your eyes on your children at all times, especially if they’re playing at the border of the water and sand. If your child cannot swim, put a life jacket on him or her. Avoid flotation devices and air mattresses, as these could carry your child out to sea. Coat your child's skin with sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30 and put it on every hour.
Consider giving your kids seasickness medication if you plan to take them on a cruise or sailboat. They can also eat bland foods like pretzels and drink plain water to calm their bellies.
Check your kids' shoes for centipedes and scorpions while hiking and camping. If your child gets a sting, apply an ice pack and call for medical assistance.
Hawaii's state laws require that children be seated in a rear-facing child safety seat until the age of 2. Kids aged 4 to 7 must have an approved safety or booster seat, which can be rented from the car rental agency when you get your rental car.
Thank you for reading this ultimate guide on traveling to Hawaii all the way to its conclusion. We hope it has told you everything you ever needed or wanted to know about the spectacular Hawaiian Islands and how to have an incredible vacation in this ultimate tropical paradise.
You have learned about the entry requirements for Hawaii, available travel methods, and different kinds of accommodation on the Islands. The guide also explained the locations and environments on the major islands, as well as the best ways to get around once you arrive. It familiarized you with the culture of the Islands, making it easier to immerse in the spirit of aloha and to build friendships with the locals that you meet during your stay.
We also hope that this guide has helped you to reduce the stress of planning your trip and enjoy the benefits of traveling well-prepared. Not only will you be sure that you’ve chosen the island most suitable to your interest and needs, but you’ll also know that you’re making the best use of your travel time. You will not have to spend hours deciding where to go or what to do if you already have your itinerary planned and you know all of the pertinent facts about the destination.
Preparing ahead of time also makes it easier to manage your travel budget. We all know how easy it can be to lose track of how much you’re spending when you’re having a lot of fun. Deciding what to do in advance helps to ensure that you are staying within your means. And, by reserving your accommodations, rental car, and special activities in advance, not only will you enjoy lower fares, but you’ll also have a much better chance at getting a room at the resort or in the town where you most want to stay.
Advanced preparations also help to minimize the risks associated with travel. You will have plenty of time to get any health checkups that you might need and to give your family and friends at home a copy of your itinerary so that they can keep tabs on you.
With all of this information, you should be able to plan every aspect of your trip and create memories that will last for a lifetime. You may enjoy it so much that you could start planning your next trip to the Aloha State as soon as you get back home!
We hope that you have a safe journey, plenty of good luck and many hours of enjoyment in the Hawaiian Islands. E komo mai o Hawaii! Welcome to Hawaii!