First time trip to Hawaii: Best things to do in Hawaii NOT. Mistakes first-time visitors make. Vacations tips for planning trip to Hawaii on a budget to Kauai, Maui, Oahu, Big Island.



So you’ve found the cheapest flight to Hawaii that you could, maybe a cheap hotel in Waikiki, and now you’re off to more detailed planning… along with thinking about the best things to do and what to pack for Hawaii!

When you’re looking for the best things to do in Hawaii, like the best beaches and the best hikes, it can be good to start with what NOT to do when you’re in Hawaii as a first-time visitor.

These could have been mistakes you make on your first trip to Hawaii.

But after reading this, you will know better. 😉


First time trip to Hawaii for visit: What to wear in Hawaii beach. Vacation ideas, tips.


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Also see some of the most popular items bought specifically for a trip to Hawaii – these types of sandals perfect for hiking in hot weather, these types of shoes perfect for snorkeling with rocky beach entrances, the BEST travel guide book series for Hawaii available for every island, and the best sunscreen for Hawaii.

And also see these packing helpers to help you pack better and maybe even go carry-on only.




Mistake #1: Touching the turtles


First time trip to Hawaii for visit: Things to do in Hawaii. Where to see turtles in Hawaii. Vacation ideas, tips.


If you’re at a beach known for turtle sightings, or you go on a snorkeling tour, you may get excited when you spot a turtle.

But just know that in Hawaii, it’s a big deal to make sure you respect the turtles aka honu.

This mainly means avoiding doing anything that could potentially disturb them.

Turtles in Hawaii are protected by both the federal government and state government under wildlife conservation laws.

The State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources “urges people to give basking honu space to allow them to rest undisturbed, and suggests keeping a 6- to 10-foot buffer as a best practice for sea turtle viewing.”

So don’t be an uneducated tourist! Don’t touch the turtles!


First time trip to Hawaii for visit: Things to do in Hawaii. Where to see turtles in Hawaii. Vacation ideas, tips.


And if you do see an uneducated tourist touching a turtle, please don’t bite their head off! It’s probably just that they really don’t know, and it’s an innocent mistake.

Instead, politely explain to them that it’s not a good thing to be touching the turtles.



Mistake #2: Not knowing how to say “thank you” in the Hawaiian language


First time trip to Hawaii for visit: Things to do in Hawaii. Know Hawaiian words and phrases. Vacation ideas, tips.


Thank you = MAHALO!

You will probably learn this word pretty quickly once you get to Hawaii because you will hear it so much.

But now you can be even more ahead of the game by knowing MAHALO before you even arrive on the islands!

Other useful Hawaiian words to know

These are a few more Hawaiian words that you may come across when you go to Hawaii:

  • honu: turtle
  • e komo mai: welcome
  • ohana: family
  • keiki: child
  • kamaaina: local
  • kokua: help
  • heiau: ancient Hawaiian temple


First time trip to Hawaii for visit. Hawaiian words and phrases to know, list: mahalo, e komo mai, ohana, keiki, kama'aina, honu, kokua, luau, shaka. Hawaii vacation ideas, tips.


And of course, you know ALOHA!

You likely learned aloha as a kid to be a greeting to say instead of hello. You can also say aloha as a substitute for goodbye too.

Although, there is a deeper meaning to ALOHA than just being a greeting.

However, as a tourist you will likely be excused for saying aloha all the time when you’re in Hawaii. 😉


And one more word to know: humuhumunukunukuapuaa.

The Hawaiian state fish.

Learn this word before you go to Hawaii and you might impress some people. 😉

It’s actually not as difficult to say as it may initially seem. Break up the word and there are also some repeats:

  • humu-humu (hoo-moo-hoo-moo)
  • nuku-nuku (noo-koo-noo-koo)
  • a-pu-a-a (ah-poo-ah-ah)





Mistake #3: Walking on coral reef


First time trip to Hawaii for visit: Things to do in Hawaii. What to wear snorkeling in Hawaii for first time. Vacation ideas, tips.


With lots of good snorkeling spots in Hawaii, you may end up snorkeling in Hawaii.

And sometimes, when you’re wading in the ocean, coral reef looks like rock.

And so if you’re wearing water shoes, your inclination is to be happy that you brought these handy water shoes with you to Hawaii, and then walk right over reef.

But coral reef are living organisms, and walking on them can damage them.

One of the most common places that tourists are walking over coral reef on Oahu is at Hanauma Bay.

Hanauma Bay is the most popular snorkeling spot on Oahu.

And remember that the reason that it’s popular is because of the colorful tropical fish that you can see.

The reason the fish are there is because of the coral reef. So if the coral reef continues to get damaged, there could be less and less fish that come around.

And if it becomes drastic… no more fish means no more top snorkeling spot.

So be sure to stay off the reef whether you are snorkeling on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island.


Beachwear for Hawaii



Mistake #4: Not wearing sunscreen that’s safe for coral reef


First time trip to Hawaii for visit: Things to do in Hawaii. What to wear snorkeling in Hawaii for first time. Vacation ideas, tips.


Along the same lines of taking care of the coral reef, the sunscreen you wear could also affect the reef.

How worried are the Hawaiians about the effects of sunscreen on the natural environment?

So much so that they passed a law that will be banning the sales of certain sunscreen in Hawaii.

This law is set to go into effect in 2021, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do your part now to keep the sunscreen with harmful chemicals out of the water.


So what type of sunscreen is best in Hawaii?

The best sunscreen to wear in Hawaii is the type that doesn’t contain the ingredients that are a part of Hawaii’s sunscreen ban.

