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The red land of Maui with mountains and water in the far background.

Maui Island – Local Culture & You

Maui is a favorite vacation spot for local residents from other Hawaiian Islands (To coin a local phrase, Maui no ka oi!) You will find the aloha spirit is alive and well most everywhere here. (With a few exceptions—Wailua and Honokohau come to mind—which we mention in our driving tours.) People from all over the world have made Maui their home, and being respectful of everyones’ differences is a necessity. Here are a few things to keep in mind while visiting the Hawaiian Islands that will help you spread the aloha:

  • Hawaiians consider all land and water to be sacred. To condense an elaborate an ancient paradigm, all parts of the environment—from people to sand—are interrelated. Any harm that comes to one area will be felt in all others. Consider yourself a guest in someones’ house while visiting. (Imagine if you had a million people visiting your house. You’d want them to wipe their feet and clean up after themselves, right?)
  • Don’t litter. We’ve never really seen this as a problem with visitors but we feel the need to mention it. Try and take it a step farther. Try leaving a place better than you found it. Nothing brings out an appreciative smile more than the sight of a visitor to the islands picking up trash on the beach that someone else left behind. (Will earn you a shaka from any resident that sees it.)
  • Don’t take 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 at the beach). If you need a souvenir, support the local artist community, or just take a picture.
  • 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.) Like me in France trying to speak fake French—big time fail.
  • Be a courteous driver. Everything moves slower here, including the drivers. Take the opportunity to look around and enjoy where you are. And don’t be in a hurry to get there—you are there. But as you’re looking around, pull over onto the side of the road (when safe) if you see something interesting. Always let the faster drivers go around you. This isn’t a sport. If you’re visiting, you want to soak it in. If you live here and you just want to get someplace, visitors are in the way. Let ’em have the road. They’re in a hurry. You’re not. Who’s winning?
  • If you’re invited into someone’s home, take off your shoes at the door before entering. This Asian custom is the norm across Hawai‘i and nothing will annoy a local resident more than wearing your shoes inside their house. Chances are you will see where to put ’em. Add your slippahs to da pile, brah! And as we say at parties where there are giant piles of slippahs at the front door—no upgrading…
  • If in doubt, ask. If it is ordering from a local restaurant or you’re about access a waterfall, most locals are happy to help if you just ask. In Polynesian society, nothing is more rude than doing something before asking those with vested interests if it’s OK.

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What Readers Have to Say

“I just got back from a two week stay on the Big Island and Kauai. I’m happy to say that I ran across your books on the second day of my trip while browsing in the Border’s bookstore in Kailua. I bought both books and immediately read them literally from cover to cover. It’s no exaggeration to say that they saved my trip. I would not have visited half of the areas on the islands were it not for your guides. I was even amazing my “local” friends with some of the facts about Hawaiian history I learned about in the books they did not even know, and they have lived there for many years. By the way, the adventures and dining guide sections were particulary appreciated as were the very precise maps… Needless to say, I have already recommended your books to several people.”

- L. Liwanag, FL