Hawaii Summer Travel Starts: Dizzying Influx, Towering Frustrations

The long-anticipated Hawaii summer tourism crunch officially gets underway today with more traffic, sold-out activities, longer lines at restaurants and crowding at beaches as Hawaii tensely prepares to welcome over 10 million annual visitors, or nearly 8x our population this year. As you’ll see in the chart from the state below, domestic arrivals are tracking well ahead of all previous years. Domestical arrivals disproportionately impact neighbor islands which see fewer international visitors than Oahu.

Residents and visitors alike are going to be on edge until the slow season starts in the middle of August. Both groups are bracing for an onslaught of arrivals and whatever they may need to endure. We’d like to think we are all in this together, and want to have the best possible situation for all of us.

And we’re still getting asked, “Does Hawaii hate visitors?”

The simple and obvious answer is no as we prepare to welcome an unprecedented number of guests over summer, while coping with, in many ways, woefully inadequate resources. We join you in not liking to see either visitors or residents lumped in with even a small bunch of bad eggs. And yet, it’s busy, probably too busy given our limited abilities, and there’s truth to overly demanding and expectant travelers damaging the Hawaii travel experience, especially at the peak of summer.

Speaking of how Hawaii residents feel about tourism, the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) last year released of a Resident Sentiment Survey. “It found that while many are concerned with the visitor industry’s growth, the majority of Hawaii residents believe that tourism is worth the issues associated with the industry.”

A commentor said, “On many forums there seems to be an underlying resentment and hatred toward visitors, no matter how respectful we are. It really feels like many feel like they have the right to price gouge us at every turn (getting their 5 pounds of flesh) for visiting. It also seems like some want to treat us like visitors to “Disney” as this narrative keeps getting thrown around. Is this how Hawaiians truly feel or is this some “bad actors” trying to scare off visitors?”

For us and for you, let’s take a break during this ultimate summer of Hawaii revenge travel.

No doubt about it, we’re already seeing it even before the summer crunch officially gets underway today. For the next couple of months, we are going to experience more traffic, crowding and frustration as Hawaii prepares to welcome over 10 million annual visitors, or nearly 8x our population this year.

One reader had a solution for Kauai traffic, “A road connecting the north and south over the powerline trail will never happen, but how about a bike trail? How about a tram? … get tourists from Po’ipu to Ha’ena without traversing the perimeter.” What do you think?

Where we see frustrations with overtourism in Hawaii.

  • Traffic congestion. It takes awhile to traverse from one side of an island to the other with the number of cars. You’ll notice this on all the islands, but for us, it is most noticeable in Honolulu traffic, Maui traffic, and Kauai traffic. Have you tried driving from Kahului Airport to Kaanapali lately? Oh my. Even during off-peak hours there can be traffic jams. During the summer you’re going to need to allow even more time to reach your destinations unharried.
  • Worker shortages remain that exacerbate overtourism issues. Definitely a Catch-22. We have enough visitors to fill restaurants and activities, but not enough staff to serve them. That can result in long wait times with sometimes reduced hours, or seeing the “sold out” sign more. With hospitality industry worker shortages continuing, plus congested roads and 90-minute restaurant waiting times not infrequent when you can even get in, both locals and visitors easily get frustrated.
  • Disrespect for Hawaii. Whether it is trespassing or touching monk seals. These stand out and they’re troubling.
  • Lack of understanding of Hawaii issues. Return visitors know that Hawaii works differently than the mainland does. What words on the mainland may not here. Part of coming to Hawaii is being respectful of local culture and ways.
  • Since Hawaii travel restarted, we have noticed a distinct big difference in the attitude of some visitors. While it is a minority, there seem to be more inconsiderate visitors, something that used to be much more rare.

Hawaii’s ease of access has turned out to be its nemesis.

No question, Hawaii is easy to get to. And that’s part of the problem, and the allure. Today there’s good news on international travel with the elimination of Covid testing requirements for those of us who travel internationally. Nonetheless, 2022 is the summer of Hawaii travel, and domestic travel in general, more so than that of international travel. Next year could look entirely different.

The official arrival numbers from HTA will be slow-coming, but when they do, we’ll reflect that this was the summer of all summers here in Hawaii.

How you can help during your Hawaii vacation.

  • We keep saying this, but sometimes it falls on deaf ears. Whenever possible, delay your summer Hawaii vacation until late summer (mid-August) or after. Choose to come when overtourism and all its issues aren’t as much of an issue.
  • Let’s all treat each other gently, even if it’s easier to say than to do. When you visit us here, we want to share our Aloha with you. We seek your help in respecting Hawaii and its residents, and in protecting it for all of us today and for future generations.

