What Does the Term “Mainland” Mean in Hawaii?

If you’ve been to Hawaii, you’ve probably heard of the term “Mainland” and wondered what it means. Hawaii usually refers to the “Mainland” as the 49 states in the US, including Alaska. Other off-shore and non-contiguous states that are not part of the 48 states of the Mainland include Alaska and Hawaii, as well as other areas such as Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands. People living in the Mainland are called “mainlanders”.

If you’ve spent some time in Hawaii, you can easily tell which one is a local and a mainlander from the way they look and speak. Although in the same country, the culture in Mainland is completely different from Hawaii.

Keep reading to learn about the differences between the Mainland and Hawaii, as well as how to spot a mainlander.

Differences Between the Mainland and Hawaii

The Weather

One of the notable differences between the two is the weather. Hawaii is known to have a summer and winter season, whereas the Mainland usually has four seasons to enjoy. Although Hawaii is considered to have a winter season, don’t expect it to get any colder, like winter in New York. The temperature in Hawaii can only drop to 25 degrees Celsius at the coast but can reach up to negative degrees if you head to the mountains for hiking (see: What’s the Weather Like in Hawaii? for more).

Driving Ettiquette

In Hawaii, the maximum car speed of drivers is only 60mph, whereas, in the Mainland, it can go higher than 90mph. Drivers in Hawaii are known to be more relaxed and not in a hurry – so, you’ll never hear them honk their cars unless it’s an emergency.

If you’re ever driving in Hawaii, try to keep road rage to yourself and feel the calm Hawaii spirit. Most Hawaii locals usually give way to other drivers, especially when changing lanes and letting other cars go ahead. On the other hand, driving in Mainland cities is always stressful, with a lot of traffic and rushing drivers.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Hawaii is relatively more expensive than in the Mainland. Since the expenses are higher in Hawaii, you won’t likely see locals owning expensive items like boats and jet skis. Instead, people focus more on the quality of living by enjoying the warm weather, sandy beaches, and family time.

In terms of property size, they’re usually bigger in the Mainland when compared to Hawaii. Properties are much smaller in Hawaii, so there isn’t any room for other non-essential items.


In Hawaii, not only is the island vibe making time move slow but bringing in items from other states is hard and takes a lot of time.

  • You’ll get used to getting packages from FedEx or Amazon and have to heavily rely on ordering stuff online. If you are in the Mainland, most of the stores are complete and packed with items you need, from groceries to appliances and gadgets.
  • If you live in the city on the Mainland, it’s always busy with people hustling. However, if you’re in the suburbs, you may experience the same slow pace as in Hawaii. For this reason, you’ll understand why living a simple life in Hawaii is important and you’ll learn to embrace this lifestyle eventually.
  • The Mainland has everything you need and places to go to including famous restaurants, movie theatres, and shopping malls. In Hawaii, you won’t normally find these places unless you go to the main attractions, which have establishments for tourists.
  • You’ll also find squirrels in the Mainland, which you won’t normally see in Hawaii. Instead, Hawaii is filled with endangered species including turtles and seals.
  • Although Hawaii is considered a peaceful island, crime rate is still a concern for the locals. It’s safe to say that both the Mainland and Hawaii are places where crime is not avoidable.
  • Daily life in Hawaii is completely different from the Mainland, as you’ll be dealing with jungle insects, wildlife, mold, and rust that are caused by the rain and humidity.
  • Lastly, when you go to restaurants in Hawaii, they always have chopsticks and soy sauce available. Plus, rice is always served as a side dish – and not french fries, like the ones in the Mainland.

