ALOHATo communicate the true beauty of the Hawaiian Islands – culture, heritage and people – it is important to understand what lies beneath the surface and beyond the stereotypes. The Hawaiian Islands’ Native Hawaiian culture is rich and diverse. It is a culture full of aloha, storytelling, embracing, and caring for the land, and proud, fun-loving people.

Authentically representing Hawaii is deeply important to the residents who call these islands home. Accordingly, we ask our media partners to do so with great care. 

To assist in these efforts, the Hawaii Tourism Authority has created the Maemae Toolkit which will provide you with the essential information you need to accurately and authentically promote the Hawaiian Islands. From geographical and cultural information, to descriptions of Hawaii traditions and customs, this is your free guide for basic knowledge about Hawaii. 

The following are a few helpful tips to keep in mind when referencing Hawaiian Culture. 

General Tips

  • For any consumer facing materials, please reference us as: The Hawaiian Islands. When it’s referenced as our brand we capitalize the “T” in The. Do not italicize.
  • Please reference the “Sensitive Destinations and Activities” list for location information, general references and laws. This can be found on the Media Tips for each island.
  • Reference the island of Hawaii as “island of Hawaii” (lowercase i in island) unless it’s being used at the beginning of a sentence, then it can be “Island of Hawaii.” First reference to the island should be the island of Hawaii, subsequent references can be Hawaii Island with a capital “I” within the same deliverable.
  • A person may be from Hawaii, but should not be referred to as “Hawaiian” unless they are of Native Hawaiian descent. Use “local,” “locals” or “kamaaina” (long-time resident) for people that live in Hawaii but are not Hawaiian.
  • For cuisine, it’s typically safe to say “Hawaii cuisine/dish” over “Hawaiian cuisine/dish” since there may be some slight altering to recipes that may make the dish not “Hawaiian.”

Hawaiian Language 

  • Hawaiian and English are official languages of the state.
  • Proper use of the Hawaiian language includes the use of the ‘okina (which represents a glottal stop–a consonant) and the kahakō (a macron used to indicate long vowels). The ‘okina and the kahakō distinguish many words, and without this orthography, word definitions change.
  • ‘Okina – make sure the ‘okina is shown as a single open quote ( ‘ ), not an apostrophe ( ’ ). Kahakō – the macron indicating a long vowel in Hawaiian language, as in ā, ē, ī, ō, ū.
  • HVCB and its Island Chapters recognize the use of the ‘okina and the kahakō, however, respect the individual use of the ‘okina and kahakō for names of organizations and businesses. Certain non-English characters don’t always appear correctly on various web browsers, so we recommend omitting them for online content.


  • Hula is the traditional dance of Hawaii. The chants and songs of hula preserve Hawaii’s history and culture. 
  • Hula is most commonly misrepresented by use of images of other Polynesian cultural dances. Make sure any images of hula are authentic and accurate.

Cultural Sites

  • Like many indigenous groups, Native Hawaiians find landscapes imbued with power and meaning for their association with events of creation or history, plant or animal resource gathering or ceremonial or spiritual practices.
  • Cultural sites are frequently referenced out of context or are depicted without explanation of their cultural and historical significance. It is encouraged to promote the importance of respecting these sites.  

View and download the Maemae Toolkit here.