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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Hawaii: Rainbow of Birds

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Hawaii. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

ENTERING THE UNITED STATES: Non-US citizens need a valid passport and may need a tourist visa. Consult your nearest US Embassy or consulate for details. Canadian citizens should carry proof of citizenship in the form of a passport. If required by the embassy or visa-granting entity, WINGS can provide a letter for you to use regarding your participation in the tour.

Your passport should be valid for at least six months after the date the tour ends. 

HAWAII MAPS: You can view maps of Hawaii from the collections of the University of Texas.

HEALTH: There are no special health concerns. Water is generally safe for drinking, and we will have water on hand to refill bottles. If you are currently being treated by a physician, you should consult with them prior to your departure.

PACE OF THE TOUR:  Most mornings will start around 6:00 AM, but there will be two or three earlier mornings, as well as several later ones.  On one or two days we will try to schedule some free time after lunch or before dinner for rest and relaxation.

Walks on this tour are easy to moderately strenuous due to Hawaii’s steep topography. We’ll go at a comfortable pace. At all times, as long as two leaders are present, there will be the option to remain near the vehicle and avoiding the longest walks. Most of the endemics require hikes into the remaining native forest.  We’ll do our best to reduce strenuous hiking, but it’s not always easy here.  Rough lava, slippery mud, and somewhat-steep terrain could all be encountered.  Most of the non-passerine endemics, including the waterbirds and seabirds, will be easily seen with little to no walking. 

After a short (.5 to 1.5 miles), but relatively steep walk on Oahu, the longest walks will be our all morning trip to the Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge on Hawaii, and our wanderings around the mostly level (but with small lava rocks) trails on the upper slopes of Mauna Kea for Palila.  Generally, you need to be physically able to walk on uneven or rocky terrain, and be able to walk or hike for longer stretches of time (2-4 hours), at a birders pace, but with few opportunities to sit and rest; we’re on our feet for long periods of time.

Those with balance and stability issues should bring a collapsible walking stick with a wrist loop, and those who find it difficult to stand for long periods should bring a small travel stool. The few longer drives will be broken with stops for birding or other allurements.

CLIMATE: The days are generally warm, and usually summer clothes are suitable for most days. However, you must bring a warm layer or jacket for higher altitudes on the Big Island and Kauai, or in case a storm moves through. Hawaii has a tropical climate cooled by trade winds, which usually blow at 12 MPH or more. The windward sides of the islands tend to be cool, wet and windy, while the leeward sides are warm and dry. Rainfall varies dramatically from an average of 6” a year in the driest spots, to an average of 486” at Mt. Waialeale on Kauai, the wettest spot on earth! Winter temperatures (November to April) usually range from a low of 32° (at 7500 feet elevation) to a high of 80° F (on the coast). Raingear is a must. Water temperature in March is about 76 degrees F. Even though the air temperature is relatively cool for the tropics, the sun is intense.

ACCOMMODATION: Standard, comfortable, modern hotels and resorts will be enjoyed throughout our travels, including multiple resorts that provide all of the amenities from pools to beaches.  We will definitely not be “roughing it” on this trip!

FOOD: The food in these islands is replete with fresh fish, tons of fresh fruit, and mouth-watering flavors.  We’ll dine at local restaurants from quick “plate lunches” featuring Hawaii’s unique fusion of cultures to “white tablecloth” dining experiences. A picnic lunch or two is likely, but most of our meals will be at restaurants while breakfasts will mostly be on the go or at hotels, with a few relaxing mornings at our hotel, and one or two picnics in the field.  Vegetarian options are almost never a problem, and the fresh produce will be welcomed by all.

DRESS: Informal throughout.

TRANSPORTATION: We will be traveling by 15- (or 12) passenger window van, SUV or minivan, depending on the group size. When using 15-passenger window vans, we general take a maximum of seven passengers plus the leader, per van, unless a local tour operator is driving and provides the transportation for our group. When traveling with a local tour operator, that operator may use 15 passenger vans where we may need to seat more than seven (or the entire group) within the van, or larger tour coaches.  We may also use 4wd vehicles, seating 4-7 people per vehicle. Participants should be able to ride in any seat in tour vehicles and are expected to change seats with others daily.  For the 4X4 vehicles it will likely be necessary for one or two participants to use the back bench seat, which although comfortable can be trickier to get into.    

SMOKING: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any lodge, accommodation, or location where the group is staying or is gathered has a more restrictive smoking policy than the WINGS policy, the more restrictive policy will prevail.

GENERAL INFORMATION AND CONDITIONS OF WINGS TOURS: Please take a moment to read our General Information and Conditions. This section contains important information about how we conduct tours, e.g., what is included in the tour price, refund and cancellation policies, pace of the tours, and other information that will help you prepare for the tour.

FINAL INFORMATION: Final information with instructions for meeting the group, hotel addresses, etc., will be mailed and posted to the web about three weeks before trip departure. Other news will be communicated as necessary. If you have any questions, please let us know.

Updated: 20 October 2022