40 Things Every Local Must Do

Face it. We're different from the 49 other states. Locals in Hawai'i have their own ideas on everything, from how food should taste to how holidays should be celebrated. We've even got our own way of speaking the English language.

So how local are you? Some say you gotta be born and raised in the Islands. Others say “local” is a state of mind. Either way, we say you can’t call yourself a true local until you’ve done all 40 of the following. Fo’ real.

1. Sing karaoke.

People singing

Countdown Hawai’i host Olena Rubin and Hawai’i’s Reel Stories host Jason Suapaia unplugged at Karaoke Hut. Photo: Alex Viarnes. Styling: Sherri H


Everybody has a favorite song. And almost every karaoke machine will have it. Find it and sing it. When you rent a private room, it doesn’t matter if you “make A.” Most karaoke joints are BYOB, but Karaoke Hut in Kapahulu (909 Kapahulu Ave., 737-0599) and the GS Studio at the Waikiki Joy Hotel (320 Lewers St., 921-3576) offer full bars and pupu.

2. Rent the full DVD collection of Kikaida.

Hawai’i was into globalization before the word even existed. Kikaida is one example, an imported 1970s Japanese science-fiction superhero series that became a cultural touchstone for Gen-Xers, and now their children. It’s worth noting that Hakaida, the series’ black-helmeted villain, preceded Darth Vader by a good five years.


3. Still call Macy’s “Liberty House.”

It’s OK. We do it, too. Other long-gone institutions we can’t seem to forget and use when we give directions: Honolulu Stadium (thankfully named Old Stadium Park), Kaiser Hospital (the site of the Hawai’i Prince Hotel), GEM’s, Holiday Mart, Wai’alae Drive-In and the former Honolulu Police Department headquarters or, as many still remember it, the old Sears building.


4. Go to Vegas.

Photo: Courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau/LVCVA


Book your trip through Vacations Hawai’i. It’s cheap. Stay at the California Hotel, maybe Main Street. Stuff yourself silly at the $12.99 buffets. Bump into your neighbor at the Wheel of Fortune slots, and talk story more than you ever would back home. If you don’t lose all your money at the blackjack tables, buy a dozen bottles of Bath & Body Works lotion for your sister, your mom, your aunties, all your co-workers. For everyone else, pick up some cinnamon bagel chips from Las Vegas Jerky’s at the Plaza Hotel or anything from Trader Joe’s.


5. Sneak liquor into the Waikīkī Shell.

Illustration: Michael Austin


But you didn’t hear it from us.


6. See the lava.

There’s a volcano, like, two hours away from you. It’s been erupting continuously for more than 20 years. You haven’t gone yet? It’s this simple: Get on a plane. Rent a car. From Hilo, head 30 miles southwest on Highway 11. Or, from Kona, drive 96 miles southeast. Pay $10 to get your vehicle into Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (only $5 if you’ve somehow managed to get there on foot or bicycle). And voila! You’re there. By the way, you can visit anytime. The park is open 24 hours a day year-round, though the visitor center is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Stop in at the center or call 985-6000 for updates on where to see the fresh lava flows. Check out nps.gov/havo for maps, history and anything else you’d need to watch Pele at work.


7. Eat your popcorn with kaki mochi, eat your mango green, with shoyu and put li hing mui on everything.


8. Fly a carp.

Hawai’i’s been celebrating Boy’s Day and Girl’s Day for years. Japan stopped almost 50 years ago. No joke. In Japan, what we know as Boy’s Day, May 5, became Children’s Day in 1948. And Girl’s Day, March 3, is now called The Doll Festival. But old traditions die hard in the Islands, and even though Japan has moved on, we’re not budging anytime soon. You can buy carp from Shirokiya or Marukai to hang outside your house.


9. Surf something.


Photo: Joss


It’s the sport of kings, a Hawaiian tradition adopted by millions all over the world, Heck, even people in Ireland and Vietnam are doing it. So what do you mean you’ve never tried it? “Those people don’t know what they’re missing out on,” says Kevin Miller, owner of Hawaiian Fire Surf School.

“It’s a great way to get a workout, but it’s also a lifestyle. As soon as you get in the water, you realize how fun it is.” Don’t feel like you have to start with Pipeline. Miller suggests gentler spots for beginners-White Plains at Barbers Point, Baby Makapu’u, Diamond Head and, if you don’t mind a crowd, Waikiiki Beach. An acceptable alternative: boogie-boarding.


10. Plan an elaborate first birthday party.

It doesn’t matter if your baby has no idea what’s going on. This is what everyone else expects you to do. It’s tradition among Asians and Pacific Islanders, a reminder of a time when a baby’s survival was serious cause for celebration. Today, we keep that custom alive-usually by booking a room at the Pagoda Hotel, renting the neighborhood rec center or throwing a backyard lū’au. Either way, you’ll spend more money on this event than you will on your child’s first semester at college. Don’t forget the clown, balloons, favors, cake and, of course, the 200-plus invitations, many of them for people who didn’t even know you had a kid.


