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How to Be a Better Tourist in Hawaii
How to be a better tourist in Hawaii. You’re here because you’re trying to figure out how to be a better Hawaii tourist, which is a great start! Wanting to do better is the first step. I don’t want to ruin your fun and say that you can’t take a Hawaii vacation, but there are a few things you can do that can make your trip have a more positive impact.
Today, I will share how everyone can be a better tourist in Hawaii. I will include actions you should take and conversations you may want to have. Anything that will make you a better tourist when you vacation in Hawaii.
Before we get started, let me introduce myself. My name is Amy, and I’m a Hawaii Travel Agent. I spend a lot of time planning the perfect vacations for my clients, but I also share travel tips for everyone (not just my clients!) here on the blog.
You’ve probably heard stories about someone doing something they shouldn’t (trespassing, harassing Hawaiian wildlife, etc.), and you want to avoid being that tourist.
How to Be a Better Tourist in Hawaii
Here are a few tips on how to be a better tourist in Hawaii. You might also want to check out 20 things you should never do in Hawaii and ten things to know before going to Hawaii before your Hawaii vacation.
Now, let’s get to it. Here are a few ways to be a better tourist in Hawaii in no particular order.
1. Always Park Legally
Some of the best views in Hawaii can be seen from the highways. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Road to Hana, but there are also other areas with abundant views and limited parking.
If you are searching for how to be a better tourist in Hawaii, I recommend always parking legally.
Don’t park on the side of the highway amongst the no parking signs. Accidents are common in those areas. Don’t cause one!
Consider the area you are in and park accordingly. Park your vehicle so it is not on the road. If an area is too crowded with cars, return at another time to get a few pictures.
You can read my complete guide to the Road to Hana here.
2. Avoid trespassing
Some trails in Hawaii are clearly marked, while others are not. What you will see on a few unmarked trails are no trespassing signs. To be a better tourist in Hawaii, you should always pay attention to those signs and follow them.
Private properties are areas where visitors do not belong, even if a waterfall is nearby and you want a picture of it. Warning signs are also often posted because an area is unsafe. You might laugh and think this is ridiculous, but plenty of tourists have slipped and fallen to their death or been swept out to sea.
Nature always wins, and these signs are there for a reason.
3. Give Wildlife a Little Space
The wildlife in Hawaii holds a special place in the locals’ hearts. When you visit Hawaii, you will be thrilled to see the green sea turtles, whales, and other wildlife. Therefore, it is essential that you give all the wildlife their space.
Look, and take pictures from a distance when on land. Out in the water, you should only be close to marine life when they approach you. And even then, don’t touch them. Simply let them swim on by.
Oh, and if you don’t follow this rule, you could be given a hefty fine to pay. Regardless of the legalities, please leave the animals alone. Hawaii is their home, and you are a visitor.
Check out the most fascinating Hawaiian animals to learn more about the local wildlife.
4. Perfect Your Relaxation Skills
Hawaii tends to be a very laid-back destination. Most locals embrace island time and do not like to rush.
Embrace this slower lifestyle. Take in the views while dining, and enjoy any raindrops that fall.
6. Avoid vacation rentals and stay in a hotel or resort.
I realize this may sound counterintuitive for how to be a better tourist in Hawaii, but hear me out. I see some people saying to avoid hotels and stay in rentals to support locals.
This is typically incorrect. Vacation rentals are actually very hurtful to locals. Those who tend to own them typically don’t live on the islands. The vacation rentals make the cost of living very high, particularly compared to wages.
I have an entire post about Airbnb in Hawaii and why to avoid it. To summarize, vacation rentals typically hurt locals. Oahu has banned vacation rentals in certain areas unless you can stay for 30+ days. Wealthy non-locals own most vacation rentals, and you are likely not supporting the local economy by staying in them.
If you want a condo-style stay, you can still do that without booking through sites like Airbnb, which is not a good idea in Hawaii anyway.
7. Leave No Trace Behind
The Hawaiian Islands are gorgeous. The land and ocean are considered sacred.
As you are hiking, exploring, and seeing the sights, you are encouraged to leave no trace behind. This means taking all your garbage with you. Unfortunately, if you want to be a better tourist in Hawaii, you will also find yourself picking up other people’s trash.
While you are keeping the islands beautiful, it is also important to note what you cannot take from the land. For example, it is against the law to take home shells, sand, and lava rocks.
A legend states that anyone who takes lava rocks from the islands will have bad luck. The goddess Pele gets angry when someone takes what belongs to her.
People have actually returned the lava rocks they took and asked for forgiveness from the local deity. I don’t think anyone should tempt fate with this legend! Better safe than cursed, I always say.
