How to Survive a Vacation in Hawaii


Travel agents and guide books alike will tell you of the beauty of Hawaii: the year-round neon greenery, the healing Pacific Ocean, the buttery tropical breezes, and the excess of exotic fruit. All good and fine, but take it from me, what you need to worry about are the things the travel guides don't tell you. From my perspective, a vacation is something to be survived, and a vacation in Hawaii requires a special set of survival skills not detailed in your pocket-sized Fodor's.

If you're planning a vacation to Hawaii (whether it's real or imaginary, is of no consequence), or if you are the friend or spouse of some hopeless romantic who has a tendency to purchase airplane tickets to tropical islands on an ignorant whim, then please beware. Although travelling across the ocean on a flimsy piece of metal-and-screws has its own dangers, staying in a strange place with a hope at relaxation comes with risks. And if you are brave enough to take on these risks, you must be wise enough to keep in mind these tips for survival.


How to Dress

Learning how to dress for the tropics and what kind of clothes to pack in your suitcase (if you're lucky enough to afford one) can be a challenge. Fortunately, the weather in Hawaii is generally the same year-round, so with a few a simple rules, you can be prepared for the worst.

Less is best. Remember, even in the middle of February, the temperature in Hawaii is probably a lot higher than it was where you came from. Don't bring your ski jacket. Or your scarf. Or your gloves. And for Heaven's sake, leave those nylons and stockings at home! You probably won't be needing socks either (unless you want to go hiking with shoes on). The temperature averages in the 70s and 80s all year, dropping to the 60s on winter nights.

What you should pack:

  • shorts
  • short-sleeved shirts
  • sundresses
  • flip-flops
  • swimsuit
  • light jacket or sweater

As you can see from the picture, I'm not very good at following my own rules, but then again, I'm not very good at survival.


Fear the Sun

The sun is your worst enemy. What people call UV rays are really death rays that seek to sear your skin, turning you into the suitcase you couldn't afford. Hawaii lies between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, which means that the sun and its death rays are closer to you than most other places. Although a healthy dose of sunshine provides the helpful Vitamin D, one minute over the healthy amount means red, itchy, peeling skin for the remainder of your vacation.

What to bring or buy at the local ABC store:

  • sunscreen (30 SPF, at least, is recommended for tourists who have been sitting in office cubicles or basements for much of the year)
  • hat
  • UV protected sunglasses
  • aloe vera (for when you don't listen about the 30 SPF sunscreen)


Travel guides go on and on about the adorable monk seals and sea turtles and spinner dolphins and humpback whales, but they don't tell you about the wild animals that are a little less than adorable. The cane spider, for instance. Think: anorexic tarantula. Cane spider don't spin webs, and apparently they are afraid of humans. Some unthinking people like them because they eat cockroaches.

Brown Huntsman Spider, commonly called the Cane Spider

Brown Huntsman Spider, commonly called the Cane Spider

Speaking of cockroaches ...

cockroach in its best state

cockroach in its best state

If the cane spiders and cockroaches don't bother you, then surely the centipedes will. Fat, purple, leggy worms that bite! Believe you me, this is one insect not to be played with.

a medium-sized centipede

a medium-sized centipede

Good news, though. Death by insects is at an impossible low currently in Hawaii. To prevent further annoyance, a can of Raid or a convenient shoe or the sledgehammer you may find in your condo's closet will come in handy. Just keep your eyes open, and always check inside your shoes.

Sea Creatures

Perhaps you may think I exaggerate about the little creatures with teeth called bugs. I think not, but be that as it may, you will surely want to be on your guard regarding the creatures of the sea. I don't need to remind you to watch "Jaws" before swimming.

One thing many tourists (and especially snorkelers) do that they really shouldn't is walk on the coral reefs. Walking on these fragile eco-systems is damaging to the beautiful sea creatures that live there. Of course, another reason not to walk on the reef is the sea urchins that sit on the rocks, poking their poisonous spines up for careless bare feet to step on.

Although it looks like a jellyfish, it actually isn't one. The Portuguese Man o' War is made up of individual zooids who colonize together in their voyage of shocking destruction. The nematocysts in the man-of-war's tentacles paralyze fish and, when in contact with your skin, leave red welts.

Portuguese Man-of-War

Portuguese Man-of-War

Again, death by these creatures is extremely rare, but you still want to stay out of range of danger. Don't walk on the reefs, don't go swimming with an open wound, and, if you see a clear balloon floating on a wave, don't pick it up.

