Aloha Stadium, near the Salt Lake Neighborhood, is a well known Honolulu landmark, not only is it where the Pro-Bowl used to get played but it is also the stadium where UH football games happen and more importantly for many – where the three-times-a-week Aloha Stadium Swapmeet happens. On Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays – for a dollar per person locals and tourists alike wander through hundreds of vendors selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to aloha shirts and shave ice to just good old fashioned junk – along the circular route you will find those and everything in between – antiques, coins, clothing, ukuleles, tools, fishing gear, surfboards, video games – this is truly where the locals come to do their shopping – or selling.
I’ve loaded up my junk and treasures on dozens of mornings and set out hopefully for the swap meet – and so far – at the end of the day, I’m not any closer to being rich than I was at the start. It’s hard to get even good garage sale prices from the shrewd bargainers who haunt the junk sections – but with a stall price of just $15 and tent rentals at only $20 – you don’t have to sell a lot to make a profit and a big part of going is the fun of interacting with tourists and locals. There are a whole host of colorful characters who are regulars there – homeless guys who use their meager earnings to buy things to sell at thrift shops, professional garage salers, hoarders, people who are trying to make their social security checks stretch, junk addicted hustlers, video game junkies, displaced otaku, retired policemen, crusty fishermen, treasure hunting aunties, and local farmers and artisans. There is nowhere else in Hawaii where you can mingle with such a wide array of real Hawai’i folk.
The Stadium was originally built for Hawaii’s AAA baseball team, The Hawai’i Islanders, but that didn’t work out and the Islanders moved away. The stadium is still there though despite calls to tear it down and build another over the past twenty years. And the marketplace is still there – as far as I can tell, this is the last regular marketplace for low dollar vendors since the International Marketplace and Dukes Lane have been gentrified and turned into yet another Waikiki Beverley Hills. The Aloha Stadium Swapmeet is a place to find art by the artists, people selling the contents of storage locker auctions, farmers selling produce, people selling discount produce from wholesalers, and as mentioned above – nearly everything else. What you generally won’t find at Aloha Stadium Swapmeet are guns or knives or weapons of any kind, fireworks or flammables, pornography, drugs or vaping, alcohol, or anything else that doesn’t fit with a family atmosphere.
So, go ahead, buy expensive produce and souvenirs at other places – or head to the Aloha Stadium Swapmeet and get them for the kama’aina price. The swap meet happens Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday (unless there is a game scheduled). You can show up as early as 6am but if you show up later than 10am, don’t expect to find any treasure or good apple bananas – those go early.
An often missed but fascinating site on Oahu is the Ulupō Heiau on the Windward side of the island near the beach town of Kailua. It sits on the eastern edge of Kawai Nui Marsh which is off to your left as you come into Kailua down the Pali Highway. Stories say that it was created by the Menehune, an ancient race of leprechan-like pre-Hawaiians who inhabited the islands before Tahitian voyagers got here. There are many such large Menehune credited structures throughout the islands. The name Ulupo means ‘night inspiration’. I can only imagine what it is like at night.
As you drive by, you can see the huge stone platform through the mango trees just past the Windward YMCA – if you go to the YMCA, you can park and walk around the back to acces the heiau. A heiau is a Hawaiian temple site. The Ulupo Heiau measures 140 x 180 feet and is as high as 30 feet at some points. The stones were brought from all over the island and at one point – it was a very important cultural site for the Hawaiian people of Oahu.
The area it sits in was important for Hawaiian agriculture with the production of banana(maya), taro (kalo), sugarcane (ko), breadfruit (ulu) and many other fruits and vegetables. In addition there were ancient fishponds in the area. All of this has led archaeologists to suppose that it was an agricultural temple site that grew into a more important heiau luakini – which would have had much more power associated with it.
Kailua, though a laid back beach town today, was once an important seat of power. The kings of Oahu maintained their residences here – as did the later conquering kings of Maui and King Kamehameha the great who united all the islands under his rule. After the conversion of the Hawaiian people to Christianity and the missionary and territory periods – the site lost much of it’s importance and was part of a cattle ranch.
