What are some of the negatives to visiting Hawaii?

I have been asked “”

Answered January 11, 2019

I have been a resident here in Hawaii for 17 years. There are many positive attributes to Hawaii like its weather and beauty. However there are some drawbacks about the islands also. I’ll direct my comments only to vacationing here.

Hawaii is very remote from any mainland landmass and from other populated areas. It is also relatively close to the equator being even in latitude with Mexico City. This means that it can take a very long flight to get here. Where a flight across the United States is 4 hours long, continuing on to Hawaii adds another 5 hours to the trip. So a couple of days of your vacation is used up just getting here and back home.

We are quite tropical and the weather is fairly consistent. The sun can be brutal if you don’t watch out.

Many visitors try to cram too much into a vacation. They pack as though they are going to a 3rd world country. We have stores here like Walmart, Target and so on. Most people wear t-shirts and swim trunks or short. Unless you are planning upon seeing the top of Mauna Kea (where it is almost freezing at 14,000 feet), you don’t need lots of heavy clothes. You can always buy what you need out here. Pack light.

Hawaii is part of the United States, so your cell phone will work (although some carriers have better coverage than others). Your U.S. electrical appliances also are the same. One drawback is that if you need money you will find that Hawaii does not have regular mainland banks and credit unions. That is not to say you are out of luck, only that you will need to use an ATM rather than find your own branch. My mainland credit union, like all others, is part of a nationwide network and thus any credit union ATM works for me. Your bank is also part of one or more networks, so you should have no problem at ATMs. Local banks here may also provide you with services if you need them.

Hawaii politics are quite liberal and along with that are higher taxes. There is no sales tax but rather 4–5% general excise tax which is levied upon goods and services. That plus many items having to be shipped into the islands causes some products to be fairly high in cost. Many chain fast food and stores have prices higher than you might have at home. It is possible to find less expensive products if you look hard enough.

Along with pricing, you will find that some of your favorite stores and restaurants are not here. This is due to a number of reasons which include the costs required to ship proprietary ingredients to the islands. That added cost plus the possibility of not being able to source local ingredients of the same quality might keep a chain from wanting to be here.

The islands are scattered and no bridge connects them. Getting between islands requires a plane or boat trip.

There is no ethnic majority in the islands, however Caucasian and Japanese ethnicity are plentiful. The population consists of those and many other countries. This also means that there are many different languages spoken, although most people speak English.

Both landscape and ocean can be treacherous. As you may have followed this past year or so, we had a volcanic event on the Big Island which included flowing lava. While no one died, we have had explosions in the crater and a massive number of earthquakes. Our volcanoes are shield volcanoes which generally don’t explode, still they can be dangerous. Especially on the Big Island, you may find loose rocks on hikes as the island is made of rock. Because of the varied beaches (like green sand, black sand and so on) and because of the tropical nature of the islands, people gravitate to the beaches. Because we are in the middle of the Pacific there can be large changes in wave heights and conditions. It is important that people not treat the islands or water as a theme park. We had one family visit and they pulled up to a lookout. Their children jumped out of the car and ran up to the edge and one child fell over and died. The parents complained there was no guard rail. There are many places without guard rails. Many roads are winding. You might drive half an hour in some places without a gas station.

Hawaiian language is used in many places, although you can get along just fine not knowing it. However streets and cities might have similar names and be confusing.

As with any tourist location you may find tourist traps. While not cheating you, their costs to provide service to you can cause prices to be higher. Another issue can be who runs a venue. A popular Hawaiian theme park is run by a religious group, so their view of Hawaiian history and culture may be different than other peoples perception.

A pet peeve of mine is some products for sale. I am a coffee farmer with a small farm and along with neighboring farms offer you coffee directly. However there are large coffee companies whose only goal is to make money and will offer ‘blends’ of coffee. Those blend might have the name of the region (such as Kona, Kau, Maui, etc) but contain little of that local product, relying upon a majority of the filler from another country. If you are looking for a locally grown coffee, ensure it is 100% from that location and says so on the label. A 10% Kona BLEND will usually consist of 10% locally source coffee and 90% filler from overseas. A 100% Kona coffee for example would contain only coffee from Kona on the Big Island. Watch labels and ask questions.

Another issue can be the marketing slogan allowed called “Made in Hawaii”. I believe the criteria is not stricter, however when it was rolled out, “MADE IN HAWAII” could be used on any product to which had 51% of its value added here in the state. That meant that if you imported a product like macadamia nuts from New Zealand and roasted them here, their value would greatly increase and you could say they were MADE here.

Many people travel to Hawaii having little understanding where they are going. We have had people end up on the wrong island or the wrong side of an island with a flight or many hour drive to their intended destination. Some islands are quite small and the Big Island is, well… big, taking most of a day to drive around the circumference with a few brief stops. Making reservations without understanding distances and logistics can ruin plans.

Some people try to cram multiple islands and/or multiple excursions into one trip. On one flight the family behind me was making an itinerary. It consisted of breakfast at 7:30am, a drive into town to shop at 9:30, snorkeling at the bay, lunch at noon, a helicopter ride to the volcano at 1pm, a trail ride into the valley and a luau for dinner. I had to interrupt. From where they were staying, the trail ride would be a 1/2 day event (getting there, riding and getting back). The helicopter company they chose was the opposite direction, etc. This sounded more like a military invasion then a vacation. While it is not critical you have someone book events for you, you still need to do some research and use common sense.

These are some of the items I believe people should be aware of. Hawaii can be a relaxing place to visit if you keep in mind that it is NOT a theme park with its inherent security and protections. Nature can be dangerous. Go with the flow and don’t get overly anxious if your plans much change. Leave your problems at home and enjoy your vacation.