- I grew up on Oahu and still live in Hawaii. All too often, I see visitors being disrespectful.
- There are six things I wish travelers would do to be more responsible tourists in Hawaii.
- Start by researching the culture, meet locals, stay off social media, and support local businesses.
I'm a Hawaii resident and all too often, I see visitors being disrespectful. There are six things I wish they would do instead to be a more responsible tourist in Hawaii.
As someone who grew up in Hawaii and still lives here as a resident of Oahu, I feel lucky to be able to enjoy the raw natural beauty and exceptional weather of this remote island chain on a regular basis.
To show my appreciation, and so others may enjoy it well into the future, I always make sure to be respectful and leave places as they were when I arrived. Sometimes I'll even pick up others' trash on my way out.
Unfortunately, many visitors to Hawaii don't behave in the same way. Locals, including myself, frequently catch tourists being disrespectful, acting like Hawaii is their tropical playground. This disrespect can come in many forms.
On Oahu, I'll drive to the North Shore from Honolulu and see tourists parked at a beach called Laniakea, also known as Green Turtle Beach for the turtles that bask on its sandy stretch. Despite signs telling you not to feed or get too close to them, I see tourists pose right next to the endangered animals for photos.
Just a month ago, at Bowls, a surfing spot I frequent near Waikiki Beach, a monk seal — also considered endangered — was resting on the beach and I saw a tourist family let their young child run around it. And over the years, I've seen popular hiking trails and beaches become overrun and covered in litter.
Of course, I don't think every visitor to Hawaii does these things. But in my experience, enough do to exhaust the locals beyond just me. A 2020 survey found that 67% of Hawaii residents think their "island is being run for tourists at the expense of local people." I agree.
But because about a quarter of Hawaii's economy hinges on the tourism industry, tourists aren't going anywhere.
However, according to Pauline Sheldon, a professor emerita at the University of Hawaii's Travel Industry Management School, told me she thinks tourism in Hawaii can be reshaped to educate curious visitors without depleting resources. "It's becoming evident that tourism can transform the visitor, but tourism can also transform the destination for the greater good," she said.
By making more thoughtful choices, you can have a more authentic experience in the islands and directly support Hawaii and the local community. Here are the six ways to do it, that I wish more tourists would do on any trip to Hawaii.
Before your trip, spend time researching Hawaii — and not just the best beaches. Learn about Hawaiian culture, history, and values.
When planning any trip, in addition to scheduling out your itinerary, it's important to learn about your destination beyond the major things to do.
In this case, take time to learn about Hawaiian culture and history, including its values, and put those learnings into action when you're here. I don't expect you to learn everything, but there are a few key things to understand to ensure you see the state through an accurate lens.
"Many Native Hawaiians feel that tourism has not delivered on its promises, and there are certainly elements of some activities, attractions, and marketing campaigns that present a distorted or misinformed picture of Hawaiian culture," said Malia Sanders, executive director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.
For me, that's tourists coming to Hawaii thinking the island is just hula dancers in grass skirts and coconut bras.
"If you visit, know that there are expectations when you are here," she said. "Know that you have kuleana, which means a responsibility, duty and privilege to learn, aloha, and mālama, take care of and respect our home."
For example, you probably already know that aloha is a common greeting. But it means so much more; it's a philosophy of being welcoming and kind to others with no expectation in return. As a visitor, you should understand aloha and show it to others.
Likewise, Native Hawaiians have lived in harmony with nature for many years, and respecting the land, or aina, and ocean is expected of anyone. So don't litter or take parts of the island, like rocks back home with you.
A good starting point to learn about Hawaiian culture is the Go Hawaii website, where you can learn common Hawaiian phrases, history and stories of goddesses like Pele, and how Hawaii came to be.
When friends visit me for the first time, I like to recommend that they watch chef and television personality Eddie Huang's "Huang's World" episode in Hawaii, which explores modern Hawaiian identity through the eyes of local folks like farmers and restaurant owners.
