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You might think of Hawaii as a little archipelago in the Pacific but its total land mass is likely more than a single traveler and their family can experience in one trip! If you’re visiting Hawaii for the first time, here are some tips on how to make the most of your vacation.

Stick to a single island.

The island of Hawaiʻi, Hawaii’s main island also called the “Big Island,” is most popular for first-time visitors and has the most hotel and resort options. An all-inclusive stay on the Big Island is a great way to simplify your trip and make it easy to enjoy natural and man-made activities. The Big Island is a great representation of what Hawaii is all about with beaches, hiking, and boat tours galore! While it can be appealing to island hop, most first-time visitors, especially families, are better off maintaining a home base!

Hawaii has eight major islands in total, with Maui, Oahu, the island of Hawai’i, and Kauai earning the lion’s share of visitors. Lanai and Molokai are also great to visit but are typically reserved for veterans of Hawaiian travel. All are beautiful and each is unique, so while a travel advisor can craft a customized, multi-destination trip, working with The Travel Team to build the perfect single-island itinerary can optimize your first Hawaii experience.

Enjoy a luau.

With so much to do in Hawaii, it can sometimes feel like there’s not enough time to try everything. If you wish to experience all of Hawaii’s alluring and vibrant hospitality on your first trip, try a luau!

The traditional luau ceremony centers on an elaborate group feast accompanied by a celebration of life and achievement through music and dancing. Luaus feature immersive entertainment such as chanting, traditional percussive instruments, and pyrotechnics. Modern luaus typically maintain only a few truly traditional elements but nonetheless reflect Hawaii’s modern social character as a dynamic cultural melting pot. Audiences, including children, can participate in luau activities and games including passing the coconut and the limbo! Some luaus offer unlimited food and drink, with a blend of authentic and contemporary cuisine. It is still possible to experience a more traditional luau in several of Hawaii’s most luxurious and beautiful places, including Paradise Cove and Lahaina.

As you may have guessed, luaus are very popular with first-time and repeat Hawaii travelers so it’s best to book ahead. Choose from a wide selection of luau experiences perfectly suited for you and your family with help from a travel advisor.

Experience native culture, history, and lifestyles.

Hawaii now and always belongs to its native peoples. Exploring native Hawaiian culture and patronizing native businesses isn’t just ethical but a way to make the most of your first visit to paradise.

Historic sites and monuments adorn the major islands and are fascinating to visit. Worthwhile places to go during a first-time trip include the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, “dedicated to studying and preserving Hawaii and the Pacific.” Iolani Palace is also a spectacular site and a great way to introduce you and your family to the legacy of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Hawaii’s warm and vibrant culture provides a number of ways for visitors to support native peoples. Visiting native-owned businesses can make a big difference in the lives of everyday Hawaiians making Hawaii an even better place to live and visit. Pop-up markets like Hoomau Hawaii Market, with over sixty local native vendors, are the perfect place to start. Buy gifts and keepsakes that represent native Hawaii such as soaps made from local volcanic materials, traditional jewelry and clothing, plus authentic Hawaiian surfing gear.

Take the environmental pledge.

Hawaii attracts visitors from all over the world as both general and eco-tourists. Tourists will find it to be an exceedingly warm and welcoming place. In return for opening its doors, Hawaiians ask that visitors take steps to preserve its delicate ecosystem. Authorities organized the Pono Pledge to raise awareness and provide guidance on how one should conduct themselves while enjoying Hawaii’s natural splendor. Simple suggestions can go a long way to keeping Hawaii an amazing place to visit. They include:

  • Discarding trash properly
  • Staying out of protected natural areas
  • Using a reef-safe sunscreen when swimming and snorkeling
  • Respecting wildlife
  • Donating to conservation causes

Try Hawaii’s exceptional foods.

Don’t let the laid-back ‘Aloha’ vibe fool you, Hawaii brings the heat with loads of exceptional dining options. All-inclusive resorts offer delightful and diverse possibilities right on resort grounds, making it easy to please picky eaters with food courts and casual diners. But getting the full Hawaii experience requires stepping outside comfort zones to try local fare. Oahu in particular is known for its delightful array of upscale dining options and a great place to try world-famous poke bowls (pronounced “poh-KAY bowl”) in their location of origin. Traditional recipes include rice, seasoned seaweed, and green onions. Substitute tuna fish with marinated octopus for a truly authentic poke experience.

Keep in mind the difference between local fare and Hawaiian cuisine, with the former representing a delightful fusion of Hawaii’s rich history. Hawaiian food influences include Japanese, American, Portuguese, and even Puerto Rican flavors for a blend of sweet, savory, and spicy. But authentic Hawaiian staples of native Pacific diets include starches like sweet potatoes, native fish, and rich leafy greens cooked in earthen ovens. Hawaii’s growing agricultural scene ensures many of these ingredients are grown locally and that their purchase benefits local businesses. Keep cash on you during your trip so you don’t leave out small local vendors that may not accept credit or debit cards.

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