5 Rainforest Hikes Near Honolulu, Hawaii on Oahu

Most people travel to Hawaii for the beaches but there is plenty to see when you head into the rain forests and mountains of Hawaii too. If you want to sample wild tropical fruit, explore the rain forest, swim in beautiful falls, and see indigenous Hawaiian birds – here are five hikes on Oahu you don’t have to go far from Honolulu for.

Maunawili falls

Maunawili Falls – If you drive twenty minutes out of Honolulu towards the mountains, you will reach the other side of the island near Kailua. To get there you have to pass over the Ko’olau Mountains and go to the Pali Lookout. From there the trail winds downwards to scenic windward views, through gorgeous rain forest, and finally to one of the best swimming waterfalls in Hawaii. A friend tells me the Obamas were there not long ago!

Manoa Falls

Manaoa Falls – Even closer to Honolulu, just head up Manoa Road past the University of Hawaii to the top of the valley. The road forks at Lyon Arboretum and stay right. You may need to park further down the valley if it’s a sunny day. A short hike with the beautiful 100 ft Manoa Falls as the payoff.

Aihualama Trail

Aihualama Trail – For those looking for more challenges, about 100 yards before Manoa Falls, the Aihualama trail veers off to the left. This is a rain forest ridge hike that will take you through wild bananas, lush bamboo, and more. Watch for the Hawaiian Honey Creepers!

Lyon Arboretum

Lyon Arboretum – If you go left where the road forks to Lyon Arboretum you will find yourself among more than 8000 tropical plants, extensive botanical gardens, and numerous hiking trails. This is one of the most rewarding rain forest hiking areas near Honolulu because of the incredible diversity.

Hawaii Loa Ridge Trail

Hawaiiloa Ridge – This is the most challenging hike in our list and recommended only for those who are experienced and confident. The trail is not maintained and will require you to drive to the trailhead. Drive towards Aina Haina and go left on Puuikena Drive. Park near the water tank and then enjoy this moderate hike to the summit for astounding views. Expect to pull yourself up some inclines with the help of ropes that friendly hikers have left behind.

When you’re done with your hike, why not head to the beach and jump in the warm Hawaiian waters to wash off the dirt and sweat! You deserve it!

The Night Marchers – Scary Creatures and Ghosts in Hawaii

Night MarchersHawaiian moms have been known to threaten to leave their children out for the night marchers if they don’t behave. While this threat may not sound terrifying to those who have never heard of the huaki’ po, these death dealing ghosts are among the most terrifying of the ghosts and ghouls in Hawaiian myth and legend.

The stories describe the night marchers as a gang of ghosts roaming with both gods and goddesses – they come down from the mountains and march to the sounds of ancient chants, drums, and the spooky conch shell horns. This sort of procession wouldn’t be too different from a chief’s visit in ancient Hawaii to a town or village – except for the fact that all members of the night marchers party are among the unliving.

Night MarchersThe stories are ancient but the first written account was by Captain Cook, the first European to visit the Hawaiian Islands. He claimed to have seen processions of ghosts on the Big Island of Hawaii. Sightings have continued from then until now. Many locals claim that these stories are much more than legend – they are real…so imagine the terror of being threatened by them!

The processions are usually spotted as a line of torches moving down the mountains – sometimes through areas where there are cliffs or impossible obstacles – they leave no trace and any who might see them are taken with them and never seen again. This is why there are dire warnings to never cross the paths of the night marchers. Those foolish enough to have built homes or gardens in the paths of the night marchers should not be surprised to have them destroyed, burned, or left unusable.

If you are in Hawaii and you hear or see signs of a night marcher procession, there is only one thing to do, run and hide and whatever you do, do not make eye contact. If they are close, lie face down on the ground and do not look up!

Night MarchersMany locals claim that the paths of the night marchers are set and wind from heiau (temple) to heiau, through the caves and sacred burial spots of the ali’i (Hawaiian Chiefs). On Oahu, most reports come from Kaena Point, Kahana Valley, Yokohama Bay, and Waimanalo. The new moon is said to be when they are most likely to be seen – accompanying the spirits of the dead to the westernmost point on the island where the souls will be cast into the ocean joining the hamakua (ancestral spirits).

Beware the night marchers! And do your chores kids!

5 Best Family Beaches on Oahu in Hawaii

All of Hawaii is famous for the wonderful beaches and the island of Oahu is no exception. Oahu is filled with fantastic beaches for surf, barbecues, body boarding, sun bathing, and enjoying all the Pacific Ocean has to offer. These are the five best family beach parks on the island of Oahu. It’s impossible to say which of these is the best because they all have different things to offer.

If you’re taking your family to Oahu, these are my top five recommendations for a great day at the beach. One last thing…make sure not to leave your valuables in the car since the cockroaches will often take wallets or iPhones when you aren’t looking. Be careful and have fun!

Waimea Jumping Stone

Waimea Bay Beach Park

Waimea Bay Beach Park is the home of big wave surfing. During the winter when waves are the size of buildings, this is a no-go zone for those with small kids. Waves have been known to drag people off the beach never to be seen again. During the mellow spring, summer, and autumn months though – this beach is a wonderful place to barbecue, surf, swim, and relax. Make sure to pack your cooler and bring everything you need. The closest store is a few miles away in Haleiwa.

