First Time Hawaii Vacation Interview with Mom & Daddy

Mom & Daddy at the Feast at Lele Luau

Many readers may recall that Andy and I played the role of Hawaii tour guide for my parents in April. The four of us vacationed in Maui for a week plus we hopped over to Oahu for a day trip. It was rewarding for me to be able show my parents why I’ve been inspired to write over a thousand blog articles about Hawaii.

I’m always especially interested in hearing the opinions from a first time Hawaii visitor. After the vacation buzz was over, I interviewed my parents to learn their lasting impressions of their visit to Hawaii. I interviewed them separately so that I would be sure to capture their individual thoughts.

For some background information, my parents live in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. They have traveled quite a bit on the Mainland US as well as Europe. So, a trip to Hawaii was a little bit of a departure from their normal travels. Here’s what they had to say about their visit to the Aloha State:

When you reflect back on your trip to Hawaii, what thoughts or images pop into your mind?

Mom: “I picture the flowering trees, especially the African tulip trees. I also recall the blue water, rain forest and waterfalls. Hawaii looks like a stereotypical paradise.”

Daddy:  “I visualize how green and lush parts of the islands are. The clear, blue ocean water is another beautiful memory.”

What was your biggest surprise about Hawaii?

Mom: “I didn’t realize that the islands had mountains with such high elevations. We live in the Blue Ridge Mountains with elevations in the range of around 4000 to 6000 feet above sea level, but Hawaii’s mountains are even taller! “

“When we visited Maui in April, we were still experiencing some winter weather at home, so it was really a pleasant surprise to be in a tropical environment. Living in an area that has very distinct changes of season, it’s hard for me to grasp that the weather in Hawaii is warm and tropical year-round. Even flowers bloom year-round in Hawaii.”

Daddy: “ I was surprised at all the different climates on Maui. Some areas were very dry while others were so green and lush. It’s almost unreal.”

“I was also very surprised at how high the elevation was on Maui and how we could drive from sea level to 10,000 feet above sea level in less than 1.5 hours.”

Which sights or activities did you enjoy the most?

Mom & Daddy on Haleakala at sunrise
Mom & Daddy on Haleakala at sunrise

Daddy: “I got to see and do things I’d always dreamed of doing like visiting the USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor. I had always wanted to go to a luau, so I really enjoyed that too.

Watching the sunrise at the top of a volcanic crater on Haleakala was really incredible. It was beautiful to be at cloud level and seeing the clouds try to spill over into the crater.

Growing up on a farm in Tennessee, I found it fascinating  to see the pineapple and sugar cane fields.

We did so much in a week, it’s hard to remember it all”

Mom: “I really enjoyed whale watching, touring the Garden of Eden, going to a luau and seeing the pineapple and sugar cane fields.”

What new foods did you enjoy trying?

Mom: “All the fresh fruits like papaya and mango were delicious. I thought it was interesting to try poi, though I probably won’t be in a hurry to try it again. 🙂 For sweet treats, I loved shave ice and coco puffs.”

Daddy: “I liked the fresh fish like ono, ahi tuna and mahi mahi. It seemed like just about every dish was served with nice tropical fruits. I didn’t realize that the food in Hawaii had such an Asian influence and I really liked that.”


Andy and I enjoyed seeing Maui and Oahu through my parent’s eyes. It was almost like experiencing Hawaii for the first time again.

What were you’re first impressions and surprises from your first time in Hawaii?

  1. Your parents are so cute….you look like your mom! My Mom was also surprised that Hawaii actually had mountains. It was her first comment when she came for a visit. I think many people picture Hawaii as the cartoons show islands with people shipwrecked…little flat pancakes in the middle of the ocean with a palm tree in the center. Hawaii is a most pleasant surprise for them!

    1. Thanks, Janice. That’s good to know your mom was also surprised by the mountains. Those volcanic mountains provide so much climate diversity, which really sets Hawaii apart from the cartoon drawings you described.

      Since I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I always like to have a mountain to “rest my eyes on”. 🙂

  2. I remember having the same response to the mountains! I grew up right at the base of Lone Peak in the Rocky Mountains and was still in absolute awe when I first drove along the H3 and saw Oahu’s Ko’olau mountain range. Absolutely indescribable!!!

