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Want to know how to properly greet someone with an authentic, Hawaiian ‘hello’? You’ve come to the right place. While a simple ‘hi’ will work just fine on the islands, there’s nothing quite like greeting someone with the classic Hawaiian ‘aloha’ or ‘aloha kakahiaka’ (good morning).

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The most common way to say hello or hi in Hawaii is ‘aloha’. You can also say the more formal ‘aloha kakahiaka’ which means good morning.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the origins of the aloha spirit, the many ways to say hi, hello and good morning in Hawaii, when and how to use common greetings and farewells, and much more to help you speak like a local.

The Origins and Meaning Behind ‘Aloha’

Aloha as a Hawaiian Value System

The word “aloha” encapsulates an entire system of Hawaiian values and principles. At its core, “aloha” means love, compassion, mercy, and is used as a greeting to spread warmth between people. However, the concept of “aloha” also emphasizes unity, humility, patience, and openness to others.

Ancient Hawaiians lived by the principle of aloha, which created a harmonious society built on mutual respect and care. Elders taught the young values like lokahi (unity), ha’aha’a (humility), ho’omanawanui (patience), and kokua (to help).

These principles allowed community relationships to flourish through difficult times.

Breaking Down the Term ‘Aloha’

“Aloha” is derived from the Hawaiian words “alo,” meaning presence or front, and “ha,” meaning breath. So at a basic translation, “aloha” means “the breath of presence” or “to share life”. It is meant to acknowledge another’s living essence and connect spiritually.

The common usage of “aloha” can be broken into three categories:

  • Greetings – “Aloha kakahiaka” means good morning. “Aloha ahiahi” is good afternoon.
  • Farewells – “Aloha aku” is used when saying farewell. “Aloha oe” means until we meet again.
  • Wishes – “Aloha kākou” conveys blessings on all. “Aloha nō iā ʻoe a mahalo” means I love you and thank you.

So whether welcoming someone or bidding them adieu, “aloha” radiates warmth between both speaker and listener in the Hawaiian culture. It celebrates the joy of togetherness, however fleeting.

Common Greetings and Goodbyes in Hawaii


The word “aloha” is one of the most well-known Hawaiian greetings. It can mean both “hello” and “goodbye,” as well as “love,” making it a versatile phrase. According to Hawaiian language experts, “aloha” expresses hello, goodbye, love, compassion, mercy, and sympathy all in one simple word.

Aloha Kakahiaka (Good Morning)

“Aloha kakahiaka” is the traditional Hawaiian phrase used to say good morning. It literally translates to “aloha morning.” Say this cheerful greeting when welcoming others at the start of the day or use it in place of just saying “good morning.”

Aloha Auinalā (Good Afternoon)

“Aloha auinalā” is the Hawaiian term for good afternoon. Just like good morning, it combines the word “aloha” with the Hawaiian word for afternoon, “auinalā.” Use this phrase when seeing people in the afternoon hours.

Aloha Ahiahi (Good Evening)

When the sun starts to set in Hawaii, it’s time to transition greetings to “Aloha ahiahi” which means good evening. Weave some Hawaiian culture into your speech by embracing this term rather than just saying good evening.

Aloha kākou (Hello everyone)

“Aloha kākou” translates to “Hello everyone” and can be used when addressing a group. The “kākou” means “all of us” or “everyone,” allowing you to greet multiple people at once with the Hawaiian aloha spirit.

Maika’i nō (Hello, good)

A less common but still used Hawaiian greeting is “maika’i nō” which essentially means “hello, good” or “well, good.” Say this to people in Hawaii and get a surprise reaction to this unique, local phrase.

A hui hou (Until we meet again)

When parting ways with people in the islands, use “a hui hou” to say farewell which means “until we meet again.” This will extend wishes to reunite down the road.

Aloha nui loa (Much love)

One of the most beautiful Hawaiian goodbyes is “aloha nui loa” meaning “much love.” Offer this heartfelt term when leaving friends or loved ones to share abundant aloha with them.

When and How to Use Hawaiian Greetings

Using Aloha for Hello, Goodbye and Love

The Hawaiian word “aloha” is well-known for meaning both “hello” and “goodbye.” But it has an even deeper meaning of love, affection, compassion, mercy and sympathy. Use “aloha” casually to greet friends or when meeting someone for the first time. You can say it when arriving and when leaving.