Waikiki

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach Park offers so much that people tend to discount it. Yes, it’s where everyone goes, yes it can be crowded, and yes it’s right in the middle of the city. However, with the zoo right across the street, great picnic facilities, Queen Kapiolani park next to the zoo, and the restaurants and attractions of Waikiki within a five minute walk, there is no better place for families. Plus, the waves are great, the water is warm, the locals on the beach are friendly, and you can almost always find a beach volleyball game.  Plenty of lifeguards and safe for everyone.

Sandy's Beach Oahu

Sandy’s Beach

Sandy’s Beach Park is the South shore jewel of Oahu. One thing to be careful of is the shorebreak since the shoreline is steep here and waves can catch you by surprise. Ask the lifeguards about conditions before going in the water or letting your kids body surf. Beautiful views of the back side of Diamond Head and Koko Crater, amazing stretches of sand, and plenty of action in the water.

Kailua Oahu Hawaii

 

Kailua Beach

Kailua  is perfect for families. This windward beach park is in the mellow beach town of Kailua and offers shady picnic facilities, scenic views of the Mokulua Islands, plenty of parking, and a safe beach that has water perfect for snorkeling, swimming, or kite surfing. As a bonus, there are more than enough trees to string up a hammock and have a relaxing seaside nap.

Punalu'u

Kahana Bay Beach

Kahana Bay is south of Punalu’u and is just between the Windward and North Shores of Oahu. This is a nice beach with a sandy shoreline. If you want to experience what Hawaii was like fifty years ago, this is the place to go. Punalu’u has camping facilities, picnic facilities, and gentle waves that are fun to swim in and can sometimes support a long board.

 

5 Free Things to do in Hawaii that Should Cost a Fortune

5 Free Things to do in Hawaii that Should Cost a Fortune

They say that in life the best things are free, but we all know that usually is a crock of malarky. Food, housing, travel, clothing, family, medicine, eductaion – all of these things cost money. The thing is, though, sometimes you find that there is some truth to that old saying after all. Here are five things in Hawaii that are free to do but should cost a fortune.

Going to the Beach

Going to the beach in Hawaii

The beaches in Hawaii are among the best in the world. That’s the reason people are so surprised when they come to Hawaii and find that public beach access is a right that is protected by law. You don’t have to pay to go to any beach in Hawaii. They are all free and everyone is welcome.

Hiking in the Rainforest

Rainforest Hawaii

You can pay for a guide if you want to, but the truth is that you can find plenty of information online about where to hike in Hawaii and it won’t cost you a cent. You can hike all day in public rainforest with no entrance fees, no charge for the guavas, and no charge for the bird watching.

Swimming in a Tropical Waterfall

Hawaii Rainforest Hike

You need to pay atteintion to the signs and learn about Leptosporosis, but while you’re sweating on that hike in the tropical rainforests of Hawaii, don’t be surprised to come across a waterfall in the jungle. Falls like Mauawili and Manoa falls are fantastic for swimming and wading. Let the warm water wash over you and imagine yourself in a soap opera.

Seeing Giant Sea Turtles and Hawaiian Monk Seals on the Beach

Giant Sea Turtle Hawaii

Nobody will charge you to see the wild life in Hawaii, but if you harrass the animals you will get charged a hefty fine so remember not to approach too close to the sea turtles or Hawaiian Monk Seals while they are lazing on the shoreline.

Watching the Sunrise and the Sunset over the Pacific Ocean

Sunrise

Because the islands aren’t very big, you can watch the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean as if you are in Japan and then watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean as if you are in California. My favorite spot to watch the sunrise is from the bunker in Lanikai on  Oahu’s Windward side. My favorite sunset spot is from Sunset Beach – it’s called that for a reason.

Vagobond Travel Videos and Vagobond Youtube Channel

It’s a little hard to believe – but I’ve pretty much ignored video as a medium. This isn’t because I don’t believe in the power of video – but mainly because of technological issues. After all, in 2008 when I graduated from the University of Hawaii – my main focus was anthropology and my secondary focus was film making through the Academy of Creative Media. But here is where the issues with technology arose. I left Hawaii with a small suitcase (carry  on) and a backpack. I brought a Sony Handycam and a Vaio laptop with me. I had a huge and heavy external hard drive that I left behind. I had professional grade software for film editing on the Vaio but the storage technology in 2008 was such that importing and using raw video files wasn’t really something that could be done on a rig as light as mine. When my Vaio failed in 2009, I opted to go lighter and moved all of my web work to an Acer Netbook with a 10-inch screen. My Razr Flip-phone took video and I would sometimes take video with my 8, 10, or 12 megapixel cameras – but mostly the quality was terrible and the editing I was now doing on a Windows Movie Maker freeeware program was sub-optimal.

It was during this time from 2008-2012 that Youtube as a platform took off. While I was building Vagobond and writing a half dozen books on my netbook – the pay off for struggling to make bad video just wasn’t worth it. And, to be honest, I was a bit camera shy which probably didn’t help. Moving back to the USA in 2013, my priority became building my antique shop, my small community newspaper, and moving my family to Hawaii.

