Pretend You’re Not A Tourist: Hawaii Edition


A disclaimer: This is more of a reminder for me than a tutorial for those of you who grew up outside of Hawaii. After four years of living in New York, I’m worried I’ve become a helpless haole (tourist) when it comes to the Hawaiian standard of living. To remedy that and a slight bout homesickness, I chatted with a few hometown friends for a refresher on the quintessential Aloha State products. Apply liberally and as often as possible for best results. Here goes:

When you step off the plane in Hawaii, the smell of flowers wafts with the trade winds. That, bottled, is Kai Perfume Oil. Founder Gaye Straza spent summers in Hawaii and her blend of gardenia, pikake, and other tropical flowers smells just like the islands. Dabbing on a blend of floral essential oils also works in a pinch.

Endless sunny days require seriously strong SPF. The Hawaiian surfer girls like Zinka. For lying on the beach, the scented and certified-organic Coola is another favorite. Shiseido makes a bomb lip and under-eye SPF. For daily wear, I like CeraVe AM moisturizer (recommended by my hometown dermatologist).

Bathing Suits
A rule of thumb when it comes to bikinis: The back should always be smaller than the front. At mainland beaches, people probably think we’re running around in thongs by comparison—but better that than a diaper! Any Brazilian-cut bikini will do—favorite brands include mixed and matched offerings from MIKOH, Acacia, Gypsy, and Issa de Mar. For wetsuits, check out Billabong or Cynthia Rowley.

This is an absolute must. Both Manoï de Tahiti and Kukui Nut oil are skin savers (and can conversely be used as tanning aids). Another friend claims they serve as an “emergency hair treatment" after a long day of sun and salt damage.

Tita Bun
The original top-knot—only higher on the head. Ideally, it can hold itself in place sans bands or pins, so the more hair you have, the better. Texture is key (this is one instance in which sun damage is unabashedly your friend). Tita refers (endearingly and respectfully, I might add) to an older woman who holds her own and doesn’t take any crap. Alternatively, these Japanese hair ties have a cult following with Hawaii girls. Add a flower behind the ear (right if you’re single, left if you’re taken), a smile, and a shaka because you get points for attitude, too.

—Alexis Cheung

Kailua girl Michelle Vawer for Gypsy, photographed by Daeja Fallas.


Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Ona_in_Barcelona

    Aaaargh, this makes me miss Hawaii! The best-smelling place in the world!

  • Anna


  • Lexa

    My mom grew up in Hawaii, so while I've spent my entire life on the mainland, I also traveled to the islands almost every year when I was younger to visit my grandmother. Getting off the plane and smelling that air is one of the best feelings ever, and I definitely have a bunch of those hair ties! (Though I burn so easily I wear enough SPF to maintain "sharkbait" status even after a week there.) Thanks for a morning island vacation!

  • Ayu Awkawardcheesecake

    Kai Perfume Oil sounds interesting! Would love to read a review about it.

    • Janine

      Perfect summer oil. The best. Anytime I wear it, I always hear "What's that beautiful scent?" when I walk past people. It's that pretty.

  • tlanik

    This article has made my day! I was born and raised on Maui and have been living in NYC for the past 6 yrs, so anytime I see anything remotely reminiscent of home, I get a bit over excited. Much mahalos!

  • Janet Lee

    Would love to try Kai Perfume Oil. LOL at 'the back should always be smaller than the front' part! Wish I could wear Brazilian bikinis! Sigh... I'll just admire them on other women.

  • Gina Marie

    Hahaha that's cute. Haole (tourist)

  • Gina Marie

    Lots of words have dictionary definitions. Lots of words are used differently than those definitions. Haole is USED as a rascist slur despite its definition. Maybe acknowledge that and edit this article?

  • Mademoiselle nature

    Lovely post!
    It really reminds me the beautiful time I had in Oahu :-). Wonderful!

  • Tab Smith

    It is never used in a neutral way and I'm sure you are aware of that. Would you apply the same logic to someone using the term "colored"? Some elderly in the south and Midwest do not use it with intended negativity but the term is still pejorative because of it's historical and cultural use. Haole is the exact same.

    Hawaii is a beautiful state and we truly love living here, but never have I lived anywhere with such deep and openly acknowledged racial divides.

    • Gina Marie

      I agree. Just because a racial term is used by a minority group against a majority doesnt mean it isnt hurtful.

  • Tab Smith

    The fact that at times it is means that it has no place being flippantly used in journalism. Even beauty blogging.

