Hawaii visitor information

Planning your holiday to Hawaii? Find helpful Hawaii Visitor information here.

Visas & useful information

Do I need a visa to travel to Hawaii? 
An ESTA must be completed prior to travel. Australian and New Zealand nationals may travel to the United States for tourism purposes for stays of 90 days or less under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP). However, travellers are required to have a valid authorisation through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) PRIOR TO TRAVEL. To apply online for an ESTA visit https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/.

Nationals of VWP countries must meet eligibility requirements to travel without a visa on VWP, and therefore, some travellers from VWP countries are not eligible to use the program. Please check http://travel.state.gov/ for requirement details.

Please note the following entry requirements for travel to the United States:

  • You must hold a passport valid for at least six months from the date you enter the US.
  • You must be on a short and temporary visit.
  • You must agree to leave the US before the expiration of your visa.
  • You must hold a valid passport for the intended period of stay.
  • You must hold a valid visa issued by the US Embassy or Consulate.
  • You must maintain your identity as a foreigner during your stay.
  • You must comply with all requirements on visa issuance.
  • For more information, please contact the US Embassy or Consulate in your country.

What is the time zone?
GMT -10 hours. Hawaii does not observe Daylight Savings Time so add one extra hour to the time difference during this period (March through November).

What is the electricity voltage?
110/120V, 60Hz. The sockets are three-pole. For the connection of razors, hair dryers, etc., is a world power adapter or need.

Are you allowed to drink Alcohol in Public in Hawaii?
Drinking in public of alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine and liquor is banned across North America including Hawaii. Also offering alcoholic beverages to a minor is prohibited. Some places will not sell any alcohlic beverages on Sunday and public holidays.

Duty free in Hawaii
In addition to items of a personal nature (clothing, photographic equipment, etc.), visitors are allowed to enter these items tax-free.

Tobacco: 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco or 50 cigars respectively. a combination of tobacco products whose weight does not exceed 250g suits.
Alcoholic Beverages: 1 liter of wine, beer or spirits.
Other items with a total value of U.S. $ 400

Currency & costs

What is the currency in Hawaii?
The currency in Hawaii is the US dollar (US$). There are banknotes of 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 dollars. There are coins of 1 dollar and 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 cents. Holiday costs for visitors will depend on the exchange rate.  Traveler’s checks aren’t necessary (although Thomas Cook and American Express Travellers checks are widely acceptesd) since credit cards are widely accepted and ATM machines are plentiful.

Foreign currency can be exchanged for dollars during the day at banks.

Is it expected to tip in Hawaii?
In restaurants and taxis a tip of around 15% is expected.

When to go

When is the best time to travel to Hawaii?
Although Hawaii’s busiest tourist season is during winter (December to February), this has more to do with the weather elsewhere, since many visitors are snowbirds escaping cold winters back home. Average temperatures differ very little from winter to summer. June through October is the hottest period, while rainfall is heaviest between December and March – neither extreme is worth worrying over. Hotel prices are lowest between April and mid-December.

If you’re a surfer, you won’t want to miss the Christmas-time action around Oahu’s North Shore, but if windsurfing or diving is more your thing, you’ll find the waters at their calmest at the height of summer (July and August)

When are the public holidays in Hawaii?
In Hawaii , the following public holidays (other than the international holidays like New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas 1 and 2) apply:

  • Martin Luther King Day: 3rd Monday in January
  • Presidents Day: 3rd Monday in February
  • Memorial Day: last Monday in May
  • Independence Day: July 4
  • Labor Day 1st Monday in September
  • Columbus Day: First monday in october
  • Veteran’s Day: 11 november
  • Thanksgiving Day: last Thursday in November

In addition, separate holidays are per island are eg on the occasion of the Aloha Festival (September).

During school holidays and public holidays its important to note that many Americans themselves are going on holiday to Hawii, and that it is therefore it is likely to be busier in hotels, camping sites, national parks and attractions.

