Learn Some Key Hawaiian Phrases.

About Hawaii · Awesome Travel Stuff

Hawaii is one of the world's top tourist destinations. And deservedly so! Due to it's rich cultural heritage and diversity, you will likely hear a myriad of languages spoken. Hawaiian Pidgin may be one of them. It is a slang language that has been nativized and is widely used throughout the islands. Over time it evolved from the mixed communication between the different ethnic groups that came to work on the sugar plantations in the 19th century. It is derived from a combination of Portuguese, Hawaiian, American English, Cantonese, Japanese and Spanish.

blue and white house surrounded by surfboards during daytime

Don't mistake the pidgin for either official language of Hawaii...Hawaiian or English. Hawaiian is most closely related to the Polynesian languages of Marquesan, Tahitian, Maori, and Rapa Nui. A fun way to prepare for your trip to this island paradise is learning some key phrases in Hawaiian (and Hawaiian Pidgin!). Ready?! Let's start...

man and woman standing on white sand


Unless you've been living under rock, you've heard of this word. It is probably the most important Hawaiian word, used both as a greeting and a farewell. Also as a way of expressing love. It's an all-encompassing word used to describe a spirit, attitude and way of life on the islands..."the aloha spirit".

tilt shift lens photography of green and brown signage

E Komo Mai

You may see this as soon as you depart your flight. It means "welcome" or "enter", and is most commonly used for visitors. In a similar vein, e kipa mai means "come visit", so this may also be used to extend an invitation to visit someone in their home. Either way, you will feel welcomed with the aloha spirit immediately!

green trees and stones on seaside


I just love this one! It is most commonly used as a "thank you". It is also used to describe admiration, praise and respect. It's one of the easiest words for you to use - it's always important to express our gratitude.

woman wearing black dress between green leaf plants

Mauka and Makai

The Hawaiian people have a profound connection to the land and sea and used natural navigational techniques. The stars and the mountains and sea helped to navigate the way to land. The word mauka means "towards the mountains" and makai means "towards the sea". So when asking for directions, you may hear someone say turn mauka at the end of the street. Don't worry too much about getting too lost...no matter what direction you go, eventually you'll be at the sea!

sunlight pierce through palm tree line Pau hana

Literally, this phrase means "end of work". You'll hear it used at the end of day..."I'm pau" (I'm done) or "Let's go pau hana" (let's go to happy hour). Now we're talking my language! At the end of day, and especially a fun day or riding, hiking, snorkeling or swimming, it's pretty much customary to do pau hana on the beach. I don't know about you, but sunset on the beach with a mai tai in hand sounds pretty dang awesome!

vegetable dish


Okay my fellow foodies...this word will be an important one in your arsenal. It means tasty or delicious. You'll be sure to impress if you pull this out at the end of delicious meal. Wrap it up in some pidgin and they may adopt you. "Dis poke is so 'ono brah" You're set!

two brown turtles on brown sand

A hui hou

Hawaiians don't believe in saying goodbye. Instead a hui hou, "until we meet again", is what's used.

And friends, it's time for me to say a hui hou. I hope you'll find this basic list of Hawaiian words helpful now, or someday. Mahalo for stopping by. And I am here to be of service to you. If you have any questions about Hawaii, or would like to start planning your next trip...please reach out to me at sblock@ttand.com

A hui hou

asphalt road between trees near mountain during daytime


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Shari Block

Shari Block

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