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10 Hawaiian phrases to learn before you go


Hawaii is one of the USA’s most beautiful and exotic destinations to holiday. From its Polynesian roots, Hawaii has a unique cultural identity that’s reflected in the use of Hawaiian language. Once in danger of extinction, Hawaiian is one of three languages used in the state today. Play your part in keeping the language alive and learn these 10 useful Hawaiian phrases before you go.

1. Aloha – Hello

Pronounced a-lo-ha

hawaiian word "aloha" written in sand

Okay, so this is one of the easiest Hawaiian phrases to remember. This tropical greeting is known around the world, but its literal meaning is ‘love’. In Hawaii, Aloha means more than ‘hello’; it expresses wishes for a positive and respectful life.

Use Aloha kakahiaka to say, ‘good morning’, Aloha ‘auinalā for ‘good afternoon’ and Aloha ahiahi for ‘good evening’.


2. Mahalo – Thank you

Pronounced mah-hah-loh

Trafalgar guests enjoying a Be My Guest experience in Hawaii

Show your gratitude with the Hawaiin phrase mahalo. If you’re feeling extra grateful, use mahalo nui loa (pronounced mah-hah-loh noo-ee) for ‘thank you very much’.


3.’A’ ole pilikia – You’re welcome/ No problem

Pronounced ah-oh-leh pee-lee-kee-yah

Two guys from O'o Farm in Maui Hawaii
O’o Farm, Maui, Hawaii

If someone says ‘Mahalo‘ to you, this is the phrase to respond with.


4. A hui hou – Until we meet again

Pronounced ah-hoo-wee-ho-oo-uu

Hula dancers in Hawaii


A phrase similar to ‘see you soon’. You may also hear this chanted at a lū’au concert  instead of ‘encore!’.


5. Howzit? – How are you?

Pronounced how-zit

Trafalgar guests enjoying smoothies in Hawaii

This Hawaiian phrase is also used in South Africa and means ‘what’s up?’. You might hear this word used alongside braddah, the colloquial term for brother.

You might also like – 35 useful phrases to learn for your trip through Europe

6. Honu – Green sea turtle

Pronounced hoe-new

Green sea turtle in Hawaii

Hawaii’s most commonly seen turtle species, the beautiful honu are still officially listed as endangered. You’re most likely to spot one if you are snorkelling or scuba diving, as they rarely come on the shore. It is possible to see honu on the North Shore of Oahu.

Find out more about the fascinating culture and beauty of Hawaii in our destination guide

7. ‘Ono grinds – Delicious food

Pronounced oh-no grinds

Hawaii poke bowl

Show your appreciation for the special Hawaiian meals that you eat on your trip. Grinds is also often used on its own to describe good food.


8. Waina – Wine

Pronounced wy-nah

Two glasses of white wine at a Hawaiian wine tasting

Always an important word to learn in any language, the Hawaiian word for wine is easy enough to remember. Due to the volcanic soil and mountains, Hawaii produces a number of fruity wines to try.


9. A ‘o ia! – There you have it!

Pronounced ah-oy-yah

Dancers performer the Hawaiian welcome Lei

Use this Hawaiian phrase to cheer on the local performers or fellow travellers if they get up to do a hula.


10. Poke – poke seafood bowl

Pronounced poh-keh

Poke seafood bowl in Hawaii

One of Hawaii’s most famous dishes, poke is a salad of raw seafood and vegetables. It’s typically made from cubes of ahi tuna and served as an appetiser. It’s a must try!

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Let us know about your favourite Hawaiian experiences below!

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