Hawaii remains one of the most in-demand and iconic vacation destinations worldwide.

From the state, our domestic arrivals are on track to exceed all previous records.

Hawaii domestic visitor arrivals 2022

Please share your thoughts on the situation this summer in Hawaii.

64 thoughts on “Hawaii Summer Travel Starts: Dizzying Influx, Towering Frustrations”

  1. “It also seems like some want to treat us like visitors to “Disney” as this narrative keeps getting thrown around. Is this how Hawaiians truly feel or is this some “bad actors” trying to scare off visitors?'”

    I think that quoted commenter has it backwards. It feels more to me like some people come here expecting Disneyland and then are disappointed. I also don’t know how the idea people living in Hawaii treat travelers like visitors to Disney is supposed to scare off visitors. I think this just highlights misconceptions that have been growing on both sides.

    I like your advice: treat each other gently, take a deep breath, and start from a place of aloha.

  2. We are in Molokia this week. We have been treated very kindly. Some have just ignored us, which is fine, I am sure they have busy lives. I saw a help wanted sign offering $11.00 an hour, no one can live on that. 20 percent for waiters should be mandatory. I was a teacher (low pay), but if you can come to Hawaii you can pay the 20% at the very least.

  3. Absolutely, love Hawaii and the locals. Went to Maui last November for the Holidays. Everyone is so kind and all you have to do is smile back & tip them $$$$. That’s why it has always worked. The plus is we get to enjoy their islands!

  4. Hi,my son lives in Ocean Point. I have been there eight times over the ten years he has lived there. Hawawii is just another state of the union. If I am there for a month I feel no different from Miami beach. Your state is a great place but you don’t own it. Any American can move in.

    1. Typical haole disrepect for Hawaiian people With this attitude why don’t you just stay on the mainland

  5. Since I can’t say no profanity Rudeness or personal attacks or bullying all I can say is merry Christmas Hawaii

    1. Pat G, Yes, mandates for sustainability should be imposed on all. Visitor tax and hospitality tax funds should be used to incentivise the mandates for locals. The Hawaiian people need help to fund EV’s,solar and energy storage. The billions made by hotels and the wealthy who visit can fund this. Then everyone wins and tourists will be an in a different light as well… as contributors to Hawaiian well being.:-)

      1. And locals pay nothing for this? That doesn’t seem quite fair. We would benefit greatly from the investment you propose, and additionally, we would benefit all year round. Visitors are only here for a few days.

        Everyone is so quick to feel some sort of entitlement, and is so quick to vilify others. We and the visitor industry can work on this and contribute together.

        1. Agreed…. Both should contribute to this, corporations could allocate revenue from tourists as a start toward sustainability and make other small changes.

          Recycling would be a great place to start, one thing that I have been seeing more on the mainland is the availability of aluminum cups that replace plastic cups (think aluminum Solo cup). These are starting to be used at sports events too and are infinitely recyclable, I hope more resorts and bars start to use these as a way to further reduce waste.

  6. Hahahaha this thread is killing me with all the naive solutions to problems that the powers to be don’t want to resolve.

    Your politicians spoon feed you the crap you want to hear while taking PAC money from their Big Corp stakeholders who are cashing in on the summer travel crush.

    Oh wait is this Lake Tahoe, Yosemite oh we’re talking about Hawaii. Boo hoo.

    This isn’t the new reality it’s Hawaii’s reality.

  7. Another cause of the perception that locals have been anti tourism…when Hawaii opened up for travel there was an explosion of pent up demand that caught many off guard. Obviously some resented the influx when Covid was still very much on many residents mind. We went from uncrowded roads and beaches to a mass of tourists who themselves were still copping with what we all went through. Some handled it better than others on both sides. Reality is Hawaii is still recovering, but the essence of Aloha is still here and locals don’t hate tourists, some just don’t suffer fools very well. Give it time.

    1. I do have a perspective I’ve used that’s served me well. Everyone I encounter I give them the benefit of the doubt. This has been a tough couple years on everyone, some more than others. For instance, my kids are grown but I really feel for parents of school age kids and what they have faced…home schooling/masks/are my kids safe, etc. can’t imagine dealing with that while handling your own possible job uncertainties. Others have faced unspeakable tragedy. Been a lot of hardship out there folks, a little kindness can work wonders.

      1. Great comment by JohnW. It’s been a tough couple of years. I have a grandson who missed his kindergarten year because of Covid. His 1st-grade year has been a borderline disaster. Another grandson is just getting over his “separation anxiety”. Time to show a little grace to everybody. We’ll all be better off.


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