It’s only now – a decade after I left Hawaii that I find myself with the proper technology and time to sort through my old video and put them together as something hopefully interesting. The sound I recorded on my flip-phone, my cameras, the handy cam, and then my progressively better smartphones was terrible – so in many cases I’ve cut the sound and replaced it with music. I’m still not some rich guy with great tech – but I recently bought a Macbook Air and my iPhone 6s does decent video – so hopefully the quality of these videos will improve as time goes on. My mission is to first sort through and use my old footage and then to start creating new videos. I’m less camera shy now – so you’ll probably see more of me in future videos.

I’ve created a new YouTube Channel “Vagobond Travels’ – the name is a bear until I get 100 subscribers, but then I can change it to something easier to remember. So, please click through now and pound that ‘Subscribe’ button.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvV2_3gHVl6NKf6jBBSnHzw

Unfortunately, right now if you search for it on Youtube or Google, Google automatically corrects the spelling to Vagabond so you get lots of other peoples channels.  I’ve also started to put my older videos on a specific page here Vagobond Travel Videos

To get you started – here is the first video I’ve put together from my old clips – it has a few clips from Hawaii and my trip across the USA before I left for Spain in January 2009.

 

and here’s an old favorite called Hawaii Chicken – if you skip to the end you will see how I got to Hawaii

How Not To Enjoy World Travel – Part 1

Here’s an oldie but goodie I first published back in 2009!

There has been a lot written about how to enjoy world travel or how to increase the ways that world travel can fulfill you. What I haven’t seen is a lot about how to have a miserable time when you are on the road.

Having lived in quite a few tourist destinations, run hostels, and interacted with literally thousands of travelers, tourists, nomads, vagabonds, and gypsies over the years I’ve seen more than a few people who are making themselves as miserable as possible. In fact, I’ve done it a time or two myself.

So, I dedicate this post to all the miserable wretches who thought they were going on the adventure of a lifetime but ended up having the worst time of their lives.

Across Canada1) Get drunk all the time. Party like a miserable suicidal rock star.
Sure, it’s nice to have some drinks now and then. It’s even nice to sometimes throw caution to the wind and just get blotto and see if you wake up in the morning with a beautiful stranger (or a stranger you thought was beautiful when you were hammered), but the truth of the matter is that alcohol is a depressant.

Alcohol used to excess has a negative impact on our bodies, our minds, and our emotions. While it is easy to shake off a hangover now and then (easier for some than others), no matter how fit you are if you are getting soused every night your mind and emotional state are going to suffer.

Not only will you miss those glorious early morning walks when people all over the world are getting ready for work and starting their day but you are putting yourself in a position where you won’t be able to clearly see the things that make foreign cultures beautiful. And you will spend a lot. With a few exceptions (like the Philippines), booze is also one of the most expensive things you can buy. Drinking will sap your budget and sap your spirits. As an example, an average night of drinking in Turkey will cost you anywhere from 30 to 100 lira. For 20 lira you can take a boat tour in Kaciegiez including lunch and visit the mud baths, and go to the beach, and drink a beer and eat an ice cream. So, one night drinking or a boat trip?

2) Don’t leave the resort or tourist areas.
I know that being in a foreign culture can be difficult, but if you only eat in the McDonalds, use the hotel facilities, stay in the backpacker ghetto area, or stick to the guidebook than you are missing out on what life is really about in whatever place you are in. Would you rather sit by a pool meeting other vacationers or perhaps meet Chinese villagers who are celebrating a local holiday?

When I ran a hostel in Waikiki, I noticed that some guests never left Waikiki and they usually wrote things in the comment book like “Hawaii is just like Miami but more expensive”, but for those who ventured out into little towns like Kailua or who visited local spots in Honolulu, the comments would usually read something like this “Aloha is real! I love Hawaii!”
Which comment would you rather leave?

Valencia, Spain3) Compare everything negatively with somewhere else.
I’ve heard plenty of tourists in Fez, Morocco say things like “The clubs here aren’t as good as the ones in Barcelona” or “The cafes here aren’t as good as the one’s in Paris”. They are right, but the problem is that by comparing things in a negative way they are missing what is good or interesting about the clubs in Fez.

A better way is to say something like “The cafe’s in Fez are different from those in Paris because they are filled with only men. That’s interesting, I wonder why?” and then to ask someone about it. Sure, you may not like it as much, but explore the diversity instead of just harshing about it.

If you want to know more ways to not enjoy world travel, stay tuned. More are coming soon.

In the meantime, what do you recommend for those who want to be miserable?

Exploring the World with Iwahai

If you haven’t yet downloaded and played with the Iwahai app, you are really missing out.  There are still a few bugs to work out, but for the most part – it’s already a fun way to explore and share the world. Need proof?

Easily done – but you’ll need to download and open the app before you can check out these amazing markers. And since you have the app now – why not add some memories of your own on there? Share some insider knowledge. Make a recommendation. Or – say hi to a friend. The more you add and share on Iwahai – the more fun it will become. Bring your friends on, Iwahai is free, it’s easy, and it’s fun.

