Identity is More Than a Card in Hawaii

You don’t need any special ID card to visit Hawaii, but moving here does not make you Hawaiian.

As with other states, to take a Hawaii vacation you need no special ID card or permission (such as a visa or passport) if you are a US resident. If you come from another country, you need the same entry requirements as visiting the mainland United States. Everyone needs a photo ID to get on a plane these days, and that’s plenty here. The only time you’re likely to need even that is if you pay by credit card and the merchant wishes to confirm your identity.

However, unlike other states, moving to Hawaii does not make you Hawaiian. A friend recently returned to the mainland for a visit and was horrified when her mother introduced her by saying “My daughter is a Hawaiian.” Living in Kansas may make you a Kansan but living in Hawaii does not make anyone Hawaiian. As another friend explains, “Hawaiian” is an ethnicity, not a state of mind. Local residents are called “islanders” or “kamaaina” (child of the land).

Often, places in Hawaii offer a discount for kamaaina to encourage locals to patronize them and to recognize that we are not spending vacation dollars when we do. A visitor asked if I could get that same discount for everyone in our party by using my Hawaii ID (driver’s license). In general, the answer is “no”. The reasons that the kamaaina discount is offered don’t apply to visitors, even when they are family or friends. However, one luau offered the same price to everyone in our party with one local ID and that was a very nice gesture.

Visitors, locals and Hawaiians are different identities, but most of the time it won’t matter. Everyone enjoys being in Hawaii!

Posted by: Bruce Fisher