In the 1960s, the site was partially restored and a plaque was put up but the accumulated rubbish of nearly a century filled the site. In the early 2000’s, I worked with groups of other volunteers to clean out the rubbish, restore the lo’i (taro ponds), and clean the site. Until recently, there were members of the reinstated Hawaiian government living on the site – or maybe they were simply homeless Hawaiian guys living on the site and taking care of the aina. In any event, they were forced out and I don’t know the details. I know that it was nice to have them there in the mid 2000s but when I visited in 2017 there was a somewhat creepy and dangerous feel to the place.
Yesterday’s visit seemed to be an improvement over that.
The Pacific Aviation Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii is one of the top attractions on the island of Oahu. The entrance fee is $25, which is a little steep for a musuem, but if you are an aviation buff or a military history fan – this is a must-see. Two hangars filled with aircraft and exhibits as well as the iconic red and white control tower on Ford Island and outdoor aircraft displays.
There are some pretty cool displays including a Flying Tigers Exhibit and a Boeing Sternman Model 75 flown by former President George H. W. Bush. Exhibits include a focus on the attack at Pearl Harbor, a B-17 Bomber recovered from the swamps of New Guinea, and a wide range of military, civil, and civilian aircraft.
The Pacific Aviation Museum is an interesting stop and it should be since construction, maintenance, and acquisition costs most likely add up to $50 billion dollars or more.
We had a great day there. We found a day when admission was only $5 each (online only) because of a conference promoting careers in aviation for women and girls. There were special exhibits, information booths, and lots of fun to be had. There are frequently online deals like two admissions for the price of one, free aircraft simulator tours, and more on the museum website.
To get there from Honolulu, you take the H1 Freeway towards the Airport and Pearl Harbor. Since this is part of the Valor in the Pacific (Pearl Harbor) set of attractions -you will park at Pearl Harbor and go into the entrance of the main visitor center. Once inside head straight towards the ticket booth on the right side where you can purchase tickets to the Battleship Missouri, the USS Bowfin Submarine, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
Once you have your ticket you will catch a bus from inside the facility that will take you across the bridge to Ford Island – this is the same bus that will take you to the Battleship Missouri. Just like Pearl Harbor, you can’t bring backpacks, bags, purses, or fanny packs with you – there is bag storage before the entrance to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
There is a small tourist gift shop and a so-so canteen for sandwiches and snacks. Expect to spend 1-1.5 hours for a casual visit. Longer if you want to really dig into the museum and displays.
In Hawai’i we have a local language called Hawaiian Creole or Pidgin for short. You’ve heard it when you’ve watched Hawaii 5-0, you’ll hear it on the new Magnum P.I. You’ve heard it on Dog the Bounty Hunter and if you’ve been here – you’ve heard the bus drivers, valets, maids, surfers, beach boys, and other local folks use it. You probably didn’t understand it – and that’s okay. It has a sing-song quality that varies from island to island and consists of words from a dozen languages plus a bunch of made up words that are usually onamatopia. Example: Brah, like go kaukau? Or Howzit? Or Hoh, Lucky live Hawai’i. Yea, Lucky live Hawaii, Lucky live Oahu, Lucky live Honolulu. That’s what I’m feeling – this week’s slideshow might show a bit of why.
Flashback Friday – back in 2017 when I knew that I was moving back to Hawai’i and bringing my family with me – I had two plans and didn’t know which one would be better. The first was to move to Honolulu, find a job, find an apartment or house, and get ready to pay the quality of life tax. The second one was to move to Hilo, use the proceeds from the sale of my antique store in Oregon to buy a piece of land near the volcano, and then to live a sort of Hawaiian Mosquito Coast adventure…ultimately, I decided on Honolulu as being the best decision for the good of my family….but even after all the eruptions and hurricanes of the past year – there’s a part of me that wishes I had chose Kurtistown. Here’s what I wrote back then:
It’s Father’s Day and I have to admit – this was one hell of a present to myself. Alright, actually, it is happenstance – I didn’t plan this as a Father’s Day gift – I wasn’t thinking about Father’s Day at all – but I was doing my damndest to be the best father I can.
I’m waking up and sitting in a big comfy bed with lots of feather pillows around me. I’ve brewed a cup of coffee and I’ve got a view right out my window and off the lanai of Hilo Bay as the Hawai’ian sun brings the silhouete of the Big Island to life. Happy Father’s Day!
