Hawai’i Hacks: 10 Essential Tips You Need To Know Before You Go

20180802_120651“I wish I’d known that before!” How many times have you made that statement after a vacation? For any trip there are basics like the proper clothes for the climate, appropriate footwear and keeping a written list of confirmation numbers and directions in case service is bad. However, Hawai’i (and many tropical locations) have particular tricks to make your vacay the best it can be:

1.) Plan for weather:

Living on island I’ve commented too many times when we’ve had entire weeks of rain 20180729_100719how disappointing it would be for a family who’ve saved up and finally got to vacation. I have the privilege of waiting out the week for the sun to reappear. But as a vacation nears the end and you’ve seen nothing but bleak skies, there can be some angst about missing out.  Here’s a few ways to work with the weather:

  • Plan for days in various locations around the island.  Then watch the weather and head to clear skies. This takes some flexibility, but if you know a few places you want to visit, keep an eye on the forcast for the best day of the week to go.
  • Bring lightweight ponchos. Bursts of rain can happen at any time on any part of the island. Be prepared and you won’t have to wear soggy clothes while you sightsee.
  • Embrace the rain. I’ve hiked in muddy downpours, meandered through mists, swam in cloudbursts. Sometimes it’s just a matter of perspective. Don’t get too hung up on incliment weather. Remember, rain brings rainbows and Hawai’i has them in abundance!

2.) Bring your own snorkle gear:

DSCF1213If you plan to be in the water even a few times, it’s easier, and cheaper, to bring your own gear. Even though it will take up room in your suitcase the benefits outweigh the lost space:

  • You’ll have the opportunity to make sure everything fits comfortably beforehand. There is nothing more frustrating than a leaky mask. Test it out, make sure the fins are comfortable, the snorkel mouthpiece fits. There’s are few options with rented gear.
  • On excursions you can be the first one in the water.
  • You can be spontaneous. If you happen across a beach and the water looks good you have the gear to get the most out of it.

A note about snorkeling (or even diving). Mask fogging is maddening. We found the holy grail of defogger!  It’s worked every time and is shockingly simple. Mix a ratio of about 1/4 part baby shampoo to 1 part water in a squirt bottle. Spray liberally and dump the excess but DON’T RINSE. Just put it on. It won’t burn your eyes and you’re guarenteed hours of fog-free enjoyment!

3.) Pack more, and less:

More bathing suits, fewer dressy clothes. Even at high-end restaurants a collared shirt/sun dress is as fancy as it gets on the island. Of course check the dress code just to be sure. Island time is not a cliché. It’s meaning applies not only to slowing down, but relaxing mentally and physically. That includes the way we dress.

4.) Water socks:

20180729_114733This is so crucial on an island made of lava. The rocks at many beaches are brutal on tender feet. And if you’re tiptoeing across the tidepools, you’re more likely to fall, which can spell disaster on vacation.  Plus they’re so versitile giving you protection, stability and traction, you might find you use them everywhere.

5.) Underwater camera:

“Pics or it didn’t happen.” You never know what you’ll see in the blue. Be sure you capture it, on film of course. I’ve missed great pictures of octopus, sharks, sea slugs and other less common marine creatures. We had a Canon Powershot and bought a Fuji XP120 later. Both are in the $100 to $200 range and work great in clear, sunny conditions and acceptable in deeper water or low vis situations. Even the disposable cameras would do the trick. I’ve tried using the waterproof cases for my phone only to be frustrated. Once you’re in the water the screen will no longer sense your touch. So unless you plan on hitting record and letting it go it’s not very practical. Whatever you use, a boyant wrist strap is smart to protect your high-dollar tech.

6.) Reef-safe sunscreen:

Hawai’i lawmakers recently approved a bill banning sunscreens deemed unsafe to coral reefs. There are a variety of options, and we’re likely to see more brands making the switch.  If the bill becomes law, sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate will no longer be sold on island. Regardless, it’s a good way to take care of our beautiful oceans. Keys to make sure your sunscreen performs:

white heart shape on human skin

1.) Apply plenty. Most of us don’t apply enough to gain the full benefit of the SPF.
2.) Wait until it dries before taking a dip. If you slather it on and then jump into the water it basically washes away.
3.) Reapply. Often. Keep in mind Hawai’i is close to the equator, which means more direct sun.
4.) Don’t forget the tops of your hands, feet and ears. Even the top of your head, especially if your scalp is exposed. Don’t ruin a dream vacation with a painful burn.

7.) Book early:

If you wait until you arrive to book your sunset cruise or make a reservation at your favourite restaurant you could be disappointed. The top-rated excursions sell out quickly, especially for weekend bookings. Leave room for spontaneity, but make sure you’re on the list for the not-to-be-missed tours.

8.) Stock first-aid:

Just a small emergency kit. Some essentials I would recommend are:

asphalt box color emergency

Aloe vera lotion/gel
Antibiotic ointment
Anti-nausea and/or anti-indegestion
Ibuprophen and/or acetaminophen


9.) Plan a grocery trip:

grocery cart with item

Whether you’re staying in a 2 bedroom condo or a small hotel room it’s nice to have a few things on hand. Stock up on water. Lots of it. Easy to grab and go foods that don’t melt in the sun like granola, protein bars, crackers. Don’t forget to grab some amazing Hawai’ian fruit: Lychee, mango, pineapple and papaya. I also recommend some decadent hawai’ian chocolate. Hawai’i is the only state with a climate that will support cacao tree growth. However, enjoy it in the room. Chocolate is no fun on a beach day. Unless you plan to eat it with a spoon.

10.) Journal:

20180731_112538This may not be for you, but I’ve loved going back and reading first impressions of amazing locations. The memories will fade. Pictures are great, but nothing can express how the vacation made you feel better than words. If you’re not much for writing, assign someone in your group to record the experience. If your thing is sketching or even doodling, take a sketchbook and draw your impressions. It’s a layer of vacationing most people don’t take the time to explore. We’re so busy “taking it all in” we forget to write it all down. I’m definitely guilty of this. But I know if I at least jot down a few words that express my thoughts, emotions, perception, the memories are so much stronger.

After 18 months living on island, especially when visiting other islands, I’ve used these tips consistently and never been sorry. The best planned vacation in the world can become derailed by the simplest of things. It’s worth investing in the little things to ensure fond memories.