The Hawaiian Population Living In Las Vegas

Plumeria, a flower native to Hawaii.
Plumeria, a flower native to Hawaii.
Our boys when they were babies, we had to have a Hawaiian picture!
Our boys when they were babies, we had to have a Hawaiian picture!
My Mother In Law and I learning to do the "hula"... before our boys were even born!
My Mother In Law and I learning to do the "hula"... before our boys were even born!
Pretty Las Vegas palm trees.
Pretty Las Vegas palm trees.

Las Vegas Is Sometimes Called "The Ninth Island!"

Before I moved to Las Vegas, I didn't realize the numbers of Hawaiians that not only visit here, but have also moved here to live! My husband arrived before I did, and had started working here. At the hotel he was staying in, there were several Hawaiian ladies working there. He told them that we used to live in Hawaii, and that our twins were born there...which caused some reminiscing, and he had asked them their reasons for moving here.

It seems like a lot of Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders like it here in Las Vegas because the cost of living is much cheaper here than in Hawaii. The jobs available are very similar, since Las Vegas has a lot of jobs in hotel hospitality and other visitor industries... just like in Hawaii. The weather is similar, only hotter here in summer, and a little less rain than you get in Hawaii.

Now it is a lot longer distance to the beach here than on the islands... about 4 1/2 hours away. But that doesn't seem to bother most of the Hawaiian's here. Hawaiian's and Pacific Islanders make up only about 1 percent of the State's population, but the number of Hawaiian's here has doubled in the last century... in Clark County alone, the population went from 5,864 to around 12,474... more than doubled in the last ten years. This is second only to the population increase here of Asians.

I've noticed that you don't have to go far at all to find Hawaiian restaurants here, and you can even find staples of the Hawaiian diet like "poi" and other Hawaiian goods at local drugstores. There is even a dentist's office here called "Aloha Dental." I've found at least ten restaurants just in the metro Las Vegas area, and I know there are more as you go out of the city as well.

Two of the standout Hawaiian restaurants are Roy's Hawaiian Fusion, located on West Flamingo Road, and there is another location of Roy's in Summerlin as well. Here you'll find that "Happy Hour" is referred to as "Aloha Hour." And there are six locations of this restaurant in Hawaii! So, a bit of a "taste of home" for those newly relocated Hawaiians and those who have been here a while as well.

Another good restaurant is called "Island Flower," and is located in Soutwest Las Vegas, at 8090 S. Durango. There are other smaller barbeque places and even places you can buy a plate lunch. If you've ever been to Hawaii you know that a plate lunch is an economical meal that consists of meat and three sides, very similar to the "meat and three" plates popular in the Southern U.S. Only these are cooked with a more "asian" Island flare to them.

In addition to the lower cost of living in Las Vegas, the very similar weather, and the service-based jobs that are similar to Hawaii, another reason for the migration is that the Hawaiian's like to gamble. Hawaii is one of only two states in the U.S. that have made gambling illegal - Utah is the other one. Since Hawaiian's economy took a nose dive during the recession, (and Nevada's isn't much better - BUT, the cost of living here is much cheaper). According to one resident that recently moved from Hawaii to Las Vegas, just buying a box of cereal in Hawaii is $6.00 a box. And when you buy a home in Las Vegas, you can get twice the home that you can in Hawaii, for less. This high cost of living in Hawaii has been a motivating  factor in the migration of Hawaiian's to Las Vegas. Hawaii has suffered from high poverty and a strong downturn in tourism, which has only exacerbated problems that already existed there.

When Hawaiian's do migrate to the mainland, they tend to stay in West Coast states such as California, Nevada and Arizona. There is a strong sense of community attachment among the Hawaiian's here. And next month, October 6th-9th there is a bi-annual event here in Las Vegas that will celebrate it's 10th Anniversary, called the "Pure Aloha Festival." This Fall edition of the festival will be held at the Silverton Casino and Hotel. There is also a Spring edition that was held last April. It will include music, food and a carnival ride atmosphere.

Many young Hawaiian's come to Las Vegas to attend school at UNLV. Here they are eligible for discounts in tuition in a program called the "Western Undergraduate Exchange Scholarship Program". Many students from Hawaii move here to take advantage of the scholarship program. There is even a club on the UNLV campus for Hawaiian students called the "Ewalu Club." Ewalu - or "eight" in Hawaiian, stands for the number of Hawaiian Islands.

A lot of Hawaiian's come here and are drawn to Las Vegas as a vacation destination, then they start thinking about relocating here permanently. As one young Hawaiian put it "It's a get-away state that still feels like 'home'."

Once here, they find that there is a Hawaiian Civic Club that has existed for 22 years, that is active in offering student scholarships and organizes festivals, as well as sponsoring an outrigger canoe team that practices on Lake Las Vegas and competes in California. There is even a local "hula school" here called "Kalilha'o Hula."

There is a strong cultural and social network here for Hawaiian's, and it remains a popular vacation destination, as well as (more recently) a popular relocation destination.


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Comments 2 comments

Jay 11 months ago

Being from hawaii, I am no "Hawaiian". Hawaiian is an actual ethnicity. There are true hawaiian people who are Hawaiians. Then there are people from hawaii, who are not necessarily hawaiian. I'm Portuguese and from hawaii. That does not make me hawaiian.

If you're from Idaho, you're idahoan. You see how this can be mixed up with hawaii?

To stereotypically term people from the islands as awhile in being hawaiian is typical of the uneducated mainlanders.

It's okay. And they're not Hawaiian restaurants, such as Roy's. It's hawaii ethnic or hawaiian fusion. A hawaiian restaurant would serve poi, lomi salmon, haupia, etc, which Roy's does not serve.


KathyH profile image

KathyH 11 months ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thank you, Jay! I learned a lot from you! :) I do understand. I guess it's like our son's who were born in Hawaii ~ I wouldn't call them Hawaiian, it's just where they were born! You've made some great points, thank you so much!

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