For the most part, English is very common throughout Hawaii and the Polynesian Islands. After all, Hawaii is one of the 50 United States of America.
But there are some locals on the island that still use Hawaiian words and terms. This means you will want to learn these Hawaiian words before you travel to the islands.
9 Hawaiian Words to Learn
You will hear residents of the islands say “aloha” as both a greeting and as a farewell. That’s right, “aloha” is both “hello” and “goodbye” in Hawaii. It can be confusing but in context you will understand whether it is a greeting or farewell.
“Mahalo” is the Hawaiian word for “thank you”. You will use this word at your hotel and at almost every tourist attraction or restaurant you visit during your time on the Polynesian Islands. Assuming you are polite of course 🙂
If you need help or assistance with something, you need “kokua”. You might ask for directions or something similar and use the term to one of the locals. Be sure to say “mahalo” after someone provides kokua for you!
“Pono” is the Hawaiian version of “cool” or “awesome”. The younger residents of the islands are more likely to use this term than the older ones. You might also hear this term often from local surfers on Oahu.
The term “ohana” means family in Hawaii. Family is very important in the Polynesian Islands and you will often hear locals in Hawaii discussing their ohana with great love and pride.
“Ono” means delicious or yummy. You will probably have some ono food at one or two local restaurants in Hawaii during your vacation to the islands.
The term “keiki” is used for children. You will see many keiki on the islands during your time in Hawaii.
“Pau” means done or finished. If a server at a restaurant wants to take your empty plates or glassware you can say “pau” and he or she will know it is OK to take them from you.
The lei is the traditional Hawaii neckwear you often receive at the airport after your plane lands on the island.