Looking to buy a home in Hawaii ? Whether you’re relocating to the islands or thinking of buying an investment property , finding the right piece of Hawaii real estate  requires time, effort, and yes, an island visit — or two! Though you can easily narrow down prospective island properties  with a myriad of online tools, virtual house hunting can only take you so far. There’s no substitute for the real thing.
Visiting Hawaii isn’t exactly a hard sell, but if you’re new to the islands; it can still be daunting. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind before you book your trip.
1. You don’t have to splurge on a hotel.
There are two versions of Hawaii: the one you see as a tourist, and the one you see as a resident. Though there is a massive amount of resources and services available to tourists, things work very differently for locals. While you’ll probably have to stay in a hotel, keep it simple. Forget the ocean view or the upgrade to a suite, and don’t rule out discount chains. After all, the point of visiting Hawaii is to spend as little time as possible in your hotel room. And you don’t want to mistake tourist luxury for day-to-day reality. You might even want to consider a Hawaii vacation rental … though be careful: these are tightly regulated, and not all of them are legal operations.
2. Be flexible on transportation.
For the most freedom and flexibility, you’ll probably want to rent a car while in Hawaii. But if your budget is limited, or if you’re not comfortable driving in an unfamiliar place, you have other options. If your interest is Honolulu real estate , the island of Oahu boasts one of the best bus systems in the country. If you find a place to stay near Waikiki or Ala Moana Center, you can catch the bus just about anywhere for $2.50 each way (or $25 for a four-day pass). Otherwise, you can look for shuttle and taxi services (though these often require reservations, as you can’t “hail a cab” on the street). Finally, remember that there are many friendly and knowledgeable Realtors in Hawaii . They would know the best way to get around your future neighborhood, and often schedule caravans or gladly take clients around on their own dime.
3. Play early, work late.
Checking out Hawaii homes  and Hawaii condos  is hard work, but it’s hard to resist taking some time to play tourist. You should! But if you’re looking to see some of the most popular attractions — the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hanauma Bay, or Diamond Head on Oahu, or the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island — don’t waste your time in lines or fighting crowds. Start your day as early as possible to avoid the crunch, and to save more of your day for your property search. Hike Diamond Head at dawn, catch the first tour at Pearl Harbor, and be ready to get back to work by lunch. The afternoon and early evening is often the best time to meet with Realtors or sellers, anyway.
4. Eat different.
Hungry? Sure, Hawaii is a U.S. state, and has most of the brands and chains Americans love. But Hawaii is in many ways a whole other country, and overflows with unique dining options. Try to make it through your stay without visiting a single chain restaurant. Or at least stick to Hawaii-based chains: Zippy’s and L&L Hawaiian Barbecue restaurants are almost everywhere. Mom and pop diners and food trucks are great options as well. Remember that Hawaii has strong ties to the Pacific Rim and Asia, and explore those cuisines. You probably won’t be able to stick to your diet while in the islands, but you could quickly become an expert in sushi, or the local plate lunch.
5. Slow down, and take it easy.
If you’re used to the fast-paced, brisk and efficient pace of business in most American cities, landing in Hawaii can be a jarring experience. Bringing expectations from New York, Chicago or L.A. will only lead to frustration. Things in Hawaii move slowly, run late, and are usually very casual. (“Hawaiian Time” is an oft-used phrase that essentially means nothing starts or runs on time.) Leave your ties at home, don’t panic if you get a hug instead of a handshake, and expect to miss a few appointments. Rather than trying to squeeze in six visits or meetings, plan for three, then play it by ear.
Finally, don’t forget the basics. Wear sunscreen and carry water, as you can still get sunburned or dehydrated during “winter” in Hawaii. Don’t leave valuables in your rental car, and keep important documents safe. And most importantly, enjoy. You’re in Hawaii!