For those of you who have been waiting on my Hawaii Tips, Here they are! Finally…..I know. And there’s many more coming in the next couple weeks. When we went on our Hawaii vacation last year, I wanted to post about it, but I knew we would be going again, so I wanted to wait and combine all of my Hawaii tips at the same time.
Last year we went to Kauai and Maui, and this year we went to Oahu and Maui. So keep a lookout, because I’m going to be overblogging Hawaii tips galore! If you are trying to decide between Maui or Kauai, see my Maui vs Kauai comparison post. If you are going to Oahu, see my North Shore Oahu post specifically about what not to miss on the North Shore. We now also have a travel guide for the Big Island Hawaii!
Hawaii Tips: Planning Your Hawaii Vacation
Snorkeling. Snorkeling will likely be a part of your Hawaii vacation (If you’ve read my article 103 Free Things to Do in Oahu, it’s one of my favorite things to do in Hawaii). Whether it’s a fun boat tour, or doing it on your own, snorkeling is just plain awesome.
The first time we went, we didn’t take snorkel gear with the intent to rent. Sure, it saved room in our luggage, but for the amount we paid to rent, we could have just checked an extra bag. The second year we went, we heard great things about the full face snorkel masks, and after reading reviews for several hours, we ended up getting these ones and taking them with us. GAME CHANGER!
These things are amazing, and everyone in our group agreed they were the best money spent our whole trip. No fogging, no water in your mouth or snorkel, and effortless breathing since you can breathe normally with them. My mom didn’t have one, and refused to go snorkeling unless she was using one of our masks. She was a beginner, so the mask really put her at ease.
Footwear. While we are on the topic of snorkeling, I need to add a little tip on footwear. Please take some water shoes with good grip on the sole! Especially if you are going to travel around to different snorkel spots on the island.
All the best snorkel spots are in rocky, coral areas which means you can really scratch yourself up if you are trying to get into the water and waves are knocking you over onto the rocks. Or if you step on sea urchins…or something worse.
My dad was wearing open toed shoes and totally ripped his toenail right off his big toe trying to get into the water. It was so sad! I also wore my water shoes and Chacos on all the hikes, so I was wearing them ALL THE TIME and putting them to good use.
*Keep in mind that if you choose to do something like a Zipline adventure, you must have closed-toed shoes (and speaking of Ziplining, I included a video of the one we did at the end of this post. SO FUN!)
Clothing. This is one of my biggest Hawaii tips. I don’t sunburn very easily, and when I do it’s not bad, so I have never owned a rash guard in my life. But for Hawaii, they are a must. I now own 3 rash guards.
The sun is different in Hawaii (right on the equator, so the sun is direct). And since it’s humid, you might not think you are burning, but you really are. Plus, if you plan on snorkeling, that’s a lot of direct sun right on your back…which is my least favorite spot to get a sunburn!
Even if you plan on coming back with a nice tan (always my plan), you should pack a rash guard. If you don’t want to peel, you’ll want to give your skin a break for a day or so after it’s been in the sun a long time. Even on your hikes there will almost always be water, waterfalls, or cliffs to jump off.
My first time going to Hawaii I wished I had packed far less clothes, and far more swimsuits, coverups, and rash guards. I would recommend one short sleeve rash guard, and one long-sleeved rash guard. Also I LOVE these swim bottom shorts that I’m wearing in the picture below. They are perfect for doing adventurous stuff in because they have a nice thick waist band that keeps the belly in, and the legs are nice and snug, keeping the bum in. Goal accomplished! I have them in 4 or 5 different colors
Photography and Video. This tip is HUGE. Almost everything you do in Hawaii will involve water.
There’s also issues with burglery in Hawaii, so you want to make sure you never leave anything in the car. This has convinced me to never bring my nice camera to Hawaii. Instead, we bring our GoPro. In fact, I have seen more GoPro’s in half a day on Hawaii, than I have seen in my entire life. They are a must! Plus, it’s so nice when we go on our adventures and we get that pitch at the end for buying photos for an exorbitant amount, and we can easily say no because we got some awesome shots on the GoPro.
Here’s an example….on the snorkel boat trip we went on, photos were $40 for ONE PHOTO! Cray-cray!! This picture below is a shot that was taken at Kapalua Ziplines of my husband with his Go Pro in hand.
This is the only place we have ever purchased the photos at the end. And when we got home, we realized that my husband got way better shots with the GoPro. Plus, snorkeling is way more exciting when you see the HUGE turtles and know that you get to take home pictures of them 🙂 We got the GoPro Hero4 for the touch screen viewfinder so that we can playback movies straight from the camera after shooting them.
Visiting Multiple Islands. We learned this one the hard way. If you are visiting multiple islands (highly recommended since it’s not that much more), use Hawaiian Airlines, not Island Air. We used the latter for our first trip because it was slightly cheaper when we booked, but here’s the catch:
They charge you for every carry-on that is more than 15 POUNDS! And they weighed every single one of them. We were NOT happy about that little surprise. The next year we chose Hawaiian Airlines and everything was better. They never even weighed carry-ons and if you sign up for their free rewards, you get a discount on checked luggage, plus miles for your flight, plus alerts when flights are a good deal (optional).
The “Blue Bible” The NUMBER ONE Thing I wish I had done before our trip to Hawaii was to buy the Hawaii revealed guidebooks at least a month before our trip. Several people had recommended them to me for great Hawaii tips, but I didn’t pay too much attention until a couple of weeks beforehand.
I had no idea how thorough these books are, as well as fun to read (I don’t read books very often so part of me worried I wouldn’t have enough interest to read through them, or I wouldn’t have time).
Here are some reasons why the guidebooks are a must-have for your Hawaii vacation:
Unbiased: If you are planning your Hawaii vacation via the internet, almost everything you are reading is biased. Meaning, websites and blogs are recommending certain places because they make a commission off of it, or they got a free hotel meal or activity for their recommendation.
What I love about the guidebooks is that all their Hawaii tips are completely unbiased. He does all of his reviews anonymously and he pays for everything that he does. These books are SO DETAILED. He has done it all.
I had a hard time putting down the books because they were so well put together, and the author is pretty funny too. The sad thing is that even after all my months of planning, there were so many things he mentioned that I wish I had done differently. Many of his recommendations were golden, and as such were already booked out when I called to make reservations. If you get the books at least a month in advance (ideally a couple of months), you can make sure you get in with all the best activities before they sell out.
When I called to make reservations for the very best, most authentic luau (The Old Lahaina Luau), they had been sold out for a month already. The next year that I went, I made reservations well in advance and had a wonderful evening!
Depending on where you are going, there is a guidebook for each island: Maui revealed, Kauai Revealed, The Big Island, and Oahu Revealed. The one caution I would give you is to call ahead on some things. Some of the restaurants have since been shut down, so we drove to get food and sometimes the place didn’t exist anymore.
Keep an eye out over the next couple of weeks! We have tips for each island (with videos) coming your way!