9 Must-Read Tips for Visiting Hawaii for the First Time

Are you planning your first trip to Hawaii and don’t know where to start? Keep scrolling to find out my top tips for visiting Hawaii for the first time!
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Hawaii is a dream destination for many travelers. With its beautiful beaches, lush landscapes, and unique culture, it’s no wonder why people want to visit this paradise.

But, if you’re going to Hawaii for the first time, it’s important to plan ahead.

Without the right preparation, you might miss out on some amazing experiences or end up spending more money than you need to.

In this blog post, we’ll share some tips to help you make the most of your first trip to Hawaii.

So, whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, you’ll be ready to enjoy all that Hawaii has to offer.

Tips for Visiting Hawaii for the First Time

Research the Best Time to Visit

One of the first things you should do when planning a trip to Hawaii is to figure out the best time to visit. There are a couple of things to consider when making this decision.


First, think about the weather. Hawaii is a tropical paradise, but it has different seasons just like any other place.

The best time to visit Hawaii in terms of weather is usually from April to June or from September to November.

During these months, the weather is pleasant and not too hot. It’s also less likely to rain compared to the winter months.

Tourist Seasons

Next, think about the tourist seasons. Hawaii is a popular destination, so it can get crowded during certain times of the year.

The busiest months are usually from mid-December to March and from June to August. If you don’t like big crowds, you might want to avoid these months.

On the other hand, if you don’t mind the crowds, visiting during these times can be a lot of fun. There are often more events and festivals going on, and you’ll get to meet people from all over the world.

Image of Morning scene at the Napali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii Islands.
There are tons of gorgeous places in Hawaii, like the Na Pali Coast on Kauai.


Lastly, think about your interests. If you’re a surfer, you’ll want to visit during the winter months when the waves are the biggest.

If you’re a hiker, you’ll probably want to visit during the spring or fall when the weather is cooler and the trails are less crowded. Think about what you like to do and plan your trip around that.

By considering the weather, tourist seasons, and your own interests, you’ll be able to find the perfect time for your first visit to Hawaii.

No matter when you decide to go, you’re sure to have an amazing time exploring this beautiful paradise.

Choose the Right Island(s)

Choosing the best island or islands to visit is another important step in planning your first trip to Hawaii. Each island has its own unique features and attractions, so you’ll want to pick the one that matches your interests.

Hawaii has eight main islands, but the four most visited ones are Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.


Oahu is home to the state’s capital, Honolulu, and the famous Waikiki Beach. It’s a great place for shopping, dining, and trying out water sports like surfing.


Maui is known for its beautiful beaches, scenic drives, and whale watching. It’s a great place for relaxation and enjoying nature.


Kauai, also called the “Garden Isle,” is known for its lush landscapes and breathtaking cliffs. It’s the perfect place for hiking and outdoor adventures.

Big Island

The Big Island is the largest and most diverse of the Hawaiian Islands. It’s home to active volcanoes, black sand beaches, and a variety of climates. You can go from a tropical rainforest to a snow-capped mountain in just a few hours.

For first-time visitors, we recommend starting with Oahu and Maui. Oahu is a great introduction to Hawaiian culture, while Maui offers a mix of relaxation and adventure.

If you have more time, consider adding Kauai or the Big Island to your itinerary.

Think about what you like to do on vacation. Do you like to relax on the beach, go hiking, try water sports, or explore local culture?

Once you know what you’re interested in, you can pick the island that best matches your interests.

Remember, there’s no wrong choice when it comes to visiting Hawaii. Each island has something special to offer, and you’re sure to have a great time no matter where you go.

Budgeting for Your Trip to Hawaii

Budgeting for your trip to Hawaii is an important step in making sure you have a great time without breaking the bank.

Hawaii is known for being a bit more expensive than other destinations, but with a little planning, you can make the most of your trip without spending too much money.

Average Costs

First, let’s talk about average costs. Accommodations in Hawaii can range from around $150 to $500 per night, depending on where you stay. If you’re looking for a budget option, consider staying in a vacation rental or a hostel.

