When you visit a new place for your vacation, it’s a little like your first day at a new school or moving to another part of the country. You know that millions have been there before you, but you still don’t want to do anything to embarrass yourself.

Here are some things you might keep in mind for your visit:

Visiting a Private Home

Take a small gift – a dessert, for instance – and take off your shoes before going inside. (Your host may urge you not to bother.) If you know ahead of time that you will visit a private home, take an offering from where you live – sourdough bread from the Bay area, scrapple from Philadelphia, beef from the Midwest, etc.

In Your Rental Car

Hawaii drivers are usually easy-going and courteous. Use of your car horn is unnecessary, except to warn of an imminent accident. If you’re used to driving in a large U.S. city, that can be almost unnerving. And there’s very little of the “Me first!” drill. You will almost never have to cut someone off to get into a lane; just use your turn signal and you’ll be let in. When you’re let in, wave a thanks to the other driver. (Locally we use the “shaka” sign, which you’ll pick up as soon as you arrive.)


Most locals use chopsticks comfortably, but you need not have acquired the knack to feel at ease in a restaurant of any kind. Some Asian restaurants place only chopsticks at their place settings but will gladly provide conventional utensils upon request. Otherwise, you aren’t likely to encounter anything you wouldn’t expect to find at any other destination.


Remember that we don’t use east, west, north and south much. When giving directions, we’ll usually send you toward a landmark. “Mauka” says toward the mountains; “makai” means toward the sea, and they, of course, work on all the islands.

Pick up your trash, and don’t mess with our sea turtles, monk seals or coral reefs.

When visiting the Big Island, it is important to not take any black sand or lava rocks as it is said that doing so angers the Hawaiian goddess Pele.

If there is a custom in your home area, tell us about it. We’re eager to hear about it, and it might even take hold here in the islands. Zillions of customs from around the world now are commonplace in the islands and respected by everybody.

That’s about it. Very little to worry about. Relax and enjoy your vacation.


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