We see these myths and misconceptions about Hawaii all the time.
It's amazing how often people have a misconception about Hawaii, or have heard some sort of bizarre myth that they believe to be true. Here we cover the top myths and misconceptions that we hear from travelers all the time.
Hawaii Residents Are Hawaiian
Being Hawaiian refers to somebody that is of native Hawaiian descent and can trace their ancestry to the original Polynesians who settled on the Hawaiian Islands. Not everyone who lives in Hawaii is a Hawaiian, in fact, only around 10% of those in Hawaii are true Hawaiians. For everyone else who resides on the islands, they're just residents of Hawaii or "locals".
Everybody Surfs All The Time
Sure, Hawaii may be the surfing capital of the world but that doesn't mean that all locals surf. Plenty do, but the vast majority don't. Those that do surf also have to work, often multiple jobs, to support the high cost of living here and only get to surf in their limited free time. Then again, we do have Kama The Surfing Pig.
Oahu Offers Nothing But Waikiki
First off, Waikiki is an amazing place (see Waikiki Guide) and filled with amazing beaches (it's not just one beach, see The Beaches Of Waikiki). It's also crowded and gets a little insane. It's worth seeing but don't think that Waikiki is all that Oahu has to offer. Oahu is so much more than Waikiki with places like Haleiwa (see Haleiwa, Hawaii Guide), the Ko Olina Resort area, Pearl Harbor & USS Arizona Memorial, and the Polynesian Cultural Center to name just a few. There is a ton to see and do on Oahu as we cover in our Oahu Itinerary - Intro and Oahu Guide.
Hawaii Is Paradise
Well, sure, Hawaii can be paradise. Some of the time. But as we cover in Hawaii Living: Finding Employment, Hawaii is a tough place to live for a lot of people. The high cost of living is the biggest reason why. But we also have major traffic problems and sometimes our awesome Hawaii Weather isn't so awesome, like during hurricane season.
Hawaii Is A Country
It's amazing how many people still get this one wrong. Hawaii is part of the United States of America, and is the 50th state in the union which we cover in The History of Hawaiian Statehood / Hawaii Admission Act and The History of Hawaiian Statehood / Hawaii Admission Act. That means you don't need a passport to travel from the mainland (what we call the other states) to Hawaii. Though you will need one if coming from another country like Japan, Australia, China, etc.
Because we're a real state in the USA, that means English is the primary language, the US Dollar is the primary currency, and your USA base cell phone plan will work here as well. For more factoids on Hawaii be sure to read our Hawaii FAQ.
A Gallon Of Milk Costs $11
No, it does not. Well, maybe if you're shopping at a mini-mart style store out in the boonies, maybe they'll try that. And sure, it's going to be pricier at convenience style stores like the ubiquitous ABC Stores. Otherwise, we have normal grocery stores and even several Costco stores where it's more reasonably priced.
It's still going to be pricier than it is on the mainland, but not too ridiculous. For example, if you're paying $3 for a gallon on the mainland it will probably be around $5 in a grocery store and closer to $4 for a gallon at a Costco. Considering how little milk you probably drink, this is the least of your concerns when it comes to prices (see Hawaii Living: The Paradise Tax).
There Are No Fast Food Chains
A bizarre rumor that couldn't be more wrong. We have an abundance of junky fast food places just like mainland America, and the rest of the world. Most of your favorite chains will be here but we suggest you avoid them and go for places you don't have back home. Of course, we don't have every chain here as you can see in our article on Mainland Restaurants Not In Hawaii.
Everyone In Hawaii Is Happy
This is usually based on the fact that Hawaii is consistently ranked as the top state (or one of the top states) in various surveys that pop up each year. These surveys often rank the states in terms of health, happiness, education, and so on and Hawaii does very well in come categories.
On the flip side, a lot of people live below the poverty line because of the high cost to live here. We also have a huge homeless problem that's getting worse all the time and nobody knows how to fix it. Also, anyone who has to commute on Oahu's H1 probably isn't happy at least twice a day. So, yes, there is a lot of happiness but certainly not in all cases.
Aloha Means Hello
It's true, aloha means hello but it also means goodbye. Of course, there is a lot more to aloha than a simple hello or goodbye greeting, there is much more in terms of the overall Aloha Spirit. Be sure to read more about Hawaiian Words too!
Hawaii Has Perfect Weather
For much of the time, it's true that Hawaii Weather is often perfect and around 83 degrees fahrenheit during the day near sea level. But a lot also depends on location and time of the year. It actually snows in some places here! It's true, places like Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and Haleakala National Park actually get snow. Other parts may see huge amounts of rainfall, even around 400 inches a year in places. And then there are those pesky hurricanes I mentioned earlier. So, perfect weather? No, but pretty close most of the time.
Everybody Speaks Hawaiian
While English and Hawaiian are both official languages of the State of Hawaii, only a very small percentage of the population here actually speaks Hawaiian. English is the common language here, but we also have Hawaiian Creole English, or simply Pidgen as it's called. You'll often hear various Pidgen words like "Howzit" which means "How are you" or "How are you doing" or a word like "slippahs" which is means "flip-flops" (as in shoes). Pidgen goes well beyond a few words and can be difficult or impossible to keep up with if you're not fluent.
We Go To Luaus All The Time
The thing about modern day luaus is that they're tourist traps and intended for tourists to get a very Americanized version of a Hawaiian party. That's not a bad thing, but that's what they are. Locals don't generally attend luaus unless they have friends or family from the mainland visiting. Luaus can certainly be a good time but they're not something we often go to.
Everyone Lives On The Big Island
I have to say, I wish this one was true! The Big Island is massive, it's actually larger than all of the other main islands combined. Unfortunately, the bulk of people all live on Oahu, not the Big Island which only has around 15% of the population.
The Road To Hana Is Hawaii's Only Good Drive
While the Road To Hana is certainly an epic drive, there are tons of great driving roads on the islands. On Oahu we have the amazing Tantalus and Round Top Hill Drive but even a drive along the H3 Highway is amazing. Yes, a highway complete with tunnels and amazing, elevated ocean views. Every island has some amazing roads (sometimes dirt) that are fun to travel. Even the tiny Lanai island has an incredible (as well as bumpy) drive while heading to the Garden of the Gods / Keahiakawelo or Kaiolohia Bay (Shipwreck Beach).
Maui Is The Best Island
For some, this is certainly true. Maui is a fan favorite for sure and we love it. But it's not always the best, and there really isn't any one best. Each island is different and offers different experiences. If you're not sure which island is best for you, read Which Hawaiian Island Should I Visit? and How Many Islands Should I Visit?.
Hawaii Is Too Expensive To Visit
It certainly can be! But there is also a lot of stuff you can do in Hawaii on a budget. Start by reading Hawaii Vacationing On A Budget and Best & Cheapest Time To Book & Travel To Hawaii. Then head over to Free Things To Do In Hawaii which covers completely free things that you can do on the islands without spending any money.
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