Top Tourist Scams in Honolulu and How to Avoid Them


Ah, Hawaii, definitely one of the most beautiful destinations you can visit. It is also full of exciting things to do. 

Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and therefore, it is a center for nightlife, shopping and dining. It is known for its beautiful beaches and scenic views. But beware, there are plenty of scammers that lurk near popular attractions waiting to prey on naïve tourists. 

If you are visiting to the city for the first time, you may be susceptible to falling into a scammer’s trap. But knowing what to look out for can help you stay protected. 

This article will review common Honolulu tourist scams so you can make sure a local shyster doesn’t ruin your vacation.

Time Shares

When visiting Honolulu, you may get approached by a real estate agent trying to sell you timeshares. After all, Hawaii is a great place to buy a vacation home. But beware unless you are truly interested in taking the plunge. 

An agent may lure you into a time share meeting by telling you that you will get discounts on attractions and free meals just by attending. But you must be prepared to pay the price. 

While most agents will make good on their offers of discounts and freebies, they will also be very pushy about getting you to buy a time share. And because they are giving you free goods, you will feel pressured to agree. 

Furthermore, time shares are not the best investment for everyone. Therefore, its advisable to avoid these meetings at all costs, unless you’re prepared to make a deal. 

Pick a Pearl

Honolulu is full of pearl factories and many of them offer guided tours. After the tour, they will let you pick a pearl from an oyster, usually for a low price. However, what they won’t tell you is that the pearl is virtually worthless unless you have a setting, and the setting will increase the price considerably.

This can be especially heartbreaking for children who have their heart set on getting a pearl but find they are no longer able to get one due to the expensive setting price. 

To keep this from happening, go into the tour knowing your price range. Once the sales rep sees you know what you are talking about, it’s likely that they will make a reasonable deal. 

Parrot Guys

When walking in popular tourist areas, you will probably see a lot of people sitting with parrots on their shoulders. If you show interest in the parrot, they may let you take a picture with the parrot on your shoulder, but then they will charge you for their service. 

It is best not to show interest in these parrot people unless you are willing to pay the price. 


As a tropical paradise, you can expect Honolulu to have plenty of coconuts. However, street vendors may try to take advantage of you by selling you one for an inflated price. If you are thinking of buying a coconut in Honolulu, be aware of what you should be paying in advance

The Dole Plantation

The Dole Plantation promises Hawaii’s complete pineapple experience. People can visit to take a plantation garden tour, get lost in the plantation garden maze, take a pineapple express train tour and eat at the Plantation Grille.

While the Dole Plantation isn’t exactly a scam, many tourists stay away because of the inflated prices. However, others say it is well worth the money. 

Pub Crawl

When in a tourist area, you may get approached by someone trying to sell you a pub crawl package. The person who sells you the package may be charging you more than the package actually costs, but whether you overpay or not, the general consensus is, these packages aren’t worth any amount of money.

The packages are supposed to include free admission to five bars. However, when you get to the bar, you will realize they are mostly dive bars that weren’t charging a cover charge anyway. 

The package includes free drinks (one at each destination) most of which are watered down, and a meal that is not appetizing at all. What’s more, the bars are usually empty and the people helping you are typically rude. 

You are better off making your own way through Honolulu’s night club scene. 

Fake Gold Scam

Another popular Honolulu scam is the fake gold scam. 

People will come up to you with what they tell you is thousands of dollars in fake gold and they will offer to sell it to you at a portion of the original price. Many of them also have some sort of sob story to guilt you into making a purchase. 

However, no matter how good this jewelry looks (and it often looks very good) it will not be authentic. If someone approaches you on the street trying to sell you gold, you are best off not wasting your time. 


While Honolulu is generally pretty safe, if you don’t take the proper precautions, you will leave yourself vulnerable to pickpockets and thieves. Stay smart by not leaving your belongings on the beach when you go out for a swim. It is also not advisable to leave belongings in your car when you’re out having fun around the island. 

Travel Agency Scams

Honolulu tourist scams can also occur before you even set foot on the island. 

Many tourists have booked vacations through travel agencies only to learn that arrangements have never been made. Often tourists realize they are being scammed just days before trips are going to take place. They end up losing thousands of dollars and find out their plans have been ruined. 

This can even occur to couples who are about to get married and to families who think they are about to go on exciting vacation. 

Many of these companies eventually get caught and are reported to the police but they still pop up all over the place.

When booking your Hawaii vacation, make sure you are working with a reputable company and confirm any arrangements that have been made if possible.

Final Thoughts

Honolulu is a terrific place to visit but scammers can ruin your entire vacation. If you know what to look out for, you will keep yourself and your family protected. Here’s hoping this information will help you and your family have a great trip.

 Here are some sources I used for researching these scams:

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