8 Tips for Being a Respectful Hawai'i Tourist

8 Tips for Being a Respectful Hawai'i Tourist

Everyone has had that one moment when they’ve been a bad tourist. You know, the moment when you look back and cringe at your behavior, hoping to never be that tourist again. If you’re planning a trip to Hawai’i or you live here year-round and want to avoid the embarrassment of being labeled as a bad tourist, following these tips will help keep you on the right side of things. 

Terrible tourists treat new places like an amusement park: They don't respect anyone in it, just the things they can exploit for entertainment value. Good tourists understand that every place has its own culture, customs and meaning; they're guests in someone else's home. T

The 8 tips in this article will help you be a more respectful Hawai'i tourist.

It’s time to cover some dos and don’ts for not coming off as a jerk when you visit Hawai'i. This post will cover some Hawaii etiquette for visitors, travelers, and locals alike.  

The gist of it is....respect the culture, respect the locals, respect the wildlife, and respect the ecosystems, respect the rules, and show self-respect.

Prior to the outbreak, over 10 million people visited the Hawaiian Islands every year. That's a lot of people, considering that the state's population is only 1.4 million. The negative impact of so many tourists hasn't been missed.

According to a state-sponsored survey taken in 2022, two-thirds of Hawaii residents think tourism is being prioritized over locals. They express concern about overcrowding, environmental damage, higher costs, and traffic, among other things.

As an example, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is pleading with people to stop throwing coins into hot steam vents. This has become a tourist tradition, but is highly disrespectful to the land and the indigenous culture, not to mention the park rangers!

Tourism is a critical part of Hawaii's economy, accounting for a fifth of the state's revenue thanks to the jobs it provides in the hospitality sector and the money tourists spend.

People who want to visit Hawaii can find it difficult to avoid harming the environment since for so long it has been treated as a heavenly playground. In these cases, the people who reside there are the best advisers: local Hawaiians.

Here's 8 tips for being a better Hawai'i tourist:

1. Try not to be stupid

Be sure to research Hawaii before your trip. Avoid visiting Hawaii without doing some prior research. It's critical to recognize how to avoid offending sacred sites and respect boundaries and kapu (off-limits) areas.

It's important to do some research on the businesses you're booking excursions or tours with in Hawai'i so that you can ensure that they are operating ethically and supporting the local community and environment. Choosing where to spend your money and what constitutes respectful or disrespectful behavior will contribute to a better experience on your trip to Hawai'i.

They say that the islands of Hawai'i will either welcome you in, or push you out. If you seek aloha with the islands, you should first express aloha to the islands in your intentions, planning, and actions.

2. Never take anything from parks

It's illegal as well as culturally insensitive to remove sand, coral, or lava rocks from Hawaii's national parks. It is highly disrespectful to take anything from these parks because Hawaiians view many natural places as their ancestor. For instance, Haleakala is a mountain and volcano, but it's also considered an ancestor.

Wild, scenic, and beautiful is why people flock to Hawai'i, so playing a role in preserving it is what people should seek.

If you truly want to take home a souvenir, consider a Livin' Aloha shirt or hat....leave the coral in da ocean, and plant a tree in the ground.....this way you help leave Hawai'i better off than when you came.

3. Avoid visiting tourist spots during peak times

It's hard when you and your family are on a mission to squeeze in all of the action you can during your Hawai'i vacation, but it's no fun if everyone is just sitting in traffic all the time.

Honolulu often ranks as one of the most congested cities in Hawaii due to traffic, but even Maui can get clogged up with only one major road around the whole island. With so many tourists out and about on the islands, another good idea is to plan on visiting popular attractions during off-hours if you can to avoid the congested crowds.

For instance, parking at the summit of Haleakala can get crowded around sunset, but from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the park is deserted.

4. Wildlife should not be disturbed. Ever.

It is always a pleasure to see the rare Hawaiian monk seal in its natural habitat or see a turtle swim up to the rocks to feed on some algae, but you must keep your distance and avoid disturbing it or its habitat (i.e., don't touch reefs or overturn rocks either).

Getting too close to turtles and nursing seals is illegal in certain cases. It really isn't worth it. Don't think that people aren't watching if you do decide to do something stupid like sit on a turtle for a photo opp....the state has volunteers and coconut wireless that will catch you and post photos of you being stupid and you'll be used as an example of a stupid tourist and posted as a warning to others. Don't be that person. It seems common sense, but, respect wildlife.

5. Be careful when you are outdoors.

There are otherworldly valleys, peaks, shorelines, and waterfalls to be discovered in Hawaii, and although the experience may be awe-inspiring, it can also be dangerous if unprepared. In addition to a lack of preparation, bad weather conditions, and visiting risky areas that are popular online, people are often put at risk by going unprepared.

There are warning signs posted around Queen's Bath, a popular Kauai swimming spot, because it can be dangerous when the surf is rough. Even so, people still manage to sneak in and get into trouble. When hiking or exploring, research your route and heed the warning signs. They are there for a reason.

Respecting the land and ocean that provide for us is one of our most important Hawai'i values. Visitors are asked to adhere to this value by keeping our home beautiful. Be mindful of your surroundings, avoid venturing out alone, and stay on designated paths.

6. Using sunscreen that is not safe is not a good idea.

The delicate and unique ecosystems of Hawaii, including its coral reefs, may be harmed by traditional sunscreens. The sunscreen you use at your local neighborhood pool back at home is not the same sunscreen you should use when snorkeling in Hawai'i.

Did you know using certain sunscreens in Hawai'i is illegal! Yep Hawaii's governor signed a law in 2018 that took effect in 2021 and made Hawaii the first state to prohibit sunscreens containing chemicals thought to harm coral and marine life, oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Choose reef-safe sun protection products to help protect the ocean. Livin' Aloha's Reef-Safe Sunscreen is an excellent choice and you can find it right here at the Livin' Aloha Shop.

7. Don't geotag your Insta posts.

It's tempting to post vacation pictures online and share them for the 'gram, but that post may have consequences after you hit 'upload' that serve to degrade that place and ruin it for future seekers.

Across the country, once-secret spots have become overcrowded and overrun thanks to the rise in geotagging and sharing on social media. If you find yourself at this juncture, think about the repercussions of your post, and maybe keep it your little secret about where that waterfall is located.

At the same time, don't roam too far from the trail looking for secret waterfalls (#5 above!).

8. Respect the locals. Hawai'i is our home

Remember that Hawai'i is not just your travel playground, it's a living and breathing community of local residents who are living, working, raising families, and making a life here.  This includes other species besides humans too! Hawaii is a welcoming destination, but we request that visitors be aware of their surroundings, leave places in better condition than they were before, and treat local people and neighborhoods with respect and compassion.

Hawai'i is an incredible place, but visitors who don't respect the natural and cultural resources of the islands can cause significant damage. It doesn't matter how stunning the view is or how much money you have in your wallet—it's still not worth the risk.