Iolani Palace in Honolulu
June 16, 2022
| by
Jenny Espinosa

Oahu Things to Do: Hawaiian Phrases to Learn – Part 2

In this latest Oahu Travel article, ‘Hawaiian Phrases to Learn – Part 2’ we are going to share with you even more, basic and fun Hawaiian Phrases you can learn before your visit to Hawaii. Of course, it is not mandatory to learn to speak Hawaiian prior to your visit, it is simply a fun way to learn a bit more about the amazing culture of Hawaii.

There are two primary languages spoken in Hawaii, English and Hawaiian (or ‘Olelo Hawaii). 

English is the primary language spoken in the Hawaiian islands, but you will hear that Hawaiian is still spoken extensively throughout Hawaii. Hawaii has a very strong and deep-rooted base in the Polynesian culture where much of today’s influence is felt not only in the spoken language but also in the cuisine and fashion.  

Of course, it’s not necessary to ‘know’ or ‘speak Hawaiian’ to make the most of your visit to Hawaii, but it is fun to learn a few words in Hawaiian before your visit and it will make understanding the many signs, business names, names of parks, trails and many of the attractions you will see during your visit. 

In this latest Oahu Travel article, 'Oahu Things to Do: Hawaiian Phrases to Learn - Part 2' you will be introduced to just some of the basic Hawaiian Words and Hawaiian Phrases that you will find useful during your visit! 

First, here is a brief introduction to the Hawaiian Language:

The official language spoken in Hawaii is considered, Hawaiian Pidgin English which is a hybrid language that’s been developed over time with influence of a number of cultures that have a base in Hawaii.

Learning just a few Hawaiian words or phrases is not only fun but it would be appreciated by long term residents and native Hawaiians – it just shows a level of respect for the islands, its people and the culture. Also, by understanding the basics of the Hawaiian language, it will make the understanding and pronunciation of the names of the many beaches, hikes, waterfalls and other attractions you will see during your visit.

Interestingly, the Hawaiian alphabet only includes 13 letters and the ‘Okina glottal stop which is the ‘breaking’ sound you make when you say the word ’Uh-oh’ and the Kahako which indicates an elongated vowel. In 1978 the Hawaii State Constitution recognized Hawaiian as the official state language. However, in 1896 the speaking and teaching of the Hawaiian language was banned after the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown until the growing interest in the culture of Hawaii brought back the practice of speaking and learning the language.

The following are the basic words and phrases you may find useful during your visit to Hawaii:

Hello: Aloha
You’ve heard this word and used it before no doubt.  This popular greeting has a literal meaning of ‘love’ and it means more than just ‘Hello’ the word, ‘Aloha’ is meant to give positive greeting and a wish for a positive life. 

Welcome: E komo mai
A quick phrase to welcome people.

Thank you: Mahalo
This is a very popular phrase with multiple meanings. To tell someone ‘thank you’ or that you are feeling grateful.   You can use the phrase, ‘Mahalo nui loa’ (pronounced mah-hah-loh noo-ee) for ‘thank you very much’ if you are feeling particularly grateful.

Delicious food: Ono grinds
If you want to communicate your appreciation for a great Hawaiian meal, like the famous Garlic Shrimp and Rice that you will most certainly try during your visit, you can say ‘Ono grinds’ - or ‘Grands’ can be used to describe food in general. 

Ono Grinds - Delicioius food
'Ono Grinds' - Delicious food!

Male and Female: Kane and Wahine
These are similar to the use of ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ or ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ on gender specific doors like on Bathrooms or Changing Rooms in department stores.

What is up? or How are you? Howzit? 
This is another very popular phrase that you will hear and see on t-shirts, and souvenirs… 

Towards the Mountain: Mauka 
This is a popular phrase related to getting or giving directions – are you going towards the mountain or towards the Ocean (see the next phrase).  Mauka means in the direction of the mountain’ and refers to when you travel inland.

