Hey, hey friend! So I’ve spent a decent amount of time getting to know locals here and as I’ve done that, I’ve come to learn a lot about the history in Hawaii and what they wish tourists and people moving here knew. I also have a lot to say based on my own experiences. I am not all-knowing but I feel as a white person who’s moved to one of these incredible islands, who works here and who’s job relies a lot on tourism, it’s only right and important that I open the door for this conversation. So buckle up and let’s get into a few things you should know before you hop on a plane ride over.
I grew up in California and honestly, the school systems weren’t that great at least not in my area. I don’t ever remember learning anything about Hawaii and have only heard and seen that what is taught about the history of Hawaii in America is not entirely true or does not tell the entire story or paint an accurate picture. Learning about the history really just is not something people think about when traveling places, especially places that are part of their country but it’s really important. Something I wish I knew before moving here and what I wish more people knew traveling here is the history of this incredible place. Hawaii has been highly romanticized but the truth of how Hawaii came to be part of the United States is really sad. Please learn more about the history of Hawaii here. You can also find ways to experience Hawaiian history here.
Please come with respect. Come ready to embrace culture wherever you find it. Check any racism or prejudices at the air plane. I have seen it first-hand and I’ve heard countless stories of people coming here and just treating the locals and natives horribly. Come with an open mind to give and not just to come and take. The land is incredibly sacred and beautiful and so are the people. One of my absolute favorite things about Hawaii is the Hawaiian culture and how respectful, kind and spiritual these people are. They are so connected to the land and resources and their beliefs about these incredible islands is so beautiful and should be cherished. Sadly, the islands have also been littered in garbage. If you’re coming to enjoy the beaches and what not, please take some time to leave them better than you found them. Respect sacred sites- some of them may look like just some rocks to you but they are sacred and if you see something called “kapu” it may be a burial ground or somewhere royalty may have lived. Respect the ‘aina (land).
I don’t need to say much about this but be prepared that when you spend money on food, gas, etc. that it will likely cost more than it does where you’re from. We’re on an island and it costs a lot to bring or obtain resources here. Please support local businesses and companies and comparatively, the cost will likely be similar to if you supported a chain but they don’t need to hear how an item is expensive. They know it’s expensive but that’s the price of coming to an island. The most expensive things in my opinion are food, gas (but very similar to California) and housing. Most activities are super affordable or even free.
It is really easy to see that the lifestyle found on the mainland and in other places around the world are used to this speedy life style. It’s a constant go, go, go and hustle. In a hurry to get from one place to the next. Hawaii is a slower place and lifestyle. No one’s in a hurry to get any where. People don’t honk, either. Come ready to embrace that cruise lifestyle- it’s island time baby!
Hawaii is home to some of the largest, most dangerous waves in the world. There’s a reason major surf competitions are held here but even when the waves aren’t massive, they can still be powerful. I learned this the hard way! I see families almost every day in winter with their kiddos trying to run around and play in the water when it is honestly way too dangerous and out-right just dumb. Accidents happen all the time so be careful and do not underestimate the power of the water and the waves. It is worth considering the weather when planning your trip here. It’s so beautiful and I know it can be hard to resist but if you see a sign that says it’s dangerous, maybe don’t get in. If you’re in doubt, don’t go out! But if you find some calmer water or smaller wave areas, I would say that’s a safe bet.
I can’t stress this enough. There are Federal laws that protect some marine species here in Hawaii and most people don’t know what species or how far to stay. It’s pretty much a safe bet to just keep a distance. Think about it this way. Would you want a stranger approaching you when you’re relaxing on the beach? Or would you want a stranger to touch you? No, probably not. Our skin can also damage protective layers on some marine life or transfer sicknesses or diseases. Just be respectful and mindful and keep a distance. Plus then you’ll avoid any tickets or fines! That’s not to say some marine life aren’t curious so if you’re in the water they may approach you but it’s just important to keep a distance, be respectful and don’t chase them down.
-Try to learn a bit of Hawaiian (also Hawaii is pronounced Ha-va-ee).
-Stay on marked trails. People get lost or injured all the time. The hikes here are incredible but they come with high risk.
-Please use reef-safe sunscreen (like Raw Elements). Reef friendly is not reef safe!
-Don’t leave valuables in your car and maybe don’t rent a jeep, they are known tourists cars that get broken into often.
-There’s a lot of traffic. Maybe don’t go anywhere mid-day.
I hope this blog helped you prep for your trip to Hawaii and encourages you to open your mind to a more mindful approach when visiting places and a sense of awareness. If there’s anything you think I missed or that you’d like me to add, let me know!
I'm Tay, a photographer and educator based in Hawaii. My passions are sharing stories of love, from couples to adventure elopements. And I am also an underwater and brand photographer with a heart for creating impact.
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