Hawaii is an incredibly popular tourist destination, and many people strive to not only vacation in the Islands, but make repeat trips back. Because Hawaii is comprised of eight islands, four of which are popular to visit, it takes a few trips back and forth to really gain an overall experience of Hawaii. But this post isn’t for the repeat travelers. It’s for the first timers, the Hawaii newcomers.
Those who have explored a Hawaiian Island in the past probably have a good idea of what they’d like to do on their next trip here, but tourists who have never been to the Islands might have a hard time figuring out the best way to maximize the trip. Here is our guide to Hawaii for the first time traveler, plus some side tips we think you might benefit from.
What to pack, when to go? You really don’t need to pack much for Hawaii, although we do recommend at least two bathing suits. This is so you can have a beach day and still have a dry suit to jump into if you decide to hot tub it by night. Or maybe you want to swim in the hotel pool in the morning but want to enjoy the beach in the evening as well- having a variety of suits helps to ensure you’ll always have a dry one to shimmy into.
Don’t forget comfortable walking shoes, a pair of sandals or slippers, a light cover-up, a hat and sunglasses. One thought that always helps ease my packing anxiety is you can always buy it once you’re there. So true. Don’t panic if you forgot your wide-brimmed hat or sun tan lotion- there is plenty for purchase here in Hawaii!
Hawaii has comfortable weather year-round. Unless you’re coming to the islands specifically for something like surfing or whale watching, then the timing for a vacation to Hawaii really just depends on you. Summer months tend to be drier and warmer, especially along the south sides, and wintertime the temperature can drop to the low 60′s in the evening. Cure this with a light sweater though and you’ll be just fine! Also, please note that rain happens in Hawaii year round. So even if you come in the middle of August, you can expect some precipitation. This is how the islands stay so green!
Which leads me to my next tip about expectations. Don’t travel to Hawaii thinking the weather is going to be perfect for your entire stay. Rain can happen on the daily in some parts of these tropics, and we don’t want you to feel disappointed if you get more than you anticipated. It’s a good idea to keep your expectations low, just in case you encounter heavy clouds or passing storms while you’re here. That being said, Hawaii usually has gorgeous weather all year, and even if it does rain, it’s warm! So regardless of the weather, you’ll still have a beautiful vacation.
Decide early about a rental car. Renting a car highly depends on your location, so it’s a good idea to do some research ahead of time. If you’re traveling to a place like Waikiki, Lahaina or Kailua-Kona and plan to spend majority of your time surrounding the resort or condo, then you won’t need a car. But if you’d like to do some exploration of the island and its diverse landscapes, I recommend getting a rental car. Or, break up your vacation by spending the first half without one and the second half with one. This will give you time for getting to know your immediate town surroundings AND exploring beyond it.
Soak up the outdoor activities (surfing, hiking, beach walks, swimming, waterfalls, etc.) If you’re coming to Hawaii, chances are you enjoy the warm beach weather. So soak it up! Spend all day at the beach, plan a hike to a secluded waterfall, get a couple surf sessions in! Take advantage of Hawaii’s bounty and enjoy the outdoors. It is quite possibly the best characteristic of this Aloha state, so take advantage of warm weather and get outside!
Plan at least one ‘hoorah.’ By hoorah I mean one splurge. Something like a cruise around the Na Pali coast on Kauai, a luau in Waikiki or an all-day exclusive island tour on Oahu. This will give the vacation a bit of structure but also help maximize your time in Hawaii by showing you a unique aspect.
Some vacationers might have a bigger budget to work with, in which case I recommend planning more than just one hoorah. Explore Kualoa Ranch on Oahu and take an ATV ride, go horseback riding along Poipu’s coastline on Kauai, snorkel the clear waters of Honolua Bay on Maui, witness the lava and natural wonders of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, watch the sunrise over Mt. Haleakala on Maui, the list goes on and on. These activities are what help to give you a fun and unique experience of the island, especially when you book with an intimate and personalized tour company like Hawaii Jeep Tours.
