Let me start with a disclaimer – please don’t take anything I have to say in this posting in a negative light. This is simply my humble opinion, which I offer being in the unique position of being born and raised in Hilo, having traveled the islands extensively when I was younger (Mom was born and raised in Honolulu, so family on three islands) and being prior military I have also experienced all but 7 of the 50 states. I lived on the BI for about 20 years and still have family and friends there.
I found Trip Advisor by accident, when going to Las Vegas and looking for a good hotel. Found one, it was a good experience and started contributing off and on. For my recent trip home I started lurking again and then posting. Now it is a daily thing for me. In many of the posts I see the mentioning of the Big Island Revealed book, by Andrew Doughty, published by Wizard publications. This is also referred to as the “Blue Book.” Curiously, it was always someone from the mainland recommending this book. So I bought one and on the flight to the BI read the book, cover to cover. Here is one person’s opinion of this guidebook.
My first impression of the book was quite surprising. The author has an ability to be condescending through much of the book, and his lack of respect for the land and people of Hawaii was almost shocking. His book started off with an incomplete and some times inaccurate history of Hawaii, but left me feeling like much of what made ancient Hawaii what it was wasn’t included, or presented in such a way that the order of events did not fit. No one who went to school in Hawaii and learned about Hawaii from elders AND books would have ever written this section.
For a better glimpse of history try: http://www.hawaii.gov/about/history.htm
I did like the bit about kolea (golden plover).
Throughout the book there are little inset Hawaiian stories, most of which I had previously heard, but the selection did not necessarily give an accurate representation of Hawaiian culture.
The author does a decent job of answering basic questions in the basic section. But here I started getting and uneasy feeling with some of the recommendations. He “Strongly” recommends a 4WD vehicle. Here I have to disagree – there ARE things on the BI that one needs a 4WD for but I almost never recommend one for the entire trip, gas prices being what they are. For a one week vacation on the BI with normal driving, one should budget about $150.00 – 200.00 for gas. Most do not, and with a SUV it could be as much as $220.00 – 500.00 for the amount of driving the book recommends. Also the recommendation to risk driving your rental SUV where it is prohibited by rental contract is absurd. I would never recommend anyone ever violate their contract knowingly. Their caveat is the fact that your insurance company at home would cover it. While this MIGHT be true, most travelers don’t check if replacement tires due to lava damage is covered before they leave. They also recommend room and car packages. In my personal experience, this has never been a good deal. Air and Room yes, car I almost exclusively use Hotwire and Priceline. I just got a mid size from Alamo for $14/day, when the same vehicle and company combined with any room the cheapest I could find was $28.00. YMMV.
At about this point I started getting worried. I thought this book was going to be a good guide judging by others posts. Doughty’s continued use of “ours” and “we have” gets annoying very quickly and I wonder if he is trying too hard to appear local now?
The section on pidgin English was not only inaccurate, but somewhat offensive. Funny too, though. One thing consistent is the author’s attempt at humor, most of which is not funny but makes the book an easier read.
The basics also introduce the fundamental problem with this book, and my guess the series and why so many locals abhor this book. The sense of entitlement that pervades this book concerns me. Ironically in the “personal responsibility” section he notes that they have removed items from previous editions due to liability and touts it is due to their “exposed heretofore unknown attractions.” I wonder if this is due to his willingness to encourage others to ignore private property and kapu signs? The single biggest problem I have with this book is the continuous encouragement to violate private land owner’s property in the name of right of way. In the same way cities have evicted elderly landowners in the name of imminent domain, Doughty suggest merely crossing someone’s land is justified since all shoreline is public access. In Hawaii this is the epitome of rudeness and can get one hurt. My family owns two lots in Kapoho and we used to have a shack (you know, roof iron and 2x4’s) that we could “camp” in. We had our own pond with fish. We could walk down to the tidepools and torch at night, but we ALWAYS respected others property, and learned where the access is. There is NONE of that in this book, just a lot of “all beachfront in Hawaii is PUBLIC” and you can ignore the sign, the fence, the gate etc. Here is my note regarding personal responsibility: if it is someone’s house or property and they have taken the time and effort to put up signs or a fence – don’t climb the fence or ignore the signs. There are a number of armed locals who will not look kindly on trespassers – I know I would not.
