Hawaiian Support In iPhone/iPad/iOS For Power Users (Those Who Need To Type In Hawaiian Alot)

This documentation was made on an iPad Pro, circa 2021 using iOS 14.5.1. Earlier and later versions may be slightly different. Also, I used a dark theme, so don’t freak out if your iPad’s interface looks different. To reiterate my geneeral disclaimer, I do not provide personal tech support to anyone using this page. It is provided for general information only. I hope it works for you as it has for me and many others.

This Documenatation Is Intended for Hawaiian Language Power Users, Meaning Those Who Need To Type In Hawaiian A LOT.

Back when we (Hale Kuamo‘o, UH-Hilo) were working with technology companies like Apple, our efforts were to empower those who were working in a primarily Hawaiian language environment. Therefore, our tools were designed to assist those that worked in Hawaiian and were creating curriculum for Hawaiian learners. It was not designed for those that needed to occasionally add the kahakō and ‘okina to text, though obviously it could be as useful for them, with some issues. If you only need to type Hawaiian characters occasionally, please view this page on Hawaiian Support In iPhone/iPad/iPod/iOS (Easy Version Keyboard Activation Not Required).

Activating The Hawaiian Keyboard

First, go to the Settings in your iPad or iPhone. If you don’t know where it is, please Google it. This is a fundamental piece of knowledge you should have as an owner of these devices. Once in Settings, select General from the left-hand column. You should see Keyboards as an option to the right. Click on Keyboards.

On the next screen, you will again see an option entitled Keyboards. Click on it.

You will now be given the option to Add New Keyboard. Click on it.

You will now see a list of keyboards for languages you can now add to your selections. Scroll down and select the Hawaiian keyboard.

You will be returned to the Keyboards area and will see Hawaiian added to your options.

Now open any application in which you wish to type in Hawaiian. Click in the area in which you can type, and your iPad keyboard should be visible. Press and hold on the key at the far left on the bottom (which has an image of a globe on it), and you will see a pop-up list of your available keyboards. Choose the Hawaiian keyboard. The character genereated when you press the apostrophe key is the ‘okina, and when you long-hold on the vowels, you will see the vowel with kahakō appear. Drag your finger to that character (without lifting up your finger from the glass), and the vowel-kahakō will appear.

Note: This is an ‘okina. Please don’t argue with me on this. I worked with the Unicode Consortium, Apple, and Microsoft on making this possible. It is not the same Unicode value as the character generated by the Hawaiian keyboard on Mac OS, but the glyph (the character shape) is the same, and this character is found in far more fonts than U+02BB is. If you don’t know what that means, even more reason not to argue with me about it.


This is the legacy text from 2010 regarding iOS support that I cam keeping here for documentation purposes.

In June of 2009, Apple added Hawaiian support in its operating system for iPhone 3.0. Rather than adding a new Hawaiian keyboard and requiring users to switch, the standard US Keyboard now allows you to insert the vowel-kahakī characters and ‘okina. Here’s how you do it:

  1. When you want to type an ‘okina-vowel, touch and hold down your finger over the vowel for a second or two, and it will pop-up a list of available diacritic characters (see the graphic at right to see how this list looks when I held down over the letter “a” on the keyboard). Whether the vowel-macron is to the right or the left depends on which vowel you are trying to type.
  2. For the ‘okina, press the “123” button to get to the keyboard with numbers and other characters. Hold down your finger on the apostrophe, and it will pop-up a list of curly quotes. Select the one that looks like a small number “6”.

After an update to iOS in 2010, the ū and Ū characters vanished from the keyboard, but they were later returned. So now, you should be able to type in Hawaiian on all Apple devices that use iOS – the iPhone, iPad and iPod (at the moment). Websites and emails sent in Hawaiian should also view properly, since the default font on these devices has the ‘okina and kahakō characters.