Hawaii Tourist Or Resident Misbehavior – What’s Worse?

Let’s face it, travel, including Hawaii travel, isn’t the same as it used to be. There’s a new roughness around the edges. After the three-year Covid travel break or whatever else is to blame, some of the sweetness and Aloha, if you will, was clearly diminished when travel reopened.

The ultra-scrutiny of tourists in Hawaii, however, may also be somewhat misguided and at odds with Hawaii’s goals of better managing tourism. As we continue to say, bringing Hawaii tourism stakeholders, including visitors, along the journey to evolve travel here is part of what is still missing in the equation. But we also need to mention how some residents act out and get a pass that visitors don’t.

Hawaii Tourism Authority was quoted this week, “One of the challenges in measuring the work in visitor education is that it is hard to quantify how many turtles were not harassed. It’s hard to quantify how many visitors did not commit a disrespectful act.” Regarding the urinating at Mauna Kea social media video (seen in our lead photo), HTA added, “It’s really unfortunate that acts like that are elevated to the level of public discourse.” That all makes good sense.

Our take is this is a shared responsibility of both visitors and residents. It’s hard to analogize between all the different situations, but more than ever, we need to pull together here. And it is hard to expect visitors to do something more than residents do. How many residents go to cultural programs or volunteer their time?

HTA said they would encourage visitors to volunteer via increased community partnerships. While that isn’t a bad thing by any means, it isn’t necessarily for all visitors. For those it works for, we see, as one example, that the soon-to-open 1 Hanalei Hotel will offer beach cleanup volunteerism as part of their weekly activities.

Resident bad behavior includes this.

Sorry to say that some Hawaii residents don’t always show “Kuleana” here. That stands for responsibility.

Editor Jeff was driving yesterday on a Kauai backroad and saw countless cars dumped off the side of the road, together with construction materials and massive amounts of other dumping. These were at the hands of residents who sought, among other things, to avoid dumping fees, and save time. This shows disregard for the land. So how can we expect visitors to do better?

You’ve written too in comments about residents who drive aggressively around visitors who may be lost or unfamiliar with our roads. Visitor Kim said, ” A local was tailgating us in Kauai. We were not driving slow for the local to pass us but he was going twice the speed he was supposed to go on curves. He finally went around us and we honked. He got out of a car and said to my husband that honking is like saying the f word to people in Hawaii. My husband responded by saying that tailgating says the same thing to us.” And Rich chimed in, “But my biggest beef about HI drivers is the passive aggressive driving practiced by many locals. Since rental cars are easily identified as they are the shiniest and newest cars on the road, many drivers will harass them if they drive too slow. Once I followed from a distance two cars going down H11 from Volcano. The local tailgated the tourist for miles almost rear-ending him.”

We also recently witnessed a degree of disorderliness at a beach park where scores of residents drove recklessly at the beach and on the sand and appeared to be acting drunkenly. They generally lacked disregard for everyone else.

Then too, you’ll recall that Polihale Beach Park was closed for camping two years ago. That camping shutdown lasted until last summer and, as the state said, was the result of “camping without permits, driving on the beach and dunes, and careless behavior in general.”

Also, endangered Hawaiian monk seals have suffered at the hand of residents and have been killed. State DLNR said, “These intentional killings are evil, despicable acts perpetrated against an endangered animal in its own natural habitat. Those responsible must be held accountable.

Revenge travel and a change in some Hawaii tourists.

Since Hawaii travel reopened fully a year ago, we’ve all noticed a big difference in the attitude of at least some visitors. We are still blessed to have many thoughtful and considerate visitors; we’d say those make up the majority. And yet, there are some distinct changes for the worse.

“Revenge travel” and the attitude of entitlement for some have encroached on Hawaii and globally. This was a slow creep up long before we even knew the dreaded Covid word, and based on recent events, including countless unruly passenger Hawaii flight diversions, it seems to be still getting worse. You have undoubtedly seen it. Travelers can be demanding beyond reason and, in that way, taint Hawaii travel for everyone.

Plus, we’ve seen a significant disregard for turtles resting on the beach and Hawaiian Monk Seals. To get the perfect photograph or video, some try and get close and even touch one of these creatures. Please don’t touch Hawaiian sea turtles like this visitor just did.

Paying more but getting less: Hawaii vacation expectations unmet.

Hawaii visitors are paying more. Often 50% more for apparently no reason, just in the time from pre-Covid to now. And when some don’t get great service associated with the cost and given the “them-and-us culture”, they can act out.

One issue is that we see it enough, and we do, then we start to expect it and think of all visitors as having the potential to be those entitled tourists.

