I really don’t get it. Who exactly is the, Fodor’s Hawaii for?
I asked this question repeatedly as this thing let us down repeatedly in Hawaii. Usually I stick to the Rough Guides as they are full of the history of a place and slightly snarky in tone due to their “British edge”. But, I thought, hey, let’s branch out and try a different one, which ended up being Fodor’s.
Most guidebooks tend to have a focus audience. Rough Guides are good for Europeans and the slightly adventurous type. Lonely Planet are all around good, but I tend to not prefer them as they don’t travel the way I like. Moon used to be for the hippies, although I don’t know their true focus anymore. Let’s Go are strictly for students and those on a budget who want to party wherever they go. Bradt are just awesome for those that want to adventure and see the unseen. I mean, who else has a Kosovo (a contested region), Democratic Republic of Congo (a conflict region), and Iraq (a flat-out war zone) guide? Bradt, that’s who.
So, I didn’t really know where Fodor’s fit in. I thought it was something like Lonely Planet with a definite angle about catering to Americans. I was wrong, but I wasn’t completely wrong. In fact, I don’t know where I sit and I have no idea who Fodor’s is for.
If you’re an adventurer, it is crap. We had to find a good number of things out on our own and it never points out hole in the wall places to eat that can be great and cheap. Also, we had to find most of our own accommodations online because they seem to like to show the midrange places and up.
If you’re a beachgoer, it sucks. We found that the best, cleanest and most enjoyable beaches were in Kauai, which were hardly covered. They seemed to like to pick the dirty, crowded beaches. Maybe some people like these as they feel safe and at home on them? I don’t know.
If you’re a Lazy Fat Pale Scared American (LFPSA) the book is bad as well. While parts of it seemed to cater to the LFPSA crowd, they would flippantly mention things like the Haleakala Crater hike as an outing and not point out that LFPSA’s would die doing that hike. It also doesn’t really give very good layouts of itineraries because LFPSA’s need to have everything planned for them, although maybe they do this through package deals to the islands. Again, I don’t know.
Lastly, it’s inaccurate. The pass you get for Haleakala National Park is not good for a week as they say in the book, but three days, making it rather hard to reuse for Oheo Gulch and the Crater. Also, the beach at Polihale is correctly labeled as one of their choice beaches in the guide, the information about the are is dead wrong. For one, that beach is officially closed. Two, the road is not just rough on a car, it’s damned near impassable. Spots really require a vehicle with a solid eight to ten inches of clearance to make it in. You can do it in a rental car, but it’s very, very rough. Lastly, there are no facilities out there due to a broken water pump. All the bathrooms and showers are closed. This information has been known online since mid last year, yet they went to press with it like this.
In general, I got the feeling that the guide was lazy and places hadn’t been visited for awhile. This is sad, seeing as how Hawaii isn’t Croatia. Things aren’t changing from year to year. It’s the US and it’s been a continuous tourist destination for decades.
So, from know on, I’m sticking to my Rough Guides and Bradt books. One alternative that is good for this region about the books from Wizard. Despite the cheesy name, their Maui Revealed and Kauai Revealed guides are extremely in depth and detailed. A friend loaned them to me and they were good resources to balance out the craptacularness of the Fodor’s. Dog Eared Books, a very unused Fodor’s is soon coming your way!