Haggling is not normal practice on Oʻahu. The only place you may get somewhere if you try to bargain over prices is the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, where hundreds of outdoor store holders, mostly owner-operators, are competing for your dollars.

Dangers & Annoyances

Box jellyfish These turn up eight to 10 days after the full moon of each month. Follow beach signage and talk to lifeguards. See

Car break-ins Absolutely do not leave anything visible in a rental car. Car break-ins are common. Hiding things in the trunk is only effective if you do so before getting to your parking spot.

Beaches Do not leave valuables on the beach while you swim; slippers and towels are usually left alone.

Swimming at waterfalls Hazards include falling rocks and leptospirosis (an infection caused by corkscrew-shaped bacteria).

Theft & Violence

Oʻahu is notorious for thefts from parked cars, both locals’ and tourist rentals. Thieves can pop open a trunk or pull out a door-lock assembly in seconds. They strike not only at remote trailheads when you’ve gone for a hike but also in crowded beach parking lots where you’d expect safety in numbers.

Try not to leave anything of value in your car anytime you walk away from it. If you must, pack things well out of sight before pulling up to park; thieves watch and wait to see what you put in your trunk. Some locals always leave their cars unlocked with the windows rolled down to avoid paying for broken windows.

Stay attuned to the vibe on any beaches at night, even in Waikiki where police patrol, and in places like campgrounds and roadside county parks where drunks, drug users and gang members hang out. In rural areas, there may be pockets of resentment against tourists, particularly on the Waiʻanae Coast, where homeless encampments have taken over a few beaches.

Flash Floods & Waterfalls

No matter how dry a stream-bed looks, or how sunny the sky above is, a sudden rainstorm miles away can cause a flash flood in minutes, sending down a huge surge of debris-filled water that sweeps away everything in its path. Always check the weather report before starting a hike; this is crucial if you’re planning on hiking in valleys or swimming in natural pools or waterfalls. Swimming underneath waterfalls is always risky due to the danger of falling rocks.

Tell-tale signs of an impending flash flood include sudden changes in water clarity (eg it becomes muddy), rising water levels and/or floating debris, and a rush of wind, the sound of thunder or a low, rumbling roar. If you notice any of these signs, immediately get to higher ground (even a few feet could save your life). Don’t run downstream – you can’t beat a flash flood!


On average, tsunamis (incorrectly called tidal waves – the Japanese term tsunami means ‘harbor wave’) occur only about once a decade in Hawaii, but they have killed more people statewide than all other natural disasters combined. The tsunami warning system is tested on the first working day of every month at 11:45am for less than one minute, using the yellow speakers mounted on telephone poles around the island. If you hear a tsunami warning siren at any other time, head for higher ground immediately; telephone books have maps of evacuation zones. Turn on the radio or TV for news bulletins. For more information, visit the Pacific Disaster Center ( and Hawaii State Civil Defense ( online.

More Information

In general, Hawaii is a safe place to visit. Because tourism is so important, state officials have established the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii ( which provides non-monetary emergency aid to short-stay visitors who become the victims of accidents or crimes.


  • Electricity 110/120V, 50/60Hz

Emergency & Important Numbers

Emergency (police, fire, ambulance)911
Local directory assistance411
Long-distance directory assistance1-(area code)-555-1212
Toll-free directory assistance1-800-555-1212

Entry & Exit Formalities

  • Visa and passport requirements change often; double-check before you come.
  • For current info, check the visa section of the US Department of State ( and the US Customs & Border Protection (
  • Travelers who don’t qualify for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must apply for a tourist visa. The process of applying for a tourist visa is not free, involves a personal interview and can take several weeks, so apply early.
  • Upon arrival, most foreign visitors must register with the US-Visit program (, which entails having electronic (inkless) fingerprints and a digital photo taken; the process usually takes less than a minute.

