HAWAII SOCIAL PROBLEMS
This one is a catch-22. If your own attitude is poor – you’ll meet some of the nastiest people you ever didn’t want to know in Hawaii. That’s just the way it is everywhere, right? However, if you’ve got a cool attitude and are open to learning how things work before and during your time here – and you are friendly, outgoing, and a decent person all around you’ll be blissed out to meet the coolest bunch of people you ever knew.
Give first – and you’ll get more in return. Such has been my experience meeting new people in Hawaii. The Hawaiian spirit of Aloha is really a wonderful philosophy of life and I hope you get to experience it in heaps during your stay. If you’re not the type of person that deals well with cultural diversity or have a lack of common sense, you may not do well in Hawaii and it can be a very cold place for the ignorant, clueless, and heartless.
RACISM IN HAWAII
I haven’t experienced it much. When I do experience it, it’s usually a frustration by locals in regards to something I’m doing. Maybe I don’t know a road as well as they do and I do something stupid as I drive. I might hear – ‘Stupid haole! Go back to the mainland!’. I’ve heard that one before, at night, by a drunk Hawaiian girl late on a Saturday night.
I’ve had knives held up so I could see them on a couple of occasions. I’ve never been attacked, and I don’t know anyone that has because they were visitors to the island or moved here and weren’t locals.
There is a tension that can exist between locals and some visitors that take Hawaii for granted and that don’t treat others with respect. Locals will put you in your place in some cases… and it’s not a reason to not move to the islands – it’s just something to be aware of. Though 4 guys held knives up to me and the girl I had in the car – I didn’t really feel threatened like they were going to jump out of the car and attack us. It was more like an empty threat designed to scare us into staying out of their neighborhood.
If we hadn’t – would be have been attacked? No, I don’t think so – but, I have this philosophy that people that want to be left alone in Hawaii – in their own little world, should be allowed to be left alone.
HAWAII CRIME – TYPES
Assault, rape, and murder is less of an issue in Hawaii than on the Mainland. It does happen, but the most common types of crime in Hawaii include car and home break-ins, stolen cars and purse snatchings.
On a couple different occasions as I was far out on the waves bodyboarding I saw guys looking through my bag on the beach. I yelled – but who’s going to chase down a young kid on drugs for you? Not many. Not me!
Auto smash and grabs, purse snatches, wallet snatchers, bike thieves… they’re all here in Hawaii. It has to be expected as there is a huge gulf between the haves and have-nots. The have nots get theirs too, but before it’s theirs – it was yours.
You will have some of your things taken. Be smart and try to limit your losses. What I usually do when I park by the beach, is roll down all my windows and take whatever is valuable with me in a backpack.
I’ve never had my car stolen, nor had a window broken. Friends I know have had their windows broken numerous times.
WAIKIKI AND TOWN – HIGHWAY TRAFFIC CONGESTION
Worst on Oahu, and between 6 am. – 8 am. and 4 pm. – 6 pm. If you have to be in town by 8 am, it’s going to hurt.
Hawaii residents that need to commute somewhere, or that travel during rush hours or lunch hour often complain about traffic being bad. Highways H1, H2 on Oahu and the Honoapiilani Highway on Maui are frequently jammed up during this time. Sitting in traffic is no fun.
Why Is Traffic So Bad?
On Oahu, there are a few reasons for the traffic problem:
1. The overwhelming majority of jobs are in town. Not everyone can, or wants to, live in town – so they commute from wherever they are – from west toward town usually. This results in huge crowds on the road during rush hours.
2. There are over 1 million vehicles registered in the state of Hawaii.
3. The roads are under built. Meaning, there are not enough roads for the area of Hawaii – so everyone must use the same roads. This is largely a function of topography, with mountainous regions covering the islands and leaving scant space for flat roads or roads up through the mountains. Hawaii legislators are cautious about building roads up through areas that retain their natural beauty – which, traffic be damned, is a good thing in most peoples’ opinion.
4. The roads are not wide enough in many places. Tight roads mean longer lines – and Hawaiian roads were not really built with the idea that they’d need to expand them width-wise for some reason. There is little room to expand the width of most roads in town because building structures are already too close to the street. There is no space.
