The Significance of ‘Ohana in Hawaiian Culture

Discover the essence of ‘ohana in Hawaii, where family, community, and connections flourish. Immerse yourself in local culture, traditions, and the spirit of aloha.

The Significance of ‘Ohana in Hawaiian Culture
Home » Explore » The Significance of ‘Ohana in Hawaiian Culture

The Hawaiian word ‘ohana translates to “family,” but its meaning encompasses more than just blood relatives. It includes the broader community and the connections that bind them together. This article delves into the significance of ‘ohana in Hawaiian culture, providing travelers with insights into the importance of family and community in Hawaii.

Understanding ‘Ohana

‘Ohana has its origins in the Hawaiian language, stemming from the word ‘ohā, which refers to the corm of the taro plant, its primary source of sustenance. This connection to the taro plant symbolizes the nurturing and interconnected nature of family and community. In Hawaiian culture, ‘ohana encompasses not only blood relatives but also extended family, friends, and community members who support and care for one another.

The Role of ‘Ohana in Everyday Life

The concept of ‘ohana is deeply ingrained in daily life in Hawaii. It is evident in family gatherings and celebrations, where generations come together to share food, stories, and traditions. Community events, such as hula performances, luaus, and cultural festivals, also embody the spirit of ‘ohana, as people come together to celebrate their shared heritage and values. These interactions demonstrate Hawaiians’ commitment to caring for one another and maintaining strong connections within their communities.

Traditional Hawaiian Family Structure

The traditional Hawaiian family structure is based on three primary roles: kupuna (elders), makua (parents), and keiki (children). Kupuna are revered for their wisdom and life experience, providing guidance and support to younger generations. Makua are responsible for the well-being and upbringing of their keiki, teaching them the values and traditions of Hawaiian culture. Keiki, in turn, learn from their kupuna and makua and carry on the traditions and values of their ‘ohana. This intergenerational structure contributes to the strength and unity of the Hawaiian ‘ohana.

‘Ohana and the Environment

In Hawaiian culture, the concept of ‘ohana extends to the environment, reflecting the belief that people and the natural world are interconnected. The principle of kuleana (responsibility) emphasizes the importance of caring for the land and its resources as a shared responsibility among community members. This connection to the environment is demonstrated through practices such as sustainable farming, stewardship of natural resources, and the preservation of sacred sites.

‘Ohana in Contemporary Hawaiian Society

Like many cultures, the concept of ‘ohana has evolved in contemporary Hawaiian society. Changes in family dynamics, such as smaller family units and increased mobility, have impacted the traditional ‘ohana structure. However, the importance of maintaining strong connections to family and community remains a cornerstone of Hawaiian culture. Many Hawaiians continue to prioritize ‘ohana, nurturing relationships with extended family members and participating in community events and traditions.

Experiencing ‘Ohana as a Visitor

Travelers to Hawaii can experience the spirit of ‘ohana by immersing themselves in the local culture and engaging with the community in a respectful and meaningful way. Attend local events, such as cultural festivals or community gatherings, to witness firsthand the strong bonds that define ‘ohana. Participate in cultural activities, like hula lessons or lei-making workshops, to learn more about Hawaiian traditions and values. Embracing the spirit of ‘ohana allows visitors to deepen their understanding and connection to the Hawaiian way of life.


The strong sense of ‘ohana that defines Hawaiian culture highlights the importance of family and community in the islands. Travelers who embrace this spirit during their visit will not only enrich their experiences but also forge lasting connections to the people and places that make Hawaii truly special. As you explore Hawaii, remember to open your heart to the warmth and love that is the essence of ‘ohana.


Join Hawaiians.

Get discounts, trips ideas, exciting news, and much more. Delivered right to your inbox, for free.

Discover More Essential Information

Explore ‘Essentials’ for enriched Hawaii travels. Dive into local culture, history, and nature for a truly immersive experience.

The Ultimate Hawaii Travel Guide

Plan your dream vacation with our extensive Hawaii travel guide. Discover islands, attractions, dining, activities, culture, eco-friendly tips, and much more.

Explore More of Hawaii

Beyond the Horizon, More Paradise Awaits – Dive deeper into the multifaceted charm of Hawaii, and continue your journey of exploration.

Explore the Islands of Hawaii

Discover your perfect escape – from Oahu’s lively cities, Maui’s picturesque shores, Kauai’s verdant landscapes, to Big Island’s volcanoes.

Join Hawaiians.

Get discounts, trips ideas, exciting news, and much more. Delivered right to your inbox, for free.