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How to Live Like a Local in Hawaii

a close up of a beach aloha

Imagine clear blue skies a the salty breeze from the ocean and sound of the waves crashing down about its sandy shores—do these thoughts conjure up a tropical paradise? For people living in Hawaii, no need to conjure these thoughts, its just another day in Hawaii. This laid back vibes make the Hawaiian people friendly, approachable and hospitable, so much so that the tourists feel like they are not strangers, but rather friends who were not seen for a very long time. How is it like to live like a local in Hawaii?

Here are some tips and guidelines to help you live like a local in Hawaii, just in case you decide to leave everything behind and move to the Aloha State.

Being knowledgeable on how the locals communicate with each other will guarantee a hassle-free vacation. So better to familiarize, remember and use these words and phrases accordingly for a smoother stay in the island.

Words and Phrases

Aloha Pronounced (Ah-LOW-hah)

Majority of the tourists in the island is familiar that this greeting means both “hello” and “good bye.” But, unknown to many, this one-word phrase has a deeper meaning to it. This phrase that is synonymous with the Hawaiian island. “The sense of aloha, or spirit of aloha, is prevalent throughout the islands, and a loose translation of this deeper meaning is “to consciously manifest life joyously in the present.”

Mahalo Pronounced: (Ma-HAH-low)

There is a misconception that Mahalo directly translates to “trash”, since this word is written on many trash cans in the island. But, Mahalo is a word that actually means “thank you.” So this word is printed on garbage bins to indirectly tell you not to litter the clean island.

Mauka/Makai Pronounced: (MOW-ka/Ma-KAI)

These two words are direct opposites. To say “Mauka” means pointing to the mountains, while asking for Makai is wanting to go to the seas.


Wikiwiki is the ground transportation between terminals at the airport, but it directly means speedy or fast. You can also hear locals say “wikiwiki” when you are traveling with tour guides within the island.

Hawaii’s Fashion

a person walking on a beach

Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to what to wear when touring the beautiful places in Hawaii.

  • Avoid bright colored, floral printed polos like those they portray in the movies.
  • Opt to wear slippers or flip flops when traveling, instead of sandals, sneakers and closed shoes—these is give away sign that you are a tourist.
  • Don’t think about wearing a sun visor and waist bags.
  • Speedos and similar tight swimwear is very uncommon in the islands of Hawaii. Choose swimming trunks that fall to your mid-thighs or lower. Women can wear any swimsuit they like.

Polite Gestures and Mindful Manners:

a close up of a person holding an animal

Know these basic etiquettes when interacting with the locals of Hawaii. Keep in mind that being new to the island is no excuse in being rude.

  • Learn to use the words aloha and mahalo with sincerity.
  • If you are presented with a lei (floral garlands), always accept and wear it with gratitude. Never take the lei off in the presence of the person who gave it to you.
  • Use the “Shaka Sign” (the letter Y in sign language) when saying hello, posing for a picture and sometimes, hailing transportation.
  • If you are invited into someone’s home, always remove your shoes before entering the home.
  • If you are on a sightseeing drive and you notice a local driver in your rear view mirror, pull off the road at your earliest opportunity to let the local person pass.
  • Never honk your horn in traffic unless it is an absolute emergency. Drive slower, you are not in the mainland, there is no need to rush.
  • There is no need to lock your car doors.
  • Follow their Beach Etiquette.

Eat where the locals dine:

If there’s one better way of knowing the culture of a place, it’s through food and eating with them.

  • As much as possible, avoid eating at resorts and hotels. They are serving foods far from the real taste of locally produced dishes and delicacies.
  • Share a table with locals by asking politely and starting a conversation.