20 Things NOT to Do in Hawaii

Hawaii — By lottietagupa on December 2, 2009 at 10:59 am

Headed to the Hawaiian Islands this holiday season? Be sure not to commit a Hawaiian faux pas! Read on for our Hawaii Local Expert’s take on the 20 things not do in the rainbow state:

  1. Refer to the continental USA as “the states” — Hawaii was admitted to the union in 1959 as the 50th State and we’re proud of it!
  2. Add sugar to poi (a Polynesian staple food) – it should be eaten plain or not at all.
  3. Call local guys “mokes” – It is very offensive to most males in Hawaii.
  4. Ask directions by using north, south, east or west.  Directions are approached in a different way in Hawaii – mauka is the direction toward the mountains, and makai means toward the ocean.
  5. Yell the word “what” to anyone local – People in Hawaii have made this a fighting word!
  6. Wait for the red light to turn green to make a right hand turn – Feel free to turn right at anytime except when posted.
  7. Honk your horn for ANY reason unless it’s a life or death situation – Nothing will turn a local driver hostile quicker!
  8. Refer to local gals as “Tita” – It is offensive to most females.
  9. Try to get a suntan all in one day – It hurts and looks unattractive and desperate.
  10. Sun bathe nude on public beaches – It’s not only illegal, but it is disrespectful within Hawaiian culture regardless how remote the beach and no matter how many may say otherwise.
  11. Disturb or remove rock, shells or anything from heiau (Hawaiian temple), marine preserves and cultural sites.
  12. Speak pidgin poorly. Nothing comes closer to making a fool out of yourself to locals, if you don’t know it, don’t try.
  13. Refer to islands other than Oahu as the outer islands. Using the term “neighbor islands” is much more acceptable.
  14. Forget to take your shoes off before entering a home. Some homes have posted reminders others will allow exceptions on some occasions. But always attempt to remove your shoes as a sign of respect.
  15. Forget to accept a flower lei with a kiss. Forgetting or refusing the kiss and the inevitable embrace that follows is akin to not saying thank-you.
  16. Remove a lei in the presence of the presenter regardless of whether it is too hot, too fragrant or if it messes up your hair. Doing so is insulting and disrespectful.
  17. Forget to bring a gift when invited to an island home. It is expected each time you visit socially, not just the first time.
  18. Leave luggage, cameras and other valuables in your rental car even for a minute. Theft at tourist hotspots is rampant. Please avoid this at all costs.
  19. Attempt to harass or tease the Honu (green sea turtles). These endangered creatures are slow, docile and should be appreciated for their beauty and grace.
  20. Forget to acknowledge a driver’s courtesy when on the road. If someone lets you through or lets you in a lane, a quick shaka sign or wave is expected and appreciated.

Looking for ideas of what to do in Hawaii? Check out our featured guides to the Big Island, Kauai, Maui, and Oahu or create your own!

[Photo: douglemoine/Creative Commons]

Tags: Big Island, driving, Hawaii, Kauai, lei, locals, Maui, Oahu, travel advice


  • pam says:

    This is a pretty good list, but I have to say, in my many trips to the island, my rental car has never been messed with. Now, I don’t leave my Nikon on the front seat or anything crazy and in general, traveling with stuff you’re not prepared to lose isn’t the best idea, but the idea that Hawaii has some rampant rental car prowling problem… better safe than sorry and all that, but better stay home than travel paranoid.

    True and sad? A pal recently lost a ton of good gear from his car. Local guy, not a rental car, Hawaiian plates. Just sayin’.

  • Nicole Lerner says:

    Great point, Pam. Best rule of thumb is to not leave exposed valuables of any sort in your car, regardless of whether it’s a rental and regardless of the city!

  • Marry Pfrogner says:

    putting something decent together has gotten really easy. Man, I am amazed at what’s possible nowadays!


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