Trespassing at Stairway To Heaven

Have Ego-Driven Instagrammers Ruined Hawaii?

Social media is here to stay. Instagram, in particular, has become the de facto platform for sharing Hawaii travel experiences and connecting with others. It has led to some really bad behavior too, and there’s a need for creating avenues that minimize harm. Where do you see yourself in this, and how far are you willing to go for the perfect picture or video?

What is the motivation for some Hawaii visitors’ behavior on Instagram?

Photo-sharing is mainly about bringing enjoyment and digital postcard memorabilia to ourselves, friends, and family. But for a growing group, it has become about elevating self-esteem through braggadocio. As a viewer, you may feel you are missing out on life.

This presents a fascinating psychological perspective on tourism sharing.

Social media has transformed Hawaii travel marketing and management and has greatly influenced Hawaii visitor behavior regarding the experience some share and seek. The quest for the most over-the-top content in photos and videos has resulted in an evolving travel channel for Hawaii visitors who share self-centered, egocentric behavior.

Studies suggest the need for higher social status motivates some.

This happened as destinations like Hawaii saw the potential for Instagram to influence their strategic travel planning and tourism promotion positively. But then that has backfired.

Aside from sharing photos with family and friends, Instagrammers, in particular, share Hawaii travel images to gain prestige and social status.

Partly due to Instagram, some places in Hawaii are being destroyed by the onslaught of Instagram selfie-geeks. That with little concern about the impact they have. Examples include the Green Sand beach we wrote about earlier this week.

Millennials, Instagram, and Hawaii sometimes aren’t the best mix.

Overtourism in Hawaii is a real problem. And that’s even more so in pristine areas. Visitors, at times, love Hawaii to death.

That comes as more people are traveling post-Covid. In particular, millennials are said to prize travel experiences, with more of them traveling or planning to than Gen X or Baby Boom travelers.

When too many travelers descend on the same Instagram destinations, they create a massive problem for Hawaii. The environment is degraded, as is the visitor experience that Instagrammers sought.

The Culture of Selfie Seekers.

The tools we use to feel our egos in travel have changed. We still remember carving our names on signature tree leaves years ago. Then we migrated to photos and Facebook, and now, to Instagram. Sadly, we’ve almost forgotten what travel was like before selfies.

Instagram selfies lead to trespassing and negative Hawaii travel issues.

This has increased the need for better enforcement, much hated permitting systems, sustainability measures, and infrastructure improvement. Tourism, whether here in Hawaii or other similar places, must be managed rather than promoted. The days of promotion are over.

The examples are many, from YouTube videos of intentional trespassing at Diamond Head to examples like weddings in illegal places and trespassing over cliffs.

In the photo below, and countless others that can be found online, are from Sacred Falls State Park, which has been closed for decades following a deadly rockfall that killed eight. Nonetheless, regular trespassing has continued in the area, and a simple search will yield countless photos. To a large degree, the motivation appears to revolve around social media postings.

The state said they’ve asked social media posters to take down Sacred Falls posts, but largely to no avail. And some have said that trespassing there is simply worth the risk. DLNT said, “It’s this entitlement mentality that we’re trying to penetrate, unfortunately without universal success.”

The state recently removed a wooden swing to try to discourage trespassing further.

Then here is an example from TikTok’s Ana Stowell, who proudly trespassed on Oahu’s Haiku Stairs and posted it.


Words to use: wanderlust. Influencer. Egos. Self-same. Visual stimulation. There’s no end to what people will do in Hawai to get their Instrgram photos. Showing up at a secluded location at 5am – no problem. Trespassing to get to Queen’s Bath in spite of the obvious dangers – no problem. Don’t forget, you also need to get the photos of you there alone rather than being one in a crowd. How far will you go?


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40 thoughts on “Have Ego-Driven Instagrammers Ruined Hawaii?”

  1. I totally understand being fed up with entitled tourists, being from Montana we get a ton of them at Yellowstone. But what exactly do you mean when they say respectful tourists? We have been to Hawaii 5 times and Love it, the land, people, and culture. With every visit that love and respect grows. I feel that you all should get together and do a video of the “does and don’ts”, give some cultural history and explain to the tourists who don’t know anything, what Aloha means. And make every airline play it on the flight over, you are stuck on that plane for hours. Educate the morons who don’t know how to be a respectful tourists and frankly wouldn’t be one no matter where they are going. Couldn’t hurt.

