23 Sep 11

Good things to know about Hawai’i

Not Looking Like a Tourist

Some places you can visit and blend right in with the locals. If you are not from Hawai’i, you will never look like a local. Don’t bother trying. Don’t try to speak pidgin. You may say “Aloha” and “Mahalo” without looking like an idiot. If you can pronounce place names correctly, locals will be patiently kind to you. If you brutally butcher Hawaiian words, locals will be patiently kind to you. Just give up and accept that you are a tourist and stand out like a sore thumb to locals.


There is a lot of it. If you are uncomfortable with beverages garnished with fruit and a little paper umbrella, get over yourself. Try a Lava Flow. It’s rad.


All lu’aus are expensive. Most are pretty much the same — awesome food, great entertainment, an open bar serving watered down drinks and a slightly to seriously tacky ambiance. It’s worth doing a lu’au at least once. Some are cheesy, sort of like a Polynesian Riverdance show. Some focus more on an authentic presentation of traditional and modern forms of hula. Always check at a local events booking company and ask the shopkeeper for information about what style each lu’au is. If you want firedancing, accept that you will be attending the cultural equivalent of the Enchanted Tiki Room. If you want authentic dancing, accept that there will be no fire.


Driving is pretty much the same as everywhere else in America, but there are a couple of key differences. There are no freeways in the state of Hawai’i. Nowhere. It’s all roads and highways. Outside of resort areas, Hawai’i is considerably less developed than most people expect, and the highest speed limit sign I’ve ever seen was 45 mph. So if something is ten miles away, it could very well take you two hours to get there. Or 20 minutes. Plan accordingly.

Maui has cops, who drive boring Crown Victorias plainly marked “Maui Police.” They are easy to spot. Hawai’i has cops who drive unmarked gray Mustang GTs. Speed at your own peril because they have nothing better to do all day than stake out open stretches of road and peg haoles. Kaua’i probably has cops, but they will never pull you over because the roads are too cluttered with feral chickens to drive faster than 10 mph. O’ahu has cops, but they are too busy busting meth addicts to pull you over. The other four islands probably have cops, but since the only mode of transportation is mule, you don’t have to worry about speeding tickets.

Bug Spray

Bring it. Use it. Love it.

Casual Everydays

Don’t bother packing anything fancy when you visit Hawai’i. You could literally survive for weeks by throwing your bathing suit in a backpack and boarding the plane in a baseball cap, a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and a pair of flip-flops. Buy sunscreen and bug spray when you get there and voila. Wear your swimsuit everywhere, and you’ll never need clothes again. There is no such thing as a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” rule anyplace in Hawai’i that is worth going.

Google Maps Lies

Signage is very good in Hawai’i. Read road signs and use those to get around. Do not use a map on your smartphone, because it will without doubt not have a clue as to where you are.

Beach Access is a Civil Right

Every beach in Hawai’i is public access. Every beach. Even the one in front of a fancy resort. No resort can block off public access to the sand, so there will always be an access path, even in a very posh area. There is usually free parking near the path too. Everything from the surf to the turf is public property, and nobody can tell you to buzz off.

Helicopter Rides Rock

If you can afford it, a helicopter ride is really, really awesome. You can see parts of Hawai’i that are utterly inaccessible to cars and will never forget the experience. But prepare to shell out a minimum of $175 for a one hour ride.

Don’t Touch the Turtles

Sea turtles are an awe-inspiring sight. They are also endangered and deserve respect, especially since they live to be way older than any of us. Very few beaches in Hawai’i have lifeguards. The ones that do are usually snorkeling hot spots. Don’t be fooled; the lifeguards have a greater vested interest in protecting the coral reefs and the delicate ecosystems they harbor than your pudgy pasty beflippered heinie. They will bust you if you act like a jerk. It’s a crime in Hawai’i to bother sea turtles. So snorkel away, but do so with respect for the amazing creatures below the waves. Don’t fin the reefs, and don’t touch the turtles. Luckily most people must abide this rule because sea turtles will generally come very close to people with a fair amount of indifference to our begoggled faces.

Don’t Buy the Crap

With very few exceptions, all the crap for sale in Hawai’i can be easily procured in the States. Stuff that’s worth dropping money on (haupia mix, reasonably priced Kona coffee, killer marinades) can be found at local grocery stores and is much cheaper than anything you find in a tourist shop.

Go Surfing

It’s fun. It’s easy. It’s not hard to find a good surf school that will get you up and hanging ten within an hour. DO EET.


Look up what this word means. If you understand the concept of malama then everything about Hawai’i will make sense to you.