Facts About Hawaii to Know Before You Visit

Have plans to visit Hawaii or simply thinking about visiting? There are many facts about Hawaii that you will want to know before you go!

Since my family has lived there for over 60 years, I consider myself local(ish) and constantly get asked for recommendations. But when I inquire for more information about the trip of whoever is asking, I often find they don't know much of anything about Hawaii — not even which island(s) they'll be going to.  

So below I've compiled a high level overview of Hawaii facts that I think will help you get more acquainted with America's most beautiful state prior to visiting!

 
 

Facts About Hawaii

Hawaii is a U.S. state — the 50th and most recent. It became a state in 1959.

It is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands.

There are eight main islands — Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and the Island of Hawaii. Yes, there is an island in the state of Hawaii called Hawaii. But in total there are 137 islands!

Honolulu, the state capital, is on Oahu, as is famous Waikiki. Two-thirds of all Hawaii residents live on the island of Oahu.

More than one-third of the world's commercial supply of pineapples comes from Hawaii.  If you go to Oahu, you MUST try Hawaiian Crown!

Hawaii has it’s own timezone (HST) and does not observe daylights savings.  HST is two hours behind PST.

There are only two royal palaces in the US and both are in Hawaii — Iolani Palace on Oahu and Huliheʻe Palace on the Island of Hawaii.

 
 

Hawaiian Islands

Of the eight main islands, the majority of visitors go to four of the islands: Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai (in order of most to least according to the Hawaiian Tourism Authority).

 

OAHU 

Oahu, which means “the gathering place”, is my favorite of them all and the most diversified.  It is also where all of my family lives so I might be a bit biased. Although it is the third largest island, over half of all Hawaii residents live on Oahu.

Oahu is home to Honolulu, which is the state’s capital and a city you’ve likely heard of before.  In Honolulu is Waikiki, famous for Waikiki beach and being a tourist hot spot!

Also on Oahu is Pearl Harbor, the famous North Shore, Diamond Head, and much more.  It is my preferred island because you are able to find whatever you want — you can be at a club in the heart of Waikiki if you want some city life or you can rent a house in Kailua or the North Shore and stay fairly remote.

If you will be visiting Oahu, we have everything you need to plan your trip! Starting with the free downloadable guide above.

FOR WHERE TO STAYclick here for the best hotels and resorts and here for the best Airbnbs.

FOR WHERE TO EAT… click here for a local’s guide to the best places to eat.

FOR WHAT TO DOclick here for my top 10 recommendations. My number one recommendation is to swim with dolphins in the wild. Click here for a detailed post about how to do that!

FOR A GUIDE TO THE FAMOUS NORTH SHOREclick here.

FOR WHERE TO HIKEclick here for Crouching Lion (my absolute favorite) and here for the Lanikai Pillboxes (my second favorite!).

FOR THE BEST PHOTO OPPSclick here!

 
 

MAUI 

The island of Maui is the second largest and also the second most visited of Hawaii.  It is a nice happy medium between the hustle and bustle of Oahu and the incredibly laid back nature of Kauai.

Maui, called the “Valley Isle”, is home to popular Lahaina (including Kaanapali and Kapalua) where many resorts are located and Kahului which is the business hub of the island.  It has beautiful, world-famous beaches and the Road to Hana, a 68-mile scenic route.

 

ISLAND OF HAWAII

The Island of Hawaii, also commonly known as the Big Island, is both the youngest and biggest of them all.  It is home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where one of the world’s most active volcanoes (Kilauea) is.  Note: this is the one that is currently erupting, sadly.

Aside from volcanoes, the Big Island is home to snow-capped mountains (really), black sand beaches, and tropical jungles with endless amounts of hiking trails.

 

KAUAI

Kauai, the “Garden Island”, is my second favorite island and arguably the most beautiful! Stepping onto Kauai is like stepping into what my Hawaiian mother often refers to as "old Hawaii”.  Much of the island is only accessible by plane or sea and it remains relatively undeveloped.

Kauai is incredibly laid back and made up of nothing but small towns.  It’s famous for it’s Na Pali Coast (the most jaw-dropping coastline you can imagine), Waimea Canyon (the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”), Poipu Beach (great for snorkeling), and more!

 

What to Pack for Hawaii

COMFORTABLE YET STYLISH SNEAKERS. If you plan on running around a bit this is very important! My very favorite are M. Gemi’s white leather sneakers. I literally never travel anywhere without them. Click here to see latest prices and use for “CHRISTIE40” for $40 off.

More details: click here for why they're the most comfortable and stylish walking shoes for travel!

SANDALS. For the beach, of course! Click here for the ones I wear (I have numerous colors).

SUNDRESSES. I always pack a ton of these because I throw them on everyday and they are easy to dress up or down. Click here for my favorite sundresses! I also shop for them here, here, and here.

