I’ve been to Hawaii three times in the last 13 months… I’m practically an addict! I’ve learnt a fair few hints and tips during my trips that I wish I knew before and I thought I would share them with you to save you time and pain.
1. Book in advance
Tours sell out, accommodation sells out. Book in advance. I missed seeing the Na Pali Coast as alllll the boat tours had sold out. Most of the chopper tours too.In Maui and Kauai we paid a small fortune for accommodation at even a few weeks out. Book in advance and book direct where you can. Costco USA also have great vacation packages.If you can book via a USA website or agent you could save yourself a lot of money.Side note – Inter-island flights rarely sell out and are much cheaper if you use the USA web booking platform.
2. Flights don’t have to be painful
International overnight flights are the best! …If you can sleep on planes that is. I go to sleep in Brisbane and I wake up in Hawaii. If I’m lucky I will catch a meal service. I feel like I have made efficient use of my time whereas with a day flight I feel like I am wasting time.Inter-island flights and short and usually cheap. Explore another island for a night or a few days.Hot tip: last night I had to change my flight at short notice. I rang Australia Hawaiian Airlines who advised me a fare difference of $98 plus a change fee. I called the web helpline for Hawaiian Airlines in USA, they said $24 plus a $30 change fee. Instead I rocked up at the airport half an hour before check in for the flight I wanted and was able to change for free! It would usually be $30 but as the weather was crap, they were waiving the change fees – yew!Also, remember that with inter-island travel you will be stung for checking in bags. Try save the shopping until last to save on space and checked items.
3. Hire a car
If you’re just planning on hanging around in Waikiki (which I don’t advise – see the next point) then don’t worry about a car. An Uber to and from the airport will do you just fine.Plan your car to the island. A Jeep in Oahu is great (get four doors if there’s more than two of you, from personal experience I know this will drive you crazy otherwise) to get around the North Shore and West Coast. A convertible in Maui is fun for exploring the Road to Hana with uninterrupted views and in Kauai you might want to find something that has a roof to keep you dry – it rains a lot there.
Cars are a must on the outer islands unless you plan on not leaving your resort.
4. Get out of Waikiki
Waikiki is great for a few days. But it’s just a tourist junction. Get out and see the REAL Hawaii! Explore the West Coast, the North Shore and meet some locals. Hell, even downtown Honolulu will switch it up for you. Don’t be fooled that Waikiki represents Hawaii, it doesn’t. It can be a lot of fun and easy to hang around but you’ll thank me for getting out and about!Even better, get out to the other islands and explore the less touristy side of Hawaii.
5. What to buy
Shoppppiinnggggg! I hear you, USA, outlets, good times. In USA the best buys are shoes, clothes, make up and bags. Michael Kors and Kate Spade usually have amazing sales, particularly at the outlets where you can grab a bargain. This trip alone I nabbed a leather Michael Kors jacket for 75% off and a Kate Spade backpack for 60% off. Happy days!
MAC is cheaper and sometimes Sephora is too. I buy and stock up on all my makeup and skincare in USA (or Canada where it’s cheaper because of the exchange rate) and love having the beautiful ladies show me all the latest products. They will often give you a full-face makeover while showing you what’s good.
Shoes! Runners in particular are great. I bought Adidas Pure Boosts for $150USD and they’re usually $260 at home. I found Adidas Ultra Boosts for $100 at Nordstrom Rack which were an absolute steal. Nine West is cheap, Aldo is great.
Ross is a steal for souvenirs and little finds, or if you have a car, check out Walmart for even greater savings. Waileke Premium Outlets are where the real savings are at. If there’s one of you, get a shuttle there. Two of you, uber. Three of you or more, hire a car.
My favourite buy this trip was a blow up floaty pineapple ring from Ross for $12. I haven’t used it yet, but I will!! Ahhh…
Oh! Suitcases! Take a crappy one and leave it over there and replace it with another! Even better yet, take carry on and buy a new one and bring it back too! Most airlines give you two check pieces for international travel. I have bought a Samsonite huge suitcase from Ross and two carry-on’s for my Brother’s and another quality medium sized one for me.
6. Do a tour on any of the islands
I know what you’re thinking – so cliché. Well, perhaps, if you hop on the wrong one. However, with a little research you’ll find yourself a real taste of Hawaii. The best part about tours is the knowledge that is shared with you. You cannot learn that sh*t driving yourself around. You really miss out. The stories of the island and the culture and the people are truly important to understand to be able to gain a real feel for the Hawaiian culture.
I highly recommend The Road to Hana with Roberts Hawaii in Maui and if you’re looking for something in Oahu, the North Shore is a must. If you really want to see Hawaii (and it took me four trips to get there, so you’re welcome) do a helicopter tour. I was absolutely mind blown. Not only do you get that commentary, knowledge and stories from your pilot but you see Hawaii from an entirely different perspective. I went all out with doors off (BEST EVER) and a secret scenic landing (I was so grateful for this experience, I felt overwhelmed to be somewhere so special and magnificent where few people has been before) in a Magnum PI replica helicopter with Paradise Helicopters, however a short flight will give you a taster and I’m sure you will be back for more!
Check out Groupon too, you never know what discounts you can easily find.
7. What to eat and drink
Guys, surely you know by now I cannot fit this into a paragraph! Here’s a super top level guide of what to eat and drink around Hawaii:
Food: Poke (hell yeah, find the freshest you can); Loco Moco (local Hawaiian breakfast of meat patties, rice, eggs and gravy); Acai bowls (popular here now, sold in most places); anything with local meats and recipes. Fresh fish is a must have, Ono or Mahi Mahi are my favourites. Tacos! Food Trucks! The list goes on…
Drinks: You can’t go past a Mai Tai and the range of cocktails on the Happy Hour menu! Happy Hour in Hawaii is awesome for drinks and for food. Pina Coladas are great – always ask if they have a local spirit substitute. I had chilli vodka last night and it was beautiful in a fiery chocolate martini.Hawaiian sparkling – meh. It’s okay, try it if you want but if you don’t, you’re not missing out on much. Champagne can be expensive. So can wine. You’ll eventually get sick of the sugar in the cocktail and crave something else!
8. Learn a little of the language
This will get you far in any place and Hawaii is certainly not an exception. The Hawaiian people are a lovely bunch and they appreciate when you speak to them in their native tongue. The basics are Aloha (hello, goodbye but also much, much more); and Mahalo which means thank you. Super impressed? Mahalo nui loa.
If you’re from New Zealand, you will notice with words are very close to Maori and some are even the same such as Wahine and Tane for Women and Men.Using the local tongue will allow you to connect better with the locals and open up for more conversation.
Have I missed anything you’d like to know? Let me know and I’ll add it in.
You can read about my Road to Hana Tour Here
Learn where I always stay in Waikiki Here
Check out my incredible helicopter tour Here
My favourite place for Chinese in Honolulu Here
Want to store your luggage at the airport? Here’s how.