This was the first marker ever placed and recorded on the Iwahai Map

Curious about where the best tacos in Los Angeles are? An Iwahai user told us.

Wanna know what it’s like to visit Culver’s in Milwaukee with someone’s grandma? Check it out! An Iwahai user shared it!

An amazing spot to go kayaking in New York – we learned from an Iwahai User

A robotic voice in Saudi Arabia which says (in Arabic) “Knowledge is Light and Ignorance is Darkness”

The only known audio recording of artist and pop-icon Frida Kahlo from Mexico City, Mexico

Someone’s personal opinion about the person living in the White House in Washington D.C. and another’s opinion of Mar al Lago in Florida – the so called “Winter Whitehouse”

My experience seeking out a famous witch on the island of Siquijor in the Philippines.

Or maybe you want to take a little mini -tour of some of my favorite places on Oahu in Hawaii that I’ve recommended to friends and family.

-A slow but delicious Hawaiian shrimp truck

-The unobtrusive and not obvious location of Banzai Pipeline

-The best Farmer’s Market on Oahu

-The cheapest and coolest place to stay on the North Shore

Lahaina – Maui’s Nantucket

Lahaina Maui HawaiiIf you’re looking for a classic beach resort town with all the shops, restaurants, perfect weather, and great beaches nearby – Lahaina on the island of Maui is perhaps your best choice. This little town exudes country tourism charm. Be warned though – during the peak season this little village swells from a population of about 12,000 to nearly 40,000! That’s not even including the nearby resorts of Ka’anapali and Kapalua.

Still, Lahaina is a fun place to go and offers something for everyone. However, if you are looking to buy a slice of Hawaiian paradise, this may not be the place for you. Lahaina has some of Hawaii’s most expensive real estate with homes that can cost as much as $5 million dollars.

There’s a reason for those prices. Prior to contact, Lahaina was the capitol of the Maui Kingdom. It was also the capitol of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1820-1845 under King Kamehameha III – he preferred it to Honolulu. There are still vestiges of that legacy there. Front Street, the bustling main drag of Lahaina dates back to that period. While some guides will tell you that the big banyan tree at Banyan Court Park was planted by Kamehameha III’s queen, it’s not true. It was planted by William Owen Smith in 1873 to celebrate 50 yeas of missionary work. There is no larger banyan tree in the United States. Nearby are the reconstructed bulwarks of Fort Lahaina.

Lahaina Maui Hawaii

It’s a sunny spot which is reflected in the Hawaiian name – meaning ‘cruel sun’. It’s dry most of the time but gets a bit of rain in the winter months. Lahaina was an important center of the whaling industry in the 1800s and the conflict between conservative missionaries and horny sailors was the stuff of legends. Fort Lahaina was actually built to protect the town against rioting sailors! The whaling has stopped but Lahaina is still a heavily used port for whale watching cruises from November to May.
There is no shortage of historical or tourist attractions in Lahaina. Among them the Bailey Museum, the Lahaina Courthouse, and the Prison. Walking maps are available at the Baldwin House Museum for a couple of dollars. There are a huge number of restaurants, bars, and shops on Front Street.
Lahaina Maui HawaiiThe biggest celebration in Lahaina every year is Halloween with huge crowds walking up and down the main street. It’s not exactly kid friendly after dark because of the many drunks staggering around.  Mardii Gras of the Pacific is what I’ve heard it called, but I think that overstates things by quite a bit.
It’s a fun town. I recommend it.

Paia – Maui’s Hippie Town

  1. I’ve always enjoyed spending time in Pa’ia on the Hawaiian Island of Maui, but I have to admit – on this last trip – after more than a decade since my last visit – I wasn’t too keen on it. I’m sure it would be cool if it was your first time to go there. My wife and daughter liked it. The thing is – it used to be kind of a hippie art town – but like most hippie things (granola, brown bread, tofu, soy products, hemp) it’s now sort of trendy, chic, and over-priced. For me what made the hippie stuff great was that it was cheap AND healthy. Now, the cheap part is gone.

Maui Paia

Same goes for Pa’ia – although, I will say that the natural foods store is still offering far better prices than the other food places on Maui. Mana Foods is a hell of a lot cheaper than Whole Foods or Down to Earth here on Oahu. There are some decent restaurants in Pa’ia – the most expensive and most famous of course being Mama’s Fish House – which used to be a bit of a secret until Oprah let the world know about it.

Paia Maui

There are art galleries, tourist shops, and a couple of surf shops.

Pa’ia is the first town on the famous “Road to Hana.” It used to be a sugar town. Then it became sort of a forgotten and overly wet artist and surfer spot – cheaper than Lahaina or the other beach towns. The sugar mill closed in 2000 and like most places – it started catering to tourists. Pa’ia is sometimes called the capital of wind-surfing and has some world class spots for it. There are also some amazing beaches around this north shore town, but I’m not going to spoil them any further by calling them out. You’ll just have to explore to find them.

