25 Reasons to Avoid Hawaii at All Costs

A visit to Hawaii must include the most famous dormant volcano at sunrise or sunset: Haleakala

Reasons to visit Hawaii are often bandied about, from the general (radiant beaches; epic waterfalls) to the specific (such as Maui’s 120 miles of coastline and Kauai’s Waimea Canyon). But, while Maui is often ranked the #1 Island in the World by Condé Nast Traveler—and the islands, as a whole, receive more than 8 million visitors annually—there are dozens of incentives to keep a visit to Hawaii off your bucket list.

CAUTION: This is meant to give you a giggle in these mad times. Please
don’t take it too seriously. The current real reasons not to visit are the 14-
Day Quarantine and things generally being shut down here in Hawaii.
Once things open up again and are safe, do your best to ignore these
reasons below.

Here are 25 reasons why you should dodge the Aloha State:

1. A visit to Hawaii might break your Instagram account

Beauty, schmeauty: It’s not like the mainland doesn’t have vertiginous cliffs riven with waterfalls, the world’s largest dormant volcano, and beaches dazzling with black, green, red—and even orange—sand. Rather than photobomb uber-exotic places like Oahu’s Manoa Falls—or the Milky Way from Mount Kilauea—stay at home; otherwise, your Instagram feed may catch on fire.

2. You’ll have to reconsider your doctor’s suggestion to go on Prozac

Based on extensive surveys conducted by Gallup (of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index), the happiest person in America—a 69-year old Asian man named Alvin Wong—lives in Honolulu. As for the state that ranks the highest in the U.S. in terms of health and happiness? Hawaii again (to note: the Aloha State has taken the top spot for a record seven years).

“It’s not ever a shock to see Hawaii high on the list,” principal research director of theGallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Dan Witters, told Today. “Hawaiians rate their lives pretty high…things like enjoyment, smiling and laughter and happiness are all very high in Hawaii. And stress is very low.” What’s more, Hawaii has the lowest rate of depression—and the highest rate of exercise—in America. In other words? Being around so much joy and wholesomeness might make you rethink your own state of health and happiness. And who likes having their boat rocked, like, ever?

3. Our Disneyland doesn’t have rides

Hidden Mickeys might adorn the lobby, halls, and walls of Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa on Oahu’s North Shore—and Goofy might throw the shaka sign poolside—but Hawaii’s rendition of The Happiest Place on Earth has no Matterhorn Bobsleds, no King Arthur Carousel, no Haunted Mansion—not even sliding teacups. (!) Rather, keiki and their parents must get by with snorkeling, learning how to hula at a luau, enduring performances with Hawaii’s own Stitch, eating up Dole whips with locally-grown pineapple, floating down a lazy river—and, of course, dealing with the ocean views that compete for attention in breathtaking Ko Olina.

4. You may have to eat food you’ve never tried before

Woman eating spam musubi, a local dish that you must try on a visit to Hawaii
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

It isn’t just poi you should fear—you know, that gelatinous luau staple that served as a cornerstone in the ancient Hawaiian diet. Vacation in Hawaii and you’ll also be confronted with manapua—soft, hot buns filled with barbequed pork—Portuguese donuts called malasadas, loco moco (where—gasp!—a hamburger patty is topped with fried eggs, white rice, and brown gravy), haupia (aka creamed coconut), butter mochi (use your imagination), and pork that’s slow cooked in an underground oven (called an imu). But perhaps Hawaii’s biggest culinary offense is SPAM musubi—in essence, fried ham tucked into a sandwich of sticky rice and nori.

5. It’s the closest state to North Korea

Hawaii shares the Pacific with more than just Humpback whales and spinner dolphins: It’s also the closest US State to North Korea. Given that the range of North Korea’s most feared missiles—notably, the Musadan—can reach a maximum of 3,000 miles and Hawaii is 4,661 miles away from the Hermit Kingdom…well, you do the math.

