Tattoos signify different things in people’s lives. Some get a tattoo simply because they like a particular design, some get it to display the passion they have in life, some get it as a reminder of their loved ones, and some get it to portray a specific culture.
Hawaiian tattoos are extremely popular options for tattoos related to a specific place or culture.
The minute you hear the phrase ‘Hawaiian tattoos,’ what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Perhaps beaches, marine life, delicious drinks by the sea, and lots of sunshine?
While all these elements hold true for the image of Hawaii, these tattoos are deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture and tradition. Hawaiian tattoos are a part of an ancient art form that has been prevalent for ages.
These designs serve as famous tattoos worldwide, and their meanings have expanded over time to include more modern versions as well. It’s because traditional Hawaiian tattoos have multiplied in their diversity, with more and more people combining them with contemporary designs.
If you’re looking for meaningful Hawaiian tattoo ideas, we have a whole bunch of them for you to explore and take your pick from. So, let’s get into the designs that reflect the spirit of Aloha.
History and Significance of Hawaiian Tattoos
To explore the history of Hawaiian tattoos, we will have to go back in time to January 1778, when Captain James Cook, a British explorer, naval officer, and cartographer, sailed his way to the Hawaiian islands.
Once he reached the island, the locals greeted him with a parade of respect, much to his surprise. The reason behind this reaction was related to the culture of the island.
Much like the whole of Polynesia, this particular society was governed by plenty of taboos that dictated their behavior. Among the many deities they worshipped was Lono, the God of fertility, agriculture, peace, and music.
The people of the island mistook Cook to be the physical form of God Lono as the masts and sails of his ship bore a resemblance to God’s emblem.
Even after returning to North America, he spoke about how Polynesian people behaved, and his voyage popularized the concept of tattoos in Europe after what Cook had seen in Hawaii.
Protecting the Tradition
The people of Hawaii imported their traditional art of tattooing to their islands. Numerous symbols became a part of their tattoos, including the elements that were often feared and respected, such as lizards.
Certain tattoo designs were reserved purely for those who belonged to the highest social class. While the men mostly got tattoos on their faces, torso, legs, and arms, the women were seen getting tattoos on their wrists, fingers, hands, and, at times, on their tongues.
The traditional Hawaiian tattoo designs were drawn by a kahuna, which is the word for the person in charge in the Hawaiian language. A needle was used to apply pigment on a person’s skin, which was then struck by a mallet and tied to a stick.
The process of such tattoos was kept deeply guarded, and the tools were immediately destroyed after being used.
While the secrets may have died along with the death of the kahuna responsible for applying the tattoo, certain records remain of Hawaii’s history, as noted by European explorers.
Since then, the Hawaiian people have tried to rediscover every bit of their heritage and ancient culture and keep it alive by continuing the art of tattooing.
Most of the Hawaiian tattoos are made up of black and bold lines in an abstract form. The meanings are usually attached to wisdom, strength, and courage.
Even today, Hawaiian tattoos celebrate the bond people have with one another and to a place. In addition to a person’s individual story, these denote the Hawaiian arts and history.
A native takes immense pride in getting such a tattoo as it represents the traditions that were extremely sacred to the Hawaiians back in the day.
Captivating Hawaiian Tattoo Ideas
Let’s now delve into the world of enchanting Hawaiian tattoo ideas that we have compiled for you:
1. Sea Turtle Hawaiian Tattoo
The sea turtle has a rich significance in the Hawaiian culture and has numerous meanings connected with its traditions. The main reason it is significant is due to its longevity, reminding everyone to live a happy life and make each day count.
A sea turtle is also considered good luck and is known to bring prosperity and good fortune in the life of the person who spots this tattoo design. Since sea turtles are sacred animals in Hawaiian culture, it’s meant to bring positive energy to one’s life.
Sea turtles have tough shells that protect them from predators, which is why protection is another meaning of this tattoo. Whether you’re someone who wishes to protect themselves or the people around you, this is a wonderful tattoo to go for.
In Hawaiian culture, a sea turtle also connects with Kanaloa, the God of the sea, and voyages that go on for long distances. The shoulder or upper back are usually considered the best places to get a sea turtle Hawaiian design tattooed on oneself.
2. Hibiscus Hawaiian Tattoo
The state flower of Hawaii is the yellow hibiscus, which explains the flower’s importance in Hawaiian culture. Based on the context and culture, the flower has many fabulous meanings attached to itself, such as glory and beauty.
Since grace and femininity are some of the common features represented by a hibiscus flower, women often choose to have it tattooed on themselves. The flower symbolizes love, friendship, and hospitality in the Hawaiian culture, which is why it is often presented to visitors.
