Hawaii: General Information

As some of you know, I found this trip kind of miserable to arrange. (But then, I seem to find a lot of trips kind of miserable to arrange, so maybe it’s just me.) However, that effort generally paid off. I actually wish I had taken more time to pull together a few more potential one-day itineraries to choose from once we got here. As it was, some days we wasted too much time deciding what options were available to us.
Flights
After the flight to Thailand the other year, I vowed I would never fly coach for an extended period again. Fortunately, NWA offers a slick way to keep this vow (for now anyway), WITHOUT paying first-class prices. By paying slightly more than the lowest ticket price available and combining my flight with a couple nights of lodging through NWA, I was able to use frequent flier miles to upgrade even though I am not now an elite flier. It probably cost me an extra $300 for the two of us. This was money well-spent in my book as, even in first class, eight hours is a long flight. Unfortunately, NWA doesn’t offer this option on flights to Asia or Europe. Too bad. If they did I’d always book through them.We flew both Hawaiian and Aloha airlines on our inter-island hops. I recommend Hawaiian, as it is the only airline connecting the islands that assigns seats. Everyone else (there are a number of inter-island airlines) has open seating (usually assigned by “zones”), which makes for a hostile and aggressive crowd. Aloha also seemed disorganized and inefficient – and is in bankruptcy at the moment.) Ticket prices were comparable, as were the planes were on. The flight schedule does have some differences though.

Despite my best efforts, I didn’t do a good job of timing my flights. I just didn’t realize a half-hour flight would eat up a half day. (I was imagining inter-island flights in Fiji, not in post-911 America.) This hurt us the most in Maui, where we wasted far too much time on both our arrival and departure.

General
Nothing in Hawaii is cheap, but there are no fees charged at state or county parks and beaches, making them Hawaii’s best value.

Even though the islands are small, driving anywhere took longer then I expected. Speed limits are low by mainland standards, roads are narrow, and congestion is common – as is road construction. Expect every trip to take longer than you think it will.

Apparently despised by many locals, Wizard Publications’ Revealed guides are a must. These detailed guidebooks fill the same niche Lonely Planet holds throughout the third world: They are essential and ubiquitous. Besides the information provided in the book, additional information and updates are available on the web so you always have the latest information. (Why can’t every guidebook do that?) It’s the only guidebook you’ll need.

Along with the Wizard Publication site, other good web resources include:

  • GoHawaii, the official Hawaii tourism site has a wealth of information;
  • Alternative Hawaii, is a favorite because of its “shop locally” ethic and emphasis on places and activities a little off the usual tourist beat; and
  • The Honolulu Advertiser, which has a wealth of information IF you can find it. (It’s tricky to navigate, but worth the effort.)

If you are from a place like Minnesota, you’re likely to see lots of unfamiliar plants. For help identifying them, check the Hawaiian native plant page maintained by the University of Hawaii or the Hawaiian tropical plants page.

Hawaiian beaches can be moody, which can make them deadly. A beach that is calm as a bathtub in one season, may be deadly at another time during the year. Warning signs are posted and continually updated for everything – as strange as they may seem, heed them!

This is going to sound crabby, but like the beaches, the people of Hawaii can also be a bit moody.

Yeah, this is the Aloha state, but Hawaii is like every other beautiful place with too many tourists – most residents would prefer if you simply sent over your money and stayed home yourself. If you stay within the well-trod tourist corridors, everyone you meet will be happy to see you – their livelihood depends on you, after all. (Many are genuinely welcoming, as the tourism industry tends to attract people who actually like other people.) We didn’t stray far from well-trod tourist paths and almost everyone we met was warm and welcoming. However, we saw plenty of signs of the less welcoming side of Hawaii. Particularly prevalent on Oahu and Kauai, the clearest messages took the form of homemade signs posted along roadways, trails, and beaches, all loudly proclaiming that visitors are not welcome and should go home.

Some of this antipathy is due to the crush of tourists. Some is tied to the huge amounts of really bad tourist-related development that has all but destroyed parts of the islands. Some is due to stress over the rights and place of native Hawaiians in modern Hawaii. However, a significant amount of the hostility toward tourists seems to emanate from people (at all levels of society) who came to this beautiful place to escape the world and, now that they are here, want to keep everyone else out. While that isn’t unique to Hawaii, it’s not very realistic on a small island. Furthermore, the conflicts it engenders makes life less pleasant for both those seeking isolation and the rest of the world.

Dining:
Our Hawaii dining secret: Most days “lunch” consisted of Macamania bars and Maui-style potato chips (the Frito lay chip, not the original Kitch’n Cook’d, which seem to be unavailable) with either Pepsi, an insipid fruit soda, or a thick smoothy bursting with fresh fruit. Sometimes I supplemented this with other things like dried smoked Tako (squid jerky) or home-packed trail mix, but Macamania bars and Maui chips did seem to provide the perfect combination of sugar and salt 🙂

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