In 2017 we spent two spectacular weeks on one of the earth’s most beautiful islands, Oahu in Hawaii. The trip was an absolute dream, and as you can imagine we did some fantastic things but every man and their dog blogs about the things you should do in Hawaii. This story is about the things you shouldn’t do.
So my first piece of advice is…
- Don’t rent a car. Pay for a hotel transfer, a guy will meet you after baggage claim, holding a sign with your name on it – you might even get a lei for the privilege – he’ll then walk your bags to the car and there will probably be a bottle of (maybe) cold water in the back seat. He will then drive you directly to your destination with the minimal conversation where at the end he will unload your bags to hand them to the bell-boy and probably remind you that gratuity isn’t included in the transfer price. If you don’t rent a car you can just stay at your hotel and get serious about relaxin’. After a 9 or ten hour international flight, on which you usually don’t get much sleep, you will get off of the plane tired, probably too damn excited for all of the things that you’re not about to do and the last thing you feel like is getting in a car (the very same thing you go to work in) and then driving on the wrong side of the road in a place you’re not familiar with.
- But if you choose to ignore my advice, definitely don’t forget a map. Signs aren’t always easy to follow and if your navigator is any near as skilled as I (who – at the time – was literally employed to read maps and give directions to drivers in unfamiliar places at a Visitor Information Centre) then you may end up driving in the completely wrong direction. This will leave you to spend the entire day meandering around the island, probably in places that tourists don’t usually get to see until you find a familiar road to lead you to your hotel where you will check in far-too-late to enjoy happy hour. Plus because Oahu is an island, and the roads mostly loop back to each other or are a dead end you’ll probably waste a lot of time.
- Driving around, lost without your map, you’ll probably go past quite a few colourful vans, trucks and roadside sheds but don’t let their quirky, kitsch exterior fool you. These food trucks aren’t somewhere where you want to stop. Whatever you do, don’t eat at food trucks. I mean just because some are literally pulling their produce from the ground behind their site doesn’t mean it will be as delicious as it smells. And the daily handwritten menu doesn’t always have everything left on it because they sell out so quickly. And I mean, there’s not even always enough seats for all of the customers, so what are you expected to do? Sit on the beach and enjoy the meal? While the sun sets? It will be far too dark!
- Don’t challenge yourself – it’s a holiday you should be resting. There’s not even a lot of things to do in Hawaii. That’s if you don’t count jumping off the cliff at Laie Point (as featured in Forgetting Sarah Marshall) or the rock at Waimea Bay where you can swim through rock tunnels in crystal clear water.
There are so many hikes around the island it would be hard to choose just one but especially avoid climbing the Haiku Stairs a.k.a. Stairway to Heaven – it’s illegal. Plus if you wanted to challenge yourself you would have to choose between skydiving, zip lining, quad biking – all too hard.
- Don’t take public transport (who wants to go somewhere for only $5?). Plus traffic is notorious in Honolulu so it will take you two hours to get nearly anywhere on the island (still only $5). A few places you can catch TheBus to include:
Diamond Head, Pearl Harbour, Hanauma Bay or Koko Head Hike, Electric Beach, Shark’s Cove, Haleiwa, Turtle Bay Resort, Honolulu Zoo, The University of Hawaii, The Airport… But actually make sure you have a map and a timetable or you might have to hitchhike home.
- Don’t do free or cheap activities – they are cheap for a reason! I’ve just said that you can catch the bus to a lot of the top tourist spots but what will surprise you is that you can do most of these for significantly cheaper than what tourist agents will let you think!
– Diamond Head National Park and the hike is $1 entry, add TheBus and that’s $6 for an experience that many tour operators charge upwards of $50 for.
– Entry to Pearl Harbor is $12.50 (if you’re there when the Memorial opens too you can often get a free audio tour), add TheBus and that’s <$20 for an experience that can go for around $70
– Hanauma Bay visits start at $30, but entry to the park is only $7.50. If you pack your own snorkelling gear and arrive before the crowds (6am) you get to watch the sunrise and better snorkelling conditions for less than the price of lunch.
- Don’t swim with Sharks – especially without a cage. There’s plenty of other much safer activities to do doing. No better way to enjoy the ocean than behind a steel cage, well except maybe a glass wall – at the aquarium – do that instead. Or you can go meet Ocean at http://www.freedivewithsharks.com
- Don’t talk to locals – they only live here, I mean what could they really tell us about the best places to do your favourite activities.