Spotting Mainlanders in Hawaii

Spotting Mainlanders in Hawaii
  • Mainlanders typically do what tourists do on vacation. They take a lot of pictures, wear Hawaiian shirts, and buy macadamia nuts as souvenirs.
  • You’ll find mainlanders heading to Walmart or Target for shopping and even ask for the Kama’aina discount, which is a discount only given to the locals.
  • On the beach, trash is usually left primarily by mainlanders, which is frustrating for the locals who take care of the island.
  • Some mainlanders don’t have surfing etiquette and tend to take all the waves.
  • Although the Mainland and Hawaii are in the same country, some mainlanders tend to feel like they are in another country and would say statements such as “back in the US”.
  • Mainlanders don’t take off their shoes when they come into someone’s home, which is quite rude since it’s a must to remove them because of the sand and dirt of the shoes.
  • You may find some mainlanders wearing socks and jeans to the beach.
  • When eating at a restaurant, mainlanders would usually ask for a fork since chopsticks are usually given. They would often look for food with restricted dietary preferences such as low-carb or low-fat food.

Popular Mainland Destinations for Hawaii Locals

Popular Mainland Destinations for Hawaii Locals

Although Hawaii locals live in paradise already, they also go on vacations in the Mainland. Many Hawaii locals travel to one of the closest and most affordable US Mainland destinations with just a short flight.


One of the most popular Mainland sites is Southern California, where there are daily 5-hour direct flights from Maui and Honolulu. It’s the easiest way to visit the cities of LA and San Diego and head over to famous restaurants and shopping districts. It’s similar to Waikiki, but with a city vibe.

Las Vegas

Another popular Mainland destination is Las Vegas, known as the “9th Hawaiian Island”. Since the mid-1970s, many Hawaii locals started to move and live in Las Vegas because of its affordability and lifestyle. Many Hawaii locals tend to come here for the ultimate casino gambling experience since gambling is illegal in Hawaii.

Las Vegas is similar to Hawaii, with its man-made attractions and places where people can swim on the beaches, have a thrilling hike in the mountains, and enjoy the sparkling waterfalls. It’s a completely different experience for islanders as well, with state-of-the-art shopping malls and casinos – the complete opposite from the aloha spirit.

Moving to the Mainland

For Hawaii locals who moved to the US Mainland, California was the top destination, with more than 13,000 residents who moved here. Second is Texas, where about 8,000 residents relocated.

This is then followed by Las Vegas, Nevada, Washington, and North Carolina, all in all making them the top 5 destinations where approximately 42% of Hawaii emigrants moved.

Popular Hawaii Destinations for Mainlanders

Mainlanders visit different parts of Hawaii for many different reasons. One of the most popular islands is the Big Island, also called Hawaii for some (although it can be confusing for mainlanders to distinguish Big Island from the state of Hawaii itself). The Big Island is the largest of the islands with a population of 142,000 – which is the smallest population among all islands.

The two cities that are filled with visitors are Hilo and Kona. Interestingly enough, the Big Island has 11 out of 13 climate zones, so you’ll experience sunshine, cold, and many rainfalls on one island.

The next most popular island is Maui, which is the 2nd largest island with the 3rd largest population. It is known to be the “Best Island in the World” for great outdoor activities and a balance between the city vibe and aloha spirit. Mainlanders enjoy water activities including whale watching and kitesurfing. Moreover, it is the windiest island in Hawaii – so windsurfing and kite surfing are most popular here.

Lastly, Waikiki is among the favorites of mainlanders for its open-air malls and high-end stores. Many mainlanders also enjoy the Waikiki sunset and the thrilling nightlife and music it has to offer.

Why Mainlanders Move to Hawaii

Why Mainlanders Move to Hawaii

Many mainlanders pack up their bags and live in Hawaii for the sole reason of having the adventure of a lifetime. Adventurers flock to the island of paradise to immerse themselves in beautiful natural landscapes, from beaches to mountains. There’s a place for every kind of adventurer looking to discover the hidden gems of the island.

For those who mind the extreme temperatures in the Mainland, Hawaii is the best place to be – for it only has two seasons: summer and winter. Winter is tolerable, as it doesn’t get extremely cold unless you hike to the top of the mountains.

Finally, for mainlanders who want to break free from the hustle and bustle of the city, the island offers an Island speed for only Hawaiian Time. It’s the most comfortable pace that relieves any stress from the Mainland mentality.

Of course, who wouldn’t be relaxed with the island’s breathtaking views in every color and picture-perfect sceneries? The Aloha spirit is what most mainlanders look for, which is the air of life and love and the appreciation of home.