I was one of many people who visited
on vacation and promptly decided I wanted to move there. The reality of living in Hawaii is very different from a vacation experience. Beneath the surface of "aloha -- paradise," Hawaii is a very racially-tense environment with extreme poverty and a lot of social problems. It is not an extension of mainland U.S., but rather, an occupied third-world Polynesian island. Cost of living is extremely high due to the lack of economic development -- many people run away to Hawaii to escape the consumer economy of urban U.S.A. Just be aware that a successful experience in Hawaii depends on you having enough money to sustain yourself comfortably while you're there and a plane ticket home. The worst case scenario is if you arrive there with little resources and then end up stranded. Odds are you will not be able to get employment and will certainly struggle to break into the very tight local community which is extremely resentful of American occupation…
is great because there is so much to do, and most spots are not more than an hour or two away from Waikiki (if that is where you are staying). I recommend staying away from there as it is so busy, but each to their own. Kailua is beautiful and quaint. Everyone should go to Hanauma Bay at least once -- the snorkeling is fantastic! And the North shore is very quaint and beautiful (this is where you will see expert surfers, waves are massive here). I'm going back to Oahu for my fourth time, and plan on returning to this wonderful island as many times as I possibly can!
A rental is a must to get around. If you're looking for adventure, try a 4x4. Some of the best beaches are only accessible by 4x4 or a very long hike. The
is home to the nicest and happiest bunch of people I have ever encountered, and how could they not be -- the air they breathe smells of sea and sweet flowers! Kona was "touristy" but had a small town feel, whereas Hilo felt more like a city (with reason, it is). I think my favorite part of the trip was walking through the Waipio Valley -- a phenomenal experience, from cascades of brightly colored wild impatiens to alien fruit trees and the random wandering horse, and kind wandering tourists I met along the way, and of course the waterfall and black sand beach, it was the highlight of my trip. The volcano was another sight to remember -- I got phenomenal photographs. Sometimes I think my memories of the Big Island are all a dream. The Big Island is definitely more laid back than other popular islands. Pretty much…
is packed with adventures and it's easy to fall in love with the scenery. It's a small island without much in the way of nightlife or shopping, so I recommend coming here for farm work or camping. I worked on a small farm in Kilauea it was beautiful but don't expect the bus to get you unless you are in a very well traveled area, instead hitchhiking works fine. You are going to want to do the Kalalau trail for sure, it's intense and a bit intimidating. Make sure to give the trail plenty of time, you don't want to have to rush out from poor planning. I think Kauai isn't the best for clear waters of snorkeling or surfing, but hiking is your best bet. The many local farmers markets make cheap and healthy eating easy.
Beware of "work trade" scams on
. A "work trade" on Maui typically is labor, babysitting, housecleaning, or other job (like at a hostel or private residences) in exchange for a room. I was on Maui for 6 months: For 3 months, I babysat at a hostel for the owners' child, gave the child daily art lessons, worked in the garden with the child, and did part-time managing at the hostel. I got ripped off by the hostel's owners for one month's worth of managing work I did at this hostel. They didn't want me to leave (they wanted to keep me as a "serf") so they took 3 days to return to me my passport & car title that they kept for me in their locked safe that they have for their guests' valuables. In 6 months, I met dozens of people who got lied to and/or riped off by various "work trade" employers. If you are a US citizen, demand minimum wage, a work contract in writing, and get a receipt for your rent paid or for the amount of hours you worked when rent is due. Don't rent a room…
is a beautiful Island. Many beautiful places to stay. But I stress that you should venture out of Waikiki. Haleiwa and the North Shore are the places to be. Such a wonderful part of the Island even if you are not a surfer. Book accommodation early though on the North Shore if you intend to go December through to February. So many travellers I've spoken to only do Honolulu and this is not what I believe Hawaii is about. East Coast is great too. Have fun.
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