Tips for Visiting the Big Island
I am a stranger in a land far away from home / I am a pilgrim and I'm bound to travel on / Carelessly I wander down a long and winding pathway all alone / You'll see me in the evening but come morning I'll be gone. - The Infamous Stringdusters, I am a Stranger
Some entirely subjective advice for visiting the Big Island:
Buy local: I think there’s a really strong argument to be made that your tourism dollars should go into the local economy instead of into the coffers of large corporations that have no ties to the island. Consider shopping at local stores. Consider renting from locals for lodging. Try a B&B instead of a hotel chain. Be a visitor - not a tourist.
Lodging: We always rent vacation homes or condos from private renters wherever we travel. We like vacation rentals when we travel because we can cook for ourselves and save money, have a washer and dryer for the daily hiking grime, and experience the local vibe versus the hotel district. There are countless vacation rentals and B&Bs of all kinds everywhere on the island.
What to Pack: If you're going to be doing a lot of hiking, I recommend the following things that you might not be thinking about for a trip to Hawai’i: sturdy, Gore-Tex lined, high-top, hiking boots; hiking sandals like Chacos or Tevas; raingear; warm layers, hat, and gloves for the National Park and for Saddle Road adventures; dry bags or other way to waterproof gear in your pack.
Rental Cars: Some sources advise you to rent a 4WD vehicle in Hawai’i, but I think it’s way too expensive and completely unnecessary. (Especially with island gas prices). A compact car will get you to every trailhead on this site. You may need to add a little mileage to your feet, but you'll save the environment and also your wallet due to insane island gas prices. In fact, you might appreciate a smaller, narrower vehicle because many roads in Hawai’i are narrow. I don't care if every other guidebook and website advises a 4WD Jeep: it's not true, and you really don't need one to see amazing sights. Our website disproves this myth.
Hawaiian culture: Modern Hawaiian culture is a mix of all the influences upon these islands. Always take off your shoes before entering anyone’s home and even some businesses. The shaka, the pinky-and-thumb extended gesture, is a universal symbol of good intention. Use it to say hi along a hiking trail, as a thank-you for someone letting you into traffic, or as a hell-yeah after riding a big wave. “Drive aloha” on the Big Island: go the speed limit, relax, let others into traffic, let people pass, be friendly. “Live aloha:” be respectful of the land and the people who live upon it. Don’t trespass on private land. Respect public beaches and other public lands. Respect closures of public land. Recycle and be green. Pick up trash. Support the local economy. Hawaiian pidgin is a mix of languages. Listen respectfully to locals speaking it, but you’ll be considered rude and foolish for trying it yourself. Locals are family-oriented, so be respectful of that and go by local custom if you’re a nude bather. Some locals don’t like it when you say “…back in the states.” You are in a state – the 50th. Call it “the mainland.” Only ethnic Polynesian ancestors of the ancient Hawaiian people are called Hawaiians. Other people who live in the state of Hawaii are called locals. Long-time residents are sometimes called kama’aina. White people are called haole, a word that’s precise meaning has been lost over time. It can be either simply descriptive or pejorative, depending on context. If you see a greenish flag, that’s the Kanaka Maori, a flag favored by some Hawaiians that does not invoke the colonial stereotypes of the official state flag which features the Union Jack. Locals often give directions by indicating makai (toward the ocean) or mauka (toward the mountains). The Big Island is a rural island where locals like to be up with the sun and down when it’s gone. There is very little nightlife, and restaurants and stores might close earlier than you’re used to back home. Dress is casual at even the nicest restaurants. Dress comfortably for the consistent warm and humid weather. Some places like the Puna District are “no shirt, no shoes, no problems.” Oh, and remember to smile, be friendly, wave at strangers, and be kind: you’re in Hawai’i.
Miscellany: All beaches are public in the state of Hawai’i to the high tide mark as a matter of state law. Access may not always be public, but theoretically, you can walk around the entire island. The state of Hawaii (like Arizona) does not observe daylight savings time, so the amount of time difference from your home will differ in winter and summer. This is the only state that has two official languages, English and Hawaiian.
Links for Hawai'i Tourism: