11 Things Not to Do When Visiting Hawaii

graphic of common travel mistakes in Hawaii


Avoid these pitfalls on your next trip to Hawaii to ensure the best (and safest) trip to paradise while also respecting the Hawaiian culture. 

01 of 11

Don’t Tell a Local or Fellow Visitor You’re From the USA

Front Street in Lahaina
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If someone asks you where you are from, don't say "the USA." Hawaii is a US State and has been so since 1959. It is the 50th State in the Union. (Everyone's heard of Hawaii Five-0.)

If someone asks you where you are from you can say either "the mainland" or just specify the city and/or state where you live.

02 of 11

Don't Leave Any Valuables in Your Rental Car

View of Diamond Head Crater Park
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While Hawaii is much safer than most of the USA in terms of violent crime, it does have a higher rate of property crime, and rental cars remain a prime target for thieves.

There are easy ways to identify rental cars in Hawaii and most locals know how to do so.

When you park your car, do not leave any valuables anywhere in the car. Not even the trunk should be considered safe from thieves.

03 of 11

Don't Spend All of Your Time at Your Resort

Along the Road to Hana
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Hawaii has some of the best beaches in the world, but there is so much more to the state than its wonderful coastline. The islands are all beautiful and quite different from each other.

Get away from your hotel or resort and see the islands. In addition to the amazing natural wonders that you'll encounter, there are so many great activities to do in Hawaii. You won't regret taking those amazing day trips.

04 of 11

Don't Swim Alone

A swimmer takes a stroke and glides through the sea near Waikiki, Hawaii
Elyse Butler/Getty Images

It may seem like common sense, but you'd be surprised how many deaths occur when people swim alone.

There are two principal causes of deaths while people swim along—drowning or shark attack.

Why do these people die? There is no one there to help them. Our best advice is to swim only at lifeguard protected beaches or with licensed snorkel or scuba diving tour companies.

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05 of 11

Don't Spend All of Your First Full Day in the Sun

Aerial view of tourists on beach
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It's tempting to spend your first day in Hawaii lying in the sun, but that's a mistake that you'll regret for the rest of your trip.

The sun in Hawaii is very hot and it is very easy to get a severe sunburn.

If you decide to spend time in the sun, approach it gradually and use plenty of sunscreen.

06 of 11

Don't Forget to Tip

Ono Family restaurant, Hawaii
Linda Ching/Getty Images

Hawaii is a very expensive place to live. Locals who work in the service industry rely on tips to make ends meet. Not only does this include servers in restaurants and hotel bell and valet staff, but also such folks, such as guides who run the tours you'll enjoy.

07 of 11

Don't Honk Your Horn

Aerial view of H-3 Interstate highway, Oahu
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If you're from one of the major mainland cities, it's an easy tendency to hit the horn when the car ahead of you doesn't immediately start up when the light turns green.

In Hawaii, however, if you honk your horn for anything other than a major emergency such as to avoid an accident, you're likely to get a pretty nasty reaction from the other driver, especially when you get outside of Honolulu. Hang loose and keep away from the horn.

08 of 11

Don't Take Home Lava Rocks or Sand

Honokalani Black Beach Wainapanapa Maui Island
Mlenny/Getty Images

It's tempting to take home a small lava rock or a handful of black, green, red, or white sand, but don't do it.

Some believe that doing so is bad luck, and every year many boxes of lava rocks are returned to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from folks who believe that.

It's actually against the law to remove objects from a national park. In addition, the sand in Hawaii is not a limitless resource. Enjoy the beauty of Hawaii's lava flows, lava rocks, and multicolored beaches, but leave them in Hawaii. 

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09 of 11

Don't Approach a Hawaiian Monk Seal or Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle

The endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal (Monachus schauinslandi) rests peacefully on the warm beach; Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii, United States of America
Micah Wright/Getty Images

On many beaches, you're likely to run into Hawaiian monk seals or green sea turtles sunning on the beach. If you do, leave them be. The same rules apply if you encounter them in the ocean.

Monk seals or Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua in Hawaiian are known to be especially nasty and while Hawaiian green sea turtles are mostly very docile, keep in mind that both are protected and endangered species.

While the Hawaiian green sea turtle, or honu in Hawaiian, has made a good recovery due to conservation efforts, the Hawaiian monk seal's numbers have been declining and may become extinct within our lifetime.

10 of 11

Don't Just Visit Waikiki and Think You've Seen Hawaii

Waikiki beach at sunrise
M Swiet Productions/Getty Images

So many visitors come to Hawaii, spend a week in Waikiki and rarely leave their hotel or resort except to go out to eat or to shop.

Even if your vacation brings you only to the island of Oahu, get away from Waikiki and see the rest of the island. It is a beautiful island with plenty of things to see and do, including free attractions and activities.

11 of 11

Don't Keep Your Shoes on When Entering a Home

shoes outside door at a home in Hawaii
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Because of its large population of Asian heritage, it has become a common practice to remove one's shoes before entering a person's home in Hawaii.

Unless the owner specifically tells you that it's OK to keep your shoes on, be prepared to remove them.

If you rent a condominium for your stay, don't be surprised to find a sign on the door from the owner requesting that you remove your shoes.

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