Ashley Probst smiling with lei on her head
I'm a Hawaii local. Over the years, I've seen tourists make the same mistakes over and over again.Ashley Probst
  • I was born and raised in Hawaii, so I know how tourists behave.

  • Visitors are not allowed to touch the wildlife, ignore signs, or rely on transportation.

  • Pack accordingly, respect local culture, and give back to the community.

Visitors choose the wrong island for a variety of reasons.

An aerial view of Honolulu from plane window
An aerial view of Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii.Ashley Probst

Every Hawaiian island is different and tourists are surprised to discover that. Each of the main four islands, Hawaii Island, Kauai, Maui, and Oahu, offer a unique adventure.

If you want to see lava flows, you should go to the Big Island, which has multiple active volcanoes.

Honolulu is more of an urban jungle, so if you want to explore tropical rainforests, go to Kauai.

I recommend narrowing down the type of environment you want to be in and the activities you want to do in order to plan your trip. You can begin to build an idyllic itinerary by choosing the right island.

Travelers don't think about protecting the land.

Ashley Probst working in a taro patch during a visit to the Big Island of Hawaii.
I worked in a taro patch during a visit to the Big Island of Hawaii.Ashley Probst

It is important for visitors to help restore and maintain tourist destinations so that they are in better shape than they were when they arrived.

Malama Hawaii is a program that connects tourists with volunteer opportunities.

Special deals, such as a free one-night stay at specific resorts, can be given to volunteers in return for their help.

It's not unusual for people to mispronounce Hawaiian words and phrases.

hawaiian shave ice, rainbow treat with water in the background
Locals call this sweet treat shave ice. Make sure you don’t forget the snow cap and fresh mochi.Ashley Probst

Tourists mispronounce Hawaiian words.

Non-Hawaiian speakers often say "shaved ice" instead of "ma-HAH-low."

Many local phrases derive from Pidgin, a creole language that is spoken in Hawaii.

Some people make fun of the language by pronouncing words wrong.

Someone tried to say the name of Hawaii's state fish. They told my friend that she was wrong when she corrected someone's pronunciation of Maui.

These two situations were disrespectful.

It would be worse for tourists if they didn't learn any Hawaiian words at all. New arrivals shouldn't be afraid to ask for help on the islands.

Some people don't use the right type of sunscreen.

Always use reef-safe sunscreen, which needs to be reapplied throughout the day.Ashley Probst

Tourists use spray sunscreen which can be harmful to the ozone layer.

Visitors still bring their own sunscreens despite the state of Hawaii banning the sale and distribution of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Travelers should double check that the sunscreen they purchase is reef-safe.

People should always keep reapplying. Tourists get sunburned in the first few days of their vacations.

It's a missed opportunity to try a new cuisine if you choose to eat at a fast food chain.

This fried shrimp saimin only cost me about $12.Ashley Probst

I cringe when I see tourists eating fast food at a restaurant. Those who rely on certain foods for health reasons or have children who are picky eaters are exceptions.

It's a missed opportunity to try local dishes when it comes to connecting with any culture. A plate lunch from a local Hawaiian barbecue spot can be even cheaper than a fast food meal.

McDonald's Hawaii-specific menu includes a breakfast platter with Portuguese sausage and a traditional Hawaiian coconut dessert called haupia pie.

It's a mistake to rely on public transportation and ride hailing.

Jeeps are a popular rental car option in Hawaii.Ashley Probst

People think that being on an island means everything will be close, but that is not always the case.

It takes about two hours and 30 minutes to drive from my home in Lahaina to Hana on the other side of Maui, and you don't have to stop to see it. There aren't any bus routes going there.

If you're in a small town, many places close early. If you're partying until the last call at a local bar, there's a high chance you won't be able to get a ride back to your hotel.

The freedom to explore should be given to tourists by renting a car.

The ocean is underestimated by many visitors.

I follow the rule that if I'm in doubt, I don't go out.Ashley Probst

When they are at the beach, people should always be aware of their surroundings.

They should go to places that have lifeguards on duty and never turn their back on the ocean.

People shouldn't swim against the rip current if they get caught in it. They should swim parallel to the beach.

If someone cannot swim, they should float or tread water and signal for help. If anyone sees someone in distress, they should either call the lifeguard or the police.

Tourists aren't always aware of the significance of the places they visit.

The Banyan Tree in Lahaina was planted in 1873 and is now the largest one in the United States.Ashley Probst

The capital of the Hawaiian kingdom was Lahaina, which was moved to Honolulu in 1850.

Many tourists come to Maui to visit the shops and restaurants in the downtown area. The United States' largest banyan tree and Queen Kepolani's grave are examples of landmarks that many don't know about.

If you want to learn more about the history and culture of Lahaina, you can take a walking tour on your own.

Visitors who aren't residents try to get discounts.

Local lei makers offer their pieces for purchase as well as workshops to learn how to make your own.Ashley Probst

The local discount is meant to help offset the high cost of living here and encourage residents to support local businesses.

Residents need to show proof of residency and be able to say "kama'ina" in order to receive the discounts.

You can't be eligible if you don't know what that word means.

Tourists don't pay much attention to important signs.

Signage at Honolua Bay gives instructions on how to respect the land and the Hawaiian ancestors who are buried there.Ashley Probst

People are warned by signs that read "kapu" that they may be encroaching on sacred land or put themselves in danger by going into unfamiliar territory.

Local communities are disrespected regardless of what the sign reads. Tourists should stick to them.

Many pack the wrong clothes because they think the weather is hot.

As tempting as it may seem to pack only warm-weather clothes, you should still bring layers.Ashley Probst

Visitors to Hawaii need more than just bathing suits.

Depending on the time of year, the temperature on Mauna Kea can plunge as low as 12 degrees.

You never know where your adventures will take you. The first time I saw snow was at Haleakal National Park.

I've seen people spend money on things they don't really need.

Local tiki carvers handmake beautiful creations that you can take home to commemorate your visit.Ashley Probst

It's easy to get caught in tourist traps on Hawaii's main islands. Many of the overpriced items are imported from other places.

I don't want tourists to buy trinkets that will break when they return to their homes. They should support local artists who put their hearts and souls into their work.

Buying local goods can be a great way to connect with Polynesian culture.

Tourists don't always stay away from animals.

It’s still possible to get great pictures of the wildlife from a safe distance, like the time I swam near a turtle at Makena Landing Park.Ashley Probst

I will never forget the day I stopped a tourist from sitting on a sea turtle at the popular Ho'okipa Beach Park. They thought it was a boulder.

People should be at least 10 feet away from turtles, 150 feet away from dolphins, and 300 feet away from whales.

If they're swimming in the ocean and a creature gets close to them, they should give it space and not touch it.

Birds and stray cats should not be fed by tourists.

People turn their backs too early when the sun is setting.

The afterglow of a sunset is often the best part.Ashley Probst

Once the sun is out, the sunset isn't done. A lot of tourists leave too early when I watch this event from a busy spot.

Visitors should take their time to really enjoy the views until the colors have faded.

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