If you are heading to Volos – you aren’t going to find any hostels. The hotels in Volos tend to be pretty basic without really offering very much in the way of services. 60-100 Euro per night will get you a fairly generic hotel room. Some will have wi-fi and some won’t. Some will have breakfast included and others won’t.
I opted for the very simple, very central, and very clean Hotel Argo (165, Dimitriados Street) for the two nights I needed to be in Volos. A small hotel run by two families- it doesn’t have any listings on-line. If you bargain with the manager, Nikolaos Papanikolauyou, can get a room for 35 Euro per night. A basic room and shower but kept clean and neat. Central location near the bars and restaurants and only two streets up from the waterfront. Free wi-fi in the rooms along with basic TV (with Greek channels) and A.C. The balconies face a fairly busy street but at one point looked out over the water before tall buildings were built between the Argo and the waterfront.
The backpacker favorite that is listed on the Lonely Planet Thorntree and other forums The Galaxy Hotel – has now gone out of business.
Overall- Volos isn’t really a great place for accommodation – that’s the bad news. The good news is that the many towns and villages around Volos offer tons of unique, boutique, cheap, and enjoyable options.
Makrinitsa Hotels are a great option for the times when the heat of Volos gets overwhelming. Both Makrinitsa and Portaria are on Mt. Pelion above Volos and offer stunning views. 15-20 minute bus ride from Volos center. Portaria Hotels offer a bit more upscale options to Makrinitsa.
There are some great little hotels in Milina, but you have to drive a bit to get there. A taxi will cost you about 50 Euro or the bus will cost you 5 Euro to get there. Worth the effort, but not close enough if you need to be in Volos.
The hotels in Agria and the Milies are closer to Volos and offer amazing beaches and/or rural Greek village life. The same is true of the Kalamos Hotels and the Afetes Hotels but they are a little further outside of Volos – not as far as Milina, but a good 45 minutes – 1 hour bus ride.
And closest to the airport is the small town of Nea Anchialos which also offers some interesting historical ruins and a very pleasant small town.
2019: Well, we messed up again. Once again, I had a great plan for Christmas – we were going to go to Molokai but by the time we were able to find my wife’s work schedule – the prices had gone sky high – as they always do on school holidays when capitalists know that families have the opportunity to travel so demand goes up – and while we could have dealt with that – there were no more rental cars available and the place we wanted to stay really needed one. So, once again, here we are again – home on Oahu for the holidays. It’s not such a terrible thing – we will certainly go to the beach and do some sand castle building and body surfing to celebrate the pinnacle of the blight of consumerism that seems to never have a start or end point any longer.
2018:It was my intention to meet up with friends on Maui and have a Merry Christmas trip to the island of Molokai this year – but things don’t always work out the way you plan. In this case, the fake nuclear attack, near misses with hurricanes, and Big Island volcanic eruptions (plus the largely unspoken economic crisis that is looming) hit our tourism based income incredibly hard this year. As the holidays loomed, my wife and I were left with the choice of working in Honolulu during the Christmas break or taking our annual holiday – due to our budget – we opted to go with working.
We will have Christmas Day off together but during all the other days of our daughter’s school break, one or the other (sometimes both) of us will be working. We’ve enrolled Sophia in a Christmas break day camp, so she will still get to have lots of holiday themed fun – and frankly- that’s the most important thing to us. We’re lucky – actually. This year, there are a lot of workers such as those who work for TSA, Homeland Security, or Border Patrol who won’t be collecting a paycheck. There are many families here on Oahu and throughout the Hawaiian Islands (and the USA) who are homeless and won’t be celebrating Christmas, getting presents, or spending any time with loved ones. There are many families who can’t afford to send their kids to day camps during the holiday and without school to watch over them while the parents work – many children are being left to their own devices – not through cruelty, but through necessity.
So, we are thankful. Hawaii is a strange place for Christmas in any event – we try really hard here with lots and lots of decorations and Christmas music- but if you’ve ever spent time anywhere else for Christmas – it just feels really odd to have perfect weather, warm water to swim in, and everyone wearing shorts and Santa hats. Merry Christmas in Hawaiian is Mele Kalikimaka. The Hawaiians in ancient times didn’t know anything about Christmas. They celebrated a four month period from about November to February called Makahiki when there was generally no work done, lots of games, contests, and all warfare and hostilities were called off. This is just one more way the Hawaiians lived better in the past than we do today.
