How To Say Thank You In Hawaiian

How To Say Thank You In Hawaiian

Hawaii is one of the world’s most beautiful and exotic destinations, known for its unbelievable beaches and luxury resorts. But even more attractive than its postcard views is its beautiful Polynesian culture. This cultural identity, one of community and compassion, is as colorful as the golden sands and azure waters. The best introduction to this unique culture is through the 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 connect with the local culture with these 10 useful Hawaiian phrases.

Aloha – Hello

Okay, so this is one of the easiest Hawaiian phrases to remember. It’s known around the world as the universal tropical greeting of Hawaii. However, Aloha means a lot more than just ‘hello’. Its literal meaning is ‘love’, as well as ‘kindness’, ‘compassion’, and ‘peace’. While used in greetings such as ‘good morning’ (Aloha kakahiaka) or ‘good afternoon’ (Aloha ‘auinalā), it also communicates that you wish the person a positive and respectful life. This all pales in comparison to the fact that ‘Aloha’, for Hawaiians, defines a force that holds together existence itself. Here, a simple greeting unlocks a window into the core of Polynesian philosophy.

Mahalo – Thank you

Show your gratitude with the Hawaiian phrase mahalo. If you’re feeling extra grateful, use mahalo nui loa (pronounced mah-hah-loh noo-ee) for ‘thank you very much’. It can also be used to praise someone or show your respect for someone or something. The Pukui and Elbert Hawaiian dictionary tells us that mahalo comes from a Proto-Polynesian word masalo, but that doesn’t tell the full story. According to the earliest visits to Hawaii, explorers noted that the island people practiced an extremely grateful and admiring culture, meaning there was no particular word needed to express this gratitude. It most likely just wasn’t necessary, with gratitude implicit within the culture. Apparently, only much later, after integrating with western civilization, did Hawaiians use the word mahalo to say thank you.

‘A’ ole pilikia – You’re welcome/ No problem

If you want to embody Hawaii’s grateful, community-driven culture, make sure to spread the gratitude as much as possible by saying this in response to mahalo.

A hui hou – Until we meet again

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

Howzit? – How are you?

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.

Honu – Green sea turtle

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.

‘Ono grinds – Delicious food

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.

Waina – Wine

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.

Poke – poke seafood bowl

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!

A ‘o ia! – There you have it!

There you have it! 10 useful Hawaiian phrases to prepare you for your trip to the island. Use this last phrase to cheer on the local performers or fellow travellers if they get up to do a hula.

If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, consider a Trafalgar tour to really unlock the best of the islands. With something as rich and unique as Polynesian culture, you’ll want to make sure you experience it to the full, which can be hard to do authentically when visiting the island as a typical tourist. We know this, which is why we use our extensive network of Local Experts and Travel Directors to unlock doors into local Hawaiian communities. Here, you’ll meet actual locals and experience the spirit of Aloha, showing you what real Island life is all about.

Revitalizing the Hawaiian Language

Even though it’s now one of the official languages in the state, Hawaiian was officially banned in schools after the kingdom was overthrown and subjugated under the United States in the late 1800s. As a result, the number of speakers dramatically declined. But in the last 50 years, a Hawaiian language renaissance has swept the state and is slowly bringing back the traditional tongue. According to the University of Hawaii, “Hawaiian is the most widely studied Native American language and it is the only Native American language that is used officially by a state government.”

Not everyone you encounter on your vacation will speak the language, but those that do might be pleasantly surprised that you’re giving Hawaiian a go. So before you start packing your bags, commit a handful of these useful Hawaiian words and phrases to memory.

Basic Hawaiian Words

Even though you’ll often hear aloha used as a greeting, it’s also a way of life. You can use aloha to send out kindness, positive intentions, and respect to others. On your trip, you can get familiar with aloha by using it at four different times of the day.

Use this phrase to say good morning.

You should use this variation of aloha when it’s late morning. It roughly translates to “good noontime.”

Try this out when you want to say good afternoon.

This one means good evening. Watch your pronunciation because “ahi” means tuna. You can save yourself the embarrassment of saying “tuna tuna” by using something called a “y-glide” in the middle of the word. Instead of saying “a-hee a-hee,” pronounce it like “a-hee-yah-hee.”

Hopefully, you’re going to experience the wonder of a lū’au on your trip. This event is so much more than a party that includes hula dancing. The word lū’au itself actually refers to the leaves of the taro plant, which has great significance in the Hawaiian culture. You’re bound to find taro in more than a few dishes during this celebration.

The meaning of mahalo is thank you, but it appears on a lot of trash can doors, so a lot of tourists think it means garbage. Not so! Get even more specific with your mahalo by adding a few extra words. Mahalo nui (pronounced mah-hah-loh noo-ee) means “thank you very much.” And if you really appreciate something, you can say mahalo nui loa (pronounced mah-hah-loh noo-ee loh-wah), which means “thank you so very much.”

To say vacation in Hawaiian, you can use this hoʻomaha, which literally means to rest or to take a break.

Looking for the women’s bathroom? This word will be on the door.

This word will appear on the men’s bathroom door.

While it will rarely come up naturally in conversation, being able to recite the word for Hawaii’s state fish, a reef triggerfish, is a fun party trick that will surely impress the table. Another fun fact? The literal translation of this compound word means “triggerfish with a snout like a pig.”

Common Hawaiian Phrases

Use this phrase if someone thanks you. It means “You’re welcome.”

Cheer on your best friend if he or she gets up to do the hula or exclaim this when someone finally catches a wave during a surf lesson. It’s akin to saying “There you have it!”

There’s a polite way of saying “Hey you,” and this is it.

Spill your drink or bump into someone in a crowd? You can use this phrase to apologize or say excuse me.

Useful Hawaiian Sayings for Travelers

People use ma uka as a directional term meaning “upland.” You might hear someone say something like, “We’ll be ma uka today doing the zipline.”

Ma kai is the opposite of ma uka, and it means “seaward.” Invite people to grab a drink with you “at the boathouse ma kai” during your trip.

This phrase means “until we meet again.”


Learning a few Hawaiian phrases can greatly enhance your experience in Hawaii. It not only shows respect for the local culture but also allows you to connect with the community on a deeper level. By making an effort to learn and use these phrases, you contribute to the preservation and revitalization of the Hawaiian language. So, whether you’re planning a trip to Hawaii or simply interested in the Polynesian culture, embracing the language is a wonderful way to show appreciation and gratitude.


1. Why is it important to learn Hawaiian phrases?

Learning Hawaiian phrases is important as it shows respect for the local culture and allows you to connect with the community on a deeper level. It also contributes to the preservation and revitalization of the Hawaiian language.

2. Can I use Hawaiian phrases even if I’m not in Hawaii?

Absolutely! Using Hawaiian phrases outside of Hawaii can still show appreciation for the Polynesian culture and language.

3. Are there any other Polynesian languages similar to Hawaiian?

Yes, there are other Polynesian languages such as Tahitian, Samoan, and Maori that share similarities with Hawaiian.

4. How can I practice speaking Hawaiian?

You can practice speaking Hawaiian by listening to native speakers, using language learning apps, and engaging with Hawaiian language resources.

5. What are some common misconceptions about the Hawaiian language?

One common misconception is that Hawaiian is solely a greeting language, whereas it is a rich and complex language with its own grammar, vocabulary, and cultural significance.

6. Is it appropriate to use Hawaiian phrases in everyday conversation?

Yes, it is appropriate to use Hawaiian phrases in everyday conversation, especially when interacting with individuals from the Hawaiian community or when visiting Hawaii.

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