The Aloha Spirit In Hawaii Gone Missing

Aloha can get messed up when 10 million visitors a year arrive at Hawaii’s door, and it can be a word bandied about in various inappropriate usages. But then you hear cases like the following from a Kauai Facebook group (hat tip to Art).

A Kauai resident reported leaving her backpack on the beach with $600 worth of equipment. She returned the next day, thinking the chance of finding it there was slim. She was correct; the backpack was gone, but the lady who found it left a sign on the tree above the place where it was left. And that sign read, “Found Backpack” and a number to call. She was reunited with her backpack and made a new friend too. As the backpack owner said, “There are good people out there, and Kauai and the universe do indeed work miracles…”

Despite everything we’ve all been through over the past few years and in many ways continue to endure, does Aloha remain more than a word here. In addition, we’ve said before that Aloha is actually the law in Hawaii, and we’d like to add that many people feel that it largely remains the spirit of the Hawaiian Islands.

Aloha means hello and goodbye, friendship and love; it is the breath that unites us all and is an acknowledgment of the culture of Hawaii. Aloha is real, and it remains, in part, what makes Hawaii unique. This code word is inclusive and creates unity.

Why is there an actual Hawaii Aloha Spirit Law?

This law was enacted in 1986, but it couldn’t be more relevant than it is today. Aloha emanates from deep roots in Native Hawaiian culture. In a place as small as this, we all need to get along, and that has always been the case and still is. Aloha is working together in idealized kindness, harmony, and with respect.

The state Attorney General’s office said, “all citizens and government officials of Hawaii are obligated to conduct themselves in accordance with this law.” We’ll respectfully add visitors to the list of those it applies to.

Hawaii ranks highly regarding wellness measures, including low stress, life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical well-being, and healthy behaviors. We’ll add that Aloha is a large part of the reason that’s true.

Beat of Hawaii regular Melika once said, “There are so many gifts here … there is a beautiful “aloha spirit” here. I love the unique gift of “talking story.” If you wave at anyone (even if you don’t know them)… they will wave back! The ocean is so pure and cleansing… it is always my healer, physically and mentally. It always makes me smile! The brilliant colors and beauty here are unparalleled in my book; this is truly paradise… and of course, we do have the best weather on the planet! So many things that make Hawaii special are difficult to put into words… words cannot do it justice… Hawaii is an experience for all your senses! Can you tell I am completely, hopelessly smitten here!!!”

Here’s the Aloha Spirit Law [§5-7.5].

(a) “Aloha Spirit” is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. In the contemplation and presence of the life force, “Aloha,” the following unuhi laula loa (free translation) may be used:

“Akahai,” meaning kindness to be expressed with tenderness;
“Lokahi,” meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;
“Oluolu,” meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;
“Haahaa,”meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;
“Ahonui,” meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.

These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth, and sincerity of Hawaii’s people. It was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii. “Aloha” is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation. “Aloha” means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring without obligation. “Aloha” is the essence of relationships in which each person is essential to every other person for collective existence. “Aloha” means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen, and to know the unknowable.

(b) In exercising their power on behalf of the people and in fulfillment of their responsibilities, obligations, and service to the people, the legislature, governor, lieutenant governor, executive officers of each department, the chief justice, associate justices, and judges of the appellate, circuit, and district courts may contemplate and reside with the life force and give consideration to the “Aloha Spirit”. [L 1986, c 202, §1].

Hat tip to commenter Kika, who said, “Although there is no panacea for the regrettably belligerent tourist, it might help if there was more of an effort to promote and advertise the Aloha Spirit state law.”

Please share your thoughts about Hawaii’s Aloha you’ve experienced.

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70 thoughts on “The Aloha Spirit In Hawaii Gone Missing”

  1. Returning to O’ahu after a 25 year absence, I mourn the dramatic decline in Aloha Spirit. Most troubling to me is kūpuna drivers sidelined by selfish, inconsiderate tailgaters. Uncomfortable with the bolder moves of younger drivers, what choice do they have? With horns blaring behind, they can only wait for a rare kindness or a break in traffic.

    On recent afternoon, I witnessed an inspirational act of true Aloha on Kapahulu St. Traffic was dense though flowing with an older driver attempting to enter the stream from a small side street. She rolled forward hopefully only to be intentionally cut off. An entire stoplight cycle later, nobody made room for her to merge. In the interim, several vehicles piled up behind her and horns started blaring. A young man in reflective work wear, exited his company truck, walked up to the Lexus right behind her and asked him to stop honking. What he did next was very heartwarming. He walked out into and stopped moving traffic! With a big smile on this face, he held the curb lane at bay until all the side street vehicles, except his, entered traffic.

  2. How is it misused? Imho, Aloha is misused In Obligation. Now becoming an excuse,or a reason to or not to. Now out of context and intention.

    Aloha is Love and all that comes with it true, depending on the context and intention.

    In this context? It is the answer to living island life. Where all of life is important and appreciated through this spirit we exude with a kind heart.

    We do not believe this makes us vulnerable, or to be taken advantage of. We all have our days, get upset and need reminding. This doesn’t mean “No Mo Aloha”!.

    Please keep in mind This is our interpretation of things. We believe in Aloha.
    Tourism should be informed of this, taught and not baited with it! Knowing, not expecting.

    1. Mahalo for keeping the Aloha spirit alive! I know it’s hard sometimes when you have to deal with (ok, I can’t say, even though I wasn’t born here). I love Hawaiians and grateful for living here.

  3. When I got called to come to Hawaii the first time I was scared, I hadn’t ever been here nor had any close friends on the island. In spite of the fear I decided to come with faith trusting that my needs would be met.
    I am grateful to say that the ‘Spirit’ of aloha literally embraced me, the kindness from complete strangers that helped me along my journey was amazing.The medicine from the song of the birds and wealth of the land, it’s been a blessing.
    I was called once again to move, this time to Oahu, it surprised me at how little the word,’aloha,’ was used. It’s such a beautiful word it made me wonder why hardly anyone I met used it. It would be great to bring it to life again on this land. Aloha and mahalo 🙏🏾

    1. The spirits of Hawaii are still here. It’s just that the word “Aloha” has been mis-used so may times that some locals are now reluctant to use it.

    2. Maria, Oahu was the 1st place I visited when coming to Hawaii and we were greeted with plenty of Aloha. I do believe there is still some left there as well. I am sure you will find good people. In the meantime, try your best to send out the Aloha spirit to everyone you meet. It might stick with some …

  4. This is a beautiful definition of Aloha.

    The first time I ever heard the word Aloha was from my acupuncturist (who is like family now). She defined it as, “I love your breath,” meaning, I’m so glad you’re alive and here with me now.

    Thank you for expanding on what I was first taught.

    What keeps pulling me back to the Big Island is the holiness of the place. And the lived Hawaiian words that, as of now, I only understand with my heart more than my brain, like Aloha and Aina.

    I visit for months at a time and I never want to leave, but when I do, I realize I’ve transformed. I receive a healing, without even trying. It’s why I keep coming back. That, and the glow of holiness in people’s eyes.

    Thank you for letting me share your beauty.


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