- E Komo Mai!
So youʼve decided to take the leap! Youʼve booked your dream
vacation to paradise and from here on out, itʼs sand, surf, sea,
and beautiful sights. Our app will help you see the Big Island in
style; weʼll plan exactly where youʼre going each day so you
donʼt have to. Sit back and let our app guide you through paradise,
while you do what people do best in Hawaii: relax! Weʼve
put together this handy travel-guide so you know all about what
to expect when you get here. So leave your fuzzy ear-muffs at
home! Weʼll tell you what to pack, how much to budget, and
more in our guide.
With one last zip of a suitcase, tropical bliss awaits you.
Ditch the snow, because youʼre in the tropics now! Here in
Hawaii, you will not find extreme variations of temperature
during the four traditional seasons. Instead, we have two main
“seasons”. Thereʼs summer (May through October), with average
daytime temperatures of about 85 degrees, and winter (November
through April), with average daytime temperatures of
78 degrees. During the winter, the average nighttime tempera
ture at sea level is 68 degrees.
Depending on where you are adventuring, however, temperatures
can vary. Areas above sea level, such as Hawaii Volcanoes
National Park (4000-foot-elevation), can be 10-15 degrees
cooler than sea-level temperatures. Also, if you plan to visit the
summit of Mauna Kea, temperatures are much cooler and regularly
dip below freezing at nighttime. We recommend checking
weather conditions on the summit the day you plan to visit.
Winter gear is recommended for the summit of Mauna Kea,
however if you are visiting with a tour group, most have jackets
and gloves for you to borrow.
If you plan to stay on the west side of the island, temperatures
- Weather, Seasons, and Surf
Summer on the Big Island is known as the dry season, and
winter is the rainy season. In the winter, it can rain up to 7 days
a week on the east side of the island. Rain showers usually only
last for part of the day, however, and if youʼre hoping for a
beach day you can head to the west side. It rains much less frequently
there. We call the rain here “warm rain” meaning that
the air temperature doesnʼt change much when itʼs rainy. We
recommend bringing a light rain jacket that you can layer over
a t-shirt, and purchasing an umbrella when you arrive.
One other important thing to note is the change of ocean swells
during the winter season. Several beaches around the island
that are calm swimming spots become high-surf areas during the
winter and are not safe for swimming. Be sure to follow any advised
warnings you see.
- Who Youʼll Meet
You will see a lot of friendly faces here in Hawaiʻi. This is a very
culturally diverse place with a high concentration of people of
Asian descent dating back to the sugar plantation days when
thousands of migrant workers moved to the islands. People here
are generally glad to help, however they are also very big on
respecting each otherʼs boundaries. You may see signs in residential
areas that say “private property” and itʼs best to just
Hawaiʻi faces many sensitive cultural issues, including the Hawaiian
Sovereignty movement. Some feel that the way Hawaiʻi
became a state was a very unfair process and are still vocal
about it today. A small few of these people behave in negative
ways towards people who appear to be “tourists”. Though unlikely
that this will happen to you on your trip, our best advice
for this is to smile and turn the car around or walk away from
people like this.
- Where To Go
Many visitors to Hawaii are surprised to find that businesses
here have some unusual hours. Most breakfast cafes open early
in the morning, but many shops do not open until 10 a.m. and
are closed by 5 p.m. Most food establishments close by 9:30
p.m. unless open late on weekends. Some restaurants also close
between lunch and dinner from approximately 2 p.m. until 5
p.m. for a break. The best way to plan a day of dining and
shopping is shopping is to call ahead and make sure theyʼre open.
- Budget Your Trip - Cost of Living
The cost of living in Hawaiʻi is on the higher side. You can
expect to pay a bit more for groceries and gas here, however
there are some ways to plan ahead. Gas prices vary around
town and may be cheaper across the street or around the block,
so donʼt be afraid to price things out! For groceries, you can
also buy cheaper local produce at farmers markets rather than
the grocery store. There are several well-established regular
farmers markets on the island.
- Budget Your Trip - Food
When driving between tour locations, you may find yourself in
rural areas with limited food selections. Places that are generally
known as “tourist areas” usually have a café or some restaurants
that are more expensive nearby. For day trips, we recommend
buying a portable Styrofoam cooler and filling it with ice
and snacks from the grocery store or farmers market. Once you
get to a bigger town, you will find more a wider variety of food
options as well as spend less to eat out.
When it comes to eating out, we also recommend you try smaller,
locally owned restaurants. You will spend more at a restaurant
that is used to accommodating “tourists” and the food is
You can expect to pay much more (sometimes triple) for accommodations
on the west side of the island, as itʼs known for
having warm weather and beautiful beaches. With the rise of
several popular vacation-rental websites, we recommend you
shop around rather than splurge for a well-known hotel right
away. There are many vacation rentals on the west side of the
island that are on the beach, can accommodate a whole family,
and are cheaper than hotels. On the east side, there are many
quaint bed and breakfasts in locations that far-surpass the traditional
hotel environment for their beauty and unique settings.
- Pack It Up! - What To Bring
Throw a bathing suit in your bag, zip it up, grab your camera, and hop on
a plane! You wonʼt need much else. Weʼre kidding…in all seriousness,
however, the climate here should make it fairly easy to pack. You will definitely
want to bring a bathing suit, or two if you like to change-it-up. Hawaiʻiʼs
beaches are a big draw, and you will likely want to spend a lot of
time on the beach. You can skip the towel if youʼre staying at hotel, as
most will provide them.