6. Pidgin

Hawaii is frequently called a melting pot of cultures, with great thanks to the influx of Asian, Australian, Filipino, and Portuguese workers who came to the islands during the sugarcane boom of the 1800s. Many never left, and what remains is a cauldron of ethnicities and their varied cultural traditions, from Samoan fire knife dances to the Portuguese contribution of ukuleles. Along with all this…chaos is a Creolestyle mishmash of languages called Hawaiian Pidgin. Homogeny is where it’s at for those unadventurous and closed off to new things—rendering Hawaii’s diversity just one more reason to never, ever visit.

7. You might learn something new about a different culture

Hawaiian keiki might start learning about Polynesian culture from their kupuna as early as second grade, but most people educated on the mainland know little about Hawaii, even confusing its state capital, Honolulu, for an island. Meaning, of course, that a vacation to Hawaii might involve discovering a thing or two about a culture (that, mind you, is part of the United States). Whether you absorb such knowledge from attending an authentic aha’aina (such as Maui’s Grand Luau), visiting Honolulu’s Iolani Palace, or exploring a village at Laie’s Polynesian Cultural Center is beside the point. What you may find may floor you—including the fact that Hawaiians began surfing, an activity they called he’e nalu, years before Western contact. But vacations aren’t about scholarship, are they?

8. …or discover a new sport

Woman ziplining on a visit to Hawaii

Speaking of which: Hawaii isn’t just the birthplace of surfing—it’s also at the genesis of modern kiteboarding. (The first kiteboarding competition in the world was held on Maui.) Hawaii, too, was the first US State to have a commercial zipline company when Danny Boren created Skyline Eco-Adventures with its 5-line Haleakala zipline tour.

9. …or discover a new WORLD!

A visit to Molokini is a must on a visit to Hawaii

Never mind the fact that it’s also one of the leading places on Earth for diving, snorkeling, and—well, we call it sport—astronomy. Snorkeling at Molokini Crater off the south coast of Maui is world-renowned for clarity and ocean life. Want to discover other worlds? Look at the stars to find the least amount of light-pollution on Earth. Holidaying here might give you a peek at a different form of play you’d never before considered. No fun there; absolutely nil.

10. The shaka sign is a difficult task to master

From people letting you take a left on Maui’s South Kihei Road to friends waving goodbye at the beach, the shaka sign is daunting to outsiders (what is it, a gang sign? Flipping the bird?). Local lore credits Hamana Kalili of Laie, Oahu for creating the gesture. When the plantation worker lost three of his middle fingers at the Kahuku Sugar Mill and was shifted to guarding the train, his “all-clear” wave of thumb and pinkie evolved into the universal signal of friendly intent. No matter how it started, what remains is that it’s exceptionally challenging to grasp. And you can’t have nailing a new skill on your vacation menu, can you?

11. There’s rarely an excuse to stay inside bingeing Netflix

Some call it “sun guilt.” Others call it a good old-fashioned conscience. However you dub it, one fact stays the same: Sitting inside with the AC blasting and binge-watching TV is practically kapu in the islands. Did we say AC? Kidding: we “condition” our homes with the Konas and trades. (Add that to the list while we’re at it.)

12. You’ll have to endure conversations with strangers

“Talk story” isn’t just some made-up phrase in the Hawaiian-Pidgin vernacular: it’s a working verb used to describe locals’ habit of shooting the shit wherever they may find themselves (including the middle of the road. Yes, you might get stuck behind 2 passing cars talking story while you wait. And you can’t honk, that’s a no no). While a total delight to residents- there’s nothing like a strong sense of community, and we don’t say that with an ounce of snark, either—it can be a major strain for visitors with pressing
matters on their “itineraries.” (Like luaus.)

13. You could fall in love

Honolulu's coastline is the perfect place to go on a visit to Hawaii
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

Planning on Tindering-it on top on your next vacay? Forget about logging in while you’re on a visit to Hawaii—its state capital, Honolulu, is only at the top of every single compilation of the “U.S.’s Most Attractive Cities.” After all, between the perennially luminous weather and year-round swimsuit season, there’s no reason at all for kama’aina to take care of themselves. (Tia Carrere, anyone?)