Visitor urinating on Hawaii volcano made global news.

A Hawaii visitor’s images of himself urinating and “flipping the bird” while at sacred Mauna Kea (above photo) recently made global news. He later gave a series of apologies after first claiming he needed to relieve himself following the 11-hour hike to the nearly 14k-foot summit. “I’m so sorry to all of you. I was so arrogant and I just didn’t get it. I’m beginning to and I humbly ask for your forgiveness. I am so sorry that I hurt so many people. I will do all I can to be more conscious everyday of the land and the people that have stewarded it. Not just here but everywhere.”

This incident was upsetting. And many, again on social media, thought his apology was saccharine and that he should just shut up and go away. One said, “Just be quiet already. True humility isn’t loud like this.”

No laws were broken, however, and the State DLNR said the visitor would face no consequences for his actions.

And remember what this unsatisfied Hawaii restaurant visitor did?

Last year on Maui, an unruly visitor issue occurred at the popular Moose McGillcuddys restaurant. Police were brought in when a 38-year-old Massachusetts woman would neither pay her bill nor leave. Police arrived and got her to pay up, but still unwilling to leave, she was arrested for disorderly conduct. On the way to the police station, she bit a police officer, which resulted in her arrest also being for assault too. Alcohol was said to be a factor. Does the restaurant offender next bite the flight attendant on the way home too, after the recent Hawaii air rage incidents?

Where do you stand as a resident or visitor and how can we best move forward?

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54 thoughts on “Hawaii Tourist Or Resident Misbehavior – What’s Worse?”

  1. Having spent 6 years of my youth on Oahu, I know firsthand there is an undercurrent of resentment that exist toward “haoles” on the islands. It is now being exacerbated by the overwhelming number of “haoles” visiting the islands post-Covid. When you’re not welcomed in the first place by many islanders, emotions often surface at the disrespect (real or imagined) haoles might display. The instances you cited are prevalent everywhere in everyone, Islanders or haoles. But when many locals have little regard for their temporary visitors to begin with, then reactions can get overblown. People who misbehave in public are selfish idiots everyday, not just when they visit the islands.

    1. Interesting choice of terms. Never forget that Malahinis are often Hoales. Just having a local Drivers License does not mean one is of the land. Distrust of Hoales is a feature of the cultures of Island Peoples as it is with the Japanese, the British etc etc.

      1. It still smells of racism to call someone a hoale or to refer to oneself as a local as if that somehow makes ones-self better then another. Also, Those coming to the island are not the only ones with a sense of entitlement, Hawaiians themselves express this attitude toward the land which, like it or not is a U.S. state. Every society has a footprint of having been conquered and taken over by some other people group. Mainlanders are visitors not intruders. Lets educate both side of the asile. Airlines can hand out visitor Education pamphlets and TV & schools can educate islanders but in the end you will still have blunted intelligence on both sides as it is human nature but education can help reduce the impact of blunted intelligence.

  2. Our family visited the Big Island in 2018, staying on the Kona coast in a condo looking inland to the valley between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa with the town of Waikoloa visible in the distance… spectacular vista. It was the best vacation we had. With prices ever increasing and bad behavior erupting all around, I doubt we’ll return. There’s just too many people wanting the same limited things.

  3. Maybe on the flights to Hawaii there can be done literature on what is polite as a tourist. Might sound simple but a simple reminder might work. I love Hawaii and would never want to disrespect it

    1. I gotta say some of the locals need to pay more respect to the country side ,I have never seen so many abandoned cars and large appliances on the side of the road until I visited Hawaii.

  4. Let’s not forget that most people living in Hawai’i are not native Hawaiian. Many Filipinos, Asian Pacific, Japanese descent, European descent, and a mix of all. Most likely the original Hawaiian people would be very disappointed on what happened to their land , beaches and Ocean. One time I was driving from Waipio along the road, and on one of the turnouts I saw a local boy throwing plastic trash bags over the cliff into the ocean. He was basically using that spot as a dump because he didn’t want to pay for trash removal. It’s sad because most of that stuff will never be recovered it will just be on that cliffside in the trees, with some of it reaching the ocean. This plastic waste could be around for hundreds of years to come.

  5. I end up having to drive the saddle highway (Daniel K Inouye Hwy) on the big island every Friday to Kona and back to Hilo More or less for the last 10 years. I’ve been a part of highway cleanup efforts so I always make note of the amount of trash on the side of the road between certain mile markers on my way up (I’m kind of a nerd I know). These trips continued through the shutdown during the great absence of tourists. What did I observe? The amount of new trash on the side of the road every week was actually worse during the shutdown. Giving my personal observations, tourists are not the litter bugs. I wonder how many other bad behaviors are misplaced on them. Just a thought!

