5 Dead Giveaways You're a Tourist in Hawaii

Happy senior couple drinking cocktail and toasting each other

Surfers flock to Oahu's North Shore. Snowbirds sip mai tais under the tropical sun. Eggnog is left behind for Kona coffee. It's the Christmas-New Years stretch, which means an invasion of tourists to Hawaii. But you're not one of those obnoxious people. So to speak, dress and drive like a local (or at least a traveler with dignity), avoid these sure signs you're a tourist in Hawaii.

1. The shiny new rental Jeep

Nothing screams haole (a Hawaii term for white person, sometimes used derogatively) quite like honeymooners piloting a cherry-red Jeep down Maui's Hana Highway. Unless you plan to tackle some off-road driving (the Big Island's remote beaches spring to mind), save a few bucks at the Hertz lot and instead go for that très chic Ford Focus. You'll thank us again at the gas pump.

2. Sport sandals

Hawaiians wear sandals, sure. But they're rarely Tevas or a $100 pair of Keens. We've seen locals hike jungle trails and even tread hardened lava wearing only cheap-o flip-flops (called slippahs by locals). Sure, our pampered mainland tootsies need protection, but keep in mind your beloved Velcro-strapped tourist kicks brand you a dork.

3. Loud Hawaiian shirts

Elvis and Hunter S. Thompson wore them. So did a porn-mustachioed Tom Selleck as Magnum, P.I. But you're not that cool. Leave the aloha shirt emblazoned with classic cars, hula dolls or Fender guitars in the closet. Instead, opt for classic Polynesian motifs in muted colors. You'll look more local, less Ace Ventura.

4. You're at a commercial luau

Chances are excellent a Hawaiian auntie won't be inviting you to her backyard family luau. And at the Honolulu Sheraton's shindig, the only islanders in the house are there to earn a paycheck. So what's a Hawaiian culture- and poi-starved haole to do? Check out a luau thrown by a community organization or church. It's as non-touristy as it gets and you'll usually be welcomed with a hearty aloha. Speaking of which...

5. You badly mispronounce Hawaiian words and go overboard with aloha and mahalo

The signpost up ahead has 15 vowels and glottal stops galore. Your next stop, a beach that has you tongue-tied. The Hawaiian language isn't as difficult as it seems, but you'll have to devote a short time to its rules of pronunciation. On the other hand, it's easy to remember you need not spout aloha and mahalo (the only Hawaiian words you do know) like a drunken parrot. Sometimes a simple hello, goodbye or thank you will do nicely.
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