Don't Get Lost

Among the many activities to do in Hawaii, hiking is among the most popular. Visitors look forward to a pleasant danger-free excursion in a tropical rainforest. Unfortunately, the real definition of hiking is roaming around in remote places where paved roads, cell phone reception, Starbucks, and public restrooms are near extinct. Wandering off marked trails can lead to extremely dangerous situations. Because the rock in Hawaii is so crumbly, landslides can easily occur, especially after heavy rainfall.

To prevent accident when hiking:

  • Buy a map or trail guide and don't forget to read it.
  • Tell someone where you plan to go and when you plan to return.
  • Pack extra water and food supplies, as well as sunscreen.
  • Don't decide to "explore" off the trail.
  • Take into account the weather conditions - heavy rain can erode trails.
a weary hiker

a weary hiker

The Pacific Ocean

Pacific, my eye. Sure, it makes for beautiful sunsets and somewhat pleasant snorkeling escapades, but the ocean can also be a deadly foe. Dangerous surf swells can occur throughout the year, but the incredible waves that create the infamous Pipe Line are rampant on the North Shores in the winter. Even when the water looks calm on the surface, beneath the blue lie invisible currents and rip tides that will catch you by surprise. Stay aware of the water conditions, always keep an eye on the sea, and don't go beyond your comfort zone. Some adventurous people like to jump off the rocks and cliffs into the sea, but this isn't recommended unless you are with experienced jumpers.

the Pacific Ocean in the winter

the Pacific Ocean in the winter

Keep in mind:

  • Don't jump in the ocean if you don't know how to swim.
  • Don't swim during a tsunami warning.
  • Don't swim during a strong swell.
  • If you aren't sure, ask the closest lifeguard for current conditions.
local risk-takers

local risk-takers



earningnews from Dhaka,Bangladesh on July 14, 2012:

your hub is very interesting and i have a desire to visit hawaiians.

bmcoll3278 on July 14, 2012:

Very good stuff. I know some of my coworkers went for two weeks to install satellite tv systems,and they had some stories as well. Most of them said they will not go back.

ejspecht from Pennsylvania on July 14, 2012:

Great Hub, I enjoy reading information often concealed from society.

Just History from England on July 14, 2012:

Oh dear, just read that they dont like the English- I wonder if they can manage the holiday without speaking and I guess the England football shirts are definatly a "no, no". We really are Limeys this year as we have had constant rain so no chance for a tan- oh woe and doube woe!

shalini sharan from Delhi on July 14, 2012:

this was so humorous and well written

Pamela Dapples from Arizona now on July 13, 2012:

Oh, darn. I was really enjoying the first part of this hub. It's late at night. Then I scrolled down and saw IT. I'm still shuddering. I'll bet you did a good job on describing how to survive the insects of Hawaii but I won't be looking again. If I ever have to tweak my centipede hub, I still to this day have to shield my eyes from the first photo on the screen.

You're a brave lady!

Voting up and useful -- for the first part or half of this humorous hub.

QudsiaP1 on July 13, 2012:

Honestly this is an excellent hub because although you took the humorous route fact of the matter is rarely do tourists understand the consequence of the above mentioned factors. Well done and congratulations on being the hub of the day.

oceansider on July 13, 2012:

Your article is funny and interesting and I love the photos too.

I've never been to Hawaii. My daughter's friend came here to California from Hilo, and I have a friend from Honolulu also.

Thanks for the info.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 13, 2012:

What a funny hub! Never gave a thought to the roaches because in Texas we call them pets. :) As to jumping in a roaring ocean of waves...I remember the movie Jaws. Good enough reason to stay out for me...that, and my brother got stung once by a Portugese Man of War on Padre Island. I well remember his welts! So you see...we were well prepared to enjoy our Hawaii trip (actually wrote several hubs) even BEFORE reading this informative hub. Haha! Congrats on getting a HOTD award. Will remember your further warnings if we ever go again.

Voted up and funny and sharing.

lannm from Out here somewhere on July 13, 2012:


Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on July 13, 2012:

Very good travel advice. IF I ever get there I will remember reading this. Especially the part about the critters. Great job, and congratulations!

Hui (蕙) on July 13, 2012:

Hawaii in my imagination is always an amazing and romantic vacation paradise. But reality is always from the imagination more or less! Even so, I still believe it is a beautiful beach land.

Imogen French from Southwest England on July 13, 2012:

Hawaii is a diverse and wonderful place, but you're right - you do have to be prepared for the nasty bits as well as the tropical paradise we all dream of. I had a wonderful vacation there, but also encountered cockroaches, giant centipedes, portuguese man-o-wars and very large waves! It was, however, all part of the fun, and was the most fantastic holiday I've ever had :)

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 13, 2012:

Have been to Hawaii only on one visit. Now I want to pack my bags and head out once again. It is the breathtaking beauty of nature that calls me back.

