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…
We visited the
in 2004 and are going again this year. We loved it. It was great to visit the towns/cities when we wanted, but also easy to get away and enjoy solitude on many quiet beaches. The rainy, jungled, Hilo side had dramatic thunder storms -- very cool! Kona was definitely more touristy, but interesting and was closer to the best snorkeling areas. The Big Island has a little bit of everything. Avoid Issac Hale and Puna, as these are the areas where local Hawaiians are especially territorial about their land and not all that friendly to tourists. We stayed in hostels and a VW camper van and had no problem getting around. A rental car of some sort is a must if you want to see all of the island.
is the best. You can go from one end to the other with no problem. People are cool. There are some dangerous parts, but that is anywhere you go. Be free and full of aloha and no worries.
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.
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…
The racial tension is also from the white folks too. I did live in
, and I am not Caucasian, I am Asian, but raised culturally by Caucasians. I speak perfect English. The first time I lived there, I was constantly being yelled at, called a stupid Hawaiian. I do suggest if you are traveling to Maui, that you do not be a belligerent, obnoxious person, as there is only one road in Maui, and a lot of jungle. Hitchhiking is definitely not even for the boys. The worst thing about Maui is that it has the highest concentration of wealthly drug dealers, and not too many other rich legitimate people live, as it also is an easy escape out of the country.
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