Hang loose in Hawaii
Walking off the plane and winging it is fine for some, but to get the most out of your holiday in Hawaii, follow our handy guide.
Top tips for travellers wanting to get the most out of America’s topical oasis
Visit the islands
Where to eat
There is more to Hawaii than just Waikiki.
Hawaii is made up of eight islands, Hawaii (The Big Island), Maui, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Oahu (where you’ll find Honolulu), Kauai, Molokai and Niihau.
Honolulu is like the Gold Coast – picture Waikiki as Surfers Paradise on steroids. The Big Island is more like the Sunshine Coast – quieter, more relaxed, but still with plenty to see and do.
Now that we have covered where to go, let's get down into the nitty gritty of where to eat, shop, what tours to do and how to get around.
Eat your way across the islands and be in awe at the sheer size of meals. Here are some of the best:
- The Cheesecake Factory (Waikiki)
- Cheeseburgers in Paradise (Waikiki)
- Outback Steakhouse (Waikiki)
- Ken's House of Pancakes (Hilo)
- Ken's House of Pancakes, Hawaii
We went three times in a week, it’s just that good. Waiting times can be hectic, so either head in for lunch or an early dinner to avoid waiting more than an hour for a table.
See how the professionals do it. You’ll want to eat here more than once just to try the variety of burgers on offer.
It’s worth going here just for a laugh at the menu items – The Bloomin’ Onion, Kookaburra Wings, Wood-Fire Grilled Shrimp on the Barbie and The Chocolate Thunder from Down Under.
Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, this multi-award-winning restaurant is a must do whether you’re after pancakes or any of the other hundreds of menu items.
If you’re after cheaper options, there are plenty of fast food joints, along with ABC and grocery stores which sell sushi, sandwiches and salads.
Shop 'til you drop
This is where the real fun begins.
On a family trip a few years back, we left Australia with four suitcases and came back with 12. On this trip my partner and I were a bit tamer. We left Australia with 30kg of luggage and came back with 70kg. I’ll call that progress.
- Ross Dress for Less (various)
- Ala Moana (Waikiki)
- Waikele Premium Outlets (Waipahu)
This is where all designer surplus stock is sent, and has rack after rack of clothes, shoes, perfume, jewellery, accessories, luggage and homewares. Best of all, there are multiple Ross stores across the islands.
This is one of the largest shopping centres in America and features hundreds of department stores and food options. You can get a bus here from most stops around Waikiki.
You’ll need to organise a shuttle, Uber or Taxi to get here. Most hotel concierges can organise a shuttle for around $10pp. There are plenty of bargains to be had with tourists receiving additional discounts. Also try Nordstrom Rack, Saks on Fifth Ave, Macys and Walmart.
Go on a tour
Keep costs low and visit one of the many beaches, waterfalls and nature walks on all the islands. If you want to splurge a little, try:
- Lava Hike (Hilo)
Set a full day aside as it can quickly turn into a four-hour or more round-trip hike. But it’s worth it.
- Manta Ray (Kona)
You will never come closer to these massive sea creatures. Seeing them swim up to you, fully illuminated is incredible.
- Dolphin swim (Kona)
Swim with wild dolphins, snorkel around the bay with thousands of fish and may even be lucky enough to see some whales (we saw four).
- Kualoa Ranch (Honolulu)
This nature reserve known as Hollywood backlot is where Jurassic World and other blockbusters were filmed. You can take a movie tour, go on a horseback ride, zipline down the mountains, swim on a private beach and more.
- Koko Head hike trail scenery
Waikiki is the only place where using public transport alone is a feasible option. There is plenty to do on the main strip and bus routes are plentiful. All the other islands are quite spread out and will require a car.
Luckily, you won’t need an International Driver Permit in Hawaii, however you will need a valid Queensland Licence.
If you do rent a car, most rental agencies have a 25-year-age requirement, but some will loan to younger drivers for a fee. I would also recommend investing in insurance for the rental to keep yourself covered. You’re driving on the other side of the road after all.
I splurged and hired a convertible Camaro to get the true American experience. I have never had so much fun in a car and would highly recommend for anyone travelling around the islands. A word of warning, however, if you have a lot of luggage or are travelling in a large group you may need to invest in something bigger.
Make sure you also keep an eye out of hotel parking and valet fees as they can become a hidden daily expense. If you’re planning on driving overseas, check out our tips before you leave.
Using your phone overseas
Put your phone in flight mode. It’s the cheapest option available and nearly every store and hotel in Hawaii has free Wi-Fi.
You can easily send messages and FaceTime over the internet for free and save yourself from coming home to a hefty phone bill with international roaming fees.
If you’re someone who wants to be contactable at all time or are visiting areas where wi-fi maybe hard to come by read free2go’s other tips for travelling abroad.
Get travel insurance before you leave.
Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Even if you aren’t planning on adrenaline-fuelled activities it’s best to be covered before you take off. RACQ can help with your travel insurance needs and as a member of the free2go program you are entitled to great discounts.