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How Some Tourists are Ruining Hawaii Travel for Everyone

Since Hawaii travel reopened, have you noticed a big difference in the attitude of some visitors? We have. While the majority are among the most thoughtful and considerate, there’s a change for the worse we are definitely seeing more of.

“Revenge travel” (getting revenge on canceled travel plans during COVID) has morphed into an attitude of entitlement for some. It was creeping in long before COVID, and has since become much worse. You may have seen them too. These travelers can be demanding and have higher than reasonable expectations for their Hawaii vacations. In fact, they can ruin Hawaii travel for the rest of us. Read on for some gory, unfortunate details.

(We see it, for example, in aggressive and inappropriate driving behavior.)

Some might say entitled tourists been encouraged by the travel industry itself.

Think about the “us vs. them” situation of upgrades, premium classes, and exclusive features that have become so pervasive throughout travel, whether it be on airlines, or in accommodations and car rentals.

This arose out of the travel businesses’ desires for more income based on elite offerings. The industry has over-indulged those willing to spend more, or who travel more, and in doing so has helped, at least in part, to spawn the entitled tourist phenomenon. Now it has to some degree backfired on them, and those in the industry often resent the very people who they egged on.

When some travelers don’t get the premium service associated with the us-and-them culture in which we find ourselves, they feel free to act out here in Hawaii. We can tell you as residents, that when you see enough of it, it’s even easy to start to think that entitled Hawaii tourists are more pervasive than in fact they really are.

Unrealistic Hawaii vacation expectations.

When some visitors’ expectations aren’t met, there can be problems. It can ruin the entire travel experience, both for the Hawaii visitor, and for those with whom they interact. Case in point.

Your editors were seated inside a Starbucks here in Hawaii this week. One visitor walked in and demanded to know the address of the mall-based Starbucks. When the employee said they didn’t know the physical address of the mall, the visitor huffed off uttering not-so-nice expletives.

Within five minutes, another visitor walked in with several non-Starbucks drinks in their hand and asked for a tray for their beverages. The employee said that they don’t provide trays for non-Starbucks beverages. And in this situation too, the visitor left, irate about how they were accommodated.

Recently at Hanalei, the surf was up with significant undertow, and some young children and their parents were in the ocean. The lifeguard started yelling over the speaker for them to move closer to the pier where conditions were far safer. They refused and the lifeguard became angrier, trying to keep them safe while they disobeyed his warnings. It was as though these visitors were thinking, “we paid for this and will stay where we want to be.” The exasperated lifeguard said he simply wanted them to have a safe vacation.

This incident took the cake, literally.

The examples above are nothing compared with what happened Tuesday on Maui, when a visitor-related issue began at Moose McGillycuddy’s restaurant. Police were called regarding a 38 year-old Massachusetts’ resident who refused to either pay her bill or leave the restaurant. After Maui Police arrived, she agreed to pay the bill, but then still wouldn’t leave Moose McGillycuddys.

The visitor was subsequently arrested for disorderly conduct and refusing to leave, and was being transported to the police station in Kihei. While getting into the vehicle, they bit the police officer. Alcohol may have been a factor.

Charges against the woman, identified by police as Corey Campbell, now include assault on the officer in addition to the prior offenses.

Hawaii air rage incident.

So what comes next? Do they bite a flight attendant on the way home? What airline would want them as a guest? It reminded us of the scary Hawaii air rage incident that happened recently.

Your comments to this point.

“A key issue seems to be that many tourism-reliant businesses market the entire state as a paradisiacal theme park. This leaves tourists disappointed when locals don’t act like theme park employees, and locals are insulted to be treated as such. Hawai’i isn’t Six Flags; it is a unique combination of cultures that over-tourism is killing.” (Robbos)

“As a long-time local, I can tell you that there’s nothing that will make everyone happy. People seem to want to be miserable these days. It breaks my heart to see this lack of Aloha and discord. There’s nowhere on Earth like Hawaii.” (Pam)

“Those that work in the service industry here are seriously over it & mentally exhausted from dealing with that same disrespectful & entitled attitude from visitors. Can you blame them? Travel has changed for the worst unfortunately. More & more travelors are traveling to trample & conquer. Sad!” (GR)

Yes, Hawaii is authentic.

Pam is right. With all of its problems, Hawaii is still unique. It is about the people, aloha, nature, the environment. These remain the isolated islands in the world and we welcome visitors for an incredible journey away from everyday life that’s different than anything you’ll find elsewhere.

No, Hawaii is no amusement park.

You’ve said it many times. People who live and work here aren’t like Disney employees. As an industry, Hawaii travel wants to please visitors, and we hope visitors appreciate who we are and what we have to offer.

Hawaii, unlike the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu, isn’t a manufactured experience crafted as a giant park for tourists. If you expect that, you’re in for almost certain disappointment. Hawaii is real, and primarily it is the home of its residents. Step into our real world. Visitors impact the lives of those who live here.

When you ask how Hawaii residents feel about visitors.

We were recently asked “Are visitors really hated by most locals? Are the majority of visitors as horrible and rude as I’m reading on Facebook? There were so many locals making so many claims of how much they hate visitors.”