Because it’s these chemicals that a lot of sunscreen products are made with that is said to be harmful to marine life.

This sunscreen brand is trusted by Hawaiian lifeguards.

They have a whole bunch of other sunscreen products too, like a face stick, flavored lip balm, mineral-based pocket size sunscreen (i.e. travel-friendly aka carry-on friendly!), and sunscreen in a small jar.

And many of these products are good for your skin because they contain antioxidants and minerals!

Some of their products DO contain chemicals that are considered to be toxic to coral reef though, so just make sure to check the ingredients list.

You can also look for sunscreen that’s deemed to be reef-safe sunscreen… although the BEST thing to do is to check the ingredients.

Take a look at products like Sun Bum reef-safe suncreen and Neutrogena reef-safe suncreen.

And then see more of the best sunscreen for Hawaii.



Mistake #5: Not getting to know Hawaiian culture


First time trip to Hawaii for visit: Things to do in Hawaii. Hawaii culture events. Vacation ideas, tips.


You’re on vacation, so no one expects you to be an expert in Hawaiian culture by the time you leave Hawaii.

But as a state that’s home to a culture that is far different from any other culture you’ll find in the rest of the United States, it’s always a good idea to learn a little something about the culture you’ll be around!


Just a few places you can visit for a bit of Hawaiian culture on Oahu:


Duke Kahanamoku Statue

Go here when you’re in Waikiki

Things to do in Hawaii first time trip: Visit Waikiki Beach, Duke Kahanamoku statue. Hawaii vacation tips, ideas.


Puu o Mahuka heiau

Go here when you’re on the North Shore

Things to do in Hawaii first time trip: Visit North Shore heiau. Hawaii vacation tips, ideas.

If it’s not enough to visit this ancient Hawaiian sacred place for the Hawaiian culture, you MUST visit it for the views!

This heiau is located at the top of a hill so it means sweeping views of the North Shore! (The North Shore is also where you can find the best surfing camps for beginners in Hawaii.)


Kukaniloko birthstones

Go here before you head to Dole Plantation

Things to do in Hawaii first time trip: Visit near Dole plantation, central Oahu, Kukaniloko birthstones. Hawaii vacation tips, ideas.


King Kamehameha Statue

Go here when you’re exploring downtown Honolulu

Things to do in Hawaii first time trip: Visit downtown Honolulu, King Kamehameha statue, Hawaii five-0 headquarters. Hawaii vacation tips, ideas.

Hawaii Five-0 anyone?!

The King Kamehameha statue signifies the Hawaii Five-0 headquarters on TV.

You kind of need to watch Hawaii 5-0 as preparation for your trip to Hawaii. 😉

See if a free trial is available so you can binge watch a season.


Just across the street from the King Kamehameha statue is the Iolani Palace. This is said to be the only royal palace located in the United States.

Things to do in Hawaii first time trip: Visit downtown Honolulu, Iolani Palace royal. Hawaii vacation tips, ideas.


The Disney movie Moana may not depict 100% accuracy in Hawaiian culture.

But if you know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about Hawaiian culture, it can be a fun way to get a small introduction.

This can be especially true if you’ll be traveling to Hawaii with young kids. They can watch the movie and it will become their new favorite movie! 😉

You can watch Moana on Amazon prime video or get the DVD.


Another Disney movie with a Hawaiian theme is Lilo and Stitch. This movie is all about ohana – family.

Once again, you can watch Lilo and Stitch on Amazon prime video or get the DVD.


Moana toys and Lilo and Stitch toys can make the perfect gift too!



Mistake #6: Not going for a hike in Hawaii


First time trip to Hawaii for visit: Things to do in Hawaii. What to wear hiking in Hawaii. Vacation ideas, tips.


This is on the list of top 10 things to do on Oahu on a budget.

The scenic views are everywhere in Hawaii.

But what makes those views even better?!

When you have to work for them. 😉

And when they are from up high!


First time trip to Hawaii for visit: Things to do in Hawaii. What to wear hiking in Hawaii. Vacation ideas, tips.


No matter which island your first trip to Hawaii is – Oahu, Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island – be sure that you find a hike to do!



Mistake #7: Not being prepared for a hot weather hike in Hawaii


First time trip to Hawaii for visit: Things to do in Hawaii. What to wear hiking in Hawaii. Vacation ideas, tips.


So now that you won’t be making the mistake of NOT hiking in Hawaii, the next mistake you want to avoid is being absolutely miserable on your hike because of your lack of preparation!

Hawaii is hot.

When you’re hiking, you’ll probably feel hot whether it’s winter or summer.

So one of the most important things you can do is to make sure you bring water on your hike with you.

Snacks are also a good idea. It’s really amazing what a couple hundred calories can do for your energy levels when you’re feeling down on the trail!

Having the proper footwear can also be important.

Trail running shoes can be perfect for hiking in Hawaii (for men and for women).

For most of the shorter popular hikes in Hawaii, hiking sandals can work out well too (for men and for women).



Mistake #8: Not having the best Hawaii travel guidebooks


First time trip to Hawaii for visit: Best Hawaii guidebooks. Vacation ideas, tips.


When it comes to travel guidebooks for Hawaii, there’s a series that stands out above the rest.

You’ll find a book for each of the main Hawaiian islands.

You can read the reviews and decide for yourself if you think it’ll help you have the best Hawaii vacation ever!

See these guidebooks:


First time trip to Hawaii: What to do, things to NOT do in Hawaii visit as a tourist. Hawaii vacation tips.




More tips for your first time in Hawaii