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. Yes the rhetoric is getting better, every tourist destination in the world is having the same experiences. Long lines, traffic delays, sky rocketed prices. Since I was born the population in the USA has more than doubled. All the beautiful places in our country and the world are experiencing the same issues.
    It is easy to limit arrivals to an island, don’t add more gates at the airports, stop building more resorts, restrict access to certain areas just using odd or even plate #s. Let’s try to find solutions! We know what the problems are

  2. My family has occupied hawaii since 1917 does that make me a local? Or am I a resident? You can see the problem. Dividing people up like that is not helpful. Whomever made the comment “our leaders are responsible” is right about that.
    Who cares about mean tourists, they are mean at home too.

    1. Yes, they maybe mean at home as well but since Hawaii has such a relatively small area the “meanness density” = meeanies/square_mile is much greater there.

  3. In 2012 my wife’s boss said to us at a happy hour I tried texting you and you didn’t respond. I told him yeah we do t believe in it and social media it’ll be the ruin of society. Pretty much nailed it.

  4. I like your news letter. This talk down is not a good look for it. You are discussing a phenomenon which is the subject of examination by congress, and is an international discussion on censorship. Every opinion is worth hearing and is important, whether or not we like it. One of the pillars of freedom in the USA, free speech. A generation learned to ignore rules of civility developed over thousands of years, Our leaders are responsible.
    FYI, Covid hysteria had a minimal impact compared to the devastation of the Holy Cleaner Iniki. I was there.

    1. Respectfully can you please explain why you think this is talking down? I think the guys did a great job of explaining both sides and showing several opinions.
      Did I miss something?

      1. Thank you for the opportunity. I believe offering advice on comportment during ordinary social intercourse is inappropriate for this forum.
        My comment, which was advice on how to run “beat of Hawaii”, was provocative enough for you to enquire, and seems as though you may think it is inappropriate for me to do so.
        The boys opened the door
        My humble opinion…

    2. Spreading lies and false information is not freedom of speech. And when the government censors you let me know. And no some opinions do not need to be heard
      The “Karen’s” have a sense of entitlement and sorry none have a valid opinion not need to be heard

  5. While it may be a desirable goal, stopping toxic talk is no longer possible in this time of social media. Schrödinger’s cat has left the box with no desire to have his fate determined.The only solution to this issue is to present the truth – unbiased truth – and gain the trust of readers. Understand that while Hawaii may be as beautiful a place as one can find on Earth, it is Not the only place people can choose as a vacation destination.

    If Hawaii truly wishes to decrease the number of visitors to the state, it needs to be ready for no sympathy or assistance from the Federal Government. Hawaii needs to develop additional means of self support by its own efforts. Best of luck with this…

  6. I have been visiting Hawaii for the past 50 years. It has always been crowded, including 10-15 years ago when all the stores and restaurants were open and when there were so many foreign visitors. Bizarre that now everyone wants to complain about it. What is different is that not enough people want to work and businesses are suffering.

  7. I’m always respectful when visiting Hawaii. I will continue to visit when time and money allows me the luxury of a trip to Hawaii. I have a friend who was born and raised in Honolulu. The reason I visit Hawaii is mainly to enjoy time with her and her family. I always learn new things about Hawaii from her and her family. Where I live in So Cal, we have many, many tourists too. We have beautiful beaches, mountains, parks and much more I already live in a beautiful area. I like the ocean water in Hawaii because I walk straight in and stay for a while floating and looking at the sky at Waikiki or I can go to a beach with waves so I can swim in the waves. I can stay in the water longer in Hawaii without getting cold. That’s what I like best.

  8. Visitors will be accepted with Aloha when they see themselves as guests in our island home. Respect and humility toward the local people will result in acceptance and Aloha.

  9. Mahalo Jeff and Rob for the ever informational and sometimes incredulous takes on people’s comments on this amazing forum,
    I’ve been watching and mostly shaking my head at the incredible divisions between we “locals” and our much appreciated visitors.
    Having lived here for decades, I’ve seen more than my share of both sides.
    I can tell you that most of the sour grapes coming from “locals are coming from those that aren’t true locals. They’re mostly recent transplants that seem to think their inhospitable opinion matters. True locals are thankful for the visitors to our islands and the lifestyle.
    On the other hand, Post COVID has caused division like never before.
    We just need to get back our symbiosis.
    Aloha nui always 🌺💕

    1. Hi Pam.

      Thank you for your continued insights including in this important topic,from Maui. We appreciate it.


    2. As someone who has visited Maui and Oahu since the ’80’s, it doesn’t take that much effort to stop, look and listen to what’s going on around you while in the islands. It’s just common courtesy to treat peoples’ home with decency and respect. Aloha and malama. Love and respect. It’s flashing a shaka when someone let’s you into traffic. Perhaps saving your beach day for a day other than Saturday or Sunday when residents have those days off to enjoy that. Saying hello. It’s easy to behave in a pono way. I see local’s point on feeling shortchanged or boxed out of owning a home and raising a family in Hawaii. It’s tough. Expensive. Its a situation that is vexing to solve and feeds in the overall tension.

  10. Gentlemen
    Kudos for what I consider your most well written article to date!!
    I think you nailed it on the head. We definitely don’t wanna hear the “I’m not coming back” threat anymore 😂
    For people visiting from places such as Phoenix, San Diego, etc. Imagine having a “snowbird” or “Zonie” season that Never Ends.
    That’s what it’s like living in Hawaii. Please show respect and I can promise you that you will be treated well by most.
    I’ve lived here many years and consider myself a resident but never refer to myself as local….I show the aloha and have never been treated poorly by locals.

    1. Hi Chris.

      Thanks for your over 70 comments, your input on this important subject, and the nice words. You can see another comment wherein the post wasn’t apparently well received and was construed as a “talking down.”



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