Maui Paia

Pa’ia has about 3000 residents and lots and lots of tourists. It is the gateway to upcountry Maui and the road to Hana. It’s a cute little town – a place where hippies used to hang out and now it’s a place where tourists come to pretend to be hippies. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Maui Paia

 

The Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu – Explained

Hawaii Convention CenterA lot of visitors to Honolulu ask me about the unique design and history of the Hawaii Convention Center near Waikiki. It’s a massive building. It cost over $200 million to build back in the late 1990s and has more than 1.1 million square feet of usable space. The building is owned by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) but strangely, they outsource the management of it to a California company (such practices are why we have low paying jobs and a stagnant economy here in Hawaii).

Hawaii Convention Center

The State of Hawaii was the contractor and the architect was LMN from Seattle, Washington.  This is their statement on the Convention Center:

The design celebrates Hawai`i through innovative functional planning, ecological responsiveness and a unique expression of place. Designed before sustainable design gained popularity, the facility employs energy conservation and passive building systems as integrated aspects of the architectural experience.

The building is configured on the site to capture Hawaii’s trade winds and optimize natural ventilation of public spaces.  More than 60 percent of the center, including lobbies, registration, pre-function areas and concourses, are open to the sky and shaded with trellis structures to provide abundant daylight while maintaining human comfort.

References to traditional building forms and landscape elements reinforce the connection to Hawaiian landscape and culture—expressed in roof shape, structural columns, and a series of folded fabric roof “sails” that induce air flow and create a dramatic civic presence.

Addressing its urban context, the building provides active edges on all four sides by enveloping the functional service areas within the building massing.  Landscaped public terraces are designed for a diverse range of active and passive use, integrating the entire facility into its active pedestrian environment.

The interior architects were Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo (WATG), one of the most successful firms to be born in Honolulu. Their idea was to incorporate Hawaiian quilt motifs and representation of Hawaii nature throughout the interior and exterior elements.

Hawaii Convention Center

It has been voted the most beautiful convention center in the world! The iconic sails on top represent the original Polynesian voyagers who became the Hawaiian people. It has appeared in many TV shows and movies including LOST and Hawaii 5-0.

Hawaii Convention Center Com Con

Our personal favorite events that happen there are Hawaii Comic Con and the Honolulu Festival but there are many more events, expos, and conferences that take place at the HCC.

Kaena Point on Oahu’s North Shore

North Shore OahuA few weeks ago, it was the last week of summer vacation for my 8-year-old daughter (and it was her birthday week) so I took some time off and we made an awesome week of it.  We filled the days with boogie boarding in Kailua, shave ice on the North Shore, pizza, and doing crazy things she suggested like playing Yahtzee while we ate cereal for breakfast.

One of those great things we did was taking a long awaited hike to Kaena Point on the North Shore of Oahu. I hadn’t hiked to the point since 2008 when I did my 9-day walk around Oahu. I’d done it a few times since then – but not since I got back here in 2017. I’d been wanting to do the hike with her.

Kaena PointDrive to the North Shore of Oahu, make a left at Haleiwa and drive until you can’t drive any more. That will bring you to the westernmost point you can drive to on Oahu. That’s where we went. We parked the car, grabbed water bottles, and made sure we had on plenty of sun screen. You can reach the point from the Wai’anae Coast (West Side of Oahu) but we came from the North.

In Hawaiian, kaʻena means ‘the heat’. We were ready for the heat – but still – it was hot. The hike is about 7-miles round trip and except for a couple of off road vehicles that went by us – we didn’t see anyone else on our way out. The State of Hawaiʻi has designated the point as a Natural Area Reserve to protect nesting Laysan Albatrosses and wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Hawaiian monk seals, and the fragile (to vehicular traffic) native strand vegetation that has been restored there.

Kaena PointAlong the trail we passed plenty of naupaka kahakai, ilima, Hawaiian cotton plants, hinahina, and other endemic and native plants. The beautiful lava karsts and tide pools along the way are spectacular. I’ve heard that there is some amazing snorkeling in this area – but this wasn’t on our agenda. During the winter months – the massive surf that hits the north shore makes Kaena Point extremely dangerous – with waves that have been reported as big as 80-feet!! Part of the reason I wasn’t going to take my daughter snorkeling there is because the area is known for undertows, rips and other deadly ocean conditions – year round. There are no lifeguards there and you are on your own if something goes wrong.

Kaena PointWhen we got nearer the point – we found the massive predator proof fence that was put up in 2011. It is a bit of an eyesore but has helped the endangered bird populations quite a bit. It cost almost $300k to build. The lighthouse at the point is just a beacon and the old concrete one is more of a canvas for graffiti artists than anything else. We found a few people out at the point and encountered quite a few on the way back.

It’s a longer trek back than it is to the point – so make sure you don’t drink all your water.

Kaena Point

Places I’ve Lived #25 – Honolulu, Hawaii

HonoluluI’ve already written so much about Honolulu and Oahu that I don’t really feel like there is much to say beyond our personal journey since we arrived here three years ago. Hawaii has always been an expensive place to live, but until we arrived and had boots on the ground – I had no idea just how expensive it had become. Mind-blowingly expensive.

