As the most isolated population center on earth, the Hawaiian Islands are perhaps one of the most unique locations on earth, which means that life in Hawaii will always be a little different than anywhere else. And no time is that more evident than when locals have to explain the islands to well-intentioned visitors who don’t quite understand what Hawaii is all about.
1. We don’t use traditional cardinal directions.
Forget directions like east and west, Hawaiians use the words mauka, meaning towards the mountain and makai, meaning towards the ocean. We also have alternative names for many roads, and we give directions based on landmarks rather than addresses. I remember driving to a hike once and the Yelp reviews told us to “turn right, and park on the side of the road next to the 11th light pole." Sure enough, there was the entrance to the hike.
2. Aloha Fridays are the best - and happen every week.
Like a magnificent weekly holiday, there is absolutely nothing better than hearing your favorite radio DJ exclaiming “Happy Aloha Friday” on the air during your Friday morning commute, or hanging out with your friends pau hana to celebrate the weekend.
3. A meal isn’t complete without rice.
Yes, even breakfast.
4. There’s this thing called vog - and we all hate it.
Vog, or the volcanic smog, that wafts over from the Big Island when the trade winds die down, is absolutely killer. We’re talking itchy eyes, sinus headaches, and more. Plus, it’s unpredictable.
5. The endless miles of beaches never get old.
You can never have too many beaches to choose from. After all, you need favorites for all of the activities you love: surfing, snorkeling, boogie boarding, SUP, barbecuing with friends, and just getting some sun.
6. But the ocean can be quite dangerous.
From rip currents and strong undertows to dangers lurking in the Pacific like sharks and Portuguese Man ‘o War jellyfish, the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands as dangerous as they are beautiful.
7. The traffic really is that terrible.
At least on Oahu, that is. Traffic in the Honolulu metropolitan area is the second worst in the country, second only to Los Angeles.
8. We don’t shop at our local ABC Store.
Yeah, no self-respecting local shops at any ABC Store. In fact, we tend to avoid them like the plague.
9. Not everyone who lives in Hawaii is Hawaiian.
Shocker, only about 10 percent of Hawaii residents are actually Hawaiian and can trace their roots to the islands’ first settlers. The rest are just Hawaii locals.
10. Slippers are not what you wear around the house.
In Hawaii, they aren’t flip flops, they are slippers, or even better, slippahs. Oh, and it is customary to remove your shoes before entering the home.
11. The weather isn’t all sunshine + tropical breezes.
It does rain here quite a bit; I mean, how else do you think we get so many rainbows? Oh, and there’s no way your shorts and tank tops are going to cut it when you head to higher elevation - especially Mauna Kea, which does occasionally get snow in the winter.
12. Shave ice beats snow cones any day.
And yes, the two sweet treats couldn’t be more different.
13. Some of Hawaii’s most incredible wonders cannot be reached via car.
Many of our most magical beaches, breathtaking waterfalls, and other enchanting natural wonders can only be reached on foot. Sorry, you’ll have to put in some effort to find that jaw-dropping view you saw on Instagram.
14. Plate lunches are a staple of our diets.
And no, a plate lunch isn’t simply what’s on your plate. The traditional Hawaiian plate lunch typically consists of rice, a side like macaroni salad, and a main entree, like chicken katsu or kalua pork.
15. We tend to avoid Waikiki like the plague.
Nearly half of all tourists who visit the Hawaiian Islands check out Waikiki, but most locals hate it. The parking is expensive, the beach’s sand is pumped in from neighboring islands, and there are far too many people to enjoy yourself.
16. Hawaiian pizza isn’t actually from Hawaii.
I’m sorry, but I fail to understand why everyone thinks that adding pineapple and ham to a pizza makes it Hawaiian…
17. You can’t travel between islands via ferry.
Hahaha, no. You can go on a cruise to the four main Hawaiian Islands, but most people simply hop on a short island hopper flight to travel to the neighboring islands.
18. And each island is wildly unique.
The eight main islands that make up the Hawaiian archipelago couldn’t be more different. For example, you won’t find a single stoplight on the island of Molokai, while traffic on Oahu is among the worst in the country. Oh, and most people can't believe that Maui is home to both Mount Haleakala and the stunning Waimooku Falls.