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25 of the best Hawaii travel tips
Over the years, I’ve been asked for my best Hawaii travel tips many times. Now that I am a certified travel specialist with a focus on Hawaii, it’s time to share some tips here! If you’re planning your next Hawaii adventure, these Hawaii travel tips will help you plan your dream vacation.
If you’re not working with a Hawaii travel agent, you should be! Working with a travel agent will save you time, money (yes, really!), and so much frustration. Even if you want to DIY your adventure, these Hawaii travel tips will help you immensely. Don’t forget to check out my other posts for even more Hawaii travel trips, things to do on each island, which Hawaii island is best for you, and more.
25 helpful Hawaii travel tips
1. Bring sunscreen
But, make sure it’s reef safe. Reef safe sunscreen is so important, and you can read more about that in my post, where to find reef-safe sunscreen. Even if you don’t tend to burn, bring sunscreen or rash guard clothing. Trust me. The sun is different in Hawaii than what you’re used to, it’s right on the equator, and it’s intense!
You might also enjoy reading about the best sunscreen for Hawaii.
2. Stay as long as you possibly can.
If you can, stay for two weeks – do it! If you want to visit multiple islands, I recommend staying at least five days on each island. One week per island is even better. There is so much to see in Hawaii, and so much to see on each island. Make sure to plan adequately to allow you to see as much as possible.
3. Avoid leaky luggage!
Items tend to leak on airplanes, so make sure any liquids in your carry on or checked bags are appropriately sealed. One little travel hack is to put a small plastic wrap on the top and then close the lid.
4. Make sure to follow TSA rules.
Make sure to check the TSA website for prohibited items. Items like knives nail files and knitting needles are not allowed in carry-on luggage. Corkscrews are also not allowed, ask my husband about that.
5. Know the weight of your bags
The weight limit on checked bags is 50 pounds. Try weighing yourself with and without the bag to figure out the weight of your luggage.
You might also enjoy how to fight jet lag in Hawaii.
6. Don’t get left with no access to your money.
It’s never a bad idea to contact your bank and credit card companies to let them know that you’ll be traveling to Hawaii.
7. Carry a little bit of cash.
Most businesses in Hawaii do accept Visa and Mastercard. Some smaller businesses are cash-only, and it’s always good to keep some cash on hand for tips.
8. Tipping etiquette
Tipping in Hawaii is the same as any other U.S. state. Tip a minimum of 10% at restaurants and consider more for excellent service. Tipping housekeeping, tour guides, and valets is also standard.
9. No all-inclusive, but that’s okay!
There are no all-inclusive resorts in Hawaii, but that’s okay! It can be great to get away from the resort and do some exploring. If you want an all-inclusive resort, save the money on a plane ticket to Hawaii. There are plenty of great all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean.
If you want an all-inclusive-like experience, consider a Hawaii cruise! On the cruise, your meals (and possibly drinks) will be included. There is one cruise that explores all four islands in just seven days, so that can be a great way to experience the islands for the first time. Contact me for more information or check out my post on why you might want to consider a Hawaii cruise.
Bring a bathing suit. Even if you haven’t worn a bathing suit in years, bring one! You might want to bring two or three. One to wear, and one to dry, and maybe an extra just in case. You can also bring one and buy one, Hawaii has so many options for buying swimsuits.
11. Don’t stress if you forget any small, essential items.
Essential items are often available at resorts. If nothing else, you can stop by an ABC store or Whalers General Store to purchase any small essential items. These stores also have cute souvenirs, although they’re most likely not made in Hawaii. Check out the Farmer’s Markets for locally made goods. Most of the islands also have stores like Wal-Mart and Target for small essentials like shampoo, snacks, etc.
12. Make sure to bring chargers for all of your devices, including your camera.
It’s always good to bring an extra SD card too. There are so many great spots for photos in Hawaii; you don’t want to miss anything. Speaking of cameras, I would recommend buying a GoPro. Most places rent GoPros, but it’s nice to have your own. The GoPro is great because you can use it for snorkeling, biking, ATV rides, and so much more.
13. Speaking of devices, remember that Hawaii is hands-free behind the wheel.
That means put down your cell phone. You’ll also want to wear your seatbelt for safety and to avoid a hefty fine.
14. Plan to bring more items back than you came with.
You can always bring an extra bag, or buy one in Hawaii.
15. You can’t bring your pets to Hawaii.
I know it’s sad, but you can’t do it! Well, you can, but it’s costly, and it takes a lot of work. Make sure to make other accommodations for your pets while you travel to the islands.
16. Hawaii has planned the use of plastic bags.
I recommend either bringing your own small foldable reusable bags (bonus: you can bring souvenirs home in them!) or purchasing reusable bags on the island. We love our reusable Hawaii-print Target bags. We use them all the time wherever we are.
17. Attire in Hawaii is very casual.
There are only a handful of restaurants that will require you to dress up. Almost everyone wears shorts, sundresses, and flip-flops (slippahs/slippers) regularly.
18. Remember the 3-1-1 rule for liquids in your carry on.
It’s better to put liquids in your checked bags. If you’re a light packer like me and not checking a bag, make sure to purchase some small bottles to carry your liquids. I use this set from Amazon. Also remember that most resorts, condos, and hotels will supply shampoo, soap, etc. If you want to bring your own, make sure to follow TSA guides. More detailed information can be found here.
