In March, many of you are heading for Honolulu for Left Coast Crime. Since I grew up there, I wanted to share some “insider” tips…

Speaking of Tips…

Living in Hawaii is expensive. VERY expensive. When tipping, keep in mind that the people serving you are paying $6 for a dozen eggs and $7.50 for a gallon of milk (yes, really).

Say What?

Few people in Hawaii speak Hawaiian, and those who do speak English too. This is counter-intuitive, but tourists trying to speak Hawaiian is generally annoying and disrespectful.

Most people who live in Hawaii do, however, speak Pidgin English. It’s considered a form of Creole, is a legit language (not just an accent), and is actually quite beautiful as languages go (click here for a fantastic sample of Pidgin). Some tourists feel the need to correct or look down their nose at people who speak Pidgin. Don’t.

Oh, and mahalo does not mean garbage can. It means thank you. And shoyu is what you know as soy sauce, only better.

From Here to There

Getting around in Hawaii is as much art as science.

If you are driving (and I don’t recommend doing so; traffic is horrible and parking’s a nightmare), know that people stop at the end of the freeway on ramp. They don’t just merge. They come to a complete stop and wait for an opening. Also, nobody honks. Ever. And the left lane on freeways isn’t the fast lane.

If you take The Bus and want to disembark from the back door, it might not automatically open. If it doesn’t, you need to yell, “door!”

If you do rent a car and park anywhere, take everything out of the car. Don’t leave anything, even in the trunk.

Go Grind

Grind (pronounced “grine”) is Pidgin for eat.

Food in Hawaii can be kind of weird. (Yes, that’s Spam on the menu in McDonalds.) Think of it as an opportunity to try something new. Here are my absolutely-not-a-foodie suggestions…

Being a group of islands in the middle of the ocean means the locavore movement in Hawaii is both strong and delicious; make a point of trying Ono Pops. Foodland Ala Moana stocks them and is close to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. You’ll also find them at Long’s on Kalakaua, the Food Pantry on Kuhio, and the CoCo Cove convenience stores.

If you want to splurge breakfast (you’ll want to make a reservation, though), go to the Hau Tree Lanai. It’s at the other end of Waikiki from the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and both the food and venue are spectacular. You’ll also appreciate the serene break from the conference madness!

If you get out of Waikiki, you’ll find wonderful restaurants like The Pig & The Lady, Grondin, The Nook, and Bevy.

You know how some food becomes legend in your memory? When I lived in Hawaii, Kua Aina was a small hamburger joint in Haleiwa on the North Shore that made the best hamburgers on the planet. Now they’re something of a small chain, including an Ala Moana location. I still recommend venturing out to the original (because Haleiwa is worth a visit) if you have time.

The Dole Plantation is a tourist trap, but a fun one as tourist traps go. And Dole Whip will change your life.

Outside Waikiki

If you venture outside of Waikiki (and I hope you do), my suggestions for some places to visit…

Bishop Museum: Hawaii has a fascinating and complicated history, and this is a great place to learn about it.

Honolulu Museum of Art (which will always be the Academy of Arts to me): This is a magical place, and one of the most beautiful and peaceful museums I’ve ever visited.

Police Department Museum: A different perspective on Hawaiian history.

Hawaii State Capitol:  I have a thing for state capitols, but even if you don’t, this is an interesting building, and another good view into Hawaii’s history.

Manoa Falls and the Lyon Arboretum: If nature is your thing (and even if it’s not), visit Manoa Falls and the Lyon Arboretum. The walk (it’s more of a walk than a hike) to the falls is 1.6 miles round trip. Trust me on this. It’s well worth it, and the #5 bus goes there from Ala Moana Center.

Have fun!