The picture above actually shows where I’m sitting in bed. The Grand Naniloa Double Tree by Hilton in Hilo, Hawaii.These past few years I’ve been living in Reedsport, Oregon. I was a bit surprised when I was driving up to find that the bay on the back side of this hotel is called Reed’s Bay. That Reed fella got around. I’m not here on a vacation – at least that wasn’t my intention, but it did sort of work out that way.
I came here to look at a property south of here in Kurtistown. Sitting in Oregon, I wasn’t at all sure that I would be able to accomplish the 5-day mission I set out upon – land a job, secure a house or apartment on Oahu, and rediscover the lay of the land in Hawai’i. So, I had a backup plan. If, when I got to Oahu, it was just too expensive, too crowded, too much to bring my wife and little girl to – if there was no home for us on Oahu – I was going to purchase (perhaps) a remote cabin in the rainforest – a very real mega-fixer-upper on a beautiful piece of land – and I was going to move us there. The owner was willing to carry the loan, I had just enough for a down payment, and I’d figure out a way to make it work…that was the plan. So, before I left Oregon I booked three days on Oahu and a weekend trip to Hilo where I used my new Hilton Honors Amex to book two nights in the Grand Nani Loa and got a great package deal on a car.
Thankfully, Oahu welcomed me home with open arms. I got the job, I found a home and secured it, and by the time I flew to the Big Island on Friday – my work-family-mission in Hawai’i had already been accomplished. Still, there was a part of me that loved the idea of pulling a Mosquito Coast (Paul Theroux moves his family to a remote tropical jungle situation) and building a life in the jungles of Hawai’i. So, I arranged to tour it with the realtor at his earliest convenience and since he wasn’t available until Sunday morning – I got directions from the owner and drove out some serious country roads as soon as I got off the plane.
I loved the property. Pineapples, coconuts, bananas, haliconias, big ohia trees, wide grassy fields. It was actually the type of property I dream about living on – except for the mosquitos. And except for the house. The house was a disaster. It was livable – but to be honest, I’ve lived in huts, tents, and cars that were less grody. It had some very real structural issues as well. Plus, it was so far out and off the grid that there was no way I could move my wife and daughter there. Not just because of my responsibility, but because once she saw it – my wife would have revolted. The only way to move her there would have been in manacles and frankly, even if that was my style, I’m pretty sure it still wouldn’t have worked.
So, I cancelled the showing, let the owner know that it wasn’t going to happen…and set about rediscovering Hilo and a bit of the surrounding areas…from the posh comfort of my posh hotel room – when I checked in – the universe rewarded me for thinking about my wife and child by getting me an upgraded room…which, by the way, is why it always pays to be kind and understanding when your room isn’t ready and you are ready to check in…
Kamehameha the Great was the first king of the United Kingdom of the Hawaiian Islands. His actual name was Kalani Pai’ea Wohi o Kaleikini Keali’ikui Kamehameha o ‘Iolani i Kaiwikapu kau’i Ka Liholiho K’nui’kea – which history has shortened to Kamehameha the Great. There are multiple large impressive statues of King Kamehameha which each have interesting histories. The original was created by a sculptor in Italy which explains why King Kamehameha is standing like a Roman general and has vaguely Italian features…it was commissioned by King David Kalakaua to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Captain Cook’s arrival in Hawai’i – an event which probably would not have been celebrated had Kalakaua known he would be the last king of the islands and he would be overthrown by the missionaries who followed – but he had no way of knowing that and so he ordered the statue and had it shipped around South America – where it sank. But wily King Kalakaua had insured it and so another was cast – but by the time it arrived, the first had been recovered and sent ahead. So there were two – one went up at Iolani Palace and the other went up near the birthplace of Kamehameha. But the photo below is neither of those.
This statue was commissioned by a resort on Kauai that seemed unaware that King Kamuali’i of Kauai was never conquered by Kamehameha – in fact, Kamehameha never set foot on Kauai. It was a politcal unification, not a military one – so the people of Kauai have strong feelings about a statue of Kamehameha being erected on their island – and made a big stink about it – which resulted in this beautiful statue being sent to Hilo – a place where Kamehameha was loved and revered. There is also a statue of Kamehameha in Washington DC which was in the hall of heroes next to Father Damien (Hawaii’s only saint) – each state has two heroes there…and Kamehameha was in the shadows until Barack Obama became President of the United States – at that point – it was emancipated and moved to Emancipation Hall. A much better spot.
