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How Do I Not Look Like A Tourist In Hawaii?


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Thelma Aguila



Heading to Hawaii for a vacation? Congratulations! You’re in for a truly extraordinary experience. With its pristine beaches, lush landscapes, and vibrant culture, Hawaii is a dream destination for many travelers. However, standing out as a tourist can sometimes dampen the immersive experience. To truly embrace the aloha spirit and blend in with the locals, it’s essential to know a few tips and tricks to avoid looking like a tourist in Hawaii. In this article, we’ll provide you with valuable insights and advice to help you effortlessly blend in and experience Hawaii like a local.


While it’s perfectly okay to be a visitor in paradise, adopting some local customs and embracing the island’s way of life can significantly enhance your trip. From dressing appropriately to learning basic Hawaiian phrases, respecting local customs, exploring lesser-known areas, and trying local cuisine, these tips will ensure you have an authentic and unforgettable experience in the Aloha State.


So, let’s dive in and discover how to not look like a tourist in Hawaii!


Dress like a Local

When it comes to dressing like a local in Hawaii, comfort and practicality are key. While it’s tempting to pack your brightest floral shirts and straw hats, locals tend to opt for a more casual and laid-back style. Here are a few tips to help you blend in with the locals:

  • Choose lightweight and breathable clothing: With Hawaii’s tropical climate, it’s important to stay cool and comfortable. Opt for lightweight fabrics like cotton and linen to help beat the heat.
  • Wear aloha shirts and dresses: While the quintessential Hawaiian shirt is often associated with tourists, wearing a tasteful aloha shirt or dress can be a fun way to embrace the local style. Look for designs that incorporate traditional Hawaiian motifs and colors.
  • Stick to neutral tones: While Hawaii is known for its vibrant colors, locals often favor neutral tones like tan, white, and navy. Avoid overly flashy or neon colors, as they tend to make you stand out as a tourist.
  • Choose comfortable footwear: Hawaii is all about embracing the outdoors. Opt for comfortable footwear like sandals or sneakers that you can easily slip on and off when you’re exploring the beaches or hiking trails.
  • Accessorize with a hat and sunscreen: Protecting yourself from the sun is essential in Hawaii. Grab a wide-brimmed hat and don’t forget to apply sunscreen to stay safe and blend in with the locals who prioritize sun protection.

Remember, it’s important to dress appropriately when visiting cultural sites and local communities. When entering sacred places, such as temples or traditional Hawaiian sites, be mindful of the dress code and follow any guidelines or customs that are in place. By respecting the local culture and dressing appropriately, you’ll not only blend in but also show your appreciation for Hawaii’s traditions.


Avoid Overpacking

When it comes to packing for your trip to Hawaii, less is often more. Avoiding overpacking not only makes your journey more convenient but also helps you blend in with the locals who tend to have a more minimalist approach to travel. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Pack versatile clothing: Instead of packing a different outfit for each day, aim for versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched. This not only saves space but also allows you to create different looks with a limited number of items.
  • Leave unnecessary items at home: Consider the activities you’ll be engaging in and pack accordingly. Leave behind bulky items like hairdryers or excessive amounts of toiletries as most hotels and vacation rentals provide these amenities.
  • Utilize laundry facilities: If you’re planning an extended stay, find accommodations that offer laundry facilities. This allows you to pack fewer clothes and freshen them up throughout your trip.
  • Limit the number of shoes: Shoes can take up a significant amount of space in your luggage. Stick to essential pairs like comfortable walking shoes, flip flops for the beach, and perhaps a dressier option for a night out.
  • Consider local shopping: Hawaii is home to a variety of unique shops and boutiques. Leave some room in your suitcase for souvenirs and clothing you might discover during your trip.

By packing light, you’ll not only avoid looking like an overwhelmed tourist lugging around heavy suitcases, but you’ll also have more flexibility to explore the islands and fully experience the laid-back lifestyle of Hawaii.


