10 Places to Avoid in Hawaii

From sandy beaches and breathtaking sites to fantastic nightlife, Hawaii has something for everyone, but it is not without its issues. From dangerous locations and wildlife to some crime-ridden streets, there are a few places you want to avoid while in Hawaii.

By reading further, you will discover the top 10 Hawaiian places to avoid, along with a few alternatives. You will also learn what not to do when visiting the islands.

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The Places You Must Avoid When Visiting Hawaii

With many places to hike, sail, bike, swim, or just sunbathe on one of the many beautiful beaches, Hawaii is a paradise. The Aloha state is also a melting pot with numerous races and cultures, ensuring the state has something for everyone. It is also one of the safest locations in the world.

However, the state is not without its hazards and places to avoid. Most of these places are just tourist traps that might scam you from time to time, but there are places in Hawaii that no visitor should travel to without a good reason. These avoidable places have one thing in common: crime.

While crime exists everywhere, there is a more significant hazard in hot tourist locations such as Hawaii. Criminals know tourists have money, which breeds all sorts of scams and pickpockets. To make matters worse, these crimes can hit when you feel the safest. 

To keep you safe during your ventures through the Hawaiian archipelago, here is a list of 10 of the most dangerous places you should avoid, especially after dark:

Makaha

A haven for surfers and sea turtle lovers, Makaha should be a fun excursion for anyone venturing around the island of Oahu. However, this tourist trap has the most crime in the state. While the Honolulu Police Department has several stations in the region, there is a 1 in 30 chance that someone might steal your wallet while you enjoy Makaha Beach Park. 

Wahiawa

Located on a peninsula in the middle of Lake Wilson, Wahiawa has the thrilling nickname of "armpit of Oahu" for a reason. The birthplace of Dole Foods has a higher crime rate than the state as a whole, despite only being in 10th place overall. It is so bad here that the local police recommend avoiding the town altogether, especially at night. 

Ewa Beach

Ewa Beach looks like a paradise. 

  • Fantastic beaches
  • Great nightlife
  • Numerous attractions

Adorn the streets of this suburb of Honolulu, but you need to keep your head on a swivel if you want to go there. Police reports note that tourists can be kidnapped and robbed in broad daylight even from public places. 

Pahoa

Located on the eastern tip of the Big Island, Pahoa had impressive arts and surfing scenes until a volcanic eruption leveled most of the area. Now, the tiny village that remains has the highest number of sex offenders in the state. The region also has an extremely high property theft rate. 

Kahului

As a small industrial town on Maui, Kahului does not have many tourist attractions. While it does have a few museums and parks, you should avoid it unless you know someone there. It also has a high crime rate for a town of its size.

Waianae

With Hawaii's largest homeless camp, Waianae has a higher-than-average crime rate. It also has only a few accommodations for visitors, with its boat harbor serving as the only attraction. As such, you should avoid the town if possible. If you do find yourself there, please stay away from the beaches at night for your safety. 

Waipahu

A former sugarcane plantation on the north shore of Pearl Harbor, Waipahu has seen better days. While the plantation village museum is a nice day trip, the city, unfortunately, has nothing to offer to tourists. As such, you should avoid it as much as possible. Across Interstate H1, the town of Waikele is safer for tourists and has better amenities.

Waimea

While it has a higher crime rate than average, Waimea is also a location with only a few accommodations for tourists. The only major events are the Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival and an annual rodeo. Otherwise, you should avoid the place and go somewhere else. 

Kapaa

Nestled near Nounou Mountain on Kauai, Kapaa looks like a great tourist destination. The small village is the staging point for several hikes through the nearby forests and nature preserves. However, the tourist-friendly amenities brought in criminals looking for a quick buck. If you visit the area, you should avoid the local bar scene, especially at night. 

Hilo

Hilo is the largest town on the Big Island and has a tourist industry to match. Hawaii's oldest settlement holds the annual week-long Merrie Monarch Festival, the world's preeminent hula competition and festival. There is even an orchid show, among other points of interest, including a tsunami museum and the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center.