Food can also be expensive, with a typical meal at a restaurant costing around $15 to $30 per person.

Activities like tours and excursions can range from $50 to $150 or more, depending on what you choose to do.

Travel budget concept. Travel money savings in a glass jar with compass, passport and aircraft toy on world map
I suggest saving money before your trip to Hawaii.

Money-Saving Tips

Now, let’s talk about money-saving tips. One of the best ways to save money in Hawaii is by eating like a local.

Skip the touristy restaurants and head to local spots for cheaper and more authentic food. Look for food trucks, farmers’ markets, and hole-in-the-wall eateries.

You can also stretch your Hawaii budget by cooking your own meals. Many vacation rentals come with fully-equipped kitchens, so you can buy groceries and make your own breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Another way to save money is by taking advantage of free or low-cost activities. Many of Hawaii’s best attractions, like its beaches and hiking trails, are free to enjoy.

You can also find affordable activities like snorkeling, surfing, and paddleboarding. Look for discounts and deals on tours and excursions, especially if you’re traveling during the off-season.

Lastly, consider traveling during the shoulder season, which is typically from April to June and from September to November.

During these months, you’ll find fewer crowds and lower prices on accommodations and activities. Plus, the weather is still great for enjoying all that Hawaii has to offer.

By budgeting for your trip and looking for ways to stretch your dollar, you can have an amazing time in Hawaii without spending a fortune. So, start planning your trip now and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in paradise.

Cultural Etiquette

When visiting Hawaii, it’s important to remember that you’re not just in another state, but in a place with its own unique culture and traditions.

Respect for local customs and traditions is a big part of having a great trip and making sure you leave a good impression on the people you meet.

Here are some tips for showing respect and understanding of Hawaiian culture:

Learn a few words of Hawaiian

You don’t need to be fluent, but learning a few basic words like “Aloha” (hello/goodbye) and “Mahalo” (thank you) can go a long way in showing respect and appreciation for the local culture.

Dress modestly

When visiting sacred places like temples or heiaus (ancient Hawaiian temples), it’s important to dress modestly. Avoid wearing revealing clothing and cover up with a sarong or a wrap if needed.

Respect the land

Hawaii’s natural beauty is one of its most precious resources. When exploring the islands, make sure to stay on marked trails, avoid stepping on coral reefs, and leave no trace behind.

Ask permission before taking photos

If you want to take photos of people or their property, always ask for permission first. This is especially important when attending cultural events or visiting private homes.

Participate in cultural activities

One of the best ways to learn about Hawaiian culture is by taking part in activities like hula dancing, lei making, or traditional Hawaiian cooking. Join a workshop or take a class to learn more about these traditions and have a fun, immersive experience.

Be open-minded

Remember that you’re a guest in Hawaii, and the local customs may be different from what you’re used to. Be open to trying new things and experiencing the culture with an open heart and mind.

By following these tips and showing respect for local customs and traditions, you’ll have a more meaningful and enjoyable experience in Hawaii. Plus, you’ll leave a positive impression on the people you meet and make lasting memories of your trip.

Hawaii Packing Essentials

When packing for your trip to Hawaii, it’s important to be prepared for the weather and activities you’ll be doing.

Here are some essential items to pack and some clothing recommendations to help you have a comfortable and enjoyable trip. You can also check out my specific packing lists for Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.

Clothing Recommendations

Lightweight, Breathable Clothing

Hawaii’s weather is warm and humid, so pack lightweight, breathable clothing like shorts, tank tops, and t-shirts. This will keep you cool and comfortable as you explore the islands.


If you’re planning to hit the beach, make sure to bring a couple of swimsuits. You’ll likely be swimming, snorkeling, or just lounging on the sand a lot, so you’ll want a few options.

Comfortable Shoes

You’ll be doing a lot of walking, whether it’s on the beach, on a hiking trail, or exploring a city. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes like sandals, flip-flops, and walking shoes.

Layered Clothing

While Hawaii is generally warm, it can get cooler in the evenings or at higher elevations. Pack a light sweater or jacket for those cooler moments.

