Beautiful Lanikai Beach on Oahu
September 27, 2019
| by
Maria Mancuso

Oahu Things to Do: Learn Hawaiian Phrases

Hawaii is a magical Island Paradise rich in the Hawaiian and Polynesian culture. It is fun to learn a few basic Hawaiian Phrases before your visit. See our latest Oahu Travel Blog article, ‘Oahu Things to Do: Learn Hawaiian Phrases’ – that will help you learn just a few Hawaiian Phrases you may find useful and fun during your visit.

English is the primary language spoken in the Hawaiian islands, but you will see that Hawaiian is still one of three languages spoken throughout Hawaii. Hawaii has a very strong and deep-rooted base in the Polynesian culture where much of today’s influence is felt.  

Of course, you do not need to learn to ‘speak Hawaiian’ to enjoy your Hawaii Vacation, but it will be fun to learn a few words in Hawaiian and you will be sure to pick up a few new words during your visit.  

Our latest Oahu Travel Blog article; Oahu Things to Do: Learn Hawaiian Phrases will introduce you to more Hawaiian Words and Phrases that you will find useful…let’s go!

First the easy and obvious words:

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. 

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. 

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.’

You’ve got it! A ‘o ia
Locals will give you an ‘Atta boy’ as you progress with your surfing lessons or as you become more comfortable with your command for the Hawaiian language.   This phrase simply is a way to give encouragement and to say, ‘you’ve got it!’ 

Family on the beach on Oahu
Family: ʻOhana

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!

Have a good day: I lā maikaʻi
This is a great phrase to learn so that you can extend a wish for a good day to the local people who help make your visit to Hawaii an enjoyable one.

Waikiki Beach on Oahu
Where is the Beach: Aia ma kahakai?

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?’

Good morning: Aloha kakahiaka
The next few phrases are valuable phrases you will most likely use everyday 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.’

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…’.

Night time sunset on Oahu
Good night: Aloha pō

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

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.

Couple running on the beach on Oahu
I love you: Aloha wau iā 'oe!

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

How much does it cost: ʻEhia ke kumukuai?
If you are like us, you love to shop and Hawaii is a great place to shop so you may use this phrase a LOT more than your credit card may like, but hey, you’re on vacation!

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?’

How far away: Pehea ka mamao?
This valuable phrase goes along with the phrases above that relate to ‘towards the mountain’ and ‘towards to ocean.’ 

How far away is the hotel: Pehea ko ka hōkele?
A great phrase to learn before you visit Hawaii, especially when you are in your Uber wondering, ‘Pehea ko ka hokele?’

How far away is the airport: Ehia mau kikowaena o ke kikowaena?
This may be one of the saddest phrases you may have to use during your visit to Hawaii because it means you are leaving our hotel and going back to the airport and going home.  

Beautiful Honu Turtle swimming on Oahu
Where can we see Turtles: Ma hea e ʻike ai i nā honu?

Where can we see Turtles: Ma hea e ʻike ai i nā honu?
One of the most popular things to do on the island is to see the Turtles, or ‘Honu.’  There are a number of great spots to see beautiful Turtles swimming or on the beaches on the North Shore on Oahu.


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 Blog article; 'Oahu Things to Do: Learn Hawaiian Phrases' has inspired you to learn a few fun words and phrases.  

Obviously, these phrases will not make you fluent in the Hawaiian language, but the local Hawaiian people will appreciate that you took the time to learn a few basic phrases to make your way throughout your days and during your vacation.

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

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