20 Words to Learn Before You Visit Hawaii

Are you planning a visit to Hawaii… or maybe just dreaming about it until you can make it a reality. Well, before you pack your bags, it might be wise to brush up on a few Hawaiian words. They just might come in handy. And with a little practice, you can say “aloha” (hello) to the locals and embrace the culture of Hawai‘i with the entire “ohana” (family).


DA KINE (dah-kain) – Da kine does not have a direct meaning, but is a placeholder word that refers to anything — literal or figurative — as “good” or “the best.” You will soon be setting out on da kine adventure through the beautiful island.

E KOMO MAI (eh koh-moh my) – Welcome, come in. A friendly invite you will surely hear upon your arrival.

HAU’OLI (hau-oh-lee) – Happy, glad, joyous. “Hau‘oli lā Hānau” means “Happy Birthday.”

HOALOHA (Ho-ah-loh-ha) – Beloved friend. The people of Hawai‘i will welcome you as a hoaloha and make you feel right at home.

HOLOHOLO (Ho-loh-ho-loh) – To venture out or travel for leisure. You’ll be saying, “Let’s go holoholo” before setting out on a beach adventure or a journey around the island.

KALA (kah-la) – Forgive or release, such as in the sentence “E kala mai ia’u” or “I’m sorry.” Not to be confused with “kālā,” which means money or currency.

KAPU (kah-poo) – No trespassing. Look out for signs with this word in a dangerous territory or off-limit areas.

KEIKI (kay-kee) – Children. Your keiki will love the many fun-filled adventures available on the island and at your resort.

KŌKUA (ko-coo-ah) – Help, assistance, to extend help to others. “Mahalo for your kōkua” means “Thank you for your assistance.”

MAHALO (mah-hah-loh) – Thanks, gratitude, to thank.

MAOLI (mau-lee) – Native, indigenous, genuine. Persons of original Hawaiian descent are considered “kanaka maoli.”

MALIHINI (mah-lee-hee-nee) – Visitor, tourist, newcomer. If it’s your first visit to Hawai‘i, then you are a malihini.

MANUAHI (man-oo-a) – Free, gratis

MAUKA/MAKAI (Mao-kah/Mah-kai) – Navigate like a local with these common directional queues. Mauka means “on the mountain side,” while Makai means “on the ocean side.”

NIU (nee-ooh) – Coconut. Although first brought to the island by Polynesian voyagers, the nutrient-rich fruit has become a native staple for traditional recipes, and even building materials, tools, and apparel.

‘ONO (oh-no) – Delicious, tasty. Also, the Hawaiian name for the wahoo fish served in many restaurants and coincidentally also delicious.

PEHEA ‘OE? (pay-hay-o-a) – How are you?

PUPU (pu-pu) – Snacks, appetizers

WAHINE (wa-heen-ee) – Woman

WIKIWIKI (we-ki we-ki) – To go fast, rapid.


Now that you’re a kahuna (expert) at the alelo language (Hawaiian), it’s time for additional lessons including hula lessons and learning how to play the ukulele.  Mahalo!!

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