You shared so nicely all of what makes Hawaii the gem it is despite some critters we would not like to encounter. Congratulations on hub of the day too.

Evans4life on July 13, 2012:

Visited Hawaii for the first time last December. We had an awesome time. Didn't see any of those horrible creatures you talked about. LOL!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on July 13, 2012:

What great information, and so well presented with awesome photos. Congratulations on your well-deserved HOTD!

I've never been to Hawaii, and I doubt I will ever be able to afford to go--but I am pulled toward the Islands for sentimental reasons: it's where my parents met during WWII.

I am well aware that sudden rain squalls can come along seemingly out of nowhere. I remember my father saying, when we were about to go on a picnic, (here in CA), and it rained that day. He said, "That's ok. We'll just do what they do in Hawaii: we'll let it rain." The subsequent home movie he titled, "Who's afraid of a rainy day? We'll have our picnic anyway!" He told of Hawaiian natives about to cross the street during such a squall, and upon seeing the water running ankle deep in the gutter, shrug their shoulders, take off their shoes and walk across the street as if no water was there. He didn't have that luxury--imagine a Navy man ruining his dress whites by wading across, or being "out of uniform" by removing any part of it. He had to wait for the storm to be over to cross the street. Luckily, such summer storms are apparently very short-lived!

Voted up, interesting, beautiful, awesome and shared.

Urmila from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA on July 13, 2012:

Great informative hub with a lots of good tips. Voted up!

Congratulations on Hub of the day award!

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on July 13, 2012:

Congrats on earning Hub of the Day status. This was definitely NOT the usual, sunny, touristy type of travel hub.

Yes, even in the most beautiful places on earth danger lurks in the oceans and forests.

Voted up across the board. Very much enjoyed your writing style and sense of humor and the photos were great.

Ian on July 13, 2012:

Just History: Your daughter isn't English, is she? The locals really don't like the English and many have disappeared without a trace.

Just History from England on July 13, 2012:

Great Hub! My daughter will be in Hawaii next month- she promises not to swim, go in the sun, drink the water etc however last year she went to Washington just in time for the Earthquake and then New York just in time for the tornado!

Kyle on July 13, 2012:

I was stationed in HI for 3 years and find my current home in Texas much more dangerous. The UV risk is greater here and the heat can be unbearable in the Summer. A hot day on Oahu in the middle of the Summer was 85. The insects are m0re venomous here, such as spiders and scorpions. There are also no snakes in HI. The mongoose would eat them. Here we have the western diamondback.

The biggest threats to tourists in Hawaii are the locals and the prices in the tourist traps like Waikiki. Notice I said locals and not Hawaiians. The majority of the people who who will cause you problems are not native Hawaiians, although they seem to think they are. They come from other islands, such as Samoa and Tonga, and the Philippines. Hawaii probably would be paradise if they left.

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on July 13, 2012:

Hawaii is my next vacation destination for sure, then maybe Alaska. My hubby has been to Hawaii twice and had a lot to say about the beauty of this island.

I grew up in a hot climate environment so I know I'll fit right in. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on being award the HOTD!

Arlene V. Poma on July 13, 2012:

I travel light, so Hawaii is the perfect destination for me. I easily blend in with the island scenery because people think I'm a native, anyway. Be fearless if you've never been. And don't wait for your 50th wedding anniversary to visit! You may be divorced by then.

perrya on July 13, 2012:

Unless one is completely paranoid and lacks common sense, much of this information is so well known. Of course, one can find any reason not to go or do something. For me, this hub reminds me of this. The poll seems to prove it. But the hub is well laid out and and long, so the reader has to stay on it. It could be used as a model for good hubs for length, layout and interaction.

alphonse george from Kerala,India on July 13, 2012:

Great hub.Useful and hilarious.Voted up

Dreamer at heart from Northern California on July 13, 2012:

You definitely bring up some very good points. Safety in the sun and around the beach areas while swimming is so very important.

klurbauer from Brink of Insanity ;) on July 13, 2012:

This is hilarious. Thanks for making me laugh this morning.

Claudia Mitchell on July 13, 2012:

I've got my bags packed and I'm ready to go (in my mind at least)! Great hub!

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on July 13, 2012:

This is really informative. But I'd think twice before you apply for a a writing job in a travel magazine. lol

Melissa A Smith from New York on July 13, 2012:

Where's the 'I want to visit just to see the bugs but don't want to go and be bothered by the bug haters' option in the poll?

Rose West (author) from Michigan on February 28, 2012:

Hi Shinkicker, glad I gave you a laugh :) Silly weight restrictions! Personally, I prefer a can of Raid - it gets surprising distance. Thanks for reading!