The state has various programs in place to help the flow of traffic including contraflow lanes, high occupancy vehicle lanes (1+ people in the vehicle), coordinated stoplights, and improving public transportation like TheBus.
For more than 20 years there has been talk about creating a sky train system, but the cost up to this point has been prohibitive. Such a train would definitely take some of the traffic off the roadways because some people I know would do anything to have an alternative to driving into town in the bad traffic daily.
DRIVING AND OTHER TRANSPORTATION
I used my mountain bike quite a bit while living in Waikiki. Was it dangerous? Sure it was, most tourists are looking around at the amazing sites and are not paying attention to bicycles on the street. I preferred it to driving my Honda around a lot of times.
Rush hours and weekends where there is an event of some kind going on – are a real nightmare and you’ll not want to live far from where you work unless you live in downtown and work in Kapolei or somewhere else there is no traffic. Traffic goes toward the downtown and Waikiki areas in the morning and away during evening rush hour.
If you’re working far from where you live on Oahu, Hawaii then traffic is going to be an issue. A big issue for some. It never bothered me that much because how upset can I really get sitting in an air conditioned car listening to my favorite music, drinking amazing coffee and looking at all the people around me?
Not that bothered. Hawaii traffic can really get some in a tizzy though. It’s atrocious during rush hours on Oahu. On Maui – not a big deal, small spots of traffic during rush hour in Kahului. On Kauai – traffic is non-existent, ditto that for Molokai and Lanai. On Big Island I can’t say – but I haven’t heard that it’s anything like Oahu.
FYI – Directions (mauka, makai, Diamond Head, Ewa)
Directions are often given using words other than north, south, east and west. Hawaii locals have followed their tradition by talking about direction in terms of places on the islands.
- Mauka means toward the mountain.
- Makai means toward the ocean.
- Ewa means toward Ewa beach – past Pearl Harbor.
- Diamond Head means toward the volcano in Waikiki.
TOO MANY POLICE WORRIED ABOUT SEAT BELT ENFORCEMENT?
Add to the poor driving situation the fact that the Honolulu police seem to be everywhere. There is a higher police presence in Waikiki than I have experienced anywhere else in the nation.
If you are late putting your seatbelt on – they are there standing in the middle of the street looking for people that put on the seatbelt late! If you coast through a stop sign – even slightly – they’re on you. If you speed – they got ya! If you ride in the wrong lane on the highway – you’re toast. It seems that you cannot win driving a vehicle in the islands. This in particular was no fun for me at all. As I said, I used the bike or walked a lot while living in the islands.
PARKING IN TOWN AND AT TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
I mentioned parking above, but it deserves its own section. Parking on Oahu, Hawaii is a serious inconvenience. On the other islands it is not so bad, but still – it’s no joy!
For instance… drive down to Waikiki to swim at “The Wall”. There is a parking lot close to it – and it’s packed every weekend, and weekdays too unless you get there before about 9 am. There are parking meters. You’ll get just 10 minutes for 1 quarter (or less now). There is a maximum of 2 or 3 hours you can stay before the meter runs out. If you happen not to remember the meter is running out as you’re bodyboarding, bodysurfing, surfing, sunning, or whatever you’re doing – you’ll get a $35 parking ticket the very instant the meter expires because there are meter-maids camped-out at that parking lot trying to earn their daily pay.
The parking situation in town is quite bad, and you should expect to pay every time you park. You won’t have to – but, if you expect it – and then do not have to pay sometimes – you’ll be in a better mood. Oh, one more thing – if you park on private property – your vehicles will be towed very quickly – and it costs $100+ to retrieve it – and they charge you for keeping your vehicle for every night you leave it at the impound facility.
I can’t count the number of times I parked on private property at night as I was going to clubs in downtown. Sometimes I didn’t see the sign, other times I thought – who is going to care if I park here?
The owners care. Boy do they care!
HOMELESSNESS – A MAJOR SOCIAL PROBLEM IN HAWAII
Like everywhere in the U.S. there are homeless people living in Hawaii. Some are happy to be homeless, and some are not – but, they are here and increasing in numbers. In 2023, there were an estimated 10% of the state’s population living below poverty level. With regards to the number of people living on the street, according to the AARP there are an estimated 3,932 homeless adults on O’ahu as of November 2022.