    • Bike Pretty

      Yeah, seeing its use in this article rubbed me the wrong way too. After living on Oahu and working at the Bishop Museum, I really can't see it as a neutral term.

      • Leilani

        Haole, literally broken down means Ha: breath and Ole: none, no. When the Hawaiian islands were "discovered" by European settlers the lighter skins were a sight to behold and the Hawaiians thought these people unworldly, ghosts, or gods. Generally, the term in present day has translated to reference a person of Caucasian descent. In Hawaii, we only have aloha for the different people that come across our shores, no time for hate. Please don't take any offense. I am hapa-haole and proud to say, my Portuguese being my haole side. I am Hawaiian, Portuguese, Filipino, Chinese and Spanish. (Hapa translated in Hawaiian means "half," but a lot of mixed raced people that call themselves hapa in the islands mostly have multiple heritage.) Aloha! Hope this helps.

  • QueenJareth

    Actually, haole is a Hawaiian word and pigeon
    (spoken by local people in Hawaii) has nothing to do with Japanese. When Captain Cook came to the Hawaiian Islands, the Hawaiians called the caucasion sailors ha'ole, which loosely then translates to "no breath." The Hawaiians believed the foreigners were otherworldly, or having no soul. They didnt breathe properly after praying or observe Hawaiian customs.

    In a way they were right, since the discovery of Hawaii led to the native Hawaiians losing their land and culture for a long time. The word haole then evolved to mean any caucasion foreigner.

    There is a very long and storied past of how the Hawaiian culture was simply swept away. Thankfully some of it survived and is now being studied. The word haole can be used in a derogatory manner like any word. It certainly was negative in the beginning but like many words has evolved. There are many haole families living in Hawaii that have been there for hundreds of years that are respected in the community. Hawaii is a huge melting pot of many cultures.

  • Gina Marie

    I lived on the islands during the first 10 years of my life during the 70's/80's when my dad was in the army. I am part Guamanian part Korean, and married to a caucasian. Although I have never been called it, I have heard the word haole used by the people of my culture from Hawaii to New York, California, Nevada and Mississippi. It is offensive and racist every time. I wouldn't tolerate my three children being called haole in any context.

  • Kiyana Higa

    YES. So good to hear from a fellow Hawaii girl. And dead on about the hair ties. No lie, currently have a maroon one holding up my tita bun.

  • Janine

    I love these types of articles. I'm always curious to know what girls/women in Hawaii use to take care of their face and body (especially with all that sun - there's no escaping it!). Thank you, ITG! I'm also curious about what surfers use (sunscreen, perfume/fragrance, makeup, hair products). They always look so perfect and healthy...even after a day of surfing. Like they seem to have the perfect lipgloss, and their hair is messy and perfect. And equestriennes. I live in the New England and have been to polo matches and jumper shows. Riders always look perfect - skin, hair, makeup.

  • E

    I lived on Maui for a long time, and "haole" could be used as both an insult or just as a word for "white person". To all the people saying to edit this article-- you're obviously not from Hawaii, because you'd realize how many Hawaiian word's meaning depend on HOW they're said. Fpr example, we also had a concept of saying Aloha to rude people because "Aloha means goodbye" (not just love and hello).

    I'm extremely fair skinned, and my friends and co-workers would call me a "haole" simply for that reason, to address my fairness.

    Also, like Hawaiians need more people coming around and telling them to change their culture, or what they say or how they see the world -- read up a bit about how Hawaii became a state, and you'll see why so many Hawaiians are so proud and unchanging of their culture.

    Just like any other word, just because YOU take offense to it doesn't mean it's offensive. What's offensive is you throwing a hissy fit because you saw something you don't understand.

  • haole

    get over it. you're not even from hawai'i, so don't act like you know.


kai Perfume Oil
Zinka colored nosecoat
Coola Mineral Face SPF 30 Matte Cucumber
Shiseido Sun Protection Lip Treatment SPF 35
Shiseido Sun Protection Eye Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 34
CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM SPF 30
Mikoh Racer Top Striped Bikini
Acacia Swimwear
Acacia Swimwear Andy Top in Pink
Issa de' mar Poema Top in Purple
Issa de' mar Poema in Purple
Cynthia Rowley
Cynthia Rowley Color Block Wetsuit
Nars Monoï de Tahiti Body Glow II
Russell Organics
Kukui Nut Oil from Russell Organics