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Travel With Aloha

Tips from Aunty Lani:
How to travel with Aloha

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Aunty Lani Character

Give Aloha First and Foremost

Take a deep breath, slow your roll. This is the time you set aside to relax. Why not start now?  Everything is going to happen in its own time no matter what you do. Surrender and just enjoy the moment. Don’t waste time trying to force things. In my younger days they had a saying “Just Hang Loose” (there was even a song!).  It means… breathe and enjoy what the heck is happening with a smile on your face. Not only will this benefit you, but everyone around you will benefit too. Be the person you would like to welcome to your home.  

With that said… 

I know it must feel like everyone around you must be in vacation-mode, considering we are all sharing space on this beautiful island. Though, that isn’t really the case. While us residents love exploring and enjoying our island home, we also are busy doing life stuff (you know, the stuff you can avoid while on vacation!). We’re often hurrying to work, dropping off the kids at school before the second bell rings, running errands, attending family gatherings, and more. While you are hanging loose, don’t forget to stay aware and watch for us and give us our space to “do life” as well.  

A common frustration for locals is when visitors think Aloha is about Hawaiian hospitality, and not a two-way street. Aloha is a lifestyle, a reciprocal value that is centered on kindness and respect. Aloha is first given. You give it and you give it without expectation of something in return. You cannot come into a relationship and expect to be given Aloha automatically-believe it or not, YOU trigger it. 

There is a ton of fascinating history and culture here, so take the time to learn at least one thing about what makes this place different from everywhere else in the world. Visit a local museum, read those rectangle signs others often hurry past, help with a beach clean-up, volunteer in a fishpond or kalo (taro) field projectlike with Malama Huleia or Waipa... There is so much out there to learn, and so much that Hawaiian people want visitors to know! These things that make up Hawaiian culture are what binds us all.

Beach Etiquette

This is not Waikiki, you have room on the beach, please don’t sit right next to another family when there is room somewhere else. Please don’t be that one visitor that plays their Bluetooth speaker on a crowded beach. Enjoy the sound of the waves and the native birds around you. Stay aware of your surroundings, not just the ocean conditions but the people conditions.  

ALWAYS take all your belongings and opala (trash) with you. If someone else leaves things behind, help them and our island out. Make some good karma for yourself. When you give Aloha like this, it will come back to you.

I have never seen so many reef safe sunscreen options in the store! Pick some up before you head to the beach. Ask someone who works there if you’re not sure. The coral will thank you (and so will I).

Don’t approach sea turtles and seals for photos, respect their strength, and be reminded that there are laws that mandate people stay a certain distance away. And keep in mind, if a resident offers you some advice (like you’re too close to the turtles and monk seals or where not to go) to heed their words. They are not trying to prevent you from having the best vacation you can, but are simply offering you important insight. 

Driving Etiquette

So much of Kauai has free parking, and that’s cherry (awesome) for residents and visitors, but it can quickly become “unfree” when you park illegally. When visitors park illegally, not only are they getting in the way of residents “doing life,” but they can also cause a hazard by blocking firetrucks or other first responders in the event of an emergency. No one wants to get ticketed while on vacation, or worse, TOWED. Don’t be that person that starts the line of illegal parking. You gotta park in a legal spot. 

If you’ve visited before, you probably noticed that speed limits on Kauai are lower than most of the mainland. Be aware of the speed limit and respect it. We have them for a reason, to keep people safe on our two lane highways that don’t have barriers between the lanes. Don’t be showing off and driving fast, because you’re going to end up behind the car in front of you, and the person behind you will catch up, and you’re gonna be so embarrassed that you rushed for no reason. Enjoy the views, the local radio station tunes, and just cruise.  

On the other hand, if you can’t keep up and find it freaky that you are driving in darkness because we do not have lights on long stretches of road, let others pass you by pulling over in a safe spot. Residents know those roads like the back of their hands. You can then follow their lights through the darkness instead. 

You are endangering yourself and us by doing some of these crazy maneuvers. Pull over first or look for a safe left turn and work your way back.

Waving or giving the shaka when someone lets you into the car line up is our way of saying “thank you.” Also, if you noticed some locals going in the opposite direction stopped at the intersection while you’re trying to turn, and they flash their brights at you, that’s them telling you that you can go. Make sure you throw a shaka and turn safely! 