What should I pack on my trip to Hawaii? ]
It’s warm in Hawaii, so pack your summer attire. You may want to bring a jacket or sweater for the evenings. Bring warmer clothes if you plan on visiting higher elevations like Haleakala in Maui. Suits and ties are very rarely worn here. Bring some casual dress clothes or resort wear if you plan on experiencing Hawaii’s nightlife. You can buy an aloha shirt and flip-flops (or slippers, as the locals call them) when you get here.

Don’t worry if you forget something. Hawaii’s retail stores and malls have everything you need, including plenty of sunscreen.

Getting there

Where exactly is Hawaii?
Hawaii is the 50th state of the USA, located in the tropics in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The most closest to being island Samoa (3900 miles south). Los Angeles is 4500 km (5 to 6 hour flight). Hawaii is located east of the date line.

Hawaii has 6 larger high islands and many small islands.

What is the main airport of Hawaii? 
Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on Oahu is Hawaii’s major airport, serving as the entry point for most of Hawaii’s visitors. All major domestic carriers and many international carriers serve Oahu, so you can get here from just about anywhere. There are also direct flights from the continental US to Maui, Kaui and Big Island.

Getting around the islands
Inter-island flights are plentiful between honolulu (Oahu) and airports in Kauai, Maui, and big Island. The following airlines fly between the islands – Aloha Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Island Air. These companies have an extensive route network and flight schedule. This allows you to fly during the day at almost any time between the islands.

Please note that you must pay for your checked baggage for domestic flights ($ 17 per case, price is subject to change). You also have to pay for drinks on board and headphones. So take a few bucks for that. Honolulu airport has a separate terminal for inter-island flights.

Getting around

Getting around
Transportation options vary from island to island. Oahu has a comprehensive bus system but to really experience Hawaii, you should consider renting a car.

In Oahu they have a fantastic bus system called TheBus which is a great way to get around. Read more here.

Many visitors also enjoy taking bus tours to conveniently explore the islands. Hawaiians drive on the right-hand side of the road and consider horn honking extremely rude unless required for safety. Cycling is a legitimate way of getting around but be prepared for hefty climbs and narrow, traffic-clogged roads.

Driving in Hawaii
Hawaii is very suitable to explore by rental car. The roads are well maintained and outside Honolulu traffic is very quiet. Most attractions are well marked and including parking spaces.

The speed limit is 65 mph in built-up areas 35 mph. The signage is good, navigation works fine here – so you can rest assured your navigation system will return you home.

We can organize car rental reservation for you at the five main islands of Hawaii (rates and conditions are available on request). On arrival you will need to pick up the car and have a valid driving license and credit card (we also recommend getting an international driver’s license). For car hire in the USA, we strongly advise you to take a credit card with you as otherwise a high cash deposit is required.

The minimum age is usually 23 years (for young drivers an additional charge is applied). Ask for a map and explanation of the traffic. In Hawaii, you can pretty much see all of the sights with a regular (2WD) car.

Health & safety

Is drinking water safe in Hawaii?
Tap water is safe to drink, however in saying we advise that you boil your water or buy bottled water just to be safe (and also so it tastes better).

Hawaii has a sunny and warm sub-tropical climate. Protect yourself from the sun by using a sunscreen with a high protection factor. Do not go sunbathing in the heat of the day.

Water safety in Hawaii
For more information on water safety in Hawaii click here.

Each city or island has its own police force. Consult the local telephone directory or the reception desk of your hotel for the phone number. The general emergency phone number that you can call anywhere in Hawaii is 911. You can also telephone in a 0 (zero) turn and ask help from the operator.

Health & medical care in Hawaii
In Hawaii there are virtually no dangerous or poisonous animals. The most dangerous animal is probably the shark. Within the reefs in the lagoons you see at most small harmless reef sharks. The larger shark species – such as the hammer head, tiger shark and the great white shark – like deep water..