Homeless folks live at the beach, on the west side of Oahu near Kaena Point, in the parks, on the streets, under highways, and even underneath Hawaiian Schools portable facilities.
Some have cars, and you might see a whole family loving in one. Small tent cities pop up from one place to another, and various plans for a large tent city have been introduced over the years – but are usually shot down by neighboring communities afraid crime will increase in their neighborhood.
Across the state the total number of homeless adults is 5,116, of which 2,352 are 45 or older.
The number of homeless people in Hawaii has increased by more than 60 percent since 2000. However, we have seen decreases between the years from 2016-2018. U.S Census data shows that Hawaii’s increase in poverty is among the highest in the USA.
Even though Hawaii has a warm climate year-round and there could be worse places to be homeless, robbery, assault, rape, and other crimes still exist and are a threat to homeless people.
Why are there so many homeless people living in Hawaii?
1. The Welfare Reform Act, 1994. This act limits the number of years families on federal welfare can collect benefits to just 5 years. In many cases, it is literally impossible for the family to do anything else to come up with money in Hawaii’s limited economy.
2. High cost of living. Housing costs are the highest in the U.S. here in Hawaii, and there are precious few low-income homes for those that can’t afford the nearly $1 million three bedroom, two bath home.
3. Drug addiction and underfunded mental health programs.
HAWAII’S ILLEGAL DRUG EPIDEMIC
Drug abuse and addiction is a large factor contributing to crime in the islands. Crimes involving illegal drugs comprised over half of the critical events in the state in 2007.
The national average for the USA is 41.2%.
Methamphetamine (crystal meth, ice) is the most commonly used illegal drug in Hawaii – besides marijuana. Of all the criminal convictions that were related to drug abuse – ice made up over half of all cases. In fact, in 2013, 90% of federally sentenced drug cases in Hawaii involved the use of meth.
Social workers expect the range of problems caused by crystal meth to eventually reach everyone in the islands. Not that everyone will be addicted, but, the effects of those using it – break ins, car accidents, friends or family using it – will touch each of us on the islands at some point.
There is no doubt it’s use is rampant. I remember in 2002 I was met at the airport by a woman I knew online, and had befriended. She was taking me to my hotel when she pulled out some white rocks and proceeded to light them up in a pipe she had.
I was aghast to say the least. I’d never been around anyone that smoked the stuff – nor did I want to start! That was the end of that brief friendship!
Apparently it is used so commonly that many locals think it’s just like smoking pot and they are open about it.
Though there are no hard numbers to point to regarding crystal meth use or addiction in Hawaii, something can be said about the extent of the problem by looking at the number of addicts that attended addiction treatment for its use. 2,730 people entered treatment facilities for the drug in 2002. That is higher than for all those that attended alcohol and marijuana treatment programs the same year.
NOISE IN PARADISE?
Before moving to Thailand I had thought that Hawaii, Waikiki in particular, was loud and noisy. Now I have a new perspective on things. Thailand’s noise levels make Waikiki seem like a church eulogy service.
You may not have the same perspective, and you might think that the part of Hawaii you stay in is loud. There is a lot of construction going on in Hawaii – and sometimes it is right next door. If they’re building a 50 story condominium, you’re likely to be hearing noise for a couple of years before it stops… only to be replaced by someone building something else within hearing range.
Living in town is not going to fill your ears with Mynah birds and soft rain showers… Instead, the sounds of the city prevail – construction, traffic, horns, car alarms. If you’re not prepared for it – it can all be a surprise. Come prepared if you plan on living in any real city on the islands.
It’s almost funny how clearly you can hear the garbage trucks around the islands come at 4-6 am. They are very loud, and there is no other sound going on to drowned out their roar. Then, to top it off – they have the beep-beep-beep going on every time they reverse – as a safety precaution. Get used to it – it probably will affect you wherever you are in Hawaii. I can’t remember not being affected by it, even staying 22 floors up in a condo on the Ala Wai Canal.
Summary of Social Problems in Hawaii
As you can see, there is plenty going on in Hawaii that could get on your nerves. As nice as the state is to live in, there are many problems. Some people are severely affected by racism. I didn’t experience it much, but it depends where you live and how much money you have. Really, that’s the truth.
Article originally authored by Vern Lovic and any expressed opinions are his own.
