When I was young, the only idea I had about Hawaii was from the Brady Bunch episode!
They showed the whole Brady clan going to Waikiki Beach, and the inside of their hotel, a luau and more that I can’t remember – it’s been almost 40 years! I do remember thinking how magical the island seemed. I knew absolutely nothing about the place except from that TV show. I never read a book about Hawaii, I never saw a movie about it. Until I was fifteen or so I probably couldn’t find the islands on a map. I also couldn’t have told you whether Hawaii was one island or eight (Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Kauai, Kahoolawe, Niihau and a tiny one off Niihau, Kaala).
I think the reason I didn’t pay much attention to Hawaii as a destination that I might see someday is because nobody in my family had ever gone. We lived on the East Coast of the USA and well, everyone went to Florida or South Carolina instead.
HAWAII was TOO FAR, TOO EXPENSIVE, and TOO BIG A DREAM…
Is Hawaii Overrated as a Vacation Destination?
So we never really thought of it as a vacation place pre-1990. Times have changed and now the islands are as close as your bank account. Flights from Pittsburgh sometimes drop down to $600 round trip, making it affordable to get there at least. Then you have to find a reasonably priced hotel. Usually package deals including air, hotel, transportation, tours, rental car, luau and the rest are your best bet because when thrown together they can give you a substantial savings.
The entire world is talking well of Hawaii – and it seems like one of the top 10 destinations for travelers on the planet. In 2018 the state had a record 9.9 million visitors. There are a number of magazines that rank Hawaii as one of the ideal tropical destinations. Conde Nast Traveler has rated beaches in Hawaii very well for years. In 2015 out of the Top 10 Beaches, Hawaii claimed three spots. US News ranked the island of Kauai as having one of the best spots for beaches in the world out of twelve. National Geographic magazine ranked beaches on Oahu as Top 10. Travel and Leisure gave a Kauai beach a top mention in their list of Top 25 Beaches in the world.
A major travel destination like Hawaii is bound to get overhyped, overrated, and eventually overrun. Though traffic on Oahu can reach ridiculous levels, Hawaii as a state is doing pretty well soaking up half-a-million tourists arriving monthly!
Let’s look at a few attractions and things to do visitors come to Hawaii for and evaluate whether they are overrated, or not.
1. SECLUDED BEACH PARADISE
Many people coming to Hawaii are looking for the ultimate in seclusion, privacy, quiet, and pampering. Is this available? Yes, absolutely. I’d recommend going to Kauai if you are serious about your seclusion and privacy. Is this available to the average person with a limited budget arriving on Oahu? Not really. I mean, you can get up early and go find beaches with nobody there, but soon the hum of vehicles on the highway close to you, will start and people will start coming to the same beach you’re at – looking for the same privacy and seclusion you are. Oahu, and all the islands have expensive resorts with fewer people and really breathtaking accommodations and spa services.
Bottom Line? Perfect, secluded and private beaches and spas are available if you’re adventurous and have money to blow.
Is Hawaii overrated as a Secluded Beach Paradise?
No, but not everyone is going to find it because not everyone is going to be that ambitious about making it happen.
2. BEST BEACHES IN THE WORLD?
It’s funny looking at the different online magazines and their assessments of the best beaches in the world, and trying to figure out what they might be based on. The criteria are elusive, and I haven’t seen any printed for a while. About ten years ago I remember seeing a list of criteria and they were pretty rational. I think Hawaii had five of the Top 10 spots in whatever magazine I was looking at.
What makes a best beach? Privacy? Soft sand? Different colored sand? Restrooms with showers nearby? Camping or bungalows on the beach? Coral free swimming area and great snorkeling over a reef?
There are so many things that can define a great beach, and you can be sure Hawaii has all of them, though not at every beach. I like a beach with some shade trees, permission to barbeque and setup tents, nice waves for bodyboarding or swimming, relatively jellyfish and man-o-war free, and with food stands or street stalls or something within walking distance. For me, Bellows Beach in Waimanalo covers all these things and is probably my favorite beach on the planet.
