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The Aloha Update! 5 ways to experience authentic Hawaiian culture on your next trip to Hawaii

Culture seekers, this one's for you. If you're thinking about planning a trip to Hawaii, as well as saying "yes, do it, right now!" this Aloha Update is here to give you some insider information on how to experience Hawaii in the most authentic form and honour the sacred traditions of the local people.

Culture seekers, this one’s for you. If you’re thinking about planning a trip to Hawaii, as well as saying “yes, do it, right now!” this Aloha Update is here to give you some insider information on how to experience Hawaii in the most authentic form and honour the sacred traditions of the local people.

Once upon a time, Hawaii was once a Kingdom with a rich history of Hawaiian Kings and Queens, language and customs.

Today Hawaii is a melting pot of many peoples and cultures that relocated to Hawaii and made the islands their home.

Foreign customs have mixed organically with Hawaii’s Native culture to create a unique lifestyle enjoyed by Hawaii’s current population of kamaʻaina (locals).

People living in Hawaii have great respect for Hawaii’s indigenous customs and traditions, something that travellers to Hawaii can experience when they visit and maybe even adopt into their own lives.  

5. ʻĀina, Land 

Hawaii
Papahana Kuaola, Kaneohe, Oahu. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman

In the Native Hawaiian creation story, the ʻāina or land (islands) came before man. Native Hawaiians treat it with the highest respect and believe that they have a responsibility to care for 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; instead, they believe that they belong to the Land and are forever in its service. 

Experience a much deeper connection to the community, the culture, and the Land of the Hawaiian Islands by participating in a mālama activity.

The Hawaiian word mālama translates to “care for and protect” and is the new focus for Hawaii coming out of the pandemic. If you want to pay it forward during your trip, there are many organisations that can help you do just that via beach clean-ups, native tree planting, and more.

4. Kai, Ocean 

Hawaii
Waikiki Beach, Oahu. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Ben Ono

Like the ʻāina, 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. 

3. Mea ʻai, Culinary 

Hawaiian Food
Garlic shrimp and kalbi from Oahu’s North Shore. Image: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

The Hawaiian word meaʻai literally means “thing to eat”, and let’s face it; we’re all about that life.

Food is a massive part of the culture in Hawaii. Traditionally, the Native Hawaiian diet was made up mostly of pork and fish, but now local island cuisine is influenced by the many cultures that make up Hawaii.

A fusion of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese and, of course, Hawaiian dishes make up the mouthwatering offering you can experience today.

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. 

2. Mele, Music 

Hawaii
Image: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Daeja Faris

Native Hawaiians are talented composers who write and chant mele or songs that honour people and places worldwide.

Some of Hawaii’s most famous composers were its Kings and Queens, who wrote many of Hawaii’s beloved mele.

These beautiful songs can still be heard today, along with the many others written by Native Hawaiians and kamaʻāina (locals) 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. 

1. Hana Lei, Lei Making

Hawaii
Colourful florals, Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Pamakane Pico

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 is a symbol of aloha, and people are given lei on special occasions such as birthdays, graduations, and weddings.

Although sometimes people give away lei to simply show their aloha to someone, with no occasion needed.

For more information, visit www.gohawaii.com