Updated July 2, 2021.
If you’ve poked around the blog much, you already know my worst-kept secret: I love Hawaii! It’s definitely paradise, but if you’ve never been, you probably have a lot of questions. I’m a firm believer in that if you don’t know something, you should ask so you do know.
However, some questions are best left Googled… these are real questions that people have asked me, asked in Hawaii travel Facebook groups I’m part of, and that came up when I Googled “Silly questions people ask about Hawaii.” This post is all about the questions that you may be (or perhaps should be) too embarrassed to ask!
Do I need a passport?
Yes! If you’re coming from any country besides the USA, you need a passport to visit Hawaii. If you’re traveling from any of the United States or the U.S. territory of Guam, you do not need a passport to visit Hawaii.
More here: Your Ultimate Guide to Passports
Is Hawaii part of the USA?
Yes it is! Hawaii is the 50th state and was admitted to the USA on August 21, 1959. It’s a bit of a sticking point for native Hawaiians because of the way U.S. businessmen conducted the takeover of the Kingdom of Hawaii in the 1890s. It’s a bit of a long story, but personally, I think it’s a bit of a slap in the face of Hawaii that many Americans don’t even know it’s a state. I’m shocked by the number of people who ask this question. Now you know!
More here: What to Read Before You Visit Hawaii
How long is the flight?
It depends on where you’re coming from and which island you’re flying into! For instance, the non-stop flight from D.C. (IAD) to Honolulu (HNL) is over 10.5 hours, but the flight from L.A. (LAX) to the Island of Hawai’i (KOA) is 5.5 hours. And flights between any two Hawaiian islands are anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour! So it really depends.
Read next: How to Survive the Flight to Hawaii
What language do they speak?
The State of Hawaii has two official languages: English and Hawaiian! You’ll see both while you’re in the islands, and you’ll probably hear both, too. But if you only know English, don’t worry, you’ll be just fine. If you do want to learn a little Hawaiian, however, you can take FREE lessons on the DuoLingo app!
Helpful resources here: The Best Apps for Travel
Is the island really erupting?
Two things: 1. There are eight main Hawaiian islands. 2. Only one of them has an active volcano, and that is the Island of Hawai’i! Yes, it’s really been erupting since 1983 (occasionally there’s more lava flow than usual), and you can see it for yourself from a distance! When we visited Volcanoes National Park in 2017, a park ranger had a telescope pointed directly at an area of lava flow so people could see it safely. I got this photo through the telescope:
More details: Our Unforgettable Lava Boat Tour
Why isn’t everyone afraid of the lava?
It’s really a very small threat on a very BIG island! There was a major incident in May 2018 when it started erupting in a new place, which caused new lava flow and loss of homes nearby, but lava flows very slowly, so it’s easy to get away from it when you see it coming—the Captain of our lava boat tour told us that! But truly, a volcanic eruption like they had in 2018 is quite rare.
Keep in mind, the American Midwest and South have tornadoes every year. The Caribbean, Gulf Coast, and East Coast have hurricanes every year. California has wildfires every year. The Northeast and upper Midwest states have tremendous snow storms and temperatures in the negative double digits for months at a time every year! A destructive volcanic eruption is a 20- to 30-year event, maybe more! When the locals look worried, you can start to worry, but until then, it’s all aloha!
Start planning! 7 Steps to Plan Your Island of Hawai’i Trip
Is there Internet?
Yes! The islands have wi-fi. Some areas may have slower wi-fi than others, but if you’re staying at a resort or large hotel, you will definitely have wi-fi access the whole time!
Is the Island of Hawai’i the “Main Island?”
Short answer: no! When people ask about the “main island,” they usually mean O’ahu, where the capital city of Honolulu is located. The Island of Hawai’i is the “Big Island” because it is the largest.
Can I use my cell phone on the islands?
Yes you can. This is actually a good question, because in places like Guam, which is a U.S. territory, U.S. cell phone carriers do not operate. But rest assured, Hawaii is connected to all major U.S. cell phone service carriers! You do not need to purchase an international plan!
What kind of money do they use?
The U.S. dollar! I know you would never ask this because you know that Hawaii is one of the 50 United States, but it’s one of the common questions people ask if they’ve never been to Hawaii before! Now you know for sure. Also of note: there are some places on the islands that only accept cash, so bring some with you or be prepared to visit the ATM!
More here: Where Can I Use the U.S. Dollar?
Can I send a letter or postcard with a regular stamp?
Yes you can! You can mail anything to or from Hawaii the same as anywhere else in the United States. It will be more expensive to mail packages, since postage for those are calculated by weight and distance according to zipcode. Also, “overnight” shipping is actually going to automatically be “two-day shipping,” due to the time difference and distance from the mainland. Just be patient.
To recap: Yes, you can mail a letter with a regular stamp, and yes, you can mail a postcard with a regular postcard stamp!
Can I drive between the islands?
The answer is no! You must fly between the Hawaiian islands. There is a ferry from Lahaina on Maui to the island of Lanai, but otherwise your only option is flying. Not to worry! It’s very safe, quick, and a lot of fun!
Get the scoop: What to Expect on a Tiny Airplane
Are you “Hawaiian” if you live in Hawaii?
No. That is like asking if everyone who lives in America is Native American–they’re not! The Hawaiian people’s ethnicity is “Pacific Islander,”, and there are very few 100% native Hawaiians left in the world. This is a touchy subject for Hawaiians and people who live in Hawaii but are not native (called haole). So, unless a person’s ancestry is native Hawaiian, they should not call themselves “Hawaiian.”
Want more? Check out my Hawaiian Islands Page for everything you need about Hawaii and more!
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