How to be a Respectful Tourist When you Visit Hawaiʻi

For years, Hawaiʻi has been deemed one of the most popular vacation spots for United States travelers. This might be because visitors don’t need to worry about customs, passports, or international fees. But it also might be because of the beautiful beaches, sunny weather, and welcoming aloha spirit. Hawaiʻi is unique and unlike any other place in the world. Whatever reason you might be traveling to Hawaiʻi for, here are some things you should take into account when visiting the pae ʻāina (islands).

  1. 1. Wear Your Mask!

    Hawaiʻi has been welcoming visitors back over the past few months with safety precautions in place and the state has recently entered Tier 3 of the COVID-19 Reopening Plan. I’m not going to go into depth about whether or not to travel during the pandemic, but if you do choose to travel now or anytime in the near future, please wear your mask so you can protect the other visitors, our kamaʻāina (Hawaiian residents), and very importantly, our kūpuna (grandparents). I have seen a lot of tourists wearing masks, but there are also a lot that chose not to wear them. Whether you are walking down Waikiki, waiting in line at a restaurant, or walking to the beach, please wear your mask until you are socially distanced from everyone and are in a safe location to take it off.

  2. 2. Learn About the Hawaiian Culture and Language

    variety of book stacks

    One of the most valuable components of Hawaiʻi is the rich history it has to offer. Hawaiʻi was discovered by groups of Polynesians over 1,500 years ago and a monarchy was established. The island was ruled by kings and queens until 1893, when there was an overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Queen Liliʻuokalani was locked up in her home, the Iolani Palace (which you can still visit today and learn more about the monarchical history). Sixty-six years later, Hawaiʻi became the 50th state on August 21st, 1959.

    This is an extremely brief overview of Hawaiian history, but when you visit I suggest you take a deeper dive into the culture to learn about how the islands came to be what you see today. There are plenty of museums you can visit during your stay, or there’s plenty of websites, videos, and books you can read prior to visiting the islands.

  3. 3. Ditch the AirBnB

    AirBnB has become quite popular over the past decade or so and I know millennials especially like to book their stay through AirBnB because it can be cheaper than a hotel. However, when you visit Hawaiʻi, I highly suggest you stay in one of the amazing hotels the island has to offer. AirBnB in Hawaiʻi specifically has been increasing the cost of homes, making it impossible for local families to afford the property tax, therefore kicking the moʻopuna (future generations) out of the land they grew up on.

    Please watch this video for more information on the topic.

    I gave suggestions for finding cheaper hotels in my last HerCampus Article. Also, here is a great site for finding good deals for hotels in Hawaiʻi. My last suggestion for a visitor on a budget is maybe try looking for hotels outside of Waikiki. There are plenty of places all around the island that are affordable and have fun activities to do!

  4. 4. Eat Local

    store

    There have been countless times where I’ve seen flocks of tourists eating at The Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster. I get so confused because one of the reasons people choose to travel to Hawaiʻi is because of the incredible food we have! Instead of eating at these restaurants you can get on the mainland, try some local joints unique to Hawaiʻi! Not only will the food taste better than the chain restaurants, but you will also be supporting local restaurants that have been passed down to family members for generations. A few of my favorites on Oʻahu are Helena’s Hawaiian Food, Liliha Bakery, Ethel’s Grill, Rainbow Drive-In, and Waiahole Poi Factory.

  5. 5. Protect the 'Āina (Land)

    trash on beach

    I hate when I go to the beach only to find a pile of beer bottles and food wrappers from the last group of people that just left. I suggest when you visit any public area, such as a beach or park, please pick up your trash when you leave. I also try to pick up at least five pieces of other trash I find on the ground and put it in the garbage to make it look better than when I found it. I know I can speak for the majority of the residents on Hawaiʻi and say that our ʻāina (land) is incredibly important to us and we need to cherish every part of it.

  6. 6. Hike Legally

    friends girls hike sunset mountains adventure silhouette

    I’ve seen a lot of TikToks lately of people doing illegal hikes in Hawaiʻi. As a tourist, you probably are unaware of the area and dangers that come with an illegal hike. There are reasons why some areas in Hawaiʻi say no trespassing. Of course these areas are enticing; what if there’s an incredible view at the top? There might be an amazing view once you reach the end, but you also might be contributing to erosion or you might be entering an area that has no patrol. Either way, it is unsafe to go beyond the signs that say “Do Not Enter.”

    As a visitor to Hawaiʻi you are welcome to the open hikes and I encourage you to do so. But if you have to be rescued from a hike that was illegal, that is coming out of Hawaiʻi taxpayers money. Each rescue can cost $10,000 or more. The whole situation could have been avoided if you listened to the rules.

Hawaiʻi is one of the most welcoming places on Earth and if you do choose to come visit, please be respectful to all of the people you meet. Hawaiʻi was built on love and compassion for one another. We are all ʻohana here in Hawaiʻi and I ask you to understand your place as a visitor and you will always be welcomed back.