Oahu Local Custom Tips by Nathalie_B Top 5 Page for this destination
Oahu Local Customs: 87 reviews and 95 photos
The Hawaiian flower-garland is called Lei and it’s a symbol of many things.
First of all, let me disappoint you, forget what you see in the movies, you won’t get “lei’d” at the airport; these happy days are long gone.
However, giving lei to someone means care, friendliness, love.
The most popular type of lei is made of flowers, orchids or more often plumeria. The latter grows on trees all over the Hawaiian Islands. You can try and make your own lei; there are many places that offer lei-making lessons. Just remember that there are tons of ways to make lei, so concentrate on one or two styles, unless you want to spend the entire vacation on making Hawaiian garlands.
And, not only flowers considered lei-making material, it can be made of shells, beads, leaves, and of course those fabric and plastic flowers that are sold on every corner.
Rumor has it that there’s a special way to toss your lei when it’s no longer fresh and pretty. Apparently it has to be returned back to the nature, thrown to the sea or hanged on a tree. I’m sure if you ask locals they’ll have a lot to tell about the tossing ceremony.
Another thing I learned while touring the Bishop Museum. The tiny Hawaiian guitar that can be purchased in almost every souvenir shop is called “Ukulele”. This isn’t its original name and Hawaii it’s not its home either.
Ukulele came to Hawaiian Islands with first Portuguese settlers and its original name is “braguinha”, now try to get a native Hawaiian to pronounce it if he/she has no B, R, or G in the alphabet.
It was renamed and has been known as Ukulele ever since, which means in Hawaiian “The Jumping Flea” Yes, indeed, some of its sounds will make you jump and be happy.
KEIKI, not children
I always knew that my language, Hebrew, is quite unique due to its short (22 letters) alphabet. Hawaiians beat it, big time! 12 letters!? Apparently it’s not the shortest alphabet in the world, (there’s one with 11 letters used in Solomon Islands) but it is still very distinct.
It’s amazing, but they only have 5 vowels: A,E,I,O,U and 7 consonants: H, K,L,M,N,P,W and before the missionaries arrived on the island Hawaiian people didn’t have written language. This is why they’re known for great story tellers.
The reason why English letters are used in Hawaiian alphabet is simple, in 1820, when missionaries arrived on the island, Bible had to be translated in order to convert the locals, but how would they do that without writing it down. This is how Hawaiian alphabet was born. It could have been a 13 letters language if the letter “R” wasn’t moved out. I was told by an historian that in old books the name “Honoruru” can still be found. However, pronunciation of “R” was similar to “L” and therefore didn’t have any significance.
Today, you can hear people speak a funny mixture of English and Hawaiian, they call it "Pidgin". Many Hawaiian words are in use and were not replaced by the English ones.
The word “children”, for instance does not exist on the Hawaiian Islands, represented by the local word “Keiki”.
In a museum, I was asked if I was “kama'aina” – a local resident. Words like “leeward” and “windward” successfully replaced north, south, east, and west.
It takes a day or two to get used to the “strange words”, but by the end of your vacation they will sound totally normal to you.
These trees can be seen all over the island, what’s unique about them it’s their hanging branches that put roots once reached the ground. Some trees are very old and occupy quite some big, for a tree, territories.
Birds seem to like its fruit and therefore hide inside the tree, although making lots of noise. Here’s one invaluable tip: avoid standing under Banyan trees :)
Apparently, two or more separate Bayan trees can develop into one if they happened to grow close to each other (look at the picture). You rarely see these in the city, but if hiking in wilderness you’ll see it a lot.
There are quite a few impressive Banyan trees in Waikiki the ones that come to mind are next to the Honolulu Zoo, next to the Duke’s statue on Kohio beach, and at the Hale Koa hotel. There are far more in the downtown area.
I always wondered about the shave ice, it didn’t make any sense to me. I mean, how tasty an ice with syrup can be? Well, actually it’s pretty good and definitely perfect for the Hawaiian never-ending summer. I enjoyed it, definitely not a “WOW” kind of thing, but a nice experience.
Exactly like an ice cream, shave ice has many different flavors and you can always mix as many of them as you want.
I had my shave ice at the town of Haleiwa, but not at the famous place where people are always lined up in everlasting queues. I heard there’s the best shave ice store somewhere.
Even if you’re not a bird watcher in Hawaii you’ll definitely become one. You simply won’t have another choice. First, colorful cardinals seem to be everywhere, and they are not scared of you. Second, the mourning doves will do you a favor if they move at all. Many times we had to slow down the car to avoid hitting bunch of them.
Additionally, if hiking, you’ll see several different types of birds that amaze tourists with their colors and sometimes beautiful “songs”. Not to mention wild peacocks that don’t hesitate to beg for food, well at least at the Waimea Aubudon Center they didn’t.
I took a lot of pictures and will probably spend the rest of my life figuring out what these birds are.
One thing you have to pay attention to, most of places prohibit bird feeding, watch for signs and stay away from trouble.
Oahu is the island where no sunset is the same; every evening mother-nature paints the sky with different colors.
Different shades of red, orange, yellow, and gray cover the shore of Waikiki and make every taken picture a screensaver. Sometimes, when the colors are really strong it looks like the ocean is on fire, and there’s, truly, nothing more beautiful than this.
I never thought that one day I’ll be sitting and writing a tip, about a sunset, that will contain more than just a few words. I was sure that in my hometown, Tel Aviv, I’ve seen all the possible beauties of the twilight. How wrong I was! During my visit, several times I’d run to the famous Waikiki to create another digital masterpiece, shooting pictures from the first colorful hue to show, till the last orange ray that’d disappear in the horizon.
Those stunning sunsets will always remain one of my best memories of Oahu.
At Sheraton Waikiki
Sure you’ll want to see some hula performances while in Hawaii. No worries! You’ll attend at least one even if you didn’t mean to.
It starts with the Honolulu international airport, where a local band greets the arrived guests and then it will follow you everywhere you go.
There’s every night’ performance on Kohio beach, right by the famous’ Duke statue.
There’s a 1 hour hula show at the Bishop museum, performed by REAL, native Hawaiian family.
Sheraton Waikiki hotel has its hula shows by the pool, by the ocean. And there are Hula lessons given at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. These are only few that I saw myself, without planning, but I’m sure there are many more.
If you go to the Bishop Museum, besides the show you’ll get a lesson and explanations of a dance, each of these dances tells a story!
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