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Things Not to Do in Hawaii


We've done many features sharing our opinion of the best things to do in Hawaii and on its individual islands. Let's look at things from a different perspective.

Here are our picks for the top things to avoid when you're visiting Hawaii. If you avoid this pitfalls, you're sure to have a better and safer vacation and the local residents will be sure to welcome you back with open arms.

Don't Tell a Local or Fellow Visitor That You're from the USA

If someone asks you where you are from, don't say "the USA." I hear it far too often, especially from first time visitors. Hawaii is a US State and has been so since 1959. It is the 50th State in the Union. If someone asks you where you are from you can say either "the mainland" or just specify the city and/or state where you live.

Don't Leave Any Valuables in Your Rental Car

While Hawaii is much safer than most of the USA in terms of violent crime (rape, robbery, murder), it does have a higher rate of property crime. While there are many reasons asserted for this, i.e. drugs, economy, unemployment etc., rental cars remain a prime target for thieves. There are easy ways to identify rental cars in Hawaii and most locals know how to do so. When you park your car, do not leave any valuables anywhere in the car. Not even the trunk should be considered safe.

Don't Spend All of Your Time at Your Resort

It always bothers me when I see so many visitors who come to Hawaii who spend almost all of their vacation at their resort, lying by the pool or on the beach. Granted, Hawaii has some of the best beaches in the world, but there is so much more to Hawaii than just its wonderful beaches. The islands are all beautiful and quite different from each other. Get away from your hotel or resort and see the islands. In addition to the amazing natural wonders that you'll encounter, there are so many great activities to do in Hawaii.

Don't Spend All of Your First Full Day in the Sun

Speaking of the beach, I know that it's very tempting to spend your first day in Hawaii lying in the sun. It's a mistake that you'll regret for the rest of your trip. The sun in Hawaii is very hot and it is very easy to get a severe sunburn. If you decide to spend time in the sun, approach it gradually and use plenty of sunscreen. For more tips, see our feature How to Avoid a Sunburn.

Don't Forget to Tip

I understand that many non-US citizens are unaware of the practice of tipping. In some countries it's not considered necessary or even appropriate. However, I get very upset when I see how many Americans fail to leave a proper tip when visiting Hawaii. Hawaii is a very expensive place to live. Locals who work in the service industry rely on tips to live. Not only does this include servers in restaurants and hotel bell and valet staff, but also such folks as tour guides. Check out our guide to tipping in Hawaii for our suggestions.

Don't Honk Your Horn

If, like me, you're from one of the major mainland cities, it's an easy tendency to hit the horn when the car ahead of you doesn't immediately start up when the light turns green. In Hawaii, however, if you honk your horn for anything other than a major emergency such as to avoid an accident, you're likely to get a pretty nasty reaction from the other driver, especially when you get outside of Honolulu. Hang loose and keep away from the horn.

Don't Take Home Lava Rocks or Sand

I know it's tempting to take home a small lava rock or a handful of black, green, red sand or white sand, but don't do it. Some believe that doing so is bad luck, and every year many boxes of lava rocks are returned to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from folks who believe that. In my mind, however, it's just not the right thing to do. It's actually against the law to remove objects from a national park. In addition, the sand in Hawaii is not a limitless resource. Would you like someone to come onto your property and take away a shovelful of dirt from your front lawn? Enjoy the beauty of Hawaii's lava flows, lava rocks and multicolored beaches, but leave them in Hawaii. Bruce Fisher, a Hawaii resident and owner of Hawaii Aloha Travel expresses this sentiment very well.

Don't Approach a Hawaiian Monk Seal or Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle

On many beaches you're likely to find a Hawaiian monk seal or green sea turtle lying on the beach. If you do, leave them be. The same rules apply if you encounter them in the ocean. Monk seals are known to be especially nasty and while Hawaiian green sea turtles are mostly very docile, keep in mind that both are protected and endangered species. While the Hawaiian green sea turtle, or honu in Hawaiian, has made a good recovery due to conservation efforts, the Hawaiian monk seal's numbers have been declining and may become extinct within our lifetime.

Don't Just Visit Waikiki and Think You've Seen Hawaii

One of my biggest frustrations has always been that so many visitors, especially those from Japan, come to Hawaii, spend a week in Waikiki and rarely leave their hotel or resort except to go out to eat or to shop. Even if your vacation brings you only to the island of Oahu, get away from Waikiki and see the rest of the island. It is a beautiful island with so many things to see and do, many of which are free.

Don't Keep Your Shoes on When Entering a Home

Because of its large population of Asian heritage, it has become a common practice to remove ones shoes before entering a person's home in Hawaii. I have found this to be a custom of most current residents of all races. Unless the owner specifically tells you that it's OK to keep your shoes on, be prepared to remove them. If you rent a condominium for your stay, don't be surprised to find a sign on the door from the owner requesting that you remove your shoes.

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