Don't spurn sunscreen

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Sunshine in Hawaii. Photo: Haleakalaecotours

There are few joys in the world like kicking back on a Hawaiian beach and doing nothing more than soaking up its (prodigious) sun. That said, attempt a day on our luminous shores (or mountains, valleys and slopes) without sunscreen and there’s almost a 100% chance you’ll be sorry later. Indeed, Hawaii is rated as one of the most dangerous places in the world when it comes to sunburns. Why? Besides our proximity to the equator, most excessive sun exposure occurs on our beaches, and “sand reflects 25 percent of the sun’s rays, giving unsuspecting beachgoers an extra dose of UV exposure,” The Huffington Post reports. What’s more, if you haven’t been in the sun for some time, you may be even more prone to sunburn.

Don’t hike illegally or start a hike late in the day

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Starry night in Hawaii. Photo: Hawaiimagazine

As locals, we see the rescue helicopters on the 10 o’clock news, when hikers get stuck on a trail at night and can’t hike back out. Oftentimes, they miscalculate the hours left in the day or misjudge how difficult it is and how long it takes to complete a hike. I’m sure you can imagine how dangerous it can be to hike down a mountain ridge at night. It’s safer to start your hike earlier in the day. Bad choices put rescue personnel in harm’s way, as does hiking illegally. Those trails are closed for a reason, as reported by Hawaiimagazine

Don’t eat at a chain restaurant

We all love the familiarity of a chain restaurant because you know what to expect—and you probably already know what to order. But if you eat at a Red Lobster or California Pizza Kitchen like you do back home, you will be missing out on one of the best things about traveling: discovering food you can’t find anywhere else. Get in the car (or call a ride-sharing service) and find the restaurants, holes-in-the-wall and food trucks locals swear by: On Oahu, Ethel’s Grill, The Pig & The Lady, Haili’s Hawaiian Foods, Alan Wong’s, Liliha Bakery or J.J. Dolan’s; on Maui, Tin Roof, Star Noodle or Sam Sato’s; on Kauai, Hamura Saimin Stand, Pietro’s Pizza, Jo2 Restaurant, Bar Acuda or Porky’s; and on Hawaii Island, Nori’s Saimin and Snacks, Village Burger Waimea or Café 100.

Don't be an aggressive driver in Hawaii

Most people in Hawaii are friendly drivers; it’s part of the Aloha spirit. Don’t be an aggressive driver, honk, etc. As one commenter pointed out, it is a little different on Oahu. There is definitely more traffic on Oahu, and a bit more road rage.

However, in general, drivers in Hawaii are friendlier than average. On the flip side, locals know the roads better than you do. If you are enjoying the sights but see cars lining up behind you, pull over and let them pass.

Don't step on coral—and mess with its marine life

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Marine life. Photo: Haleakalaecotours

From lime green to flamboyant peach, the corals of Hawaii are something else. Spanning over 1,200 miles in the center of the Pacific, they comprise approximately 85% of the United States’ coral reef population and hold marvels that range from urchins to sea sponges.

But coral embodies the old adage: that the greatest beauties have the sharpest stings. Certain types of coral—such as the venomous inhabitant of tropical and subtropical waters, fire coral (which bears more resemblance to hydrozoans)—may cause serious irritation or injury if you happen to brush against them. Other types of coral are downright toxic; if the coral punctures your skin—abrasions are quite common in Hawaiian waters—you might just put yourself at risk for “coral poisoning,” a reaction that could include fever, swelling, fatigue, chills and inflamed glands. What’s more, coral reefs house a number of creatures that are best observed from afar, including sea anemones, eels, select types of fish, and conus—a sea snail (of which there are 30 or 40 species of in Hawaii) that may be lethal.

Don't swim in perilous places

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Olivine Pool. Photo: Haleakalaecotours

Hawaii doesn’t just boast swimming spots right off its sunny shores: a number of baths and pools are spread across the islands (and offer mad enticement), from Maui’s Olivine Pools (a set of tide pools on the island’s West Side) to Kauai’s Queen’s Bath (another natural tide pool in the Garden Isle’s Princeville).

But as tempting as these places may be, they’re best left to the creatures of the sea: Olivine Pools has seen a number of drownings, including a Bay Area couple in 2006 and a California man in 2004, while Queen’s Bath has also been the scene of drownings and injuries. This doesn’t mean you must sequester yourself in your resort and enjoy only manmade pools and cascades; rather, it’s another reason to remain vigilant—and respectful—when enjoying Hawaii’s abundant pleasures, according to Haleakalaecotours.

Don't litter, smoke on the beach

Should I have to mention this? I will say it anyway. Smoking on the beach is illegal in Hawaii, so don’t do it. Also, make sure to pick up after yourself. Hawaii is a beautiful place, and everyone would like to keep it that way.

On the subject of being respectful, don’t trespass on private property. Stay away from areas that say Kapu, which can translate to “keep out,” “no trespassing,” “sacred,” etc. I’ve had a few people ask me about incidents they’ve read about online with tourists having problems with locals. 99% of the time the tourist was trespassing, littering, or being disrespectful to local culture in some way. Take a few minutes to learn about Hawaiian culture before your vacation to avoid any issues like this.

The best time to visit Hawaii is during the drier shoulder seasons of May-June and September-October. Though Hawaii is a year-round travel destination that is always busy with tourists, two factors are key: the weather and the peak tourist seasons
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