Planning a trip to Hawaii? Here's what you need to know.
Wear sunscreen for a more enjoyable vacation.
The sun in the tropics can be brutal. Wearing sunscreen is advisable if you plan to spend the day at the beach. Cover yourself when you are not actually swimming. Some people also wear a shirt when swimming for protection from the sun. It’s also a good idea to wear a hat when hiking or hanging out in the sun.
Aloha-wear is acceptable in most places. Almost no one in Hawaii wears a tie or a jacket. Casual aloha attire is acceptable in most places. Check with the restaurant or location before visiting for any special requirements.
Relax. Life is slower in the islands.
Don’t expect things to move quite as fast as they do in other urban areas where you may live. Life in the islands moves at “Hawaiian Time.” Enjoy the pace of living and let it fill your spirit.
Honolulu, Oahu and Kahalui, Maui are serviced by a large number of international and domestic airlines. To fly between the islands most people use Hawaiian Airlines. There are smaller airlines which can be fun for flying between the islands. These are Mokulele Airlines and Island Air.
And guess what! Southwest Airlines has just entered the Hawaii market and is establishing more amd more interisland flights and routes.
Each island has a great bus system. If you are on Oahu you can take The Bus. (Checkout their mobile app). When on the Big Island you can use the Hele-on bus. Find the Maui Bus schedule online. The Garden Isle, Kauai Bus can be used to get around the island.
Most car rental agencies have rental desks in or around the airports at each island.
Taxis and Uber
Each island has taxis. The number to know on Oahu is 222-2222. It’s easy to remember when you know that tutu means grandmother!
Uber is available and used on all of the major Hawaiian Islands.
The beaches in Hawaii are known by their color. There are white sand, black sand and green sand beaches, each with their own special experience. White sand beaches can be found on all the Hawaiian islands where the Big Island is known for its black sand and green sand beaches. The black and green sand beaches are created by the wave action on volcanic rock.
Many of the volcanoes in the Hawaiian Islands are still active. Kilauea has been erupting consistently for over 20 years and provides a spectacular site. You can also drive to the tops of some of the tallest mountains on Earth rising from the sea shore. See Mauna Kea or Maui’s Haleakala.
Botanical gardens provide an up-close look at amazing tropical plants like gingers, bromeliads and spectacular heliconia. The orchids are truly beautiful.
The wildlife in Hawaii has been brought to the islands over the years by visitors trying to survive. The ancient Hawaiians brought pigs. Cows were brought over by explorers in the 19th century. Rats deserting ships found a home without predators. When the Hawaiian government decided to get rid of them they introduced the mongoose, which famously got along with the rat population. You will see mongoose darting from place to place. As cute as they are it’s best to leave them alone.
Food in Hawaii is an interesting mix of the foods brought by the first Hawaiians who found Hawaii over a thousand years ago together with the more recent settlers. The local restaurants feature foods introduced by the many waves of plantation laborers who came from Japan, China, Korea, Okinawa, The Philippines, Puerto Rico, and of all places, Portugal. Add to this mix the more recent tropical foods from Thailand, Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and other points around the Pacific and you will find a food lover’s Polynesian paradise.
One very common “cuisine” in Hawaii is the plate lunch. It’s roots are in the Japanese Bento, a rice & meat item normally wrapped in seaweed. The plate lunch consists of white rice, macaroni salad, and an entrée. The entrée can be pork from local wild or farmed boar, teriyaki beef, katsu chicken, Hormel Spam, or other entrées, even tofu for vegetarians. Variations of the plate lunch include what is commonly known as the “loco moco” served with hamburger steak and fried eggs smothered in brown gravy.
Hawaii offers some of the most wonderful, locally-caught, seafood such as ahi (tuna), mahi mahi, ono (wahoo) and kajiki (Pacific blue marlin). These fish can often come encrusted with locally-grown macadamia nuts.
Poke, a type of raw fish salad, is most often made with a combination of cubed or sliced ahi tuna and a variety of many other flavorings such as green onions, soy sauce, sesame seeds, peppers or the wonderful Limu wawae’iole, an edible green sea plant.