Learn Some Basic Hawaiian Phrases

Learning a few basic Hawaiian phrases not only shows respect for the local culture but also helps you connect with the people you’ll encounter during your trip. While English is widely spoken throughout Hawaii, locals appreciate visitors who make an effort to learn and use some common Hawaiian words and expressions. Here are a few essential phrases to get you started:

  • Aloha – (ah-LOH-ha) – The most iconic Hawaiian word, aloha means both “hello” and “goodbye”. Use it with a warm smile to greet locals and fellow travelers.
  • Mahalo – (mah-HAH-loh) – Mahalo means “thank you”. It’s a simple but powerful word to express gratitude to locals who offer their assistance or provide you with a memorable experience.
  • E komo mai – (eh KOH-moh MY) – This phrase means “welcome” and is commonly used to greet visitors. You may encounter it when entering shops or restaurants.
  • Maika’i loa – (my-kah-EE LOH-ah) – If you want to express that something is “very good” or “excellent”, use this phrase to show your appreciation.
  • Keiki – (KAY-kee) – This term refers to “child” or “children”. It may come in handy if you want to engage with families or comment on the local youth.
  • Pau hana – (pow HAH-nah) – When you’re ready to relax and enjoy some free time, use this phrase to convey that you’re done with work or activities for the day.

By incorporating these phrases into your conversations, you’ll not only show respect to the local culture but also make meaningful connections with the people you meet along your Hawaiian journey. Don’t be afraid to ask locals for help with pronunciation or for additional phrases—they will likely appreciate your effort and be more than happy to assist you.


Respect the Local Culture and Etiquette

Respecting the local culture and etiquette is crucial when visiting Hawaii. The islands have a rich cultural heritage, and embracing it not only shows your appreciation but also helps you blend in seamlessly with the local community. Here are some important guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Be mindful of sacred sites: Hawaii is home to many sacred places that hold cultural and spiritual significance. When visiting these sites, be respectful of the customs and rules in place. Follow any guidelines regarding attire, photography, and behavior.
  • Show aloha spirit: Aloha is more than just a word—it’s a way of life in Hawaii. Embrace the aloha spirit by being kind, welcoming, and considerate to those you meet. Treat locals, fellow travelers, and the environment with respect and kindness.
  • Observe and ask for permission: If you’re participating in traditional ceremonies or cultural activities, be observant and respectful. Ask for permission before taking photos or participating in any rituals to ensure you’re upholding the cultural values.
  • Respect the land and ocean: Hawaii’s natural beauty is its most precious asset. Show your respect by keeping the beaches clean, refraining from touching or taking anything from coral reefs, and adhering to any environmental guidelines or restrictions.
  • Learn and embrace local customs: Take the time to learn about local customs and traditions, such as removing your shoes when entering someone’s home or addressing elders with respect. Embrace these customs to immerse yourself in the authentic Hawaiian experience.

Respecting the local culture and etiquette not only demonstrates your appreciation for Hawaii’s heritage but also allows you to connect with the community on a deeper level. By cultivating a mindful and respectful attitude, you’ll have a more meaningful and authentic experience during your time in Hawaii.


Explore Beyond the Touristy Areas

Hawaii offers much more than just its popular tourist attractions. To truly experience the spirit of the islands and avoid looking like a typical tourist, consider exploring beyond the well-known tourist hotspots. Here are a few suggestions to help you discover the hidden gems of Hawaii:

  • Visit local neighborhoods: Take the time to explore local neighborhoods and interact with the residents. You’ll find unique shops, restaurants, and community events that offer a glimpse into the everyday life of the locals.
  • Seek out lesser-known beaches: While the famous beaches are undoubtedly beautiful, venturing off the beaten path can lead you to stunning, secluded stretches of sand. Ask locals or do some research to find hidden beaches that offer a more serene and authentic experience.
  • Go hiking in nature reserves: Hawaii’s incredible natural beauty extends far beyond the coastline. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the island’s lush mountains, breathtaking waterfalls, and volcanic landscapes. Guided tours or local recommendations can help you discover lesser-known hiking trails.
  • Check out local markets: Visit local farmers’ markets and artisanal craft fairs to get a taste of Hawaii’s local produce, handmade crafts, and unique souvenirs. It’s a great opportunity to support local businesses and engage with the community.
  • Attend community events: Keep an eye out for cultural festivals, music concerts, or traditional ceremonies happening during your visit. Immersing yourself in these local events allows you to experience the authentic traditions, music, and dances of Hawaii.

By exploring beyond the touristy areas, you’ll not only avoid the crowds but also have the chance to connect with the local culture, support local businesses, and create unforgettable memories along the way. Remember to be respectful of private property, follow any guidelines or restrictions, and always practice responsible tourism.


