The Hawaiian language was originally an oral language, with no written version. All stories, traditions, and myths could only be passed down and shared through chants, hula, and song. Out of the necessity of needing it to be easy to remember for recitation, the language developed to be quite poetic in nature, with many words having multiple meanings or conveying a complex thought. Words in Hawaiian can have many layers and may be interpreted in slightly different ways depending on context. Aloha, for example, can mean both hello, goodbye and love, but can also be used to convey kindness, mercy, and compassion. Mahalo, as well, means thank you, but it may also communicate admiration or esteem.

Another word often heard that can express more than just a simple meaning is “kokua.” (Not to be confused with the word “kukui” which is the name of the candlenut often used to make leis.) Kokua means “help.” It’s deeper meaning, however, is to extend help to others in a sacrificial way, with no intent of personal gain. It means to cooperate and pitch in without regard for self and to have consideration for others. The word kokua may also be used to refer to a person who helps or a caregiver. Often, you will see signs that say, “please kokua,” or please help. You may also see “mahalo for your kokua,” which simply means thank you for your help or for being considerate, but in full complexity of definition it might mean something more like, “I admire and appreciate your spirit of cooperation.”

Kokua can be both a verb and a noun. You can both be a kokua and practice it. Sometimes offering your kokua is a common-sense action, like not littering at a public park or opting not to walk across private property to access a beach. Others may offer kokua to you if you ask for directions or suggestions. You can be a kokua by doing things that are considerate and helpful, particularly to another person. There are many opportunities to give kokua, and you will find when you offer it, it is often given back to you. Kokua is a concept that you can take with you wherever you go, during your stay in Hawaii and when you leave.

In Hawaii, people do things with aloha, and that includes being helpful and respectful to others in the spirit of cooperation. Let us kokua! If you need assistance booking your Oahu vacation, please contact us.