Yes, I’ll admit it. I was a tourist in Hawaii and you know what? I absolutely loved it. I sported a lei and sipped on mai tai’s with pink umbrellas. I enjoyed the ambiance of a luau and snorkeled with fish and turtles twice. I bought shaved ice on three occasions and feel no shame.
These days there’s so much talk about being a traveler over a tourist. But what’s so wrong with being a tourist from time to time? Of course I enjoy getting off the beaten path, but it can also be fun hitting the top tourism activities in certain destinations. They’re popular for a reason; millions of people have done it before you and millions will do it after you. But does that make your experience any less fun? Not when it involves relaxing on beaches, indulging in delicious cocktails, swimming with fish and turtles, and taking in stunning views.
Here’s my list of nine things you don’t want to miss in Hawaii, no matter how touristy. Because it’s fun as heck. So sit back, relax, and pretend you’re on the beach with a fruity cocktail in your hand.
Snorkeling. Coral reefs, crystal clear water, bright-colored fish, cute turtles. There’s a million reasons you can’t go to Hawaii and not go snorkeling at least once. Prior to visiting Hawaii, I had only snorkeled once before, and it was a very average experience. As a Tennessee girl, I’m very landlocked so the opportunity doesn’t come around very often. Honestly, I was unsure if I would really enjoy it, but the views of the coral reef through my snorkel mask had me in awe. For the best snorkeling, I recommend Oahu’s Hanauma Bay and Maui’s Turtle Town.
Luau. Prior to visiting Hawaii, I read that some view going to a luau as a tourist trap. However, one of my favorite nights during my 10 days in Hawaii was when we went to Feast at Lele’s luau in Lahaina. We arrived at the beach during sunset with a beautiful display of pinks and oranges and were immediately given a cocktail and lei. Then, we were served delicious food from Hawaii, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Samoa and bottomless drinks of your choice. During the four courses, chants, songs, and dances from each island came to life. It was such an enjoyable, laid-back evening, I can’t imagine being in Hawaii and not going to a luau.
Mai tai’s. Hawaii is famous for its delicious cocktail, the mai tai. The beverage includes white and dark rum, Curacao liqueur, lime juice, and an orgeat syrup – a perfect drink for paradise. It’s also typically garnished with a pineapple spear, making it healthy right? Even if cocktails aren’t your thing, you’re in Hawaii – enjoy a Mai Tai!
Surf lessons. Ever wanted to learn how to surf? Why not splurge on a lesson on Oahu’s Waikiki Beach? The waves are gentle, making it an ideal place to learn. My brother did a private lesson and found it helpful having an instructor there to help with riding his first waves. Some companies even guarantee you’ll stand up on a wave if you take a lesson.
Poke and other pupu’s. Pupu’s may sound off-putting but it’s Hawaiian appetizers. Poke (POH-keh) is a classic pupu often described as a raw fish salad. It consists of raw fish (usually tuna or octopus) cut into chunks seasoned with salt and crushed kukui nuts, in addition to green onion and sesame. It’s most often eaten on its own or over a bed of rice. Many restaurants have put their own twists and adaptations to it. It’s seriously addictive and one of the most popular Hawaiian food, so don’t miss out on it.
Hiking. The islands of Hawaii abound with rocky cliffs, black, white, red, and green beaches, luscious rain forests, mesmerizing waterfalls, and dramatic volcanoes. Hiking is an excellent way to see all the unique beauty Hawaii has to offer. You can take an hour hike up Diamond Head’s Summit Trail for views over Waikiki and Honolulu or you can take longer, more adventurous hikes in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park or Haleakalā National Park – your opportunities are endless. So lace up your shoes and hit the trails.
Shaved ice. Shaved Ice is a refreshing Hawaiian treat, especially during an afternoon on the beach. The majority of Hawaii is warm enough year round to appreciate this indulgence. When I visited in December, I enjoyed it on three occasions trying watermelon, strawberry, and pink lemonade flavors. It’s the perfect way to quench your thirst on a warm, sunny day in paradise.
Malasadas. Malasadas are Portuguese donuts, a popular dessert in Hawaii. The donuts are enriched with butter, eggs, and milk and rolled in sugar. Many bakeries offer a variety of fillings like custard and coconut-flavored haupia pudding. They’re undeniably delicious – do I really need to persuade to you to try a donut covered in sugar?
Sushi. When in Hawaii, it’s easy to get your chopsticks on delicious sushi. The fresh fish and Japanese influence throughout this US state is what makes it so tasty and feel more authentic. Research where the best sushi bars are in the areas you’re visiting.
Have you been a tourist in Hawaii? What’s top on your list to do when visiting?