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Is Hawaii Overrated? What Families Wish They Knew Before Going

Are you second-guessing your dream Hawaii vacation? Keep scrolling to find out whether or not Hawaii is overrated!

As someone who’s packed their bags for Hawaii more than 40 times, you could say I’ve seen it all – the good, the bad, and the downright surprising.

So, let’s get real for a moment: Is Hawaii overrated?

Before you gasp and start defending this tropical paradise, hear me out.

Hawaii is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on earth, but like any popular destination, it comes with a few misconceptions.

Today, I’m spilling the beans on what families wish they knew before going, to help you set realistic expectations for your own adventure.

Expectation vs. Reality in Paradise

Expectation: Endless Sunshine and Perfect Weather

Many imagine Hawaii as a place where the sun is always shining and the weather is perpetually perfect.

We needed rain jackets every time we visited Hilo. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Well, it’s not always the case. Hawaii has its share of rainy days, especially if you’re visiting areas like Hilo, known for being one of the rainiest cities in the US.

Reality Check: Prepare for a mix. Pack light rain gear and plan some indoor activities just in case. The rain usually passes quickly, leaving everything fresh and vibrant.

Expectation: Secluded Beaches Straight Out of a Postcard

With all the stunning photos floating around, who wouldn’t expect to find themselves on a deserted beach, with nothing but the sound of waves and palm trees for company?

Image of crowded Waikiki beach as seen from a hotel balcony
Here’s what Waikiki Beach typically looks like.

Reality Check: Hawaii is a popular destination, and its famous beaches can get crowded. But don’t let that discourage you! There are still plenty of lesser-known spots where you can enjoy some tranquility. It might just require a little more effort to find them.

Expectation: Everything is Expensive

Yes, I’ve heard it too – Hawaii is pricey. And while there’s truth to the cost of living and vacationing here being higher, it doesn’t mean you’ll have to break the bank to enjoy it.

Image of a burger and fries at Seven Brothers on Oahu
Do some research about tasty yet affordable eats in Hawaii. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Reality Check: Budget wisely. Look for accommodation and dining options off the beaten path. Also, many of the best experiences in Hawaii, like hiking through its stunning landscapes or enjoying a beach day, are absolutely free.

Expectation: Unlimited Beach Days

It’s Hawaii, so you’ll be spending every day at the beach, right? Not necessarily.

Reality Check: Hawaii offers so much more than just its beaches. From exploring volcanoes and lush rainforests to learning about rich cultural sites, there’s a whole other side of Hawaii waiting to be discovered.

What Families Wish They Knew

1. Not All Beaches Are Swim-Friendly

Hawaii’s beaches are breathtaking, but not all are suitable for a swim, especially for little ones. Some have strong currents and large waves that can be dangerous.

Hanauma Bay on Oahu in June
Hanauma Bay is great for families visiting Oahu.

Tip: Do your research beforehand and choose beaches known for being family-friendly. Places like Hanauma Bay on Oahu are great for snorkeling and safe for kids.

Here are our favorite kid-friendly beaches on Oahu and Kauai.

2. The Sun is Stronger Than You Think

Many families underestimate the Hawaiian sun. Even on cloudy days, sunburn can happen quickly, especially near the water where the reflection intensifies its effects.

We tend to wear UV swimsuits in Hawaii. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Tip: Always apply reef-safe sunscreen generously, wear hats, and consider UV protective swimwear for the kids.

3. Cultural Respect is Key

Hawaii is rich in culture and history, and showing respect is crucial. Some tourists accidentally disrespect sacred sites or local customs simply because they’re unaware.

Check out this guide to visiting Iolani Palace on Oahu by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids. Image of a mom and boy taking a selfie in front of an ornate building in Hawaii
I highly recommend visiting Iolani Palace on Oahu if you want to know the REAL story about how Hawaii became a state. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Tip: Educate your family before you go. Learn a bit about the Hawaiian culture, the importance of respecting the land (‘aina), and the basics of the Hawaiian language. A simple “Mahalo” (thank you) goes a long way.

4. Adventure Beyond the Resorts

While resorts offer convenience and luxury, they can also shield you from the real Hawaii.

Check out this Kalalea View Farm Tour on Kauai review by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids! Image of two boys carrying coconuts and bananas on a Kauai farm tour.
My kids loved picking their own fruit at a Kauai farm. Photo credit: Brian Miller

Tip: Venture outside the resort bubble. Visit local markets, eat where the locals eat, and engage with the community. You’ll discover a more authentic and often more memorable side of Hawaii.

5. Wildlife is Wild

From sea turtles to exotic birds, wildlife encounters are a highlight for many families. However, it’s important to remember these creatures are not there for our entertainment.

Poipu Beach is a great place to see sea turtles and monk seals, plus it's a popular snorkeling on Kauai spot
Monk Seal on Kauai.

Tip: Teach your kids to admire from a distance. Disturbing wildlife, especially endangered species like Hawaiian monk seals, is not only disrespectful but also illegal.

Setting Realistic Expectations

1. Be Ready for Crowds

Especially during peak seasons, Hawaii can be crowded. This doesn’t mean you can’t find your own slice of paradise; it just might take some planning.

2. Embrace the Aloha Spirit

Hawaii operates on island time, and things tend to move at a slower pace. Embrace it. Part of the joy of Hawaii is learning to slow down and soak in the beauty around you.

3. Adventure Awaits, But Safety First

Hawaii’s landscapes are an adventurer’s dream, but they can also be dangerous if you’re not careful. Always stay on marked trails and heed local advice, especially when exploring more remote areas.

Final Thoughts

So, is Hawaii overrated? Not at all. It’s everything you’ve dreamed of and more, with a side of unexpected realities that, in my opinion, only add to its charm.

With the right expectations and a bit of planning, your family can have an incredible Hawaiian adventure that goes beyond the postcard-perfect beaches and into the heart of what makes these islands truly magical.

From my numerous trips, I’ve learned that the best way to experience Hawaii is with an open mind and an open heart.

It’s about embracing the unexpected, respecting the culture and environment, and finding joy in every moment, whether that’s on a crowded beach or in a quiet rainforest.

Hawaii has a way of capturing hearts, and I have no doubt it will capture yours, too. Happy travels!

Looking for more Hawaii tips & tricks? Check out 10 Hawaiian Experiences That Are Better Than Disneyland and The #1 Mistake Every Parent Makes When Booking a Hawaiian Vacation (And How to Avoid It)!