Shinkicker from Scotland on February 28, 2012:

Hi Rose

The quote "turning you into the suitcase you couldn't afford" made me chuckle :-)

Don't think I would pack a sledgehammer for the bugs, too much weight. Maybe there's a Pest Control store in Hawaii that supplies them.

All the best

Rose West (author) from Michigan on August 14, 2011:

Hi CWanamaker, so glad I could help! I hope that you have a wonderful trip - it's a great place to visit!

Christopher Wanamaker from Arizona on August 10, 2011:

I am planning a trip for Hawaii sometime time in the future. Thanks for the practical advice, I have never been there before.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on July 25, 2011:

Sky's End, you're right - living in Hawaii is very different from visiting here. I didn't realize what it was like to be a racial minority until I moved here. Unfortunately, there are some people with racial bias, and I've been cussed at as well. But I've found that the majority of people I've met here are not racist. Living together with respect for each other, no matter what your race, is very important. Thanks for sharing some of your experiences with us.

Sky's End from Florida on July 24, 2011:

It may be a nice place to visit, but living there can be tough. I can't tell you how many times people yelled some variation of "Get off the island, haole!" at me.

Sadly, there are some strong racial tensions there. I don't think I'd have survived if my parents hadn't sent me to a private school. On Kaneohe at the time there was just the one bus that would take you over the mountain via the Poly highway. And we'd pass the public school, where there were always these huge moke chicks fighting with knives out on the lawn before the bell. Tourists usually don't get bothered much, but if you find yourself in an ice neighborhood, you're taking your chances.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on July 22, 2011:

Hi Danette, thanks for the rating! Even with the cane spiders, there are still lots of rainbows :) I hope you do get to make it back!

Danette Watt from Illinois on July 21, 2011:

A different take on Hawaii, not all the rainbows and tropical breezes. Visited there a couple years ago, would absolutely go back again, cane spiders and all!

Voted up

Rose West (author) from Michigan on July 20, 2011:

Hi Simone, glad you came by! Yes, paradise isn't perfect! But maybe the little discomforts make the good things that much better. Hope you're having fun in that office of yours, and wish I could send you some Hawaiian sunshine :)

Rose West (author) from Michigan on July 20, 2011:

Hi Nell, don't like the cane spider? Well, me neither... we've had a bunch come in the house the past couple months, but now I think they're being replaced by cockroaches! It's not too terrible though... Hawaii really is beautiful after all.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on July 20, 2011:

Hehee I love this take on Hawaii! We often forget that going to new places means encountering risks and discomfort as well as pleasure and relaxation. Your tips are fabulous, and... well, now I feel a bit better about being in an office right now!

Nell Rose from England on July 20, 2011:

Hi, thank you! I have been so jealous of people going to Hawaii, now I can just look at that picture of that horrible ukky nasty cane spider and think, thank goodness thats thousands of miles away from me! lol great hub, really interesting cheers nell

Rose West (author) from Michigan on July 19, 2011:

Exactly! I'll be your first customer :)

Ann Leavitt from Oregon on July 19, 2011:

There you go-- I'll open up an Etsy shop full of them! All pre-worn, pre-stained, so you don't have to go do it yourself. ;)

Rose West (author) from Michigan on July 19, 2011:

dallas93444, thanks so much for the rating - I appreciate it!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on July 19, 2011:

Hi Jane, I'm rather surprised you survived a whole month here! On the bright side, perhaps you could start a trend - The Original Red Dirt Socks ;)

Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on July 19, 2011:

Enjoyed! Flag up...

Ann Leavitt from Oregon on July 19, 2011:

You always make me laugh. I can't believe I survived my month in Hawaii! I think I unwittingly dragged people off the beaten path more than once, and I know I brought socks-- which are now permanently red-orange. Oh well, makes a great souvenir, I guess!

I love your pictures too. :)

Rose West (author) from Michigan on July 18, 2011:

point2make, thanks for your visit! You're welcome... I think ;)

Rose West (author) from Michigan on July 18, 2011:

Hi Tracy, so happy you found me, and thanks for the rating! I'm glad you can see the funny side :) It's easy to laugh when these dangers are thousands of miles away ;) Oh, and the diver was quite all right and actually pretty experienced.

point2make on July 18, 2011:

Loved the hub. Interesting [and scary] info thanks......I think!.

Tracy Lynn Conway from Virginia, USA on July 18, 2011:

Really funny! I hope that diver is OK. If I can't afford a suitcase then I surely won't be buying any airplane tickets to this paradise any time soon. I always love to see the non tourist side of life when I travel, thanks for a memorable take on Hawaii! Voted up, funny and interesting.

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