Visitors can come to feel like they are being lumped in with a bunch of bad eggs. And Hawaii residents can have a similar take.

With the return to peak tourism, it’s easy to see more traffic, crowding and frustration. Hawaii is getting ready to welcome over 10 million annual visitors. That, in relation to our total population of a meager 1.4 million.

Please step into our world, gently. We live here, with Hawaii’s flora and fauna. When you come here to visit, we’re happy to share our ways of life, when you’re open to it. This is the real world, and Hawaii isn’t close to perfect, nor do we try to pretend it is. Hawaii is real. Please join us in treating Hawaii as a jewel and help respect and protect it for all of us and for future generations.

500 thoughts on “How Some Tourists are Ruining Hawaii Travel for Everyone”

  1. We haven been traveling almost every year since 1979. We started to notice in the early 90s that the tourists did not seem to follow the Aloha spirit. An example of that was seen in Kauai where there are a number of 1 way bridges on the North shore. Never a problem before…..if you come to a 1 way bridge the driver must slow down and stop to allow the driver in the opposite direction to cross the bridge. We began to notice an aggressive attitude where the drivers would rush to get over the bridge even if the driver from the opposite direction had already started over the bridge. This behavior let to stalemate on the bridges where one or the other of the drivers had to back up. Disgusting behavior that is not in synch with the Aloha spirit

  2. I, Haole, was playing pickleball in Lahaina for a few weeks, and I was talking with on of my new native Hawaiian acquaintances, and I said something about one of the better players being a big Kahuna at the court, not even thinking about even being in Hawaii, just something I might have said in my home court, and when I got back to the hotel I mentioned it to my wife asking if she thought it was wrong, and she said it was a major faux pas. She said it was. Next day I spoke to my fellow player to apologize and asked her about it. She said she remembered my saying it and thought it was perfectly acceptable, appropriate in the situation and took no offense. She smiled about my concern. Any thoughts?

    1. It is a common American expression that probably honors the acknowledgment of Polynesian Royalty. It was being used in the Midwest long before Hawaii was a state! Your concern showed great empathy and I applaud you.

  3. Well said, Jodi.

    When my wife and I came here on honeymoon long ago and fell in love with Hawaii and its people, we were quickly told we definitely were not Haoles because of our Akamai Aloha spirits. For those visiting for their first time we strongly recommend learning as much as possible regarding accurate Hawaiian history-the good and the bad. You will understand locals better, no matter what their race is.
    True story: after moving here for just 2 weeks I went to a coworkers house for Monday Night Football. His caucasian girlfriend, originally from Seattle, was there and we were imbibing in intoxicating items.
    When his Mom came in the girlfriend switched to speaking Pidgin to her and I thought I was hallucinating!

    I gave that up!

    1. You did right. Hawaiian natives do not like it when a Haole attempts to speak Pidgin English. It is considered appropriation of a culture not theirs, no matter how long they have lived in Hawaii.

      1. I don’t know about that, Pat. My friend’s parents and many TUTU’s respected our attempts to communicate with them more easily. They absolutely did not comprehend the near perfect version of English we were taught in mainland schools.

        I don’t recommend casual visitors to do it, but my best recommendation would be to ask the older locals (which we did) if they minded us practicing our Hawaiian and Pidgin dialects. We Never were told no!

        1. There are several lists out there on “Things Haoles should not do when living in Hawaii”, and all of them have “Attempt to speak pidgin” as one of the bullet points. Your friend’s parents feel differently, but there are native Hawaiians who prefer that Haoles not speak it. Different strokes, I guess. Some are more sensitive than others.

  4. I’ve been traveling to Maui for 25 years. I own a timeshare and a condo. I was talking to a Hawaiian lady about the aloha spirit amongst the Polynesian people, and she told me that We, the mainlanders have a expectation of the spirit of Aloha so we also encourage that spirit her word were “you bring the spirit of Aloha with you” because of our expectation of the Aloha spirit. All my life I’ve seen what is called the “Ugly American” speaking or travelers to other places. I think we all need to understand more about who we are sharing this beautiful place with.
    I want to let you know I love this blog/website, it is so helpful to stay on top of events, deals, and warnings You guys do a great job. Thank You & Aloha!

    1. Hi Jodi.

      Thanks for being a reader and for this first comment. We appreciate the feedback!


  5. There are indeed respectful visitors coming here, I am a tour guide and I always thank my guests and say you are smart visitors, you are taking a tour and leaving the driving to us, and learning more than you would driving yourself with a i-phone as your guide. But “they” are out there, seen some stupid behaviors for sure…

  6. Revenge Travel. Hmmm, that’s a new one on me. Think the way a person acts anywhere is a reflection on the character and manners of said person. Most folks tend to have good manners and behavior, it’s the minority that misbehave, sometimes due to alcohol over consumption, sometimes because they’re just not nice people that have a sense of entitlement. Hang Loose Brah! Have a good time. Just remember your rights end where the next guy’s begin. *My flying tip of the day: Stay away from coffee and alcohol on the flight, and don’t overeat beforehand (gas).


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