Customs Regulations

Currently, each international visitor is allowed to bring the following into the USA duty-free:

  • 1L of liquor (if you’re over 21 years old)
  • 200 cigarettes (one carton) if you’re over 18.
  • Amounts higher than $10,000 in cash, traveler’s checks, money orders and other cash equivalents must be declared. For more information, check with US Customs and Border Protection (
  • Most fresh fruits and plants are restricted from entry into Hawaii (to prevent the spread of invasive species). At Honolulu’s airport, customs officials strictly enforce both import and export regulations. Because Hawaii is a rabies-free state, pet quarantine laws are draconian. Questions? Contact the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture (

Agricultural Inspection

All checked and carry-on bags leaving Hawaii for the US mainland must be checked by an agricultural inspector using an X-ray machine. You cannot take out gardenia, jade vine or Mauna Loa anthurium, even in lei, although most other fresh flowers and foliage are permitted. With the exceptions of pineapples and coconuts, most fresh fruit and vegetables are banned. Also not allowed to enter mainland states are plants in soil, fresh coffee berries (roasted beans are OK), cactus and sugarcane. For more information, go online to


  • A machine-readable passport is required for all foreign citizens to enter Hawaii.
  • Passports must be valid for six months beyond expected dates of stay in the USA.
  • Any passport issued or renewed after October 26, 2006, must be an ‘e-passport’ with a digital photo and an integrated biometric data chip.


For Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries, visas are not required for stays of less than 90 days.

Further Information

  • For Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries, visas are not required for stays of less than 90 days. To see which countries are VWP countries, visit
  • Under the VWP you must have a return ticket (or onward ticket to any foreign destination) that is nonrefundable in the USA. All VWP travelers must register online at least 72 hours before arrival with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA;, which currently costs $14.
  • Registration is valid for two years.


Hawaii may be a relaxed and laid-back place, but it pays to show good manners on your visit.

  • Two words you will hear every day are aloha (hello and goodbye) and mahalo (thank you). Use them with sincerity.
  • If you are given a lei, always accept and wear it with gratitude and never take it off in the presence of the person who gave it to you.
  • Hawaii is a US state, so gratuities are expected in accordance with American standards. For example, 15% to 20% tips are the norm in restaurants
  • If you are invited into someone’s home, always remove your shoes before going inside.
  • Be respectful at Native Hawaiian historic, sacred or religious sites.
  • Don’t damage the coral by touching it or stepping on it.
  • Don’t take lava rocks or black sand – it is considered to bring bad luck.
  • Use public access at beaches – don't cross private land to get to them.
  • Always pick up and properly dispose of garbage. You will upset locals if you trash their treasured environment.
  • Don't honk your horn in traffic unless it's absolutely necessary and let faster traffic by if you are driving slowly.
  • Surf carefully – give way to local surfers and be careful of others on the beach and in the water.
  • Hawaiian people have great respect for their elders – visitors should show deference to the elderly too.

LGBT Travellers

The state of Hawaii has strong minority protections and a constitutional guarantee of privacy that extends to sexual behavior between consenting adults. Same-sex couples also have the right to civil unions. But showing affection toward a same-sex partner in public isn’t common.

Waikiki is without question the epicenter of Oʻahu’s LGBTIQ nightlife, but this laid-back ‘scene’ is muted by US mainland standards.

Honolulu Pride is celebrated in October with two weeks of events leading up to a parade and festival. As well as the vibrant parade, the event features a lineup of talented live acts, and various participating bars and local restaurants provide tropical drinks and specialty dishes. Over 3000 festivalgoers attended the 2016 Pride Festival at Diamond Head Greens, and more than 45 groups, LGBTIQ-friendly businesses, community organizations, craft and food vendors had booths.

Visitors should check out the Hawaiʻi LGBT Legacy Foundation website (, which features a community calendar and list of projects and volunteer positions.

Hawai’i LGBT Center-Waikiki (; 310 Paoakalani Avenue, Suite 206E, Waikiki) is located at Waikiki Community Center. It's a gathering place for Hawaii’s LGBTIQ community, hosting meetings, educational programs, trainings, film screenings, talk-story events and more.

