To start your Hawaii vacation on the right foot or slippah, we have compiled a list of Hawaii travel mistakes to avoid. After reading ours, please add your ideas in the comment section. And let us know which ones you like the best. There are almost 30 to choose from.
1. Talking pidgin English will raise eyebrows unless you were raised here. Hawaii Creole is similar to English but separate. It’s spoken by those who grew up in the islands and can be heard on playgrounds and in neighborhood conversations.
2. Disturbing turtles and monk seals. Volunteers try to rope areas around turtles and monk seals resting on the beach. If the ropes are not there, remember by law you must keep a minimum distance of 50 feet. If you see either of them in the ocean, it’s recommended to keep 10 feet distance.
3. Removing rocks, coral, or sand. Aside from Hawaiian cultural beliefs, there are state laws that prohibit the taking of coral and sand. As to the taking of lava rock, it’s associated with the Goddess Pele. So to remove it is offensive to many. Also, never take a rock from heiau (Hawaiian temples). Rock piling too is a misguided practice and offensive to Native Hawaiians.
4. Forgetting to explore beyond the beach. For example, staying in Waikiki and not visiting the rest of Oahu including the North Shore, Pearl Harbor, and cultural venues like Iolani Palace for starters.
5. Missing out on Hawaii’s many unique food options. Stop at Farmer’s Markets. Shop for foods not seen on the mainland. Enjoy restaurants with Hawaii-style food including the ever-growing number of food trucks. And for sure don’t miss trying poke, shave ice, and malasadas.
6. Getting sunburn. The Hawaii sun is stronger than you think. You can even get a sunburn on a cloudy day. Hawaii state law requires that you use reef-safe sunscreen.
7. Tipping cheap. Please be generous with our overworked hospitality employees, many of whom still work up to three jobs to make a living here.
8. Wearing shoes in someone’s home. Take your shoes off at the door and relax. Be sure to hose off the sand on your feet before entering or have socks on hand.
9. Planning more than can be accommodated at our island pace. Use Google Maps to see how long it will take to drive between points A and B before you leave.
10. Leaving things within view, in your rental car. This is a safety issue. Before you go out, move things to your trunk.
11. Driving fast, making U-turns, or honking your horn. Here on Kauai for example, that two-lane road is a highway and not a country road.
12. Jaywalking. Go to the crosswalk instead because drivers are not expecting you in the middle of the road.
13. Disregarding dangers in the ocean. For starters, please don’t swim or snorkel alone or where there is no lifeguard present. The ocean is stronger than you think. When in doubt, don’t go out.
14. Not planning ahead.
15. Spending too much. See today’s post about resort fees and taxes than can add up to 50% to your bill.
16. Not re-checking your itinerary and bookings. In today’s world, be sure that your flights are still operating and that schedules haven’t changed. Maybe this hasn’t happened to you, but it has BOH editors. Previously, we’ve both shown up for both car rentals, and on another occasion, a hotel, and had missed the correct check-in day when we made the reservations.
Worse yet, on a recent adventure, your editors received a call from Hawaiian Airlines that the flight (from Sydney to Honolulu) had been changed to another date. On checking, we suddenly realized that was indeed a very lucky thing. The flight we had originally booked was not for the day we had intended to fly. Had it not been for their coincidental change, we would have had at the least, a very expensive change fee if we caught it. Otherwise, we would have missed the flight entirely.
17. Packing guidebooks. These are still useful, albeit less so in print. Use your smartphone or tablet instead. Check your local library too for free Hawaii travel guide downloads. Our personal favorite Hawaii guidebook series, Hawaii Revealed, is available as an app or eBook.
18. Over-packing and yet forgetting important items.
Make sure your phone is ready for all of those great Hawaii beach photos and videos. Bring the electronics you need for your laptop, cell phone, and camera. We don’t go far without our portable chargers just in case. Choose one that is powerful enough while still being small and easy to carry.
