Difference between revisions of "Hawaii"
Revision as of 05:00, 5 July 2005
Hawaii is the 50th state of the United States of America.
Situated nearly at the center of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii marks the northeast corner of Polynesia. While it was once a major hub for the whaling and sugar industries, it is now economically dependent on tourism and the U.S. military. The natural beauty of the islands continues to be one of Hawaii's greatest assets.
Hawaii is an archipelago of islands. There are eight major islands, six of which are open to tourism.
These are some of the bigger cities in Hawaii.
Polynesians migrated to, and established communities on, the islands of Hawaii before the arrival of the european discoverers in the 1770's.
Hawaii became a state of the United States in 1959.
Over the years, many major retail chains have expanded their presence in Hawaii, making the Islands look more and more like the Mainland U.S. -- often at the expense of local businesses. Nevertheless, Hawaii remains culturally vibrant. Its population, descended from immigrants from various nations and in which no one group has a majority, is often cited as an example of multiculturalism at its best. There is a strong commitment to perpetuating native Hawaiian cultural traditions, as well as the cultural heritage of Hawaii's many immigrant communities from the Pacific, Asia and Europe.
Where tourism is concerned, Hawaii has something for everyone. The island of Oahu, the most populous and home to the state capital and largest city of Honolulu, is great for people who wish to experience the islands and still keep the conveniences of a large city. Rainforests and hiking trails are located just minutes from Waikiki Beach, one of the world's best tourist destinations. In the winter, large waves on Oahu's north shore turn the normally sleepy area into the surfing capital of the world.
On the other hand, those who wish to experience Hawaii at a slower pace would do well to visit one of the Neighbor Islands (the other, less populated islands around Oahu). All the neighbor islands offer opportunities to relax and enjoy the sun and scenery. Many of the natural wonders of the Islands are located on the Neighbor Islands, from Waimea Canyon on Kauai, to Haleakala on Maui, to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. Numerous waterfalls and rainforests evoke memories of what the islands might have looked like before major corporations set their sights on Hawaii.
Hawaii has the longest predicted life expectancies of any U.S. state. 
Depending on where you're located in Hawaii, the weather can be very different over even short distances. On the same day, you might find sun over the beaches in Waikiki and rain only miles away in Manoa Valley.
Although the islands receive abundant amounts of both sunshine and rain, rain is more likely on the north and east sides of the islands, which face the prevailing northeasterly tradewinds (the "windward" side of the island), as well as the mountain peaks and valleys. The moist tropical air carried by the tradewinds is forced upward by the mountains, resulting in clouds and rain. Rain is less likely on the coastal areas of the "leeward" sides (the south and west sides) of the islands.
Although there are no "seasons" in the islands in the same sense as the rest of the U.S., the climate does go through annual cycles based on rainfall. The "wet" season in Hawaii (cooler temperatures and more rainfall) runs roughly from October to March, and the "dry" season (warmer temperatures and less rainfall) from April to September. There is therefore a higher probability of rain if you visit during the peak of tourist season in late December or January.
Hurricane season in the islands runs from June to November. Although Hawaii is affected only rarely by tropical cyclones, occasionally a destructive storm will hit the Islands, as Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai in 1992.
Overall, Hawaii is warm and temperate -- when you step out of the plane you'll immediately notice that the air is soft and humid -- and during the summer months the tradewinds provide a pleasant breeze.
Most flights from the mainland US and almost all international flights land in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Direct service from the mainland is also available to Kahului on Maui and Kona on the Big Island as well. The flight from Los Angeles or San Francisco takes about 5 hours.
As Hawaii is part of the U.S., travel to Hawaii from the U.S. Mainland is not much different from traveling between two states on the Mainland. It is not necessary to bring a passport (or any documentation of U.S. citizenship) when traveling to Hawaii from the U.S. Mainland. The only paperwork that you'll be asked to fill out is required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prevent harmful plant pests and diseases from coming into Hawaii.
Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. whose Interstate Highways don't connect to any other state. This is due to the state being a series of islands in the Pacific Ocean. If you want to take your car to Hawaii it will either need to be amphibious or freighted by ship.
