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.
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…
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.
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 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.
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