I also ask my friends to check out Honolulu Civil Beat, a local nonprofit journalism outlet, to learn some of the issues Hawaii is currently facing, such as a housing crisis. These resources help break down the misconception that Hawaii is just an idyllic paradise.
Book Hawaii hotels with cultural advisors who will help you learn about Hawaiian culture in a respectful way.
In Hawaii, cultural practitioners are key figures in perpetuating Hawaiian culture, like a hula dance teacher, called a kumu. These knowledgeable people have spent many years working hard at their craft, and in the past decade, have become an important part of the hospitality industry to educate visitors.
Clifford Nae'ole is the award-winning Hawaiian Cultural Advisor for The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua and helped pioneer educational programs in the tourism industry. Each year on Maui, he hosts the Celebration of the Arts, where the public can participate in ceremonies and hands-on demonstrations, such as storytelling, or mo'olelo, by highly regarded practitioners across the state.
When choosing your hotel, Nae'ole encourages visitors to pick one who employs a Native Hawaiian cultural advisor who is dedicated to educating guests on Hawaiian culture. They also ensure the hotel is being respectful in the way it shares Hawaiian culture.
"These engagements with practitioners and artists instill a sense of place rather than just a destination,'" he said. "A visitor will be able to feel the emotion behind our history and what continues to shape the contemporary Hawaiian."
For example, during the Celebration of the Arts, guests are invited to an early morning E ala E and Hiuwai Ceremony, where they can take a quiet dip in the ocean as practitioners chant to the rising sun. This introspective experience offers guests a glimpse into an ancient Hawaiian tradition that's not often advertised to tourists in the same way that surfing lessons might be.
Geotagging social media posts can wreak havoc on natural resources and cause overcrowding. Leave locations off your posts — or better yet, keep your phone in your hotel room.
With edited and filtered photos, social media is understandably the main source of #travelspo for many people.
Because let's face it, we do want to show off the cool activities and places we experience. But when you post a picture of a place that's off the beaten path, that additional exposure could lead to it becoming so overcrowded that not even locals can enjoy it anymore.
For example, about 10 years ago, I used to hang out in gorgeous tide pools at the bottom of a remote hike. When Instagram became popular around the same time, so did those tide pools. Now, it's always so crowded that I don't bother to go anymore.
So while I still use social media, I no longer share the location of my activities. Whenever I post a surfing video or pretty hike onto Instagram, I avoid geo tagging the specific place or giving away the name. If a friend personally asks me, I'll tell them, because I want them to have an enjoyable time, but I try my best to remember the widespread impact social media can have.
You might also consider just putting your phone away and keeping that special discovery for your mental memory.
Spend your money wisely in Hawaii, and whenever possible, choose local businesses to support.
When you buy local, you're investing in local people and helping to keep our economy vibrant.
Choose farm-to-table restaurants or mom and pop eateries over chain restaurants, where the profits don't stay within the community.
Book excursions with locally-owned businesses to see how local farmers cultivate the land and feed the state, like ones hosted by Island Cruzin Hawaii.
Instead of mass-produced souvenirs, buy gifts made by local artisans for your loved ones back home because it allows the vendors to continue to preserve their culture and craft. I like stopping by Honolulu stores like MORI by Art +Flea and Na Mea, or other locally-owned boutiques to find unique items.
Better yet, choose businesses owned by Native Hawaiians. Hawaii's Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce and the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association partnered together to create Kuhikuhi.com, a directory listing Native Hawaiian-owned businesses from tours to food.
Supporting local businesses makes your purchase more meaningful. You can have a conversation with a local artisan who shapes koa wood by hand rather than just grabbing something off a shelf in a store.
Start one-on-one conversations with as many locals as possible for insight, recommendations, and the most authentic vacation possible.
Maui-born Kainoa Horcajo is the principal owner of the Mo'olelo Group, a "cultural and communications firm" that promotes Native Hawaiian businesses and organizations to visitors and locals. Horcajo encourages people to spark conversations with as many locals as possible, whether that's your server at lunch or the worker at the hotel front desk.
