4 classic experiences for your first trip to Hawaii

A lei in Waikiki (courtesy Peggy2012CreativeLenz on Flickr CC)

“You know all that touristy stuff in Hawaii?” asked my 19-year-old daughter Nancy. “Well I’ve either never done it or can’t remember it since I was 5 years old the last time we went there. I want to do the touristy stuff!”

I’m fine with being called a tourist. Hey, if I don’t live someplace and I’m visiting there and touring around to see the sights, then I’m a tourist.

As Nancy and I excitedly plan a fall trip for me to speak at the Hawaii Social Media Summit, here are four things that we absolutely must do while in the Islands….

1)  Wear a lei all the time, simply because you can.

They are not that expensive if you get a simple one made from plumeria flowers, they envelope your head in a soft, sweet scent that instantly puts a relaxed smile on your face, and this is one indulgence that I can almost guarantee you can’t get back home.

Don’t wear it like a necklace, though;  arrange it to hang half in front and half in back.

2)  Eat shave ice. Eat Kalua pig. Eat fresh pineapple sliced up right in front of you. Eat poke. Just eat.

It’s spelled and pronounced shave ice, not shaved ice. How thinly the ice is shaved and the flavor of the syrups are part of the endless debate about which is the best place to get them.

Authentic Kalua pig is slow-roasted in a pit, usually on a beach, and beats the holy hell out of any pulled pork in the Carolinas, I’ll swear to it.

When someone uses a small machete to whack open a pineapple and expertly slice up the chunks, you’ll take a bite and start thinking about moving to the islands. This ain’t those yellow Dole rings out of a can, lemme tell you.

The best poke (pronounced poh-keh) seems to be the kind that is made by someone’s auntie or tutu and is sold at the very back of a jumbled grocery store in the middle of nowhere. Yes, it is raw fish. You’re surrounded by ocean, so you’re gonna eat fish. One of my favorite Hawaii foodies, Melissa Chang, is one of the people I would ask about finding the best poke.

3)  Learn to speak a few words of Hawaiian and local slang.

Grinds (food) that is really tasty is “So ono!” and it probably “Broke da mouth!” It’s even better when eaten with your ohana (close family and friends.)

A really big Thank You is mahalo nui loa.

When you’re done/finished with something, it’s pau.

The good deal you can’t seem to get? Maybe it’s a kama`aina fare (for locals only; usually you must show an Hawaii driver’s license or utility bill.)

Appetizers are pupus and you can eat them on your lanai (porch) with your keiki (children.)

That thing you can’t remember the name of? That thingamabob? It’s da kine. What? Let @ParkRat explain:

For even more linguistic wonders, the Bible of Hawaiian pidgin is the book Pidgin to Da Max.

4)  Sit on the beach in Waikiki at sunset, and have a beverage of choice while you admire Diamond Head.

Or if not on Oahu, sit on any beach in Hawaii with your beverage and enjoy a multi-hued sunset in the massive Pacific sky.

It makes you appreciate the day that’s just ended, and some days, it’s too easy to forget to be appreciative.

Where would I go for this sunset if I were going for the first time? To the same place where I drank a Mai Tai and watched my first Hawaii sunset: near the giant banyan tree at the Moana Surfrider Hotel.

What are your can’t-miss experiences in Hawaii? Please share them down in the comments!

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