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Do you know the true meaning of the word Aloha? Its rich history and context elude many travelers, but on today’s important episode of Hawaii’s Best, Kahanuola Solatorio (who you may remember from episode 53) sits down with Bryan to explain the essence of the word, and spirit, known as Aloha.

Kahanuola and Bryan discuss the results of their Instagram poll, where people submitted that “Aloha” means, peace, home, kindness, respect, gratitude, compassion, and many more. Kahanuola explains that it’s a mindset that encompasses all those and more.

Aloha is a way of life that locals in Hawaii grow up learning and seeing modeled. It includes kindness to strangers, respecting everyone and honoring others. There’s reciprocity implied in the concept – the way it’s supposed to operate is ideally giving and getting this same attitude.

You can also work on, or even release a relationship with aloha: keeping mutual respect intact even when parting ways with someone.

Every store in Hawaii probably contains items with the word on it, but it’s important to remember its rich meaning, and not let it get watered down.

So many Hawaiian locals desire to teach and spread this concept and feel deeply that it’s key to building the shared love among humanity that society desperately needs more of right now.

There are several things we can remember about the spirit of aloha: Remember to show grace and patience to others AND yourself. Reciprocate honor and respect, making sure you’re a giver and not just a taker. Also, respect and care for the land, and keep it beautiful. It has given so much aloha to so many people, it’s right to show that same love back.

If you’re traveling to Hawaii and someone says “aloha” to you, feel free to go ahead and say it back! They’re expecting to hear it, and are used to it. Don’t be shy about it.

It was great to talk about practicing this mindfulness with others and with the land and thinking of ourselves in light of how we’re affecting the world around us.

Episode Resources

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Bumper music, Ukulele, and Chill, provided by Coby G (used with permission)

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Hawaii's Best 0:05

Welcome to Hawaii's Best Podcast, where we help you prepare for your next trip to Hawaii. Discover the experiences businesses and stories that make Hawaii the Aloha state. And now your host, Brian Murphy

Bryan Murphy 0:20

loja and welcome to Episode 59 of Hawaii's Best. I'm your host Brian Murphy, the owner of Hawaii's Best and today we have another great episode for you. We welcome back my good friend, cannula. solitario, a Hawaiian language teacher on the island of Oahu and an amazing musician as well. Today he talks all about the true definition of Aloha and then we can all agree we probably have heard the word aloha we've we've said the word aloha we know that aloha means hello, goodbye, love and it means so much more and cannula or Cotonou he unpacks the different layers of what aloha means. This was a great conversation we got to have I learned a lot from this conversation and and I hope you will as well get a maybe a renewed definition of Aloha. We talked about how the Hawaiian people have led with Aloha, manage conflict resolutions through Aloha and even address some, some current topics on the word being watered down and even taken advantage of. And that was an interesting part of the conversation and I can't wait for you hear the rest of my conversation with Khan Nui. So why don't we go ahead, head on over and talk story with God.

cannula. Thank you so much again for coming on Hawaii's Best so great to see you again. And how are you doing?

Kahanuola Solatorio 1:55

I'm doing good. How are you doing?

Bryan Murphy 1:57

I'm doing great. Yeah. It's been a minute since we had an awesome lunch at Island vintage. Yes. Looking forward to that again. But today we are talking about the word Aloha and truly, kind of maybe bringing some clarity and definition into what aloha really means. And recently, we did a kind of a very scientific poll on Instagram. We ask people, what is aloha mean to you? And I just want to kind of read a few of those responses. Here are a few that were kind of some of the more frequent ones where you know, welcome Hi, hello, goodbye. Peace, love, happiness, love and kindness, inner peace, home love paradise, being kind, respectful gratitude. But maybe let's start here because I know that there's a lot to unpack. But what is the most accepted definition of the word aloha?