"A lot of people think because they come to a place and they looked on Instagram and the internet, that they have permission to do things and have an understanding of what the place is," he said. "But those things don't ever function as a real host. The best way to have a real experience is to have one-on-one conversations with local people."
When you foster relationships with local people, you can hear their stories and get deeper insight on what Hawaii is all about. You can learn about places that are overrun that you should avoid, or recommendations for local businesses to support. Instead of ending up at tourist traps, a local can tell you what shave ice spot they grew up eating at, or where to get the best poke bowl. That's about as real of an experience as you can get, in my opinion.
Instead of spending all your vacation by the beach, consider giving back to Hawaii through volunteer opportunities.
Choosing to volunteer while traveling doesn't mean trading vacation for work. Rather, it will have you side-by-side with locals to directly benefit the place you are visiting.
Edwin "Ekolu" Lindsey III is president of the nonprofit Maui Cultural Lands. Every Saturday, the public is welcome to join Maui Cultural Lands and take care of the Honokowai Valley on Maui through planting native plants with the goal of educating people on why these resources should be protected. Many who join are tourists, and Lindsey says they come from all around the world.
"These travelers want something more in-depth," Lindsey said. "They want to see a Hawaii outside of tourism spots — they want something more intimate. If you come humble and respectful, as well as ready to learn and give back, the doors will open wide for you here."
Last month on Maui, I did something similar with the nonprofit Puu Kukui Watershed Preserve. On a rainy Saturday morning, we hiked up a hill to plant native species like koa trees at the state's largest private nature preserve with our hands. When the koa trees grow large, they can be shaped into canoes, which the Native Hawaiians historically steered to other islands. By the end of the morning, I felt connected to the island in a way that I had yet to feel before.
Always ask questions and permission. The best way to respect the Hawaiian culture is to ask! If you're not sure about anything, such as where to go or what to wear, you can never go wrong by asking a local.What is considered disrespectful in Hawaii? ›
Drive slow, and do not honk your horn unless it's an emergency; it's considered really rude. And if you're driving on a narrow road and see a local behind you, it's polite to pull over and let them pass you.What are some Hawaiian traditions for visitors? ›
The Hawaiian way to greet someone is with a kiss on the cheek. Always remember to remove your shoes before entering someone's house. When you are invited over to someone's house for a get together, don't show up empty handed. Pick up a dessert or another food dish on the way!Why do Hawaiians not want visitors? ›
Economic disparities: While tourism can bring in revenue to the islands, there are concerns that it can also create economic disparities, with tourists benefiting more than locals. Some Native Hawaiians may feel that the tourism industry has not done enough to address these disparities.How can I be a respectful tourist? ›
- Research your destination. ...
- Be mindful of the different culture.
- Ask before you take photos. ...
- Mind your surroundings and don't block traffic. ...
- Keep an open mind and your opinions to yourself. ...
- Learn a few phrases in the local language. ...
- Go local when dining out and seeking entertainment.
Code Red means at least a 24 hour halt on all water activities.What happens if you whistle in Hawaii? ›
It has been said that if you whistle at night, you are summoning the Hukai'po, aka the Night Marchers, and if you hear their drums—HIDE! Night marchers are most active at night and said to march on certain nights, depending on the rise of the moon. It is considered an evil omen to look directly at the night marchers.How do Hawaiian locals treat tourists? ›
What is this? All locals seek from visitors is to be respected and to remember that visiting this picturesque state is like being in someone else's home, sometimes literally. Whether it's the capital city of Honolulu or the scenic island of Maui, all that is asked is to treat beautiful Hawaii as their very own.What is a traditional gift in Hawaii? ›
What's a traditional Hawaiian gift? One of the most universally exchanged gifts in Hawaii is leis. These can be fresh flower leis, ribbon leis, feather leis, or kukui nut leis. You can even purchase silk flower leis at gift shops to bring home for friends and family.What is the Hawaiian ritual? ›
The honi ihu, or the touching of noses, is a traditional method of greeting one another, whether it's a man and woman, two men or two women. It allows both people to exchange breath, which is the supremely important life force in Hawaiian understanding, and also share scents and convey a closeness in relationship.
