Is this vacation possible in Hawaii?
July 21, 2021 1:24 PM   Subscribe

My spouse and I are interested in visiting Hawaii since we live on the West Coast, but I would be the organizer and I'm getting overwhelmed by all of the different aspects to plan. Most of all I'm unsure whether the type of more laid-back/community-centric experience we like to have is possible or likely to have in Hawaii. More inside!

I think the term that gels with our desired experience is "homestay" but Google SEO/AirBnB/VRBO make it pretty impossible to figure out what is what. This is, in a nutshell, what's most fun for us:

* Arriving at a new place and having a day or so of downtime in a hotel, just sleeping, relaxing and walking around a populated area
* Spending a few days in a quieter "homestay" where we'd ideally have a comfortable but not luxurious room in someone's property who is friendly and will chat with us/share more of the experience of actually living in a place. They might give us a brief driving tour of their local town, and maybe drop us off at a state park/nature area and let us have 5-6 hours to hike around by ourselves. We could take a bus, rideshare and/or walk from their place to some coffee shops where we could overhear locals talking, and also visit historic sites of interest. Basically, the experience of visiting family or friends who live in a fun location, and learning more about the local history and culture of a place, except you're paying them fairly for their time and accommodations.
* Spending the last night back at a hotel before flying out.

I guess the experience I'm looking for is learning about local history and culture from someone who lives there, and getting good recommendations. I volunteer as a local history tour guide in my locale and I know a ton about my local area, and the information I give out is authentic, unlike the double decker buses/more commercial group tours. I'm wondering if this is possible in Hawaii since it's just so touristy and also so expensive for everyday people to live there.

We're not particularly limited on budget although we don't want to spend our life savings (as in, our "house down payment" fund that is sitting unused because of the house buying fever right now).

Thanks in advance!
posted by rogerroger to Travel & Transportation around Hawaii (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm sure others can give you more specific advice about achieving that type of experience in Hawaii. I'd like to point out that for heavily touristed places like Hawaii, visitors and property investors have made housing costs for local people skyrocket. Hawaii has regulations in place to prevent regular housing stock from being converted into short-term vacation rentals, but investors/visitors still try to get around those regulations. So I tell everyone that I know that if you are going to vacation in Hawaii, be sure to stay in a place that is legally permitted as a vacation accommodation (which could be a hotel/hostel/condo/house). It sounds like you're sincerely interested in not contributing to the tourism-commercialization of places, so maybe you should decouple the accommodation and the "tour."

That said, I'm guessing you can find some person who has an "off-the-beaten-track" "real Hawaii" tour to offer you. They exist in every tourist destination and they are usually operated by people like yourself, people who just like talking about local history and culture with visitors.
posted by stowaway at 2:09 PM on July 21, 2021 [12 favorites]

As someone who just moved away from Hawaii, I came here to say what stowaway said.
posted by entropyiswinning at 2:18 PM on July 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

You might want to check out Trusted Housesitters (if you like pets- you get a free place to stay in exchange for taking care of someone's home and pet/s). I've seen some recent listings in Hawaii that looked really nice. You'd need to be flexible in travel dates and it's not guaranteed to work (there are often quite a few applicants for each listing, especially in Hawaii).
posted by pinochiette at 2:46 PM on July 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know how to get the "stay with relatives" vibe, but I do have some suggestions re: community-centric tourism and finding deeper connections. I haven't lived in Honolulu is a few years, but while I was there I did have some contact with the sustainable tourism/local economic development folks.

There was a push to create a network of sustainable, culturally integrated tourism sites across the islands about 10 years ago. One of the members of the original network is the still active Kipahulu Ohana (Hana, Maui) which offers interpretive hikes, including the wetland taro patches. The bookstore Na Mea Hawaii has been a good resource hub as it has deep ties to local cultural practitioners.

In terms of activities, the state tourism bureau has a Malama Hawaii project that lists some possibilities, such as Uluha‘o (Hualālai’ crater). I'm also intrigued by the audio tour options for the Big Island.

As for accommodations, the most ethical route is probably the opposite of what you want. Local 5 UNITE (the hotel workers union in HI) has asked visitors to stay at hotels from the nationwide list of "fair labor"unionized hotels. The Malama Hawaii list also features hotels and resorts, but some of those may have on-going labor disputes.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:05 PM on July 21, 2021 [10 favorites]

Or, actually, finding a place to stay/guesthouse in the more rural parts (like Kipahulu) might also be doable.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:09 PM on July 21, 2021

I wouldn't be planning a trip there right now. Been seeing a lot of articles like this:

‘Water fiasco’ on Maui leaves residents feeling mistreated, unfairly targeted
posted by tiny frying pan at 4:18 PM on July 21, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Check your memail.
posted by A Blue Moon at 7:58 PM on July 21, 2021

Best answer: Years ago I stayed at the Dragonfly Ranch. It was definitely "real" and definitely had a community feel. Our friends went there on our recommendation, and they have stories. Not sure what it's like now with Covid. You could call and ask?

Caveat, you have to be ok with aging hippies.
posted by Toddles at 9:06 PM on July 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

Might look at Molokai for possibilities; it's a very rural, non-touristy island.
posted by Bron at 9:17 AM on July 22, 2021

Response by poster: Thank you all! In reading recent press reports it seems like tourism to Hawaii has increased a ton compared to pre-pandemic levels and visiting right now seems like it would be contributing to that overload. So I'll keep researching and plan on a visit later on!
posted by rogerroger at 3:34 PM on July 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

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