Hawaii is such a unique and diverse vacation destination and US travelers are rushing to plan their trips there during this time when domestic travel feels “safer”. After all, Hawaii can actually feel like an exotic, international vacation without ever leaving the good ole USA.
There is so much to do in the Hawaiian Islands – a wide range of activities and experiences – however I always like to share my top things NOT to do when visiting my favorite vacation destination. Here, I will share those with you:
1. DON’T try to visit too many islands in too little time!
Hawaii is not meant to be experienced in a hurry, so why do so many people want to visit all 5 major islands in 10 days? Each time you switch islands, you basically use up a day of your vacation with packing, checking out of your resort, returning your rental car, early arrival at the airport, baggage claim, picking up your new rental car, driving to your new hotel, and settling in. I recommend no more than 2 islands in a week (focusing on only one is even better!), 2 islands in 10 days, or 3 islands in 14 days to be able to enjoy each destination to the fullest.
2. DON’T assume that a Hawaiian vacation is like staying at an all-inclusive resort!
First of all, there is no such thing as an all-inclusive resort in Hawaii. State law prohibits the inclusion of alcohol in a hotel room rate/package. And, it would be pure torture to think that I had to eat all my meals at my resort when there is so much deliciousness waiting outside. The best case scenario is to find a good resort package that includes a wonderful breakfast each day and explore the many culinary options that are open to you. Plus, Hawaii is an easy driving destination and some of the best experiences are found outside of the resorts.
3. DON’T ever turn your back on the ocean!
The Hawaiian locals have the utmost respect for the sea and understand its power. No selfie is worth your life when a rogue wave or unexpected blowhole decide to make themselves known. Enjoy the amazingly beautiful waters of Hawaii in a safe and smart way and ALWAYS observe warning signs, flags, and lifeguard’s advice. And “No Trespassing” means just that. Don’t wander onto private land looking for a nice hike.
4. DON’T pack your stilettos and neckties!
“Formal” attire in the islands means putting on a fresh Aloha shirt and your best flip flops. Men do not wear ties under normal circumstances and women can get by with sundresses and sandals. However, DO remember to bring strong, reef-safe sunscreen and your favorite sunglasses and/or sun hat. The rays can be brutal and you don’t want to ruin your vacation with a killer burn.
5. DON’T forget to leave your road rage and impatience at home!
Life just moves slower in the islands, and you need to adjust your expectations. NEVER honk your horn unless it is an emergency (soooo rude!) and always be generous letting locals pass you or letting people merge or turn into traffic, If it takes a moment for someone to acknowledge you because they are “talking story” with someone else, take a deep breath and smile. Your turn will come! And a meeting time usually means 10-15 minutes later. As a New Yorker this is hard to adjust to but just try it …you might even relax a little!
6. DON’T let a luau be the only cultural education you get!
Before you leave for your vacation, do a little reading on the fascinating Hawaiian history and culture. There is so much more to Hawaii than the beach! Learn some much-used Hawaiian words; Attend cultural workshops and classes that are often offered free at your resorts. And, most of all – be respectful of the Hawaiian ways and customs. Even though it is still the USA, you are a lucky visitor.
7. DON’T eat at a chain restaurant!
Please, do not join the 1 hour wait for that table at the Cheesecake Factory, or stop into Burger King for lunch! You can do that at home. The cuisine in Hawaii is one of the best and most diverse in the world, so take advantage of it! There is an incredible Food Truck culture with gourmet quality food at reasonable prices. Some local diners/shacks offer the freshest seafood or most rib-sticking plate lunches you will experience. Farmers’ Markets and road stands are all over with freshly baked banana bread, local fruits and veggies, and incredible just-squeezed juices. Eat like a Hawaiian during your stay and you will thank me later!