Towards the Sea: Makai 
Like the phrase above, this is a great phrase to learn for ‘direction.’ Makai means the opposite of Mauka. Makai, means ‘towards the sea.’

Good morning: Aloha kakahiaka
The next few phrases are valuable phrases you will most likely use every day and evening of your trip.  Use ‘Aloha kakahiaka’ to greet your family, the hotel staff, your food server…after all, you are in HAWAII, of course it’s a ‘Good morning.’

Hanauma Bay in the morning
'Aloha Kakahiaka' - Good Morning...

Good afternoon: Auinalā
As you are passing by the wonderful people on the beach or on your hike in the afternoon, give them a ‘Auinala’ and a smile!

Good Evening: Aloha ahiahi
As you leave your hotel, or leave the restaurant at night, give the staff and fellow diners a, ‘Aloha ahiahi…’.

Family: ʻOhana
Family is very important in the Hawaiian culture. The phrase ‘Ohana’ does not just refer to blood related family, it can extend to very close friends in the workplace or community.

Locals, Resident: Kamaʻāina
Kama’aina, means literally, ‘child of the land’ and it refers to people who live on the Hawaiian islands, and not necessarily native Hawaiian people.  The term ‘Kama’aina’ is often used to reference local offers, or discounts extended to locals for food, services, products, etc.  

Balcony or Patio: Lanai 
If you are lucky your hotel will have a ‘Lanai’ for you to step out onto to enjoy the view of the beach, ocean and sunrise and sunsets!

Where is the Beach: Aia ma kahakai?
Hopefully you will get to use this phrase throughout your visit as you experience our many beautiful beaches on the Island, ‘Aia ma kahakai?’

Sea Turtle: Honu: 
One of our favorites!

Honu - Sea Turtle on Oahu
'Honu' - Sea Turtle, we love these beautiful creatures!

Good night: Aloha pō
This phrase is meant to be directed a bit more towards family or someone close to you, ‘Aloha po!’

I love you: Aloha wau iā 'oe!
The perfect phrase you give your sweetheart as you are walking on the beach at night during your visit to the romantic Hawaiian islands.

This is a word you will see a LOT – and it is delicious! Poke is pronounced, ‘POH-keh’ and it means ‘cut’ or ‘slice’ and you will see many restaurants offering ‘Poke’ which is typically bite-sized, marinated raw fish, typically Tuna and served over rice.

Let’s Eat: E ʻai kāua
This is one of our favorite phrases…it works for morning, noon and evening…when you’re hungry, ‘E ‘ai kaua.’

My name is Jane: ʻO Jane koʻu inoa
This is a great, basic greeting to introduce yourself to someone using your name.

What is your name: O wai kou inoa?
A phrase to use when you are meeting someone for the first time.

Happy Birthday: Hau’oli La Hanau
If you are lucky enough to be celebrating your birthday in Hawaii – well ‘lucky you!’

Merry Christmas: Mele Kalikimaka
Again, if you are lucky enough to be in the Hawaiian Islands during the holidays, you will see and hear this phrase often, try it out!

Where is the store: Aia ka hale kūʻai?
This great phrase goes well with the phrase above, ‘Ehia ke kumulaui.’  If you are looking for the store on Oahu, (most likely an ABC Store) you will ask, ‘Aia ka hale kūʻai?’

These are just a few of the top Hawaiian phrase you can learn to have a little better time on your visit to Hawaii. We hope our Oahu Travel article; 'Oahu Things to Do: Hawaiian Phrases to Learn – Part 2' has inspired you to learn a few fun words and phrases prior to your visit.  

See our previous Oahu Travel article entitled, ‘Learn Hawaiian Phrases’ for even more phrases to learn.

Visit our Oahu Visitors Guide for more recommendations for all there is to do, see and experience when visiting Oahu.

Visit our current Special Offers for the ‘Best Rates Guaranteed’ at our Waikiki Hotel or Book Now or call: 808-941-7777.