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Tips & Advice

How to Be a Respectful Traveler in Hawai'i, According to a Local


by Kylie Nathan
1 year ago

If you ask anyone about their travel bucket list, the odds of Hawai’i being brought up are pretty high. I mean seriously, just look at that crystal blue water!

However, as with any travel destination, it’s extremely important to remember to respect the land and culture while visiting Hawai’i. Having been born and raised on the islands, here’s what locals expect from first-timers and how you can make your trip more meaningful by being a respectful and responsible visitor.

1.  Familiarize yourself with Hawaiian culture

There’s no need to be an expert before visiting Hawaii; However, travelers who take even 10 minutes to read about Hawaiian history will be MUCH appreciated! 

Hawai’i is a beautiful travel destination, but it isn’t a playground. Making an effort to learn about our culture and history will only enrich your time on our islands.

If you don’t know where to start, here’s a great resource to help get you started.

2. Relax on the geotagging

With so much sacred land, the last thing locals want is further exploitation. Sadly, geotagging places on social media has increased foot traffic to “off the grid” places that were once quiet and well preserved. This has caused damage to sacred, local land. 

Of course, locals want you to enjoy our islands’ warm beaches and idyllic waterfalls, but we also want to uphold their natural beauty for generations to come. Regardless of where you’re traveling, my best advice is to always use a broad geotag. 

As we locals like to say, “keep our islands as island as possible”.

3. Pick up your belongings

Don’t be that person who leaves their trash behind. This applies everywhere, but especially in Hawaii. Collect your belongings and leave nothing behind but your footprints.

4. Rent beach equipment, don’t buy it.

Aaaah, Costco. Great for snacks, but bad for beach chairs, surfboards, and umbrellas.

Think about it this way: Say one person buys a beach chair during their trip and decides to leave it behind. Totally fine, right? Now imagine if every traveler did this – all 100,000 to 170,000 travelers who visit Hawai’i each month.

Although may renting may not always be the most cost-effective option, it’s definitely worth the offset of waste, and we locals will definitely appreciate the eco-friendly gesture! 

P.S. – If you’re thinking of leaving bought items with the hotel, I have friends who work at these hotels who say they are STOCKED on foam surfboards from Costco. Please don’t add to the collection!

5. Keep a distance from animals

Did you know keeping your distance from animals is a federal law?

Failing to keep a distance from sea turtles and other native species can result in a hefty fine or even jail time. You wouldn’t go right up to a wild bear and pet it, would you? Let our wildlife roam in their natural habitat and simply watch from a distance. 

A good rule of thumb is to stay 10+ feet or 3 meters away from wildlife.

6. Stay on marked trails

Whether you’re hiking in the clouds or heading down to the Nakalele Blowhole, please stay on marked trails! They’re not only there for safety but are also there to protect our native plants and animals.

Additionally, don’t believe everything you see on Instagram and TikTok! There have been numerous viral videos showcasing illegal hikes from people who claim there are “legal entries”. Listen to the locals – if they’re saying it’s illegal, then it’s illegal. 

With these tips in mind, you’ll be all set to respectfully explore the natural beauty of Hawai’i! Be mindful, be respectful, and visit with an open mind.

Happy Travels!


Kylie Nathan

Hi! I'm Kylie, a "zillennial" who LOVES to travel but also needs to afford rent. I taught English to kiddos in Thailand, and have since been determined to fill the pages of my passport (on a budget of course)!

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