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20 things you should never do in Hawaii
There are lots and lots of blog posts out there with things to do in Hawaii. I have quite a few of them myself! What I wanted to write about today is what not to do in Hawaii, because there are a few things that should make this list too!
Once you read this, make sure to check out 100 things to do in Hawaii.
1. Don’t touch the turtles
The honu (green sea turtles) are protected, don’t touch them.
2. Don’t touch the dolphins and monk seals
Swimming with dolphins in the wild is a fantastic experience, but keep your distance from dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals, and all other sea creatures.
Look, but don’t touch!
3. Don’t touch the coral
Don’t touch the coral, don’t step on the coral, be careful. Touching or stepping on coral can cause irreparable damage to the coral. It can also cut you. You’re probably starting to get the idea. When in doubt, don’t touch it.
4. Don’t wear sunscreen that isn’t reef-safe.
Speaking of coral, make sure to choose a sunscreen that is 100% reef-friendly. I have a blog post about what reef-safe sunscreen is and why it’s crucial and another post with my favorite reef-safe sunscreen.
5. Don’t call everyone “Hawaiian.”
Being “Hawaiian” isn’t like being “Californian” or a “New Yorker.” Generally, those who live in Hawaii are referred to as “locals.” The term Hawaiian is reserved for those with Native Hawaiian heritage.
6. Don’t underestimate that power of the sun
I always have people tell me that they “don’t burn” including my husband. Well, even if you don’t burn at home, you might burn in Hawaii! Make sure to stock up on reef-safe sunscreen before you leave, just in case.
7. Don’t skip the car rental
Every island in Hawaii is beautiful, and you’ll need a car to experience most of it. Even on Oahu where they have excellent public transportation, you’ll still want to venture out on your own and explore. Some people think they won’t need a car, and then spend more money later to get one. Just trust me that unless you’re spending two days in Waikiki only, you’re going to want a car! Check out my “Do you need a rental car in Hawaii” blog post or YouTube video for more information.
Polihale State Park on Kauai. You can’t get here without a car!
8. Don’t forget that you’re on “island time.”
Things tend to move a little slower in Hawaii, and that’s okay. You’re on vacation, so lose your mainland “go go go” attitude and relax.
9. Don’t be an aggressive driver
Most people in Hawaii are friendly drivers; it’s part of the Aloha spirit. Don’t be an aggressive driver, honk, etc. As one commenter pointed out, it is a little different on Oahu. There is definitely more traffic on Oahu, and a bit more road rage. However, in general, drivers in Hawaii are friendlier than average. On the flip side, locals know the roads better than you do. If you are enjoying the sights but see cars lining up behind you, pull over and let them pass.
10. Don’t be rude to your restaurant servers/bartenders/anyone in the service industry
Again, this is something else that shouldn’t have to be said, but it does. Most people in the service industry are paid very little, work very hard, and rely on tips to make money. Just don’t be rude.
11. Don’t forget that Hawaii is the 50th state
There are two parts to this one. First, Hawaii is part of the United States, so don’t be weird and act like it’s a third world country. Everyone speaks English, and it’s overall a very safe place to visit. Second, the history of Hawaii becoming part of the U.S. is complicated, and some aren’t happy about it, so try to be conscientious of that.
12. Don’t rent snorkel gear
Germs aside, it will get expensive renting snorkeling gear over and over. If you plan to snorkel often, bring your own set. I have this set, and you can check out my Amazon page for more snorkeling recommendations.
13. Don’t forget that there are alternatives to high-end resorts
First of all, let me say that I don’t recommend booking through Airbnb or similar options. There are many reasons which you can check out in my post about the problems with Airbnb in Hawaii. Hawaii recently started enforcing rules for short term rentals, and many homes and condos have been sold with listings simply disappearing. Even though the rules are getting tighter, it still isn’t regulated, so it’s better to go through a trusted supplier rather than taking the chance.
That said, I do understand that some people enjoy condo-style accommodations. Good news! It’s very easy to book a condo or villa while having the peace of mind that you can’t get through Airbnb. Feel free to message me (I’m a Hawaii Travel Agent) if you need help with your vacation.
The high-end beachfront resorts are fantastic, but they are not the only option in Hawaii. Contact me to find the perfect accommodations for you.
14. Don’t forget to try Hawaiian food
Hey, you’re in Hawaii, try some Hawaiian food! Many local restaurants offer options like plate lunch, poke, and more. You can also check out the Farmers Markets for local produce. If you’re on the Big Island, make sure to tour a coffee plantation for Kona coffee.
You can also get great smoothies and juices made from local fruits. My favorite is Kauai Juice Company on Kauai which sources as much local produce as possible.
15. Don’t speed or use your phone while driving
You really shouldn’t do these things anywhere, but don’t do them in Hawaii either. Using your phone while driving is illegal. It’s also good to remember “island time” as I mentioned earlier, most people aren’t in a hurry, and you shouldn’t be in a hurry either.
16. Don’t forget to give yourself ample amounts of travel time
Fifty miles in Hawaii isn’t the same as 50 miles on the mainland on an interstate. Depending on where you are, driving 50 miles will likely take an hour, and maybe much longer. Make sure to do your research (or have a Travel Agent who can help you!) and know how long travel will take and plan accordingly.
The Hana Highway or Road to Hana is an experience that takes a few hours, but did you know it’s only 45 miles from Paia to Hana?
17. Don’t dismiss warning signs
You know, the ones that say “sharp coral” or “strong current” or “60 people have died here.” If there are a lot of warning signs on a beach, you can always try another beach. The same goes for a hike; if a trail is closed, there is probably a reason for that! Don’t risk your life for an Instagram photo.
18. Don’t litter, smoke on the beach, be disrespectful, etc.
Should I have to mention this? I will say it anyway. Smoking on the beach is illegal in Hawaii, so don’t do it. Also, make sure to pick up after yourself. Hawaii is a beautiful place, and everyone would like to keep it that way.
On the subject of being respectful, don’t trespass on private property. Stay away from areas that say Kapu, which can translate to “keep out,” “no trespassing,” “sacred,” etc. I’ve had a few people ask me about incidents they’ve read about online with tourists having problems with locals. 99% of the time the tourist was trespassing, littering, or being disrespectful to local culture in some way. Take a few minutes to learn about Hawaiian culture before your vacation to avoid any issues like this.
You can check out my ten things to know before going to Hawaii post for more information.
19. Don’t touch the lava
If you have the opportunity to see active lava, don’t touch it. Just don’t do it.
20. Don’t take lava rocks home
Lava rocks might seem like a great souvenir, but legend has it that you’ll be cursed if you take it home. The elements return to Hawaii is the only thing that will lift the curse. You might roll your eyes, but the post office sees hundreds of lava rocks, sand, and other materials returned to Hawaii every year! Better safe than cursed, right?!
There is my top 20 “what not to do in Hawaii” list. Of course, there are more things that you shouldn’t do in Hawaii, but I think I covered most of the big ones. If you have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment and let me know.
More Hawaii Travel Tips
In addition to being a Hawaii Travel Agent, I have a travel blog with a lot of information! Here are some posts that you might enjoy:
- 7 best things to do on the Big Island
- 7 best things to do in Maui
- 10 best things to do on Oahu
- 10 best things to do on Kauai
- When is the BEST time to go to Hawaii?
- The questions you’re afraid to ask about Hawaii
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