Image of Low section of young couple with straw hats standing in room with suitcase ready for summer vacation
You’ll definitely want lightweight clothing and sun protection.

Important Items to Bring


The sun in Hawaii can be intense, so make sure to bring sunscreen with high SPF. Apply it regularly, especially if you’re spending a lot of time outside or swimming.

Insect Repellent

If you’re planning to hike or spend time in more remote areas, bring insect repellent to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

Reusable Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is essential in the Hawaiian heat. Bring a reusable water bottle to fill up throughout the day.

Snorkel Gear

If you love snorkeling, consider bringing your own snorkel gear. While you can rent it, having your own gear ensures a better fit and saves you money.


A small backpack is great for carrying your essentials, like sunscreen, water, and snacks, as you explore the islands.

Travel Insurance

It’s always a good idea to have travel insurance in case of unexpected events like illness or injury.

By packing the right clothing and essential items, you’ll be prepared for any activity and weather in Hawaii. This will help you have a comfortable and enjoyable trip, so you can focus on exploring the beautiful islands and making unforgettable memories.

Exploring the Outdoors

Hawaii is a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors, offering a wide range of activities to enjoy the stunning natural beauty of the islands.

From hiking through lush forests to snorkeling in crystal-clear waters, you’re sure to find something you love.

Let’s explore some of the most popular outdoor activities and some important safety tips for your adventures.

Popular Outdoor Activities


Hawaii is home to some of the world’s most scenic hiking trails. Whether you’re trekking up Diamond Head on Oahu or exploring the Waimea Canyon on Kauai, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences.


The waters around the Hawaiian Islands are teeming with marine life. Snorkeling is a fantastic way to explore this underwater world. Hanauma Bay on Oahu and Molokini Crater on Maui are among the top spots for snorkeling.


Hawaii is known as the birthplace of surfing, and there’s no better place to catch a wave. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, you’ll find plenty of beaches with the perfect waves for your skill level.

Image of a dad and son surfing in Hawaii
Always check beach warnings before hopping into the water in Hawaii.

Safety Tips and Guidelines

Know Your Limits

When planning any outdoor activity, it’s important to consider your physical abilities and limitations. Don’t take on a challenging hike or surf huge waves if you’re not prepared.

Check the Weather

The weather in Hawaii can change quickly, especially in the mountains. Before you head out, check the weather forecast and be prepared for rain, wind, or other conditions.

Stay on Marked Trails

When hiking, it’s crucial to stay on marked trails. This not only protects the environment but also helps you avoid getting lost or injured.

Respect the Ocean

The ocean can be unpredictable, with strong currents and powerful waves. Always check the ocean conditions and follow the advice of lifeguards. When snorkeling, avoid touching or stepping on coral reefs to protect sea life.

Bring Essential Gear

For any outdoor activity, make sure you have the right gear. For hiking, bring comfortable shoes, water, and snacks. For snorkeling or surfing, have the proper equipment and protective clothing.

Leave No Trace

Hawaii’s natural beauty is one of its greatest treasures. Help protect it by following the Leave No Trace principles. Pack out all trash, stay on established trails, and respect wildlife.

By following these safety tips and guidelines, you can enjoy the great outdoors of Hawaii and have memorable adventures that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.

Sample Local Cuisine

Trying the local cuisine is one of the best parts of visiting Hawaii. Hawaiian food is a mix of flavors from different cultures, including Polynesian, Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino, making it a unique and delicious experience.

Let’s explore some of the must-try dishes and snacks and where you can find them.

Image of a Hawaiian plate lunch
Try ordering a Plate Lunch in Hawaii.

Introduction to Hawaiian Dishes and Snacks


Poke (pronounced poh-kay) is a popular Hawaiian dish made of raw fish, usually ahi tuna, marinated with soy sauce, sesame oil, and other seasonings. It’s served over rice or on its own and often topped with seaweed and other ingredients.

Spam Musubi

This popular snack is made by wrapping a slice of grilled Spam (canned meat) with rice and nori (seaweed). It’s a favorite among locals and can be found in convenience stores and local eateries.

