If you want to enhance your vacation in Kauai, one of the best ways to do so is to get to know the true Aloha spirit by becoming familiar with common customs and proper etiquette in order to connect better with locals. While each of the islands offers a unique beauty of their own, they share the same Aloha spirit which is quite evident when visiting Kauai.
Using the words “aloha” and “mahalo”
Two of the most important words to learn before you travel to Kauai are “aloha” and “mahalo,” which should be used with sincerity. You will hear these words spoken often, and locals appreciate travelers who use them too. Aloha is pronounced “ah lo hah,” and has several meanings. Most visitors will use it to say hello and goodbye. Mahalo is pronounced “muh hah lo,” and means thank you. Use it often!
Respect the environment
Kauai is filled with incredible beauty, and the surrounding waters as well as the land should always be treated with the utmost respect. Never litter and respect all private property by not crossing anyone’s yard to reach the beach. When in the water, do not approach whales, seals or sea turtles as they have no immune system that will protect them against human-transmitted bacteria. By law, visitors are required to keep a 100-yard distance from whales and 15 feet from turtles.
The lei greeting
The lei greeting is a time honored Hawaiian tradition that is also a part of celebrations such as a wedding or graduation. It’s important to avoid removing the lei in front of the person who has given it to you, and it should never be refused. To wear it properly, drape it evenly over the shoulders, across the front and back.
Throughout Hawaii, flip-flops are frequently worn, but here they are referred to as slippers. No matter what type of shoes you wear, always remove them before entering the home of a local resident. To avoid standing out as a poorly dressed tourist, never ever wear black shoes with black socks and shorts.
One of the easiest ways to spot a tourist is the sound of their voice. Natives are usually fairly soft-spoken while visitors tend to be loud which can be viewed as rude and self-centered. If you’d like to connect more with locals, it’s important to avoid asking direct personal questions such as what someone does for a living. Instead, just listen and take time to develop a friendship by getting to know them.
Never honk your horn while driving unless an emergency is imminent. The state even has a law against using it as a greeting or as a way to encourage someone to move who hasn’t reacted fast enough for your liking – this is considered extremely rude. Tourists often speed through residential areas while driving well below the speed limit on roads where there is beautiful scenery. Watch your speed in towns and neighborhoods, and if you’re driving less than the speed limit through scenic routes, allow others to pass.
Immersing yourself in Hawaiian customs and being aware of proper etiquette can help ensure that you’ll experience the ultimate getaway that dreams are made of, and perhaps allow you to make a lifelong friend or two.