Yet the book has value and I think can be of some use to a visitor. But the number of people that buy into the author’s self promotion is scary. Please remember, if he tells you this is one to two years of research I submit my dad has lived on the island, an explorer by nature (holo-holo for those that understand) and used to drag us kids along and in 74 years he has not seen it all. If this guidebook is your ONLY guidebook, you can have an excellent vacation, but hey it’s Hawaii. You would have a good time with only the Hawaiian Tel phone book as your guide! Will you have seen all there is to see? No. If you visit everything in this book will you have experienced Hawaii? No. Whatever you do, do NOT take this book as gospel on Hawaii. From someone who grew up there I find it interesting that someone who is clearly NOT from Hawaii is attempting to guide others who are also not from Hawaii. While the green sands are amazing, is it worth the time lost out of our vacation to see it? The beaches at the end of the road to the sea ARE known by locals (I sure did) but we don’t go b/c there are better beaches that are less remote. And the author absolutely does NOT eat local. In fact, I am not sure he has eaten at many of the places around. I can assure you, he has no clue where to find good local food in Hilo.
Other critiques I have: two of the diversions along the Hamakua coast are a waste of time for the average visitor. OK, wait maybe not, since to me anything along the Hamakua coast is beautiful. Umauma falls are very nice, but the admission they charge as gone up from $8.50 to $11.00/person, per the lady at the cash register: “due to the increase of visitors recommended by the Revealed book.” It was not worth $22.00 IMHO.
Some of the advice like staying away from Kolekole on weekends is good. How can anyone who has lived on the BI NOT recommend or even MENTION Tex’s Drive Inn? Definitely NOT a local. Also not local: even thinking about driving a rented SUV INTO Waipio valley. <sigh> Please, please do NOT try to drive your rented SUV, Jeep or anything else down into the valley. Take a tour.
Generally I found the beaches section the most helpful, and they do list almost every beach on the island. This is the section I would encourage those considering visiting Hawaii to read. Pay attention and don’t drive over lava (even in a 4WD) and don’t cross private property to get to a public beach. Use the access points.
The Activities section of the book doesn’t provide anything one is not able to get from the 101 things to do on the Big Island, Hawaii Gold etc you are practically forced to take at the Kona airport. Better advice can be found on this board for sure.
Don’t even read the dining section. Seriously. Read one of many traveler review boards like TA. Ask TT or KamaainaK.
Seriously lacking also was any good advice regarding hotels/condos and the like. Do your own research and homework on that.
Keep in mind this book is outdated quickly and clearly the author does not live on the Island (I hear he lives in Lihue mostly) and their principle goal with this book is to SELL books. Like all other guidebooks, they are publishing the book to make money. I was surprised how many people on my plane disagreed with me about that when they saw me reading this book. Wizard Publications is in business to sell books and make money, not ensure you have the best, safest trip to paradise possible.
Sorry this is so long. I will post on Amazon etc a much shorter version. In one paragraph:
While occasionally helpful, this books’ pervasive sense of entitlement to the natural beauty and wonder of Hawaii overshadows its usefulness. This can be dangerous advice and lead to tensions between visitors and locals. Please kokua and ignore anything in this book suggesting you ignore private property signs or fences. Take all lodging and dining suggestions and opinions with skepticism and do your own independent research. Read through the beaches and adventures for ideas of what would make your vacation wonderful then get independent verification. This book also makes some hikes seem shorter and easier than they really are, and doesn’t tell you how much time you will lose on a “diversion alert.” Lastly – the ranking system is completely subjective. What is a “real gem” and “not to be missed” is entirely dependent upon each individual. Know what you want do see and do, then do it. Don’t let a book tell you what to do. Good luck and happy travels!