Kalua Pork

Kalua pork is a traditional Hawaiian food made by slow-cooking pork in an underground oven called an imu. The result is tender, smoky meat that melts in your mouth.

Hawaiian Plate Lunch

A plate lunch typically includes a serving of meat (like kalua pork or teriyaki chicken), two scoops of rice, and a scoop of macaroni salad. It’s a filling and satisfying meal.

Shave Ice

Shave ice is a popular dessert made by shaving a block of ice and topping it with flavored syrups. You can find it at food trucks and stands all over the islands.

Recommendations for Trying Local Food

Visit Local Eateries

One of the best ways to try authentic Hawaiian food is by visiting local eateries and food trucks. Look for places with a line of locals, as that’s usually a good sign of quality.

Attend a Luau

A luau is a traditional Hawaiian feast that includes music, dancing, and a spread of delicious dishes like kalua pork, poi (taro paste), and lomi lomi salmon. It’s a great way to experience Hawaiian cuisine and performances.

Shop at Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets are a great place to find fresh, local produce and try some unique Hawaiian fruits and vegetables. You’ll also find vendors selling prepared foods like poke and Spam musubi.

Try a Variety

Hawaiian cuisine has so much to offer, so be adventurous and try a variety of dishes and snacks. You might discover a new favorite!

By trying local cuisine, you’ll get a taste of the unique flavors of Hawaii and gain a deeper appreciation for the islands’ culture and history.

So, don’t miss the chance to sample some of these delicious dishes and snacks on your visit to Hawaii.

Plan Activities in Advance

Planning activities in advance is a key part of having a great trip to Hawaii, especially if it’s your first time visiting.

Hawaii is a popular travel destination, and many tours and activities fill up quickly. By booking ahead, you can make sure you get to experience everything you want to do and avoid disappointment.

Image of the Maui Lanai ferry
You’ll want to book all tours and boat trips in advance.

Importance of Booking Popular Tours and Activities Ahead of Time

Avoid Missing Out

Some of the most popular tours and activities in Hawaii, like snorkeling trips to Molokini Crater or helicopter tours of the islands, can fill up weeks or even months in advance. By booking early, you can secure your spot and make sure you don’t miss out.

Get Better Deals

Often, you can find discounts or special offers if you book your activities in advance. This can help you save money on your trip.

Have a More Relaxed Trip

By planning and booking your activities ahead of time, you’ll have a clear schedule for your trip. This can help you relax and enjoy your vacation without worrying about last-minute planning.

Recommendations for Must-See Attractions and Experiences

Pearl Harbor

Located on Oahu, Pearl Harbor is a historic site that commemorates the attack on December 7, 1941. Visit the USS Arizona Memorial and learn about this important event in history.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

On the Big Island, you can explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to two active volcanoes. You can hike through lava fields, see steam vents, and learn about the geology of the islands.

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay on Oahu is a top spot for snorkeling. The bay is a marine life conservation area, and you can see a wide variety of fish and other sea creatures.

Road to Hana

On Maui, take a drive on the famous Road to Hana. This scenic route takes you through lush rainforests, past waterfalls, and along the coastline. Stop at viewpoints and explore the beauty of the island.

Waimea Canyon

Often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon on Kauai offers stunning views of the deep gorge and surrounding landscape. Hike the trails or simply enjoy the vistas.


Experience Hawaiian culture by attending a luau. You’ll enjoy traditional music, hula dancing, and a feast of local dishes.

By planning and booking your activities in advance, you can make the most of your trip to Hawaii and have a memorable experience exploring the islands’ attractions and experiences.

Transportation Options

Getting around in Hawaii is an important part of your trip, especially if you want to explore different parts of the islands.

Let’s take a look at the transportation options available and some tips for navigating the islands efficiently.

Image of someone driving a car on Oahu
I suggest renting a car in Hawaii.

Overview of Getting Around in Hawaii

Rental Cars

Renting a car is one of the most convenient ways to get around in Hawaii. It gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace and go to places that are not easily accessible by public transport.

