Secret hiking trails. Secret surf breaks. Secret restaurants. Hawaii is all about its local-only knowledge. Being one of the biggest vacation destinations in the world has its drawbacks. Thus, people in Hawaii are pretty passionate about protecting what secret gems still remain unknown to Google. If you’re lucky enough to be let in on one of these secrets, don’t blow it…no one here likes a snitch.
2. Protecting their ʻaina.
You’d be weirdly passionate about protecting the land you live on if it looked like Hawaii, too. The tradition and spirit of Hawaii’s islands runs deep in the people that call them home. Billboards are banned, beach clean-ups are the norm, and people continue the battle to “keep the country country.”
3. Polite driving.
You’ve probably heard about the horrible traffic on the H-1, but have you heard about how people will actually stop abruptly in the middle of Kapiolani Blvd. to allow you to make your lefthand turn? Sure, it seems nice at first, but after awhile, you just want people to follow the laws. I know they’re trying to be nice, but sometimes it’s okay to be the first one to put the pedal to the floor and speed through a four-way stop.
4. Spam.5. Malasadas.
Just a cream-filled doughnut?! Pfft. Don’t even let a Hawaiian hear you utter such disgraceful words. Malasadas are best enjoyed by the dozen and with a side of regret. If you’ve ever wondered why people are so active in Hawaii, it’s to burn off all the coconut and custard malasadas they binged on last night.
Maybe this one isn’t quite so weird seeing as how we are surrounded by warm ocean water, but still. Outrigger canoe, stand-up paddle board, surf ski, surf board, body board, fishing boat, or just plain old body surfing, no matter the medium, getting out on the waves is just a way of life on the islands.
7. Shave ice.
This is not a snow cone, as those who live in Hawaii will inform you right away. It is not shaved ice either. This local icy treat has been perfected to hold its delicious syrup evenly throughout your entire eating experience. And forget boring flavors like blue raspberry…Lilikoi is where it’s at.
8. Holidays and festivals.
Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day. King Kamehameha I Day. The annual Lei Day Celebration. Hawaii loves celebrating its distinct history and culture (rightfully so), and therefore gets to enjoy quite a few more public holidays than the mainlander neighbors.
It’s hard to live in Hawaii if you don’t like poke. Whether you’re just quickly grabbing some from Tamura’s or serving up your own fresh Ahi from this weekend’s fishing trip, it’s an essential food group on the islands. And, it’s pronounced “poke-kay”, by the way…
10. Kona coffee.
Hawaii is only US state that grows coffee, so I guess it makes sense that locals are proud of this local product. It’s good, but I really don’t think it gives Portland any cause to worry. Despite that, Kona is the coffee of choice, and every tourist will leave with at least one bag for their grandma.
11. Daylight saving time.
Why would Hawaiians be obsessed with something like daylight saving time? Probably because they are in the middle of the ocean with nothing and no one nearby. But, every November something magical happens…The west coast becomes only two hours ahead of them. No more 6am meetings with their California clients, and that extra hour of sleep is definitely something to celebrate.
12. Li Hing Mui Powder.
This peculiarly delicious, bright red powder goes on everything. To exactly pinpoint the flavor palette of it is next to impossible, but it still covers candy, dried fruit, margarita glass rims, and eventually your fingers and face.
Yes, I realize that everyone loves Costco, but there are seven locations in Hawaii. Four are on Oahu all within approximately a 30 minute drive from one another. And they are always packed. People here love to stock up on The Cookie Kahuna’s butterscotch macadamia cookies and oversized packages of poi english muffins, which will definitely be moldy the next day if left unfrozen in Hawaii’s humidity.
14. Krispy Kreme.
In contrast to the large amount of Costco locations, there is only one Krispy Kreme location in Hawaii, and everyone here seems to be weirdly in love with this glazed craze. Sure, the mainland might have moved on from this phase of doughnut mania, but locals are still deeply invested in this sugary treat. Anyone returning from Maui better have brought a couple dozen to share (or sell).
15. Plate lunches.
This one isn’t so odd I suppose. Who wouldn’t be psyched about an over abundance of meat, rice, and other delicious sides all for $8-10?! It might start as a plate lunch, but it’ll probably end up being your plate dinner as well.
16. Sunrise shells.
Legends say that in the past only Hawaiian royalty wore these unique shells. Nowadays, people who live in Hawaii are constantly on the hunt for one of these beautiful shells. Consider yourself lucky if you happen to spot a glint of red or orange in the sand.
17. Loco Moco.
Rice, egg, hamburger, and gravy will give you your money’s worth. Pretty sure that’s your suggested daily protein intake all in one sitting. If you visit and don’t try a loco moco for breakfast, you might lose some respect from your local friends. (But you might look better in your bathing suit later…)
18. University of Hawaii football.
When you don’t have any pro sports teams, it’s only natural Hawaiians choose to root for the only Division I school, University of Hawaii — Manoa. It’s sort of nice to have no other rivaling allegiances within several thousands of miles. Go Warriors!
Best Travel Credit Cards
Top offers from our partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
80,000 bonus points
The Platinum Card®
75,000 bonus points
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 bonus points