hawaii oahu the kahala hotel and resort seaview

Things to know about Hawaii

Hawaiian Food

Just like the language and culture, Hawaiian food is a fusion of native flavours and cooking techniques in a mixing pot of the various foreign influences that have historically impacted Hawaii. Many restaurants in Hawaii offer Asian and continental food while fresh produce, seafood and meat can all be obtained from native plantations and ranches.

Affordable local Hawaiian meals are usually served as plate lunches, usually consisting of meat or fish with scoops of rice and pasta salad. Food trucks are also popular among those who want cheap and good meals. A traditional Hawaiian luau buffet feast serves up dishes like poi (ground yam), kalua pork (a whole pig wrapped in special herbs, baked in an underground oven), marinated shellfish or octopus. Enjoy your Hawaiian food excursion amidst a chilled out ambience with Polynesian music and hula dance.

Hawaiian Nightlife 

hawaii oahu hyatt regency waikiki beach resort and spa hyatt sunset view

Hawaii is as vibrant at night as it is in the day. After a glorious sunset, the islands come alive as visitors head out for cocktails and authentic Hawaiian cuisine at restaurants and resorts. Kauai is perfect for those seeking a laid-back bar scene.

Oahu has the most vibrant nightlife scene out all the islands. You can expect exotic drinks, great food and live music at a huge range of bars, restaurants, lounges and clubs lined up from Waikiki to Downtown Honolulu. Similar experiences can be found in the Big Island, where you can also enjoy out-of-this-world outdoor nightlife activities, such as scuba diving on the Kona Coast and stargazing on the peak of Maunakea, the largest dormant volcano in the world. For the lovebirds, Maui offers plenty of dining options under the moonlit sky in Wailea. Party animals will love Kihei and Lahaina, where they can dance the night away.

hawaii maui kaanapali beach hotel tiki terrace asian pork bun

Hawaii’s Cuisine

Going To Hawaii

Many airlines, including low-cost carriers, have non-stop flights to Honolulu from most major airports in the United States. The island of Oahu is where most US and international flights land in Honolulu. You will need to book an inter-island flight if you’d like to go to a Neighbour Island (anything outside Oahu). You can also travel between islands on a Hawaiian cruise ship.

Accommodation in Hawaii

Backpackers, couples and families will be pleased with the wide array of Hawaii accommodation options located all over the Islands. From 5-star luxury hotels to condos and hostels, there is definitely an option for every budget. Campsites are also available in National, State, City and County Parks. The rise of ecotourism, which promotes sustainable tourism activities to conserve Hawaii’s natural resources, has spawned many eco-lodges and resorts where you can be assured of an environmentally friendly stay in Hawaii.

Getting around Hawaii

You are advised to plan for at least a three-week long stay if you want to visit all the Islands. Make the best of your sightseeing time by flying domestic. You could also book a helicopter sightseeing tour to explore the otherwise inaccessible parts of Hawaii. Charter boats and cruises sail between some islands as well. A ferry connects Lanai, Moloka and Oahu to Maui.

On land, limousines, cabs and coaches are easily available. Oahu is the only island with an extensive island-wide bus service route. Vehicle rentals are available but not necessary in Honolulu due to its established public transport system. Do be careful when driving at night, as roads between towns can be narrow and poorly lit. For those who prefer to go off the beaten path, you can hire a bike and start exploring smaller towns.

Hawaiian Currency 

The Hawaiian currency is the US Dollar. Tips up to around 15 percent in restaurants and 10 percent in taxis are expected. Generally, tour guides also appreciate a few dollars of gratuity per person.

Entry Requirements

Visitors to Hawaii require a valid passport or valid travel document with sufficient validity. Anyone entering Hawaii directly from a different country needs to meet the same entry requirements for the United States. Visa requirements vary for different countries of origin, so be sure to check here. To apply, face-to-face interviews with an US embassy or consulate is mandatory for nearly all nationalities, except for those from the 38 countries within the Visa Waiver Program, Canadians, Mexicans holding a Border Crossing Card, Caymanian, Bermudians, Turks and Caicos Islanders with British Overseas Territories passports.

Hawaii Climate

Year-round temperatures are similar in the Islands, ranging from 18°C to 30°C. The weather is appropriate for summer clothes and you should probably also throw on a few layers of sunscreen for good measure, when at the beach. Do later up for mountain hikes as it can get quite chilly in the highlands. It is common for the weather in Hawaii to vary even over short distances. Travellers should take note of the wetter season that runs from October to March.

hawaii maui kaanapali beach hotel hula class

Things to do in Hawaii

Shopping in Hawaii

With their special, refreshing fragrances, locally made shower bath & body products like body lotions, oils and soaps made from Hawaiian ingredients make for great souvenirs from your holiday trip to Hawaii. Also exclusive to Hawaii are sandals, bags and wall ornaents made from Lauhala leaves. Other great finds include the quintessential floral aloha shirts, mu’umu’us (loose cotton dresses with prints), woven hats, handcrafted feather headbands, hand woven cloth, capes and bags with gorgeous Hawaiian applique designs or copies of traditional Hawaiian instruments made from stones, shells, bamboo, gourds, seeds and lumber.

