A trip to Hawaii can be optimized in both time and money with some planning before your trip. This means that chances are you'll need to buy a book and/or map to complement all the free literature out there to aid in your trip planning and navigation throughout the state.
Below are books and maps that we've used. We've also included other books in the literature that may help you find what you need. The list is by no means complete, but hopefully it is enough to get you going on your quest to inform yourself on your travels.
Maui Revealed; The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook; Hawaii The Big Island Revealed; Oahu Revealed (Wizard Publications):
This series has become a runaway favorite amongst readers looking to independently travel to Hawaii. We've even become fans of these books ever since our first trip to Maui and countless trips thereafter to the rest of the islands.
Their slick full-color guidebooks have great maps, lots of photos, humor, attitude, and brutally honest reviews. In short, they tell would-be travelers what they want to hear (including things that other guidebooks tend to shy away from regarding strong opinions or conjectures), but this is also where their guides can be problematic. Over the course of many trips to Hawaii, we've learned that they tend to encourage trespassing, many of their "Ono" ratings are not exactly spot on (though you can bet those restaurants that get that rating will jack up their prices - good food or not), and there's a tendency to advocate the type of tourism that is not sustainable (neither environmentally nor culturally). This has resulted in the closure of many natural attractions (for various reasons from irate landowners, frivolous slip-and-fall lawsuits, outright destruction and/or desecration, etc.). Still, all in all, we like these guides and still prefer it over other general guides about the islands, but we do worry for the things that make Hawaii paradise (especially its nature and the spirit of Aloha).
A Concise History of the Hawaiian Islands (Petroglyph Press):
This is an excellent condensed tome of the history of the Hawaiian Islands chronicling human habitation from the Menehune all the way to today's modern times. I found it to be extremely informative and easily digestable, and it motivated me to want to learn more about the Hawaiian Islands in depth. I'm sure if you take the time to read this short book (especially after experiencing Hawaii firsthand), you too may want to learn more and more importantly, have a better understanding of what's going on in the islands today.
Islands in a Far Sea (University of Hawaii Press):
This powerful book detailing the past, present, and future of nature in the Hawaiian Islands is an eye-opening look at this often-overlooked topic. Its thoroughness leaves no stone unturned when the book meticulously builds its case of the state of every aspect of the Hawaiian ecosystem and the human intervention within. It's not an easy book to absorb as it's thick with case studies, arguments, evidence, and content; and not everyone has the education nor attention span to absorb such information. Nonetheless, this book is a must-read for those who care about the real
Hawaii, and it may even move you to take action to preserve what's left of "paradise."
The Hikers Guide to O'ahu (University of Hawaii Press):
This no-nonsense guidebook takes you to the many hiking trails within the island of O'ahu. The guide is very accurate and even goes into detail about history and nature pertaining to the hikes that Ball talks about. I've found that looking through the trail descriptions and notes after having completed these hikes help "fill in the blanks" of my memories when reliving these moments. While many of the hikes listed within are quite difficult, it's still no doubt the authoritative hiking guide of this island.
Hawaii (Lonely Planet):
We haven't really used this book in the field. However, we did use it for trip planning or to verify some of the information and/or claims made in the Revealed guidebooks (as some of their information is not accurate). But in their typical Lonely Planet style, the organization, information, and maps is sufficient for most people interested in visiting Hawaii.
Maui (Moon Handbooks):
We haven't really used this book in the field as the Maui Revealed book proved to be more useful to us. However, we did consult this book for Moloka'i as the Revealed book's coverage of that island is not good. Like the Lonely Planet book, this tome provides information in a no-nonsense manner and is good for supplemental information or to verify/refute claims in the Revealed guidebook.
Maui Mile By Mile (Hawaiian Style):
While we used this book for the Hana Highway because its organization made the info contained here more digestable, we personally weren't all that impressed with this black-and-white guidebook. It essentially had the same information that the Maui Revealed guidebook with a few exceptions (they did offer ratings). But overall, something just seemed subpar about this book in terms of quality (including the photos, maps, and even the info provided). Still, we do commend the authors for trying to get the readers to emphathize with angry landowners over the trespassing issue that the Revealed guidebooks perpetuate, but it essentially served us as a supplemental reference.
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Topo! Hawaii (National Geographic):
The National Geographic Topo! series are no-nonsense raster-based topographic maps at an incredible 1:24k scale (i.e. you can see walking trails, campsites, bathrooms, and other specific buildings) for the entire state. I actually had to buy this map twice because the original version of the map was poorly produced and there was no way to upgrade to the more reliable version being sold today. Anyways, we used the later version of this map with our trusty old Garmin etrex hooked through a USB converter that let us hook up to the laptop and navigate on the fly.
Unfortunately, the map info is really all the Topo! series has going for it as their interface sucks. You actually need to purchase supplemental patches to get added functionality including the ever-so-important live GPS navigation. In all honesty, I think Topo! maps are excellent for hiking and backpacking, but they're terrible for road navigation or even trip logging. As for the Hawaii product, it pretty much got us where we needed to go for the most part and it at least made a powerful complement to the Revealed guides.
Map of Moloka'i The Friendly Isle, Lana'i The Private Isle (University of Hawaii Press): This fold-out map was really the only detailed source outside of the Topo! map that provided reasonable details about Moloka'i. It has atlas-like notations and detail and makes an excellent supplement (or primary map if you lack a portable computer with ability to hook up to GPS) to Topo!. We actually bought this map while on the island of Moloka'i and we haven't regretted it.
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