Explore the foods. Part of the cultural experience in Hawaii is sampling the flavors of this melting pot. With so many different ethnicities comprising the state, there is a plethora of influences in the food and it’s all ono! Try a plate lunch with fresh island fish, a raw poke bowl, a warm malasada, sweet POG juice (passion orange guava), earthy poi, salty edamame, and so much more! With an exotic blend of dishes from around the world to sample, Hawaii is a great place to push your taste bud limits and step outside the comfort zone. Plus it introduces you to authentic Hawaii!
March 7th, 2014
With social media and the expanse of the world wide web, who knew a simple banner hanging on the side of a highway could be so efficient? My fiance and I were driving through Kapaa town on Kauai this summer, talking about seeing some live music while we were on the island. That just so happen to be the very same moment we approached the banner hanging on the side of the road, boasting the words: KAUAI MUSIC SCENE.
Ironic much? I think it was safe to say that our inquiries about where to see live music while on island had been answered with one quick drive through town. I immediately whipped out my phone, punched in the link and voila! A calendar of live shows popped up on my phone – with the ability to search by dates, artists, genres and venues. Finally! A reliable one-stop shop for finding music in Hawaii. Well, in this case, on Kauai. Still, a very exciting endeavor for all music lovers hoping to see the island music scene continue to flourish. Apparently, the KauaiMusicScene.com initiative is still fairly new. It first launched in February of 2012 but already looks like it is getting a lot of traffic. I have been seeing Tweets and chatter all over the web recently, and for such a grassroots effort like this, any publicity is good publicity.
The woman who started the Kauai Music Scene website has lived on the island for quite some time, according to an article by The Garden Isle. Like many others who love music, Kristine Young would continually search for an online source that listed live shows throughout town – whether it be at a restaurant or a pub. However, her searches always seemed to end in frustration, as such a place did not exist. I definitely know the feeling, even here on Oahu. There are a few sites that list shows going around town (whether free of charge or with a cover), but nothing quite like Kauai Music Scene.
The Kauai music website not only lists shows for locals and visitors to enjoy, but it also allows musicians and promoters to get more involved with the island music scene. They are able to chime in on the community chatter and get their name out into the public even more so. What an awesome idea to help the scene to flourish. People can also register on the website to get emailed updates about upcoming shows.
We have several musician friends on the island that say this new website has been nothing but a blessing for them. They are able to reach beyond social media and directly into this hub of music lovers. Although still very young, it seems the Kauai music website has already done so much. It has helped share the voices and sounds of Kauai’s music by simply organizing what was already out on the table and putting all of that into one easily-accessible place.
KAUAI MUSIC SCENE / www.kauaimusicscene.com
Photo By: Kauai Music Scene Facebook
March 6th, 2014
A recent hike I did on a narrow rocky trail in Makiki got me thinking a lot about the etiquette of hiking. For instance, who stops to let the other person pass by when you reach a tight spot on the path? Or when do you pull off to the side and let hikers that are trailing closely behind you pass? Quite a few things that we do not often think about.
But you should. The main reason would be for safety but also so that everyone on the hike can have a good time. I suppose you could compare this form of etiquette to any sport or hobby, like skiing or surfing. And like both sports, the rules of hiking are somewhat unspoken. It is still important to know them ahead of time, if possible, so hopefully this post will help give you a better idea.
Going back to the first point made above, how do you know when to yield to an oncoming hiker, especially if it is approaching a narrow spot in the trail that only one person can pass through at a time? The answer can be pretty simple – whoever gets to that spot first should have the right of way. If both get there at the same time, then you probably want to let the person who is coming downhill of the trail go first, just so that they do not have to lose momentum. If the trail is level ground, then, whoever feels like doing a kind deed should make the first initiative.
Because not every hiker hikes at the same pace, it is important to be very mindful of that. Perhaps it is age or maybe just a really challenging uphill section that requires more breaks than usual. Generally, the etiquette would be similar to if you are the slow car on the freeway. Pull over or stay to the right so that others may pass you by. It really is just out of common courtesy. Plus, no one likes to hike when you have someone trailing closely behind on your heels. Step off to the side of the trail and take a short break.