Helpful DIY resources include the websites Gay Hawaii ( and Go Gay Hawaii (

Purple Roofs ( A gay-travel website and accommodations directory. You'll find Oʻahu gay-friendly and lesbian- and gay-owned bed and breakfasts, inns, hotels, vacation rentals and other accommodations. It also lists Oʻahu travel agents and tour operators, as well as local gay-travel events, gay-travel news, and much more.

Hawaii Gay Travel ( An online travel agency offering gay Hawaii vacation packages, and a member of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA).

Kumu Hina

Kumu Hina – A Place in the Middle ( is an acclaimed 2014 documentary in which a transgender Hawaiian teacher and cultural icon inspires a girl to lead the school's male hula troupe. With a wonderful Hawaiian music playlist, the film looks into gender-diverse cultures. It looks at the role of mahu (who identify their gender between male and female) in Hawaiian society through the eyes of a Native Hawaiian who is deeply rooted in the traditions of her ancestors and committed to living a meaningful life. Mahu have been part of Hawaiian culture for centuries, much like in other Polynesian cultures -– fa'afafine in Samoa and fakaleiti in Tonga. Hawaiian songs often contain deeper meanings, called kaona, that refer to love and relationships that don’t conform to contemporary Western definitions of male and female gender roles.

Internet Access

  • In this guide, the internet symbol indicates a terminal is available, while the wi-fi symbol indicates a hot spot; either may be free or fee-based.
  • Most hotels and resorts, and many coffee shops, bars and other businesses, offer public wi-fi (sometimes free only for paying customers).
  • Honolulu, Waikiki and a few island towns have business centers with pay-as-you-go internet terminals (typically $6 to $12 per hour) and sometimes wi-fi.
  • Hawaii’s public libraries ( provide free internet access via their online computer terminals, but you will need a temporary nonresident library card ($10). Some library branches now offer free wi-fi (no card required).


Not all lodgings have wi-fi; some have wired connections (fees may apply). Look for wi-fi hot spots in hotel lobbies and cafes.


Getting travel insurance to cover theft, loss and medical problems is highly recommended. Some policies do not cover ‘risky’ activities such as scuba diving and motorcycling, so read the fine print. Make sure your policy at least covers hospital stays and an emergency flight home.

Paying for your airline ticket or rental car with a credit card may provide limited travel-accident insurance. If you already have private US health insurance or a homeowner’s or renter’s policy, find out what those policies cover and only get supplemental insurance. If you have prepaid a large portion of your vacation, trip-cancellation insurance may be a worthwhile expense.

Worldwide travel insurance is available at You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…



  • Magazines Monthly Honolulu Magazine ( is a glossy lifestyle mag, while Ka Wai Ola ( covers Native Hawaiian issues.


  • Newspapers Honolulu Star-Advertiser ( is Hawaii’s major daily. Honolulu Weekly ( is a free alternative tabloid.


  • Radio O’ahu has more than 45 radio stations.


  • TV All major US networks and cable channels available, plus 24-hour tourist information.
  • DVDs Coded region 1 (US and Canada only).


ATMs are all over the place and credit cards are accepted just about everywhere.


Very common.

Credit Cards

Required for vehicle rentals; widely accepted all over the island.

Exchange Rates

New ZealandNZ$1$0.71

For current exchange rates, see


In Hawaii, tipping practices are the same as on the US mainland, roughly as follows:

Airport and hotel porters $2 per bag, minimum of $5 per cart.

Bartenders 15% to 20% per round, minimum of $1 per drink.

Hotel maids $2 to $4 per night, left under the card provided; more if you’re messy.

Parking valets At least $2 when your keys are returned.

Restaurant servers 18% to 20%, unless a service charge is already on the bill.

Taxi drivers 15% of the metered fare, rounded up to the next dollar.

More Information

  • Major banks, such as the Bank of Hawaii ( and First Hawaiian Bank (, have extensive ATM networks throughout Oʻahu.
  • Hawaii has a 4.17% state sales tax tacked onto virtually everything, including meals, groceries and car rentals. Accommodations taxes total nearly 14%.

