Many travellers are not aware that Hawaii was once a kingdom with a rich history of Hawaiian kings and queens, language and customs.
Today, the Hawaiian Islands is a melting pot of many peoples and cultures that immigrated to the islands and made it their home; foreign customs naturally mixed with Hawaii’s native culture to create a unique lifestyle enjoyed by the destination’s current population of kamaaina (locals).
However, people living in Hawaii have great respect for its native customs and traditions, which tourists can experience when they visit. Here are a few for your clients to consider during their trip:
Aloha aina/love of the land
In the native Hawaiian creation story, the aina or land (islands) came before man. Native Hawaiians treat it with the highest respect and believe that they have a responsibility to care and nurture it into the future.
The idea of land ownership is foreign to Native Hawaiians, as one can never own something so sacred and beautiful. Rather, they believe that they belong to the land and are forever in its service.
Similar to the aina, the kai is also very important in Native Hawaiian tradition. It plays a significant role in the migration story of the original Polynesians that travelled thousands of miles on their double-hull canoes using just the stars to reach their destination of Hawaii.
The sea is respected as a powerful natural force that also provides food and fun through various ocean activities, including surfing which originated in Hawaii.
Native Hawaiians have a tradition of ‘talking story’, meaning that they pass down culture and language through storytelling. A written form of Hawaiian language was established in the 1800s after missionaries arrived in Hawaii.
Word of mouth is a traditional and primary method of communication practiced by Native Hawaiians, especially today within families, who share stories between the living generations.
Native Hawaiians are talented composers who write and chant mele or songs that honour people and places throughout the world. Some of Hawaii’s most famous composers were its kings and queens who wrote many of Hawaiiʻs beloved mele.
These beautiful songs can still be heard today, along with the many others written by Native Hawaiians and kamaaina throughout the history of Hawaii.
One of the most commonly played Hawaiian instruments is the ukulele. This miniature guitar was introduced to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants and is now synonymous with the Hawaiian Islands. Ukulele lessons are a popular cultural activity for visitors.
Hana lei/lei making
In Hawaiian tradition, lei are made by someone to wear themselves or more commonly to give away to a beloved family member or friend.
Lei are a symbol of aloha and people are given lei on special occasions such as birthdays, graduations and weddings. Sometimes, people give away lei just to show their aloha to someone, with no occasion needed.
The Hawaiian word meaai literally means “thing to eat.” Food is such a large part of the culture in Hawaii. The Native Hawaiian diet is made up mostly of pork and fish.
Today, local island cuisine is influenced by the many cultures that make up Hawaii, including Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese and, of course, Hawaiian. The destination is also famous for Pacific Rim cuisine, which blends dishes of Asian and Pacific origins.
Food brings people together in Hawaii. Meals are cooked and shared between ohana (family) and friends, with these traditions helping to build a sense of community across the islands.