Generally, most locals are happy to see the tourists come and see what life means for them, especially those activities that depict a life many have never seen, learned, or experienced. People Live here.Does Hawaii have a homeless problem? ›
Nowhere To Go: Lack Of Housing And Staff Is Undercutting Efforts To Deal With Homelessness In Hawaii. Homeless people face a number of barriers to getting the help, including a dearth of available housing and a safety net system that isn't always designed to meet their needs.Are tourists a problem in Hawaii? ›
While tourism is the largest sector of the state's economy, it is also the root cause of many of Hawaii's fundamental problems. Tourists, who outnumber locals seven to one, severely strain the infrastructure designed for Hawaii's small population.What are the 4 Hawaiian values? ›
- AHONUI – Patience, expressed with tenderness. ...
- AKAHAI – Unassuming, unpretentious, lack of arrogance, pleasant, polite, gentle and modest.
- ALOHA – Hello, Farewell, greeting, love. ...
- HA'AHA'A – Humility, to be humble, the concept of humility, a core value of the Hawaiian people.
Aloha – Hello
This tropical greeting is known around the world, but its literal meaning is 'love'. In Hawaii, Aloha means more than 'hello'; it expresses wishes for a positive and respectful life. Use Aloha kakahiaka to say, 'good morning', Aloha 'auinalā for 'good afternoon' and Aloha ahiahi for 'good evening'.
One of the common ways to pay respect to the deceased in Hawaii is traditional lei throwing. Lei throwing is a practice where people throw lei into the ocean to honor their lost loved ones. Some people will throw the whole lei into the water, while others will take the flowers off the lei and scatter them in the ocean.How can I impress a tourist? ›
- Be Present Online. ...
- Promote Local Attractions. ...
- Promote Local Events and Businesses. ...
- Host a Festival. ...
- Provide maps and directions to local events and attractions. ...
- Create an email list to share information about your destination.
- Make Preparations for Visitors.
- Smile and Greet Visitors Warmly.
- Anticipate Common Needs.
- Make visitors feel safe.
- Make Your Lobby Open and Inviting.
Respect the people who live there.
No matter where you go, remember that the place you are visiting is someone else's home. The people who live there should always be treated with respect and dignity. Listen to the locals and be mindful of their culture. Respect extends to how we act online too.
Most travelers to Hawaii don't need to bring hiking boots. As long as you're planning to do just short day hikes, you can wear sneakers.
Can you wear jeans in Hawaii? Sure, you can wear jeans in Hawaii. But unless you're going up to the summit of Haleakala you'll probably be more comfortable in almost anything else due to the balmy temperatures and humidity.Are jeans OK in Hawaii? ›
In Hawaii, casual wear is typical for much of the day. Therefore, it's a good idea to opt for light clothing. Go for casual t-shirts and shorts for the daytime hours in Hawaii. If you're not a fan of shorts, jeans, leggings, or capris can also be acceptable attire.Is Hawaii a blue zone? ›
Blue Zones Project – North Hawaii includes Honokaa/Pauilo, Laupahoehoe, Kohala, Waikoloa, and Waimea on the Big Island.Can you use your phone at a red light Hawaii? ›
Hawaii Distracted Driving Laws at a Glance.
|Can you send/receive texts at a red light?||X|
|Is handheld device use permitted?||X|
|Any special restriction for young drivers?||X|
|Is headphone/headset use permitted?||X|
Red eye flights, also referred to as overnight flights, are commercial flights that take off very late at night and land early in the morning of the next day. The 'red eye' term comes from when passengers get red eyes after feeling exhausted from travelling late at night or early in the morning.What are some Hawaiian taboos? ›
- Don't remove sand from the beach. ...
- Don't take any lava rocks from Volcanoes National Park. ...
- Don't take any pork over the Pali. ...
- Don't bring bananas on a boat.
