Surfing, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding. The list of things to do in Hawaii is endless. But what about the list of things NOT to do? Oftentimes, this has to do with respecting the local customs and culture. It doesn’t mean you have to “walk on eggshells;” (I’d like to believe we’re all pretty friendly in the islands!). But like anywhere else, you should take note of the appropriate etiquette and mannerisms as a guest in someone else’s home, so to speak.

Hopefully this post will help you feel more at home. Let’s start with your arrival to the islands. A friend or tour guide may present you with a beautiful fresh-flower lei as a welcome to the island. Always accept it graciously with a hug or kiss on the cheek. By doing so, it shows you appreciate the gesture, which you’ll discover is actually quite common. Lei is given at birthday parties, graduations, weddings and luau. And even if it messes up your hair, try your best not to remove the lei in the presence of the presenter, as it can be an insult to them.

Once you’ve settled into your hotel, you’re ready to hit the road! But before doing so, remember that the aloha spirit doesn’t stop at the road’s edge; it’s common courtesy to wave or shaka as a thank you to another driver who let’s you through a lane. Hawaii doesn’t honk their horns either; well, not as frequently as drivers in New York or Chicago. There may be a few honk-happy drivers here; just don’t be one of them!

If you get lost while driving or walking, then it’s best to use directional words like, “mauka” or “makai,” rather than north, south, east or west. Mauka means toward the mountain and makai means toward the ocean.

Once you’ve pulled up to your destination, remember this number one rule: avoid leaving luggage and other valuables in your rental car. Instead, keep them at the hotel or in a hotel safe. Theft at popular tourist spots can be rampant. If you’re destination is a beach, then remember not to disturb any sea life; this includes monk seals, dolphins and green sea turtles (honu). Most are endangered species that should be appreciated from afar. Other than that, you should be good to go, so enjoy your swim or snorkel!

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