We absolutely have overvisited sites on Kauai. For you long time returning visitors, in the 70’s we had 30,000 residents and 10,000 visitors a year. We now have 75,000 residents and 1.4 million visitors a year. It is much trickier to manage expectations of visitors and residents and still take care of our precious places. Do research ahead of your visit. Many areas require tickets and have limited or paid parking. This is so that we have a beautiful Kauai for all of our children’s children to enjoy. Help us help our island home by parking where it is legal and visiting areas where there is room. Do not sneak through private property or park in front of people’s homes because there is no room. If there is no room to park, there is no room at the location. Please respect our land, people and communities. 

Please pull over so that all of your tires are off the road and you can get out safely if needed. Do not stand or go beyond guard rails to take photos.

Approach slowly and do not enter if the other side is entering. Do not get distracted by the scenery here. The Hanalei Bridge is it’s own beast. Most bridge etiquette is usually 5-7 cars can pass on one side, and then you let the other side go. 

Roads are reserved for cars, and the side of road is reserved for people. Please don’t compete with cars on the road. Walk safely in one line and use designated crosswalks.

Respect Mauka to Makai (mountain to ocean)

What you see shared on social media is often our local beaches and hikes caught in a single moment during ideal conditions. Our weather, surf and tides frequently change. There are so many beautiful places to see on Kauai – don’t get yourself and emergency response in a sticky situation for a photo. Also, just because you saw it on Instagram does not mean it’s legal or pono. Going past signs that say “Do Not Go Beyond This Point” and climbing over the fence put there to keep people out is not ok in Hawaii. Just because you can, does not mean you should. It is disrespectful to ignore the rules we have, then post on social media and show others that you did it – so they can do it too. Much of this illegal access gets locations shut down and that makes the residents upset that another area was closed off due to over-use or illegal access. Have respect mauka to makai (mountain to ocean). 

Check out this list on ocean safety tips, and where to find the County lifeguarded beaches. While lifeguards are there to protect you, please respect them by not putting yourself or their life in unnecessary danger. When conditions are bad, don’t go in just because you think it’s your only chance to swim. Not worth it! Remember to be aware of your surroundings, the changing current, and never have your back to the ocean. If you don’t see any locals in the water, that’s probably a sign you shouldn’t go out… and as the famous saying goes, “When it doubt, don’t go out.” 

When preparing for a hike, wear proper shoes. Our muddy trails are different from mainland trails and can quickly go from a fun adventure to a very slippery experience. Always choose official trails and trails that fit your level of fitness and experience. Our island has rapidly changing weather patterns depending on where you are and there is risk of major storms and flash flooding. Make sure to watch the weather and check the conditions before you head out. Just because it’s sunny doesn’t mean it’s not raining in the mountains. Do not swim in waterfalls if you have open wounds, you may get leptospirosis. Read and follow all warning signs. Do not go off the beaten path. Although this is paradise and things look beautiful, there are many hidden dangers that you may not be able to foresee that can put you, residents, wildlife and nature in danger. There is a reason why the warning sign is there. Bring a map and always hike with a buddy! 

Kauai has a lot of beautiful Kalo (Taro) fields, some right against the roadway where you can see workers in the fields. These workers have two requests of you: 1.Do not come into the kalo field to get photos, 2:Do not run up to get a close-up photo of those kalo workers. These are not Disney actors, these are real farmers. Be respectful and keep your distance. 

No one loves these things except the drone operator. Don’t pierce the quiet of someone’s kalo field, or beach snooze, or home, without their permission. They are also not allowed in State parks without a permit. Keep up to date with local laws if you choose to operate them, and also just be a kind and considerate drone owner.  

We have them! Things like landslides on Hanalei Hill, or roadwork, will temporarily mess with your plans of trying to get to places you want to visit. Be patient and recognize that we all have somewhere to be, but unfortunately, if the road is closed, you will have to rearrange your plans as we all do. Kauai leaders try to set up systems so you can understand how they work but you have to do some research to figure things out, or talk to your hotel concierge or front desk employees. Read up on the big transportation updates on our website, and listen to 93.5 Kong Radio, or check out Facebook pages such as County of KauaiKauai Police Department, and Hawaii Department of Transportation for updated information during emergencies.