Hawaii Misconceptions

With all the publicity Hawaii receives on TV and in the movies it’s easy to get a skewed picture of what the islands are really like. Hawaii’s diversity and varied geography allow for many different experiences; even stories you’ve heard from friends may paint a skewed picture. This article looks at some common misconceptions and will hopefully give you some ideas to plan a perfect trip.

Oahu and Waikiki

Waikiki, a suburb of Honolulu, is the most popular tourist destination in Hawaii. Dozens of inexpensive hotels, the bright lights of a beautiful, active and modern city, and the allure of Waikiki Beach combine to form an intoxicating cocktail that many tourists can’t resist.

But Oahu’s real beauty is found outside Honolulu. The scenic H3 freeway cuts through razor edged volcanic ridges and takes one from the west to east side of the island, revealing miles of beautiful beaches. You won’t find hotels or condos here, rather several nice residential towns like Kailua where President Obama and his family vacation over winter holidays. Oahu’s north shore is much less developed, and out in the “country” is where one finds a few of the most famous surf breaks in the world – the Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay.

So although Waikiki wins the prize for being the most popular destination in Hawaii, it represents only a fraction of what Hawaii or even Oahu has to offer.

Crowds

Based on the popularity of Waikiki Beach one may expect the rest of Hawaii to be similarly crowded. Fortunately that’s not the case. Hawaii has over 100 great tourist beaches and on any island it’s possible to find one that’s virtually empty. This is especially true for Kauai’s north shore where you can count on many great beaches being visited by only a handful of people on weekdays. Every Hawaiian Island including Oahu can accommodate those who want to get away from big tourist crowds.

Cost

Hawaii caters to everyone including those on a tight budget. The best vacation value can be found in vacation rentals which allow for the possibility of inexpensive home cooked meals. Even on Maui, sometimes referred to as the playground of the wealthy, you’ll find condo rentals on the beach for less than $100/night at complexes like at Waiohuli Beach Hale, or from $150/night at places like Poipu Sands on Kauai.

Car rental prices fluctuate depending on demand. Rates of $30/day are common. Given how much there is to see and explore renting a car is highly recommended. Only Oahu has a good public transportation system.

Visitor Destination Areas

Hawaii has strict zoning regulations and it’s illegal to offer vacation rentals in many areas without the proper permits (permits are hard to get). Unfortunately this means you can’t rent an apartment or home in any residential area you want, particularly areas that are less touristy.

Fortunately several resort areas offer a nice selection of rentals including homes, condos and cottages and some resorts have a mix of residents and vacationers, particularly on Kauai which has a nice selection of condos.

Weather

Hawaii arguably has the best climate in the world. Winter time highs average about 78 degrees (25 Celsius), summer time highs around 86 (30 Celsius). Consistent winds prevent suffocating heat from ever taking hold. The ocean is always warm enough to swim in.

As wonderful as Hawaii’s weather is, from the perspective of a tourist who’s visiting for a week and expects the best, the weather can be frustrating. The same winds that make Hawaii one of the premier windsurfing destinations can also create unpleasant beach conditions, especially on east facing shores. Although the Pacific Ocean around Hawaii doesn’t see much rainfall, the topography of each island creates its own weather system, collecting and bunching up clouds. The result is a huge difference in weather in very short distances. For example, the wettest recorded spot on earth is on Kauai, but only 20 miles away it’s very dry, almost desert like.

The bottom line, residents of Hawaii are extremely lucky, but vacationers going for short trips need to plan winter vacations more carefully, selecting the driest region of an island to get the best possible weather.

Scenery

Whatever you imagine Hawaii to contain in terms of scenery, you’re probably right. What other region of the world contains such a variety of landscapes stuffed into such a small land mass? Jungles, forests, canyons, jagged cliffs, meadows, deserts, baron fields of lava rock, red dirt, palm fringed beaches, snow capped mountains, volcanic craters, moonscapes, and waterfalls. No wonder so many movies are filmed in Hawaii.

To see the contrasting scenes you have to leave the comfort of your resort and do some driving. For example, flying into Maui you’re not going to see any evidence of lush tropical scenery. But drive the road to Hana on the south east coast and you’ll be treated to waterfalls and a million shades of green.

Volcano

If you’ve seen anything on TV about Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island your impression of this area will be completely skewed. TV programs show a portion of the volcano up close at times when it’s spewing lava. Normally the volcano is simmering out of sight in a remote area of the park, and lava flow is below ground except where it enters the ocean.

Volcanoes National Park is an amazing area that should be visited. There are miles of hikes and interesting geology to explore. Just don’t go expecting to see lava. You may get lucky, but if you really want to see flowing lava you’ll need to take an air tour.

Sharks

Traveling to Hawaii is probably the least stressful vacation you can take. You don’t have to worry about terrible weather, tropical diseases, crime, or contaminated food. Perhaps because there’s so little to worry about, some people start fixating on Shark attacks. There are sharks in Hawaii, but attacks are rarer than other beach destinations. Hawaii averages about 3 attacks per year making the odds of an attack more than 1 in a million. Instead of worrying about sharks, worry about dangerous ocean conditions. About 50 people drown every year in Hawaii.

Length of Stay

The islands of Hawaii are relatively small. Maui is 727 square miles, while Kauai and Oahu are less than 600. As such many people try to see several islands in one short trip. That’s a mistake because each island has so many attractions to explore, and although only separated by a half an hour plane ride, the reality of modern day airport travel means that jumping islands wastes a full day.