Kahanuola Solatorio 2:55

For me, the funniest thing is that there's, I can't really define Aloha, it's more of a, of a mindset, or a thought. But all those that you just said, were correct. You know, I'm not saying those are wrong. It's just for me as a person that grew up here in the islands is, as a person who is Hawaiian, I never was able to put a definition to Aloha. Because I just thought it you know, it was instilled in me from a young age that just to treat people with a level, you know, so I didn't have you know, I always knew hellogoodbye but I never really thought of it as just that I always knew is bigger than them what I learned as those you know, hellogoodbye love affection. But I wanted to look into the dictionary to the American Medical police, or in the introduction, airy and read some of the things that she put in here and there's, some of them include love, affection, compassion, mercy, sympathy, pity, kindness, Grace, charity, a greeting or salutation, but also a loved one, a beloved person, charitable, those kinds of things. So it's a lot to unpack into one small, tiny five letter word but right, I think, Aloha, for me, it's just a way of life. That's my definition. That's beautiful.

Bryan Murphy 4:13

Yeah. Growing up and being immersed in this understanding of Aloha. You know, you learn words growing up, like, stove. Speaker. Yeah, microphone. Yeah. Food. Yeah. But then you talk about this word, Aloha. And that was something that was modeled to you, and it's something that's just ingrained. And in your blood? Yeah.

Kahanuola Solatorio 4:36

Yeah. From my parents, my grandparents, you know, they didn't actually say it, but they, through what they told me, you know, to do what's right, to help others to be conscious strangers. You know, I learned it says that I learned how to treat people with aloha says they're their leadership. So and I'm not saying everyone here in Hawaii is taught that or has that instilled Within from from birth, but for my family especially, we try and treat everyone with that mutual Aloha. And for me, too, I learned that a llama is a reciprocal thing. You have to give aloha to get Aloha. It's not just a one way street.

Bryan Murphy 5:15

It's really a way of life. It's a mindset. Yeah, definitely. To give Aloha, is it just a release of of data? Are you expecting something in return? If you give or show aloha?

Kahanuola Solatorio 5:28

Yeah, it's kind of weird, because we try and treat everyone with the same kind of aloha to every person that we meet. But sometimes people don't give that same thing back, they, you know, they either take advantage of it, or they're just rude to you, or they don't respect you. So that's where it gets kind of touchy, because, you know, you expect that same kind of reciprocal a lot about you. But sometimes people, you know, they were just not raised the same way here. So I guess it just depends on who you're talking to, or how they view meeting new people or starting relationships. It's all different. And I think we got to keep that in mind too, as you know, just people love the world is that we're not always the same. So sometimes just know that there are differences in people. Yeah,

Bryan Murphy 6:12

yeah. And is it safe to say? Or is it true to say that you can also release a relationship with aloha?

Kahanuola Solatorio 6:19

Yeah, definitely, we have a few cultural things that we do, which is one of them being called upon upon, you know, like working through your problems with someone or working through a situation with someone with a low heart. And of course, if you still have problems after that, you know, there's a way to cut the ties or someone with a law, you know, it doesn't have to be kind of like this dramatic thing that everyone makes it to be right, you can still have a mutual respect with someone, even if you're not, you don't have a good relationship with that person. You know. So that's, you know, that's the thing, probably another episode. Yeah, yeah, I think it's a good question to think about, because, you know, there's always that negative side, if you're trying to, you know, mediate a problem, but you can also fix a problem with a lot of a lot of mutual respect, you know, you're gonna need that Aloha, when you fix the problem, or trying to, you know, attack the problem. Gotcha.

Bryan Murphy 7:15

You walk into any store, and you see aloha everywhere, on, you know, on anything and everything. Right.

Unknown Speaker 7:22


Bryan Murphy 7:22

Do you feel the word has been watered down?