Remember that the coral is sharp. To avoid nicks and possible infections we recommend plastic sandals to wear when you want to walk on the coral or swimming in shallow water. If you do get cut buy coral, the risk of infection is high, so do not wait too long to use antibiotics.

The medical standard in Hawaii is high. On Oahu, Maui and the Big Island modern hospitals are located. In the smaller places there are typically smaller clinics for emergency 24 hours a day. The medical costs are very high in Hawaii so it is advised to take our medical and travel insurance.

History & culture

Hawaii is the northernmost point of the Polynesian triangle, which extends southward to New Zealand and Easter Island.

The Polynesians are originally from Southeast Asia and traveled great distances across the Pacific in their traditional canoes (which accommodated up to 30 people). The Polynesians first reached Fiji (around 1500 BC). From here sailed the Polynesians to a large number of islands in the Pacific, including Tonga, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Samoa, Easter Island, New Zealand and eventually around 600 AD also Hawaii.

Although the Polynesians were very skillful in navigating using constellations, the first inhabitants of Hawaii were probably fishermen and warriors who accidentally strayed to the north. It was only at around 600 AD that a real wave of migration occurred to Hawaii, Marquesas Islands from the east in French Polynesia.

The migration from the Marquesas to Hawaii continued for 500 years on. Suddenly, around 1100 AD, this changed with the arrival of warlike Tahitians. The Tahitians conquered large parts of Hawaii. For over 100 years, there was frequent traffic between Tahiti and Hawaii and gradually the Tahitian customs, legends, religion, administration and language translated to those living in Hawaii. For no apparent reason, the migration to Hawaii suddenly stopped around 1200 AD and there Hawaii remained for 500 years, an isolated and forgotten corner of Polynesia.

On January 18, 1778, Englishman James Cook and the crew saw the island of Kauai , where they landed two days later. After a stay of several weeks, the ships also carried northward. Almost a year later, at the onset of winter in Alaska the ships returned to Hawaii.

The islanders thought that Captain Cook was the mighty god Lono. The Hawaiians were fascinated by the ships and their white crew. Cook and his crew were treated with great respect and given all of supplies they needed. The relationship between Cook and the Hawaiians gradually began to deteriorate, and it was decided that the time had come to leave. After a week at sea, the vessels were in very bad weather and the foremast of HMS Resolution broke. Upon returning to the islands the residents were this time a lot less friendly. In case of disagreement a few days later, Captain Cook was slain. The crew managed to sail away and continued the search for the Northeast Passage.

In the time of Captain Cook’s visit to Hawaii, the islands was undergoing a brutal power struggle between the three Hawaiian kingdoms. The fight ruined the country. The skillful acting chief Kamehameha eventually emerged as ruler over Hawaii, and established a new dynasty. From 1780 Hawaii was frequented by American traders, on the way from California to China. There was a triangular trade, transport of sandalwood from Hawaii to China, porcelain and silk from China to California and Western goods from California to Hawaii. Despite the stresses and constraints by King Kamehameha were placed on the sandalwood trade, the sandalwood forests were soon exhausted.

The death of King Kamehameha in 1819 left a power vacuum. Hawaii was now engulfed by traders, missionaries, whalers, plantation owners and others, especially coming from America and Europe. In the middle of the 19th century the economy began to flourish in Hawaii. There was so much work that workers were recruited from China, Japan, Korea, Philippines, and later also from the Caribbean. It was the beginning of the melting pot of cultures that it still there today.

It was King Kamehameha III (1825-1854), youngest son of the powerful King Kamehameha who introduced the Hawaii Constitution. Within a few years only 20% of Hawaii’s territory owned by the Polynesians. The Polynesians, now in the minority, were gradually driven from their land and forced to live in slums around the cities and towns.

