Travel blog

Hawaiian Customs: 10 Dos and Don’ts for Visiting Hawaii

Posted by YMT Vacations on Aug 11, 2020 9:09:32 AM

hawaiian etiquette 

It’s 85 degrees, the sun is shining, and the ocean breeze carries just a hint of coconut-scented sunscreen. It’s true that there’s never a bad day in paradise, but that doesn’t mean a slip up in etiquette or a misstep in planning can’t cloud what would otherwise be the perfect trip.

However, with these 10 dos and don’ts, you’ll be well on your way to understanding the local culture, and ensuring the Hawaiian vacation of a lifetime.

Dos For Your Hawaiian Vacation

A big part of enjoying Hawaii is embracing the different way they do things on the islands. Their ancient, unique culture has been shaped by numerous influences.

Modern Hawaii retains elements from native Hawaiian culture, Japan, mainland America, and more. Here is what you should do to appreciate, respect, and enjoy Hawaii:

1. Do Follow Flower Lei Etiquette

Do accept a lei gratefully, and never take it off in the presence of the person who gave it to you. Pregnant women will be given a long, open-ended lei meant to symbolize a safe delivery during childbearing.

2. Do Try Spam. It’s A Thing

Do try Spam on the islands. Commonly served in convenience stores, Spam musubi consists of a grilled slice of Spam served on top of rice and wrapped in seaweed.

Spam remains a common grab-and-go snack that arrived in Hawaii in World War II when food from the mainland was rationed. It’s still a delicious, affordable, and authentic Hawaiian treat.

3. Do Extend Your Stay

Do stay a while longer. Since such a large portion of your vacation budget is spent on getting here, why not stretch your travel dollar further by adding on an island cruise, visiting multiple islands, or enjoying a few extra days in the sun?

4. Do Learn the Meaning Behind the Hula

Traditional Hula is far more than just a dance for tourists, it’s part of the Hawaiian history and culture. Often featured at family gatherings and special occasions, it’s a true slice of native Hawaiian life.

5. Do Respect Private Property

Do use public beach access ramps and walkways. Often a homeowner’s backyard may reach all the way down to the sand, so keeping to approved walkways will prevent you from unknowingly trespassing across their property.

Hawaiian Vacation Don’ts

Island living is easy, but there are certain rules that everyone—especially visitors—are expected to follow. Always keep in mind the importance of respecting the land and culture—and remember that the food trucks here go way beyond your average “roach coach.”

Here are some things not to do when visiting Hawaii:

6. Don’t Gather “Natural Souvenirs”

Don’t remove coral, lava rocks, or black sand. Not only is environmental theft bad for the ecosystem, it’s considered to bring bad luck to remove black sand or coral from Hawaii.

7. Don’t Be Careless Toward Coral Reefs

Don’t damage the delicate coral reef by touching or stepping on it while diving or snorkeling. In addition, starting in 2021 you may not use sunscreen containing oxybenzone or octinoxate, chemicals known to bleach coral reef. Choose a reef-safe sunscreen instead.

8. Don’t Enter Someone’s Home with Shoes On

Don’t forget to remove your shoes when going inside someone’s home. It’s considered bad manners to keep them on.

9. Don’t Approach Protected Marine Life

Don’t bother the wildlife. You may be excited if you see sea turtles, humpback whales or other forms of endangered marine life, but ignore the impulse to get closer. These species are protected by law, so not only is human contact bad for them, you could get stuck with a hefty fine.

10. Don’t Turn Your Nose Up at Mobile Dining

Don’t miss the food trucks. Throughout Hawaii, you’ll find street food vendors incorporating fresh island ingredients in their adventurous menus. Many of these food trucks are parked beachside. Delicious food and heavenly views—what more could you ask for?

Visit the Hawaiian Islands in Person with YMT Vacations

One of the best ways to experience the Hawaiian Islands is on a guided tour with YMT Vacations.

You’ll explore all the magic of Hawaii under the guidance and expertise of a local Tour Director.

To make your plans to join one of our once-in-a-lifetime trips, call your travel consultant or YMT Vacations at 1-888-756-9072.

Discover the Hawaiian Islands


Topics: Hawaii, Travel Tips