I love Hilo. The whole Big Island of Hawai’i is a bit like the Oregon Coast in that the economy is rural and agricultural. And it is fairly wet on this side…and the economy seems a bit depressed when compared to Oahu or Maui. Just like Oregon is depressed when compared to California or Washington. In fact, in the past, when I’ve thought about the islands and their very distinct personalities – I’ve sometimes used a West Coast shorthand to describe them. Oahu is the like the Bay Area, Maui is like Los Angeles, Kauai is like Portland, and the Big Island is like Oregon although Kailua-Kona seems to have become more like Seattle. Lanai is like agricultural California and Ni’ihau is (as far as I know because I haven’t been there – more like actual Hawai’i. As for Molokai – it’s also more Hawai’ian than Haole – but it’s been ten years since I’ve been there – so I can’t say for sure. Anyway, that’s a very imperfect West Coast shorthand. Each island has a flavor and each district has a flavor and each town has a flavor.
The farmer’s market in Hilo is fantastic. The smells and sounds brought me back to a place I didn’t know I had forgotten. I was fortunate to be here on a Saturday when the local canoe clubs were having a big regatta – and one of the things I love about Big Island is that when families go to the beach, they really go…they bring huge tents and electricity and even one guy with a lazy boy recliner. I wanted to take a picture but he was just so comfortable and I didn’t want to intrude on that.
I drove down to Volcano and checked out the show Madam Pele is putting on. Fantastic. At night the spectable is extraordinary – but I didn’t really want to hang out. I’ve walked the lava fields before, poked pennies into the lava, and melted my shoes as well as seeing the nighttime wonders. This time, I just wanted to be there and then to move on.
It’s nice that I’ve been here before – I feel no pressure to do anything. I strolled through the Queen Lilioukalani Gardens and walked out to Coconut Island. I wandered through downtown and had a fantastic plate of Hawai’ian food at Hawai’ian Style Cafe – it’s been a while since I had laulau, poi,lomi-lomi salmon, long rice soup, or poke that was that good. I walked through Hilo leaving my rental car at the hotel and going miles and miles and miles. I browsed the bookstores and antique shops, bought a delicious cardamom muffin, and just soaked it in. Then I sat on the lanai at my hotel, looked at the water, and just breathed.
This morning, on Father’s Day, I counted my blessings. Being my daughter’s daddy is the best thing that this world has ever given me. I am so blessed. Then, I got a text from her thanking me for this privilege!
The Big Island is beautiful. There is no question about the stunning beauty, the abundance of beautiful birds and the wonders of nature. Akaka Falls and the Hamakua Coast, the majestic volcano mountains of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, and the wonderous sense of space. Being on the Big Island again was like meeting a girl you were crazy about but never really got to know very well a decade after you had both moved on with life. The Big Island is pregnant with possibilities. And, there are also some very real dangers.
The first that comes to mind is Rapid Ohia Death – this is a relatively new phenomenon where a form of Ceratocystis fimbriata – a root fungus is killing the large Ohia trees all over the island.
The Ohia tree (aka Ohia Lehua or sometimes just as Lehua thought that is usually the word used for the flower) is endemic to Hawai’i and is often one of the first plants to grow on lava – it is a tree closely associated with the volcano goddess Pele. I should point out that endemic means that a species developed here and is not found in nature anywhere else on the planet. There are five species of ohia that are endemic to Hawai’i. The Hawaiian islands are home to a great variety of endemic species because they are the most remote landmass on the planet and on the islands you can find nearly every climactic zone where life thrives from desert to tropical to temperate, etc. Unfortunately, the isolation in which speciation occurred made the unique species of these islands susceptable to disease and pressure from invasive species. A great many of the unique species of Hawai’i have gone extinct and a great many more are endangered. Many of the endangered species rely on the habitat created by the Ohia forests…so, in 2015 when huge swaths of Ohia began dying rapidly – there was panic. The fungus killing them has been identified, but the source of the fungus is unknown and a solution to the growing problem has not yet been discovered.
And of course, there are other Big Island dangers – volcanos, malaria, West Nile Virus, and other tropical mosquito borne pathogens.
