9 Things to Avoid In Hawaii: Mistakes Every Tourist Makes

things to avoid in hawaii

Six unique islands covered in breathtaking natural beauty, where the warm seas calm you and the floral air energies you. That’s Hawaii. A haven of Alohas that appears on almost everyone’s vacation list. A place that welcomes you with open arms and draws you in with nothing more than a whisper in the breeze. And while there are plenty of things to do on any of the islands, there are also plenty of things to avoid in Hawaii. 

Things you may have never known about, everyday items you may have thought weren’t an issue, and even things that probably crossed your mind but when the time comes you’ll end up doing them anyway. But fear not, you aren’t alone. Almost every tourist who visits Hawaii mistakes the same common mistakes, from not taking heed of warning signs to being ill-prepared when it comes to hiking or exploring the volcanoes. 

We’ve compiled a list of 9 things to avoid in Hawaii so that you don’t make the same mistakes everyone else makes. So if you want to seem more like a local and less like a tourist, or your just want to enjoy your vacation to the max and discover some of Hawaii’s hidden gems, then read on to find out what not to do when in Hawaii.

Stealing Lava Rocks

flowing lava in Hawaii
Photo by Envato Elements

Everywhere you look around Hawaii you’re bound to find some Lava Rocks and you’ll probably be tempted to bring a piece back with you as a cheap souvenir, however, you’d be better off leaving them be. Not just because it’s illegal to remove any objects from National Parks but because if everyone did it, there would be none left. 

Most tourists are also unaware of the Hawaiian myth that surrounds lava rock. It’s said to be bad luck to remove them from the island. The myth states that you’ll risk the wrath of Pele if you bring the rock home. Whether or not the legend is true, it’s still illegal to remove it, and could see you face a fine or even jail time if caught. 

So leave them where you found them, take a photo of them/with them and carry on safe in the knowledge that you won’t have years of bad luck.

Choosing The Wrong Island

Hawaiian beach
Photo by Envato Elements

One of the things to avoid in Hawaii is choosing the wrong island. Now you might be thinking that they are all the same and that you’ll be able to visit them all in the space of a week but the truth is, each one has something unique to offer and requires at least three to five days per island to be explored thoroughly. 

Traveling between the islands is often done by inter-island flights, so if you’re thinking a week is long enough to see them all then you’re going to be spending almost every other day at the airport, which isn’t exactly a relaxing vacation.  You might also be thinking that you can’t choose the wrong island but actually, you can. 

Depending on what you want to see and do while in Hawaii, will depend on the island you use as your base. People often don’t do their research so end up being disappointed when they plan a trip to Kauai or the Big Island and then realize everything shuts down early in the evening. The right island to travel to depends heavily on what you want to do, so do a bit of planning and researching before you book so you’re not disappointed when you get there. 

Spending All Your Time In Waikiki

Waikiki beach
Photo by Envato Elements

Many tourists tend to stick to their resorts for their whole vacation and will boast to their friends and family that they saw everything Hawaii has to offer. But that’s not really true. While the beaches and resorts in Waikiki are safe and fun for everyone, there is so much more outside the confines of your resort. 

Just like cabin fever many of the locals suffer from Island Fever, which is basically a need to venture to one of the surrounding islands. While as a tourist you may not experience this, if you stay in the same place for too long, you too may find a need to move. So keeping your schedule busy by visiting all of the top Hawaiian attractions will mean you can boast to your loved ones that you really did see everything Hawaii has to offer. 

Getting Too Close to Hawaiin Wildlife 

snake on a tree
Photo by Envato Elements

Giant green sea turtles, Monk Seals, jellyfish, sharks, and snakes are just some of Hawaii’s impressive wildlife. While this may not cross your mind when thinking of things to avoid in Hawaii, it’s actually one of the important ones. Many of Hawaii’s wildlife is either endangered or dangerous.

One thing a lot of tourists don’t know is that it’s illegal to get too close to wildlife in Hawaii and touching them is even more of a no-no. So while you may think it’s cute to get a photo with your hand on a sea turtle or to be next to a monk seal, you’re better off viewing them from a distance. 

Only Visiting Super Touristy Areas

Hawaii coastal city
Photo by Envato Elements

Lots of tourists will just stick to visiting the super touristy areas like Haleakala National Parks, Waikiki, and Maui Ocean Center. However, these places tend to be crowded all year round and can often make them unpleasant. While straying too far away from tourist areas may lead to a nightmare or get you into trouble, staying in the heart of them can also lead to the same issues. 

