Mahalo i ka ʻāina is how to respect the culture, island, and locals. Hawai`i is the paradise escape for millions of tourists each year. With the islands’ good weather, clean ocean, and amazing landscapes, it captures the admiration of all who visit. But beneath this outer shell of fantasy exists a deeply complex history, a unique culture, and the lives of many people who call the islands home.

Unfortunately, many of the islands’ visitors do not see past the outer shell. They only see the island as their tourist destination, and not as the home of the local people. At times this places the locals at odds with tourists – which can cause unsavory feelings towards one another. Although we cannot control the actions of others (even if we wish we could at times), we can alter our own actions to leave others with positive experiences.

Here are some suggestions you can follow to have a better experience visiting the islands while helping those who live here have a better experience with you!

Respect the land and the sea: Clean up after yourself 

photo of land and sea on Oahu, Hawaii. Mahalo i ka ʻāina is how to respect the island

Keep Hawaii beautiful at land and sea. Photo from the Polynesian Cultural Center Archive.

Hawai`i has a plethora of beautiful beaches, hikes, camping destinations, and other outdoor experiences. We want to keep these places beautiful for the generations which will follow us. To do that we must practice cleaning up after ourselves. Usually, an increase in visitors causes an increase in litter, as stated in this article by KHON2. Litter can harm local wildlife and sea life – many of which are endangered species only found around the Hawaiian Islands. Litter also un-beautifies the landscape, making it harder for locals and other visitors to enjoy. 

A good rule of thumb is to leave a place cleaner than you found it, and to pack out what you pack in. Everyone will appreciate seeing visitors helping to keep the islands looking beautiful! 


Respect the laws: Road etiquette and safety 

photo of pedestrian crosswalk sign indicates STOP to the incoming vehicles on Pali Highway in Oahu, Hawaii. Mahalo i ka ʻāina is how to respect the locals.

Be cautious when you arrive on the Hawaiian islands. Spread Aloha to yourself and our Ohana by following the proper speed limits and parking your vehicle legally. Photo Credit: Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

When it comes to comfort and convenience in traveling around the island, nothing beats renting a car for your trip. But with so many drivers from all around the world on the road, the right and wrong ways to drive can get blurred. This can cause a lot of frustration for those who live here and can make the roads a lot more dangerous. Here are some basic things you can do to make the driving situation better: 

  • Drive the speed limit. This includes driving fast enough as much as it includes not speeding. The island is very beautiful; but if you are slowing down on the highway or other roads to take pictures, you are inconveniencing others and making driving more hazardous. You are more than welcome to pull to the side of the road to take pictures, which will allow other drivers to be able to be on their way!
  • The same goes for driving too fast. We understand our speed limits may be a lot slower than what you are used to back home, but there is good reason for this. The roads here cannot be as wide nor as straight as other roads you may be used to. Mixed with constant wet weather, driving fast can be extremely dangerous. Don’t endanger your life or the live of others. Drive safe and obey the rules of the road.
  • Use designated parking areas and don’t park illegally. ‘No parking’ zones are there for a reason and ignoring them can greatly inconvenience others. You can also earn yourself a hefty parking ticket or worse, get your rental car towed. If your beach destination doesn’t have any more parking available, you can park somewhere nearby and walk, or you can visit one of the other beautiful beaches on the island!

If you are looking for more tips driving on the islands, check out this article, They are an excellent source of information when planning your trip! 


Respect the culture  

photo of hula dancers at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Mahalo i ka ʻāina is how to respect the culture

Truly immerse yourself in the Hawaiian culture. Photo from the Polynesian Cultural Center Archive,

Hawai`i is a land rich in culture. Many visitors come to Hawai`i to experience the luaus and the hula dancing, but don’t take any time to learn about real Hawaiian culture or history. Most ‘Hawaiian’ tourist experiences are fun and entertaining, but many may not accurately represent the culture. However, there are many activities and places you can go to be culturally enriched which will help you have a better understanding of what Hawai`i really is. The Polynesian Cultural Center does an excellent job of authentically portraying Pacific Island cultures while still being a fun experience. 

Visiting historical sites significant to the Hawaiian culture is another great way to support the culture and learn more about its history. Some such sites are Heiaus (Hawaiian temples which serve many purposes to the Hawaiian people), sites of important battles (the Nu’uanu Pali lookout is a great option), or some of the Hawaiian fishponds. Remember however that these sites may be sacred, or of great cultural importance. Be respectful no matter where you go, and you are sure to have an enlightening experience. If you need help finding activities like these, check out! 

We couldn’t hope to include everything in one article, but by following these basic guidelines, you are sure to leave the islands with increased respect and awe! The most important thing to remember is to be respectful. Use your time here to practice and have a better understanding of the Aloha spirit. We wish you well on your visit on the Island! Mahalo!  

Want to learn more about the cultures of the Pacific Islands? Click here! 

Interested in planning a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center? Click here to see our package deals! 

To learn more about the history of the Polynesian Cultural Center visit this link here! 



Bio of Kirkham Dooley, Brigham Young University – Hawaii student and Guest Blogger

photo of Kirkham DooleyKirkham is a student attending Brigham Young University of Hawai`i, pursuing a degree in business management with an emphasis in operations and supply chain. He was born in Washington state, moved to Oahu in 2011 and stayed until 2016, after he graduated from Kahuku High School. Although his family now lives on the island of Kauai, Kirkham returned to Laie to pursue his higher education.