The Big Island is bigger than all the other islands combined. I only saw a tiny portion of it on this trip, but it was enough to know that this place is precious. On my last morning on the Big Island (this trip) I drove North from Hilo to Hakalau Bay, I didn’t have time to hike or really dive in – I was just soaking in an impression. I stopped briefly at Akaka Falls and Kolekole State Park – I stopped to help a stranded motorist with a broken down car, but she was busy doing Facetime with her mom and said a tow-truck was on the way so I didn’t stick around. I just drove and enjoyed the driving.
I bought a plate lunch (to go) and then drove to the airport and returned my rental car. I did better on timing this go round – I was only one hour early for my flight but from Big Island to Oahu, I would have been fine with a half hour or maybe even 15 minutes. No wait, no line, no problem.
Makapu’u Point. One of the most visually striking places on the island of Oahu comes as you head around the south side of Oahu through rocky, volcanic, cactus filled and generally desert island vistas and you turn north onto the Windward side of Oahu. People think of Oahu and generally they think of Honolulu – a large and wonderful city of right around 1-million people – but here is the secret – most of the tourists on Oahu stay in Honolulu and Waikiki – on the other islands they go everywhere. That’s just one of the reasons why Oahu is my favorite of all the Hawaiian Islands…but of course there are many reasons beyond that.
As you turn North and start to head towards the Windward side – don’t be in a hurry – Kailua, Kaneohe, Laie, and the North Shore can wait…right now you are on sacred ground. This is where the climactic zone you are in suddenly and without warning does a handstand.
Pull into the overlook at Makapu’u Point…take the walk up to the viewpoints. Look north and take a deep breath…suddenly, all is green and blue and wonderful. There are a dozen shades of blue and a dozen shades of green here – your camera can’t capture all those colors – but your eye can. Still, even the pictures can take your breath away. This is Hawai’i. This is the amazing land of Aloha. This is where the magic happens.
When you get back in the car and start heading North, you’ll drive along the rocky cliff face and see a pull out where you can park your vehicle, get out, and look back. Do it!
You’ll see the stunning Makapu’u Lighthouse. It was built in 1906 and has the largest lens of any lighthouse in the USA. Plus, it’s scenic as hell.
For an even better view go down into the Makapu’u Beachpark parking lot across from Sea Life Park. If you do it at sunrise, it’s even better – but don’t leave your valuables in the car. The cockroaches love breaking windows and stealing valuables…and you’ll never see them do it.
I have been all over the world, I’ve seen a lot of places, but there is nowhere that is like Hawai’i. Especially at sunrise.
I have a friend in Toronto, Canada named Henry. He’s a second grader (like my daughter) and as a project for his class – he was suppossed to send Flat Stanley – a character from a book his class is reading – on a trip to somewhere. Henry’s family and I became friends when they visited Oahu several months ago. I spent a lovely day showing them around Oahu and by the end of it, we were all fast friends. Henry and my daughter have the same birthday, lost their first baby teeth at the same time, and are both amazing 7-year-old dancers – so of course, when he asked if I would show Flat Stanley around Oahu and Honolulu – I agreed.
Flat Stanley arrived and we decided to hit all the best spots. First, we went for a morning swim at Ala Moana Beach Park.
We went up to the North Shore and visited Kaena Point, the Westernmost point on the island where Stanley got all crazy on the ‘mana’ emanating from such a powerful point and he grew huge and began jumping on cars with the Waianae volcano in the background. Luckily a friendly pohaku (stone) calmed him down.
After that we went to the world famous Banzai Pipeline where we watched surfers on some decent sized waves and saw a deflated unicorn on the beach.
We then drove all the way down the Windward side of the island and I stopped to get a coffee at my favorite Kaneohe coffee shop ‘Muddy Waters’ – the coffee gave me energy and we stopped at my daughter’s school and then headed down to the South shore of the island where we watched dolphins at the Kahala Hotel – we made sure Flat Stanley was safe and wore a life jacket.
From there we drove back to the center of Oahu where we visited the Dole Plantation – Flat Stanley was excited about the train and the pinapple maze – but mostly he loved the Dole Whip!
We were going to take Flat Stanley snorkeling at one of our favorite spots…but it started to rain and it was getting a little late. So with that, we packed Flat Stanley back up, said goodbye, and put him on his way back to Toronto! We wished him Aloha and A Hui Ho! And also send the same wishes to Henry, his brother Charlie and their Mom and Dad. We’ll see you next time! ALOHA!
