Top 3 Ways to be Respectful and Accepted by Native Hawaiians

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Top 3 Ways to be Respectful and Accepted by Native Hawaiians2019-01-08T08:23:38+00:00

Rainbow Falls by Matthew Dillonis licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Image may have been resized or cropped from original

The native Hawaiian community is an exclusive group of locals that are one to be respectful of. It’s important not to cross boundaries or risk discomfort and unpleasant interactions.

How to be accepted by native Hawaiians #1: clean up after yourself and have respect for the land

Respecting the land (Aina,) is a core part of Hawaiian culture.  If you have ever studied ancient Hawaiian culture (prior to the annexation,) denizens of the islands were particular in their lifestyles so to preserve their resources.  For example, fresh water (Wai) was cherished as it was scarce on an island in the pacific.  This same sentiment and respect carries over to modern Hawaii today. Locals are careful not to leave trash (Opala) at the beach and are respectful while enjoying the outdoors.  This doesn’t mean we’re all driving Priuses or Hybrids around here, but the respect for the land is more than a scientific practice of water conservation, it’s a sentiment that’s held by all locals. If anything, it’s really different from mainland methods of nature preservation like with global warming or water rights, but more of a spiritual take on nature preservation.  

accepted by native Hawaiians

Simple things like cleaning up after yourself are highly noticeable by those around you.
Hawaii Scenery by Michael Ocampo is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original

How to be accepted by native Hawaiians #2: don’t try too hard

Making an zealous effort to speak Hawaiian or being pretentious about local places and foods can be repulsive for islanders. There’s nothing worse than a “haole” assuming a position of authority with regards to local happenings. A humble attitude is integral to gaining acceptance in the Hawaiian community. The Hawaiian group is a group of soft-spoken, humble individuals. Hence, maintaining a relaxed and easy going personality is vital to being accepted by natives. Also, make sure to exude a genuine appreciation for services and towards locals. For example, always tip extra at restaurants and be excessively polite and easy going.

accepted by native Hawaiians

Don’t try too hard.
Honolulu Festival Parade – Pikake Leilani Hula Halau by Daniel Ramirez is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original

How to be accepted by native Hawaiians #3: stay in the tourist area

There’s nothing worse than for locals areas, neighborhoods and beaches to be intruded upon by locals and foreigners. If there’s anything locals hate more, it’s this. It can be seen as an intrusion on local areas and also inconvenient if influxes of people prompt heavier traffic, less parking and limited access for locals that go to these areas on an everyday basis. The tourist areas are defined by the hotel-dominated Waikiki strip along Kalakaua Avenue. The multitude of hotels and financing that goes into that area is mind boggling. You won’t find a hotel for cheaper than $500/night in 2018. But that’s irrelevant. The point is to enjoy the small piece of Hawaii that you have access to without branching out into residential suburbs. A local tour guide can also take you on excursions to other tourist destinations on the island that would still keep you in the safe zone. There’s no implication that there are “unsafe” zones in Hawaii, because the state has low crime rates overall, but it is advised for tourists to stay out of these private areas for locals only.

accepted by native Hawaiians

Waikiki is typically seen as the “tourist” area for O’ahu.
Palm trees by Orcrist is licensed under CC0 1.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original.


  1. Dida 12/12/2018 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    I find this article a little offensive, but pretty reflective of the attitudes one may encounter from a few locals on the island of Oahu, so hence, accurate. Nowhere else would tourists be advised to walk on eggshells so as not to offend locals such as tip #2 “Don’t try too hard” but also “tip extra and be excessively polite and easygoing”. I live in a tourist town, too, with several million visitors each year and about 6,000 locals and four main roads. Although no one is thrilled about tourists jamming up the road and driving like they don’t know where they’re going, we don’t really feel entitled to act like we wish they’d all just disappear. No way would I advise, “Don’t come out to our favorite beaches.” Rather, I’d suggest the best places for people to have a great, off the beaten path experience.

    I would never tell a visitor to Orlando from London, “You’re only welcome at Disneyworld and Alligator Heaven. If you don’t want dirty looks, stay out of my favorite buffalo wings dive.” Saying such things to people wanting to enjoy and appreciate Hawaii just tends to make one ask, “Where’s the Aloha, bro?”

  2. Ron Cernokus 12/12/2018 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    This is very disappointing. I drove taxi for a couple of months in Honolulu and I experienced a little negativity from one driver who felt that I was taking work from locals. However back in 1960 I was sent to Kauai for a month by the USMC. When I got off duty I would step out onto the highway and first vehicle would stop and give me ride into Lihue …….a 20 mile distance……and then we would go to this small park where muscians would be practicing for their evening show at Coco Plams Hotel…..we were very accepted and loved going there every evening and we were the only haoles.

  3. Ron Riess 12/12/2018 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Throughout history cultures mature over time to adapt to changing realities. Some refuse to allow that to happen. They fight against their own and splinter their culture and thus destroy the very thing they self righteously fight for. Deep down, happy is not a word I have observed that describes them. Fortunately there are those in any culture who are alive in their present reality and they thrive, a reality you seem to promote.

  4. Robin 12/12/2018 at 8:18 am - Reply

    I am moving to big island in February, you seem to mostly focus on Oahu is there anything you could share with me about Big Island Pahoa area

    • Peter Kay 12/12/2018 at 11:31 am - Reply

      Suggest you search this website for “Big Island” and “Pahoa”

    • Lisa Henry 01/05/2019 at 7:38 am - Reply

      Robin, I’m looking at a property in Pahoa to purchase and plan to go in February. I am moving from CA. Where are moving from?

  5. Micki 12/12/2018 at 6:25 am - Reply

    I lived on Oahu for 7 years and never found the issues you might think. The locals were very warm, friendly people and living near to many nationalities was great. It was a wonderful experience and I would jump at moving back if I could.

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