Pack light. It’s Hawaii and we’re casual here. Many of our hotels and most vacation rentals have on-site laundry facilities. Shop stores in Hawaii for reef walkers, sunscreen, snorkel gear, and more.
19. Placing undue trust in travel reviews.
What a difficult subject. We can’t live without them and yet we simply can’t have confidence in them the way we once naively did. We continue to believe that success or failure is based in part on reviews, perhaps up to one-half of all travel reviews are financially motivated.
At Beat of Hawaii we are using every source we can find to triangulate reviews (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, Booking, and more), and always keep in mind that a significant percentage of the reviews are fake. Have you tried using FakeSpot? We use it with mixed results. It purports to help in finding fake reviews. With every review, we try to sift through the rubbish to find the gems. There is simply too much at stake for hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions for us to think that they are always leaving reviews to chance.
20. Looking only for “budget” hotels.
Before traveling “budget style” (that’s a joke), check for hotel deals in the off-season. Sometimes the better hotels are only slightly more per night higher than 2-star clunkers. And the percentage of hidden fees is lower. We also try to book directly with hotels and skip the middleman for multiple reasons including sometimes avoiding fees. Another highly recommended value option is Hawaii vacation rentals from Airbnb and professional vacation rental management companies.
21. Forgetting to recheck prices on cars, air, and hotel. Check to be sure prices haven’t changed from the time of booking to the time of travel. As a result, it may be possible to get airline credit or otherwise improve rates. It takes a little time but can be well worth it. We have sometimes saved 50% by re-booking our car rental the day before travel.
22. Reserving hotels with no out, more than 90 days in advance during the off-season.
Best deals on hotels are almost always within the three months before departure except at peak travel times during holidays and summer. Deals can get even better in the final 30 days. At 90 days, hotels review their pricing model in relation to the number of firm bookings. At that point, they’re likely to make modifications or use distribution tools (online travel agencies) to help dispose of excess inventory.
23. Not checking terms and conditions, ancillary fees, and carefully evaluating your rental car for damage.
When you enter into a contract for airline tickets, car rentals, hotels, or any travel component, you need to read and understand the terms before paying. That includes cancellation policies as those are continuing to change.
To avoid sticker shock on your trip, make sure you’ve factored in checked baggage charges, resort fees, parking, taxes, etc.
Before driving your rental car off the lot, check it thoroughly and note any damage you see. Even if you’re tired from your flight, don’t forget to do this. Have everyone help. PS: check the gas too.
24. Island hopping on a short or value vacation.
Consider that you will lose a minimum of 4 hours from your itinerary to change islands. If you are new to Hawaii and/or want to see most of the islands, a one-week NCL Hawaii cruise might be a far better fit. Another compromise is to stay on Maui and visit two islands with a quick and fun ferry to Lanai.
25. Overscheduling your trip with too many things and activities. It’s Hawaii after all. We’ve been with visitors who are going right from one activity to another without time to relax, enjoy and appreciate.
26. Not checking both parking fees and resort fees. These are big. We make that research a part of the basic accommodations checking.
27. Thinking a rental car is needed for the entire trip on Oahu. In Waikiki, for example, this can avoid parking fees, and just make your vacation simpler. Try in-town rentals rather than from the airport.
28. Not planning which island best meets your vacation needs. All the islands are great, but they are also very different. Coming to Kauai expecting nightlife is sure to get you in trouble, for example. Also, be sure to understand where the activities you seek are located. Do you know that some people mistakingly think the Big Island (Hawaii Island) is Oahu/Honolulu?
29. Coming during peak travel times when you have other options. Off-season will give you better deals and less crowded beaches.
30. Not renting a car on neighbor islands in particular. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck using a bus which will save money but eat away at your time.
31. Trespassing on private property or ignoring warning signs. Be careful here. Not respecting private property can land you in trouble on your Hawaii vacation, or worse.
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