Aloha: The Heart of Hawaii


Thinking about visiting Hawaii? Then you’ll want to know how to tap into one of the Islands’ most beloved characteristics: The Aloha Spirit and the deeper meaning of the word…ALOHA!

Aloha sounds like a simple word. It rolls off the tongue with as much ease as does the lifestyle it perpetuates. It connotes sounds of tropical music and trade winds brushing through the palms. There’s an unspoken spiritual aspect to the word. There’s just no getting around it…aloha is all-encompassing and…mystical.

Aloha has become a universal word with many meanings. I doubt there are many places on this planet where people haven’t heard or read about it – even if they aren’t sure of its literal meaning. So…what does aloha mean? Perhaps the answer can be found in the basics.

Aloha is actually comprised of two words: alo and ha. Loosely translated, “Alo” means front, or face, and “ha” the breath of life given from the Source. Combined it means “the breath of life given [shared] face to face.” Aloha is an intentional blessing willingly given from one’s inner self to another. When I greet you with aloha, I am extending to you my deepest intentions for your highest good that is possible from my spiritual source. It is a powerful exchange and not to be taken lightly.

In ancient times, people shared their blessing of aloha in a very reverent way. Recognizing that the “source of life” comes from the very breath within, and that breath came from the One Source of Life, they acknowledged the spiritual foundation of each Being by sharing a honi, or sort of kiss. By placing nose to nose, and the hands on each other’s forearms, they literally breathed in the “ha”…the breath of Akua (Higher Power)…that existed in the small space between them. At that moment, they each shared the ultimate gift: “the breath of life given face to face.” If they knew the other person well and were of like-mindedness, they may also place their foreheads together, as well as their noses, to complete this sacred blessing.

In Hawaii, the act of greeting someone is of special import and is usually offered with a genuine smile, eye contact, and “making a connection” with the other person. Today, you rarely see a honi exchange…it has been traded for the more acceptable kiss on the cheek or the friendly hug. And while this ancient tradition has all but gone by the wayside, I suggest we can still “share the intention” of blessing one another when we meet. Just by holding the positive thought to “wish well” for another sets the expression of the Aloha Spirit in motion.

Throughout the Islands, Aloha is a sacred word and represents an entire lifestyle. When visitors are greeted with aloha, there’s an excellent opportunity for connection with the local person. So as you, the visitor, explore and experience our beautiful island home, please be mindful to honor the spirit of aloha that lives within each of us. You can do so by understanding the correct way of speaking the word. You show respect and understanding when you place a soft and subtle emphasis on the ha portion of the word…extending it a bit as you say the word – alo-haaaa (spoken gently). It is considered insulting to our ancestors — and each other — when this powerful word is yelled out with a blatant emphasis on the HA…as you, our wonderful visitors, are often taught to do! Please know that is considered rude by many non-entertaining locals.Rather, feel the breath of life from within as you share it knowing that every time you invoke the powerful blessing of this word, you are healing – and honoring – yourself as well as others. And with that, I bid you a sacred aloha!

Denise Moreland is a member of the Hawaii Tourism Association ( and Cultural Specialist, Founder, and President of TourTalk-Hawaii Nei…a Hawaiian Cultural Promotions Company. To learn more about the unique and authentic cultural programs and tours offered, visit or call (808)685-0751.