However, all that fun has a dark side. While the tourist areas are safe, you should avoid straying too far from them. Hilo has a 70 percent higher than average crime rate. You also should never see the area by bicycle due to the drunk drivers on the narrow streets and the frequent rainfall. 

Playing It Smart While in Hawaii: Avoiding Taboos and Mistakes

Despite the crime in the above cities, Hawaii is among the safest tourist destinations in the world. As long as you avoid the hot spots for crime, you can enjoy your stay without worry. You can surf, hike, and enjoy the nightlife until your heart is content. 

With that said, Hawaii is a melting pot of cultures with conflicting standards. With some misunderstanding, you can easily offend someone, potentially leading to conflicts, violence, and other issues no matter where you are in Hawaii. Therefore, you will want to avoid some seriously insulting behavior so that you can respect the native Hawaiian culture as much as possible. 

We listed the most common taboos and mistakes tourists tend to make while in Hawaii below. Most of these infractions make sense logically, but people often overlook them in the heat of the moment. We hope that this list will help you avoid any unnecessary conflicts so you can enjoy your stay in paradise. 

Refrain from Mentioning that You Are American

While you may feel that it is necessary to say "the USA" when abroad, such things have no place in Hawaii. The Aloha State has been a part of the union since 1959. So, saying that you are American has no meaning there as everyone you meet is likely an American. If you must reveal your home location, you should just mention "the mainland" or your city or state. 

Leave Nothing in Your Rental Car

While you are safer from most crimes by sticking to the dedicated tourist spots, you still must keep an eye on your stuff. Thieves are everywhere looking for victims, and rental cars are easy targets. That is because rental cars are easy to spot, and most locals know the secret. Therefore, you never want to leave anything valuable when you park your rental. Not even trucks are safe. 

Never Forget to Tip

Like everywhere else in America, Hawaiians who work in the service industry rely on tips to pay their bills. That includes:

  • Restaurant servers
  • Tour guides
  • Hotel bell and valet staff

Your tip may be the reason these people can live with Hawaii's high cost of living.  

Never Honk Your Horn

If you usually hit the horn when the cars in front of you do not go immediately once the light turns green, you should refrain from doing so while in Hawaii. Honking the horn outside of emergencies is considered rude on the islands. You can avoid needless road rage incidents by staying away from the horn. 

It is Illegal to Take Lava Rocks and Sand Home

You may want a cheap souvenir of your time in Hawaii, but keep your hands off the lava rocks. Similarly, you might want a handful of sand from Hawaii's lava flows and multicolored beaches but leave them be. It is illegal to remove objects from national parks. Plus, the sand is not limitless. Enjoy the rocks from a distance and get your souvenirs from gift shops. 

Stay Away from Hawaiian Wildlife

Hawaii is home to many endangered species such as the green sea turtle and the monk seal. These critters reside on the warm beaches that line the coasts of the Hawaiian Islands, and you may run into a few of them during your stay. If you do spot one, leave them be and enjoy them from a distance, treating them as you would out in the ocean. 

While these creatures are recovering thanks to conservation efforts, their numbers are still dangerously low and may go extinct within your lifetime. They can also become hostile if provoked. You have no business messing with them so just leave them alone. 

Take Your Shoes Off When Entering Homes

With a large Asian population, Hawaii developed the cultural norm of removing one's shoes before entering someone's home. As such, you must do likewise when visiting the islands. Some condominiums even require it as a part of your rent. The owners can and have kicked renters out over the infraction. 

General Tips and Best Practices When Visiting Hawaii

Beyond the specific Hawaiian taboos, there are some common pieces of advice you should adhere to regardless of where your adventure takes you. Some of these things may not apply to your situations, but it is always good to go prepared. These tips and advice may even save your life. 

Even if they aren't particularly life-saving in nature, some Hawaiian tourist best practices are just a good way to make sure you are truly getting the most out of your possibly once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hawaii is another state in the union, but its unique climate and geographical location mean that you might not be familiar with its unique terrain and intense sun.