We pay $1700/month for a small 2-bedroom apartment in a decent building but in a neighborhood that is inconvenient to the beach, Waikiki, or Honolulu. We live in the Salt Lake Neighborhood. It’s clean, generally safe and friendly.  Once we arrived and I began working – I quickly realized that earning $15/hour as an archaeologist wasn’t going to pay our bills. Archaeologists don’t earn much in the first place, but that was a particularly crappy wage. The three month raise they had promised me only brought my wage to $16/hour. I asked them to give me a raise that would at least cover my monthly living expenses but they offered weak excuses about how I was doing a dream job in paradise and shouldn’t expect much. Pretty lame. I was qualified, had the right degree, and had a family to support and the bottom line was that archaeology wasn’t going to work.

I found a far better paying job in tourism and offered my two-weeks notice. My wife was going through a bit of culture shock and still didn’t understand why I had made us move from Reedsport, Oregon. I’d kept a lot of the racism and xenophobic stuff from Reedsport to myself while we were there. When I told her, she didn’t seem to believe me. In any event, it was up to me to take care of us.

HonoluluI sold my antique shop for a fire-sale price. My best inventory wasn’t in it when I put it up for sale. That inventory came to Hawaii with us in a box trailer along with our possessions. I began learning the ins and outs of antique dealing in Hawaii. Most of the stuff I had brought with me was premium goods in Oregon but hard to sell in Hawaii. It’s a very different market here. I was still selling things on Ebay and began using the Aloha Swap Meet, selling at antique shows, and any other venue I could find.

I started working on forming my own tour company and once again became seriously interested in tech. I co-founded a cryptocurrency (which failed without making any money) and then started looking at finding a job in tech again. It was a bit like archaeology – the pay was less than the cost of living. It’s a common problem in Hawaii which is why most families have three, four, or five jobs to make ends meet. Since I couldn’t afford to work for start-ups, I decided to start my own. That process has been going on for about ten months now. I’ve founded two companies ZguideZ and Iwahai. It’s been an amazing learning process so far. Iwahai is launched and ZguideZ is still a work in progress. I still do tours – and that is what pays the bulk of our living expenses.

Oahu Salt Lake NeighborhoodMy daughter is in school. She’s thriving and loves living in Hawaii. She wants to learn how to surf but we’re still getting the swimming skills up to speed – though she and I do love body boarding together. My wife is also thriving and works as a special needs teacher (RBT). We have friends, we have a nice, safe place to live, and we somehow manage to pay our bills every month. We managed to scrape enough together so that last year the two of them were able to go see my wife’s parents in Morocco and her sisters in Belgium. We have taken a couple of short family trips to the neighbor islands of Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. This is where we are. We live in Honolulu. I’ve founded a couple of small tech companies. We scrape by in one of the most expensive places to live in the USA – but it’s beautiful, safe, and a good place to live.

I still dream about the Aegean in Turkey and Greece. I’d love to live in Europe again. I’m still drawn to my home state of California and as a tech founder – the San Francisco Bay Area has a huge draw. My siblings are now both on the California coast. It would be nice to have our families closer to each other.

I suppose it’s all on me – where we end up in the world – and where we have ended up. Honolulu is a good place to be. It’s not perfect (it’s crowded, expensive, remote, has too much military, and a lack of tech opportunities and high paying jobs) but it’s among the best places I have been – so I feel like we are doing alright. This is the end of Places I’ve Lived …..  for now, but I still don’t have any moss on me. I’ll do one more post where I rank the places I’ve lived from best to worst and then we’ll move on to something else.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Road to Hana MauiHonolulu, Hawaii is the capital city of the State of Hawaii. It has a population of approximately 1 million people. It is an incredibly diverse place to live. With more than a dozen languages spoken by significant communities, a wide diversity of religions, and a culture that spans the globe. When you consider the fact that Honolulu is not just a city but actually a combined entity of the City and County of Honolulu all run from as jurisdiction with one mayor, one city council, and one police force – it really changes the way Honolulu looks both geographically and demographically.

Places I’ve Lived #18 – Hawaii including Waikiki, Manoa, Windward Oahu and Kapa’a, Kauai

Polynesian Hostel Beach ClubWhen I moved to Hawaii – I had $100. I booked a dorm bed into the Polynesian Beach Club Hostel in Waikiki for seven nights and bought some rice and cheap veggies in Chinatown. During the next week, I ate rice and beat the streets looking for a job. I found a job painting houses and then moved into a longer term hostel down the road called the Beachside Hostel. I got a discount for waking up early and cleaning up the common areas.

Painting houses wasn’t very fun and while the owner of the hostel I was in was giving me a discount, she wasn’t a particularly nice woman – so my life wasn’t the Hawaii dream I’d been expecting. I’d made friends with some of the people who worked at the Polynesian Beach Club Hostel and was down there when the owner came in and told everyone that the manager had stolen a bunch of cash and left the island. I’d talked with the owner a few times in the past and had a friendly relationship – I volunteered to be her new manager. She agreed. I quit the painting job and moved into the manager’s apartment. My Hawaii dream life was taking shape.

Polynesian Hostel Beach ClubA little over a year after I started, she took a month long vacation and left me to handle everything. It all went good except I’d gotten a dog while she was gone. She told me to get rid of it. I’d grown attached and honestly, I don’t respond well to orders. During her absence a shady character who was opening a new hostel on the windward side had been trying to recruit me to come help him build his place. She gave me the ultimatum about the dog and I resigned and moved to the new hostel “Countryside Cabins” in Punalu’u.