For the most part, hikes in Hawaii are fairly well-maintained, with trails the width of at least two hikers. However, there may be sections of the hike that might have eroded overtime and therefore, have become very narrow. Hikes that you find outside of tour guidebooks will probably be mostly a one-person-only trail. This is where the hiking etiquette takes effect to prevent anyone from getting hurt – or worse. Whatever you do, please use common sense and have fun!
March 5th, 2014
When we think Mardi Gras, we think flamboyant masks and boastful beads; big bands on Bourbon Street and dancing – lots of it. But what better way to get into the Mardi Gras mood than with a vivaciously wonderful aloha shirt made specifically for this New Orleans tradition?
Despite being thousands of miles away from the Mardi Gras mecca, Hawaii is pretty big on the festivities. Costumed revelers wearing crazy get-ups roam the streets of Downtown Honolulu and Downtown Hilo; even Kauai has some festivities of its own. In fact, the jazzy-blues sounds of the south can be heard right here in the islands. It is a time of fun but mostly, to dress up in free spirits. So it comes as no surprise that Hawaii designs its own Mardi Gras costume by way of the classic aloha shirt.
A few local businesses known for their aloha attire made shirts (for men and women). They boast colorful purples and yellow and designs that scream, PARTY TIME. One shirt in particular by Banana Jack goes above and beyond the typical aloha shirt with prints of Natchez paddle boats gliding across the Mississippi River and motifs of masks and music ($55). I saw another shirt on Amazon ($48-$52) that mixed local island flowers with Mardi Gras prints, like beaded masks and snapshots of Bourbon and Toulouse streets. Really loud, if you know what I mean, but also REALLY in Mardi Gras fashion. So what’s not to love about these specialty shirts?
Probably the coolest part of these aloha shirts is that they are hand-cut and sewn in Hawaii! Investing all that time and effort into a single shirt really shows just how much Hawaii adores this time of year. I only heard about them last year, when I saw a man at the Chinatown festivities sporting a bright purple one. I asked him where he got it from, and he said he got it online. Turns out, there are many websites – from eBay to Amazon – where you can find a Mardi Gras aloha shirt. But nothing says aloha more than an actual shirt from the Aloha State. Be on the lookout for one the next time you are in Hawaii and support local!
Wear it around the islands and then back home for next year’s Mardi Gras. Yes, they are quite loud but what isn’t loud about this particular celebration? People back home will not only see your treasured island attire but also see just how we, in Hawaii, like to celebrate Mardi Gras the Hawaiian way!
March 4th, 2014
Happy Girls Day! In Japanese culture, March 3 celebrates all the lovely ladies in your life with mochi eating, doll playing and dressing up in colorful kimono. Hawaii hosts a couple of festivals in honor of Girls Day, and one of the crowd-favorite activities is playing dress up with the racks full of kimono. Little girls and their mothers take turns trying on the traditional Japanese garment still worn in modern day.
Kimono translates to “a thing to wear” and are mostly worn by women on special occasions; however, men sometimes wear them too. Visitors that come to Hawaii wonder where to get a kimono of their own, especially for special occasions like Girls Day. They can be found at specialty Japanese shops, like Shirokiya in Ala Moana, or if you are okay with a second-hand find, then check out one of the many thrift stores around town. It would be a great way to find those vintage pieces at really affordable prices. I have also seen kimonos for sale at swap meets; probably not an authentic one but definitely one that serves its purpose.
You may be surprised as to what you find, too. Hawaii has a huge Japanese population and attracts millions of Japanese tourists every year. Therefore, the demand for an island-style kimono comes as a no brainer. People like to wear them around their house and hotel rooms. You might think of the kimono as a robe, except fancier and more silky fresh. That is probably why the kimono is so perfect for Hawaii’s often hot and muggy weather.
They are the perfect souvenirs to bring back home with you because kimonos pack very easily. Fold them up in your carry-on or in your luggage send-through. The authentic silk ones should probably be carried on with a protective garment bag. I am assuming that would be considered your one personal item. It would probably have to be carried on with extra caution so that it does not get wrinkled of damaged. Kimono usually require special cleaning procedures. My aunty bought a bunch of kimono while on vacation here and brought them back home in that way. She said it was not as cumbersome as she had expected.
