Easily one of the most beautiful destinations in the United States, Hawaii is one of my favorite beach destinations. Whether you are going island hopping or exploring the endless array of wonders on the Big Island, this enchanting archipelago will steal your heart.
From sampling the local cuisine to finding the perfect vantage point to soak in the endless natural beauty of the island, you’re going to find yourself with a long wishlist.
To help you make the most of every moment, check out these tips for first-time visitors to Hawaii!
Make Sure to Try the Local Food
Already in love with your local poké restaurant? That is just the tip of the iceberg! From sweet treats like shave ice to sounds-weird-but-is-amazing Spam Musubi, Hawaii is a culinary wonderland.
Thanks to diverse international influences from Japan, the Phillanaipehine, China, and beyond, the Hawaiian kitchen has truly unique offers. Add to the cool fusion style of cooking, the rich soil produces a wide array of local fruit and veg that is fully embraced in the many farm-to-table restaurants.
Before you go, be sure to grab my guide to the ten essential Hawaiian foods you’ve got to try.
The Big Island
Don’t Try to Visit Too Many Islands in One Trip
There are so many irresistible destinations, it’s hard not to want to rush from one topical oasis to the next—but take a breath! The true beauty of Hawaii is the laid-back lifestyle.
Operate on island time and give yourself the opportunity to relish the true beauty of it.
The islands are bigger than you think and so many of their greatest treasures are tucked away. Plan on visiting just one, or max, two islands during a single trip. Forget about checking things off a to-do list and simply embrace the little things that make Hawaii so special.
Check out my Which Hawaiian Island Should You Travel To? guide to pick the perfect island for you and your travel style. Each island has its own unique draw.
Wear Reef-Safe Sunscreen
I’ve talked before about just how crucial reef-safe sunscreen is, and I was thrilled to see that Hawaii has jumped on the bandwagon. The state actually banned sunscreen with oxybenzone and octinoxate because they cause such widespread damage to the coral reefs.
When you are buying your sunscreen there, you are all set. Bringing cream from home? Have a look at the ingredients. If you love the beauty of Hawaii’s oceans, protect them with reef-safe sunscreen.
Understand the Weather
While the weather of Hawaii is mostly amazing, it is also very changeable. It can start pouring at a moment’s notice, especially during the rainy season from November to March. Fortunately, most of the storms occur overnight and many afternoon showers disappear as quickly as they appeared.
That said, pay attention to the day’s forecast. Be aware that every island has a dry side and a wet side. When you’re exploring by car, pack a breathable raincoat, a towel, change of quick-drying clothes.
Don’t Leave Valuables in Your Car
Other than that spare rain gear, don’t leave anything in your car. While Hawaii is a safe destination, many tourists are guilty of leaving expensive camera gear, handbags, and other pricey gear in the car. This will make you a target for theft.
Leave your expensive gear back at your hotel or bring it with you when you leave the car. If you absolutely have to store stuff in the car, keep it locked away in the trunk where it is out of sight.
Check Conditions Before Hiking
Take a look at the weather forecast and, while you’re at it, also research the tides. Certain stretches of beach are difficult or impossible to cross during high tide so plan ahead.
Have Some Cash on You
From little fruit stands to banana bread carts (an essential stop!), you will find countless little shops dotting the roadside. They are a great way to try the impressive array of local fruits, vegetables, and artisanal treats.
Many of the small vendors don’t take cards though so always have some cash and small change in you.
Rent a Car
All of my best memories from Hawaii are getting off the beaten path. There are unforgettable hidden coves and breathtaking vantage points that you can only get to by car so get your own set of wheels.
It’s easy to rent a car straight from the airport and be on your way so just plan ahead.
Learn About Polynesian Culture
Skip the tourist traps and dig into authentic Hawaiian culture. This place is unlike anywhere else in the United States and it is well with getting to know
Explore the local culture centers or join a tour with a local who can show you a side of Hawaii you might never have discovered on your own.
And, of course, go to the obligatory luau! They are a central part of Hawaiian culture and a prime opportunity to feast on incredible local food.
Water Shoes Can Be a Lifesaver
Bring a good pair of water shoes for any time that you will be hiking in and of the water, exploring coral reefs, or doing water sports. It’s all too easy to step on a sea urchin or get a gash from something sharp in the deep blue beyond.
Still looking for the perfect place to call home in Hawaii? Check out my rundown of the coolest Airbnbs in Hawaii.