SUNGLASSES. Of course! Three timeless styles I’ve been wearing non-stop: click here for my favorite Quay aviators (I have both the black and the rose gold), click here for my round Ray-Bans, and click here for my all time favorite black on black Ray-Bans that are often hard to track down because they sell out consistently.

BIKINIS. If you haven’t tried Boys + Arrows yet - you must. Their seamless bottoms are by far the most comfortable I have EVER tried (and I own over 50 bikinis). Click here for my favorite bikinis! I also love this brand (I have black + gold and the navy colorful one), this brand, this brand, and this brand.

For my go-to inexpensive options, click here and here!

BEACH TOWEL. Do not forget towels! You will spend way more on them in Hawaii than you will if you buy them beforehand. Click here for my favorite quick drying colorful travel beach towels.

SUN HAT. To protect your face. Click here for the one I am loving.

SPF. Incredibly important, do NOT forget this. Click here for my favorite face SPF. I also always carry a mineral powder sunscreen brush with me at all times to put on top and lock in the SPF. Click here for the one I use and recommend.

SELF TANNER. I personally don’t love showing up in my bikini white as a ghost so I always self tan prior to arrival! Click here for my favorite bronzing mousse. If you don’t have a tanning mitt (you’ll need one to apply it), click here for my new favorite. For your face, I am loving these self-tanning drops that you mix into your moisturizer. Click here for those! I use the dark ones.

REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE. Traveling makes you dehydrated as does sunshine so please do not forget this (and PLEASE do not buy single-use plastic ones instead). Hydro Flask is the best because it keeps your drink cold (or warm). So worth the investment. Click here to see the latest prices.

For a full list of what to bring to Hawaii, click here for my Hawaii packing list.

 

Weather in Hawaii

Before my grandpa passed away we would email each other regularly.  In these emails he reminded me basically constantly to “come on over to Hawaii, the weather is always great!”.

He was right — it’s basically 80°F and absolute perfection year-round. January, on average, is the coolest with temps from 65-81°F, and July the hottest with temps from 73-88°F.

The wettest month is usually December but you should expect to see rain on your trip regardless of month as it often sprinkles daily.

All of the above of course can differ by location.  For example, Kauai is the wettest island so you should expect to see more rain there than you would on the Big Island.

 
 

Language in Hawaii

English and Hawaiian are both official languages in the state of Hawaii. Locals commonly speak something called “Pidgin” which is different than Hawaiian though sometimes confused for it.

All Hawaiian words end in a vowel.

Sometimes you will see what looks like an apostrophe used through words in the Hawaiian language, such as Hawaii`i or O`ahu.  This is actually not an apostrophe, but an `okina which faces the opposite direction of an apostrophe.  Because many fonts do not support `okina’s you will likely see this replaced with an apostrophe often.

“Aloha” is one of the most largely known Hawaiian words - you likely know it as meaning “hello”.  But in addition to “hello”, it also means “goodbye” and, my favorite, “love” :)

Other common Hawaiian words to know:

  • Mahalo - thank you

  • Wahine - women (often used on restrooms so important to remember!)

  • Kane - male

  • Lei - a flower necklace

  • Mauka - towards the mountain

  • Makai - towards the ocean (kai is ocean, you’ll see that everywhere)

  • Ohana - family, but not just blood relatives!

  • Kama’aina - Hawaii local

  • Keiki - children

  • Lanai - balcony

  • Shaka - a hand symbol

  • A hui hou - until we meet again

  • Humuhumunukunukuapua’a - the state fish (really)

  • Ku’uipo - sweetheart. You’ll likely see this engraved onto jewelry everywhere

  • Haole - a foreigner, though usually used to describe someone caucasian (sometimes derogatory)

  • Pupu - snacks or appetizers

  • Wikiwiki - fast or speedy

 
 

Other Hawaii Facts to Know

SHAVE ICE - shave ice is a very popular and delicious Hawaiian dessert!  It is made by shaving a block of ice very finely into a snow-like consistency and then topped with flavored syrup and sometimes other things.

It is called SHAVE ICE not SHAVED ICE (no “d”).  If ever you find a place advertising “shaved ice”, you’ll know it is inauthentic and to avoid it!

PIPELINE - Banzai Pipeline is one of the most famous surf spots in the world! It’s located at Ehakai Beach Park but you can type either into Google Maps to find it.

Surfing here can be very dangerous and isn’t recommended if you aren’t an expert.  Either way, it’s worth a visit especially if there is a surf competition going on.

NOTE: Pipeline is not the road you drive on to get here, nor is it the name of the big surf competition that is famously held here (that’s Billabong Pipe Masters).  It is a beach.

SPAM - locals LOVE spam.  You’ll even see it on the menu at McDonalds!

MALASADA - a deep-fried Portuguese donut. Do not leave without trying one!

 

Other Hawaii Information

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