Now that you know where to get a kimono in Hawaii, the question is, how do you choose the right one? I would say, think of it as you would when shopping for an aloha shirt or aloha print dress. The vintage finds always have a uniqueness to them that make them stand out from the rest on the rack; they catch your eye, much like a kimono would. No matter if they are new or used kimono and no matter if it is for a special occasion like Girls Day or not: each kimono has a different story to share with whomever chooses to sport them.
March 3rd, 2014
Kauai, the oldest island within Hawaii’s chain, is known for its relaxed, quiet, and relatively unpopulated beaches. Fifty miles of white sand adorn this garden isle, giving visitors a wide variety to choose from. But with so many options, and so little time, how do you pick or even prioritize which beach to spend your day at?
I always recommend beginning by narrowing down the activities and your preferences for your beach day. Are you hoping to snorkel? Do you wish to bring the kids? Are you looking for calm waters, public restrooms, or generous shade? Are you renting body boards or surfboards? All these tidbits play a role in choosing the ideal beach for the day.
That being said, I have narrowed down some of Kauai’s top beaches for you. Whether you’re hoping to be active in the water or simply relax on a lounge chair, you are sure to find a beach in this review that suits your interests.
Polihale is Kauai’s most western beach accessible to people. It spans approximately seven miles and is known for its hot climate, white sand, and expansive views of the Pacific. Ocean conditions are unpredictable and swimming is usually not recommended here. However, there is a portion of water along the beach called Queen’s Pond that is sheltered by a circular reef pattern, enclosing a large portion of the water for safe swimming. This is a great spot for beach combing, lounging, exploring, and is one of Kauai’s largest, most stunning spans of sand.
Lawaii Road beach may be one of my favorite spots for snorkeling on the island. It is located on the south side in Poipu, next to the Beach House Restaurant. Although the beach is not ideal for lying out, the waters and reefs are ideal for viewing an array of vibrant underwater life. Here you can spot everything from sea turtles to manta rays to needle fish to the iconic humuhumunukunukuapuaa. Angelfish are also plentiful here, as well as urchin, eels, and tons of other species of colorful fish.
If you’re looking to do some surfing, body boarding, or just play in the shore break, Kealia beach on the east side and Shipwrecks on the south side are excellent destinations. Be cautious of unsafe ocean conditions however, because where good surf lies, often times, danger lurks too, many times in the form of strong currents, rocky bottoms, and powerful waves. Both beaches have large stretches of sand for sunning and walking, and both have public restrooms. Kealia has a lifeguard on duty and a generous parking lot that stretches from end to end. Although Shipwrecks has a smaller parking lot, it may be more worthwhile because of its attractions (cliff jumping, the Grand Hyatt Resort, professional surfers and body boarders, whale watching, and more).
The north shore has some of the island’s most unbelievably beautiful beaches that are secluded and set in tropical rainforests. Tunnels beach is great for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing, and gets its name from the underwater tunnels that have formed in the reef, making it a poplar place for snorkelers to frequent. Ke’e Beach is great for all these reasons as well and is located at the farthest northern point accessible by car. Hanalei beach is a great place for kids because of its calm waters, picnic areas, and cement pier that is safe to jump from.
I have only mentioned seven beaches in this review, but if none seem to entice you, you have approximately 40 miles left to explore!
March 1st, 2014
In 1848, the California Gold Rush began one of the largest human migrations in history. Half a million people from around the world traveled to northern California in search of instant wealth. At the turn of the century, another rush was also taking place. The pineapple rush in Hawaii.
What began as a one-man operation on Oahu in 1901 by James D. Dole, turned into a business that grew a thousand-fold and became Hawaii’s second most important industry (next to sugar). While the Spanish are thought to have introduced the pineapple to Hawaii in the 1500′s, credit goes to James Dole for discovering that the fruit grew very well on his farm in Wahiawa, on Oahu. Known as one of the most influential pineapple industrialists in the world, Dole began the first pineapple business in 1901 by converting his 44-by-80 foot barn into a cannery. He called the business the Hawaiian Pineapple Company.
