Published: August 2022

4 Ways to Support Local on Your Next Hawaiʻi Vacation

August 30, 2022

HONOLULU — The Hawaiian Islands offer unforgettable ways for you to unplug, rejuvenate and immerse yourself in meaningful experiences. As more travelers continue to seek ways to support the destinations they visit, consider doing the same while in Hawaiʻi by seeking out locally owned dining and shopping experiences, attending resident-favorite festivals and events, and exploring communities and towns beyond the grounds of your resort.
Here are four easy (and enjoyable) ways for you to positively embrace and support all things local on your next visit to the Islands.
Seek Out, Buy and Try Locally Grown, Raised or Caught Produce and Ingredients
Have you tried fresh-made laulau yet? What about lychee picked straight from the tree? Or fresh-caught ʻahi brought to auction the morning of the day you dine on it? If not — or even if you have tried all three — the here and now is always the best time to taste all the produce, meats, seafood and more, grown, raised or caught here in Hawaiʻi one delicious bite at a time! The Hawaiian Islands are home to incredible ingredients and eats sourced from local farmers, fishermen, ranchers and other food producers. If you’re driving through the picturesque ranching town of Waimea on the island of Hawaiʻi, make sure to stop at FORC Restaurant by award-winning Chef Allen Hess. Its name an acronym for Farmer Ocean Rancher Cook, the restaurant sources from an array of local farmers and purveyors, offering a taste experience spotlighting regional Hawaiʻi flavors. Another eatery rooted in farm-to-table — with a recently earned James Beard Foundation Best Chef award for chef/co-owner Robin Maii, to boot — is Fête, located in the historic Chinatown district of downtown Honolulu on Oʻahu. A reservation at Fête is a ticket to tasty dishes crafted with in-season flavors and ingredients. Imagine yourself back in time on Kauaʻi while taking in the garden views and open-air ambiance of The Plantation House by Gaylords, located on the grounds of a former sugar plantation homestead. The restaurant’s island-influenced dishes are created with produce and herbs sourced from its very-own sustainable farm. Experience decadent Neapolitan-style sourdough pizza topped with local ingredients at Marlow, an upcountry Māui eatery led by Chef Jeff Scheer. At Marlow, you’ll find a menu of dishes featuring everything from Kauaʻi prawns to Kupa‘a Farms fresh greens and even liliko‘i (passion fruit) butter. Supporting independent restaurants and chefs with a passion for sourcing local supports a regenerative agricultural industry ensuring Hawaiʻi residents and visitors always have access to tasty, high-quality, locally grown food.
Check Out Hawaiʻi’s Many Community Festivals and Events
Make your vacation more memorable and learn more about the Hawaiian Islands by attending one of our many annual community festivals and events. Whether you’re interested in Hawaiʻi’s history, music, food, arts or multitude of cultures, you’ll find a fest or event for every interest year-round. Consider yourself a coffee aficionado? You’re going to want to be on the island of Hawaiʻi in November for the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, which annually honors the accomplishments of farmers, growers, roasters and more than a century of community pioneers responsible for the world-renowned taste and popularity of Kona-grown coffee beans. Discover artists, crafters and local musicians at events like the annual Hawaiʻi Craftsmen Statewide Exhibit on Māui or Kauaʻi’s Hanapēpē Art Night, held every Friday evening in the charming west-side town of Hanapēpē. Come November, take in Hawaiʻi’s vibrant entrepreneurial spirit as food and product creators from across the Islands gather on Oʻahu for the Made In Hawaiʻi Festival. It’s one of the best fests for finding the most brand-new and long-popular made-in-Hawai‘i products all in one place and chatting with the food producers, local artists, craftsmen, woodworkers, designers and more responsible for their creation.
Shop and Support Locally Owned Businesses
Visiting Hawaiʻi’s many resident- and family-owned businesses while here is among the best ways to not only support the local economy but a great way to deepen your understanding of the Islands’ culture, history,  uniqueness and so much more as well. Shop native Hawaiian-owned The Hawaiian Force in downtown Hilo on the island of Hawaiʻi for aloha-inspired clothing and ask about elements of Hawaiian culture that inspire their design. Similarly rooted in Hawaiian values, Noʻeau Designers on Oʻahu’s west side offers a variety of Hawai‘i-designed and -handcrafted pieces. In addition to clothing, jewelry and beauty products, the retailer offers Hawaiian cultural workshops throughout the year. If you’re a fan of handcrafted accessories, locally sourced jewelry and home goods, check out the on Kauaʻi. The Hawaiian-language word alakoko translates as “road of blood.” As used in the shop’s name, alakoko represents the essence of the local entrepreneurs past and present who put their blood, sweat and mana (power and strength) into their craft. At family-owned Hot Island Glass gallery in the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town of Makawao on Māui, you can watch glassblowers at work creating a variety of one-of-a-kind pieces, including vases, bowls, lighting fixtures and jewelry. If you’re looking to support Native Hawaiian-owned businesses, Kuhikuhi features an extensive listing of offerings covering food, shopping, services and more.
Get to Know and Experience the Islands More Intimately Through Volunteerism
Take a step off the beaten path and mālama (“care for”) the communities you visit and their residents by participating in fun, educational and rewarding outdoor cultural and nature-restoring volunteer activities. While visiting Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaiʻi, consider participating in the park’s Stewardship at the Summit program. Participants in the program’s volunteer days help remove invasive, non-native plant species hindering the growth of native plants, in doing so preserving and protecting the park’s native Hawaiian rainforests for future generations to experience. Travelers visiting Oʻahu’s famed North Shore can stop by the Mālama Loko Ea Foundation to tour and help restore its 400-year-old fishpond, Loko Ea, through participation in meaningful, restorative work activities. Help protect shoreline flora and fauna while discovering island beaches with Surfrider Foundation Kauaʻi Chapter’s Ocean Friendly Visitors Program. Take part in preserving Māui’s history at Lāhainā Restoration Foundation, transcribing and processing historic artifacts and documents from multiple eras of Hawaiʻi history. Want to learn about even more mālama Hawaiʻi (caring for Hawaiʻi) experiences? Check out the Mālama Hawaiʻi initiative page to learn about every kind of volunteering experience — from tree planting and traditional Hawaiian farming, to fishpond restoration and beach cleanups — and when they’re happening. Your participation in volunteer activities like the ones above strengthens the health and well-being of the natural world and resources, local communities, and cultures of Hawaiʻi while often allowing you to experience places in Hawaiʻi few others but residents do.
Visit to discover more about the Hawaiian Islands and all of its cultures, experiences, activities, natural wonders, parks, hiking trails, shopping, food and more for your much-anticipated Hawaiʻi visit.