Hawai’i is paradise. You might be expecting me to now make some sort of comment about how it has been ruined or how it’s really not paradise, but I’m not going to do that. Hawai’i is paradise. I love it. It really is every bit as good as you might imagine it is. There is no denying that. When you look at the water, swim in it, breathe the salt air, feel the tradewinds, or wake up and hear the birds – you know – this is heaven.
Even for homeless people , this is paradise. I mean it’s still paradise when they are looking for a place to sleep, or trying to get their kids ready for school in a makeshift cardboard hut or car, or sleeping on a park bench. People who are homeless enjoy all the benefits of Hawai’i just like everyone else – but I’m not trying to say they have it easy or that the homeless person epidemic here isn’t a serious problem. It’s a huge problem. Hawaii has more homeless people per capita than anywhere else in the USA. We have three distinct groups. People from here who have been priced out of paradise, people with drug/alcohol/mental illness issues, and transplants who either came here to be homeless or were sent here so they wouldn’t freeze (or be someone else’s problem).
There are a lot of people that consider homelessness a problem because it impedes on their ability to enjoy paradise. They complain about the homeless spoiling the perfect view or about homeless people camping on the beaches or sidewalks. They want homeless people swept away so they can enjoy more of paradise. They want someone to take care of the ‘homeless problem’, they just don’t want to have to deal with it. I admit it, that would be nice – it would be great if it all just disappeared and everyone was happy and we could all admire million dollar views out our windows without having to see other people suffering – but that’s just not going to happen because homelessness isn’t the problem. It can’t be solved in a vacuum. The problem is not homelessness – that would make it simple. The problem is systemic – it’s our society and culture that is the problem. It’s the culture of greed and the society of selfishness and the glorificaton of wealth and riches over things like empathy and compassion. America is a nation based on many lies. The American dream is an illusion based on a lie. We don’t all have the same opportunities.
Here is a little background: Hawaii was made to be an agricultural place. Perfect climate, great soil, great weather, plenty of fresh water. Never freezes. Summer all year long. Native Hawaiian people took advantage of that. They didn’t import anything. They had intensive agriculture and aquaculture. They supported a population of as many as a million people – with about four hours of work per person each day. Today, we have a population of about 1.3 million, we import 90% of what we need and use, and the average person here has to work 10-12 hours a day to support themselves – more to support a family. It wasn’t always like that. Through the 1970s this was still an agricultural place. Sugar and Pineapple were grown and processed and that provided the bulk of the economy. These were family wage jobs. Then, environmental laws, labor laws, insurance laws, and shipping laws changed. Sugar could make more money elsewhere and it moved. It took all the family wage sugar processing jobs with it. Pineapple moved a lot of production too. So did most of the high paying pineapple jobs.
The rest of our economy was based on military support jobs (as many as 250k troops here at any given time) and federal, state, and local government jobs. Tourism was the number four sector. Hawaii was in a panic and all that was available was increasing tourism. It worked. Sort of. Tourism jobs are low paying and the tourism boom drove up the cost of living, the cost of land, the cost of housing, the cost of everything. And there you go…2018 – we have a huge homeless person population, about 1/3rd of them priced out of paradise. There’s a reason hotel workers in Waikiki are striking right now.
I know a little bit about being homeless on Oahu (Down and Out on the Island of Oahu , July 30, 2004), enough to know that I don’t want it – I’d much rather be homeless on the mainland than here – although there are things here like showers at the beach, balmy weather, tropical fruit growing wild if you know where to look, and more – the problem is – this is an island and there is nowhere you can really go to get away. I see homeless people under bridges, building rafts and boats to sleep on, on their bikes, yesterday I spotted a guy just having a nap under a bush. Taken by itself, it almost looks idyllic – but you have to account for the police telling you to wake up and move along when you are breaking the law by sleeping in your vehicle or the complete and total lack of parking if you choose to live in a vehicle, the homeless sweeps that force the homeless to move along and the bedbugs – if you don’t think the homeless are getting eaten alive by bedbugs, you simply haven’t thought about it. And if you haven’t experienced bedbugs, then count your lucky stars.
