Hawaiians vary. Some might be living in Hawaii mansions near the mountains while others might prefer a condo with a view of the ocean. Some are of Asian descent while others have family lines tracing back to the noble families of Hawaiian aristocracy. What they all have in common is they are all locals and can easily pick out the tourist, which is you. If you want to fit in with a local, these ten tips will definitely help you blend in.
Learn to surf
If you’ve always dreamed of learning how to surf, then what better place to do it than from the place where the sport originated? The surfing that we know today can be attributed to a mighty Hawaiian by the name of Duke Kahanamoku who brought the spotlight to the sport; he was also named the “Surfer of the Century” in 1999. If you have no idea where to go, ask your hotel’s concierge or ask the locals. There are many along Waikiki, Maui and Oahu’s shores.
Your clothing should not scream tourist, making you an easy target for scammers who target travelers. If you’re with your partner or family, please do not wear bright, matching Aloha clothing; it’s an eyesore. If you do want to wear an Aloha shirt, wear it in a subtle color and print, and try not to wear it on the same day your spouse wears her dress. Hawaii also tends to be warmer than most states, so do not under any circumstance wear socks with sandals as this combination will make you the laughingstock of the island. Instead, just wear the sandals or grab a pair of flip flops instead. If you’re planning to go into the water, ditch the tight Speedos and wear board shorts instead. Since it is hot, skip the fancy polos and go casual with tank tops and t-shirts.
Let go of your gadgets
One mark of a tourist is someone who takes photos of EVERYTHING. By everything, that means not letting go of one’s digital devices such as tablets, cameras or smartphones to the point that you’re viewing your vacation through the screen. Stop Snapchatting and just try to experience everything. Try leaving your devices in the hotel’s safety deposit box for at least half a day; try to actually enjoy Hawaii because that’s what the natives do.
Uber? Bus? Nope, scooter!
If you are not on a strict budget, then there’s a probability you’ll be renting a car instead of hoping on a bus to get to your destination; however, there is another form of transportation that’s more frequented by locals— the scooter. If you know you can drive a motorbike, try renting a scooter. These small vehicles are preferred by a lot of locals over cars since they are easier to park. Just remember to honk only when necessary.
Observe beach etiquette
Unless you’re in a marine theme park, don’t force animals to photograph with you and this means grabbing a turtle and placing it near your face for the perfect selfie. It’s been said once, and it will be said again: respect Mother Nature. Do not step on corals and if you’re going for a dip in the water, allow the sunscreen to completely dry lest it drips off you and contribute to the numerous pollutants already in the water. Also, don’t crowd people on the beach; give space.
Learn the lingo
There’s more to Hawaii than “Aloha”; learn a few more Hawaiian words. Mahalo means thank you, E komo mai is welcome. If you’re eating out and find the food yummy, say Ono. If you see a sign that says “Kapu”, don’t venture further as this is Hawaiian for forbidden or keep out. If you find yourself in a bind and are unsure of the pronunciation, just ask a local and they’ll be more than willing to help you out. In fact, they’ll even appreciate it since this shows you are making an effort to learn the language.
When in Hawaii, do as the Hawaiians do and that means eating their food. There are loads of good dishes to be tasted and many of them are influenced by Asian cuisines as most Hawaiians are of Asian origin, with the top country being the Philippines with Japan second. On a hot day, grab some flavored shaved ice from Matsumoto or Uncle’s Shave Ice, depending on what island you are on. Don’t make the mistake of calling them ice cones as this terminology will out you as a tourist. For lunch, order a plate lunch. This is comprised of two cups of rice, a viand, and macaroni salad. The viands can be adobo, char siu pork or shrimp. A popular variation and a must for any visitor is the Loco Moco which is rice, a hamburger patty, fried rice and gravy poured all over it. It’s the ultimate dish. Also, don’t forget to grab a Spam Musubi and taste some Poke, which is cubed raw fish (usually tuna or ahi) with seaweed, soy sauce and onions. There are so many varieties, so choose wisely.
Protect your skin
The only living thing attractive with a red exterior is cooked seafood, like lobsters. You are not a lobster and upon arriving in Hawaii, nobody among the locals has red, burnt skin. The secret to that is simple: sun protection. Always use sunscreen and don’t forget to reapply it. If you have fair skin that burns easily, choose one with really high SPF and always wear a hat to protect your face.
Take a chill pill
It’s highly likely you came to the Aloha state for a holiday, so treat it that way. Hawaiians are more laid back than your usual city dwellers; they don’t continuously honk their horn when stuck in traffic nor do they cuss the long lines to the food truck nor do they walk as if they were being chased down by a werewolf. Adapt this attitude and just relax, take it easy. Remember, you’re on a vacation.
Mind your manners
Hawaiians are known to be among the most courteous in the United States. It will do you good to show them the same courtesy they show to you. If someone greets you ‘Aloha’, you can either respond Aloha back or smile and nod. When given a lei, do not remove it from your neck while in the presence of the giver as doing so is considered rude. When in a line, always the elderly, pregnant women and mothers with toddlers go ahead of you. Also, never forget to say please and thank you. Who knows, that small bit of manners you showed at the local farmer’s market just might earn you an extra dragon fruit from the owner.
Hawaii is a wonderful little piece of paradise here on Earth. Hopefully, with this little helper, you’ll get to enjoy a vacation to remember.