It's been a while since I've done a Live and Learn post, but I realized there are things I still learned on trips that I can pass on. I never really thought I would want to go to Hawaii. I'm not one for sitting on the beach or for places that everyone raves about because they enjoy paying money to lay on the beach and drink beers. Just because a place has a great landscape doesn't mean it will be exciting to me as a vacation destination. I want to do things. I don't hate the beach, but I can spend much less money and go to the beach here to just sit in the sand, so there better be something else to keep me busy. I was surprised by how much there was to do in Honolulu and how I wished I had more time to explore.
While in Hawaii, I did something that scared me, twice. I am terrified of things in the ocean I mean, not everything, but large things that I don't want to hang out with, like sharks. Of course, my husband loves the water and he's not afraid of any of that stuff, so I agreed to go snorkeling. In fact, I suggested both of the water activities we did, because if I jump right in, usually I find that I don't have time to psyche myself out. Well, one tour went disastrously (not for Eric, but for me who panicked and made him swim me back to the boat) and the next one had me so into checking out the sea turtles that I didn't have time to freak out. I was proud of myself, as I always am when I do something new and (possibly) scary.
7 days in not long enough if you want to actually do some sightseeing
I used to be content with a one-week vacation, but some destinations deserve more time. In fact, most destinations deserve more time. I know you can't always get away for longer, but if you can, and you find that there is a whole long list of things you want to do - or a short list of things that could take a while - then take a few extra days. It gives you time to leisurely do the things you want and relax at the same time. I felt like three more days would have been perfect.
Don't buy a bus pass
Honolulu isn't that huge. If you plan to spend most of your time in Waikiki, there's really not much need to take the bus, so buying a bus pass is a waste of money. We took the bus only three days out of seven and the majority of the time we walked everywhere, including to the zoo and back from Leonards, the bakery that sells malasadas - delicious, delicious cream-filled donut-like pastries. I think we must have walked six to eight miles that one day, but it was worth it and we needed the exercise after all the carbs we'd been eating. In case you didn't know, vegetables are a rarity in most Hawaiian entrees, but everything seems to come with rice and macaroni salad. Good thing there's a lot of fish.
If you want to go shopping, catch a Hilo Hattie Trolley for free. That's a great way to save cash for something else and not have to waste it on the bus. The trolley is open-air, giving you a chance to enjoy the lovely weather.
Have you ever bought some new walking shoes and think they're going to be awesome and then wear them and wish you could cut your feet off? Yep. That's what happened to me. I got myself some fancy Keen sandals that were really comfy until I spent the whole day in them at the Dole Plantation. 80% of the way through the pineapple maze the back strap started rubbing something fierce and by the time we made it out of there I was pretty sure I was going to be crippled. I would have gladly bought some overpriced flip flops in the gift shop, but shockingly they didn't sell any. Tip to the gift shop at Dole Plantation: start selling flip flops! Tip to travelers: break in your shoes before you go on vacation by wearing them in a variety of different situations and for a different lengths of time.
Flip flops aren't walking shoes
And that brings me to this helpful tip. Though I wished I had put my flip flops in my day bag on that trip to the Dole Plantation, they have no arch support or enough padding to absorb the the pressure you're putting on your feet while pounding the pavement. They're great for the beach and the pool, but they aren't good walking shoes, so make sure you pack a better pair of shoes for your sightseeing.
Rent a car for the day if you want to visit the Dole Plantation
If you don't want to waste three hours of your time commuting there and back then think about renting a car for the day. Not everyone finds public transportation relaxing like I do. I also like to see the scenery, but I will admit that having a car to drive out there would have shaved a lot of time off our drive and possibly I would have been smart enough to bring a back-up pair of shoes with me if I didn't have to carry them around. Ha!
The bus is a great place to meet strangers
When you do take the bus, people in Hawaii are crazy-friendly and you can make some friends on board. We took a ride 90 minutes from town to the Dole Plantation and I had a conversation with a lovely older woman who told me about her life and how the land has changed since she was a girl.
Eat as much Dole Whip as you can stand
Do you love Dole Whip? Anytime you find yourself faced with the decision on whether to order some or not, order it! You won't get another chance until you go back or go to Disneyland. Never had Dole Whip? It's basically ice cream made from frozen pineapple. It's amazing! I wish we had eaten more. Just say yes! It's healthy and delicious.
Your "snorkel with dolphins" tour might be a lie
So, you know those snorkeling trips I went on? The first one claimed it was swimming with dolphins and sea turtles. Not only was the water super murky - which is mostly what contributed to my freak out - but there was no dolphin in sight and there were almost some sea turtles. So, if you book a snorkel tour that promises something, make sure you go because you just like snorkeling. Our second tour didn't promise anything, but we swam with sea turtles and also saw a bunch of spinner dolphins (adorable!) as we were sailing back to port.
If there's a long line, you should probably stand in it
This is pretty foolproof, especially when it's outside of a restaurant. When the line's out the door and down the block, there's almost no way the food is going to be bad. We saw this every day outside a noodle shop, but only got in line to take this picture. Guess we'll know better for next time and plan better.
Have you gone to Hawaii and had a live and learn experience? For money-saving tips on a Honolulu trip, see my post here.