Hawaiian Customs

Hawaii is home to many cultures and daily life here in the islands is shaped by influences from them all. On this page we hope to share with you a few local customs (state wide) so that you can have a better understanding of the local culture and enjoy your stay even more. Remember, these are just guidelines intended to help you better enjoy your stay in the islands.

Shoes: Shoes worn outside are removed when entering a home or residence. Shoes are left outside or just inside the front door. Inside shoes may be worn, but most go bare foot or with socks on their feet.

Speaking the local lingo: Give it a try! "Aloha" for hello, "Aloha No" if you want to emphasize the welcome. Resist the temptation to say Alo-o-o-o-o-ha, you will hear this at most luaus, for some reason, they think it sounds cute, it's not. (Think Minnie Pearl with her How-deeeeeee!) "A hui ho" means till I see you again, "Mahalo" means thank you (try to say this one a lot), "Kalamai" means excuse me, "Pau" means finished, "Pau Hana" party or happy hour.

Hula: You might think Hula is just for the Luau shows, but you would be wrong. A popular saying here in Hawai'i is Hula is Life. And it is true! You can find Hula just about anywhere. If you are lucky enough to be in the islands during one of the many Hula competitions you willsee the highest standards of Hula on display.  But Hula is a part of everyday life as well. Some hula for fitness, some to perpetuate their cultural heratage, and some hula simply for the joy of it. Keep your eyes open, folks hula at the beach, BBQ, and I have even seen an Auntie hula in the grocery just because she loved the song on the radio!

Lei: Many visitors think the flower lei is just a "touristy" gimmick. Well, it is not. Lei are very important here and are given for birthdays, holidays, weddings, showers, as congratulations and as thank-you, and come in many forms. A visit to the lei stand at the airport can be very enjoyable just to see the variety. Feel free to wear lei while on your visit. Again, you will be appreciated for enjoying one of our local customs. Lei can be made of more than just flowers. Seed, shell and feather lei are especially valuable and treasured here in the islands. Lei can be worn on your hat, head, or around your neck. Here is my eldest son at his High School graduation, this demonstrate typical use of lei. So give one to someone you love, they are always a welcome gift.

Standing in lines: Part of what makes your experience in Hawaii so special is how nice the people are, right? Now you can share the aloha too. When standing in a line for food, the bus, or a show, don't rush to be first, here we let anyone older than ourselves go first. We also help others with their bags and parcels. If you listen, you will hear young people offer to help by saying "Auntie (or Uncle), can I get that for you" or "You first Auntie (or Uncle)" In short, anyone older than you is your Auntie or Uncle and deserves respect and assistance. It feels really good, try it. This is also a local custom that you can take home with you. You will be amazed at how warmly your actions will be received.

Standing in a crowd: Wether watching a cultural performance at the the Volcano National Park or a juggler on the beach on Maui, be aware of where you are. Are you blocking someone's view? Ask and then move aside. Is there someone older than you trying to see, offer them your spot. Locals will tend to the needs of others before they tend their own. Again, try it, it feels good, and it is another local custom you can take home with you.

Makana: Makana (Ma-Ka-Na) is a small gift given as a thank you or acknowledgment for a favor or assistance. We give them all the time. It could be in the form of a lei or candies, or some other small token. I mention it here because this is one you can bring with you from home. What is your home known for? Saltwater taffy, a natural wonder? Well, bring a bit of home with you to share with others. That way, when someone in Hawaii does something nice for you, give them a makana from your home! It can be a sample size of something, key chain, refrigerator magnet, you name it, just something small in value. It will be greatly appreciated. And when your on your inter-Island flight, here's a fun game- look to see who is carrying makana. Do you see boxes of Krispy Kreams? Purple boxes of Big Island Candies? Handfuls of antheriums? Boxes of rainbow bread? All makana destined for others. You will be amazed at the warm reception you will receive if you participate in this local custom - but remember, keep is small, the idea is not to make the receiver feel indebted, just appreciated.

Tipping: These are state wide guidelines: Just remember one simple rule, in Hawaii, everyone gets a tip, it is not a pay-off, but rather a thank-you for service. If you get help with bags: a dollar per bag, $5.00 minimum. Get a massage: tip 15% to 20%. Your waitress gets the standard 15% to 20%. Housekeeping staff gets $2.00 per day per person in the room. Valet parking: $3.00 per pick-up and/or drop-off. Like your meal? Tip the chef too. Nice haircut or manicure? 15 to 20%. Did a kid bring you a bottle of water on the beach? $1 (Guarantee he is fundraising for their school/community sport)