  6. We have visited Kauai for many years. Have never encountered rudeness, nor felt threatened anywhere we have been. We thought maybe we were just lucky..but friends we’ve made on the Island told us it is what we bring to the table…

    1. Maybe you missed the Resident parking only on a beach that doesn’t have resident parking only, or maybe you missed the sign that says stop stealing the glass from glass beach when in reality it comes from trash pulled into the ocean and washing back up and if you didn’t pick it up someone else would you simply can not end glass and shell collecting. By in large most people have no trouble when they come to Kauai, but does Kauai have an attitude problem, yes it does

  7. As Hawai’i becomes more & more crowded with not only tourists, and tour companies which do tend to over exploit snorkeling spots, and other habitats like Manta feeding zones, & small beaches & coves- it is also just the volume of people now living in Hawai’i. The more people,the more chance for littering,& foolish, disrespectful conduct. Fishing line, fishing hooks, plastic containers, straws, water bottles, littered on the roadsides,and coastline are not all tourists of course. I guess most people in general within a population just don’t care that much. Living or visiting paradise comes with a certain amount of awareness and class. We’ll never be able to change everyone’s behavior,But We can do away with al single use plastics until then!

  8. My wife and I recently visited Maui for our 25th anniversary. Never been to Hawaii and being temperature deprived Canadians, we were super excited for this trip. For the most part, the staff at hotels and restaurants were very friendly and open as well as some locals. The animosity that we did experience was the honking, swearing, illegal passing local on the road to Hana. How dare we stick to the posted speed limit! A sticker on a local surfer’s truck, “Welcome to Hawaii, now leave”. Or a self appointed sign, warning tourists from using parking space, reserved for local surfer’s. Despite that and the number of abandoned vehicles and the heartbreaking number of homeless, we enjoyed ourselves and gained a love for the land and rich culture.

    1. “Welcome to Hawaii, now leave”

      Reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw in Colorado not long after they legalized weed:

      “You got high, Now go home”

  9. My great grandparents came here as immigrants about a hundred years ago. We live comfortably and raised our two children here. There are limited job opportunities here with crazy housing prices and the cost of living in general. I work in the tourism industry and can honestly say not all the locals are out to terrorize you visitors. The Aloha Spirit is still alive but many of our youth are looking to blame someone for not being able to afford to live in the paradise they were born into. To sum it up, I would say we all can do better.

  10. I will have 5 yrs on Maui this July.
    I think I experienced what alot of locals are upset about by tourism.
    When covid hit, and it was only locals here for a little over a year, the beaches weren’t crowded, the streets weren’t crowded. We all got to experience our home with our neighbors.
    For myself, it was the best experience I’ve had here.
    Then the gates open up and twice of many people are here. I go to the Kam beaches now, and feel like the only local there.
    I have to move out of Kihei before I push down a tent someone sets up in front of me at the beach. This feeling of living Aloha with my neighbors, has wiped away Aloha for visitors.

  11. My husband and I sold our house and needed somewhere to live for the winter. We thought about it and decided why not Hawaii? We rented a condo and had our car shipped over. The very day that we picked up our car, someone keyed it! We still had our California plates on it as we were going to the DMV the next day to get Hawaii plates. We soon realized that there was a definite prejudice towards Californians and decided not to tell locals who asked where we were from. We had nothing but respect for this incredibly beautiful and sacred place to the point where we didn’t go to beaches on Sunday’s so the locals could enjoy it with their families etc. Respect has to go both ways though. Like it or not, Hawaii is part of the USA!

  12. Throughout Hawaii I have found abandoned cars and trucks left to rot, it’s really an eye sore and clearly the work of residents not tourists.

  13. Hi there! The timing of this article is so funny because my husband and I along with another couple visited Oahu in 2021 and then Maui just last month. We were just talking about all of the trash (abandoned cars and washing machines, dryers, other large appliances) that dot the roads on both islands. I diligently read BOH and other articles where the government and other locals blame the tourists for not respecting the land and the safety of the environment, but we were all pretty certain that it wasn’t tourists bringing their appliances/large trash to discard on the highways of the islands. We All have to do our part, we will continue to do so. Thanks so much BOH for all of your articles!

    1. We have visited Kauai for many years. Have never encountered rudeness, nor felt threatened anywhere we have been. We thought maybe we were just lucky..but friends we’ve made on the Island told us it is what we bring to the table…

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