Hawai’i is a part of the United States but it isn’t a part of North America – so technically, it’s not an American place. Unfortunately, American ways of doing things have been undermining the spirit of aloha here since the days of the missionaries. I’m not about to tell you that the kapu system was better than democracy – I have no way of really knowing that – no one does since it was completely overturned in the early 1800s – but I will tell you that the rat race, the greed and corruption, the awful drive for wealth and riches is destroying the empathy and compassion of people all over the world – even here. I’m not so sure we have a homeless problem as much as we have a wealth problem here in Hawai’i and a growing empathy and compassion problem too. Don’t get me wrong – even with the problems – I believe Hawai’i is a better place to live than the rest of the United States – but it could be better for everyone if we focused a little more on aloha and compassion.
One of the top requests among my guests is to visit the Dole Plantation in the center of the island of Oahu. It’s easy to understand why people want to go there. For most American’s, Dole was the first pineapple they ever experienced. Straight from the can, usually, but sometimes it was an exotic and fresh pineapple with that colorful Dole logo on it. For other’s (like me) Dole is intimately connected with Disneyland or Disneyworld – I’ll never be able to disassociate Dole from that first Dolewhip ice cream cone I had outside the Enchanted Tiki Room with its animatronic birds and exotic tropical decor. But, equally, I’ll never forget being a little kid and my mom opening those cans of Dole Pineapple Juice or pulling out those magical donut rings of pineapple from a Dole can. And it’s not just me….so I never wonder why such an obvious tourist trap ranks so high on the lists of so many people when they come to one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It makes sense to me.
The other reason people love to go to the Dole Plantation is because it’s just fun. It’s a great attraction that ticks all the boxes of a must-see. There’s a 20-minute train ride through the pineapple fields that appeals to youngsters and historians alike as the narration on board shares the rich plantation agricultural history of Oahu. There is the World’s Largest Pineapple Maze (it’s shaped like a pineapple, not made out of one). You can stroll through the free pineapple gardens or buy a ticket to explore the beautiful tropical gardens past the ticket booth. And then there is the visitor center where you can find thousands upon thousands of pineapple products as well as local coffee, soaps, textiles, ukuleles, tropical candy, koa wood carvings, and learn how to cut a pineapple, sample local macadamia nuts, and get pretty decent lunch. Oh, and don’t forget to get a Dole Whip or a Pineapple Float, or a Pineapple Split. The lines may be long, but they move pretty quickly.
Hours and Directions: To get there, just head towards the Central Oahu town of Wahiawa. If you’re coming from Honolulu, go past Wahiawa. If you’re coming from the North Shore don’t quite go to Wahiawa. You won’t miss it. The Dole Planation is open everyday except Christmas from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. There is no charge for admission but the train, the maze, and the garden tours all will require a paid ticket. Parking is free.
I love taking people to Tropical Farms, also known as the Macadamia Nut Place on the Windward Side of Oahu. It’s a different world compared to the rest of the tourist stops. Sure, there are still the Robert’s of Hawaii busses filled with Japanese, Chinese, or Middle American tourists (fun fact which may or may not be true – the average American bus tourist takes up at least twice the space of the average Chinese or Japanese tourist).
As you’re driving up the lush windward side, before you reach Kualoa Ranch, you see a couple of flags and a steep driveway – and you turn into it. Once you park you are greeted by an aloha shirted local with a big smile and a genuines sense of aloha. “Aloha, Welcome to Tropical Farms” – inside there is free coffee and plenty of free nut samples – garlic, cinnamon, caramel, honey, salted, plain – try them all. Also local jewelry, artisanal products, and products made from the miracle fruit – Noni. If it does even a quarter of what people claim – it’s truly a miracle.
In the back there are bins of fresh macadamia nuts you can crack open on lava rocks and of course, no shortage of chickens. One of the most authentic luau’s on the island takes place back there and there are tropical farm tours available with Samoan story tellers. On the property you will find guava, coffee, plenty of tropical flowers, and of course, macadamia. Macadamia, by the way, come originally from Australia – but they grow a little different here. You’ll see plenty of Aussies lining up with full baskets – because Tropical Farms charges half what the mac-nuts go for at home.
The best part about Tropical Farms though, is that it is a family place. You’ll find pictures of ‘Mom and Dad’ and ‘Dad’s’ surfboard (probably great-granddad’s now, actually) and much more. The crew working there are locals or family members and the aloha is genuine.