But be aware that overusing it may come across as insincere. According to The Hawaiian Traveler website, “aloha is the key word to the universal spirit of real hospitality. “

Formal vs. Casual Usage

In formal situations with elders, strangers, or in the workplace, use greetings like “aloha kakahiaka” (good morning) or “aloha ahiahi” (good afternoon/evening). More casual phrases with friends might be:

  • “Aloha kāua” – hello (between two people)
  • “Aloha kākou” – hello (between three or more people)
  • According to, “kāua” signifies two people talking while “kākou” includes three or more. So use them appropriately depending on your company.

    Greeting Elders and Strangers

    When greeting Hawaiian elders and people you’re meeting for the first time, use more formal language. Men should remove hats as a sign of respect. According to the blog How to Speak Hawaiian:

    Elderly man – Aloha kākou
    Elderly woman – Aloha kāua

    Wait for elders to offer their hand first before initiating any touching. Use proper titles like “aunty” and “uncle” until invited to use first names. Respect and humility are cornerstones of Hawaiian culture.

    Incorporating Gestures

    Hawaiians often incorporate body language like the shaka sign or honi (pressing nose and forehead together) while greeting others. According to blogger Jan Dacanay, the shaka sign conveys friendship, understanding, solidarity, and hang loose.

    It involves extending the thumb and little finger while closing other fingers.

    Honi, pressing nose and forehead together to share breath or spirit, is only done with very close friends and family members. Use common sense and observe if others are exchanging honi before initiating it.

    Helpful Hawaiian Phrases for Visitors

    Mahalo (Thank You)

    “Mahalo” is the Hawaiian word for “thank you.” It’s an essential phrase to know as a visitor to the islands. Locals greatly appreciate when visitors make the effort to use some Hawaiian. Say “mahalo” when ordering food, taking tours, or receiving assistance. Some other handy usages:

    • “Mahalo nui” – thank you very much
    • “Mahalo nui loa” – thanks a lot

    You’ll find Hawaiians to be very gracious when you show your gratitude by sprinkling some “mahalo” into the conversation. It spreads positive vibes all around!

    You’re Welcome – ‘A’ole pilikia

    How do you reply when someone says “mahalo” to you? “‘A’ole pilikia” is the common Hawaiian phrase used to say “you’re welcome.” It literally translates to “no problem.” Some other variations you may hear:

    • “‘A’ole pilikia” – no problem
    • “He ‘ano pilikia ‘ole” – it was no trouble

    Using “‘a’ole pilikia” shows our Hawaiian hosts we made an effort to understand their language. It completes the cycle of kindness when visiting their beautiful islands.

    Excuse Me – E kala mai

    E kala mai” is how to politely say “excuse me” in Hawaiian. Locals use this phrase in situations like:

    • Needing to walk past someone in a crowded area
    • Getting someone’s attention
    • Accidentally bumping into someone
    • Interrupting a conversation

    Other useful variations of “excuse me” include:

    • E pono ke kala” – I kindly ask your forgiveness
    • Ke kala nei au” – I ask your pardon

    Knowing these polite phrases helps visitors avoid offense. It makes the locals smile to hear our interest in their mother tongue.

    How are you? – Pehea ‘oe?

    The Hawaiian way to say “how are you?” is “pehea ‘oe?(pay-hey-ah oh-eh). It’s used similarly to English when greeting friends and acquaintances. Some examples:

    • “Pretty good, how about you?” – “‘Olu’olu loa, pehea ‘oe?”
    • “I’m well, thanks for asking” – “‘Olu’olu wau, mahalo no ka nīnau”
    • “Very good, how’s your family?” – “‘Olu’olu loa, pehea ka ‘ohana?”

    This Hawaiian language guide provides details on pronouncing the phrase plus answering appropriately. Using “‘pehea ‘oe” shows we value their culture and lifestyle.


    And that’s a wrap! We hope this guide gave you some useful Hawaiian language phrases to try out on your next trip to the islands. Remembering a few simple terms like aloha, mahalo and e kala mai will go a long way in connecting with locals and fully embracing the Hawaiian culture during your time there.

    The spirit of aloha is more than just a word – it encompasses compassion, kindness, respect and joy. Extending the warmest of hellos and goodbyes using Hawaiian language terms allows visitors to spread a little aloha spirit wherever they go.

    So venture out with confidence, greet everyone you meet with a hearty ‘aloha’ and make some wonderful connections along the way!

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