First, a note on Hawaiian vowels.
Then, the first Hawaiian word to master!
Then, some TV shows that mention Hawaiian words!
And then finally, a list of the most common Hawaiian words you are likely to hear when you go to Hawaii.
How to make reading Hawaiian words seem easier: learn the vowels!
So the Hawaiian alphabet only has 12 letters. (Or 13 letters depending on how you’re counting.)
And the Hawaiian vowels are basically pronounced the same, no matter what word they are in. (Unlike English where the letter A can be pronounced differently depending on the word for example.) Of course there are always exceptions, but when you’re new to the Hawaiian language, this generally can apply.
In terms of vowel sounds, I’d say the Hawaiian language is more like Spanish. This can make pronouncing any Hawaiian words you come across feel easier… if you are familiar with the basics of Spanish!
If you are not familiar with Spanish, first learning the Hawaiian vowels can be helpful. Again while there are exceptions, A E I O U are mostly pronounced the same way. So once you know how to say these vowels, then you can figure out how to pronounce Hawaiian words much more easily!
The one Hawaiian word to know to impress others: Humuhumunukunukuapuaa
Or more correctly, humuhumunukunukuāpua‘a
Look difficult?! It’s actually not as difficult as it seems!
Firstly, what is humuhumunukunukuapua‘a?!
It’s a reef triggerfish.
So, if you want the “easier” way to say it, you can just say that.
This is also the Hawaii state fish.
If you’re going snorkeling in Hawaii, look out for it!
There’s a good chance you’ll see one as there are many swimming around Hawaii. Here’s what it looks like.
Okay, so how to say humuhumunukunukuapuaa?
So with the reef triggerfish, you can make this word seem even easier if you break it up. It’s really just a bunch of repeated syllables!
How to break it up and say humuhumunukunukuapuaa
humu / humu / nuku / nuku / apuaa
- humu-humu (hoomoo-hoomoo)
- nuku-nuku (nookoo-nookoo)
- a-pu-a-a (ah-poo-ah-ah)
Now say it!
Say it a few times and then you can remember it!
Then, when you go snorkeling and see this fish, you can tell everyone “I saw a humuhumunukunukuapuaa!” 😉
TV shows to watch to prepare for your first trip to Hawaii
Okay, so maybe not to prepare, but these TV shows that take place in Hawaii can be perfect shows to watch in the lead-up to your Hawaii vacation!
Take a look at these shows:
Now and then, they will use some Hawaiian words, and occasionally they do touch on Hawaiian culture as well.
It can be a good way to get you even more excited for your trip to Hawaii! 😉
Because both of these shows take place on Oahu, it can be even more exciting if you’re heading to Oahu. There are lots of scenes that you may be able to recognize once you get to Oahu.
Hawaii Five-0 often has scenes directly showing the Hilton Hawaiian Village too.
As of summer 2020, Magnum PI is on CBS on Friday nights. Hawaii Five-0 and Magnum PI used to be shown back-to-back, but Hawaii Five-0 has actually ended now. You can still look for old episodes though, online and on TV on the ION television channel!
Read more for your Hawaii trip prep:
- Transportation to Hanauma Bay (entry fee not included)
- Hawaii packing list: THE top things to pack for Hawaii
- Things to do in Waikiki (for views!)
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Simple and basic Hawaiian words and phrases to know for your trip to Hawaii!
E komo mai = welcome
You might see this at the airport or your hotel.
It means WELCOME!
Mahalo = thank you
This will probably be one of the most common Hawaiian words you’ll hear on your trip to Hawaii. People will say “mahalo” to you, and it means thank you!
Keiki = child
You might see this on a restaurant menu.
Ohana = family
Kamaaina = local
You might see “kamaaina rates” and this would be referring to the locals or Hawaii residents.
Honu = turtle
This is referring to the protected turtles in Hawaii!
For a better chance to see turtles in Hawaii, see these beaches:
Kokua = help
You might come across signs that say “please kokua” by doing something. This means please help out.
Luau = Hawaiian feast
It has become a big tourist thing to attend a luau. It’s generally an evening with Hawaiian food and entertainment.
Heiau = ancient Hawaiian temple
A heiau is considered to be a sacred space for Hawaiians. There are a number of these that you can visit today, with some areas being more well preserved than others.
There are a few heiaus that also are now a part of Hawaii state parks or U.S. national historical parks.
Mauka = mountain side
Directions might be given for around the island, and this would be on the “mountain side” of the island.
Makai = ocean side
Similarly, this would be for the “ocean side” of the island.
So you likely learned aloha as a child to mean hello.
Aloha is often actually said as both hello or good-bye. But it actually has a deeper meaning that just a simple greeting, and it encompasses the aloha spirit.
HAPPY LEARNING THE HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE!
👇 Explore the Hawaiian islands map on google maps!
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Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!
The ultimate beach towel for travel?!Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phoneYou can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.
More for your Hawaii packing list
- How a cheapo waterproof phone case works
- Why wear water shoes for the beach
- Why a personal swim buoy is an essential for snorkeling and swimming in the ocean
- Essentials to pack for Hawaii
- Best shoes for Hawaii
There are affiliate links on this page.