Here’s a word you’ll likely see and hear while in Hawaii: mālama. So before you visit, it’s important to understand mālama’s meaning and importance in Hawaiian culture.
Malama means “to care for and protect.” It’s a widely used term that may be applied to almost any situation, and you can easily discover its many uses while visiting the islands.
When You’ll See & Hear Malama
Let’s start with your arrival at the airport. Visitors who receive a lei greeting at the airport feel love; they feel cared for and welcomed by their hosts, even if it’s their first time meeting one another.
That warm embrace is the quickest way to discover the true malama meaning in the islands. Other places you’ll feel this embrace might be at Luau celebrations, at restaurants, at local events, or on the streets. The best way to get the inside scoops, particularly directions or tips, is to ask the residents. I know I’ve helped my share of Hawaii tourists, as well as asked my share of questions to the locals in places I’ve vacationed.
Mālama Meaning & Phrases
Here are two common phrases that feature the Hawaiian word mālama:
- Mālama Kai (care for the ocean)
- Mālama Aina (care for the land)
These phrases reflect our responsibilities as residents or visitors of the Hawaiian Islands. We should do our best to protect and tend to the ocean and land.
Hawaii has numerous ocean and nature conservancy organizations that you may check out for volunteer opportunities. But simply recycling or picking up a piece of trash from the ocean may qualify as a way to mālama.
When hiking through the Koolau or snorkeling Hanauma Bay, we make sure not to disturb any native species or tamper with the coral reefs, which are alive and well. And by doing this, we are preserving the beauty and history for others to enjoy, even decades from this day.
How You Can Malama
Caring for the land and sea is a common way to malama,
The most important example of this Hawaiian word is when we mālama the host culture and its people, no matter where we visit. This act may be called something else in other countries, but in Hawaii, it’s just simply mālama.
Learning about Hawaiian practices and understanding their culture can help you be a better visitor to the islands.
We show respect by following certain protocols; for example, in Hawaii, we should never step on a heiau (sacred place of worship) or remove rocks from places we visit. It’s not only disrespectful, but some say it’s a sure way to bring bad luck.
We also remember to remove our slippers before entering someone’s home, another sign of respect to the host.
Malama Meaning: More than a Word
Let’s put this Hawaiian term into practice as best we can for the betterment of the islands! And as I leave you, I’ll share a common phrase used in Hawaii to say goodbye: “Mālama Pono,” which essentially means to “take care.”