Stopping Toxic Talk: Hawaii Visitors + Locals Find A Path Forward

Can Hawaii visitors and locals get along? Read our thoughts below for both groups and please add your thoughts to the discussion.

We know that all visitors aren’t entitled. And neither do all residents vilify visitors. But the most outspoken on both sides would definitely lead you to think otherwise. Reader Joy pleaded, “…we are not entitled. But we feel we may be treated that way by people who dislike tourists.”

Regarding exampes of the extreme, we’re reminded again of Native Hawaiian Lily Hi’ilani Okimura, the Oahu resident with  97,00 TikTok followers who vociferously demands that visitors not come to Hawaii. And then there’s the recent visitor who was trespassing at Akaka Falls, nearly died, endangered the life of the person who saved them, and then didn’t even have the courtesy to say thank you. Or the viral videos of trespassing at the controversial Haiku Stairs.

Absurd costs, visitor fees, travel issues, plus bad press, and online toxicity collide.

It’s just hard to catch a break for any of us right now. So here are a few thoughts.

1. First, just what went wrong with the long-standing idea of being able to escape to Hawaii for a few days or a week, anyway. And who doesn’t need that kind of relief right about now.

1. The world changed with Covid, and there’s no signs it’s ever returning to normal. Travel, in some ways, seems to exemplify the change. The differences, for the worse, are palpable here in the islands. The dreaded term “revenge travel” is seen as an attitude of entitlement by some. While it isn’t new, and doesn’t represent a majority for sure, it’s far worse than before.

2. Even though most visitors do care about Hawaii, and in part that’s why the islands have among the highest return visitor rates anywhere, the positive has become less apparent next to the negative.

3. Visitors wish to enjoy Hawaii’s weather, the water, and our lifestyle and culture. And they do benefit residents financially, no matter what’s said to the contrary.

4. With no replacement for tourism on the horizon, a shift in attitudes is essential. Hawaii has done absolutely nothing to change its reliance on travel, and it appears the state never will. Talk to the contrary is hot air.

Suggestions for visitors.

Lower your expectations. What more needs to be said. Realize that the world and Hawaii just don’t operate as well as they did before. But don’t let that ruin your Hawaii travel experience, or that of your hosts.

Please “malama” take care of Hawaii. That means don’t harm the environment, wildlife or the residents. Acknowledge that Hawaii is overrun with tourism, and please be respectful of that. It’s not a joke. Think of that when considering where to park, for example.

Experience Aloha when you visit here; and it starts with you. Give what you’d like to receive, and be in for a pleasant surprise in return.

Help contribute to the feeling of symbiosis between visitors and residents. Don’t complain and pout that you aren’t coming back. We’ve heard it enough, and it just doesn’t matter. Choose to have a good time instead! It’s within your ability, after all.

Suggestions for residents.

We acknowledge there’s a true discontent among residents with the unmanageable aspects of Hawaii tourism. It’ll take a concerted effort to find workable ways to mitigate those issues, including the sheer number of visitors, their impacts on daily life and on the environment, and the lack of appropriate infrastructure that supports us all.

There’s the realization that our own awareness of tourism’s impact changed on a dime after Covid, and the whiplash of an unexpected tourism rebound that followed. Yet studies continue to show that residents’ perception of tourism is relatively high. Most recently, the average ranking was 8 on a scale of 1 to 10.

No one can speak for Hawaii, be it here, on TicTok, or on Facebook. We have a wide range of viewpoints on tourism, the industry which impacts everyone’s life. And not everyone wants to throw the baby out with the bath water. In other words, to let go of something valuable.

We hope that Hawaii continues to express its Aloha to visitors in its unique ways. Most people here want visitors to enjoy Hawaii while appreciating those things that we love too.

How can Hawaii visitors and residents find a way to work together?

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57 thoughts on “Stopping Toxic Talk: Hawaii Visitors + Locals Find A Path Forward”

  1. All you have to do is treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated and i think there will be instant good treatment back

  2. Loved on Maui for 5 years and Oahu for 10 years. Grew up in Boston and New Jersey considered by many to be the rudest people around. In fact it’s the opposite. Anyway you will have _____ wherever you go. I used to love working lahaina it was like being on vacation. Everyone in a good mood. Loved in Waikiki at the waipuna for 5 years walked the Hilton and kalakua every day to the park and back. Some people are just miserable no matter where they are. Not sure if I was considered local but my wife looks hawaiian so maybe we got a pass. What exactly is a local very few native Hawaiians left and those I knew were respectful of almost everyone. Seemed to be those with bad parenting that caused problem with ignorance which is everywhere.

  3. Hawaii is both a physical place and a state of mind. The real vs. the imagined. For some of us, the islands have been a place of Joy and beauty for years. We come, we respect the land and the residents just as we would our own families. For the rest, quit complaining that the imagined does not match the reality. If you don’t like it, stay home. Go somewhere else. Ruin someone else’s experience. Hawaii is a wonderful experience if you just give it a chance. The Aloha Spirit is alive if given just a chance. Lay back, lower expectations and have a great vacation.

    1. “Lower expectations” has been repeated quite a few times. Expectations are relative. Is Walt Disney really to blame? Are unfulfilled expectations a good explanation for lack of civility?

  4. Something to consider:

    In much of the discussion on this board, a common theme seems to be a reminder to visitors to become familiar with (and pay respect to) the customs of Hawaii. Furthermore, this logic seems to be applicable simply because it is Hawaii.

    Why should expectations for visiting Hawaii be any different than visiting ANY place, anywhere in the world? With very few exceptions, no matter where we travel on this big blue ball, we are passing through a place some number of people likely call home.

    I understand the focus on Hawaii on this webpage, and that’s okay. We should be cautious that focus does not turn to myopia….

    1. Well stated…I think that is where a lot of the frustration stems from for visitors.

      When someone says I am not sure if I want to visit Hawaii anymore, it shouldn’t be viewed as complaining or whining, it is someone expressing frustration with many of the comments that they read from locals that don’t seem to want visitors or don’t feel respected, no matter what.

      Again, as so many have expressed, it is a vocal minority and ultimately you have to base your viewpoint of Hawaii on your experiences, not necessarily what you read in a forum.

  5. It’s not only Hawaii who suffers and benefits from tourism. I live in both FL and CO and its a pain in the butt to deal with crowds, rudeness and ignorance on both sides of the spectrum. Both Residents and Tourists are disappointed and taken advantage of. “Disrespect on both sides of the aisle.”

    1. Janis M.,
      If you want solitude and no crowds, I suggest you move to a different area. I also reside in Florida (Daytona area) and I actually love to see all of the tourists having fun. I have not in all my years of living here (36 Yrs.) seen rude and obnoxious people on either side of the aisle. There will always be a few people that are annoying but you have to take the bitter with the sweet. Loosen up and enjoy the ride! That is what life is all about!

  6. Most folks, residents and visitors alike, behave well.

    Some, including myself, make too much of the small amount of bad behavior. Or, as I’m guilty of, bashing the governor. In my own case, I live in California and could care less who bashes our worthless governor. So, I sometimes feel free to bash Ige – I’ll be more careful in the future.

    Let’s try to be friendly with our fellow Americans.

    See you in September. In July we sold our timeshare – my health is a problem for travel – thought we would not be in Hawaii again. But, it looks like we have one more trip. After visiting for 57 years, this may well be the end for us.

    1. Rod W.,
      Truer words were never spoken. I am sorry to hear that you are not in the best of health and I hope you enjoy your trip to Hawaii this year. Aloha!


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