Top Etiquette Tips for Hawaii

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On this week’s podcast I talk about some Etiquette Tips for Hawaii. As you plan your visit to the beautiful islands, it’s essential to respect the local culture and etiquette to enjoy a truly authentic and respectful Hawaiian experience.

First, a word about Hawaiian identity: The term “Hawaiian” is reserved for individuals of Native Hawaiian descent. If you’re chatting with locals and aren’t certain of their ancestry, it’s safe to use the term ‘locals.’ Of all the Etiquette Tips for Hawaii, this is one of the most important.

And while we’re talking terminology, remember that Hawaii proudly stands as the 50th state of America. When referring to the rest of the country, it’s best to specify individual states instead of referring to them collectively as “the states,” which might seem to exclude Hawaii.

Locals are the heart and soul of Hawaii’s vibrant culture. Just as a New Yorker hails from New York, those living in Hawaii identify as locals, not Hawaiians.

Upon arrival, you may be welcomed with a lei – a string or garland of beautifully strung flowers, akin to a long necklace. This token of welcome is also offered during celebrations such as birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries. Accept it gracefully and wear it proudly.

As you engage with locals, you will likely hear the words ‘mahalo’ and ‘aloha’ frequently. These words are integral to everyday life in the islands. ‘Mahalo’ means thank you, while ‘Aloha’ has multiple meanings, including hello, goodbye, and love. Learn them, use them correctly, and add a touch of Hawaiian spirit to your vocabulary as an addition to Etiquette Tips for Hawaii.

Among the many fascinating elements of Hawaiian culture, the art of Hula holds a special place. This sacred dance form, often showcased at luaus or hula competitions, is a profound expression of Hawaiian heritage. As an observer, be sure to respect the art form and the dancers. Refrain from joining in unless invited and never mock the performers.

While the stunning volcanic sites might tempt you to pocket a lava rock or two as souvenirs, we strongly advise against it. Respect the land and its resources, leaving everything just as you found it.

Hawaii’s spectacular geography is split across eight islands: Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, Hawaii Island, Kahoolawe, and Niihau. These are not “outer islands”, but rather “neighbor islands”. Use the latter term or refer to each by its specific name to avoid causing offence.

Finally, when you’re gearing up for a day at the beach, remember to choose reef-friendly sunscreen. Hawaii’s marine ecosystems, including a vast network of live coral reefs, are incredibly delicate. State law even prohibits the sale and distribution of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, known to be toxic to coral reefs and marine life. Although tourists aren’t penalized for using such sunscreens, we strongly urge you to opt for a reef-safe or biodegradable alternative.

So, as you step onto Hawaiian soil, remember to savor the beauty, respect the culture, and contribute positively to the preservation of this paradise. Mahalo for your consideration, and enjoy your Hawaiian adventure! Aloha!

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because we love Hawaii.