Public Transport

The public transportation system in Hawaii is called TheBus. It serves the island of Oahu and has routes that cover most of the major areas, including Honolulu and Waikiki. It’s a good option if you’re staying in these areas and don’t plan to travel far.

Shuttle Services

Some hotels and resorts offer shuttle services to popular attractions or the airport. This can be a convenient option if you’re staying at one of these places.

Taxis and Ride-Sharing

Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are available in the major cities and tourist areas. They can be a good option for getting around if you don’t have a car.


In some areas, especially smaller towns or beach communities, you can rent a bicycle to get around. This can be a fun and eco-friendly way to explore.

Tips for Navigating the Islands Efficiently

Plan Your Route

Before you head out, plan your route and check the distance between places. Some parts of Hawaii can be quite remote, and it might take longer to get there than you expect.

Avoid Rush Hour

Traffic can get heavy during rush hours, especially in Honolulu. Try to avoid driving during these times to save time and avoid stress.

Check for Road Closures

Some roads in Hawaii, especially those in more remote areas or near volcanoes, may be closed due to weather or other factors. Check for any road closures before you head out.

Use GPS or Maps

A GPS or map can be very helpful in navigating the islands. Just make sure to have a backup plan in case you lose signal.

Respect Speed Limits

Speed limits in Hawaii are generally lower than on the mainland. Be sure to respect the speed limits and drive safely.

Consider Parking

In some areas, especially popular tourist spots, parking can be limited or expensive. Consider this when planning your transportation and look for places with available parking.

By planning your transportation and being aware of the options and tips, you can navigate the islands of Hawaii efficiently and make the most of your trip.

Visiting Hawaii for the First Time FAQs

Is it worth island hopping in Hawaii?

Island hopping in Hawaii is worth it if you have enough time and want to experience the unique landscapes, cultures, and attractions of each island. However, it can be costly and time-consuming, so consider your budget and interests before deciding.

Do I need to pack reef-safe sunscreen?

Yes, you should pack reef-safe sunscreen for your trip to Hawaii, as the state has banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are harmful to coral reefs.

Do a need a rental car in Hawaii?

Having a rental car in Hawaii can be very convenient for exploring the islands at your own pace and accessing more remote areas, but it’s not necessary if you plan to stay in one area or rely on public transportation, shuttles, and tours.

What’s the most popular Hawaiian island?

The most popular Hawaiian island is Oahu, home to Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, and other famous attractions.

What is the second most visited island?

Maui is the second most visited island in Hawaii, known for its stunning beaches, scenic Road to Hana, and the volcanic landscape of Haleakalā National Park.

Where can I swim with manta rays in Hawaii?

You can swim with manta rays in Hawaii at several locations, but one of the most popular spots is off the Kona coast on the Big Island, where nighttime snorkeling and diving tours are offered.

How can I save money in Hawaii?

If you’re visiting Hawaii on a budget, consider traveling during the off-season, staying in budget accommodations, eating at local eateries or cooking your own meals, and taking advantage of free or low-cost activities like hiking and beach visits.

Is it worth doing a circle island tour?

A circle island tour can be worth it if you want to see a variety of sights and landscapes without the hassle of driving and navigating on your own, but it may be less flexible than exploring independently.

Hawaii Travel Tips Wrap-Up

Visiting Hawaii for the first time is an exciting adventure, and following these tips will help you make the most of your trip.

Remember to plan ahead, choose the right island for your interests, and be respectful of local customs. With some research and preparation, you’ll be able to enjoy the unique beauty and culture of Hawaii.

Whether you’re relaxing on sandy beaches, swimming with sea turtles, or exploring the islands’ natural wonders, you’re sure to create unforgettable memories in this tropical paradise.

So go ahead, dive into the Aloha spirit, and have a wonderful time in Hawaii!

Looking for more Hawaii travel resources? Check out the best time to visit Hawaii, the best island to visit in Hawaii, the top Hawaii tourist attractions, and how to plan a trip to Hawaii!

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