  2. In previous posts What surprised me was the “Locals” touting that this is the Age Group/Generation that they prefer as Tourists. I immediately challenged this with Warnings. This type of Juvenile behavior should Never be encouraged or explained away, it Should Be Challenged and result in Arrest, Fines and Jail. Scour the internet and issue Summons and, or,Arrest Warrants. They won’t come back! Treat them As Adults and the Responsibilities that come with it. Enforcement Must be a part of the Solution, when Costly Fines are issued it will dissuade others. If someone is injured, or dies, Bill the Person Family or Estate for Associated Costs! Make it Painfully Clear, “None of Your BS is Wanted Here! Enough Excusing Bad and Illegal Behaviors.

    1. Agree 100%. The more severe the punishment, the more of a deterrent it will be. The price to be paid must be high enough to truly change people’s behavior.

      Think about how clean, safe and beautiful Japan is. Some of the main reasons are – they’ve never allowed outside influences to take hold in any meaningful way throughout the country, they do not tolerate disrespectful behavior, from birth, children are taught respect for others, one’s surroundings, etc. Some rush to call them a homogeneous society, but most other countries look at the behavior of their own citizens and think “This is why we can’t have nice things” – when was the last time you read about a Japanese citizen defacing a historical site? It all starts with the parents.

  3. Those parroting the tired “ugly American” line must not get out much. Growing up on multiple islands, I personally witnessed hundreds, if not thousands of incidents of ridiculous behavior by . . . wait for it . . . non-Americans over the years. Europeans (who may be visually mistaken for Americans) can be particularly arrogant and disrespectful.

    Read the news of the world once in a while, and you will see countless examples of non-Americans behaving in truly appalling ways across the globe (there are reasons why Japan has had to make many “cultural adjustments” regarding Chinese people arriving by the busload at historical sites).

    Unfortunately, there is plenty of blame to go around, so don’t try to heap it all onto Americans.

    1. What you have said is the truth, however, Americans do hold the record for really pushing the edge too far. Believing that they’ll be the next YouTube sensation and derive riches or attention they manage to Achieve the “Dumd Struck” Award even if they die. It’s the way many of Them were raised and allowed to do what they want without restrictions, restraints or any real consistent punishment. At “Supposed” adulthood they’re released upon society, why should We suffer their childish antics just because their parents did?

      1. It absolutely comes from how they were raised, and much responsibility falls on the parents (though at “adulthood”, one must take responsibility for one’s own actions). This is a direct result of the soft, “participation trophy”, entitled, zero-discipline style of parenting. Has nothing to do with “boomers” ranting, and everything to do with young adults being released into the world without the proper social skills/respect for people, places and things.

        The chase for that next dopamine “hit” via likes on Instagram, TikTok, etc. exposes the shallow, “me first” mentality that is driving this behavior.

        1. Robert take a chill pill bro. Seriously. The best most attentive parent can turn out the most idiotic kids. A terrible parent the child can turn out responsible and good. Your comments are ridiculous broad brush of all.
          “This is a direct result of the soft, “participation trophy”, entitled, zero-discipline style of parenting.” Bababab BS Those parents Buy the trophy for their spoiled kids. You seem to think its ok to point out losers vs winners.
          I have seen all ages acting like idiots. Yes some boomers feel their money entitles them to act like morons.

    2. Guess you haven’t seen California drivers who drive down the shoulder of the road going 85 while the rest of us are in the jammed lanes going 45 or the nut jobs who won’t wait at a red light and blast right thru or the crazy guy who is weaving in and out of traffic and nearly hitting every car. Your very lucky cuz all these cars have California plates on them.

      1. I’ve lived in California for many years (unfortunately), so have seen all that and much, much more. Not sure how bad drivers apply to the topic being discussed, as they are found throughout the world as well.

  4. These people who don’t follow rules or laws is what makes other countries really hate Americans. And I don’t blame them, we are guests in someone else’s home and we need to respect it. We all live somewhere and if a foreigner came here and threw trash; jumped over your fence or damaged your home or property, you would feel outraged and invaded.

    I’ve been to many countries and I’ve always been accepted because I’ve treated people with respect and kindness. That has made my travels more memorable. I’ve also seen “ugly Americans” and how they complain at things that other countries do. And made me feel embarrassed and apologetic to my host. I guess the new phrase should be “entitled, ugly American”

    1. That is the crux of the problem, only “some” do. Should there be a Litmus Test before parents can let their offspring into the world of Adults? If not then what amount of Troubles and Behaviors should be acceptable and tolerated before They “work it out of their system” and be Considered Grown Up?


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