Kahanuola Solatorio 7:27

Yeah, I think it definitely has been watered down. Because once you hear that word, Aloha, it's a good selling point. But again, it's not just a beach towel, or it's not just a key chain. It's, it's more than that. And yeah, I think tourists know that. But it's definitely been watered down throughout the years. And I think now, especially after going through a pandemic, maybe we can find better ways to promote the word. I think there are ways that we can do that. Okay,

Bryan Murphy 7:57

you recently sent me a video, and it really, impacts are really the layers of Aloha and I kind of want to turn it over to you and, and have you be able to unpack some of that for us and really take a little bit deeper dive into the meaning and layers of Aloha and then we'll wrap it up and have a couple of takeaways, but I want to kind of really lean into you going into it.

Kahanuola Solatorio 8:23

Yeah, totally. For my Instagram channel and the whole medium. I wanted to focus April on the meaning of Aloha. And what it means to, to my followers and to me, of course, so my phrase that I want to focus on this month was IKEA, Aloha, you want to try and say that with me, r r, e k l.

Bryan Murphy 8:41

e. k aloha

Kahanuola Solatorio 8:42

just means to like, dare yourself to love someone or dare yourself to show affection. Especially now, like we see so many things going on around us around the world that are negative, you know, so definitely, I feel that we here in Hawaii can teach the world more about Aloha, we can teach people what that means. And I was talking about earlier, having respect for people and showing people kindness and not judging someone just by walking down the street. You know, some of these stories that I see in the news, I get, like very emotional, because it's kind of heavy. But we all see that we see older people getting beat up in the streets, like, how is that you know, you don't even know this person and you're just basing your reaction to them off of their skin color or something that ticks you off from how they look. So yes, I think, here in Hawaii, we want to promote aloha in all aspects, but definitely just a mutual respect. And a mutual is a shared love. Like we're all human. And we're all here on this earth together and to work together. So this chapter, I'm going to be sharing with you, it kind of maybe I'll use this as my definition for a lot because it kind of impacts every thing that I feel what it means to me. So it was Written by Pillai parky, who was a very strong Hawaiian woman, and she was a whole oponopono. She was hoping she would mediate conflict resolution through an understanding of Aloha. But she also was a big proponent of this word. ello ha, Aloha, that five simple five letter word that means so much. So she wrote a chat. It's pretty long, but I'm just going to go through the first five lines because not your definition of the word. So the first one is, aka hi in Hawaii, I mean, what you went through this whole period, it will repeat after me. So after Hi, and I have a aka hi Soraka hi inaho V, meaning just be kind. And she's talking to the people over him. But I think in this case, she's talking to the world because everyone in Canada, because every person just have that tightness in that affection in your heart, through your everyday actions. So that starts of the A, the next line is going to start with L. You know, spelling out the word. So the next time we go yeah. Okay, so the next line is lokahi.

Bryan Murphy 11:09

Look at our colicky cool, okay.

Kahanuola Solatorio 11:11

Yeah. But so that just means to be united together in harmony or in unity in your thoughts in your heart, in your mind. Yeah, I think that's how we can get through any problem is through unity, whether that be on a personal level on a family level on a more wider scale as a community level, just having that unity, me Are your guiding force and working together as a as a group. I think that's a very big proponent in a lot of like I said, Allah is a reciprocal relationship. So there needs to be two people in the Aloha. Right? Yeah. So working together, even if it just two people, you'll get the job done. If you have that unity mindset. Yeah.

Bryan Murphy 11:55

Yeah. What about talking about over different cultures? I mean, obviously, yeah. elephant in the room, you and I, I'm not Hawaiian. I'm different culture. And so what about different cultures interacting

Kahanuola Solatorio 12:09

with aloha? Is that possible? I think definitely. I'm sure you know, I don't know if everyone knows, but Hawaii is definitely a melting pot of cultures, and races, you know, he goes back to the petition days when many people came here and worked on the plantations. And it's actually kind of cool, because they were all in that lokahi mindset. They all work together. And they all shared cultures, they, you know, shared food, shared wisdom, shared anecdotes, shared jokes. So definitely in the past, that was the way our, our kupuna our ancestors were, you know, different cultures working together intermingling having babies, of course. And here we are today. So yeah, I think it's that too. It's not really said much. But it's we know, it's, it's there. We know that we can work together as different cultures. And I think, you know, seeing all the racial tension on the continent, we can definitely teach more people about that unity, that lokahi that we have here. I'm not saying that Hawaii is perfect. I'm not saying that we don't have racial tensions here. But we definitely do.