14. Celebrities are treated like real people

Oprah. Steven Tyler. Kris Kristofferson, Mick Fleetwood, Julia Roberts, Beyonce, the Obama ohana. For an archipelago in the center of the Pacific, Hawaii is sure home to a huge number of celebrities. And, oddly enough, they’re treated like the dude (or dame) next door, no paparazzi shots needed. Likewise, most Hawaii celebs treat us mere minions like pals, whether that’s Willie Nelson putting on an impromptu jam sesh at Charley’s on Maui’s North Shore, Pierce Bronsan eating tapas at the next table over in Kauai, or Owen Wilson hitching a ride in, again, Maui’s Paia. To phrase it differently, if you prefer your starlets to act like stars, book a bus to Hollywood.

15. You might get natural highlights

The Hawaiian sun does more than add some glimmer to your cheekbones. Plenty of female (and male) residents eschew spendy salon highlights in favor of a Sunday at the beach, no bleach or Sun-In required.

16. …or put on a few pounds

Hawaiian seafood dish on a plate
Photo Credit: Natalie Brown Photography

Hawaii has increasingly become one of the top foodie destinations on the planet. Blame mastermind chefs like Peter Merriman, Roy Yamaguchi, and Bev Gannon for the craze. These peeps, as well as several others, decided some years ago to use the islands’ bounty and meld it with Asian and contemporary Euro and American flavors. The result has been amply felt, with five-star restaurants popping up on all of the major islands by sought after chefs like Sheldon Simeon, Jeff Scheer, and Isaac Bancaco. There, you might be compelled to eat dishes like pan seared sea scallops with Hawaiian ginger-garlic or Duroc pork chops in a caramelized pineapple glaze. Sounds terrible for the waistline, doesn’t it?

17. Two words: Tan lines

Like, on your feet (slipper tan), on your left shoulder (we always drive with the windows down), on the back of your neck (you wanna surf, you best be ready to paddle), farmer’s, you name it. Tan lines can be exasperating things—and a terrible destroyer to your pre-planned vacation wardrobe.

18. The fish tastes…different

Our grocery stores—most notably, Foodland—serve bowls of cubed raw fish called poke. The second best restaurant in the entire nation (according to the folks over at OpenTable) is none other than Maui’s Mama’s Fish House—a sultry spot that serves fish that’s caught mere hours before it’s served. Put differently, the seafood you’ll experience in Hawaii may taste unlike anything you’ve ever had on the mainland. Rarely do we bread our fish—even then it’s usually panko or macadamia nut crusted—and our waters feature tropical wonders like opah, kumu, mahi mahi, and Hawaiian butterfish. Prefer a Filet-o-Fish? We do have McDonald’s, but the real gem there is the saimin on their “Secret Menu.”

19. Falling coconuts

Photo looking up through coconut trees to the blue sky
Photo Credit: Chris Norberg

While the Aloha State may be about as close as one can get to paradise, some potential visitors panic about the possibility of getting injured—or outright dying. Many concerns are straight-up valid: from perilous hiking trails to treacherous waves, there are indeed myriad ways to meet your end on this side of heaven. But perhaps the risk that should frighten you the most is the prospect of dying from a falling coconut. True, the rumor that broke the internet—an offhand statement, made by shark expert, to
demonstrate that one has a greater chance of perishing from tumbling coconuts than a shark attack—may be wildly exaggerated (the only actual death-by-coconut that’s occurred in Hawaii happened in 1973, when one struck a two-year-old child), but if the thought consumes your waking hours, you best not book a flight to Kauai’s Coconut Coast, where more than 2,000 palms line the shore.

21. Your children might put down their iPhone

Sure, sure, mobile addiction exists even in Hawaii—Minecraft-obsession is universal—but island kids also have another compulsion: nature. Whether they’re country keiki who ride horses on the islands’ upper slopes or beach brats that can’t seem to get enough time in the ocean, the children of Hawaii understand from birth that the best life is one that’s lived outside. The thrills of hiking, snorkeling, surfing, sandcastle-ing, camping, and more might just rub off on your little one and inspire him or her to set down their iThingy for healthier, more tactile experiences. Unnerving thought, isn’t it?

