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!

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  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!!

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  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.

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