    1. Natalie – that H3 drive is probably one of the most incredible drives on this earth, isn’t it?! I doubt anyone can drive it for the first time without dropping their jaw.

      1. truly! I was 20 and had just gotten here to Oahu to nanny for a family in Kailua. I’d been living on Maui going to school but had been on the Kihei side of the island. I was completely unprepared for how LUSH and VAST those mountains were. It was remarkable!

  3. My very first impression was the air. I cam from Denver and I guess the air is a bit thinner there. As soon as I stepped of the plane I got a big lung full of warm, moist air. It seemed kind of thick & heavy.

    Second impression was driving away from the airport to Waikiki. I remember seeing the big city of Honolulu, freeways, thousands of cars, hundreds of huge buildings, etc and thinking “Oh my gosh! – How the did all this stuff get way the heck here to this tiny island?”

    Third impression was arriving in Waikiki. I was pretty much overwhelmed. It really exceeded my expectations for the natural beauty. Also – It didn’t feel like I was in the United States anymore at all. It really felt like I was in a foreign country.

    1. Dave – I lol’ed on: “I remember seeing the big city of Honolulu, freeways, thousands of cars, hundreds of huge buildings, etc and thinking “Oh my gosh! – How the did all this stuff get way the heck here to this tiny island?” 🙂

      Seeing all the development in Honolulu can be shocking, but what’s so great is it only takes 10 or 15 minutes to get out in nature. The examples of Tantulus Drive and hikes from the Manoa Valley come to mind immediately.

  4. My wife and I visit Maui every year, and everything your parents just mentioned STILL excite us ever time! It’s nice to read about someone’s first visit, and hear that the things we love every visit are the same things everyone loves about Maui.

    1. Trever – Sounds like we are very like-minded on appreciating how special Maui is. Thanks for your first time comment.

  5. I LOVE Maui! I share a lot of the first impressions from this interview -loved the food, the scenery, and everything about getting a tropical vacation! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    1. Hi Erin – I know you are a Maui fanatic, so, it’s hard to believe this is your first comment. Thanks for taking the time to chime in! 🙂

  6. I have been to Hawaii half an year back. I liked my trip and enjoyed a lot. I think spending vacation at
    hawaii is the best thing one can choose for their vacation

  7. I first visited Oahu two years ago. I was skeptical, because I hate the heat. When it gets to 85-90 degrees, I am like a cow and I find the shade, when it gets hotter I am absolutely miserable.

    It was two years ago when I took my first trip to Hawaii, and the only reason I went is because I was the Captain of my debate team, and my trip was paid for. Otherwise, I would have never stepped foot on a stupid, tropical island.

    As I said I was skeptical as I stepped off the plane, I didn’t want to go to somewhere that is hot and sticky. I figured I would have an OK time, but if the trip wasn’t free, I would have chosen taken a vacation somewhere else.

    I was absolutely and 100% wrong in every way possible. When the that wonderful warm tropical air hit me as I stepped off the plane, I had a strange feeling there was something magical and mysteriously wonderful in this place.

    As we drove the rental car to Waikiki my jaw dropped. The ocean was unbelievable. I went from my hotel room to the beach as fast as I could get my feet to move. I went from seated on an airplane to swimming in the warm, tropical ocean in under an hour.

    Hawaii is magical. I have been to Oahu twice, and each time I find something new and wonderful to explore.

    My skepticism has turned to a complete embrace! October 12th I am taking my wife to Oahu for 8 days for our Honeymoon! Before I had first traveled to Hawaii, I never thought that I would go there for my honeymoon.

    I know I have been to the same Island 2x, but it was part of a structured trip, this time I want to explore more of the Island freely, and have fun doing a lot of things that I missed on my first two trips to the Island.

    If you are contemplating a trip to Hawaii, I wholeheartedly encourage you to go for it, you won’t regret it!

  8. I’ve been to Maui, Oahu and the Big Island and all three have taught me:

    Breeze is good for what ails you, and so is a little humidity.

    You only think you’ve seen a waterfall until you’ve visited Hawaii.

    If an onion ring is delicious, a massive Maui Onion ring will be 75% better.

    I’m so thrilled your parents have finally experienced some of the Hawaiian islands — now the three of you can share in a deep sigh about being so far away, and plan to head on back!

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