1. A good day of snorkeling is an amazing day. You can get a bit spoiled stepping into the water and seeing 100 fish comprising every color of the rainbow within a few minutes. From the elegant angelfish to the fantastically slender needlefish to the colorful parrotfish to the timid zebra moray eel, more than 400 fish can be found in Hawaii’s waters, thanks to the coral reefs. And if you’re ever underwhelmed in one spot, just move and take another look.
2. If you think your houseplants are large, think again. Look around a lush area in Hawaii and you may see plants that seem familiar but are much, much larger than you recall. Philodendrons scale trees, ferns carpet forests, ti plants grow 12 feet tall, palm trees reach for the sky. With this flora-friendly climate, no wonder the islands are home to a thousand native species of flowering plants.
3. You haven’t tasted a pineapple until you’ve tasted one in Hawaii. You could do much worse than visit a farmers’ markets, talk to the vendors, and purchase some locally grown fruit. A “hand” of apple bananas (smaller than their more familiar cousins) and a bag of rambutans (also known as hairy lychees) are delicious beach snacks; avocados of all sizes make fantastic guacamole, and the perfect fruit salad includes nothing less than mangos, papayas and almost unbelievably succulent, sweet pineapple.
4. Just because they’re marine turtles doesn’t mean you won’t see them on land. I was startled the first time I saw green turtles, known locally as honu, basking on the beach like a sunbather without a towel. I’ve since seen them over a dozen times and learned that this behavior, rare among marine turtles, is believed to be done for rest and thermoregulation.
5. Not all of Hawaii’s beaches offer palm trees casting shadows on white sand. Some of them feature black sand, made of basalt and formed by lava flow. The grain may not be as fine as you’re used to but it’s infinitely more photogenic. And Papakolea Beach, at the southernmost point, is also known as the Green Sand Beach. Its sand is made up of crushed olivine, a green semiprecious mineral. It sounds rare, and it is—this is one of just two green sand beaches in the United States.