Not even a mention of the big island. Wow
Each island can be very different. This perspective was from one living on Oahu
in my opinion i think your whole website is a waste of time… as a real “local” not someone that moved to hawai’i. I am a native hawaiian surrounded in the rich culture. You say Hawaii’s roads aren’t big enough… but really hawai’i wasn’t made to provide for this many people.Your whole website is about living in “Hawai’i” but in reality it’s just you talking and giving advice on how to live on O’ahu. Most of the things in your article is like a “survival guide“ on how to live in on the island of O’ahu but as a person i view it as common sense.. like obviously someone’s gonna call if you’re parked on the property… but most of the time when that happens it’s from a “white person” uneducated about the loina of kapu aloha or it’s a really pissed hawaiian that probably just had a bad day.
First, I agree. For you, this website is a waste of time. It’s not for you. Read the Mission and Purpose.
Thanks for sharing your opinion. At the end of the day with websites like mine and others, all we can do is share our own perspective. Whether it’s someone of Mediterranean ancestry moving to hawaii, or whether it’s someone of native Hawaiian ancestry being born and raised in hawaii. Everyone has different perspectives and it’s interesting to see all them, like yours..
If your article is to Preserve the beauty of Hawaii, both physical and spiritual, by educating and acclimating those that have newly arrived… but you are telling them to go to hawai’i and one of the reasons why hawai’i isnt beautifl anymore is due to tourists and the way they are like how they use the land for profit it is an act of enviromental crimes and in hawai’i us kanaka use the land and we also give back to the land because we believe that “ He Ali’i Ka ‘Āina; He Kauwā ke Kanaka “ and in simple form this means treat the land as a chief because the land provides for us. I think in your article you should have a section relating to the “ ‘āina” or the land and maybe some of the “loina hawaii” or hawaiian customs because as a hawaiian i would want the people moving here to know about the customs and culture instead of learning about the traffic and the homeless. You should educate yourself in things like the customs and you should educate your readers that too many hawaiians would appreciate you for that… I am a sixteen year old going to a Hawaiian immersion school and maybe I can teach you about the loina and customs of the island and culture… I am not trying to be mean or anything i am just trying to educate the uneducated or miss-educated in things relating to my native culture and to just bring awareness in a way…
I’m so glad you responded. How about if you write an article? Would you want to do that? I’d love to post it here and give you credit for it. Each of us brings our own story and perspective and I’d love to publish yours.
BTW: pls note at the bottom of this article – I myself did not personally write it. But this doesn’t matter – I’d love you to write something.
I would love to write a article or something for you. Do you have any way i could contact you regarding this? like a email or something? ( i am replying to your other comment but i had a hard time replying to that one so i am using this reply to the comment about writing a article )
Use the contact form and I’ll email you back right after that. If you got my newsletter you could just reply to that.
Like anywhere there are pros and cons. For me the pros are the weather, quality of life in general, diverse population, outdoors/beaches, etc. The cons are the cost of living (housing, food, etc.), limited supply of quality good paying jobs (compared to mainland metropolitan areas), the pace may be too slow for some. There are many kind people here, and some low brows. I would generally characterize the people here as down to earth and rooted. Large homeless population. Your attitude and respect is everything here, very important. As the saying goes: “This ain’t the mainland”. I’ve met some very nice locals, and a few unhappy haters. By the way I’m not haole.
As long as you are a good person and have a good attitude, you can build your OWN friends & support with like minded people.
Just got back from 12 days with my wife and two two grown daughters, on Oahu, Hawaii, Maui.. had a great time, never met a rude person, etc…for the “natives” who hate whites and dont want us moving there…when we travel, my family is very respectful of other cultures, and the local environment…..I can’t imagine saying I don’t want blacks moving from Georgia to Florida? You were the first orioles on that rock, and you won’t be the last…You’re part of the USA, like it or not, and no one has to “immigrate” to your state… it’s just as much my state as yours!!!!
Welcome to the 21st Century.
Written by an ignorant person. Yes, most people don’t like stupid. Most people don’t. Yes, we use racial slurs, who doesn’t. If you don’t like it, don’t come. We don’t need any more liberals here mucking up our island home. You’ve done so much damage here. We are culturally diverse and yes you need a thick skin to live here. If you don’t you need to find a different place to live.