19. Be respectful.
A lot of land in Hawaii is sacred; make sure to treat it as such. It’s also important to remember to avoid any jerk-tourist behaviors like trespassing, stepping on the coral, general rudeness, littering, etc. Just be a decent person, and you’ll be fine.
Check out 20 things you should never do in Hawaii to learn more.
20. Rent a car.
I know that you will read some advice saying that you don’t need a car on Oahu, but I disagree. The island of Oahu is beautiful, and there is so much to be seen beyond Honolulu and Waikiki. Yes, the bus system on Oahu is pretty good, but it’s so much better to be able to travel around your schedule. Any rental car should be just fine. On all other islands, you will need a rental car. I wrote a post all about why you should rent a car in Hawaii, so go check it out for more information.
Should you rent a Jeep? I recommend renting a Jeep on Hawaii island (the Big Island.) On Hawaii Island, there are lots of places that you won’t be able to access without a 4-wheel drive. Check out my top 7 best things to do on the Big Island for more info.
If it’s within your budget, I would also recommend renting a Jeep on Kauai. It’s not as necessary, but some spots are easier to access with a 4-wheel drive. Do remember that some places in Kauai are inaccessible with any vehicle. You can also read my top 10 best things to do in Kauai for more information on Kauai.
In Maui, I recommend renting a car. If you want to do something fun, rent a convertible. We drove the Road to Hana and the back way from the Road to Hana with a car. Planning a trip to Maui? Check out seven things to do in Maui.
21. Plan some downtime.
I believe that it’s best to plan your vacation to allow you to experience as much of Hawaii as possible. That being said, it’s great to prepare for some downtime! Plan to spend a day browsing local farmer’s markets, swimming, or just spending time on the beach, interacting with the locals, and just appreciating the aloha spirit.
22. Buy some snorkel gear.
Snorkeling is one of the best (and cheapest!) things to do in Hawaii. You can always save some room and rent gear, but you’re going to want to snorkel multiple times on your trip. It ends up saving money to buy a decent snorkel set and bring it with you. Here is the one that I have (and love!)
23. Don’t take the lava rocks – it’s bad luck!
Maybe you’re not superstitious, but are you a little stitious? Sorry, Office joke. Anyway, taking lava rock from their natural place is considered a no-no in Hawaii. Tourists have been known to mail back their lava rocks, saying they’ve had an incredible streak of bad luck lately. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
24. Prepare to make many return trips.
There’s no way you’ll see everything that you want to see the first time you go to Hawaii. Plan to fall in love and return again and again.
25. Work with a travel agent!
Planning a Hawaii vacation can be stressful, mainly if you’ve never visited before. It can be hard to figure out which island to visit, where to stay, and what to do. A travel specialist can help with all of these things. If you’re wondering about the other benefits of working with a travel agent (hint, saving time, saving money, etc.) check out my post on why to work with a travel agent.
I hope that these 25 Hawaii travel tips will help you plan an epic vacation. If you want to remove the stress from planning your vacation, I’d love to chat with you! You can set up a time for me to call or send an email here.
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My wife and I are thinking about traveling to Hawaii for our honeymoon this year and we want to make sure we plan ahead to avoid mistakes. I really appreciate you reminding me to make sure all our liquids in our suitcase are sealed up tight so they don’t leak. This happened to me once before and so I had to purchase new clothes while on vacation because the clothing in my luggage was covered in shampoo.
You’re welcome!! It does happen. Let me know if you need any help planning your trip. 🙂
Went to Honolulu a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it — your tips brought back so many fond memories of my trip. If you don’t mind, I have a couple of tips I learned from my own trip:
1). I know you mentioned renting a car on Oahu, and I totally agree with that…but I can’t agree with the idea that “any car” is just fine. One of the great benefits of having a car is being able to drive around the island and check out all those hidden stretches of stunning public beaches. Unfortunately, some of those stretches aren’t really well developed — and many have small parking lots with steep gravel inclines for driveways. We rented a Jeep during our trip, and the 4×4 traction saved our bacon more than once. There were also quite a few times where we saw groups of helpful locals towing stranded sedans out of those very same parking lots. If you’re planning on sticking to major tourist areas, a regular rental is probably ok. But if you want to be even the slightest bit adventurous, a 4×4 is a *musr*.
2) Gotta admit, I’m really surprised that none of your tips talked about jet lag. It was one of my biggest reasons for putting off the trip for *many* years, and even when we finally went the jet lag made me much more of a “morning person” than I would have wanted to be on vacation. Luckily, there are places where that can work to your advantage — Pearl Harbor is a great example. In my planning I’ve heard of many people waiting 2-3 hours just to get to the memorial. If you get to Pearl 30 min before it opens, though — well, we got to explore every inch of the place and enjoy the malasatas at Leonard’s on the way back to the hotel while most other tourists were still waiting for the bus outside their hotel. If you suffer from jet lag, take advantage of it. Know what places open early and get there in time to beat the crowds!
Hey Laura! I appreciate you sharing your tips! I actually ALWAYS recommend a Jeep, but a lot of people just don’t want to pay the extra amount so I say that any car is “okay” but I highly recommend a Jeep! On jet lag – that deserves a blog post of its town! Which is why I have one. 🙂 I’ll make sure to link it to this post now that you mentioned it isn’t on here! https://amyfillinger.com/how-to-survive-a-long-flight/