Hawaii - Everything You need to know before traveling to Hawaii

Hawaii is perhaps the most special archipelago in the world. The Hawaiian Islands are part of a volcanic archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

It consists of 8 islands, but due to continuous volcanic activity, the number of islands will increase in the future.

Out of the 8 islands, the main islands are:

  1. Kauai

  2. Maui

  3. Oahu

  4. Big Island / Hawai'i And the smaller, less settled islands are:

  5. Molokai

  6. Lanai

  7. Niihau

  8. Kahoolawe


The archipelago is not only famous for its incredible amount of attractions and natural wonders, but it is also unconsciously special to have almost all the climates of the Earth on these few tiny islands. And even within some islands, smaller microclimates are set apart.

So it may be that while it is raining on one side of the island, there is sparkling sunny weather on the other side. And that can also happen for example that the top of the volcano is snowy, while there are heat waves on the beach.

Or you can also discover the jungle and the volcanic "lunar" landscape on the same day.

What is for sure amazing, that how many wonders and experiences the Hawaiian Islands have to offer. Here everyone will definitely find the right pastime for herself/himself, whether it is an active or passive holiday.

Hawaii offers many completely different vacation options. It can be active hiking, passive beach recreation, or a mixture of the two. Every age group will find the right pastime: everything is possible, the most extreme survivor- hikes, child-friendly waterfall tours, and even elderly people can enjoy pleasant well-maintained hiking trails.

Not to mention Hawaii's beautiful beaches as well as its wonderful activities such as helicopter tours, surfing, whale watching, scuba diving and the must-see traditional Hawaiian Luaus.



I will cover the detailed itineraries of the 4 main islands and their amazing attractions in my next posts.

In the meantime, here’s a little general overview of Hawaii:

History:

The native Hawaiians have their own Hawaiian language, which comes from the Polynesian language family, but unfortunately, this has become increasingly marginalized due to American influence. The Hawaiian alphabet has only 12 letters, 5 of which are vowels. Today, less than 0.1% of the population speaks Hawaiian as their mother tongue, making it one of the most endangered languages ​​in the world.

Indigenous came from the Polynesian archipelago to Hawaii in the 3-4th century. Then, around the 13th century, Tahitian conquerors arrived and spread the new religion and social system.

Then, in 1778, the Englishman James Cook discovered the islands (as the first European), and from there the archipelago entered the public consciousness worldwide.

In 1790, Kamehameha I. established the unified Kingdom of Hawaii by conquering and uniting most of the islands. The kingdom lasted until 1893, when U.S. troops occupied the Kingdom of Hawaii for no good reason and deprived Queen Lili'uokalani of her throne, then proclaimed the Republic. In 1898, the United States annexed the Hawaiian Islands, which then in 1900 were granted territorial self-government. And in 1959, Hawaii was declared the 50th state of the United States.


Culture:

Aloha The Hawaiian culture is quite immersive. The ALOHA lifestyle permeates people's days. Many tourists think that Aloha is just a greeting, but it is actually much more than that. This word has a deep underlying meaning in Hawaii's culture. The most important message of Aloha is to maintain and pass on love, peace and compassion. If one practices Aloha, it means being kind to others and helpful as well as respecting and protecting one’s environment and nature.

The word is derived from the following Hawaiian words:

  • Alo - sharing, presence

  • if - breath

It is also often translated as "The breath of Life"

Ohana The other most important thing to the native Hawaiians is the Ohana, which means family. And this family means not only the blood family, but the whole community around them. So Ohana is a supportive, caring, cooperative community in which it is very important to pay special respect to their ancestors as well. In the Hawaiian culture, the family is sacred and inviolable.

Hula Hula is an ancient dance in the Hawaiian Islands. Hula is not just a dance, but an artistic narrative of the ancient legends of the Hawaiian people. The mele, the lyrics of the song, is closely related to the movements of the dance. Hula plays a key role in the survival and transmission of Hawaiian culture, as these dances (with the stories behind them) convey the message of the ancestors and ancient learnings. In the dance, the moves of the hip symbolize the waves of the sea, and the dignified posture reflects the connection with the Gods and heaven.

And now I share some general information which is good to know before traveling to Hawaii: like entry rules, weather conditions, accommodation, car rental and other useful tips.


Entry rule:

Hawaii is the 50th state in the US, so an ESTA application is required to enter. To make sure everything goes smoothly, it is advisable to request it no later than 72 hours before departure (but the sooner the better). You have to apply for it online, and it will take about 10-15 minutes. Granting the ESTA will cost $ 14 for EU citizens. During Covid, Hawaii had an extra official interface, Safe Travels, which required certificates for vaccinations and a negative PCR test, but the long strict restrictions are slowly beginning to ease, so this Safe Travels registration is no longer required from the end of March 2022 ( we hope not only temporarily ...!)

When to visit Hawaii:

Anytime!!!

Apart from the many microclimates, in Hawaii two seasons are dominating: the rainy season from November to April and the drier "summer" season from May to October. However, the weather is very pleasant throughout the year. The average daytime temperature is 29-31 °C in the "summer" season, and 26-28 °C in the rainy season. However, you should not be afraid during the rainy season either. If it starts to rain, there will most likely be sparkling sunshine on the other side of the island. Due to the currents and winds, the southern and western parts of the islands are always the drier, sunnier sides and the north and eastern sides are the wetter parts of the islands.


However, if you want to see plenty of humpback whales, then the December-March period is the most optimal, as it is the whale season, when about 20,000 humpback whales are coming from the north to the Hawaiian Islands to give birth to their little ones here in warmer waters.


Campervan-life:

For many of You, most probably a similar image will pop up first, when you think about Hawaii. Either a luxury beach hotel's pool and cocktails in the shade of palm trees,

or a colorful campervan with surfboards on top.

There are plenty of examples of both of the above in Hawaii, but the experience is completely different.

The first one is a luxury option, you will definitely have to pay a fortune, but for that money the hotel will take care of your comfort.

Whereas the campervan-style is another way of exploring the islands. It is more like a close-to-nature and close-to-reality experience. However, you need to know, that officially it is illegal to overnight in a campervan on the Hawaiian Islands. However, there are loopholes for this as well. E.g.

  • There are public campsites where you can camp with a special permit

  • It is possible to book a place in private campsites - e.g. on HipCamp's website

  • You can do Couchsurfing because if you’re already in someone’s garden with a car at night, it’s a private area and there’s no one watching if you’re sleeping in the car.

  • It is also possible to go wild camping, it is worth asking for tips from locals

But I’ll write in more detail about the Camper-lifestyle in Hawaii, as we discovered all four islands with a campervan. :)


Other useful info and tips:

  • There are American outlets, so it's a good idea to bring a converter

  • Among Hawaiian Airlines flights (between the islands) it is easy to make changes. If, for example, you get to the airport sooner and there is another Hawaiian flight before yours to the same destination, you can ask to be transferred to the earlier plane depending on the availability.

  • Mahalo = Thank you

  • It is worth doing the big grocery shopping in Target (the largest hypermarket there), BUT you can still expect extreme prices.


Stay tuned, because detailed itineraries for the 4 main islands are coming soon.

Have a nice day!

Berni