Punalu’u was AWESOME. We built this amazing country Hawaiian hostel where our guests regularly decided to skip their flights home and stay longer. We had bonfires every night, we had an outdoor kitchen we cooked communal meals in every night, we integrated with the local Hawaiian community and they taught us how to cook in an imu, spearfish, hunt pigs, catch prawns, and much more. It was like a Hawaiian dream. Then it became a little like ‘The Beach’. The owner was older and single and all of us young guys were regularly hooking up with our guests and he wasn’t. He started drinking more, getting sort of abusive to the staff, and frankly, being a dick. People stopped staying longer. It was unpleasant. Some of the locals had developed some heavy ice habits (smoking meth) and there were a couple of scary incidents. The owner kept driving away our guests and then when I took issue with it – he drove me away. We’d made a gentleman’s agreement – I would come, help him build, recruit a staff, and set up tours and activities. I would be paid a salary and the tour revenue would be mine. He renegged. When I complained he said “What are you going to do? You have a dog and you don’t have anywhere to go?”

I gave my dog to a local guy who liked him and I put my things in a storage locker at Kailua Mini Storage. Then I bought a ticket to Kauai where I hiked out the 22 mile trail to Kalalau where I set up a camp in the jungle and stayed in solitude for a couple of weeks before I met some of the other outlaws out there and began to take part in the Spiritual Pizza parties, pakalolo sharing, and heavenly communal living in the valley.

Polynesian Hostel Beach ClubWhen I finally hiked out of Kalalau, I was in love with Kauai. I got a job at the Blue Lagoon Hostel in Kapa’a and then got hired as a kayak river guide at Paradise Kayaks. I bought a VW van and lived on the beach in Kapa’a next to the Kayak shop. For the next two years, I was a river guide – then I fell for a flight attendant and went to Portland where I published Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond before coming back to my senses and returning to Kauai. After that I took a trip to the Philippines and when I returned I decided to live in Kailua on Oahu and write a novel. I bought another van (I’d sold the one on Kauai) and wrote my first novel,  Slackville Road. When the book was finished I was ready to do something else. I got a job as a tour guide and limo driver and rented a studio in Kailua. It was one of the best places I’ve ever lived. I began blogging and creating an online used bookstore and everything empire. I was the Chairman of the Fukn Bored and CEO of Fukn Books, Fukn Records, and Fukn Clothing. I met an amazing woman, we fell in love, we got engaged, and she went to Africa to help the people of Sierra Leone. Then we mutually fucked everything up. For the next couple of years we tried to fix things but were unable. We lived in Lanikai and then on the Punchbowl. Finally, I enrolled at University of Hawaii and rented a studio in Manoa. Our relationship never recovered – which is a pretty huge bummer. She was one of the most awesome people I’ve ever known – and today, we’re not even in contact. I miss her friendship.

Polynesian Hostel Beach ClubAnyway, I did my best to make myself important but school took all of my energy and the Fukn Empire began to fall apart. I put my energy in becoming the managing editor of Ka Leo,  the University of Hawaii student newspaper, the president of the Honor Student Organization, an Osher Scholar, the President of the UH Sierra Club Chapter, and a dozen other things. I made student films, wrote an undergrad thesis, and graduated with honors. That was December of 2008 and the economy was fucked. So I gathered what money I could, sold all of my possessions, and decided to take trains across the USA and then go travel the world – that’s when Vagobond.com was born.

Kapa’a, Kauai

Kapa’a is a small town on the East side of the island of Kauai. It’s beautiful and not really a big tourist destination – at least it wasn’t when I lived there, mainly because there were few hotels there. The population is about 10,000 today – to the south is the Wailua River and the once famous Wailua Beach – home to the destroyed Coco Palms Hotel that was  devastated by the 1992 Hurricane Iniki. The Coco Palms was where Elvis loved to stay in Hawaii, many movies were made there. Frank Sinatra stayed there too. The Wailua River is a popular kayaking destination. There are waterfalls, a Hindu Temple, some surprisingly tasty restaurants, and large empty stretches of beach nearby.

Thoughts of a Suicidal Diver – Skydiving On Oahu’s North Shore

This was my first post on Vagobond back in 2005. Hard to believe how long it’s already been. I’ve added the short story I wrote to the end of the post but I can’t seem to find the picture of me and my friend Lena who took the dive together on Oahu’s North Shore. This day has been on my mind a lot recently because of the tragic plane crash a few days ago that took the lives of eleven people.

Man…that was so cool. It hardly feels real. The climb to altitude in the Cessna. The moment of going out the door of the plane. The freefall..man oh man…the freefall was awesome. Below is the link to the company I went with. Totally fukn cool man. I highly recommend it and I will definitely go again. Hawaii Sky Diving. 

Skydive Oahu
I wrote the little blurb below about the experience but I didn’t include it in the original post….my tandem diver told me how depressed he was before we jumped. I’ve never figured out if he was just messing with me or if I narrowly dodged a bullet. The night before had been his 50th birthday and he was unhappy at the turns of his life. Still single, no kids, and generally unhappy. He smelled like alcohol still. We were the last out of the plane and the first on the ground – meaning we pulled the rip cord way after everyone else….

