With its blissful weather and inviting islands, Hawaii is a popular bucket list destination. And it’s included in our previous list of the best vacation spots in the United States for a reason. Beyond the various offerings of sights to see and adventures to try, Hawaii has a rich local culture — one that is grounded on the deep spiritual connection between the land and its people.

However, the high levels of tourism that Hawaii experiences every year can have a negative impact on its natural environment and traditional practices. It is therefore the responsibility of every tourist to be knowledgeable and aware of Hawaiian culture, rather than treating the islands as their tropical playground.

With that being said, here are four great ways to respect and immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture, allowing you to create a meaningful travel experience.

Learn the basics of the local language

Although English is one of the official languages of the state of Hawaii, you should still do your part as a traveler by learning the basics of the local language. After all, you wouldn’t want to be the type of foreign visitor who expects the local people to adjust to them and their needs.

By learning common Hawaiian words and phrases, you communicate your openness to interact with residents, while also gaining independence in finding your way around and experiencing all that Hawaii has to offer. You can start by memorizing the words associated with the natural wonders you’d be visiting, such as moana which means ocean, and mauka which means toward the mountains. Expressions like aloha for greeting someone and mahalo for showing gratitude should also be part of your vocabulary during your trip.

Do research on lei etiquette

It is part of Hawaiian culture to welcome guests and visitors with lei, which is a ceremonial garland typically made with different types of native flowers. Lei greetings are thus a wonderful way to experience the Hawaiian spirit, whether you arrive at Oahu, Maui, Kauai, or Big Island.

The best way to show your respect for traditional Hawaiian lei greetings is to accept them, as it’s otherwise rude to not wear what is meant to be a symbol of welcoming love and affection. Make sure to wear it properly by letting it hang both in the front and the back. Lastly, only remove the lei once you’re in the privacy of your hotel room because it’s also deemed disrespectful to remove it in front of the person who offered it to you. If you’re also in charge of preparations for your trip, be responsible and book a lei greeting from legitimate providers who know how to honor the treasured practice.

Help preserve the natural environment

Hawaiians treat the natural world as a sacred living thing that possesses a spiritual power and life force called mana. For instance, Native Hawaiians’ traditions during volcanic eruptions are a way to show respect for how lava gives birth to new land. Lava flows also serve as an opportunity to reflect and honor Pele, the Hawaiian deity of volcanoes and fire.

Tourists can partake in this deep reverence for nature by leaving no trace in the places they visit. This means not only avoiding litter but also not disturb or desecrating the flora, fauna, and structures. For example, if you plan to go on aquatic adventures like scuba diving in the waters of Lanai or snorkeling in Turtle Canyon, you can stay environmentally conscious by wearing reef-safe sunscreen. An article on Byrdie about reef-safe sunscreens reminds you to avoid certain ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate, as these chemicals have been shown to bleach coral reefs and impair the growth of marine life. You can instead opt for mineral-based sunscreens with ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, so you can protect Hawaii’s pristine oceans and your skin health at the same time.

Support local businesses

Tourism is a significant pillar of Hawaii’s economy. Thus, you should skip big-name stores and instead support local businesses to really make your trip count. In doing so, you get the chance to contribute to the circular economy that reinvests in local families and livelihoods. For example, rather than simply grabbing koa wood gift items off a shelf, purchasing from local artisans gives you a chance to spark conversations about their culture and craft. This is also preferable to simply taking souvenirs directly from the land yourself. While it can be tempting, it’s also best not to bring home sand, coral, or lava rocks as a souvenir, as this can disrupt the ecosystem and disrespect the connection between the Native Hawaiians and their natural environment.

You can seek out Native Hawaiian-owned restaurants, shops, and artisan workshops by visiting Kuhikuhi.com, which is a website created by the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce and the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.

At the end of the day, you should remember that Hawaii is not just a tourist spot, but a home to many individuals and communities. Doing your part as a tourist means treating every person you meet and every place you visit with utmost respect and kindness.