So although it’s technically possible to see all the islands in a couple weeks, the experience won’t be as deep or meaningful. The rule of thumb is to budget at least one week per island, if you’re a goal oriented sight seeing type. Feel free to spend several weeks on one island – you won’t regret it.

Partying

Unlike Mexico, the Caribbean or Florida, Hawaii doesn’t have a reputation as a party destination even during spring break. Most tourists are families, couples, and honeymooners. The time zone difference (PST – 3 hours, but no daylight savings) results in earlier bed times for most people including residents who sometimes have to sync up with mainland businesses. Lahaina on Maui does offer some after-hours entertainment but only Honolulu has any significant night life.

Surfing

Hawaii has the most famous surf breaks in the world. Perhaps you’d like to see crazed surfers tackle Waimea Bay, the Banzai Pipeline, or Jaws. Or maybe you’re thinking of taking up surfing yourself, or at least, doing some righteous boogie boarding.

Before getting stoked about the surfing possibilities, there a few points to keep in mind. First, surf breaks are seasonal. The biggest breaks reach over 30ft in winter months, but struggle to top 2ft mid summer. And a number of beaches, especially on Maui, are situated such that they’re never really subject to any sizeable surf, even for boogie boarding. Finally, the best surf breaks are rarely suitable for novice surfers.

So if you’re considering a surfing or wave watching vacation you’ll want to research surf breaks and locations and time your trip. Kauai and Oahu have the best surf breaks for beginners although Maui does have several very mellow breaks. Spring is generally a good time for surfing with greater odds for nice sized waves that aren’t overwhelming.

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Touring Movie Locations on Kauai

December 19, 2011 by  
Filed under columns, landmarks, Life in Hawaii

Kauai is a popular set location for movie producers. The island’s unique scenery and laid bad personality allow for easy and impressive filming. Many popular movies have been partially or completely filmed on Kauai including the recently released The Descendents starring George Clooney which is getting excellent reviews.

While visiting Kauai you may be interested in visiting or recognizing movie set locations. Below is a list of set locations that are easy to visit.

Coco Palms Hotel

To once famous Coco Palms hotel was destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Today it’s possible to visit the hotel’s remains with a guided tour. Several movies were filmed here in the 50′s and 60′s including Pagan Love Song, Bird of Paradise, Beachhead, Miss Sadie Thompson, Jungle Heat, Vodoo Island, Donovan’s Reef, and Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii.

Hanalei

Hanalei Bay and Hanalei town have been featured in several movies. The Descendents includes scenes filmed at Hanalei Bay and at Tahiti Nui bar and restaurant. The most famous movie filmed at Hanalei Bay was South Pacific starring Mitzy Gaynor. This is also the movie that popularized Lumahai beach.

The 1983 Vietnam War movie Uncommon Valor starring Gene Hackman had many fighting scenes filmed in the fields around Hanalei town.

Ke’e Beach

Lord of the Flies, Throw Mama from the Train and The Thorn Birds all include scenes filmed at beautiful Ke’e beach which is at the start of the Napali Coast.

Napali Coast

The remoteness of the Napali Coast with its deep valley’s and secluded beaches make for amazing movie scenes. If you take a boat tour along the coast you’ll recognize some locations. The most recent edition of Pirates of the Caribbean has scenes that were filmed here. The 2008 movie Perfect Getaway was filmed along the Kalalau trail.

The 1976 remake of King Kong includes scenes from here as well. The Kalalau Valley is the fabled home of King Kong. Also, when you drive along Kauai’s east coast you’ll see Kong’s Profile, a mountain that looks like King Kong on his back.

Menehune Fishpond

Near Nawilili harbor is the Menehune Fishpond, the remains of an old Hawaiian fishpond. Behind the fishpond a river flows into Nawilili Bay. The opening to the movie Raider’s of the Lost Ark was filmed nearby here. Indiana Jones narrowly escapes from a tribe of “South American” natives after discovering an ancient temple.

Kilauea Countryside

As you’re probably aware, many scenes from Jurrasic Park were filmed on Kauai. Most of the locations are very difficult to reach, but as you drive through the Kilauea area you’ll notice beautiful pasture land with grazing cows. This farm land was used as a backdrop for the first Jurassic Park movie.

The following map of Kauai will help you get a bearing on many attraction locations.

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Kauai GPS Tour Guide for the iPhone (FREE Download Codes)

Kauai GPS Tour Guide is a virtual tour guide that talks to you as you drive around Kauai. Using the GPS built into the iPhone, the Tour Guide knows exactly where you are and alerts you to hidden beaches, scenic lookouts, historic sites, hikes, farmers markets and many other Kauai attractions.

The Kauai GPS Tour Guide is the first and only App of its kind available to Kauai visitors. It’s like having an island resident drive with you to tell you about the island. Unlike a guide book where you’re constantly flipping through pages trying to figure out where you are and what’s around you, the Tour Guide tells you about hidden places, and guides you to difficult-to-find attractions. For example, the Tour Guide will tell you where to find parking for Tunnels beach, show you the location of the Queen’s Bath, and provide important safety guidance, and tell you about movies filmed in the area you’re driving through.

The Tour Guide includes over 200 points of interest and uses a real human voice – not a computer generated one. The application also includes comprehensive information about Kauai’s beaches, weather and surf forecasts, driving directions, Kauai background information for tourists including detailed ocean safety guidelines, and select activity and restaurant recommendations.

I have FREE download codes to the first 5 people who request it.

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WW: Mount Leahi (Diamond Head)

September 13, 2011 by  
Filed under daily life, landmarks, Life in Hawaii, memes, wordless wednesday

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