There was no money, no economy, no imports, no exports, and nearly everyone could take four months of the year off from working or fighting to just enjoy life. When you average it out, the ancient Hawaiian family only needed a total of 4 hours of work per day to provide everything they needed in life. They didn’t need all this stuff we have now. I noticed something odd this year – people were frantic about their Christmas shopping, often neurotic and seemingly in a panic. In Hawaii, it’s not like other places – you’re expected to give good presents to all of your coworkers and friends and family – and that gets expensive fast. Then there’s the Secret Santa tradition – in the jobs I had on the mainland – Secret Santa was a way to ensure that everyone got one nice gift and no one had to spend too much – something like maximum $25 – and no other gifts needed. Not here – my wife’s work laid out the rules $25 minimum! And- they all went ahead and bought gifts for everyone else too…
Growing up, Christmas was never that fantastic for me or my siblings so as an adult, it really took becoming a parent for me to grow to love the holiday. When our daughter was old enough to open presents – I began to spoil her the best I could (okay, from birth, I admit it). I love watching her wake up and look for presents. I love the mystery. I’m going to admit something here though – I’ve always been really honest with her. I’ve never wanted to tell her lies about anything – and frankly – I became terrified that she would discover that I was lying about Santa Claus and feel it as some sort of betrayal of trust. I felt incredibly guilty about it. She had started to ask questions that were leading to the answer and in a moment of what may have been bad judgment – I just told her that Santa isn’t real. After that we worked through the way the whole process works.
When she was a baby, we took her to where the real Santa Claus lived in Demre, Turkey – so I went from there and explained the tradition. As it got closer to Christmas though, we both agreed to suspend reality and believe in Santa together. We have a tiny little tree in our tiny little apartment. I’ve kept all her presents hidden so I can put them out on Christmas morning – and just like last year on the Big Island (I snuck the presents in an extra suitcase) – Santa will be visiting us again. So we will leave him cookies and milk. I have to admit, it’s much more fun to suspend our disbelief together than it was to fool her – I think it’s going to be a lovely Christmas in Honolulu this year. We’ll go to the Beach on Christmas Day, build sand castles, and maybe go see a movie and eat Chinese food. Maybe next year we can restart our holiday travel tradition. Or maybe not. In any event, we wish you a Merry Christmas!
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 – 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!
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 – 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 – 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.
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.
Hawaiian 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.
The 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!
Many 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!
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 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 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 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 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 onOahu’s Windward side. My favorite sunset spot is from Sunset Beach – it’s called that for a reason.
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.
A 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).
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.
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.
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.
A 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.
Drive 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.
Along 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.
When 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.
I’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 too much (but less than market rate) for a small 2-bedroom 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 a low hourly wage 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 up $1 an 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.
I 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.
My 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 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.
When 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.
A 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.
When 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.
Anyway, 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 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.
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.
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.
Hidden just beyond the tiny sign that announces ‘Ehukai Beach Park’ is one of the world’s most iconic and undoubtedly the most famous surfing break in the world – Banzai Pipeline, variously known as ‘Pipeline’ or ‘The Pipe’. The wave itself is ancient but the name only goes back to 1961 when three California surfers stopped to film Phil Edwards riding a magnificent wave next to an underground pipeline construction project. The name stuck and in 1963 surf rock band, The Chantays, titled their pumping tune ‘Pipeline’ which cemented the name in place forever.
The beach had been known as Ehukai which means ‘sea-spray’ in Hawaiian for a long time. After World War II, locals began referring to the beach there as Banzai Beach – Banzai was the word that Japanese kamikaze pilots shouted before crashing their zero fighters into enemy targets. Both names come because of the fact that during winter, waves can reach as high as 30 feet (nearly 10 meters) high.
Pipeline is a reef break. It’s a flat table top reef that has jagged spires and canyons. Waves travel thousands of miles from where they are generated by storms in Alaska or Japan and the first land they hit is the gently sloping undersea mountains of the Hawaii-Meiji Seamount Chain – which, hen it breaks the surface – becomes the Islands of Hawaii. The water is already being pushed upward when it hits the reef at Pipeline, but the sudden presence of the reef causes a dramatic upswell which is often preserved to amazing heights by the offshore winds blowing from land.