Shuttle buses from key locations take you to malls like the Royal Hawaiian Centre and Ala Moana Shopping Centre in Waikiki. Suss out interesting buys at markets like the Aloha Tower Marketplace on Honolulu Harbour and the International Market Place, where there are outdoor performances and restaurants. For branded outlet shopping, head down to Waikele Premium Outlets for a wide variety of luxury, fashion, sporting and lifestyle brands.

Places to Visit In Hawaii

Tourism is restricted to the southernmost islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, the Big Island, Molokai and Lanai. Rich in biodiversity and famous for abundant wildlife, tropical fruits, floral and fauna, each island offers something for every tourist.

The populous island of Oahu is perfect for those who want to experience island life while retaining city comforts. Many rainforest and eco trails present Hawaiian hiking opportunities in close proximity to the famous Waikiki Beach. Waikiki snorkel trails and shark snorkel dives are popular, together with other Hawaii dive trips. Take in famous sights like Diamond Head and the Dole Plantation, or revisit history with the famous Pearl Harbour Tours. Cultural activities at the Polynesian Cultural Center also make for a great way to learn more about Hawaiian culture.

For a more relaxing pace, head to the other neighbouring islands to really unwind against a backdrop of natural wonders, like Haleakala, a 3000-metre dormant Hawaiian volcano. Take the road to Hana, one of the most scenic on Maui. Journey over bridges, past waterfalls and end up at the majestic Oheo Gulch Pools (“Seven Sacred Pools”). If Hawaii’s hiking trails are your thing, navigating Molokai’s scenic cliff trails on the back of a mule can be a thrilling yet rewarding experience.

Book a Kauai helicopter trip or explore it on foot to take in the true beauty of Waimea Canyon and several magnificent Hawaiian botanical gardens. This unbridled, carefree island has been featured in many films over the past twenty years. The same goes for the Big Island, where you can fly over an enormous volcano while feeling the heat radiating from the centre of its core at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Water Sports, Diving & Snorkelling in Hawaii 

 

Hawaii is synonymous with beach and water sports, with surfing being practised with an almost religious zeal.

Jet skiing, parasailing, kayaking, scuba diving and snorkelling are commonplace in Hawaii tourist areas too. Plunge into the depths of Cathedrals, Lanai’s top diving spot with up to 21-metre deep pinnacles and caverns caused by the coral formations there.

A great snorkelling spot at Maui is the Molokini Crater, a partially submerged volcanic crater. Also, don’t miss Hawaiian humpback whale watching season from mid-December to mid-April. Perhaps you might spot the giant humpbacks as they migrate to Hawaiian waters for birthing. Embark on a dolphin tour and get the rare chance to swim with live dolphins in their natural habitat at the Big Island.

 

Hawaiian People & Culture

People in Hawaii

Since first native Polynesian arrived between the fourth and fifth century, Hawaii’s population has grown to about 1.4 million.

There is a diverse mix of ethnicities, ranging from White Americans, Asians, natives, African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos to American Indians and Alaksan natives. In fact, Hawaii has the highest percentage of Asian and Multiracial Americans and the lowest percentage of White Americans, compared to any other state.

Languages in Hawaii

In Hawaii, the official languages are Hawaiian and English. However, the latter is more commonly used all over the Islands, with only a small fraction of the total population speaking the Hawaiian language. Hawaiian belongs to the Austronesian language family, bearing similarities to other Polynesian languages like Tahitian and Māori. Other minority languages spoken include Spanish, Tagalog, German, Portuguese, Italian, Chinese and Japanese.

Many natives also speak Hawai’i Creole English (HCE) or “Pidgin” as a second language. HCE deviates structurally from standard English and its vocabulary contains words borrowed from Hawaiian, Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, Tagalog and Ilocano, thanks to the spike in immigration in the 19th century.

Design & Architecture

Hawaiian architecture paints a vivid picture of Hawaii’s evolution into the multicultural society it is today, with the influx of various influencers from beyond its borders at different points in time.

The earliest form of Hawaiian architecture, originated from the grass shacks of ancient Hawai’i, which indicated social status, skill, profession and wealth based on building material. Now, New English and European influences are prevalent in buildings like the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace and Kawaiha’o Church, which were built using coral reef blocks from regions like Ala Moana and Kaka’ako, in addition to other building materials readily available on native soil. Other European architectural styles also reflected in landmarks and monuments include Gothic (e.g. Royal Mausoleum, Aloha Tower), Renaissance (e.g. ‘Iolani Palace) and Romanesque (e.g. the buildings of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum).