 

 

A Suicidal Skydive Instructor’s Stream of Consciousness

That’s crazy. I would never do that. Somewhat disturbing to think about what it would be like to do it though. It wouldn’t really be hard. I mean, it wouldn’t haunt me because I would be dead. Right? I mean, that’s what it is.

But to not pull the cord. The strength it will take to not pull the ripcord. To not choose life at the last moment. There really can’t be much more difficult than that. I have my doubts about whether I could really do it.

Fuck, I’m late. Fuck it, today will be my 1000th dive. Cool. Shit. Gotta go. I’m sick of working. Sick of having to be anywhere. I’m fifty and I don’t have anyone who gives a shit about me. No wife, no family, no kids. My life will only get worse from here on .

It’s a cool job though. I do have that going. I’ve got to be there, but it’s pretty cool. I just hate strapping myself to strangers and pretending to feel the thrill of their first airplane jump as if it is my first time too. Life is most difficult when you are insincere. Suddenly the world begins to appear as full of shit as you are. I really wonder if I could do it.

The Road to Hana – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Beautiful, Crowded, and Dangerous! Gallery

 

Road to Hana Maui

(Scroll down for my gallery of photos from the Road to Hana)

The Road to Hana – also known as the Hana Highway is Routes 36 and 360 along the East side of Maui. It connects the towns of Kahalui, Paia, and Hana. The destination is not the purpose of taking this trip, literally, you are there to experience the road. There are 59 bridges (most of them one way) and with stops you should count on a minimum of 8-hours round trip. The highway was opened in 1926 and fully paved during the 1960s.

In the early 2000’s on Maui,  I took my rental car the rest of the way from Hana to Ulupalakua Ranch. This route is even more treacherous than the main Road to Hana. I considered doing it this time but when I heard one baby boomer in a Mustang recommending it to another baby boomer in a Jeep, I decided it was a better idea to take the Road to Hana back – surprisingly – we saw very little traffic on the way back – so my assumption is that a majority of people are now taking the so called ‘road less travelled’ (which, if true, makes it the road more travelled).

The Good
The Road to Hana is one of those fantasy trips that people dream about doing. Sixty two miles with more than 620 turns and a natural treasure around every bend. Waterfalls, black sand beaches, green sand beaches, red sand beaches – tropical forest, more waterfalls, hikes to such amazingly named places as the ‘Seven Sacred Pools’. There are absolutely breathtaking views along the way with climbs along the coast up to as high as 4200 feet. Some essential stopping points are Ho’okipa Lookout, Twin Falls, Kaumahina State Wayside Park, Honomanu Bay, Ke’anae Arboretum, Wailua Valley (and falls), Upper Waikani Falls (the three bears), Pua’ Kaa State Wayside, Hanawi Falls, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Kahanu Botanical Gardens, and the Nahiku Marketplace (which, while priced for tourists, still offers some delicious lunch options).

The Road to Hana is beautiful and there are many places worth stopping along the way – if you can find a parking spot. Going past Hana to Kipahulu and Ohe’o Gulch is essential.

The Bad
You can break your budget with mediocre roadside attractions along the way. A good example is the lovely but overpriced ‘Garden of Eden’ -a beautiful botanical garden that charges $15 per person to have a walk in the jungle, buy bird food to feed their birds, and shop in their gallery. Personally, my recommendation is to pass this one as the free botanical gardens, parks, and trails along the way offer everything you can get here (and more).

It’s hard to get a photo at any of the attractions along the way without a whole bunch of tourists (like us) in the background. Patience is the key here. If you are dreaming of being alone in beautiful and remote tropical areas – the Road to Hana is not your destination. Parking at the trailheads, beachparks, and attractions along the way is also a problem – at one point, I felt like I was jockeying for a space at the Iwilei Costco on Oahu (not a recommended experience).

Everything on the Road to Hana is priced at the highest possible amount. This is a well defined tourist route and you are paying tourist prices at every point.

The Ugly
I’d driven the Road to Hana a couple of times in the past. Once in 2005 and again in 2007. This was more treacherous than either of those trips. The problem was the constant stream of rented Ford Mustangs and Jeep Wranglers going in both directions – intersperced with pissed off locals trying to get home or someplace else and willing to make insane passing maneuvers when the Mustangs and Wranglers didn’t pull over to make way.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m sympathetic to both groups. After all, we live on Oahu and are visiting Maui – we were a little bit of both tourist and local, but both groups were engaging in some shitty behaviour. While most of the tourists used the pull outs to let groups of 3 or more cars go past – all it took was one jerk living out his jeep fantasy while holding his GoPro over the t-top who refused to pull over and left a line of ten or more cars behind him to ruin it for everyone. Also, while most of the locals patiently waited for a safe opportunity to pass – there always seemed to be at least one aggressive teenager in an oversized Tonka truck that was willing to play chicken with oncoming cars and endanger everyone. I lost count after the six or seventh near miss – but that was fairly early in the day.

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