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 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!
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…
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…
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.
Hey. I had a great experience doing "work trade" on
. I found it very fair and a great way to stay on the island longer and inexpensively. I would reccomend it to any traveler planning on staying on the island for a month or more. Maui like anywhere has its problems. But never in the 5 months that I was there did I feel unsafe, and I found hitchhiking a great way to get around the island and meet cool people. I definetly recommend MAUI! You will have an excellent time and meet great people.
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