Many downtown Honolulu office buildings feature an American form of Bauhaus architecture – most notably, the Hawai’I State Capitol, which combines the clean open structure of the Bauhaus style with Hawaiian treatments, such as koa wood doors and the capitol dome inspired by the Hawaiian Islands’ volcanic origins. Also bearing such native motifs are the First Hawaiian Tower and First Hawaiian Center, which are recent inroads into creating a skyscraper skyline.

Residential homes in the outskirts, as well as buildings like the Ala Moana Centre and Hawaiian Village Hotel reflect a contemporary adaptation of Hawaiian plantation architecture, perhaps the most famous style exported globally. 

Cultural & Legal Restrictions

Hawaii’s most distinctive feature the characteristic, almost-familial warmth of its locals that complements the island’s balmy climate. The resultant cheerful, laid-back “hang loose” atmosphere also extends to attire. Shorts are acceptable around the Islands but you are advised not to go bare-chested or barefoot unless at the beach. Skinny-dipping is strictly illegal as well.

It is also recommended that you do not assume that all residents consider themselves “Hawaiian”; the term is usually reserved for descendants of the native aboriginal people of Hawaii. To be safe, Hawaii residents could simply be referred to as “islanders” or “locals” instead.

The religions practised in Hawaii are as diverse as its multitude of races. Most locals are Christians; other religions include Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Daoism, amongst others. Ancient Hawaiian religions are also practised in many heiaus (temples) all over the Islands. An example is Ho’oponopono, an ancient healing philosophy of forgiveness and reconciliation with prayer.

Due to Native Hawaiians and the large Asian population, cultural differences exist between Hawaiian and general American etiquette. For instance, you must remove your footwear prior to entering an islander’s home, just like in many parts of Asia. People display a strong connection to nature, often attributing spiritual qualities to the land – as observed in the urban legend that removing volcanic rock from Mauna Loa or Kilauea will anger the goddess Pele and cause misfortune to befall the offender. In any case, taking rocks, plants or other natural “souvenirs” from national parks and reserves is illegal.

With the largest population of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults in the country, Hawaii is the 15thstate to legalise same-sex marriages.

Going To Hawaii

Many airlines, including low-cost carriers, have non-stop flights to Honolulu from most major airports in the United States. The island of Oahu is where most US and international flights land in Honolulu. You will need to book an inter-island flight if you’d like to go to a Neighbour Island (anything outside Oahu). You can also travel between islands on a Hawaiian cruise ship.

Accommodation in Hawaii

Backpackers, couples and families will be pleased with the wide array of Hawaii accommodation options located all over the Islands. From 5-star luxury hotels to condos and hostels, there is definitely an option for every budget. Campsites are also available in National, State, City and County Parks. The rise of ecotourism, which promotes sustainable tourism activities to conserve Hawaii’s natural resources, has spawned many eco-lodges and resorts where you can be assured of an environmentally friendly stay in Hawaii.

 

Getting around Hawaii

You are advised to plan for at least a three-week long stay if you want to visit all the Islands. Make the best of your sightseeing time by flying domestic. You could also book a helicopter sightseeing tour to explore the otherwise inaccessible parts of Hawaii. Charter boats and cruises sail between some islands as well. A ferry connects Lanai, Moloka and Oahu to Maui.

On land, limousines, cabs and coaches are easily available. Oahu is the only island with an extensive island-wide bus service route. Vehicle rentals are available but not necessary in Honolulu due to its established public transport system. Do be careful when driving at night, as roads between towns can be narrow and poorly lit. For those who prefer to go off the beaten path, you can hire a bike and start exploring smaller towns.

Hawaiian Currency 

The Hawaiian currency is the US Dollar. Tips up to around 15 percent in restaurants and 10 percent in taxis are expected. Generally, tour guides also appreciate a few dollars of gratuity per person.

Entry Requirements

Visitors to Hawaii require a valid passport or valid travel document with sufficient validity. Anyone entering Hawaii directly from a different country needs to meet the same entry requirements for the United States. Visa requirements vary for different countries of origin, so be sure to check here. To apply, face-to-face interviews with an US embassy or consulate is mandatory for nearly all nationalities, except for those from the 38 countries within the Visa Waiver Program, Canadians, Mexicans holding a Border Crossing Card, Caymanian, Bermudians, Turks and Caicos Islanders with British Overseas Territories passports.

Hawaii Climate

Year-round temperatures are similar in the Islands, ranging from 18°C to 30°C. The weather is appropriate for summer clothes and you should probably also throw on a few layers of sunscreen for good measure, when at the beach. Do later up for mountain hikes as it can get quite chilly in the highlands. It is common for the weather in Hawaii to vary even over short distances. Travellers should take note of the wetter season that runs from October to March.