Opening Hours

Unless there are variances of more than a half-hour in either direction, the following standard opening hours apply throughout this guide:

Banks 8:30am to 4pm Monday to Friday; some open to 6pm Friday and 9am to noon or 1pm Saturday.

Bars and Clubs Noon to midnight daily; some open to 2am Thursday to Saturday.

Businesses and Government Offices 8:30am 4:30pm Monday to Friday; some post offices open 9am to noon Saturday.

Restaurants Breakfast 6am to 10am, lunch 11:30am to 2pm, dinner 5pm to 9:30pm.

Shops 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday, some also open noon to 5pm Sunday; shopping malls keep extended hours.


The US Postal Service is inexpensive and reliable. Mail delivery to/from Hawaii usually takes slightly longer than on the US mainland.

Public Holidays

On the following holidays, banks, schools and government offices (including post offices) close, and transportation and museums operate on a Sunday schedule. Holidays falling on a weekend are usually observed the following Monday.

New Year’s Day January 1

Martin Luther King Jr Day Third Monday in January

Presidents’ Day Third Monday in February

Easter March or April

Prince Kuhio Day March 26

Memorial Day Last Monday in May

King Kamehameha Day June 11

Independence Day July 4

Statehood Day Third Friday in August

Labor Day First Monday in September

Columbus Day Second Monday in October

Veterans Day November 11

Thanksgiving Fourth Thursday in November

Christmas Day December 25


Smoking is prohibited in enclosed public spaces, including airports, bars, restaurants, shops and hotels (where smoking rooms are rarely available).


Mobile Phones

Check with your service provider about using your cell phone in Hawaii. Among US providers, Verizon has the most extensive network; AT&T, Cingular and Sprint get decent reception. Cell coverage may be spotty or nonexistent in rural areas, on hiking trails and at remote beaches.

International travelers need a multiband GSM phone in order to make calls in the USA. With an unlocked multiband phone, popping in a US prepaid rechargeable SIM card is usually cheaper than using your own network. SIM cards are available at any major telecommunications or electronics store. These stores also sell inexpensive prepaid phones, including some airtime.


Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HAST) is GMT minus 10 hours. Hawaii doesn’t observe daylight saving time (DST). The euphemism ‘island time’ means taking things at a slower pace, or occasionally being late.


Hawaii uses standard Western-style sit-down toilets. Public toilets are sometimes hard to come by in places like Downtown or Chinatown in Honolulu. Shopping malls, restaurants and beach parks usually have toilet facilities.

Tourist Information

In the arrivals area at the Honolulu airport there are tourist-information desks with helpful staff. Tourist brochures and magazines, such as 101 Things to Do (, This Week ( and Spotlight’s O‘ahu Gold (, are packed with discount coupons. These magazines, as well as plenty of others, are also readily available in Waikiki.

For pretrip planning, browse the Hawaii Tourism Authority's information-packed website Go Hawaii (

Travel with Children

With so much surf and sand, Oʻahu’s coastline could be likened to a giant, free water park. But there are also plenty of outdoor activities and a few good museums and sights to keep kids of all ages occupied when they tire of swimming and snorkeling. Traveling families have been coming to the island for decades; local resorts, hotels and restaurants are well prepared. So stop for a shave ice and relax; keiki (children) are most welcome here.

Best for Families

Sights & Activities

Beaches line the entire island, so families really can’t go wrong on Oʻahu. All sides of the island have opportunities to swim, snorkel, bodyboard and beachcomb at some time during the year. Families will, however, want to carefully consider where to base themselves.

Since the beach is on the doorstep and the largest number of resorts and restaurants are concentrated in the 20-block area of Waikiki, it’s a top choice for families as a place to stay. There's plenty for all the family to do, a huge variety of eating options and places to stay that are used to catering to kids. At the beach, teens and tweens can hang out, swim, snorkel, boogie-board or learn to surf – and everybody loves the outrigger-canoe rides. Nearby are the Waikiki Aquarium, with its learning-oriented fun, and the Honolulu Zoo. In Kapiʻolani Regional Park are free tennis courts that can keep kids and families active. Whale-watching and other boat excursions are based locally. From Waikiki it’s a short drive to greater Honolulu sights such as the interactive Bishop Museum, where the little ones get to walk through a ‘volcano’, and to Manoa Valley with its hikes and gardens. Hanauma Bay, with its incredible snorkeling, is not that far away either. Another point in favor of basing yourself in Waikiki is that there is plenty for mom and dad to do too.