Beef, Pork & Chicken
Hawaii, as strange as it may seem, is home to some of the most prized, grass-fed, beef. Parker Ranch was once one of the largest beef ranches in the United States. Pork is abundant in the islands. Hunters set traps for wild pigs that dig up the local vegetation. Chickens are common as well, so you will often find chicken, pork and beef on the menu.
Treat yourself to the wonderful cultural experience of a luau. Whole pigs are slow cooked in an imu (hole dug in the ground). The pig is covered with banana leaves and cooks until the meat literally falls off the bone. Enjoy a variety of other favorite Hawaiian specialties along with your pork such as poi (ground taro root). Most luaus in resorts include an evening of hula, Polynesian drumming, fire twirling and other fun musical expositions.
Hawaiian History & Culture
During the 1780s and 1790s, chiefs often fought for power. After a series of battles that ended in 1795, all inhabited islands were subjugated under a single ruler, who became known as King Kamehameha the Great. He established the House of Kamehameha, a dynasty that ruled the kingdom until 1872. After Kamehameha II inherited the throne in 1819, American Protestant missionaries to Hawaii converted many Hawaiians to Christianity. They used their influence to end many traditional practices of the people.
The islands’ first Christian king was Kamehameha III. Hiram Bingham I, a prominent Protestant missionary, was a trusted adviser to the monarchy during this period. Other missionaries and their descendants became active in commercial and political affairs, leading to conflicts between the monarchy and its restive American subjects. Catholic and Mormon missionaries were also active in the kingdom, but they converted a minority of the Native Hawaiian population. Missionaries from each major group administered to the leper colony at Kalaupapa on Molokaʻi, which was established in 1866 and operated well into the 20th century. The best known were Father Damien and Mother Marianne Cope, both of whom were canonized in the early 21st century as Roman Catholic saints.
The death of the bachelor King Kamehameha V—who did not name an heir—resulted in the popular election of Lunalilo over Kalākaua. Lunalilo died the next year, also without naming an heir. In 1874, the election was contested within the legislature between Kalākaua and Emma, Queen Consort of Kamehameha IV. After riots broke out, the United States and Britain landed troops on the islands to restore order. Governance passed to the House of Kalākaua.
In 1887, Kalākaua was forced to sign the 1887 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Drafted by white businessmen and lawyers, the document stripped the king of much of his authority. It established a property qualification for voting that effectively disenfranchised most Hawaiians and immigrant laborers and favored the wealthier, white elite. Resident whites were allowed to vote but resident Asians were not. Because the 1887 Constitution was signed under threat of violence, it is known as the Bayonet Constitution.
King Kalākaua, reduced to a figurehead, reigned until his death in 1891. His sister, Queen Liliʻuokalani, succeeded him; she was the last monarch of Hawaiʻi. In 1893, Queen Liliʻuokalani announced plans for a new constitution. On January 14, 1893, a group of mostly Euro-American business leaders and residents formed the Committee of Safety to stage a coup d’état against the kingdom and seek annexation by the United States. United States Government Minister John L. Stevens, responding to a request from the Committee of Safety, summoned a company of U.S. Marines. According to historian William Russ, these troops effectively rendered the monarchy unable to protect itself.
In January 1893, Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown and replaced by a provisional government composed of members of the American Committee of Safety. American lawyer Sanford B. Dole became President of the Republic when the Provisional Government of Hawaii ended on July 4, 1894. Controversy ensued in the following years as the Queen tried to regain her throne. The administration of President Grover Cleveland commissioned the Blount Report, which concluded that the removal of Liliʻuokalani had been illegal.
The U.S. government first demanded that Queen Liliʻuokalani be reinstated, but the Provisional Government refused. Congress conducted an independent investigation, and on February 26, 1894, submitted the Morgan Report, which found all parties, including Minister Stevens—with the exception of the Queen—”not guilty” and not responsible for the coup. Partisans on both sides of the debate questioned the accuracy and impartiality of both the Blount and Morgan reports over the events of 1893.
In 1993, the US Congress passed a joint Apology Resolution regarding the overthrow; it was signed by President Bill Clinton. The resolution apologized for the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and acknowledged that the United States had annexed Hawaii unlawfully.