Rocky inlet of land filled with crystal clear water in Oahu, Hawaii.

Oahu Island – Local Culture & You

O‘ahu, (Waikiki and Honolulu in particular) is the only place in Hawai‘i with that big city feel. The diverse population has made for a cultural stew. The aloha spirit is alive and well though it’s not on display as much here. It’s easy to get caught up in Waikiki’s hustle and bustle. Things here move faster than on the other islands, but remember, this is Hawai‘i, and aloha is a state of mind. Here are a few things to remember while visiting that will help you spread the aloha.

  • All land and water is considered sacred to native Hawaiians. To condense an elaborate an ancient paradigm, all parts of the environment, from people to rocks, are interrelated. Any harm that comes to one area will be felt in all others. Remember…you’re a guest, treat your time here like you’re a guest in someone’s house, (Imagine if you had four million people visiting your house. You’d want them to wipe their feet and clean up after themselves, right?)
  • Don’t litter. We’ve noticed that most visitors are very good about this. But take it a step further. One rule we like to follow is to leave a place better than when we found it. Nothing brings out an appreciative smile from a local resident more than picking up trash on the beach that someone else left behind, and it’ll make you feel good, too.
  • Don’t remove anything from the environment or cultural sites (heiau). This could be rocks, seashells, sacred offerings, plants and even sand (apart from what sticks to your feet and ‘okole after sitting on the beach). While it is tempting to take home a souvenir, it’s very disrespectful and ultimately damaging. Appreciate the setting, and take only pictures and memories.
  • Don’t try to imitate local dialects unless invited to. (Usually for resident’s amusement, because a visitor trying to speak pidgin sounds exactly like…a visitor trying to speak pidgin.)
  • Be a courteous driver. Traffic will be an issue no matter where you are on O‘ahu. Plan ahead and leave extra time to get where you’re going. Morning, afternoon and lunch rush hour can be mind numbingly slow. (Come to think of it, it’s always rush hour on O‘ahu, especially the dreaded H-1 freeway). Don’t honk your horn. It’s something that people in Hawai‘i just don’t do very much, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Take the opportunity to look around and enjoy where you are. You’ll get there eventually, so leave the road rage on the mainland. Don’t be in a hurry to get there—you are there. If you see somthing interesting, pull over to the side of the road (when safe) to investigate. Or just to let the faster drivers go around you, because you’re not in a hurry.
  • If invited into someone’s home, take off your shoes at the door, before you enter. You’ll most likely see a pile of flip-flops outside the front door of every house you visit. This is where they go. This Asian custom is the norm across Hawai‘i and nothing will annoy a local resident more than wearing your slippahs inside their house.
  • If in doubt, ask someone what the proper way to go about something is. If it is ordering from a local restaurant or about access to a waterfall, most locals are happy to help if you just ask.

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