Go to Multiple Beaches

One of the main points mentioned in this article revolves around not staying in one place more than you must. This tip is no exception. Every Hawaiian beach is different. Therefore, you should try to reach as many as you can to take advantage of everything Hawaii offers.

Just be careful, though, as ocean currents are highly variable. The waters can be calm for one moment only to become turbulent high surf during the next. If you are not careful, you can be swept out to sea without warning. Heed any warning signs you see posted at beaches. 

Understand the risks and take the necessary precautions before you take a dip. For instance, you can just watch the professional surfers do their thing if you do not have the months or preparation needed to do it yourself. 

Never Swim Alone

You might be a world-class swimmer, but even the pros know to never swim alone. However, too many unfortunate people never got that memo. They either drowned or were attacked by sharks. Either way, they did not have anyone nearby to help them get out of their situation. Even better, make sure there is a lifeguard around when you head out into the water as well. 

Moderate Your Sun Exposure

Everyone dreams about lying in the Hawaiian sun all day, but no one dreams about the extreme sunburn you would get from that. Therefore, you want to spread out your exposure over your whole trip. You also want to coat yourself with plenty of sunscreen. 

Visit More than Waikiki

While many foolish travelers keep to their resorts, there are even those that never leave Waikiki and boast to their friends that they saw everything Hawaii had to offer. While the Waikiki beaches and resorts are safe and fun for everyone, there is more to do elsewhere, even if you only stay on Oahu. 

Doing so can even cure what Hawaiians like to call island fever. As a tourist, you are unlikely to develop island fever, but it can happen. Like cabin fever, island fever is just a feeling that you need to get off an island and go somewhere else. It is primarily a problem for the locals, but you can develop it if you stay in one place for too long. 

You can avoid island fever by keeping your schedule busy exploring as many Hawaiian attractions as possible. There is nothing wrong with visiting every island either. 

Stay Away from the Super Touristy Areas

While straying away from tourist areas can lead to nightmares, sticking too close to them can be equally undesirable. Hawaii has numerous high-profile attractions such as volcanoes and Haleakala National Parks, Mauna Kea, Waikiki, and the Maui Ocean Center. 

These places remain crowded all year long, which is fine. However, you may want to try avoiding them during peak tourist season if you want some room for yourself. Hawaii has many fine but less well-known attractions and beaches just waiting for you to discover them. For instance, you can try real Hawaiian food at a local restaurant instead of the resorts. 

Dine Out in Moderation

Hawaii is an expensive place. A part of that expense comes from having to ship everything, including food, from 2,000 miles away. As such, everything on the island has a steeply inflated price, even at restaurants. If you want to have enough cash to enjoy your stay, you should do as the locals do and head to a grocery store instead. 

Avoid Driving During Rush Hour

You never want to be caught in traffic on your vacation. You came to Hawaii to get away from that. So, why would you attempt traveling during the local rush hour? Hawaiian rush hour is approximately from 3 pm to around 7 pm on weekdays. If you can avoid the roads during this time, you can enjoy your stay stress-free. 

Never Hike Unprepared

Hiking takes you directly into nature. You get to see the world in its natural glory without modern problems getting in your way. Hiking in Hawaii is no different, especially with its breathtaking tropical volcanic landscape. However, hiking is only enjoyable if you make it back home in one piece. 

While the Hawaiian Islands are small enough that you are always a short distance from civilization, you can still get lost or injured while hiking. Therefore, you always want to take the necessary precautions before heading out. 

Some necessary hiking precautions include: 

  • Fully charge your phone for emergencies and photo opportunities. 
  • Bring plenty of water, snacks, and a fully equipped first aid kit.
  • Notify a friend or family member where you are going and when you expect to return.

Conclusion

Hawaii is usually a very safe place to visit. You can enjoy the sun, beaches, and wildlife without issue in most cases, but there are places where you should not tread without a good reason. A high crime rate, coupled with the lack of amenities in some areas, can transform your island getaway into a nightmare in seconds.

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