Aloha On The Endangered List. Hawaii Gone Wrong.

Codifying Aloha? How ‘Shaka Law’ Impacts Hawaii Tourism And Culture

Hawaii is set to solidify into law the laid-back, thumb-and-pinky salute—AKA its shaka—as the state’s official gesture. We guess that it’s about time we officially claim what the world has long admired. Here’s one example: on our recent European travels, we stopped at a visitor center in a small Swiss town. Sure enough, the person there had been to Hawaii, and we exchanged a Shaka greeting with her.

The heartbeat of Hawaii laws improves.

Let’s rewind for a few moments. The most recent Hawaii law about which we have been writing, and you have been commenting, relates to the culling of Maui vacation rentals following the islands receiving that authority from the governor. In contrast, that bill isn’t heading much further than to the courts at the moment.

On a more positive note, last year, we talked about the Aloha Spirit Law—Hawaii’s unique mandate that embeds kindness, unity, and respect into our state code.

Fast forward to today, and could Shaka be a way to distract us from Bill 2919 (the bill disrupting Hawaii vacation rentals)? We say this as the Shaka bill takes center stage and is about to join Hawaii’s illustrious legal family. Think of it as the Aloha Spirit’s cooler, younger sibling, making sure everyone knows that this ubiquitous gesture is more than a tourist snapshot accessory—it’s actually a way of life here in Hawaii.

Why does Hawaii need the Shaka now?

You might wonder why to enshrine the shaka and why do it now. Well, that seems simple. As our islands feel the weight of highly conflicted tourism and still nearly 10 million annual visitors, symbols like the shaka may help anchor all of us. They remind both Kamaaina and Malihini (locals and visitors) that Hawaii isn’t just a confused and complicated playground—it’s a place with cultural roots and an enduring unspoken code of mutual respect and some warmth.

More than just waving – where did it come from?

The shaka is also more than casual salutations. It originated from someone who’d lost fingers, which resulted in the unusual gesture. It has since become a symbol of spirit and friendship. By making it official, Hawaii also stakes its claim against the cultural dilution of the symbol, hoping that it doesn’t become co-opted by today’s pop culture.

Tourism and Cultural Integrity.

Let’s talk turkey—or should we say, let’s talk Hawaii tourism dollars. The shaka is set to become a cornerstone of how Hawaii markets itself. But beyond what will be countless Instagram posts and other marketing shticks, this law is a declaration of Hawaii’s intent to manage this cultural export with the same care as its natural resources. This is all about promoting tourism in a way that respects and enriches Hawaii’s community.

The Shaka Law, much like the Aloha Spirit Law, encourages all who love Hawaii to pause and ponder the real Hawaii—a land beyond tourism, one of living traditions and community that thrives on connectedness.

Riding the wave of cultural codification.

As we remember the essence of these gestures and laws, we’re reminded how we all seek a knitting of the fabric of society. So, the next time you see or share a shaka, keep in mind that it is a part of the very essence of Aloha.

Do you have an opinion or a Shaka story? Just throw it down in the comments. Let’s talk story, and share the Aloha. And, whether you’re a longtime local or a visitor fresh off the plane for the first time, the shaka is a call to action—a reminder to hang loose and appreciate what makes Hawaii unique.

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30 thoughts on “Codifying Aloha? How ‘Shaka Law’ Impacts Hawaii Tourism And Culture”

  1. “ The Shaka Law, much like the Aloha Spirit Law, encourages all who love Hawaii to pause and ponder the real Hawaii—a land beyond tourism, one of living traditions and community that thrives on connectedness.”

    I love this, and totally agree with the message. Mahalo!

  2. The beauty of the Hawaiian Islands drew me to them as a child when friends shared pictures. I finally got to go during grad school. I’ve been back almost every year to these gorgeous islands for over 47 years. Why? The wonderful warm welcoming people on every island and the “Shaka” spirit that lives within each Hawaii!! Every time I come I look forward to getting and returning my first “Shaka”! No where else in the world 🌎 do you feel smiled upon every day and immediately loved as family!
    My the spirit of “Shaka” live in the hearts of every person who visits Hawaii! May every one of us take it back to our hometown so the whole world may become a paradise like Hawaii!!

  3. The math is easy. All the money stays in the shaka economy when I receive it. Your costs are paltry and your concern. You pull money out of the local economy to “save or reinvest” in your mainland economy. I, however, pull it into my Big Island neighborhood and it stays local. If you understood the islands or economics you would get it. Yes, wherever I fly and spend, I understand this. You are just thinking their investment is saving the islands and posting words here that prove you have no understanding of Aloha and so to you I say the same.

  4. Aloha, I really don’t have a opinion, either way on the Shaka, symbol. Just Aloha and Mahalo is okay with me. To me Hawaii is paradise, modifying is really not necessary.

  5. Loved the article. We need to chill a bit in the current cycle of polarization and discord.
    Yes, the issues facing Hawaii’s tourist dependent economy are huge and serious. However we will always need that “Shaka” spirit of connectedness and working together for the greater good.
    Aloha to all.

