Hawaii Travel Basics

For those seeking vacation perfection, understanding the regional and cultural differences will ensure a rewarding trip

Hawaiian Hints

For many Americans, Hawaii is a vacation destination too good to pass up. The tropical weather and unique culture are endlessly alluring and being able to enjoy this island lifestyle without the hassle of international travel is simply a dream come true. Regional and cultural differences can be intimidating, however, so brush up on some basic travel information to head off anxiety.


Hawaii is an island chain comprised of six different islets, each with its own distinct personality. When trying to decide the best destination for you, it may be helpful to learn more about what each of these major islands can offer travelers.

Island Major Cities Description
(The Big Island)
The largest island of the group offers visitors plenty of variety. Beautiful beaches dot the coastline, providing great opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving. In the interior, travelers will find rugged volcanic mountains perfect for hiking or riding bikes. Between these two extremes, expect to find a number of dazzling and unique diversions, from museums and parks to Macadamia nut orchards. Many of the larger cities will also feature historic areas and festivals.
Maui Ka'anapali
Home the world's largest dormant volcano, Maui offers a lush landscape of pineapple orchards and sugarcane fields surrounded by stunning beaches and Pacific waters. Humpback whales make these waves their home from December until May and whale-watching is a popular activity for many visitors. Fishing and water sports of all kinds are also favorites, luring travelers from all over the world to enjoy the temperate climate and tropical waters.
Lanai Lanai City Lanai is quite small – only 13 miles long by 18 miles wide – but don't be fooled; the small island packs plenty of adventure. Traditionally considered a "getaway island," it does make for a soothing escape from the bustle of the popular neighboring islands. But vacationers need not limit their plans to sunbathing and lounging about in hammocks. Two challenging golf courses and a handful of premium surfing spots help to keep active travelers on their toes. For those interested in eco-tourism and conversation, the Manele-Hulopo'e Marine Sanctuary is a must-see.
Molokai Kaunakakai
Kaupoa Beach
This often-overlooked island can be an ideal spot for a Hawaiian vacation. Diverse natural features such as luscious rainforests, jagged mountains, and sandy stretches of coastline are all well-maintained and known for their pristine condition. As the former site of both a large native Hawaiian population and a leper colony, the island also offers a fascinating history. Those fortunate enough to visit during May will encounter an annual celebration held for the hula dance which, legend has it, originated here.
Oahu Honolulu
Undoubtedly the most frequently visited of the Hawaiian islands, Oahu contains two of the state's most well-known cities, Honolulu and Waikiki. There's a reason more than 4 million people visit each year: the diversity of the island ensures that there are activities and attractions to interest every traveler. Whether you want to experience the world-class surfing conditions in the north, tour the splendid Iolani Palace, or visit the monuments dedicated to those who died in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, there's no end to the island's appeal.
Kauai Kapa'a
Sometimes called the Garden Island, Kauai is known for its scenic views and abundant nature. The beaches are particularly noteworthy. Calm waters make them ideal for swimming and the unique sand is perfect place to catch the tropical sunshine. There are several sites where visitors can explore the local history as well as a number of natural attractions, including an off-shore geyser.


Hawaii is one of the most ethnically diverse locations in the United States. This blending of cultures has helped the create the seductive island flavor that makes it so unique, but it also means that visitors should take the time to educate themselves a bit about any unusual customs they may encounter.

Travelers should not forget that Hawaii is a U.S. state – it is not only ignorant but also offensive to refer only to the mainland as America or insinuate that people living in the islands are not U.S. citizens. One should also be mindful of the fact that only native people are called Hawaiians. Others will generally refer to themselves as residents of Hawaii, an example that should be followed by vacationers.

Several rules will also come in handy if you are to be a guest in someone's home. For one thing, it is generally thought to be polite to bring a small gift of some sort to your host. In addition, local custom dictates that you remove your shoes before entering any residence, as doing so is a sign of respect and consideration.

Learning about the differences in etiquette and the unique geographical features of each of the six main islands of Hawaii can help you to prevent unpleasant surprises during your trip.

Print this Article Bookmark and Share
Print   Return to Normal View