Hawaii Living: Pests & Traffic

Hawaii Living: Pests & Traffic
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Roaches, creepy crawlies, and Los Angeles levels of bad traffic. Is paradise really all it's cracked up to be?

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Guide Series: Hawaii Living
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It's easy to come to a place like Hawaii and see only the good things. We have perfect year-round weather. We have some of the world's best beaches. Our ocean water is clear and full of beautiful marine life. Our islands are filled with lush forests, amazing hikes, and drop dead gorgeous waterfalls.

But is there a dark side to Hawaii? Surely it can't all be unicorns and rainbows here, right? Right! There are less than pleasant sides to island life. The two biggest that often come up are bugs and traffic, which are often equally annoying.


Let's get the easy one out of the way, traffic. We have it and it can be awful at times. I'm talking about gridlock traffic that you'd expect in a place like Los Angeles, California at rush hour but not so much on a island paradise. Most of the islands have their fair share of traffic problems but some have it far worse than others.

Oahu is the most populated island, it's where the bulk of Hawaii residents live and the tourism level here is the highest as well. Because of that, we also get the worst traffic in the state. Actually, depending on what survey you read we're also usually near the top of the list of all states when it comes to bad traffic.

At rush hour times, or if there is an accident (which there always is), you may require well over an hour to commute just 10-20 miles. Will the Honolulu Rail Transit help? Who knows, but that's a while off still.

Maui and Kauai also have plenty of traffic delays, even if they're not on par with the hot mess that is Oahu traffic. During peak times these islands experience many slow roads simply because you're piling on a lot cars that all want to get to the same place at the same time. Add in the fact that most islands often only have one main road to get from one place to the next and you get bottlenecks.

The Big Island doesn't have nearly the issue that the other islands have. This island is so massive that it just doesn't have the concentrations of people and cars in any one place that the other islands deal with. Of course, there can still be traffic delays here but not at the levels of other islands. The flip side here is that because the island is so large you may be driving a much further distance to get where you want to go.

What about the little islands? Well, Molokai and Lanai don't need to worry about traffic congestion at all. These islands are so small, have so few paved roads, and so few residents that it simply isn't an issue. So, if you absolutely can't stand traffic then the Big Island, Lanai, and Molokai are your best bet. Like one Big Island resident told us, “I fought Oahu traffic for years and it finally won.”


Roaches. Ants. Foot long centipedes. Stinging caterpillars. Spiders. Bees. Wasps. Oh, and even bed bugs (thank you travelers!). These are just some of the wildlife you may encounter in Hawaii. If you can't stand creepy crawlies then you need to confront your fears before you move here because they will be a part of your life. Even common garden snails and slugs can carry parasites that want to crawl into your brain and give you a dose of the lovely Rat Lungworm Disease.

For most, the roaches will be the worst and most common. It's a tropical paradise and those guys love tropical paradises! I know what you're thinking here. That you didn't see any at your hotel. Well, guess what, they spray for bugs like crazy at your hotel to reduce the chances of you seeing one. Even then, you likely will see some even at the best hotels.

The key is cleanliness. Keep a clean house and wash dishes after you use them rather than leaving on the counter or in a sink. If you do that you'll reduce the frequency of a roach encounter. Of course, they most often come out at night so you'll really want to make sure things are clean each night to avoid that. In most cases, tiny roaches are more common than those huge, monster, super-scary type roaches (but you'll encounter one of those at some point, hopefully outside).

Ants are the next most common bug you'll see. It's often the really tiny ants that are just looking for a meal. Again, don't leave food out and it won't be an issue. This includes pet food. If you have pets you'll want to consider one of those food bowls that has the water moat around it (since ants won't attempt to swim for food).

Fire ants can be another danger though should be very rare for most island locations. If these are spotted you'll want to avoid them and get them treated right away. These can do real damage (they sting) to humans and pets in large quantities.

The one you don't want to find is the mega centipede, though that's not the official name. But you'll know it when you see it. It's large, often several inches long and maybe up to a foot long. It will be brown to red in color and round but flattened down a bit.

You might mistake one for a snake even at first. We have three varieties of centipede in Hawaii but only one will bite. Anyone that has been bitten will tell you it's a very painful bite. So don't mess with them and kill them in a safe way. These critters enjoy wet areas too and often crawl around in the grass so watch where you walk and sit.

As for all the rest I listed, some are more common than others. For example, most spiders are small and not an issue. On the other hand, if you're hiking through a forest you may find something larger. We also have plenty of rodents on the islands, learn more about Dealing With Mice In Hawaii.

Something like a bed bug is most likely to be found in a hotel room but we even know of a case where somebody got them from a ride in a taxi cab. Always check your hotel room, especially the bed and sheets when you first arrive. These are small brown bugs and are usually easy to spot on white hotel sheets. Even the finest hotels could potentially have a room or two with bed bugs from the guests right before you. Got bed bugs and not sure what to do? Want to know how to prevent getting bed bugs? Click here to find out more about bed bugs.

We also have a variety of Geckos (lizards) that you'll certainly see running around. For the most part, these are good critters to have around because they eat bugs. Tons of bugs! You'll see them in wet areas like plants around walkways at your hotel. As you approach they'll run for cover and hide and then come back out.

They're mostly harmless but some will bite! For example, the larger lime green Geckos are Madagascar Giant Day Geckos. They're really neat to look at but they can bite. The smaller ones probably can't open their mouth enough but the larger ones certainly can. You'll see these outside more often than inside.

If you live here you'll have some of the more common Geckos in your home at some point, even if you don't see them. For the most part, a Gecko in your house isn't terrible as they'll deal with any bugs you have. It's even said that having them in your house is good luck. Well, anything that doesn't hurt me but eats bugs is good luck in my book.

The problem is that they'll also poop anywhere they want. If you start to see small droppings, around the size of a broken pencil tip, then you have a pet Gecko in your home. Check the baseboard molding and near window sills as these are the most common places to find droppings. If you want them out the easiest way is to catch one (use a cup if you want to touch it) and release it outside, but far enough away from your house that it doesn't run right back in. Geckos are usually anywhere from an adorable one inch long to six or more inches long and they move incredibly fast.


Like pretty much everywhere on the planet, wild life is a part of your life. Bugs exist and play an important role in nature. Well, except the roach, I'm sure we can all agree we'd be better off without those. Still, they're just bugs and cleanliness is usually the solution to keeping the bulk of them out of your house. A little caulk can go a long way too!

In any event, you shouldn't fear bugs and wild life in Hawaii. You should, however, be aware of what is out there and what can hurt you or your pets so you can deal with it as needed.

As for traffic, that should absolutely be feared. It's a beast that won't be tamed any time soon, if ever. The best you can do there is learn to accept it and drive with aloha. Besides, when you're stuck in traffic you just need to remember that you're stuck in traffic in Hawaii!