Hawaii Culture

Hawaii culture is an ancient blend of layers of ethnic influences and is a rich and unique tradition comprised of values, legends, music, dance and customs. Part of what makes the islands of Hawaii so special, the culture is a big drawcard to this South Pacific holiday destination. Much more than spectacular sunsets, beautiful beaches and excellent surfing, the Hawaii culture influences everything from language, religion, clothing and cuisine on the islands. Below are some of the most fascinating facts about the Hawaii culture.


One of the most well-known customs of the Hawaii culture is the lei. Presented as a welcome gesture or on special occasions, a flower lei is an offer of friendship and should only be removed in private. Removing a lei in public is considered rude. Leis range from simple one-strand flower strings to large and elaborate garlands featuring tuberose, orchids and other floral blooms for important occasions.


The hula is another Hawaii culture icon and features colourful costumes and grass skirts, graceful hand movements and the signature swaying hips. Originally a men only dance, the hula is now an expression of happiness and fun that can be performed by both men and women. The ancient form of the hula known as hula kahiko is accompanied by percussion and storytelling and is featured in ceremonies or for religious reasons. Costumes are far more colourful in this version and piano guitars or ukuleles provide a rhythm.


Music is an important part of Hawaii culture and has evolved from primal drumbeats to a chorus of chanting voices and even more recently into a modern version of traditional music by a number of genres and artists. These include hapa-haole (a type of music that marries English lyrics with Hawaiian melodies), kolohe (a type of hula renowned for being naughty or a tease), chalangalang, traditional, jawaiian, luau and more.


Hawaii culture is based around age old legends and superstitions, ranging from traditional gods and goddesses like Maui, a demi-god who pulled up the island from the sea bed, Pele a wicked and deceptive volcano goddess and her sister Poliahu a snow god. There are also creation stories which tell of the legend of Kumulipo and superstitions such as rain and rainbows as a blessing from the gods, bad luck wearing a lei while pregnant and bad luck to take bananas on a boat.

There is also a bad omen that is a slightly more modern take, and is considered extremely bad luck to take lava rocks from a volcano. Legend says that the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park often receive rocks in the mail from all over the world with no return address attached, supposedly from those who visited the island and took lava rocks home with them only to be plagued by bad luck.