Going Barefoot in Hawaii

Hawaii is a barefoot paradise

Going barefoot in Hawaii is very natural. If you have ever been to Hawaii you will certainly agree that it’s paradise. Its natural beauty is unparalleled, the tropical climate provides warm weather year round, the culture is exotic, the food delicious, the people are beautiful and friendly, and I could go on and on. And if you like going barefoot you will definitely love Hawaii. It’s very barefoot friendly in the sense that you can go barefoot all year, practically everywhere and people are cool with it. You will also see quite a few other people going barefoot in public. It’s simply a barefooter’s paradise.

barefoot hawaiian hula dancers
Going barefoot in Hawaii is part of the culture.

The first time I went to Hawaii was on a summer vacation when I was in school quite a few years ago. Like most tourists, I stayed in Waikiki which is on the island of Oahu. Walking along Waikiki streets I saw quite a number of people in their bare feet. At first I thought because it was right by the beach, it was just convenient for people to walk around sans footwear back and forth to their cars or hotels. However, I also saw many go barefoot into stores and I thought that was really cool.

I wasn’t a full time barefooter at the time so I wasn’t barefoot the first time I came. Besides, I didn’t know that Hawaii would be such a barefoot friendly place. But it didn’t take long for me to bare my soles after seeing so many barefoot people around. As soon as I got back to my hotel I took off my shoes and went back out for a barefoot excursion around Waikiki. I was even barefoot in a movie theater. I could feel the ground really sticky and when I was back outside I saw my soles were really black. I’m one of those who think having dirty feet is fun, so I was actually quite amused 🙂




A great place to visit in Waikiki is the International Market Place. There are a variety of souvenir stores there along with restaurants, all in a natural setting. Guess what? There are quite a few barefooters there too. Of course, it’s an ideal place to walk around in bare feet. You’re protected from the sun by the giant banyan tree, and you can leisurely browse all the exotic arts and crafts, or at certain times even listen to live music and watch a hula show.

Another thing I like about Hawaii is the casual dress which I believe is due to the tropical climate. Suit and tie are out. Work attire consists of Aloha shirt (shirt with tropical designs) and pants, while out of work most people wear T-shirts, shorts and flip flops or rubber slippers as they call them there just about everywhere. Yet a few others choose to go barefooted.

One day while I was riding on the city bus, a group of school kids boarded and some of them were barefoot with no shoes in sight. In Hawaii it’s actually common for elementary school children to go to school in bare feet. Footwear is optional in many of the schools there. You can read more about that at Parents For Barefoot Children.

Going barefoot in Hawaii was such an exhilarating experience for me and I couldn’t get enough of it. I was sad when the vacation was over but I vowed to go visit again and probably even live there some day. So I went back to Hawaii a few more times as a tourist before I eventually moved there after I finished school for a job training and that was really exciting.

I lived in Kailua (on Oahu). I moved there after discovering that it was such a barefoot friendly town. About 5% of the population there walked around barefooted in public. On any given day you’re almost guaranteed to see at least one barefoot person either walking in the street, inside a supermarket, restaurant, post office, and many other places.

There’s a neighboring town called Kaneohe which has a shopping mall (Windward Mall) that actually sanctions bare feet. By each escalator in that mall there is a sign that says: “For your safety, customers in bare feet or with strollers please use the elevators.” How cool is that!? That’s the only place, even in Hawaii, where I’ve seen such a sign. Needless to say, that’s where I always went when I needed to go shopping at the mall. On occasion I would even go there when I had no intention of buying anything just for the enjoyment of walking barefoot in a mall 🙂

While living in Hawaii I had the opportunity to visit some of the other islands and they’re also barefoot friendly. I’ll summarize some of my experiences below.

Maui and Kauai
Those islands are really beautiful, even more so than Oahu, and I have seen quite a number of barefooters on both. Some of them were tourists from the US mainland while others were locals.

Update: Read this interesting article about 2 girls vacationing barefoot on Kauai where they saw a very barefoot-friendly sign – more proof that going barefoot in Hawaii is widely accepted.

Molokai
This is one of the smaller islands in the Hawaiian chain. It’s not as lush as Kauai or Maui, and life there is a lot simpler even by Hawaii’s standard. There’s only one hotel in the main city and that’s where I stayed too. When I first arrived the girl at the front desk was telling me about a couple of the restaurants at the hotel, and I asked her about the dress code, and she said it was casual but I couldn’t go in barefooted, and I was like, “Oh, shucks!” Oh well… Exploring the town, I only saw a couple other people barefoot; one was a tourist girl at a fast food place, and the other a local guy in the grocery store.

The Big Island of Hawaii
Going barefoot in Hawaii (the Big Island) is very common. There are two major towns on the island: Hilo and Kailua-Kona, and both are barefoot friendly. I saw quite a number of people barefoot in public just about anywhere, like in my home town. A little town worth mentioning is Waimea. It’s located inland far from the beach, and it’s a quaint little town where everyone seemed to know each other. I drove up there while I was staying in Kona and it was quite a nice experience. I saw quite a few barefooters there in the little stores and eating in the restaurant.

I had the greatest time of my life living in Hawaii. I was able to live the barefoot lifestyle to the fullest. I went barefoot just about everywhere; to the grocery stores, restaurants, movie theaters, post office, banks, and shopping malls just to name a few and nobody gave me a hassle about it. Unfortunately, like many good things, it had to end. It was very hard to find a permanent job and the cost of living was very high, and I was forced to leave barefoot paradise and move back to the mainland. However, I plan to move back there and I know it’s just a matter of time.

Are you planning to visit Hawaii? You owe it to yourself to spend at least some of your time there barefooted. Trust me, it will be an exciting and enjoyable experience. Who knows, you will come home a barefooter 🙂 If wedding is in your future, you may want to consider a Barefoot Kauai Wedding. By the way, be sure to also read the page on barefoot vacation which is about another experience in going barefoot in Hawaii.

Here’s an interesting article in a Honolulu newspaper: Going barefoot part of Hawaii’s heart and soul.