Bryan Murphy 13:17

We're talking about this is kind of like the aspiration the goal, this is the mindset to, to kind of be your I guess your your North Star what you're what you're striving for, and yeah, no one is perfect. No, culture is perfect. But yeah, what I'm hearing is, this is what we're about. This is what we want to hang who we are on. Yeah.

Kahanuola Solatorio 13:37

Yeah, exactly. So it's, it's a guiding, like you said, more starts that force that keeps pushing you forward and keeps guiding your actions. Alright, so we're, yeah, we just did. Oh, so we're all now so Oh, is auto auto, auto Auto hamana. Oh, coming out? Oh, yeah. So all means pleasant. And then mahnomen sucks. So be pleasant in your thoughts. Okay. So all your things that you think or, you know, we all have that inner conscience that kind of like, the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, right? Maybe just go with the angel that I think that's like, and just kick the devil off your shoulder. But yeah, just just to be pleasant in everything. For me, like, I can definitely let negative thoughts run rampant through my through my mind. But if I try and write it with more positive thoughts and more positive images, and doing positive action, so then I think I just become a better person. Of course, that's only for me. But during the pandemic, especially the beginning, I was like, Oh, I just want to be home. I don't want to be nothing. I've seen everyone. I don't want to see people, you know, all that kind of stuff.

Bryan Murphy 14:53

Yeah, like introverts Dreamworld.

Kahanuola Solatorio 14:55

Exactly. And I'm not I don't know. I don't even know if I'm introvert or after But I think I've learned to, like drown those thoughts out with more positiveness, especially on social media, like kind of just promote positivity through my channel. And my mother is a very good example of that. We can tell she is just happy. You know, she's just always behind and always has positivity running through her mind.

Bryan Murphy 15:22

I mean, yeah, you're absolutely right. I haven't met mom yet. But yeah, you could just you just know it. Like you don't see somebody you could just you feel it. That happiness, that joy. Yeah,

Kahanuola Solatorio 15:32

I get that a lot for her. Like, your mom just inspires me to be a better person. And so what do I have right now, but I think for her, it's just again, she was born in researching one with that mindset to exude aloha wherever she goes. And in Hawaii, we you know, we kind of have a joke for her. It's like, just she's Miss Aloha. You know, she could just that that would be her nickname her title. Right? But it's appropriately it's fitting. So that's awesome. Yeah.

Bryan Murphy 16:02

So if I'm spelling the word, right, we are on h right. Yes, we are.

Kahanuola Solatorio 16:10

So this line is ha ha ha ha. Ha, ha, ha ha. Yeah. So ha ha Ko, hula Ko.

Bryan Murphy 16:23

kulana. Perfect.

Kahanuola Solatorio 16:25

So whatever breakfast Aloha. Ah ha means like, humility, or to be humble or modest. And cocona. Just like your presence or your state of being. Yeah. So yeah, I think having humility and not being arrogant. being cocky, is definitely a part of Aloha. Because I'm sure we all know that one person or a few people in our lives that are overly arrogant, and you know, very, really, what do you think you are thinking about them right now? Yeah. Positive. But it Well, I think, to me, it's kind of funny. We kind of laugh when they get knocked down a few pegs. Yeah. So

Bryan Murphy 17:12

but that's not Aloha.

Kahanuola Solatorio 17:17

Hey, hey, now you're being a brat. But yeah, I think if we think about as ourselves like, yeah, always know that, you know, you can always be better. Or you can always do something, learn from something you can always you're always going to be a student. You know, don't just think that you're, you know, everything you're, you're fine. You're perfect. You're Mr. Know it all you're on the top of the mountain because there's so many things in this world that we don't even know about, and we can learn from. So. For me, that's my interpretation of that. That line. Haha, colada. Got it. And then the last one is Aha, Louis. Aha Nui. Yep. I lanakila.