Traveling to the islands with a baby? Check out my experience in my Visiting Maui With A Baby Guide!

22. Time takes on a different dimension

Photography of hammock with sunset in the background
Photo Credit: Chris Norberg

We saunter down the beach, play the slack-key guitar, have clocks in our kitchens that say Who Cares?, are cavalier about getting together with friends, let some afternoons—and whole days—disappear as we leave our phones in the car and relish hours on the sand. Yes, we’re talking about island time—less a myth or a phenomenon than our day-to-day reality. This is not to say that we’re late (or, at least, intentionally so) to work, meetings, or appointments, but, rather, that we like a languid pace, whether that means talking story with the checker at Hawaiian Moons (see #20) or taking a mid-morning nap in a hammock. Prefer to be perpetually stressed? Favor alarm clocks over birds? Operate by a go-go-go mentality no matter what you might gain by taking it slow? Forget a visit to Hawaii, then; a New York minute here is pretty much a decade.

23. Bugs

From the standard (such as mosquitos) to the strange (like cane spiders), bugs are everywhere to be found throughout the Hawaiian Islands. It may be a small price to pay for impeccable weather, but flying cockroaches? No. Way.

24. You might hear your heartbeat

If you stay in Waikiki, there’s no doubt you’ll be surrounded by the sound of sirens, horns—and hopping bars and restaurants. But journey away from this tourist mecca— Maui’s Wailea, for instance, or Kauai’s Hanalei—and the only sounds you’ll hear will come from tropical birds, coqui frogs, and wind rustling through the palms (for reals). All of this is nothing to say of the dearth of noise you’ll find on the islands’ serenest beaches and hiking trails, like Maui’s Haleakala Crater, which scientists deemed the quietest place in the world. Such silence can be downright terrifying: You might just find your wayward thoughts reaching logical conclusions, figure out the last line of that song you’ve been penning, or begin to appreciate the non-human hums of nature. (Is it any wonder why K. Flay screams it’s too quiet in this room?)

To read more about visiting Haleakala, check out my Maui Guide!

25. Your priorities might get called into question

Demanding corporate job; pricey corporate attire. Luxe car; house in the hills; season tickets. All can be splendid things to aspire to and acquire, but Hawaiian residents aim for less acquisitive accomplishments. A number of kama’aina drive “beaters” because they can get from point A to point B (and the surfboard fits well in the back).

We like to wine and dine but we also know that some of the best cuisine on the islands is found at food trucks parked by the beach. We only own a couple of pair of shoes besides slippers, and two of them are too muddy to wear anywhere else but on our favorite trails. And we dig modern conveniences but derive tons of pleasure in growing our own food, catching our own fish, and making our own jewelry. Three generations live under one roof not just because housing is ultra-expensive but more so because we love to be surrounded by our ohana. We prize not external signs of wealth and status but our bonds with our community and ‘aina.

Convinced you should, afterall, plan a visit to Hawaii? Check out more Maui resources!

We may not be colorblind but we’re also appreciative and accepting of everyone who treats our islands kindly and shows us due respect. Habitual structures seem to fall away in a small place in the center of an ocean (which demands its own brand of resourcefulness). Hawaiians may be tuned into island time and take longer than our mainland counterparts, but we also savor life on a moment-to-moment basis, respond rather than react, and always, always listen.

A mad dash “to the top” might mean something else entirely here (the top of the hill at Fagan’s Cross, maybe?) but you can bet our lungs are working. We stress less, feel immense gratitude towards our home, and don’t stay blue for long—after all, there’s sunshine and Vitamin Sea right outside our door. A single day on a visit to Hawaii might open your eyes to other ways of living—and that perspective might shake your whole world.

This post was written by Chris at Maui Guide! The writers and photographers at Maui Guide live on Maui and love sharing their home. Visit them to learn about Maui, add your own reviews, and see their favorites.