There are plenty of lesser-known attractions, beaches, walks, and diving spots that are just waiting for you to discover them. There are plenty of tour operators out there that will give you the inside scoop on some of these hidden gems and take you on guided tours around the islands.

Not Budgeting Enough

Luxury houses in Hawaii
Photo by Envato Elements

A vacation to Hawaii isn’t cheap. After the price of airfare, car rental, and hotels you’ll still need to budget for food, attractions, and activities. A one-week vacation in Hawaii can cost on average around $1900 per person. 

Food is probably one of the most expensive parts of your trip especially if you plan on eating in a restaurant for every meal. You’ll probably also pay a little more for groceries in Hawaii too. But the other real killer when it comes to budgeting is the activities. There is a wealth of things to do in Hawaii which is what makes it so difficult to stick to a budget.

Make sure you budget more than you believe you need to. A good starting point would be to budget between $74 and $150 per person per day for food, transport, and sightseeing. If you know you’ll do more activities on a spur of the moment thing then aim to budget more towards the $150 to $200 per person per day margin. After all, you want to explore the island and have fun, not end up sitting in your hotel room when you run out of funds. 

Not Sampling Hawaiian food

Hawaiian poke bowl
Photo by Envato Elements

Why travel to Hawaii if you’re just going to dine out at the chain restaurants you can just about anywhere? Hawaii is filled with a pot of cultural influences from around the world and it would be a shame not to at least try some of Hawaii’s most popular dishes. From healthy poke bowls to garlic shrimp, from Kaula pork to Beef Stew, there is something here for everyone. 

These mixes of cultures make Hawaii a foodie destination. While most of their produce is imported from 2,000 miles away making eating out a little more expensive, it will be well worth it. Another handy point to remember is just like in America, Hawaiians in the service industry rely on tips. So after your meal remember to give the waiter/waitress, bell boy/concierge, tour guides, and servers a tip as it could be the reason they are able to live with Hawaii’s high cost of living. 

Neglecting Warning Signs

Giant wave in Hawaii
Photo by Envato Elements

Warning signs are in place for a reason and beach safety in Hawaii is a major priority. While some warning signs are there simply to alert you to possible dangers like sharks in the water, an area may become inaccessible in the future, or there are no lifeguards on duty. Others are there because there could a real threat to life. 

Many tourists ignore the warning signs put in place by locals and as a result, end up either in danger, being swept to sea, or worse attacked by a shark or stung by a jellyfish. It’s also advised to never go swimming alone in Hawaii as the ocean currents are highly variable. Even the best swimmers and surfers make sure they have at least one other person with them when they go hit the waves. 

Following warning signs will protect you and others from danger. Do some research before you go so you are clued up on where some of these dangerous areas are. Other warning signs include closed paths on hikes and not following these could get you a fine and even a prison sentence. 

Underestimating The Power Of The Sun

Sunset over beach in Hawaii
Photo by Envato Elements

Everyone dreams of sitting at the beach all day getting their tan on but they often underestimate the power of the sun. As Hawaii is close to the equator the sun can be pretty intense and while you might be thinking ‘I’ll be fine, I don’t burn’, you may end up getting burnt in Hawaii. 

Many tourists have made the same mistake thinking that a lower SPF sunscreen will be best for your tan or even going without, however, this is really dangerous. Not only could you end up with major burns and have to spend the rest of your holiday in the shade, but you could also end up in hospital. So remember to pack a high SPF sunscreen and moderate your time spent in the sun. 

For those of us that get burnt easily, you’ll want to avoid being out in the sun between 10 am and 2 pm as this is when the sun is at its hottest. Also regularly re-apply your sunscreen, especially if you have been swimming. Another thing to remember is that Hawaii implemented a new law that requires everyone to wear a reef-safe sunscreen so make sure yours is.


For more than 11 years, Joe has worked as a freelance travel writer. His writing and explorations have brought him to various locations, including the colonial towns of Mexico, the bustling chowks of Mumbai, and the majestic Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not crafting his next epic blog post on the top Greek islands or French ski resorts, he can often be found engaging in his top two hobbies of surfing and hiking.

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