Johnny's Guide to Hawaii!

The first time I went to Hawaii was when I was just five years old and the only thing I remember was getting a flower lei around my neck as soon as we landed. I originally wanted to use a photo of me as a kid for the cover photo but when I asked my mom she said that they didn't have a camera back then. It wasn't that they weren't invented yet, we just couldn't afford one. The only reason we got to go on this trip was because my dad had been the star employee where he worked for ten years running. They paid for the flight and hotel but everything else was up to us.

When asking my dad about it, his eyes would light up on how proud he was for working hard enough to have earned a free trip for the entire family to Hawaii. But then his pride would drop a bit when he mentioned that we were so poor back then that the only place we were able to eat was McDonald's. Coming to Hawaii this trip around has meant a lot to me as it symbolizes achieving similar goals as my dad, but this time also having the financial freedom to be able to eat wherever I wanted to. Hawaii really is as beautiful and amazing as people say it is, it's also just as expensive. Here's everything I did, saw, and recomend you do as well.

Which island to Visit

The most popular island is Oahu which is where the main airport of Honolulu is and where Waikiki beach is located. The second most popular island is Maui but for this trip we chose to spend time on the big island which is a bit confusing as it's just named Hawaii. Then on the island you actually have two very separate sides, the first being Hilo which is home to the volcano, waterfalls and rainforest. And on the other side you have Kona which is where we stayed as it has better weather and snorkeling.

The main reason why the retreat was on Kona and not one of the more popular islands such as Maui or Honolulu is because we wanted the place to ourselves and not get mixed in with thousands of other tourists. The point of the Dropship Lifestyle Retreat was so members of Anton's course could hang out and meet each other in person, and being in a less touristic island, allowed us to have most of the resort to ourselves, making it super easy to just randomly bump into each other to grab a coffee, pool session or meal. Here's a video of what it was like staying at the resort and a glimpse of the 2016 Dropship Lifestyle Retreat here in Hawaii and all of the activities we did as a group and what I ended up doing on my own including the scuba diving trips!

Where to Stay on Kona

I was actually really surprised how few large resorts there were on Kona. Most are actually pretty small asides from the Courtyard Marriott which is where stayed. It's a bit confusing as the actual name for the hotel is Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel but the good news is everyone on the island knows it as simply "King Kam" so it's pretty easy to get to and from there. 

The reason why this resort was chosen aside from being big enough to host 100 of us was the fact that they are are in the best location on Kona, just a 10 minute drive from the airport, and walking distance to tons of restaurants and shops. They also have an awesome beach attached to the resort with paddle boats, kayaks and a closed off area to swim. Wherever you end up staying, as long as it's within a 10-20 minute walk south of the Courtyard King Kam you'll be fine. I normally book my hotels through Agoda whenever I travel.

There are airports on both sides and is around a 3 hour drive from one to the other. I flew directly into Kona from LAX on United on the way there and American Airlines on the way back. Both airlines are terrible compared to the levels of comfort and service you get in Asia or even Europe for the same price so expect to be cramped and uncomfortable for 5+ hours unless you pay for business class, which normally I don't do on short flights, but would definitely upgrade to going to Hawaii on my next trip. A money saving trick is to pay an extra $67 and get the exit row if you do end up flying coach as even though the seats are super narrow, you actually get a ton of legroom which will allow you to stretch out and also get up and walk around which is worth every penny. 

Stay at any of these resorts for a great location on Kona, Hawaii

Things to do on Kona

The first thing you'll want to do is make sure you rent a car as it's impossible to get around the island without one. 90% of rental cars seem to be convertible mustangs and I can see why, it's a nice, easy, sunny place to drive around. You'll need the car to get to and from the airport (unless you want to pay $40 each way for a 10 minute drive) and you'll need it to go places like the observatory or volcano. Just double check each location as with some you'll either need to park halfway up or have a 4X4 Jeep to get to the top.

One of the coolest things I did was just driving around looking at the random tropical fruit trees growing on the side of the road and visiting the Kona Coffee store where you got to try tons of different types of coffee. We also went on the body glove boat to do some snorkeling which was pretty cool and super well organized but the snorkeling itself wasn't anything exceptional if you've been to places in Asia.

Also since you're in Hawaii, you kind of have to do a Luau. It's a Hawaiian dinner party that the resorts organize with traditional music, hula dancing and lots of food. Honestly, it's definitely not worth the $100 price tag as even though the food is very good, you can eat it at a restaurant for around a 1/3 of the price. But since you're in Hawaii, and you're most likely going to go anyways, do a search for "discount luaus"and you'll find some deal websites that will save you a bit of money when you book ahead of time.

The body glove catamaran 

Fresh fruit served on board the boat

The beach in front of our resort

Manta Ray Night Dive

This is the fun part. Aside from exploring different beaches and laying around, make sure you get yourself into the water. One of the coolest experiences I've ever had in my entire life is scuba diving with Manta Rays during the night here on Kona. The reason why I call it an experience is the fact that unlike normal scuba diving, you're not actually swimming anywhere. They literally just have you sit in the sand for 40 minutes and experience the Manta Rays as they swim sometimes inches above you. I've dove with Mantas off of Koh Lanta and in the Similan islands in Thailand which were larger as they are oceanic but also super rare and hard to find. The good thing about the ones in Hawaii are the fact that they are there 95% of the nights so your chances are way better if you don't mind it feeling a bit more artificial.

I also did a few normal day dives, and if you've only been diving in lakes, queries or in cold water, you'll love it as everyone I met on the boat from the U.S. was excited and ecstatic. But compared to diving in Asia, the normal day dives in Hawaii were a bit boring. The dives reminded me of diving in Utila (Caribbean Sea) where the visibility was awesome and the water was super blue, but there was little to nothing to see. In Asia in general you have greener water, but tons more fish life. Ironically, you actually get better service in Asia as well, which I didn't expect. I would have thought that the guides in the U.S. being tip based would be pointing out fish left and right like the do in Thailand or Borneo, but here it just felt like I was renting a space on the boat and tagging along, versus actually being guided.

I went with Jack's Diving Locker for the day dive which had the reputation for being the best on the island and went with Big Island Divers for the night dive. Jack's had a nice boat and better location, but Big Island Divers had better service overall. Either are fine to go with though. Just make sure you book the night dive in advance as they sell out. Watch the video below, it's an incredible experience.

Final Thoughts

Spending almost a week on Hawaii this time around, I realize why people like it so much. It's relatively easy to get to from the U.S. and it's a legit tropical island paradise. Unlike the remote islands in the Philippines, Thailand or Borneo, the ones in Hawaii are still part of the U.S. which means, they come with American standards of service, convenience and safety. Be careful though as one of the members got into a scooter accident his first day on the island, so even though they're easy to rent and relatively easy to drive, motorcycles are still super dangerous regardless of where you are in the world.

If it wasn't for the fact that everything on Hawaii is super expensive, it would actually be a fantastic place to live and be a digital nomad. It has great weather, nice beaches, and since it's still part of the U.S. it has decent wifi, access to ordering things online, and even a Costco. However, it's definitely not the place to bootstrap as it's more expensive than even Los Angeles, and around 5X the price of being on an island just as beautiful in Thailand. If you're looking for a tropical island to visit and live on while you work on or build your online business, check out my guide to Koh Lanta.

I hope you enjoy your trip out to the islands regardless of where you choose!

Warm Regards,

Johnny FD

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