11. Tailgate at Aloha Stadium.


Photo: Courtesy of Honolulu Star-Bulletin


You’ve probably heard, but a certain lieutenant governor wants to ban alcohol at Aloha Stadium, including the parking lot. If he gets his way, the only buzz you’ll be getting at UH games will come from watching a great play.
So enjoy it while you can, folks. There’s nothing more local than a good tailgate party. You don’t even have to be a sports fan to enjoy one. In fact, you don’t even have to watch the game.

All you need is a car, a tent, a barbecue grill, a case of Bud Light, lots of raw meat and a willingness to drive around the stadium 23 times until the parking gates open three-and-a-half hours before kickoff. Find a stall you like, preferably in the shade. Set up the lawn chairs. Get a fire going. Sit back with your friends and pop open a cold one.

12. Love SPAM.

And maintain a deep appreciation for other canned meats.

13. Don’t just ask someone what high school they went.

Ask what year they wen grad, then name every single person you know who ever went to that school-even if you have to resort to naming your cousin’s wife’s ex-hairdresser-until that someone finally says, “Yeah, yeah. I know him.”

14. Do New Year’s Eve with a bang.

Every year, the do-gooder public tries to take away our Island tradition of blowing up 50 billion firecrackers to celebrate the New Year. Don’t let them win. For $25, you can get a fireworks permit for up to 5,000 firecrackers from any satellite city hall. But hey, why wait for the holidays to unleash your inner pyromaniac? You can get a fireworks permit year round for any occasion-birthdays, weddings, any day, really, that could use some snap and sizzle. These special permits can be obtained only at the Honolulu Fire Prevention Office, 3375 Koapaka St. For more information, call 831-7764.


15. Hula

Kumu hula Mapuana de Silva leads Hālau Mohala ‘Ilima in Kailua. Photo: Guy A. Sibilla


You faithfully watch the Merrie Monarch Festival every year, admiring the gentle sway of the dancers’ hips, the graceful movements of their hands. That could very well be you. Really. While it’s probably too late to enter the next Miss Aloha Hula competition-sorry, the cutoff age is 25-there’s no reason you shouldn’t learn how to dance the hula. There are dozens of ha-lau across the state, many of which offer instruction for beginners. For a fairly comprehensive list, check out mele.com/halau.shtml


16. Rave at the Wave.

Photo: Courtesy of the Wave Waikīkī


Honolulu’s classic nightclub is still its best. Noisy, crazy, open until 4 a.m. Every night a different theme, a different beat, a different crowd. Cap the evening with breakfast at Eggs ‘N Things. As club owner Jack Law says, “Anyone who’s lived here for any length of time has got a Wave story to tell, something that couldn’t have happened anywhere else.”

A 28-story condominium is slated to displace the Wave, but Law says he doesn’t expect to have to relocate for at least another year. Plenty of time to inspire new stories.


17. Join a canoe club.

Photo: Joss


There’s no better way to simultaneously meet new people and increase your upper-body mass. Most clubs sign up new members in February and March, when the regatta season starts. “They’re very open to beginners, because they’re always looking for new paddlers for their novice divisions,” says Hannie Anderson, president of the O’ahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association. For a list of O’ahu canoe clubs, visit ohcra.com or huiwaa.com. Not sure which one would be a good fit? Anderson suggests talking to the coaches and sitting in on a few practices for different clubs.

18. Know all the words to “Hawai’i Pono’i.”

Or at least enough to fake it. Bonus points for “Hawai’i Aloha”-and not just the “‘Oli e” part, either.


19. Camp on the beach.

Ah, what better way to commune with nature than to pitch a tent and forgo all modern means of communication and entertainment over a long weekend? The city allows camping at 15 O’ahu beach parks. All you need is a permit, which is free and can be obtained from any satellite city hall. Camping is allowed from Friday to Wednesday at most parks; others are available on weekends only. “It’s on a first-come, first-serve basis,” says Ronald Schwalbaum, of the city Department of Parks and Recreation. “We can give out only so many permits.” Holidays are the busiest, he says, especially Labor Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Christmas and New Year’s. For more information, call 523-4525.


20. Be able to quote from Rap’s Hawai’i on command.


Photo: Courtesy of Mountain Apple Company


Everyone’s got a little Auntie Marialani in them. A little Merdie Murdock, too. Here’s a quick quiz to test your Rap Reiplinger chops. Complete the following phrases: “Not too sweet, not too ____.” “Looking for a car? Perhaps an ________.” “Tell Fate Yanagi no go cry, and no go out with __________.”