Out at Ko Olina at the the southwestern tip of the island, Disney’s Aulani Resort is without doubt a great place to stay for younger families. Child- and teen-oriented, it has the Aunty’s House kids club and the older kids will enjoy the teen spa. There are water-park-like pools and Hawaiian music and hula shows to entertain. The Lagoons (the coves at Ko Olina) offer some of the island’s most child-friendly swimming. You are, however, a solid 40 minutes (without traffic) from Honolulu and fairly isolated. The area has a few other attractions – boat cruises, another swimming beach, a water park.

If your kids are a bit older and you like your family trip a little more low-key, Kailua on the Windward Coast is also a great base. Several good beaches are nearby and older kids and adults can learn to kayak or stand up paddle at the town beach park. Hikes are possible in the area, and north up the coast is the Polynesian Cultural Center, one of the island’s biggest attractions. Southeast Oʻahu’s highlights, including the fabulous and family-friendly snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, the walk out to Makapuʻu Lighthouse and boogie-boarding at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park are a short jaunt south. For that matter, Honolulu is less than 30 minutes over the pali (cliffs) by car.

The surf is the main attraction at the North Shore, which has some treacherous winter waves. Swimming in summer is usually safe, and the snorkeling at Sharks Cove and in the tide pools at Pupukea Beach Park is superb – but there’s little beyond the beach to entertain kids.

Discount admission to sights is usually available for children aged between four and 12; little ones under four are often free.

Children's Programs

Island botanical gardens host occasional children’s programs, especially on weekends, as do the larger museums and animal parks.

Waikiki Aquarium Offers a number of annual and special events, plus classes and activities to fascinate kids. There's nothing like holding a sea star, feeling a sea cucumber and feeding an anemone at Critter Encounters (age four and up), or searching for crabs, lobsters, eels and octopuses at Exploring the Reef at Night (age six and up). It also has Keiki Time, designed for kids one to four years old. For marine biologists aged eight to 12, there's a full week of summer learning about what lives in Hawaiian waters in June, but you'll need to sign up early.

Honolulu Zoo The Zoo runs a number of multiday education programs for kids of different ages:

  • Camp Menehune (four- and five-year-olds) introduces kids to the animal kingdom with themes such as Animal Allies and What’s Cook’n (which animals eat what!).
  • Camp ʻImi Loa (six- to eight-year-olds) keeps kids busy with biofacts, crafting activities, songs, stories, keeper talks and games centered around the theme of the week.
  • Camp Wildlife Koas (nine- to 11-year-olds) teaches about different animals and the environments they live in through hands-on lessons complete with biofacts, interactive technologies, craft activities and games.

Hawaii Children's Discovery Center Consider dropping by this hands-on museum for families. Opposite Kakaʻako Waterfront Park, interactive science and cultural exhibits are geared toward elementary-school-aged children, preschoolers and toddlers. The Fantastic You! exhibit explores the human body, allowing kids to walk through a mock human stomach. In the Your Town section, kids can drive a play fire engine or conduct a TV interview. Hawaiian Rainbows and Your Rainbow World introduce Hawaii's multicultural heritage, while Rainforest Adventures highlights Hawaii's natural environment and conservation.

Attractions Further Afield

There are a number of attractions further afield on Oʻahu to keep kids and families entertained:

Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii While it may seem a tad strange to come to a water park out in Kapolei when the island is surrounded by warm tropical waters, this 25-acre water park adds an extra dimension to your water play – whether you’re into thrills or something more placid. Float on a lazy river, brave a seven-story waterslide or bodysurf the football-field-sized wave pool. Of course, the fun doesn’t come as cheap as the beach.