Over the next 50 years, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company grew to be the largest in the world. With other smaller companies to aide in the pineapple rush in Hawaii, more than 12 million cases of pineapple were being produced annually in the state by the 1930′s. And with Dole’s purchase of Lanai island in 1922, his company alone was responsible for growing 75 percent of the world supply. There was even an advertising push for Hawaii pineapple on American housewives. “Don’t ask for pineapples alone. Insist on Hawaiian Pineapple!” It was considered a novelty up until then.
If you’ve never seen a living pineapple plant, you might be surprised to know it grows on a low-lying bush. They are grown year round in Hawaii and to this day the aloha state produces almost one third of the world’s crop and about 60 percent of its canned products. It’s no wonder why Dole Plantation in Wahiawa is the second most visited attraction in Hawaii!
Pineapple, although not inherently Hawaiian, is recognized today as a fruit of the islands. It’s used as edible displays in luaus, garnishes on tropical cocktails, a popular scent for lotions, a decadent flavor in desserts and a symbol of Hawaii. The fruit is considered Hawaii’s gold and is rich in vitamin C, bursting with a tropical, juicy sweetness that is sure to make anyone’s mouth water almost instantly. Try using fresh pineapple as a dessert or palate cleanser after a meal, chopped up in a salsa, marinated on meat or broiled and browned on a skewer. Or I’m sure you have many other ideas for how to eat and serve up this amazing fruit!
February 28th, 2014
Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro said, “If everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place." I’ve decided it’s time for me to help out.
When the world thinks about Hawaiian music, they think ukulele. This little instrument is as pervasive as the surfboard and the hibiscus when it comes to icons of the Hawaiian Islands. Its appeal is immense, and I was drawn to it as soon as I hit the island. But having absolutely ZERO music ability, I was happy to just watch and listen as others played. Then a few months ago, I went to a yard sale and found one. I couldn’t resist and bought it. That’s what happens. If you pick one up, you will want it.
Usually a new ukulele will come with a tuner and a book. If you’ve played any instrument before, these will probably help you get started. But they were Greek to me. I knew I needed help, so I signed up for lessons. Luckily, there are many options on this island, and I’ve been at it for six weeks now. It has been more fun than I ever expected! I love it! My lesson day is the best day of the week to me. I have to practice every day. But the rewards are challenging and immediate. I swear, I think my brain is growing.
For the uninitiated, there are three sizes of ukulele: tenor, concert (the one I got) and soprano. The size for you is a personal decision. It needs to feel right in your hands. There are also a lot of ‘toy’ type ukuleles for sale, which are not tunable and should be avoided if you plan to play it rather than display it. These are the ones you might see for sale at ABC stores. A student grade instrument can be purchased for around $100 +, and I just saw one in Costco for that price. I paid about $350 for mine because I wanted solid Koa wood construction. This is essential if it is to maintain its value for possible resale.
Oahu has over a dozen retail ukulele stores. There are a few at the Swap Meet, all of which are reputable outlets. The ones in Waikiki have slightly higher prices, and I can verify that. There are two Waikiki stores that offer a daily free lesson.I attended one recently. It was fun, and I suggest you go early and try to sit in the front row. The instructor has you playing four songs by the end of it. I take lessons from Roy Sakuma Studio, Hawaii’s most famous instructor. It is not advertised, but you can take a visitor lesson from them for a reasonable price. Just call them about it and get prepared to make the world a better place.
Posted by Katherine Finch Follow her on Twitter @kfinches
February 27th, 2014
When it rains in Hawaii, it not only pours, but it landslides, mudslides — whatever you want to call it; the islands’ mountainous terrain has been quite the set-up for natural occurrences like that. The mountains become so sodden with water that eventually gravity gets the best of the terrain, falling to the ground below.
The rock and mud debris does not always fall in the most convenient/safest of places. I have heard about huge boulders that tumbled through homes and sides of mountains that came crashing down onto highways. The Pali Highway on Oahu has had its fair share of work done to its steep terrain. Heavy rains brought down a section of the mountain outside of the windward-bound tunnel. Some trees, rocks and mud fell onto the road; luckily, no one was hurt. My sister actually had a close call driving to Kaneohe one night; she changed lanes as soon as she got out of the tunnel – just in time, too. In her rear view mirror, she saw a tree fall onto the road and the car behind her hit it.
