10 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Hawaii

10 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Hawaii

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  1. Picture this: you’ve been planning for years for the ultimate Hawaii vacation. You’ve filled your piggy bank, and saved your frequent flier miles. The whole family is planning to go. Everyone is psyched. In your mind, you’re already on the beach with a cold Pina Colada in your hand. However, a Hawaiian vacation involves more than picking out your grass skirt and lei, and deciding which luau to attend. Before you even leave home, in fact, you should know these ten important things.

    1. Where to go/which island(s) to visit

    The good news is that there is something for everyone to do in Hawaii. Unfortunately, with six main islands spread out over thousands of miles, it is usually not practical to visit more than one or two islands in one trip. So it’s important to choose your destination carefully.

    When choosing a destination, determine what you want and expect from your trip. Want to introduce your family to some culture and history? Try Oahu’s museums & memorials (such as the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor), and the big city fun of Honolulu. Are you rugged, outdoorsy type? Check out the varied climates and landscapes of the Big Island (the island of Hawaii), home to the Annual Iron Man Triathlon. The beaches on the Coconut Coast of Kauai are perfect for a beach vacation. Lanai, virtually your own deserted island with not even a traffic light to interfere with the beautiful views, makes for the perfect romantic getaway.

    2. What to do.

    You’ve chosen your destination island and have settled into your accommodations. What now? Because each island is unique, each has different things to do. On the Big Island, you can see live volcanos, visit working coffee plantations, or do some first-rate snorkeling. On Maui, whale watching (in the winter) and catching the sunrise at Haleakala are popular activities. Check out the guidebooks for your island provided by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (and others, such as AAA), and don’t be afraid to ask the locals or your hotel concierge about what’s hot in your little stretch of Paradise.

    3. Local people, culture and history

    Unlike other U.S. states, Hawaii is the former seat of a royal kingdom, and the home to the only royal palace on U.S. soil. It stands to reason, then, Hawaii also has its own unique culture, with distinct history, art, customs, and language. Many communities have numerous opportunities for visitors to learn about Hawaiian culture through Hula lessons, language lessons, and courses on culture. Also, your guidebooks can point you to attractions and activities of historical and cultural interest on each island.

    4. Getting there: how to find the best fares, etc.

    Just like any other travel destination, you want to make sure you get the best deal on airfare, so it’s a good idea to do some research online first. Even if you have already searched the typical travel sites, it is usually a good idea to specifically check the sites of low cost carriers as well. If you are traveling from anywhere else in the U.S. or Canada other than the West Coast, book your flights in two stages—first to get to the coast (usually a major hub like L.A.X.), and then from the coast to Hawaii. The fare for a discount carrier from, say, Chicago to L.A. added to the cost of a regular fare from L.A. To Honolulu will often be cheaper than a direct flight from Chicago to Honolulu. Even if it isn’t, you’ll still have a chance to get out and stretch your legs!

    5. How to make the most of travel layovers

    When flying from the Mainland, Honolulu is usually the first stop before flying to one of the other islands. Sometimes the layover between your arrival in Oahu and your departure can be a few to several hours. Why not make the most of that time and check out the local sights before moving on? Oahu is home to Pearl Harbor, Waikiki Beach, and much more within a few minutes’ taxi ride of the airport. If Oahu is your final destination, there is still much for you to see before rushing off to your hotel.

    6. How to get around once you get there

    Your mode of transportation will depend on your final destination and your plans. If you just want to hang out on the beach all day, you might just need a taxi or similar ground transportation from the airport to your accommodations. Some islands are spread out and have much that you will want to do. In that case, you might want to rent a car. You can often rent sea kayaks and surf boards as well. If you just want to get around town, most islands also have scooter rentals.

    7. The best hotels and resorts

    It may be Paradise, but that doesn’t mean all accommodations will naturally be first class. It is a good idea to carefully map out accommodations before hand. Think about what you want? If you are planning on several activities like a Luau or sightseeing trips, you might consider all-inclusive resorts where such extras are part of the price. Time-share and rental properties can offer you a bargain, too, especially if you like to cook your own meals. Guidebooks and travel sites for each island should be able to provide information on leading resorts. Rental and time-share sites will provide more information as well.

    8. What to eat

    Beyond pork and pineapple, Hawaii is well-known for Hawaii Regional Cuisine. The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau Website describes the ingredients like this: “cattle raised on the upland pastures of Hawaii’s Big Island, fruits and vegetables grown from rich, volcanic soil in Upcountry Maui, and some of the best quality fish in the world, to name a few.” Hawaiian Regional Cuisine is featured on all of the major islands. Refer to your guidebooks for more information.

    9. Beyond the sun-tan oil: what else to bring

    Although it’s a tropical paradise, it can still get cold at night, especially on the water and in high elevations, so be sure to bring sweaters or light jackets. If you like to hike and explore, don’t forget your hiking boots. A good pair of walking shoes would be useful, too, if you plan on site-seeing. Of course, sun burn is common, so it’s a good idea to keep aloe or some other salve in your first-aide kit.

    10. What you can’t bring (or take) with you

    Hawaii has a complex but fragile environment. As a series of islands, it is also isolated from the rest of the world. For that reason, the Hawaii. Department of Agriculture restricts plants and animals brought in or out of the islands. Still want a coconut or pineapple for a souvenir? No problem—you are free to bring inspected fresh flowers and fruits home with you. Items for sale at the airports or mailed home by local vendors will even be inspected for you.

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