12) Don't cut your nails at night
One of the most well-known superstitions about nails is that you should never cut your nails at night. This is because the nail clippings can be used as a form of witchcraft. The reasoning behind this belief comes from the fact that nails are so small, they are easy to hide.
Lei are constructed of flowers, leaves, sea shells, seeds, nuts, feathers or even bones of various animals. A lei is a common symbol of love, friendship, celebration, honor or greeting. In essence, it is a symbol of Aloha. In ancient Hawaii, wearing a lei represented wealth, royalty and rank.How do I not seem like a tourist in Hawaii? ›
- Learn the Lay of the Land. One of the easiest ways to pick a tourist out of a crowd in Hawaii is when they are lost. ...
- Incorporate Hawaiian Vocabulary. This point can't be overstated enough. ...
- Do as the Locals Do. ...
- Dress for Success. ...
- Let Go of Your "Mainland Mentality"
- RELAX! ...
- TREAT PEOPLE WELL – ESPECIALLY THOSE WORKING JOBS YOU WOULD NOT WANT TO BE WORKING YOURSELF: ...
- UNDERSTAND THAT EVERYONE IS INTERCONNECTED: ...
- BE EXTREMELY POLITE WHEN ASKING FOR DIRECTIONS: ...
- BE RESPECTFUL: ...
- TIP WELL:
To live comfortably in Hawaii, an annual income of around $70,000 to $100,000 for a single person, or $120,000 to $200,000 for a family is recommended. Is it expensive to live in Hawaii? Yes, Hawaii is known for its high cost of living due to factors such as housing, groceries, utilities, and transportation.What is a good luck charm in Hawaii? ›
The Hawaiian Honu – Symbol of Wisdom and Good Luck.What to ask for as a gift from Hawaii? ›
There's such a wide variety of Hawaiian-themed necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings, it's easy to find something for everybody on your gift list, including yourself! The most popular symbols in Hawaiian jewelry include sea turtles, pineapples, plumeria flowers, hibiscus flowers and fish hooks.What you can't bring back from Hawaii? ›
- Fresh fruits and vegetables, some exceptions are those listed below as permitted.
- Berries of any kind, including fresh coffee berries and sea grapes.
- Cactus plants or cactus plant parts.
- Cotton and cotton bolls.
- Fresh flowers of jade vine, and Mauna Loa.
A Hawaiian Kahu* is called upon to give the blessing. The blessing, based on the traditional Hawaiian belief of kapu*, is used to remove something disturbing that has arisen or has been called down upon a place. Things such as negative energy or curses.What is the Hawaiian gesture of welcome? ›
Anyone who has visited the islands has no doubt seen the famous hand gesture coupled with the “Shaka” greeting! A shaka sign – the unmistakable pinky and thumb salute – is the ultimate symbol of Aloha and local culture in Hawaii.What is the welcome symbol in Hawaii? ›
To this day, a warm welcome with a handmade lei draped around your neck is an iconic greeting in Hawaii. This symbol of Hawaii's welcoming culture fills visitors and returning locals alike with the true spirit of Aloha. As visitors depart the islands, it is customary to throw the lei back into the water.Where do most locals live in Hawaii? ›
Honolulu is widely recognized in the whole state of Hawaii as having the highest livability in the island chain. And apparently, a lot of people know it, as the city is the most populous place in Hawaii with approximately 359,870 residents.
No one is allowed to visit Hawaii's Forbidden Isle—the 70-square-mile island, which on a clear day can be spied from Kauai's west coast—unless they are invited by Niihau owners the Robinson family, or by one of its 70 full-time Native Hawaiian residents.Where in Hawaii has the least tourists? ›
LANAI ISLAND - THE PLACE TO RELAX Lanai entices the sophisticated traveller with a handful of exclusive luxury resorts and championship golf courses. It's the least visited Hawaiian Island, small in size and slow in pace those that travel to Lanai, by air or on the ferry from Maui, are forced to rest and relax.
