The time in Hawaii is anywhere from three to six hours behind the mainland. But the time within Hawaii households? Well, that’s a whole different time zone, better known as Hawaiian Time.

It’s the time of the islands that keeps everything at a mellower pace.

It’s one of the funniest stereotypes people from Hawaii get hassled with – being late for everything. This may not be true for everyone, but it’s definitely a reoccurring “issue” for most Hawaii peeps (including myself!). So if you plan to meet a friend from here (we’ll call him Kimo) on your next visit, and you tell that friend to be at the Kahala Hotel & Resort breakfast buffet by 8 a.m., you might have to wait…five minutes? 10? No real guarantees, but I can assure you that your friend will be there. We locals love our food and would never miss an opportunity to eat! (That’s another stereotype, by the way, and so is the ever-popular Hawaiian name, Kimo.)

While ancient Hawaiians used the moon to mark the time of year, this kind of time-telling is a bit different. A Hawaiian Time clock has some very general markings. Instead of numbers, there’s Watevas (whatever, whenever), Bum-bye (by and by, to do later) and Laytahs (to be there later). To tell time with this kind of clock depends on the person and situation. For instance, say the luau starts at 6 p.m. and when that time arrives, Kimo is no where to be found. You call him to find out what happened, and Kimo replies, “I’ll be there bum-bye.” That probably means he just got back from walking the dog and still needs to get ready. These Pidgin-English words came from Hawaii plantation workers and are still used by locals today.

Hawaii moves at a slower pace overall. This is not to give visitors the false impression that we live on a secluded island in grass shacks and commute by canoe. We’re very much a developed place – we’ve got concrete skyscrapers and traffic and face the same economical issues as everyone else. But when living on an island with such natural beauty, we can’t help but get lost in the laid-back ways. Why be in a rush? It’s a subtle nonchalance that translates through Hawaii’s people and finds a home in the warm embrace of the culture.

OR maybe Hawaiian Time starts with the fact that Hawaii as a state is late for everything! We welcome in the New Year way after the ball drops at Times Square. And we avoid Twitter until after watching the latest episode of Hawaii 5-0, for fear we’ll find out what happens. Darn this time difference! Maybe that’s to blame? It’s not the people in Hawaii who are slow-moving. It’s just that everyone else is moving too fast!


  1. Love this post! As hard as I try I am always the first person at most places when I meet my friends here but I’ve gotten used to it ! My reply when their late is always “No worries, I got a head start on da drinks”

  2. It involves a certain amount of cherishing the moment and not going through too much unnecessary movement and drama. It comes from knowing and expecting that people want good things for you too.
    I was walking out of Home Depot the other day with 600 pounds of soil and humus on a heavy cart. I was in parking lot steadily making my way to my car. I saw someone give me a cross look and I sighed. I was not about to struggle that cart into the gutter, so that the giant SUV trailing me could get to their destination 10 seconds sooner. They needed to care enough about me to allow me to get safely the car without a mishap.

    Safe assumption on Hawaii. A decision made at my peril on the mainland.

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