There’s a local sayiing don’t mess with the ‘aina, or don’t mess with the land. You mainlanders want to make us just like yourselves. Stop, just stop,.
Hawaii is a state in the US stop acting like it’s yours. I can move to California, Texas, Nebraska, Alaska and Hawaii. All a state in the US. If tourism didn’t exist the homeless rate would be 50 percent it’s NOT your state it’s ours!!
we wanted to do a substantial investment in Hawaii helping in transportation, homeless affordable housing, and pollution. The main obstacle was that politicians were greedy and had their own agenda (that did not work) and were constantly fighting their rivals and opponents.. Rather than helping their constituents they were involved in battles with rivals and boycotting any initiative. My great friend’s late wife was in love with Hawaii. She passed away 11 years ago and he wanted to invest because he felt connected because of the love for his wife, His wife would have disliked what we witnessed and our experts saw: more than 10,000 people homeless, 70,000 short of socially affordable housing, pollution of the island and the plastic in the ocean, dirty beaches, lack of environmentally clean and affordable transportation. lack of local agriculture and lack of less expensive produce, he felt that within 5 years Hawaii could be energy independent (avoid the 3 Billion a year import of oil) en social housing could be solved without it costing anything to society. Now that tourism is gone it will become worse. The politicians could not care less. it seems to be a normal routine and it appears that the spirit of aloha is gone end that even who self proclaim to care about Hawaii, its environment and issues react in what we would call negative passive manner. Why should they do something about it?My friend invested a lot of time in it and lost a lot of money but also some reputation in it.
Thank you Peter for your contribution – your story has been echoed by many, sadly.
I’ve been living here all my life but i haven’t had any problems (im a white local)
you guys illeglally overthrew our queen so that why we’re mean to you guys DUH
Hawaii has changed in the last decades so much, life and everything isnt as Beautiful as people may think! It was a sunshine state once, but now there are so many poor and homeless people here in Honolulu and elshewere in Hawaii. I dont really know what is going on here?
Kingdoms are meant to fall duhh get on with the times
i dont see why some of these are problems
The overthrow of Queen liliuokalani was so long ago get over ! The only reason you have a bad attitude is because you hate white people plain and simple. Local haole lived here all my life on Kauai 50 yrs. Hawaiians is okay. Japanese Filipinos and Portuguese act like they’re Hawaiian and their shit doesn’t stink fuck these guys
The only reason we have a bad attitude is because our Kingdom was overthrown illegally by the so called missionaries and banded our culture and language so that we lost our practices,values and language.
SRB427’s wife here, I can’t blame you at all about your anger from what people of power had done to your culture. Hawaii was always a place I admired and want to visit. You know the story with native Americans in our Mainland. The settlers from Europe around 300 yrs. ago did the same damage to this country. Took away the native American way of life. I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, moved to upstate New York years ago. Okay this is my homeland, but I do enjoy traveling this planet. Planet Earth is our home for everyone. Wish your original ways of life and the origins of culture from your ancestors never changed. I love travel, not always have money to afford that, but whenever I can and have been around, but never visited Hawaii yet, and still considering, financially permitting. In my heart, believe in visiting nations around the world without imposing on them and respecting the residence and making new friends. The main reasons for the world’s problems are bureaucrats, the power hungry suits and ties, robes and silk, whatever. We little folks vote for leaders to work with them for the common good. But greed gets in the way too often with power hungry morons. I just started learning about Hawaii’s problems, never knew how bad things are there, but still far from bad than Detroit. Many good Detroiters are working to save the city. Please do your part in saving your Hawaii, you probably are and have been, stand your ground. That’s what we are doing against some of Trump’s policies. Our Mainland is a nation for all nations, but we need to maintain the responsibility of not imposing on one another’s cultures, having the freedom of religion, abolishing hate. Yeah, I’m angry too.——Audy
Stop feeding the hate you moron.As a local, I’ve lived here all my life.It’s people like you that mess Hawaii up. It’s people like you, that’s turning this place into a shithole. Knock it off.