The different colors of the flower symbolize different sentiments. For example, a white hibiscus usually means wisdom, knowledge, and enlightenment.
3. Lizard Hawaiian Tattoo
A gecko is a kind of lizard that is a very popular symbol in Hawaiian tattoos. They are often seen as symbols of protection because of their ability to climb up walls and cling to different surfaces whenever required.
Since they can shed their tails whenever they feel threatened, they are also considered signs of adaptability and resilience. Due to these very reasons, they are popular design choices for tattoos.
In Hawaiian culture, geckos or lizards are visualized as creatures who can help shoo all evil away and protect oneself from evil spirits. Fearlessness and bravery are some other positive aspects that these lizard Hawaiian tattoos reflect.
4. Dolphin Hawaiian Tattoo
Freedom is the main symbolism associated with dolphins in Hawaiian tattoos. Standing as creatures of guidance and protection, these adorable animals are known to guide seafarers.
As far as dolphin Hawaiian tattoos are concerned, tattoo artists use dark and thick lines to incorporate triangles, waves, and various other shapes into the design. Adding waves to such a tattoo can make your tattoo design come alive even more.
If you feel like you need a symbol that’s considered sacred in ancient culture, this dolphin tattoo will serve you well. You can get a huge dolphin Hawaiian tattoo on your back, or even a smaller design behind your ear or even on your wrist.
5. Shark Hawaiian Tattoo
Sharks and shark teeth are quite common sights in Hawaiian tattoos. Both these symbols are seen as a way to protect oneself from evil omens. By getting such a tattoo, you can display your faith and allow yourself to go in the opposite direction of tragic incidents.
In addition to being a sign of protection and good luck, shark teeth are also used as jewelry, which is why this design will look even classier and eye-catching if you get it done on your neck or below your collarbone.
6. Ancient Hawaiian Tattoo Design
The ancient Hawaiian tattoos were black and bold, featuring various geometric patterns. If you would like to stick to a traditional design because of your culture or simply because you like the design, then an ancient Hawaiian tattoo is the one to go for.
7. Sun Hawaiian Tattoo
The sun is a fantastic symbol if an enlightening Hawaiian tattoo is what you wish to go for. Given the sun’s warmth to our planet, it denotes that the person spotting the tattoo is a warm and welcoming individual who values the people around them.
Since the sun also stands for light, you can consider it a vital sign of inspiration, encouraging you to go through the tough times and get right back up whenever a difficult situation tries to pull you down.
The sun also signifies a deep amount of knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual awakening. These are particularly good meanings to have associated with your tattoo while growing up and evolving, as they inspire you to become a better and kinder person.
You should also know that the sun can mean rebirth, grandness, and leadership. Therefore, not only is it a sign to turn things around, but it also means that you can become a leader and have a grand life.
8. Hula Dancers Design
Hula is a traditional dance that is quite common as a form of entertainment in Hawaii. If you want your tattoo to reflect a part of Hawaiian art, you surely get a colorful version of this tattoo wherein a dancer is seen dressed up in a costume meant for Hula dancers.
9. Arrow Hawaiian Tattoo
Arrows or spearheads are important weapons when it comes to the Hawaiian culture. Such designs usually come in the form of a triangle and have a line going through the middle section accompanied by some shading to accentuate the shape of the arrow.
With the arrows placed on top of each other, it forms a lovely design that you can get done on your arm, thighs, or legs. Warriors in Hawaii would often get this design tattooed on themselves since it signifies courage.
Additionally, these were a go-to choice for tattoos as they were meant to enhance the wearer’s resilience and strength. If you wish for your tattoo to denote courage and inner strength, you can definitely pick this design.
10. Hawaiian Warrior Helmet Design
Members of warrior societies often adorned a warrior helmet in ancient times in Hawaii, giving birth to this tattoo design. These helmets signify safety and protection and denote the strength a person carries both outside and within, which is why this is a wise tattoo choice.
Traditional Hawaiian tattoos are known as kakau or kakau uhi.
A traditional Hawaiian tattoo involves symbols and designs that are related to the Hawaiian culture.
The Hawaiian style of tattooing involves mimicking natural forms.
Flowers in a Hawaiian tattoo signify grace, femininity, beauty, royalty, and power.
The time it takes to get a Hawaiian tattoo designed on someone depends on how elaborate the tattoo is.
Yes, you can definitely get a minimal Hawaiian tattoo if you don’t wish to go for a detailed design.
With the universal appeal that Hawaiian tattoos have, it is no surprise that numerous people worldwide wish to get these designs tattooed on themselves.
These reflect ancient cultural values and heritage and make you feel like you’re a part of something bigger and divine. Peruse through the many creative ideas listed above and choose the one that seems the most relatable to you.