Use Local Transportation

Using local transportation is not only a convenient and affordable way to get around Hawaii but also a great way to immerse yourself in the local lifestyle and avoid looking like a tourist. Here are some options to consider:

  • Public buses: Most islands in Hawaii have a reliable and extensive public bus system. The buses can take you to popular attractions, shopping centers, and local neighborhoods. Check the bus schedules and routes to plan your transportation accordingly.
  • Bike rentals: Many cities and towns in Hawaii have bike-friendly streets and scenic paths. Renting a bike allows you to explore at your own pace while taking in the breathtaking scenery. It’s also an environmentally-friendly transport option.
  • Shared rides and taxis: Apps like Uber and Lyft operate in Hawaii, making it convenient to get around, especially for shorter distances or when you’re in a hurry. Taxis are also available at major tourist areas and hotels.
  • Local shuttles and tour operators: To visit specific attractions or participate in tours, consider using local shuttles or tour operators. They often offer transportation services while providing valuable insights and local knowledge.
  • Inter-island flights: If you plan on visiting multiple islands, taking inter-island flights can be a time-saving and efficient option. Several airlines offer flights between the islands, allowing you to explore different landscapes and experiences.

By using local transportation, you’ll have the opportunity to engage with locals, observe their daily routines, and gain a deeper understanding of the Hawaiian culture. It also gives you a chance to avoid the hassle of finding parking and allows you to enjoy the scenic views without the stress of navigation. Just ensure that you plan your transportation in advance and have a general understanding of the routes and schedules to make your journey smooth and seamless.


Try Local Cuisine

One of the best ways to experience a destination like a local is through its food. Hawaii offers a diverse and delicious culinary scene, blending traditional Hawaiian flavors with influences from various cultures. By trying local cuisine, you not only satisfy your taste buds but also immerse yourself in the culinary traditions of the islands. Here are some must-try dishes and dining experiences:

  • Poke: A staple of Hawaiian cuisine, poke is a raw fish salad often made with ahi tuna or salmon. It’s typically marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, and other seasonings. Sample different variations of poke and savor the fresh flavors of the ocean.
  • Plate lunch: A plate lunch is a local favorite, consisting of a generous portion of rice, a protein (such as kalua pork or teriyaki chicken), and a side like macaroni salad. It’s a hearty and satisfying meal that reflects the multicultural influences on Hawaiian cuisine.
  • Loco moco: A beloved Hawaiian comfort food, loco moco is a dish that layers rice, a hamburger patty, a sunny-side-up egg, and rich brown gravy. It’s a delicious and filling combination that will energize you for a day of exploring.
  • Shave ice: Don’t leave Hawaii without trying shave ice, a refreshing treat perfect for cooling down in the tropical heat. Shave ice is finely shaved ice topped with flavored syrups and sometimes paired with ice cream or sweetened condensed milk.
  • Farmers’ markets: Visit local farmers’ markets to sample the fresh produce, tropical fruits, and artisanal products of Hawaii. It’s a great opportunity to try unique ingredients, meet local vendors, and support sustainable agriculture.
  • Luau experience: Attending a traditional Hawaiian luau is a must for a complete cultural immersion. Enjoy a feast of kalua pig, poi (a staple made from taro), lomi-lomi salmon, and other local dishes, while being entertained by hula dancers and live music.

When dining out, seek out small local eateries and family-owned restaurants to taste authentic Hawaiian flavors. Ask for recommendations from locals or explore the less touristy areas to discover hidden culinary gems. Remember to be open-minded and embrace the unique flavors and combinations that make Hawaiian cuisine so special.


By trying local cuisine, you not only support the local food scene but also deepen your connection to the culture and community of Hawaii.


Participate in Cultural Activities and Festivals

To truly experience the vibrant culture of Hawaii and immerse yourself in the local way of life, make sure to participate in cultural activities and festivals during your visit. From traditional dances to music performances and art exhibits, these events offer a unique insight into the rich heritage of the islands. Here’s how you can make the most of these cultural experiences:

  • Hula: Hula is one of the most iconic and cherished forms of Hawaiian cultural expression. Attend a hula performance or even take a hula lesson to learn the graceful movements and stories behind this ancient dance form.
  • Music: Hawaiian music is full of soul and tells stories of the islands. Look for live music performances featuring local artists playing traditional instruments like the ukulele or slack-key guitar. You can also attend concerts or visit music venues that showcase Hawaiian and Polynesian music.
  • Art and crafts: Delve into the world of Hawaiian art and crafts by visiting galleries, attending art exhibitions, or exploring local markets. Discover the unique talents of local artists and artisans through their paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and other handcrafted items.
  • Cultural centers and museums: Explore the museums and cultural centers dedicated to preserving and promoting Hawaiian culture. These institutions often offer exhibits, workshops, and demonstrations on a variety of topics, including language, history, and traditional arts and crafts.
  • Festivals: Check the local event calendars to find out about cultural festivals happening during your visit. From the Merrie Monarch Festival celebrating hula to the Aloha Festivals showcasing Hawaiian music and dance, these events are perfect for experiencing the vibrant energy of Hawaiian culture.
  • Traditional ceremonies: If the opportunity arises, witness or participate in traditional Hawaiian ceremonies, such as a sunrise chant or a blessing. These rituals provide a deeper understanding of the spiritual beliefs and customs deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture.

Participating in cultural activities and festivals not only allows you to learn and appreciate the traditions of Hawaii but also provides a chance to connect with the local community. Engage in conversations with artists, performers, and fellow attendees to gain a deeper understanding of the cultural significance behind these practices.


Keep in mind that some activities may require prior booking or have specific protocols. Respect any guidelines or rules set by the organizers and approach these experiences with an open mind and a willingness to learn.


Practice Sustainable Tourism

When visiting a place as beautiful and fragile as Hawaii, it’s essential to practice sustainable tourism to protect its natural and cultural resources for future generations. By being mindful of your impact and making conscious choices, you can contribute to the preservation of the islands’ pristine environment and vibrant culture. Here are some tips to practice sustainable tourism in Hawaii:

  • Support local businesses: Opt for locally-owned accommodations, restaurants, and shops whenever possible. This helps to stimulate the local economy and ensures that your tourism dollars benefit the community directly.
  • Reduce waste: Carry a reusable water bottle, shopping bag, and utensils with you to avoid single-use plastics. Look for recycling bins and dispose of waste properly, following the local guidelines.
  • Conserve water and energy: Hawaii experiences periodic water shortages, so be mindful of your water usage, especially during times of drought. Turn off lights, air conditioning, and other electrical appliances when not in use to conserve energy.
  • Respect marine life and coral reefs: When snorkeling or diving, maintain a safe distance from marine life and avoid touching or stepping on coral reefs. Use reef-safe sunscreen to protect your skin without harming the delicate ecosystem.
  • Practice responsible hiking: Stick to designated trails, respect signs and closures, and avoid damaging plants or wildlife. Leave no trace by carrying out any trash and disposing of it properly.
  • Learn the local customs: Familiarize yourself with the customs and cultural practices of Hawaii to ensure that you behave respectfully. For example, avoid removing rocks or artifacts from sacred sites and follow any instructions given during cultural tours or ceremonies.
  • Support conservation organizations: Consider donating to or volunteering with local conservation organizations that work to protect the environment, wildlife, and cultural heritage of Hawaii.

By practicing sustainable tourism, you become a responsible steward of the land and contribute to the long-term sustainability of Hawaii’s natural and cultural treasures. Remember, every small action adds up to make a significant difference.


Additionally, sharing your knowledge and promoting sustainable practices to other travelers can create a ripple effect of positive change. Together, we can ensure that Hawaii remains a paradise for generations to come.



Congratulations! Armed with these tips and insights, you now have the tools to navigate Hawaii like a seasoned local. By dressing appropriately, avoiding overpacking, learning basic Hawaiian phrases, respecting the local culture and etiquette, exploring beyond the touristy areas, using local transportation, trying local cuisine, participating in cultural activities and festivals, and practicing sustainable tourism, you can blend in seamlessly with the vibrant spirit of Hawaii.


Embracing the aloha spirit and immersing yourself in the local way of life will not only enhance your trip but also create a deeper connection to the islands and its people. From the beautiful beaches to the lush landscapes and rich cultural heritage, Hawaii offers a wealth of experiences waiting to be discovered.


Remember, being a respectful and responsible traveler not only benefits you but also helps to preserve Hawaii’s natural beauty and unique cultural traditions for generations to come. So, plan your trip, pack your bags with the essentials, and get ready for an unforgettable journey in paradise.


Now go forth and explore Hawaii like a true local, embracing the majesty of the islands and making memories that will last a lifetime. Aloha!