First Timer’s Guide to Hawaii

By Lacy Varner

Congratulations, you’re going to Hawaii! Now what? With thousands of things to do or see within a limited number of vacation days, you may be overwhelmed trying to decide which activities will make it on the itinerary.

But never fear! This first-timer’s guide will give you a few suggestions of where to start. You can build from there.

Go to the Beach

It sounds simple, but some folks are so determined to make the most of their time in Hawaii that they schedule every hour of their vacation. They fill their days with fun activities, scenic spots to visit, and restaurants to try. And while this is a very efficient way to travel, don’t forget to save a couple days to just wake up late and meander over to the beach to lounge. After all, you are here to relax, right?

But this suggestion comes with a caveat. While we know that everyone wants to go home with a lovely Hawaii tan, please, please, please wear your sunscreen. Apply liberally and often. You will not be a happy camper if you get a killer sunburn on the second day of your trip.

Luau

If you’ve come to Hawaii, you must go to a luau. The purpose of this is three-fold: try Hawaiian food, learn about Hawaiian history, and watch a hula show.

At most luaus you’ll get to see the unearthing of the kalua pig from an imu, or underground oven. You’ll also get to try other staples, such as poi, lomi lomi salmon, lau lau, and more.

When it comes to the shows, some luaus offer a strictly Hawaiian focus. Others have a broader Polynesian offering, featuring different styles of song and dance from several of the island nations. For example, fire knife dancing is a Samoan tradition and may not be featured in a Hawaiian-focused production. So if you’re dead set on seeing a particular dance, be sure to check with the luau.

Try Some Local Food

Local food is different from Hawaiian food.  Thanks to its sugar and pineapple plantation heritage, Hawaii has become a melting pot of cultures. Naturally cuisine has followed suit, evolving over the generations to the tastes of people here.  Thus “local” food often finds its origins in a mix cultures.

Here are a few suggestions of things to try:

  • Plate Lunch – the anatomy of a plate lunch is two scoops of rice, one scoop of macaroni salad and a meat dish. Common meat dish options include: hamburger steak, teriyaki chicken (or beef), shoyu chicken, or chicken katsu.
  • Poke – pronounced “pokeh,” is generally raw, marinated fish that is cubed and served as an appetizer. There are countless varieties with utilizing different ingredients and types of seafood, but they’re all good.
  • Li Hing Powder – locals put this sweet/salty-flavored power on everything from fruit, to shave ice, to candy. You can buy prepackaged li hing snacks or just the powder to experiment with yourself. We recommend trying the Li Hing Dried Mango or putting some of the powder on fresh pineapple.

Well there you have it; these are your three basic MUST-Dos while in Hawaii. All other activity choices are completely dependent upon your personal taste. But it would be difficult to make a bad choice, so get planning!

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