12 Things to Know Before Going to Oahu

Sunset from Magic Island Lagoon.

There are so many articles of things to know about moving to Hawai’i, or visiting Honolulu, or seeing Oahu. For me some were true, others weren’t, and many are straight up condescending. I’d like to add a few positive words for you in case those other people stressed you out like they did to me! Now, I’d also like to add that I’m no expert. I’ve been living in Hawai’i for under a year. I feel like this gives me a different perspective from other people so I’d still like to share. Now, this is what to expect when you come to Oahu.


Pictures Can’t Capture It’s Beauty

Mountains at the place of the Hawaiian Birthstones. You see how beautiful this looks in the photo imagine it in person!

I’ve taken thousands of pictures while living on Oahu. My old point-and-shoot camera even died as soon as I got here so I upgraded to a HD 16 mega pixel one and my pictures still couldn’t seem to take amazing shots of this place. Since then I have moved up to a DSLR, even then sometimes it makes me wonder. I have a feeling even professional photographers struggle with this. Everyone told me how beautiful Hawai’i was and I was like, “Yeah, I’ve seen pictures. Rolling hills, steep cliffs, blue ocean waters…just like a lot of other places in the world.” I didn’t expect much. I think the movie Moana barely glimpses as how beautiful Oahu is. I don’t think you can get a bad picture of Hawai’i. Honolulu, Oahu, and Hawai’i are all beautiful.


The ‘Okina

You noticed that little apostrophie is the word “Hawai’i” just now, right? That is called an ‘okina and it is part of the Hawaiian language. It’s an official language of Hawai’i. If you forget it–no one cares. Although as a tourist you might get mad props for using it because most people don’t. It shows a pause when speaking, kind of like a comma, only right in the middle of the word.

There is a Word For White People

Kaka’ako Waterfront Park view

It is haole (how-lay). It’s a little controversial. Most of this I’ve noticed online. If anything it’s mostly a descriptive word. For example if you’re describing someone, “local guy” is usually Hawaiian or Samoan. They’re definitely Polynesian or Micronesian. “Haole” is white person–even if they were born and raised here. “Asian” is still Asian, and “black person” is still black person, etc. Haole can be used derogatorily, but most of the time it isn’t, at least in my experience.


It Isn’t as Expensive As You Think

They have Walmart here. Lindor chocolates are the same price as I’ve seen on the mainland. The things that are expensive are land costs and dairy products. I was talking to someone and he said, “If you think this is expensive, you haven’t been to New Zealand.” Doing certain things will cost more than other places, like helicopter tours or scuba diving. If you stay out of Waikiki then Oahu doesn’t have to be that expensive.


Honolulu Does Not Have a Slower Pace of Life

I was so looking forward to being able to slow down a bit. I’ve always been a slower person in life so I thought Honolulu would be the same. Maybe the rest of Hawai’i has a slower pace but Honolulu sure doesn’t! I struggled to keep up. People do honk their horns here and speed on the highway (I was told they don’t for both of those things) however they do stop for pedestrians. You can be hurried through a line, or told to walk faster, and you still have to show up to events on time. Hawai’i time might be in other towns on Oahu and on other islands but it doesn’t seem to exist in Honolulu.

There is a Reason Traffic is So Horrible

Most towns on Oahu are mostly residential. Makaha, Kaneohe, Haleiwa, Wahiawa, Kailua, Wai’anae, and so many other towns are all called “census designated places” which means there aren’t many businesses there. That means along the few highways that are on the island are full of people trying to get to work in Honolulu. The city is also where all the shopping is, and where most services (car repair, hair salons, etc.) are done. Now imagine thousands of people trying to get to work on time in one place. Thankfully there is a rail system going up (slowly but surely) that will hopefully cut that down a little.

Waikiki is Super Crowded

Okay, so go to Waikiki. Tell people that you went there. Take some pictures. See Diamond Head from the beach. Good luck finding sand space because seriously, it is hard to find. Walk the shops along Kalakaua Avenue once and then leave that area. There is cheaper stores in Downtown and better beaches in other areas of Honolulu let alone Oahu. The beach parks of Oahu are highly underrated. If it has “beach park” in the ending there will be few people there, and even if there are a lot of people, the beaches are larger so there is plenty of sand space to share.


Older People Are Aunty and Uncle

If they’re 10+ years older than you they are your “aunty” or “uncle.” Uncle is a bit less common. Even though I’m 19, to children 5 and under I’m called aunty. It’s a good thing, meaning you’re respected by that person. Everyone elseĀ is “sister” and “brother.” It threw me off the first time but no matter what race you are, everyone is considered family.


There are Pay Phones Everywhere

Why Hawai’i? We’ve all had cell phones for over a decade now (some even two decades) so why do we have pay phones at a bunch of bus stops and tourist areas? I guess if your phone dies this just means you won’t have to awkwardly ask someone for a charger real quick or to use their phone if you need to call a cab.

The Weather Is Cooler Than You Expect

You know those times where it’s so hot and so humid you can see the humidity in the air and you have a hard time breathing? Those days are rare in Hawai’i because of trade winds. O’ahu and Honolulu are no exception. This keeps the humidity from staying in the air and it’s cooler. Yet it’s almost never too cold for a day at the beach. The wind almost always feels good, and when it doesn’t it’s because it’s raining and it’ll go away soon.

There Are Waterfalls in the Middle of Some Streets

Buzzfeed has this article about having to explain directions to someone in Hawai’i about taking turns at the next waterfall, etc. I didn’t really believe it before I came to Oahu. Waikiki has several springs randomly along the roadway and there are places around the island where you’ll see a random waterfall surrounded by rocks. Beautiful and unexpected.

People Don’t Stop for The Sunset

Seen from Fort Derussy Beach Park, Honolulu, Hawai’i

I was told once that in Hawai’i when the sun sets time seems to stop. Not in Honolulu, not in Laie, not in Haleiwa, and not anywhere else I’ve been on O’ahu. Maybe this happens on other islands. I can tell you it’s mostly a tourist thing to stop and stare at the sunset. Even then it only happens to people who are on the beach, everyone else keeps moving on with life. The people that live here are working, riding the bus, eating dinner with their family, or doing other things rather than looking at all of the beautiful sunsets Hawai’i has to offer.

What were some things someone told you about Oahu or Hawaii that didn’t turn out to be true?


About Leanne

Leanne got the inspiration to travel the world at 12-years-old when her family moved from Washington State to Florida. Although she still had to attend 7th grade she used her time to gain inspiration from travel bloggers. Now, 7 years later, here she is! Today she's living in Honolulu, Hawaii and preparing herself both physically and mentally to travel the world. Come join her here on Countries To Go!

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