Oahu also has the greatest per capita homeless population, with 49 homeless individuals per 10,000 residents.How do people end up homeless in Hawaii? ›
Unaddressed poverty, addiction, and mental illness are at the root of homelessness in Hawaii, and the costs to our state and our society are enormous. First and foremost is the human cost to the unhoused in terms of physical and mental suffering, hopelessness, and the loss of human potential and productivity.How do the homeless live in Hawaii? ›
On every island in Hawaiʻi families are sleeping in tents on the beaches, tucked away in the lava, and camped in public parks. Parents experiencing homelessness work full time jobs while children do their homework by flashlight – in cars parked in Hawaii's towns and cities.What are the issues with Hawaii in 2023? ›
Here are the issues that Hawaii visitors in 2023 will face.
High Hawaii prices, taxes, and fees. Room rates and rental cars are up by 50% since before Covid, which isn't entirely different than other US tourist destinations. We mentioned recently we are paying more for vehicles at LAX than in Hawaii.
Living in Hawaii has its perks, including year-round warm weather and access to some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world. The island lifestyle is laid-back and relaxed, and there is a strong sense of community and connection to the land.Is it ethical to move to Hawaii? ›
Simply put, there is no ethical way to move to or travel to Hawaii. Each unnecessary interaction drives up the cost of living and resources for those living there, and droves of long-time residents are forced to leave because of the cost of living.What cultural values are important to Hawaiian families? ›
Hawaiians believe that the values they embrace are at the heart of their culture. Among many others, the human values that guide Hawaiian culture include caring (Malama); love, compassion, and respect (Aloha); sharing and generosity (Lokomaikai); and a sense of justice (Naau Pono) (Salzer, 2014) .What are cultural values in Hawaiian culture? ›
As the Native Hawaiians used their resources within their ahupua'a, they practiced Na Waiwai, or treasured values, and understood the deeper meaning of the words aloha (respect), laulima (cooperation of many hands) and malama (stewardship) which resulted in everyone living pono, or doing right by one another.What is the Hawaiian cultural protocol? ›
The purpose and function of Hawaiian protocol are deeply rooted in the cultural and spiritual belief of mana — supernatural or divine power. Belief in akua, 'aumakua and kupuna helped our ancestors to maintain a vital relationship with the natural and supernatural world.How do I make friends with locals in Hawaii? ›
The absolute best way to make friends in Hawaii is to get involved in things you enjoy. There are a wide range of clubs and groups that make it easy to find and make friends including canoeing, hiking, pickleball, softball, yoga or just social groups. Facebook Groups are also another great option to find new friends.
Sixty-seven percent of residents stated they had a favorable opinion of tourism as an industry in Hawai'i. More residents in this wave compared to the prior wave said tourism has brought more benefits than problems (57%), nearing the 2019 mark (58%).What are the 6 Hawaiian values? ›
- Alaka'i – Leadership.
- Aloha – Love.
- Ha'aha'a – Humility.
- Hau'oli – Happy.
- Ho'ämana – Empowerment.
- Hö'ihi – Respect.
- Ho'ohana – Work with intent and purpose.
- Ho'ohänai – To nurture.
- Akahai, meaning kindness, to be expressed with tenderness;
- Lōkahi, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;
- ʻOluʻolu, meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;
- Haʻahaʻa, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;
- Ahonui, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.
Ho'okipa is the Native Hawaiian value of hospitality and giving. Native Hawaiians have always believed in selflessly extending themselves to others, whether they had close ties with them or not.What is most important in Hawaiian culture? ›
Hawaiian Arts & Culture: The Expression of Aloha
Today, Hawaiian culture may hold many of the answers sought in a rapidly changing world. The spirit of aloha – being in the presence of and sharing the essence of life – teaches us lessons of peace, kindness, compassion and responsibility to future generations.
Stereotypes of Native Hawaiians include: territorial bullies, overweight fellows, uneducated imbeciles, seductive hula dancers, drug addicts, and more (Tsai, 2004, p. 3).What are the three rules of Hawaiian language? ›
- All words end in a vowel.
- Every consonant is followed by at least one vowel.
- Every syllable ends in a vowel.
- Two consonants never appear next to each other.