Yes those Christian missionaries. If they hadn’t the Hawaiians could still have human sacrifice. I think the race of people called Kauwa were the original Marquesans that found the islands first, but the Tahitians over threw them and kept them separate. One group taking over another. Sound familiar??? And the new Hawaiians were divided into classes. Not all Ali’i. Makaainana had to fall to the ground when the chiefs came by or otherwise!! Sacrifice!! Damn the missionaries.
My daughter and I will be moving there in July. I have read some of the posts and I’m sorry some of the Native Hawaiian people don’t want outsiders and suggest we stay where we’re raised. Anyone who grows and wants to expand their horizons, learn about other areas of the world, experience new cultures will move, sorry.
Anyway, I came to Oahu by myself on my birthday about 3 years ago and honestly if my children were with me I would have left all of my belongings where they were and stayed. The people I met were amazing. I will never forget the tour I took, the guide called himself “Uncle Roy” and said we were all “cousin”, so much for the person/s that do not want outsiders. “Uncle Roy” said we were all bound together because we are all human beings, we all bleed red blood so we are all one family, that mentality just stayed with me. I began to look at people I didn’t know, not as strangers, but as “cousins” I just didn’t meet yet, being there for such a short period of time changed me. Not only did my outlook change, but my ears stopped ringing. I have been hearing noises that no one else hears for over 25 years and just being in Hawaii for 4 days, it had stopped. It was funny, I woke up at 3 in the morning, thinking it was 7am and just kept tugging at my ears, I thought something was wrong because it was quiet. I was so used to hear this constant buzzing/humming that when it was gone I thought I was losing my hearing. When I realized it was the ringing that was gone I was beyond happy, as stupid as this may sound, I said to myself “so this is what peace and quiet sounds like, I didn’t remember”. That peace and quiet was short lived, in a day, after I was back in Colorado, the ringing/buzzing/humming was back and louder than ever. I don’t what part of Hawaii we’re going to but we’ll be there soon. I’m selling everything I own, looking for a church, and a humble, safe place for me and my daughter.
How dare you post that people should try to move here!! you’re part of the problem!! Why did you move here? us who are born and raised have a hard time because of immigration from the US mainland. We can’t afford our homes, jobs are low paying, high cost of rents to rent to you people made us have to move because you have no problem paying these prices. Thanks for nothing. stay where you are raised and don’t come ruin our lives. we don’t want to move to the mainland but some have to move to crappy places over these to stay alive and have a house.
Hawaii is part of the USA, not mainlanders. How discriminating. We don’t own the land, it owns us! Retreat and become an independent island/country. Every and I mean every human on this earth comes from a history that includes oppression of some sort unfortunately. Move forward or shut it!
homeless…not to mention the mainland sends homeless here because they won’t survive your winters!
It sure seems that way. I spoke to several social workers who said that some mainland states “help” get their homeless on to planes here with directions on how to get to the nearest public assistance office once they land in Hawaii.
Conversely, I’ve also found stories about Hawaii officials buying 1-way flights back so perhaps it goes both ways.
Hello! I have a quick question. You said to avoid your windows being smashed / things being stolen. You roll your windows down / take your vauluables in a backpack. If going to the beach or anywhere you had to leave, what would you do with your back pack if you had your wallet and all that in there? And is having a locked glovebox in your vehicle a good idea to stash you vauluables in?
I left windows open and never had a problem. Take your stuff with you – and have someone to watch your bag (someone you bring) when you go in the water. There is no other way. Really the beaches should have locked lockers for people – to make it secure – and have it guarded… that way everyone can go in the water at the same time, not be watching bags / valuables.
My husband and I will be going to Hawaii in a couple of weeks for our 5 year anniversary. I’ve been there a couple of times and it is one of my favorite places I’ve ever been to in the world. I thought maybe this time we could kind of give back to the community for allowing us to visit such an amazing place, so I was wondering if anyone knew of a community service project we could help with — something the community could really use help with, like maybe a homeless shelter or an orphanage or school or something. Let me know if you know of anything! Thanks.
Great idea… I don’t know of any. Hopefully someone will chime in here…
hi heather… tons of places to volunteer just go to the aloha united way website to help you connect to different places. just google it. :)
Thank you for your information…im looking into possibly moving there or medical missions, don’t know anyone over there but my heart is heavy in helping people there…God Bless You All…
Kauai has slow traffic through Kapaa when the island is busy.