A new marketing campaign will feature “the Hawaiian Islands” rather than just “Hawaii” as a way to emphasize the different personalities of the islands. It is important to match up your vacation expectations with what each island has to offer.

When I visited with Hawaii Aloha Travel agent Lin recently, she told me that she begins a conversation with visitors by asking what they want to experience in Hawaii: rest and relaxation, adventure, history and culture, and so on. Then she suggests locations and activities that might be appropriate. “Sometimes people tell me they want to party and have a lot of night life and they want to stay on Kauai,” Lin said. “I have to tell them Kauai is not a party place.” You can certainly find a good meal and some evening entertainment, but might be disappointed if looking for the type of night life that Oahu offers.

I was impressed with Lin’s approach because I have now welcomed five groups of visitors from my family. When they say they are coming to Hawaii, I would ask what they want to do, or what they would be disappointed to miss. Often, that sent them to guide books to compile long lists of attractions – too long, really, to enjoy the trip. At that point, if we reduce the list, they feel like they’re “missing out” on something. Beginning with the type of experience they want avoids the list as a starting point – we can then compile the correct assortment of activities.

I would now add one more caution. A family friend listed many historic and cultural spots, all of which are on Oahu. We crafted an itinerary that included tours and time to relax. However, she thought Honolulu would be a much smaller town, surrounded by rural areas with easy access to empty beaches. I now would also ask what image of Hawaii you have in your mind. If you expect “Hawaii” to mean rural areas, we need to adjust your itinerary or your expectations so that you are not disappointed. Hawaii has some of everything to offer – but not all on the same island.


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