Hawaiian Flower Leis – Meaning and Etiquette

Lei Greetings

Leis are traditional Hawaiian flower necklaces given as a sign of welcoming and to show affection. Hawaiian flower leis are made of beautiful and colorful blossoms found in Hawaii.

Meaning of Hawaiian Lei Greetings


Orchids are the most popular flowers for Hawaiian leis.  Plumeria and Lehua Blossoms are other common lei flowers. Leis traditionally express love, reverent, respect, congratulations and welcome. The different colors of Hawaiian Lei Greetings can have different meanings.

Hawaiian Lei at Honolulu Airport

Orchids – Purple, Green and White Hawaiian Flower Leis: Orchid leis are often given to visitors to welcome them to Hawaii.  Orchid leis are also given as a thank you.

Ilima Flower Leis – Orange, Red and Brown Hawaiian Flower Leis: The ilima flower is the official flower of Oahu and symbolizes love.

Green Maile Ti Leaf Leis – Ti Leaf Leis symbolize admiration, appreciation and respect. Ti leaf leis are often used as gifts for weddings, graduations, anniversaries and memorials.

Kukui Nuts Leis – The Kukui nut lei was once a symbol of royalty.  These brown leis are given to show respect or appreciation.

Carnations – White, Pink, or Red Hawaiian Flower Leis:  Leis made with carnations are often exchanged during weddings or anniversary parties.  These leis symbolize love.

Hawaii Flower Lei

Hawaiian leis were not always made with flowers. Ancient Hawaiians used feathers, leaves, beads, ivory, shells and animal teeth. Leis were first recorded by Captain Cook in 1779 but the tradition dates back many centuries.  Early Polynesians used them for beauty and to distinguish themselves from others.  They exchanged leis with each other to show love and friendship. Special Leis were given meaning to signify events such as marriage, community, birth, religious ceremonies, grief, death, community and politics.

There are certain rules of etiquette when it comes to Hawaiian Lei Greetings. A Hawaiian Lei is a symbol of welcome, affection or friendship, so a lei given as a gift should should never be refused. A person is considered rude if they remove their lei in the presence of the person who gave it to them.
 When wearing a lei it should be gently draped on the shoulders with part of the lei hanging down in the front and back.

Hawaiian Flower Leis continue to be a gesture of welcome to visitors. Hawaii became a popular tourist destination in the late 1800s and early 1900s when people would come to visit Hawaii by boat. During these times the lei became popular among tourists as vendors sold leis to visitors as they arrived, welcoming them with an “aloha.” The tradition of Hawaiian Lei Greetings has been embraced ever since. Today people can still get an authentic lei and the welcoming aloha spirit when they arrive in Hawaii.

John and I were greeted with beautiful fragrant Hawaiian Flower Leis at the Honolulu Airport.  Hawaii Discount offers a variety of Lei Greetings such as Superior Leis, Deluxe Leis, Standard Leis, Ti Leis, KuKui Nut Leis and Candy Leis.

Receiving Hawaii Flower Leis are the best way to start a Hawaii Vacation! Check out the variety of Kona Airport Lei Greetings, Honolulu Airport Lei Greetings, Lihue Airport Lei Greetings, and Kahului Airport Lei Greetings.

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About Elizabeth

Elizabeth has been blogging about the best Hawaii Activities for over 7 years. She loves sharing the Aloha Spirit.
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