Bryan Murphy 18:03

Alanna keela.

Kahanuola Solatorio 18:04

Yeah. So that is have patience until you're victorious.

Bryan Murphy 18:07

Yes. Have patience with me.

Unknown Speaker 18:09

Yeah, I am.

Kahanuola Solatorio 18:12

I'm trying. But yeah, I think that is another part. Another key component is to have patience with people. You know, when you work with someone for the first time, you have to learn how they operate, and how they function. Sometimes people can pick up things as fast as you. So this is where the humility comes in as well. You know, as as teacher, as a Hawaiian language teacher, I've definitely learned how to be patient, because I know what I'm teaching, but I have to always remember that my students don't always know what's going on, you know, they know English, but Hawaiian is literally a foreign language to them. It's funny, because people may think, oh, you're in Hawaii, you should know Hawaiian, or really are your Hawaiian, you should know Hawaiian language. But that's definitely not the case. And we had a whole podcast about this earlier. So we'll check that out. But yeah, I think for me, I've learned more patience being a teacher then throughout my entire life because And not only that, you'll have my class, but each student is individual, each student has a different learning style, or, you know, I think me and your wife had this conversation that I'm in vintage about our students and how each individual student is has to be nurtured in a certain way. So that's the five things so if we want to break it down we can go aka high aka high which is a the first aim then which also means highness lokahi Loki, which means unity, all follow although which means pleasant, and then also your favorite word. Ha, ha

Unknown Speaker 19:55


Kahanuola Solatorio 20:01

Which means my favorite word is.

Bryan Murphy 20:08

I'm super humbled right now if he

Kahanuola Solatorio 20:15

knew he knew he knew me. Yeah. Which means patience. So that would be probably my definition. Now. Aloha. It's kind of longer, you know, such as hellogoodbye love, but it pretty much captured everything that aloha is to me.

Bryan Murphy 20:30

Which one of those we want to get a little personal out of those five? Which one of those? Do you feel? You would love to work more on?

Kahanuola Solatorio 20:39

Probably the ha ha. You have humility. Now I'm pretty humble. But see even saying that makes me feel weird. Saying that I'm humble Sofia, definitely haha. overcome that. I don't know. What do you think yours would be?

Bryan Murphy 20:55

Oh, what? Yeah, mine would be probably the patients. Okay.

Unknown Speaker 20:59

Yeah, yeah,

Bryan Murphy 21:00

I think it's more more or less patient with myself right? Like so I can give patients to others and like, Oh, you know, sorry, I was late. No problem. I don't care and like I really don't care like you were not you but someone was might have been late or someone you know, didn't do something. Exactly. Right. Like we talked about, like, I have a lot of patience and grace with that. But when it comes to myself, like I feel like I'm super impatient. And super ungraceful. Yeah, no, totally towards me.

Kahanuola Solatorio 21:28

Yeah. For me to like, if I don't do something right the first time I get frustrated with myself, but I've learned to deal with it that comes with that first line too, is Be humble with yourself and impatient with your action. So

Bryan Murphy 21:42

that goes even though we've identified a couple of things that we love to work on. And to bring, like you said, it's a two way street. Yeah, though, right. So it's not just like for me, if I'm not patient with myself, I want to bring all of myself into a relationship into a conversation. Yeah, so self identifying could also be part of it. Yeah,

Kahanuola Solatorio 22:03

definitely. I think being able to self identify your, your weaknesses, too. Oh, it's another part of this concept.

Bryan Murphy 22:10

So for someone traveling, what's the best thing someone can do to show aloha when visiting Hawaii?