  6. During our awesome vacation in Honolulu & Oahu last year we encounted the gesture. I guess I have seen it before but really paid little attention.

    We were going up an on-ramp to H-1 with 2 lanes merging together. I had to brake to avoid being clipped by a Jeep that went in front of me, & the driver made that sign out the window at us. I commented to my wife “I hope that’s not Hawaiian for flipping us off!” She said no, she thought it was a gesture of friendship.

  7. I Ana Maui resident who has been medically marooned on the Mainland since late January. I no can fly cuz gas bubble in my eye (twice by now!). I cannot elevate over 500 feet. You do not know how low that is until it becomes your limit.

    If somebody wen threw me a Shaka now, I would probably burst into tears. There is hardly any Aloha here. These Mainland Folk all trying hard to kill each other on freeways. Always in one big hurry.

    And really killing each other on purpose. Somebody in this town gets shot to death every day.

    I cannot wait until a doc takes this damn bracelet off of me.

    Shakas to all

    Auntie Nancy from Kihei

    1. Sorry for your horrible experience on the mainland. We will be praying for a speedy recovery for you and am sending a Shaka to you in our hearts! We love Kehei, that is where we stay when we visit Maui. Be well soon!

    2. Auntie Nancy…..sending wishes for a quick recovery so you can return home. As 35 yearly visitor to Maui, my love for the island and her people is deep. For me the shaka sign means love & respect and well wishes. I’m sending it up to the universe for you. 🤙

    3. Many “Shaka Waves” and prayers to you. We send lots of Aloha your way today and in the days ahead. Aloha ke akua!

  8. I understand that mainlanders owning STRs is a problem. The money they make is being removed from our economy. Only a small portion stays here and goes to the people who run their STR. I live here and have a place which could not be used as a residence and provides enough to make ends meet. The money I make stays in Hawaii’s economy. Don’t take those from us or you will be driving off residents too.

    1. And there it is…….the virtuous resident and the evil mainlander. Rico….not sure what math or algorithm you are using…..but I’m pretty sure all the costs associated with a real estate property in Hawaii stay in the economy and any occupant purchases stuff in Hawaii. The profit is money that is saved or reinvested, just like you are doing. It’s amazing how your method of doing the same thing you despise is ok. Wow. Let me guess you are OK when you take a trip to the mainland and spend some of your money on some other economy? Hypocrisy at its best

    2. Not true at all. This jealous emotive response lacks knowledge of the numbers and facts. But one less person to feel bad about when this thing backfires spectacularly.

  9. Respect? Kindness? Unity? A fool’s errand to believe these can be mandated or legislated.

    And as for Hawaii’s “legal family,” what would really be illustrious is for your prosecutors and courts to impose lengthy prison sentences on all the corrupt politicians pocketing illicit funds from contractors, developers, and crooked lawyers.

    Bribery — an integral part of the “real Hawaii.” Perhaps the legislators should focus on that.

  10. This is typical behavior of corruption especially in politics. Present yourself as virtuous with only the best of intents for everyone, but behind the scenes it’s much different. But Hawaii has been brainwashed to believe this BS and keep voting for what they have.

  11. As Rome (or in this case Hawaii) burns, the government fiddles. There are far more pressing issues to be dealt with presently. Codifying a hand gesture seems to be a lower priority to me given the present situation.

  12. My husband and I have visited Maui many time in the past 20 years and in spite of the rising price tag, the Aloha spirit, culture and beauty draw us back time and time again. It is disheartening to us when we see other visitors being disrespectful (to the people, to the land and to the culture). I’ve often wondered if each flight flying into any of islands (domestic & international) couldn’t run a brief 5-10 minute audio on Hawaiian culture & driving home the living Aloha sentiment. Living in the world today we could all learn to live with more Aloha.

    1. Dear lord, no. The last thing Anyone wants to hear is some fee-abusing airline, or the compromised Hawaii Tourism Authority, blasting a ten-minute recording about “Aloha” while trapped in a cramped plane.

      I’d rather listen to the two-minute credit-card pitch. A lot shorter and, frankly, more honest. Because Hawaii is ALL about “visit, spend, leave.” And we’re not even sure about the “visit” part ….

    2. There are many more islands to visit(why does everyone have to be obsessed with Maui?) all just as beautiful. And I have rarely seen disrespect at any of them in 55 years. However, it still doesn’t hurt to make friends with the locals!
      A tattoo of Leahi (diamond head) or mention of Brudda Iz or petting the cat residents of hotels (the breakers on oahu) helps too!

    3. So will there be a test after the messaging to see if everyone actually listened to the presentation? Yeah, right because so few people actually listen to the important messaging before the flight even takes off.

    4. No, thank you to educational lecturers. Our family only wants a little peace and quiet, a little hiking, and some beach visiting when we travel to the islands. We spend money in the local economy, we don’t trespass, we don’t litter, we don’t destroy coral, etc. I’ve never actually seen visitors being disrespectful, but I have seen plenty of locals act that way (thankfully, not all of them and not most of them, but boy, it exists!).

  13. I’ll bet those STR owners will be wanting to give the politicians a hand gesture… and I’m pretty sure it’s not Shaka… :-O

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