It’s no secret that I love Honolulu. It’s an incredibly walkable, bikeable, and public-transportation-able city. The weather is perfect. It has fantastic architecture and wonderful distinct neighborhoods – not to mention beaches, rain forest hikes, and more. But let’s get back to that architecture – I will get into the nitty gritty of the art deco, moorish, modern, and classic styles you find here in the future – but for now – I’d just like to share a gallery of pictures of buildings I’ve snapped in Honolulu. These are just pictures I’ve taken as I go about my daily life…and I think they illustrate a bit of why I love this city as much as I do.
For now just enjoy the wonderful architecture of Honolulu and ahui ho!
In 2008, I graduated from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, moved out of my apartment in Manoa, said goodbye to my sweet landlady Mrs. Arizumi and then I stayed in a Waikiki hotel before flying to Portland, Oregon for Christmas. From there I took trains across the USA, flew to Europe, took a ferry to Africa, hot air ballooned in Turkey, rode horses to the pyramids, hitchiked into the Korean DMZ, hitchhiked and walked across Canada, sailed in the Aegean, got married in the Sahara, emigrated to California with a foreign wife and child, started and sold an antique shop and a newspaper in Oregon, went through the citizenship process with my wife as she became a naturalized citizen, and then after nine years of being away, I came home and got things ready to bring my wife and child back to Oahu.
It was the completion of my trip around the world. I arrived back on Oahu in June of 2017. I rented a car, and then I drove to the SGI culture center on the Nuuanu Pali Highway where I chanted Nam Myoho Renghe Kyo in gratitude for returning home and the completion of my adventure. After that I drove to Kailua on the windward side of the island and went directly to Ninja Sushi where I ordered the meal that I’d thought about constantly but not had since 2008. A Shogun Dunburi from Ninja Sushi.
It was as delicious as I remembered. The years had not magnified it. I was not disappointed. I ate every bite.
There were lots of new expensive houses. I had thought that perhaps I would move my family to Kailua when I brought them to Oahu a few weeks later – but Kailua seemed to have moved out of our economic range – for the moment. Still, I stopped at my favorite beach park and bodysurfed a dozen waves before sitting on the sand and staring out at the Mokulua Islands in rapture.
I looked through Kailua a bit noting that Kimo’s Surf Hut still survived but had been moved because a shopping center had gone up filling that block. Daiea – the Korean Superstore had disappeared – replaced by Target and Safeway. Other loved businesses had also disappeared…but there were new ones. Then I drove around the South Shore of the Island with Hawaiian myth, story, legend, geography, and more flooding into my brain. All that I used to share as a tour guide started to return as I passed Pele’s chair, Rabbit Island, Makapu’u, and Koko head. I was hit hard with memories of my epic walk around the perimeter of Oahu as I saw familiar stones, heaiau, and landscapes. I drove to Waikiki, remembering the traffic, the roads, and the feel. One sad note – I saw far fewer people stopping to let pedestrians cross traffic than I used to. Especially in Kailua where people seemed surprised as I let them cross and an impatient driver even honked at me. My hotel, the Waikiki Ambassador was a fake internet bargain. Comfy bed and pillows but a concrete box with 1980s furniture and no real comfort. It was on the opposite end of Waikiki from where I began at the hotel named for deposed Queen Liliuokalani.
I drove to Waikiki and paid my respects to Duke Kahanamoku and then went up to Manoa and visited Mrs. Arizumi and her daughter Clare and her little dog Choo-choo. Mrs. Arizumi must be near a hundred now – maybe older, I don’t know. She is still sweet and I was hugged and welcomed back like a part of their Ohana. After that I returned to Waikiki and took a long walk. Being a person who doesn’t enjoy crowds or shopping, I shouldn’t love Waikiki, but I do. My whole heart does. This is home. As I stood by a favorite Niu next to the jetty I leaned against it and I swear this old coconut tree was happy to feel me leaning against it again. The waves were welcoming me home and the sunset kissed me and welcomed me home. Yes, I was home and after looking all over the world – I know for certain that Hawai’i is the best place in it. This adventure had come to an end.
And then, on that day, a new adventure began. Home is where the heart is. My heart is always here on Oahu.