For day trips, you will need a hat, sunscreen and bug-repellent (if youʼre
bothered by mosquitos and flies). Covered shoes are also recommended
for hiking, as there is a lot of jagged lava rock along walking trails here.
Many adventure tour companies will also require you to wear covered
shoes. We recommend also that you bring “slippers” (flip-flops) to wear
during the day or in the sand at the beach, as our warm weather and humidity
make covered-shoes a less desirable choice.
Attire is very casual in Hawaiʻi. Most people here wear shorts
during the day, tank tops or light shirts, and will sometimes
wear long pants at night. You should also bring a light sweater
and a rain jacket. You wonʼt need anything much heavier than
that, unless planning to visit the summit of Mauna Kea. Temperatures
can dip to freezing there, however most tour companies
offer jackets and gloves for you to borrow.
We also recommend packing or purchasing a flashlight, as your
adventures may take you into rural locations without many street
lights around. Itʼs likely that wherever you are staying, there will
be ocean gear (fins, snorkels, masks, etc), or your can find
many places to rent these things.
- Explore: Off The Beaten Path
We know that part of the fun of a tour is deviating from the tour
and finding something never-before-seen. We understand that
you will want to make stops along the way and explore for
yourself. We encourage you to be spontaneous, however we
would also like to offer some safety guidelines.
- Ocean Sports
Never paddle a small ocean craft (paddle-board, boogie board,
kayak, etc) or swim into the open ocean. Most popular areas
for ocean exploration will designate a protected bay that is safe
from currents and high surf, and supervised by lifeguards.
Never paddle outside the bay on your own, as currents in the
open ocean can sweep swimmers out to sea easily.
If you plan to try surfing for the first time, do so with an instructor
and stay on the “inside” of the bay (areas where smaller
surf breaks). Be aware of those around you, wear your surfboard
leash correctly, and never let go of your board, as its tip
and fins are both very sharp and can harm you or others. In Hawaiʻi
we say: if in doubt, donʼt paddle out.
- River Explorations
There are many beautiful rivers and waterfalls on the east side
of the island that are visible from foot-paths. In general, itʼs not
a good idea to leave the path or to swim in these rivers unless
supervised by a tour-guide or a local who is very familiar with
the swimming spot. Flash-flooding can and does occur in our
rivers, where rain from spots higher up on the river can flood an
empty river bank within minutes without warning. Many lives
have been lost due to improper river safety.
- Flora and Fauna
You will find a lot of forested areas with many plants to see. You
will likely even find fresh fruit growing wild. It is okay to harvest
some fresh fruit as long as you follow several guidelines. Make
sure never to pick fruit from someoneʼs property, so look to
make sure there is no house nearby. Also, make sure you know
what you are picking. Things like bananas and mangoes are
easy to recognize, and you can probably take a few. Never
pick fungus, or something that looks like an herb or vegetable
you think you “might” recognize. Never eat any tropical flowers,
fruit, or other plants unless you are sure they are edible. It
is also generally not recommended to pick fruit alongside major
roadways as it has likely been sprayed with herbicide.
- Leaving The Path
Be aware of where you are stepping, as there may be cracks or
holes in the volcanic rock. Please also be aware of what you
are stepping on. Many areas have high concentrations of protected
native plants. Never leave a trail when you see signs that
there are native plants nearby. In general, we like to leave natural
areas untouched, as if we were never there.
- Hawaiian Language
You will find that there are many place and street names that
are Hawaiian. The vowels in Hawaiian are pronounced as follows,
and they never change, even when placed next to each
other. For example, “Hilo” becomes “hee-low”. The “I” vowel
sound is still “ee” and does not change to an “eye” sound even
though itʼs placed next to other letters.
u- ooh “too”
e- eh “let”
o- oh “throw”
- Street Signs
Though many of our streets are named after Hawaiian words,
you will notice that they are written without the okina (Hawaiian
for apostrophe), a mark that stops the sound in the word for a
moment. This may make it hard to discuss a location with someone
verbally, since you may be pronouncing it differently. For
example, Kinoole street, which looks like it would be pronounced
“keen-ooh-l” is actually spelled: “Kinoʻole”. Remember
the vowel sounds donʼt change, so the street name should sound
like this: keen-oh-oh-lay.
- Driving Tips
The highest speed limit you will find on the Big Island is 55-mph. In
towns, it is common for speed limits to be around 25-35 mph. Be
aware of street signs delineating speed limit and also tell you which
street are one-ways. Because of the development of many towns over
time, without the space to enlarge roads, you may find that some
one-way streets donʼt quite make sense at first. The best thing to do is
plan your journey on a map first. Our app should also take the stress
out of d out of driving and will lead you on precisely the correct streets to get
to your destination easily.
You might also experience the “go-ahead” or the “wave”. Drivers in
Hawaiʻi are helpful, and will often wave another driver on to turn in
front of them, if they see that driver has been waiting a long time. In
this situation, remember to check your mirrors, as the other driving
“waving you on” might not be fully aware of what is around him/her.
- Live Aloha
We hope this guide has been a useful resource, and want to
close with one last thing. Everywhere you go in Hawaiʻi, you
will notice the “aloha spirit”. In regular English, that just means
that people are nice to each other! Theyʼre friendly, caring, and
want to help, as long as you treat them the same way! Aloha
can mean so many things; hello, goodbye, I love you, I care for
you, etc. To live aloha means to live with a mindset of caring towards
other people. So if you find yourself in an unusual situation
on your trip, when in doubt just remember the aloha!