Because landslides have become such a common issue in Hawaii, state officials have invested time and money into putting up protective barriers like the one pictured above. This fence was installed several years ago around Waimea Bay on Oahu’s north shore. I remember that side of the mountain came sliding down into the roadway. Like the work done on the Pali, roads were closed off and traffic backed up. It was not a fun way to spend your day, that’s for sure – since there is only one road that goes around the bay.
Every couple of years, Waimea Valley shuts down the park to reevaluate the surrounding rock walls. It takes about a month for them to complete the job. A month that is definitely worth waiting. The back of the valley is always busy with visitors, especially near the waterfall. It would be devastating if anything bad ever happened. In fact, something similar has happened before, at a public park called Sacred Falls, so we thank Waimea Valley for taking time to make the park safe for everyone.
It is always a good idea to better prepare yourself when visiting a new place, like Hawaii. Whether it is about bad weather or Hawaii’s growing traffic problem. Hopefully you won’t have to experience either while on vacation, but just in case you do, you will at least know what to expect and how to find alternative ways for having fun.
February 26th, 2014
In a few weeks, a sea of green will stream through the sleepy town of Hilo, as they host their first St. Patrick’s Day parade. The parade will showcase an appreciation of heritage and passion for the community that does not only rest in those who have Irish blood. Everyone is welcomed to the parade and post-parade festivities – no matter where you are from.
The St. Patrick’s Day parade came about thanks to a resident who moved to the Big Island in 2009, according to an article by the “Tribune-Herald.” Sean O’Phelan’s father and sister started St. Patty’s Day parades in cities abroad, so he hoped to carry on the family tradition on the Big Island. This year, he will be seeing his dream come true; so far, he and others from the community – including the Friends of St. Patrick’s on Oahu – have raised about $1,000 but still need $800.
This is where visiting and local consumers on the Big Island will benefit. The committee will be selling parade buttons that may be used to get discounts from participating businesses ($5). These buttons go on sale March 1 to 15, 2014 at the following stores that have also sponsored the upcoming parade: Island Naturals, Big Island Kombucha, Oasis Skate Shop, Basically Books, ACR Dollar, Hilo Tobacco, Charlie’s Big Island Candies, Snow Factory Hilo and Bayfront Kava Bar.
In order to qualify for the discounts, buttons should be worn during time of purchase.Portions of the proceeds go toward the Special Olympics in Hilo, with the remainder of the monies paying for the parade. Discounts at participating stores are as follows:
- Big Island Booch
- Save on Booch daily
- Oasis Skateshop
- Everything Green is discounted
- Bayfront Kava Bar and the Antique Shop
- Kava and Antiques discounted
- Nash Irish Dance
- One free lesson call Sarah Nash 808-333-6713
- La Hiki Kava Bar in Pahoa
- Specials available
- Aloha Grown
- Specials available
- Hilo Town Tavern
- Specials available
- Ben Franklin
- Craft Specials and Sale the day of the parade
- Snow Factory
- Specials available
- Lucy’s Taquiera
- Specials available
- Coquis Hideaway
- Get in on Saturday night for Band and DJ and drink specials 21+ for FREE ( no $5 cover)
- Hilo Tabacco
- $2 off a pound
Although St. Patty’s Day is celebrated on March 17, the parade will be a few days before – on March 15 – at 4 p.m. It will start at the Ben Franklin Crafts store and go through Keawe Street to Wainuenue Avenue. The parade ends at the public park, where there will be more St. Patrick’s Day activities for everyone to enjoy. St. Patty’s is one of Hawaii’s favorite holidays but mostly celebrated on Oahu, where there are several Irish pubs in downtown Honolulu. Now, the Big Island will join in on the fun with this wonderful event.
For more information, contact Sean O’Phelan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 854-3443.
Photo Courtesy: First Annual Hilo St. Patrick’s Day Parade Facebook Fanpage
February 25th, 2014