Local April 30, 2022

Giving and Getting Directions…Local Style

When it comes to giving directions, you probably think, left or right, or North, South, East or West. But like so many other things, kamaʻāina, or Hawaiʻi residents have their own unique way of telling folks how to get around. And once you understand the words, you’ll see just how easy it is!

Hawaiʻi locals rely the island’s natural landscape—the mountains and the ocean—to inform others of their location or to give directions. You might have heard someone say these two words when describing where that new restaurant is or the place they parked. There’s mauka, meaning inland or mountain and makai, meaning ocean. These are often used in place of traditional compass directions. To remember which means which, think “mau-ka” is toward the “mau-ntains.” We also use specific words when describing the East and West coasts of each island. The east coast is the Windward side and the West coast is Leeward. On Oʻahu, the Windward coast of the island includes the neighborhoods of Kailua, Kāneʻohe, Waimānalo, Lāʻie and Kahuku. This side of the island is cooler and wetter. The Leeward coast of Oʻahu comprises ʻEwa, ʻEwa Beach, Kapolei, Makakilo, Nānākuli, Maili, Waiʻanae and Mākaha. The Leeward side is more arid and drier.

Two other common local-style directions you’ll likely encounter are ʻEwa and Diamond Head. Again, these refer to physical locations on the island. ʻEwa refers to the town on the Island’s Leeward coast, and Diamond Head, Oʻahu’s iconic volcanic cone landmark, is located near Waikīkī on the East side of the island. So, next time you watch the local news or listen to the radio, when you hear, “Traffic heading ʻEwa-bound is slowing going,” you’ll know which direction they mean!