On most islands there is an excellent public transportation system with buses running between every town and out to most beaches. You can take the Wiki-Wiki from the airport to the hotel. Between islands are small and medium 'island hopper' flights that take 30-45 minutes. Flights can usually be purchased a day or two before departure. Charter boats sail and motor between some islands, especially the Maui-Molokai-Lanai area.
Norwegian Cruise Lines operates U.S.-flagged cruise ships between the islands. Most cruises originate in Honolulu Harbor.
As part of the United States, English is the main spoken language of Hawaii. There are some subtle differences in usage (see below), but standard English in universally understood in Hawaii. Hawaiian "pidgin" English, spoken by many locals, incorporates bits of Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese and many other languages, in addition to its own unique idioms. As Japan is the most important international tourist market in Hawaii, many tourist destinations offer information in Japanese and have personnel who can speak Japanese. There are also many ethnic communities that speak languages such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Ilocano, Vietnamese, Korean, Samoan and the native Hawaiian language.
Learning a few words of Hawaiian can be fun and useful. Some useful words include:
When talking with Hawaii residents, be aware of the following. These may result in miscommunications.
As in the rest of the United States, U.S. dollars are the local currency. There are plenty of banks, ATMs, and money change offices in all cities. ATMs are scarcer on the North Shore of Oahu and other rural areas.
Tourists who want to get a taste of Hawaiian culture can sign up for classes in hula, surfing and lei-making at most tourist destinations.
There also a number of cultural and historical centers on Oahu well worth your time, such as the Bishop Museum and Iolani Palace.
If you have the money, the time and the inclination, the Polynesian Cultural Center provides a window into Polynesian culture -- delivered Vegas/Disneyland-style.
Hawaii is not an easy place to find casual work for non-US work permit holders.
Hawaiian food, like the language and popular culture, is a medley of Hawaiian, American, and Asian Pacific flavors. Seafood is, of course, fresh and tasty. Local beef comes from ranches on Maui and coffee is grown on the Island of Hawaii. Tropical fruits such as pineapple, mango, bananas, guavas, and papaya -- as well as fresh sugar cane, can be bought in most corner stores (although you may be surprised to learn that many of those fruits are now imported from distant locales such as The Philippines).
One of the most common ways that Hawaiian food is served is in the form of plate lunch, usually meat or fish with two scoops of rice and macaroni salad. Always a good deal at any lunch truck, mall, or outside food court. Rainbow Drive Inn ("Rainbows") and L&L Drive Inn are popular plate lunch spots.
Local dishes include favorites such as the following:
For specific places at which to eat, see the individual island or city articles.
Hawaii has long prided itself on the taste of its tap water, which is filtered naturally through porous volcanic rock. Not only is Hawaiian tap water safe to drink, but it lacks the chlorine taste present in many areas of the United States.
Hawaii well may be the birthplace of the foofy umbrella drink and offers a colorful array of fruit and booze concoctions. The Blue Hawaiian, Hawaiian Screw, and original Hawaiian Punch can be easily found. Passion-orange-guava (P.O.G.) juice is a popular mixer. Non-alcoholic variants are often available. Of course, standard beers, wines and liquors will also be on the menu.
Many small restaurants and all "to-go" places do not sell alcoholic beverages. However, in some cases it is customary to bring your own alcohol to such places, which may even provide you with a bottle opener, but check beforehand.
Theft is a big problem in cities as well as beaches and parks. If you are camping on a beach, keep bags locked in a car (but don't assume that they are safe in the trunk, especially if you are driving a rental) and keep valuables in a hidden money belt. Honolulu has some violent crime and women should not walk alone in unlit areas.
Be sure to have travel health insurance.
Hawaiian culture should be respected and travellers should be sensitive to the state's rich cultural heritage and diversity -- and the fact that the tourist experience of Hawaiian culture may only scratch the surface.
Hawaii uses the US postal system. Internet access can be found in most tourist areas and many hotels. General wi-fi access is available only at select hotels and cafes.
Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Hawaii can be a stepping off point to explore Oceania.
When leaving Hawaii, all baggage must be inspected by Hawaii State Department of Agriculture inspectors at the airport. Be advised that most fresh fruits (with the exception of pineapples and treated papayas) are prohibited from leaving the islands to prevent the spread of fruit flies.