Photo: Elena Bragg

16 mistakes travelers make when visiting Hawaii for the first time

Don't hike in the rain, don't stay in Waikiki the whole time and please don't touch the turtles.

In the land of sunshine, rainbows and beaches, a lot can go wrong. A mix of excitement, weariness from a long flight and a general lack of knowledge about Hawaii, or the ocean, can lead first-time visitors to make mistakes that may detract from their tropical adventure. If knowing is half the battle, then the list below will keep you away from making the same blunders made by generations upon generations of big-eyed, bushy-tailed, about-to-be-sunburnt travelers. 

1. Staying in Waikiki the whole time

Photo: Thinkstock

The view of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head is steller, but considering you have traveled a minimum of 2,500 miles to arrive here, get out there and explore.

2. Trying to get an Instagram profile pic in a bad spot at a bad time

If the ground is wet and water is still trickling down the rocks from the last wave, then you should probably avoid the area. 

3. Ignoring the signs and getting drilled in the shorebreak

4. Getting sunburnt so bad everyone can see your swimsuit tan lines

Everyone gets a little too excited to jump in the water when they see the beach, but don't forget to apply a full coat of sunscreen first. A bad burn can make the act of living difficult. And no, you won't tan well, but in a few days you'll look like a snake mid-shed. 

5. Not knowing your pidgin but going for it anyways

6. Keeping your shoes on in a local's house

Wearing shoes in a house will give local residents mild anxiety. This unspoken law of barefootedness dates back to the plantation days, thanks to a mix of cultural norms given to us by Chinese, Filipino and Japanese immigrants, so follow suit and add to the pile of shoes and slippahs at the doorway. 

7. Touching the turtles (please stop touching the turtles)

8. Not renting a car

You can get away with not renting a car on Oahu, however, using public transportation to get around on the other Islands is a different story. Hawaii doesn't have fancy subway systems or skytrams, so your only other options are bussing it (which can take a while), getting a Biki on Oahu (fun for short distances and hellish for long distances), or calling an Uber or a Lyft (more expensive than just renting a car in some cases). 

9. Renting a car and going 15 mph in a 35 mph zone

Don't get us wrong, Hawaii's got some amazing views. But instead of slowing your car down to a crawl and letting your jaw drop, pull over to the side of the road, or at least maintain the speed limit. It will make the local driver behind you a lot happier, since they probably commute this scenic wonderland twice a day, five times a week to and from work. 

10. Deciding not to bring a jacket or a hoodie because Hawaii never rains

Wrong! We get rain too. Tropical storms can cause days of downpour and sometimes the Aloha State can dip into the nippy "Geez, I wish I had a sweater" temperature. An extreme example of bad weather is back in 2006 when Hawaii received 40 days of rain due to tropical storms. Although most days are boardshorts and bikini weather, pack something for when the skies are starting to look a little stormy.

11. Saying "Back in the states." 

12. Starting a hike an hour before sundown

Catching a sunset at the top of a mountain trail sounds nice, however the trek down may become a treacherous affair after dark. Unless you know the terrain well and are familiar with the hiking trail, adventuring at night on mountains, especially with sudden drops, is not recommended.

13. Hiking during, or directly after, a hard rain

Enough things can go wrong during a hike (see No. 12), so why add slippery footholds and surprise floods to the list? If your dream hike gets wet, give it a few days of solid sunshine to dry out, or it may end up being an absolute nightmare.

14. Not being both mentally and physically prepared for the Road to Hana

15. Assuming that someone with dark skin is Hawaiian, or that people born in Hawaii are Hawaiians

One of the many great aspects of Hawaii is how culturally diverse we are. So your mocha-colored Starbucks barista might be Hawaiian, but they also might be Filipino or Spanish or Tongan or a mix of all three. Also, people born in Hawaii, who do not possess any actual Hawaiian blood, are referred to as locals, not Hawaiians. 

16. Eating at a chain restaurant

There are so many excellent mom and pop shops in the Islands, so save Red Lobster and Chili's for another day. If you would prefer to eat at a chain restaurant, choose a local chain, such as Zippy's or Kono's.