Since mom’s partner, Kurt, is from Oahu, and his family still resides there, we have had the unique opportunity to experience Hawaii both as tourists and locals. We have travelled to Hawaii at least once a year, for the past 6 years, so we have gotten to know it fairly well. Hopefully this guide can help you decide where to go, what to pack, and make the most of your vacation without upsetting the locals.
*This post contains affiliate links.*
First, we will start out with a few ground rules:
Respect da ‘aina. Don’t litter, don’t trespass, and don’t steal any rocks. This is a beautiful island, let’s keep it that way. It does not belong to you, no matter how much you have paid to visit. The land here is considered sacred. If you take any without asking permission from the Hawaiian gods, you will have bad juju for life.
Look, don’t touch. Don’t touch or harass the wildlife. You may encounter majestic sea life such as green sea turtles, coral, yes coral is alive, or was until you stepped on it, and monk seals. Not only is touching them illegal and can earn you a hefty fine, but it can make them sick, disturb their natural behavior, or even kill them. Consider yourself lucky to see them at all, and appreciate from a safe distance.
Use your head. The current on the island can be extremely strong, especially in the winter. The waves can reach 50 ft. Hence, why they hold huge surf competitions there. If you are not a professional, or there are warnings not to go out past a certain point, heed the warnings. We saw a lifeguard at Hanauma Bay have to save several different snorkelers one winter morning, because they didn’t listen to the warnings. Nothing ruins a vacation like drowning.
All of these signs seriously exist.
Okay, now that you have been thoroughly scolded for all of the stupid things you were planning on doing… onto the fun stuff!
or we should say, slightly more fun stuff. Let’s be honest, packing sucks.
What to Pack
Water bottle– All that sunshine will make you thirsty! We love these collapsible water bottles for taking everywhere. Unlike many collapsible bottles, they will stand up on their own. They are easy to pack, and also great for taking on planes. Just fill them up after going through airport security, and you don’t have to worry about when the beverage cart is coming around. Especially nice if you are on a low-cost carrier that charges for beverages. We have found the carabiners break easily, but we rarely use them, and they can always be replaced.
Tissues – The beaches are picturesque, the accompanying public bathrooms are not. If you want to have toilet paper, this may be your only option.
Hand sanitizer– see above.
Waterproof SPF 50+– You know how to be sure everyone knows you don’t belong? Walk around looking like a lobster. Slather it on. Waterproof is not only better for you, but also for the wildlife sharing the water with chemical covered snorkelers.
For your body, we highly recommend Ocean Potion. It comes in SPF 50 or SPF 70 The “Scent of Sunshine” smells just like an orange dreamsicle. If you like smelling heavenly, and avoiding skin cancer at the same time, you won’t regret it. If you hate that vanilla-y orange scent, you are crazy. However, they do make this tropical scented one as well.
For your face, our favorites are Neutrogena dry touch sunblocks. They come in a variety of SPFs and have a non-greasy finish.
SPF Chapstick – mmm sun burned lips so sexy.
This Panama Jack Spf 45 lip balm has a high spf, and tastes like a vacation for your mouth.
Flip flops/slippers – No matter what you call them, they are about all that locals wear. If you plan on visiting someone’s home you will be expected to leave these outside the door, like a civilized person.
Towel and beach bag/tote– Your hotel probably wont want you taking their bath towel down to the beach, be nice and bring your own. Bring a tote to haul this, your musubis, spf, etc to the beach with you.
Dry shampoo or Baby powder– It is HUMID in Hawaii. Like, you are wearing a damp blanket humid. If you want to freshen your hair before dinner and don’t have time to shower, this will be your friend. *Don’t use if you are going in the water.
Casual clothes– You will be sweaty, you will be sandy. It will be 80 degrees with 2000% humidity. Shorts are good, Maxi dresses are nice, but breezes will make you insane if you wear a short dress. Loose tanks and tees are perfect. Comfort is key here. Go ahead and bring one dressy casual outfit if you plan on going to a nice restaurant or show.
*If you are attending a wedding, listen to the dress code on the invite, not us. Brides like to pretend shit is fancy.
Long pants– It can get cool at night, and pretty much anywhere indoors. Not all places in Hawaii have a/c in Hawaii, but if they do, they like to show it off. Also, if you plan on going horseback riding, long pants are required.
Sweater or sweatshirt– see above.
Here is a lightweight, packable jacket, I like to use for sun protection when doing outdoor activities such as hiking. It breathes and has built-in SPF 50!
Sunglasses– We shouldn’t even have to say this.
Swimsuit– Ladies, wear this under your day clothes, and be prepared for an unplanned dip in the ocean. Last we checked, the popular thing with local women was “cheeky” bottoms and mismatched pieces. If you can’t pull off a suit with half of your butt showing, it’s okay, most people can’t. Wear whatever makes you comfortable. We prefer to be naked, and dry, because well, cats. Men wear board shorts. Be sure to rinse off after going in the ocean. The salt water isn’t kind to elastic.
Hiking shoes or old sneakers– If you plan on going hiking, you will want something with traction, that you also don’t care if it gets dirty. Winter is the rainy season, and many hikes will be muddy and slippery. *Hike at your own risk. Just because someone has done the hike, doesn’t mean you can do it, especially in the winter. People have died. Literally. Also a guaranteed way to spoil a vacation.
Water socks/ Water shoes– If you want to explore the tide pools and rocky areas on the North Shore (Sharks Cove) your feet will thank you. You will look super dorky, but you won’t be saying “ouch!” with every step.
*UPDATE* I bought these water shoes in black and white for our last trip, and got lots of compliments!
High heels– Unless you are going to a formal event that you specifically need these for, leave the heels behind. You will look ridiculous. Your feet will thank us.
Jewelry– If you like jewelry, small stud earrings and a simple ring will be sufficient. Leave the statement necklaces and earrings at home. Seriously, where do you plan on wearing those? Plus, you should never travel with a lot of expensive jewelry anyway.
Fancy clothes– The dress code in Hawaii is casual. Their “dressy” attire is an aloha shirt for god’s sake. Just leave your designer duds at home. Think surfer, not yacht club. It’s okay to be comfortable, we promise.
Curling/straightening iron– If you know how to curl or straighten your hair and make it stay that way in the fricken jungle, more power to you. Please let mom know your trick. In our experience, hair will “keep” for about 10 minutes in Hawaii’s humidity. Give your self the gift of extra relaxation, and work with what you’ve got. Fortunately, our fur looks glorious in all climates.
We hope this helps get you started. Keep an eye out for Part Two: Our Favorite Places on Oahu!
~Butters & Mookie
*Thanks, Mom and Dad, for letting us use your dorky personal pics for wardrobe examples. We don’t do clothes.*