Is Hawaii Overrated as a Best Beaches Location?
Nope! In fact, I think it’s probably underrated. I think I could find 25 beaches in Hawaii that are more amazing than anything Conde Nast Traveler or National Geo puts out on their annual lists.
3. AWESOME ATTRACTIONS AND THINGS TO DO?
There are so many things to do in Hawaii if you like the outdoors. Most of the attractions – things to see – are outside. Sure there is great shopping, but Hawaii is really about being outdoors. If you don’t like walking around, hiking, exploring nature, and being outdoors then probably Hawaii isn’t even for you. You can go to restaurants and eat great food, go watch a movie, and sit at a luau and stuff your face and call it a vacation.
If you are adventurous, there are so many areas to explore. There are around forty forest hikes on Oahu alone. You could climb Diamond Head Volcano. You could surf, swim, free-dive, bodyboard, bodysurf, parachute, hang glide, windsurf, SCUBA dive, bicycle, run, and dozens of other physical activities.
Once you see Oahu, go to Maui, then Big Island, then Kauai. There are so many attractions and things to do that you couldn’t be bored for months.
Is Hawaii Overrated for Awesome Attractions and Things to Do?
4. PERFECT WEATHER?
I just wrote a huge post covering the weather in Hawaii month-by-month.
Guess what? It changes remarkably little over the course of the year. Mild temperatures in the 80’s with a 30% chance of light rain every day throughout the year is basically the entire forecast. There are brief intense storms that roll through, and even the occasional low-pressure zone that sticks around for a few days – but, overall Hawaii has the most incredibly perfect climate and weather of anywhere I’ve ever heard about. If you enjoy warm and humid weather with the occasional brief shower and 10 mph trade winds to cool you off – Hawaii is going to be one of your favorite places in the world.
Is Hawaii’s Perfect Weather Overrated?
No, it’s seriously underrated.
5. FRIENDLY, WELCOMING, and GENEROUS PEOPLE?
Well, here’s where I can’t jump up and down as a cheerleader for Hawaii. I don’t blame anyone for it, it’s just that things have changed since the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s. The frank truth of the matter is, locals are tired of all the tourists. Yes, they understand tourism pays the bills for a significant percentage of the population. Many of them don’t really care and wish Hawaii would secede from the United States and be able to form their own territory with their own government.
The main problem is that locals are for the most part – uneducated because they either cannot afford to send their kids to college, or they just don’t want to take on any more debt to do it. Kids with scholarships to other mainland schools move away and stay away as they earn a lot more money than they would in Hawaii. They’re not making enough money to really thrive in their own state, and so there is resentment because of it. What local working as a teacher, driver, or selling tour packages can afford a half-million dollar home? That’s the cost of an average house in many places.
Hawaii’s runaway tourism has degraded the standard of living for many of Hawaii’s born and raised locals. It’s a horrible state of things really, but little is going to change because now the state depends on the tourism dollars that six million tourists per year bring in.
Can you find friendly and generous people on the islands?
Yes, sure. If you’re living in Hawaii I think it’s much easier to find people who are genuinely friendly, generous, and great people to get to know. If you’re on vacation then the smiles and caring you’re receiving from locals is probably because you’re spending money with them. That’s true anywhere a tourism economy exists.
Is Hawaii Overrated as Having Friendly, Welcoming, and Generous Locals?
Yes, for sure. However, when you are friendly, welcoming, and generous first, it comes back to you in excess.
So, you can see by my overwhelmingly positive review that I think Hawaii is probably way underrated as a top tropical tourist destination. I think when people are talking about it being overhyped they are talking about the top tourist areas where there are hundreds of tourists at a time. That conflicts with the idea of it being one of the best, if not THE BEST tourist destination in the world. Thing is, there are so many more places you can go that are just as nice, or even nicer than the places where the tourists are.
Go explore the whole islands when you go – get a JEEP and drive around in the early morning and see what you find. I’ll bet you think like I do… Hawaii is probably the best place in the world!