1. You’re greeted with a lei at the airport.
Sure you will be — if someone picking you up buys you one. The days of stepping off an airliner into the warm, tropical air and being greeted with a floral lei are now reserved for retro postcards. There are lei stands outside the terminals at each island’s airport. You just better hope your ride has time, money, and some aloha spirit to share one with you.
2. Untouched nature is everywhere you look.
Except in the big city of Honolulu and other smaller industrial towns throughout the Islands. Sure there are plenty of sandy beaches, lush rain forests, epic hikes, and flowing waterfalls in Hawaii. But, just like most other places in this world, there are ghettos, shopping malls, strip joints, freeways, landfills, and all the other crap we humans create to trash this lovely planet of ours.
3. It’s always sunny.
It takes rain to make rainbows and the Aloha State has plenty of ‘em. While the summer months are traditionally a bit dryer, it’s not uncommon to have passing rain squalls from time to time. These usually spring up just about the time you’re thoroughly cooked from soaking up all that sunshine. But sometimes it can downpour for days on end. Hint: the western coast of each island is generally dryer than other spots, so if rain threatens your vacation, chase the sunshine to the windward side.
4. Waikiki is the place to be.
If you are a Japanese tourist, maybe. There are some crazy, high-end shops and kitschy trinket vendors lining the streets of Waikiki as well as shoulder-to-shoulder monolithic hotels if that’s your thing. But the real charm of Hawaii lies outside Honolulu’s urban sprawl. So rent a car and go explore for yourself. Or better yet, book a ticket to one of the outer islands and experience that real tropical paradise you came here seeking.
5. Everyone here lives to surf.
Paddle out to a popular spot on a pumping day and it sure may feel like it. It also might seem like everyone there is a pro surfer. But, really, what are the odds that all of Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents are avid wave riders? And while the Pacific Ocean does dictate much of the Islands’ activities, there are still tons of grandmas, military families, and white-collar urbanites who aren’t out shredding at Sunset Beach.
6. It doesn’t snow in Hawaii.
The “Big Island” is called that for a reason. In fact, Mauna Kea — Hawaii’s dormant volcano — stands 13,796 feet tall and actually gets rideable snow. In 2015, it happened in July! Who said California was the only state where you could surf and snowboard on the same day?