During these lean solar years taking a short vacation to Hawaii can provide a thrilling break in the monotonous DXing conditions at home. Whether you are a hard core TP-chaser or a domestic DXer looking for some new, long-range challenges, Hawaii's ocean-enhanced propagation can give you the hobby vacation of a lifetime. Hawaii is indeed a special place to chase DX, but your chances of success will be much greater if you can plan out your travel itinerary with a few tips in mind. These suggestions are made after a couple of TP-DXing trips to Kona (on the Big Island) last year, during which I had somewhat of a "crash course" in Hawaiian propagation, local splatter, motel-generated RF noise and the state's unique topographical feature (which tends to determine the favored direction of transoceanic DX).
First of all, Hawaii has an excessive number of MW stations running quite a bit more power than is necessary to serve the local communities. The FCC's apparent attitude is that out in the middle of the ocean these stations won't interfere with anyone, but in fact they can interfere a lot with DXers looking for weak signals. Do yourself a favor by planning a vacation as far away as possible from the RF zoo of Oahu (which includes Honolulu and Waikiki Beach)-- preferably by going to Kauai or the Big Island. You will still hear more Hawaiian splatter than you want, but it will be less obnoxious.
Most of these islands have a ridge of high hills or mountains running down the center of them, and these volcanic ridges greatly reduce (or block) transoceanic signal propagation. On the Big Island you have the western coast (Kailua-Kona) which is optimized for Asian TP and South Pacific DU-DX, while the eastern coast (Hilo) is optimized for North and South American DX. If you want to chase transoceanic DX from all directions, you'll need to locate at one of the few places where the high ridges are not a significant issue (the southern tip of the Big Island, for example), assuming that you can find a motel in such areas..
Most major motels generate a lot of RF noise, and even if you pay for an ocean-facing motel room there is no guarantee that the noise level will be low enough to permit transoceanic DXing. In April that was possible for me from the balcony, but in December I was placed in an ocean-facing RF hash zone. Before booking any DXing vacation to Hawaii it is imperative to have a "Plan B" ready, in case this happens to you. Be ready to hit the road with your radio and antenna, and set up on an ocean beach optimized for the type of transoceanic DX you desire (hopefully on the same property as your motel). Make sure that the location is free of RF noise. If not, hit the road until you find such a spot. Actually, if you are ready, willing and able to do this, there is no need to pay for an oceanfront motel in the first place-- simply book an inexpensive motel, and be prepared to head for a nice ocean beach each time you chase DX. Highly portable radios and antennas really shine in these
situations, giving you the freedom and flexibility to go almost anywhere (including beaches on the opposite side of the island, featuring a different type of transoceanic DX).
Gary DeBock - Puyallup, Washington