You’re ready for your dream vacation to Maui, the Big Island, or Kauai. The long flight is behind you, you’ve checked into your hotel, donned your brightest Hawaiian shirt, and are ready to hit the town. The Rainbow state is a warm and welcoming place. But how can you make sure to avoid common faux-pas that many visitors make? Follow our guide and you’ll blend in like you’ve spent your whole life on the islands.
Photo Credit: Claire
1. Don’t mess up lei etiquette
The beautiful, elaborate leis are strings of brightly colored fragrant flowers draped over the shoulders of visitors and honored guests. Perhaps no other sight is as synonymous with the Hawaiian Islands. When accepting a lei, it’s important to offer the presenter a return kiss or embrace. Neglecting or refusing that portion of the ceremony is considered equivalent to saying “no thank you”. And even if you’re uncomfortable wearing the lei due to the heat, the smell, or seasonal allergies, wait until you’re away from the presenter before removing it. To do otherwise is considered very disrespectful.
2. Don’t miss proper social customs when entering a home
When entering a Hawaiian home, certain rituals are always observed. Similar to the Eastern tradition, always remove your shoes before entering a Hawaiian house. Many houses have signs posted, and in other cases home owners don’t care. But always try to remove your shoes as a sign of respect, and let the owner be the one to tell you not to worry about it. Also, always bring a hostess gift such as flowers, wine, or food when visiting a home. This is the case for all visits, not just the first time.
3. Don’t forget to observe driving etiquette
Nothing says tourist like an angry driver blaring the horn, not following road signs, and in a rush to get to nowhere. You’re on vacation after all: relax! There are particular rhythms to driving in the islands. Don’t honk your horn unless it’s a matter of safety; it’s considered extremely rude.Always acknowledge another driver letting you go or showing similar courtesy with a shake, sign or a wave. And finally, it’s okay to turn right on red unless otherwise posted.
4. Don’t abuse movie slang or use other offensive terms
Just because you saw actors referring to each other in a certain way in a cheesy Hawaiian movie doesn’t mean doing so will help you blend in. Don’t yell “What!” at random passersby: that can be considered an incitement to a fight. Calling the men “mokes” or the ladies “titas” is downright offensive. Referring to anything other than Oahu as “the outer islands” should also be avoided. Also please don’t attempt pidgin, the local dialect, unless you actually can speak it. Otherwise, it’s awkward and you’ll definitely stand out.
5. Don’t disrespect ancient sites
Ecological and cultural sites hold great importance in Hawaii. Not unlike the class Brady Bunch episode where bad luck followed the family after they took a rock, visitors should leave these sites undisturbed. This goes for temples, beaches, reefs, volcanic areas and anywhere else in the islands really. Unless it’s duty-free, don’t take anything natural home with you from the islands!
About the Author: Adam Franklin is an avid traveler and father of two adventurous boys. He recently had the opportunity to review several Scottsdale, AZ hotels.