Kahanuola Solatorio 22:18

Yeah, I mean, one thing would just be when someone says a lot to you is to say Aloha, you know, like, right. And then they should, should the shocker, ala. And then you don't get that same kind of answer back. You get like kind of like, what do you eat white activity or stranger? So maybe Yeah, that that's the first thing is to serve with Aloha and maybe end with aloha as well or if anything and with mahalo, which is an all other word we can talk about too. But mahalo meaning appreciation, and thank you. That's the easiest way, you know, to show aloha in the form here. But it's funny, because Aloha, we kind of added two other things, we added two other words to make it like more specific topics. So one of the topics that we talk about here a lot is aloha aina. So that means the love for the land. And here in Hawaii, we definitely try and take care of our INR. Because it is we are, we are the the island We are the land, we have a story in our culture that the first power plant was our older sibling, if we will, which means we're related to the IRA, we definitely have that mutual brother brotherly relationship with the land. We always say that if we take care of the land, the land in turn takes care of us. So that you see that mutual respect or relationship again. Yeah, between us and the land.

Bryan Murphy 23:42

I think a huge part of that, though, is we talked about traveling into really any culture but having the understanding of Okay, why is the land so important to the Hawaiian people? And so having that understanding, I think, not just to like pick up your trash do this, don't do that. Yeah. But like truly having an understanding of why the land is important. Why the land and understanding those first voyagers like that's, that's all they had, and the land gave so much. And so understanding that I think kind of puts you in a posture then to like, Okay, I get it, I can, I can pack out what I pack in to a hike or I can you know, do that

Kahanuola Solatorio 24:23

exactly. I think two is researching the places before you call them and knowing what's proper, what you can and cannot bring. Because just those kind of things, being cognizant of your surroundings and what you're going to go through and if, yeah, if it's just a couple, they don't or, you know, it's like Stairway to Heaven. You're not supposed to go but people like that kind of mysteriousness, of going and sneaking into a place. So yeah, just be mindful of where you go, what you bring into taking that same thing out when you leave that place. And you know, I think to like Having that mindset of, you know, what you do affects everything around you, not only yourself, it affects the people around you and affects the animals around you, the aquatic life, ocean, everything you know, and it's going to affect our children in the future, and their children and their grandchildren keep going on. So always think of yourself as how you affect the world around you.

Bryan Murphy 25:26

Love that car. Honey, we thank you so much for coming on today.

Kahanuola Solatorio 25:29

Thank you,

Bryan Murphy 25:30

how can people follow along with you and what you're up to?

Kahanuola Solatorio 25:34

You can follow us on social media, Facebook, and Instagram as a whole. Can you my, we just tried to promote a lovely Hawaiian language. And doing that through everyday things that people can use on a daily basis. Follow us, we have free Hawaiian language classes on zoom that you guys can get into. We have a Google Classroom. And that's, you know, that's the way I show a lot is through education, through my language through teaching. That's how we met you know, you Yeah, doubled across my channel. And yeah, I think that's what I want to do is just share my portrait with the world with a lot, of course, so I wanted to say the chat for you as a whole, you know, because we went through it individually as each right. So yeah, and with that he glauca he

Unknown Speaker 26:35

Oh, Oh, come on. Oh.

Unknown Speaker 26:41

Oh, cool.

Unknown Speaker 26:45


Kahanuola Solatorio 26:55

that's my definition of a law.

Bryan Murphy 26:59

Well, I just want to say thank you again and aloha to Cotonou for his time. And just for his heart to share the many layers and depth of the word Aloha. And probably for me, my biggest key takeaway was was keeping a mindset of Aloha, not necessarily just saying it as a greeting, but living a lifestyle. That is Aloha. And that for me is something that I want to work on and continue to lead through my family, business and in relationships to lead and to model a life of aloha sukabumi. Thank you so much for that. And thank you all for listening. And until next time, be well, Aloha.

Hawaii's Best 27:46

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Bryan Murphy
Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy, owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel, is a certified Hawaii destination expert from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. He actively participates in the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as a member and has a strong educational background focused on local culture and sustainability. As the host of “Hawaii’s Best Travel,” a top-30 US travel podcast, Bryan combines his years of experience with valuable insights. He connects with a broad online community, reaching nearly half a million people, and offers a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.