Seasoned travelers to Hawaii generally have an itinerary in mind, based on previous trips to the islands. They’ve probably been to all, or most, of the islands and have favorite lodging, a favorite car rental site* (this one, for sure), and a mental list of things they want to do.

We have a few suggestions that can help you plan your first trip to the islands. Do keep in mind, that despite what you’ve heard from friends and family (“Kauai is wet”, “Waikiki is commercial”) you are getting their personal opinions. That’s all. Perhaps you’ll stay on Kauai’s south coast and won’t see rain. If you’re young and going to party, we think you’ll love Waikiki. Everyone has their “favorite island” and your goal is to begin finding yours. Then, you can start searching for flights, lodging, rental car, and things you want to do.

Island chain of the Hawaiian islands

When you’re putting your vacation together, you have several options for learning about the islands. Personally, we like the online website Guide of Hawaii The guide offers insight from selecting an island, to experiences available, once you’re there. We especially like the articles we find on this Guide. They are thoughtful and, we think, very helpful for providing a “feel” of what a first-time-vacationer can expect on each island. Yes there’s advertising, but remember– it’s a free site. View some testimonials.

  • Unless you have a month, don’t try to see all the islands during one visit.

  • Pack light. Think “casual”. Bring boots only if you’ll hike. No need for coats.

  • Buy sunscreen in Hawaii. Hawaii has banned the sale of sunscreens containing, oxybenzone, and octinoxate, which may be harmful to aquatic life.

  • Because jumping in the water is so inviting, bring comfortable swim attire that can be worn all day under a sun dress or shorts.

  • To save money, stay in lodging that is at least a couple of blocks away from the beach.

  • To stay on-budget, treat yourself to upscale restaurants/resorts during breakfast, but opt for light fare at dinner-time.

  • Plan driving trips to include traffic, narrow roads and lower speed limits.

  • Take advantage of spectacular produce at local farmers’ markets.

  • Never let the rain stop you from anything. It’s warm and feels great.

  • Have fun!