The last king of Hawaii was King Kalakaua (1874 – 1891), a true world traveler whos travels included America, India, Egypt, Europe and Southeast Asia. In the center of Honolulu, he built the Lolani Palace building. The sugar barons of Hawaii protested against his money wasting behavior. The king was succeeded on his death in 1891 by his sister, Queen Liliuokalani. After only two years, it was the military, led by Stanford Dole, was deposed and the Republic of Hawaii was proclaimed.

In 1898 Hawaii because of its strategic importance was annexed by the United States. Stanford Dole became the first governor of Hawaii. The Polynesian population was decimated in the meantime from 300,000 to 50,000 people due to fatal diseases over the last 100 years.

Soon after the annexation the U.S. Navy built Pearl Harbor the largest military base in the world. A cousin of Governor Dole in 1922 bought the island of Lanai and turned it into the largest pineapple plantation in the world. Until December 7, 1941 Hawaii was a quiet and peaceful island with a steadily growing population and economy. At 7 pm on December 7, 1941the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbo. Within minutes the battleship USS Arizona sank with 1177 people on board. A total of eighteen major naval vessels were sunk or badly damaged by the surprise attack, 188 aircraft were destroyed and 2325 people killed. A shock went through America, it was the beginning of World War II in the Pacific. The island of Oahu turned into a large military camp. Japanese residents of Hawaii who before the war were 40% of the population, were detained on the mainland of America. Although Hawaii during the war has had no further enemy attacks played a central role in the American war in the Pacific. After the war, Hawaii began to flourish once again. The sugar and pineapple industries flourished as never before, and tourism was expanding rapidly in importance. In 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States.

Today, Hawaii has 1.1 million inhabitants, of which 76% are on Oahu. Hawaii is a melting pot of races and cultures. Only 1% of the population is still full of Polynesian descent. Nevertheless, Hawaiian culture has maintained, by way of language (aloha), music (steel guitar, ukulele), dance (hula) and art (makaku). Not only are these cultural expressions for the tourists maintained, but much more is this cultural pride and identity of the people of Hawaii.

Country Profile

Hawaii – the Aloha State – welcomes and seduces visitors with its frangipani scented sea breezes and tropical warmth. This is where East merges with West in a blur of hula and night life, soap operas and traditional legends, junk food and Japanese tea ceremonies, and Shinto shrines and surf clubs. Hawaii is the 50th state of the United States of America.

Area: 6470 sq miles (16,757 sq km)

Population: 1.3 million

State capital: Honolulu (pop 400,000)

People: 38.6% Asian, 24.7% White, 23.6% from Two or More Races, 10.0% Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, 8.9% Hispanics, 1.6% African American, 1.2% from some other race.

Language: There are two official languages English and Hawaiian. Hawaii Creole English (Pidgin) is the native language for many born and raised residence.

Religion: Predominantly Catholic and The Church of Jesus Christ and theLlatterday Saints, but also Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Jewish and Muslim

Major industries: Tourism is the largest industry and accounts for more than one-third of the state’s income. The US military and agriculture are other large contributors to the economy.

Car Rental

Hawaii is ideal to explore by rental car. You can decide on the pace and the route. The road network is well cared for, directions and points of interest are clearly marked and the traffic is quiet and safe.

Car rental in Hawaii, and in America we work with Alamo. This is the biggest and best car rental in Hawaii – with rental depots in almost all the islands. The rental cars are the latest model (not older than 9 months) and standard air conditioning, automatic transmission, airbag, power steering and AM / FM radio.

The American cars are becoming more compact. We advise you to check whether the luggage in the car of your choice is adequate for the bags you want to take. It is cheaper to book in advance than on the spot for a bigger car. The rental rate is determined on the basis of the type of vehicle, the number of rental days (24 hour period), and the required insurance.

In order to drive in the United States, you must have a valid driving license. The minimum age is 21 years. When you pick up the rental car will be asked for your credit card. In America traffic law differs so make sure to read on the leaflets from the rental company to inform you of this (available when collecting the car).

Read our tips on driving in Hawaii here.