8. Use the Shaka Sign
The shaka sign basically extends the thumb and pinkie while curling the other three fingers in. This sign is considered an excellent gesture of friendship, solidarity, and compassion.
There are many times you can use the shaka sign throughout the day in Hawaii.
9. Learn the Basics of Hawaiian Culture
Culture is important in Hawaii. Learning it before you arrive will allow you to enjoy your experiences properly.
If you want to learn more about Hawaiian cultures during your visit, you can visit the local cultural center on the islands. Attending community events is another way to learn about the culture and traditions in Hawaii.
10. Don’t forget to rent a car
Why stay at your resort in Hawaii when you can explore the beautiful island? Of course, you shouldn’t trespass or go anywhere where you’re not allowed, but don’t miss everything by staying at a resort.
This isn’t really part of how to be a better tourist in Hawaii, but it’s definitely part of how to be a smarter tourist in Hawaii!
I recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental. You’ll find the best prices on rental cars in Hawaii.
11. Learn Surfing Etiquette
Surfers are everywhere in Hawaii. Actually, it is part of Hawaiian culture. However, when you choose to surf in Hawaii, you must make sure you learn about surf etiquette before you hit the waves.
A few rules include:
- Don’t block a path a surfer is using while riding a wave.
- Always maintain the same direction when paddling. Accidents happen when you stop and consider going in a different direction.
- Be aware of the surfer’s right of way. The person closest to the peak wave will always have the right of way.
- Never touch the reefs.
12. Wear the Right Clothes
You will never want to stand out while on vacation in Hawaii as a tourist. So please don’t buy the ridiculous coconut shell bras and grass skirts (made in China, by the way), and wear them around. You’ll definitely stand out, and not in a good way.
Instead, think casual and comfortable. Shorts, skirts, and short sleeve shirts. This is how most of the locals dress.
Higher elevations may require warmer clothing. Keep that in mind when planning and packing for your trip.
13. Learn Part of the Local Language
In Hawaii, the locals speak Hawaiian and English. The Hawaiian language only has 13 letters. There are five vowels and eight consonants.
Hawaiian words to learn include:
- Aloha – hello, goodbye, etc.
- Mahalo – thank you
- E Komo Mai – Welcome
- Pupu – appetizer
- Ono – delicious
- Ohana – family
You can check out the meaning of Mahalo and other common Hawaiian words to learn even more.
14. Shop Local
This tip should be easy for many people, especially since some people are trying to consciously shop locally when they are home. For me personally, this is one of the best tips for how to be a better tourist in Hawaii. Support the local economy, not just the big brands!
Read the labels of anything you plan to purchase while in Hawaii. Purchase items that state they are made in Hawaii. There are plenty of things sold at farmers’ markets and other places that are actually made in China. Try to make an effort to support local. There are plenty of local shops, and you can also shop for handcrafted goods and food at the Farmers’ Markets.
15. Eat Local
When you finish shopping locally, it will be time to eat locally. Hawaii is a melting pot of cultures, and the food has many influences. You can find just about anything you’d like, but don’t forget to try some of the Hawaiian local favorites such as loco moco, plate lunch, and of course, poke!
You’ll find plenty of delicious food. Another bonus is that it’s often very easy to find allergy-friendly, vegetarian or even vegan food in Hawaii!
16. Have One-on-One Conversations
Chatting with the locals is one of the best ways to learn how to be a better tourist in Hawaii. They can give you insights into Hawaiian culture. They can share traditions. Locals can also share where to go to experience the best the islands have to offer.
Listen to their wisdom and enjoy a new friendship. Most locals in Hawaii don’t hate tourists; they hate bad tourists.
Yes, there are some locals who don’t like tourists at all, but they are not in the majority. I’m sure this post might get comments from some of them, but most of my local friends welcome tourists and the boost to the economy but want tourists to be more mindful.
Don’t show up in Hawaii and think you can do whatever you want because you leave in a week. These islands are beautiful and sacred, and they are home to many. Leave them better than you found them.
How to be a better tourist in Hawaii
I hope these tips on how to be a better tourist in Hawaii help you during your Hawaii vacation. Do you have any suggestions on how to be a better tourist? If so, I’d love to hear them in the comments!
Want even more Hawaii travel tips? Check out some of my best posts on all things Hawaii travel.
- 50 things to do on the Big Island
- Guide to Volcanoes National Park
- The best restaurants in Kauai
- The ultimate guide to Upcountry Maui
- The best macadamia nut farms in Hawaii to visit
- 4-day Kauai Itinerary
If you need some help planning your Hawaii vacation, reach out! I am a Hawaii Travel Agent, and that is what I do. I am selective about how many clients I work with, so reach out as soon as possible for the best availability. You can contact me to learn more.
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