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Culture Guide to Traveling to Honolulu

By : Jayson Goetz

The Hawaiian Islands consists of six major islands including Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and the island of Hawaii. Each island has its own distinctive personality embellished with their own natural treasures, steeped with history, and wrapped in adventure. Honolulu is located on the island of Oahu’s southern shore. As the capital city of Hawaii, Honolulu holds a bustling nightlife amid beautiful beaches and waterfalls intermingled with a rich history deriving from a mix of Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and Portuguese languages and cultures. Tourists may encounter Hawaiian Pidgin, a language developed as a means to forge communication in Hawaii’s early, emerging multicultural community. Hawaiian Pidgin is a unique mixture of words, phrases, and idioms drawn from the many languages and cultures of Hawaii. Also known as Hawaii Creole English, Pidgin utilizes many words from the Hawaiian language but not all words in Pidgin are Hawaiian.


When being invited into a Hawaiian home, expect to be greeted with a kiss on the cheek or a lei as this is the Hawaiian way.  If you plan to be joining as a guest in someone’s home, be sure to remove your shoes as this is a cultural custom that although not uncommon in the inland of the United States, it would be regarded as highly impolite to walk through a Hawaiian home with your shoes on. Before you go, be sure to arrange for bringing a gift or dish especially if you plan to join for a meal. If you do plan on staying with a host, it is customary to bring a gift as a token of gratitude. Also in a Hawaiian home, be prepared for a dish featuring SPAM with any given meal. Hawaiians love SPAM. This slice of canned Americana is widely consumed across the islands and is most commonly paired with rice wrapped in dried seaweed. Salty, delicious, and worth a try, asked for a thick, fried slice with eggs to start your day in the capital city.



To experience the epic beauty that is Honolulu, head to the most popular beach in Oahu, Waikiki Beach. One a place for leisure and surfing for Hawaiian royalty, Waikiki is now a hub for world-class shopping malls, entertainment, and dining options to be shared for visitors both near and far. The beach often offers tours, authentic luaus, and surf lessons for a perfect day of island sunshine. Experience the scenic views of the Wa’ahila Ridge trail. A roughly five mile, lightly-trafficked trail adorned with dazzling wildflowers along the trail. Gushed over as one of the most beautiful hikes in Oahu, the trail is also an excellent place for bird watching. Visit the Nuuanu Pali Lookout for panoramic views and learn about the deeply historical significance of the site. In 1795, King Kamehameha would declare victory of the Battle of Nuuanu that would result in the final unification of Oahu under his rule. “Pali,” meaning “cliff” in Hawaiian, perches over a thousand feet above the Oahu coastline revealing the beauty of the natural landscape.


For adventure seekers, visit Diamond Head State Monument to climb the trail to the edge of a 300,000 year old crater. Spanning 475 acres, the summit overlooks the coastline and is renowned as Hawaii’s most recognized landmark. Journey over to Iolani Palace, the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchy. Built in 1882, Polynesian royalty roamed the halls of this opulent residence until the overthrow of the monarchy later that century. Today the Palace has been restored to its former grandeur and was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1962. Take a trip to the second oldest public aquarium in the United States at the Waikiki Aquarium. Opened in 1904, the aquarium still attracts large crowds today and is located across from the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial and San Souci Beach. Take a deep dive with a 45-minute submarine tour to view the Hawaiian coral reef and an intimate look at the island’s marine life.



When visiting the Aloha State, expect to see delicious Hawaiian favorites on the menu. Whether you are a guest at a dinner party or dining out, be sure to try local favorites including dishes with taro roots and leaves, full roasted pig, and entrees often paired with white rice. Poi is a popular item on any Hawaiian plate. The sticky paste is made from the mashed taro root and hot water. A cultural staple, poi is said to taste best after is has undergone a fermentation process over a few days and is best used as a condiment paired well with kalua pig. Stop by the Waiāhole Poi Factory, a scenic drive outside of Honolulu, for casual dining serving Hawaiian delicacies and one of the best spots for freshly made in-house poi.


Be sure to try a healthy serving of poke, or raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juice. Oftentimes many restaurants will feature tuna as the staple ingredients of the dish but it is not uncommon for other saltwater fish or octopus to be included. The raw fish is normally flavored with a mix of onions, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, and chili pepper to taste. Make sure to visit Alicia’s Market or Fresh Ahi Off the Boat for cozy, casual dining and deliciously fresh poke bowls. Be sure to pick up an extra order of lomilomi salmon with your order. Made from cured, raw salmon and mixed with tomatoes, onions, and often dolloped with a side of poi, this dish is served cold and definitely deserves a try.


Hawaii holds endless opportunities for breathtaking cultural experiences and limitless fun. Pack your bags and sense of adventure, with plenty of things to do in Honolulu, you are sure to find extraordinary eats and entertainment amidst the ocean breeze.


Jayson is a recent graduate from Arizona State University who lives in Phoenix. Being a lover of food and travel, he’s always ready to try new restaurants and visit new places. He started writing in hope of sharing his experiences with fellow foodies and travel bugs.

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