In its ancient past, one word ruled Hawaiian life. That word was kapu, which is the Hawaiian equivalent of the Polynesian word “taboo.” Taboo, of course, means forbidden. In Hawaiian culture, many things were forbidden (such as walking on the volcano, eating with women on the beach, or touching a chief) and breaking these rules often meant instant execution.

Today, breaking rules in Hawaii does not often lead to such extreme consequences! But there are still many rules that visitors in particular should follow. We’re not talking about the usual rules of society either, but rules in place to preserve the very nature of this paradise which so many have come to love. Here are some things to keep in mind as you take in the many sights the state has to offer.

  • Don’t feed fish, unless you are going to eat them: Snorkelers are often tempted to feed fish in order to attract more of them, but this results in unnatural behavior. It can even wipe out entire populations!
  • Don’t take lava: It can be incredibly tempting to swipe a piece of lava rock out of the national park. It’s beautiful and it’s unusual, but give into the temptation and Pele (goddess of the volcano) will curse you. If that doesn’t scare you, consider how much of Hawaii would remain if everyone were to fill their pockets with lava rock every year. Odds are you will lose it anyway; why not just leave it for everyone to enjoy?
  • Don’t take shells! The same rule applies to remains of life from the ocean. It can seem like there are shells enough, but again, they are the result of years of painstaking work by nature. Shells are recycled by smaller animals, and removing them does damage to the ecosystem.
  • Be careful of reefs: Coral reefs are both sensitive and fragile. Don’t stand on them, and be mindful of where your feet are kicking as you swim.
  • Pay attention to beach signs: There are a few areas on the sands of Hawaii where sea turtles breed and lay their eggs. Pay attention to signs, or you may be causing further problems for this endangered animal!