Dole Plantation It's all about the pineapple here at Dole and kids love it! Get your fill of pineapple potato chips and fruity trinkets, then take your pineapple ice-cream sundae outside and ride the Pineapple Express open-air train through the upland scenery. The Pineapple Garden Maze is meant purely as fun, as you find (or lose) your way among 14,000 Hawaiian plants on 1.5 miles of pathways.

Kualoa Ranch On the Windward Coast, this working cattle ranch has another side that older kids love. See where Hurley built his Lost golf course, Godzilla left his footprints and the Jurassic Park kids hid from dinosaurs on the movie tour. All-terrain vehicle (ATV) and horseback rides are another possibility. Book all tours at least a couple days in advance; they fill up.


Children under 18 often stay for free when sharing a hotel room with their parents, if they use existing bedding. Cribs (cots) and rollaway beds are usually available on request (sometimes for a surcharge) at hotels and resorts, but it’s best to check in advance. Vacation rentals may have these, or an extra futon for the little ones to flop down on.

The bigger the resort, the more likely it is to have extensive family-oriented services such as kids activities and clubs, game rooms or arcades, wading and other playful pool features. Hotel concierges are usually a good resource for finding babysitting services, or you can contact Nannies Hawaii (

Don’t be scared away from dining out on Oʻahu; even fancy places like Roy’s or Alan Wong’s welcome well-behaved little ones. Many restaurants have children’s menus (eg grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken fingers) at significantly lower prices, and high chairs are usually available. Food trucks and other outdoor eateries are family faves, as they’re supercasual and the location may provide space for kids to roam. Many beach parks have picnic tables. Sandwiches and meals to go are readily available at cafes, drive-ins and grocery stores. Look for baby food, infant formula, soy and cow’s milk at any supermarket or convenience store.

Restaurants, lodgings and sights that especially cater to families, with good facilities for children, are marked with a family icon throughout this book.

Getting Around

Most car-hire companies rent child-safety seats from $10 per day. Online services deliver rented car seats, strollers, playpens and cribs and more right to your door. Try:

  • Paradise Baby (
  • Baby’s Away (
  • Baby Aboard (

Many public women’s restrooms have changing tables. Separate, gender-neutral ‘family’ facilities are sometimes available at airports, museums and other sights.

Need to Know

Changing facilities Available in shopping malls, big hotels and at sights.

Cribs (cots) Usually available, check ahead with the hotel.

Diapers (nappies) Sold island-wide at grocery, drug and convenience stores.

Health Doctors most accessible in Honolulu.

Highchairs Usually available.

Kids' menus Widely available.

Strollers Bring your own, or rent online and have delivered to your hotel.

Transport Reserve car seats with rental agencies in advance.

Travellers with Disabilities

  • Bigger, newer hotels and resorts in Hawaii have elevators, TDD-capable phones and wheelchair-accessible rooms (reserve these well in advance).
  • Telephone companies provide relay operators (dial 711) for hearing impaired.
  • Many banks provide ATM instructions in braille.
  • Traffic intersections have dropped curbs and audible crossing signals in cities and some towns, as well as all along Waikiki’s beachfront.
  • Honolulu’s Department of Parks and Recreation provides all-terrain beach mats and wheelchairs for free (call ahead to make arrangements) at several beaches, including Ala Moana, Hanauma Bay, Sans Souci, Kailua, Kualoa and Pokaʻi Bay.
  • Guide dogs and service animals are not subject to the same quarantine requirements as pets; contact the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Quarantine Station before arrival.


  • All public buses on Oʻahu are wheelchair accessible and will ‘kneel’ if you’re unable to use the steps – just let the driver know that you need the lift or ramp.
  • If you have a disability parking placard from home, bring it with you and hang it from your rental car’s rearview mirror when using designated disabled-parking spaces.
  • Some major car-rental agencies offer hand-controlled vehicles and vans with wheelchair lifts. You’ll need to reserve these well in advance.

Useful Resources

  • Travelsmart Hawaii ( has a good website for special-needs travelers to Hawaii.
  • Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures Imperial system is used.