There are actually four surf breaks at Pipeline. There is Pipeline itself which is a left, then there is Backdoors which is a right – and when big water is coming in – there are the second and third reefs outside (further out). Pipeline is one of the most deadly waves in the world and there have been many deaths and injuries there. Imagine the damage from being in a swimming pool where the bottom is covered with broken glass – and then having another swimming pool dumped on top of you. That is roughly equivalent to being crushed by a huge wave at Pipeline.
There have been many movies shot at Pipeline – perhaps the most famous was Blue Crush. Each one of the jewels of the Triple Crown of surf happens here – The Pipeline Masters.
The craziest thing about Pipeline is that in summer, it can be as smooth and calm as a lake and a perfect place to swim and relax in the water – jus watch out for the currents.
Kapiolani Community College on Oahu has a weekly farmer’s market that is a world class destination. It’s crazy, it’s crowded, it’s fun and it is DELICIOUS! This weekly event is sponsored by the Hawai’i Farm Bureau and goes on rain or shine. If you are a Farm Bureau member, you get in early from 7:00-7:30 and can avoid the crowds.
First of all – there is plenty of farm fresh produce – but don’t make the mistake of thinking that is all there is. There are food stalls that serve plenty of delicious foods from crepes to burgers to ‘Loco Moco’ to jumbo wild shrimp. The prices for produce are reasonable and for everything else – about what you would expect in Hawai’i, meaning you aren’t going to fill your belly for five bucks.
Strolling through the market provides plenty of opportunities for people watching. In fact, you can see people from pretty much all over the world. China, Japan, Australia, Europe, North America, South America, India – it’s a global marketplace. There are usually local musicians out and plenty of culinary wonders that do a great job of demonstrating just how diverse and eclectic Oahu’s food scene is.
Give yourself a couple of hours to explore and eat and enjoy and while you are there, don’t miss the desert botanical garden nearby. It’s filled with some beauties!
Getting to KCC is easy, it’s on the back side of Diamond Head near the entrance to the crater, right across the street in fact. You can get a taxi, a bus, an Uber or a Lyft from Waikiki for just a couple of bucks. There is plenty of parking so if you have a car, driving is an option. Don’t forget to bring your own reusable shopping bags!
The KCC Farmers Market takes place in Parking Lot C at Kapiʻolani Community College (4303 Diamond Head Rd.) every Saturday morning from 7:30-11:30. It’s free and has no entrance fee.
As you head up to the North Shore of Oahu on the Windward Side of the island, you will come to one of Hawaii’s most iconic landmarks. The little ‘sorting hat’ shaped island offshore from Kualoa Ranch has one of the least politically correct names in the U.S.A – Chinaman’s Hat. Okay, it’s not that bad and truth be told, there is a valid reason for the name.
The Windward Side of Oahu was heavily settled by Chinese immigrants who came to work in the sugar cane industry but then chose to stay and start their own farms. When the Chinese arrived, the island had a different name, but the locals who were already in place, noticed right away that their little island looked an awful lot like the wide conical sun hats the Chinese brought with them.
Rather than starting to call the hats ‘Mokoli’i hats’ – which may have happened at some point – the locals instead started referring to Mokoli’i as Chinaman’s Hat. There are some lovely stories and plenty of artwork that show a giant Chinese farmer living under the hat – with big catfish like Fu Manchu whiskers.
The Hawaiian name for the island, Mokoli’i, means little lizard. There are some great folktales about it as well. My favorite of them has the sister of Madam Pele, being harassed by the lizard, who fell in love with her and wouldn’t leave her alone. Unable to get her suitor to leave her alone, she killed him and then picked him up and threw him up to Kualoa where he landed. His head and back are formed by the Kualoa Mountain and the tail falls into the water where just the tip of it pokes out.
Chinaman’s Hat is a popular destination for pictures. The water is nice but there is a lot of reef and coral and not much sand. Visiting the island is best done by kayak but it can be swam or snorkeled to. One word of caution if you plan to do that – this is a tiger shark breeding area – so pay attention to the signs and conditions.
Once you reach the island, there is a short 20 minute hike that will take you to the tip of the hat.
If you are coming to Oahu in the hopes of swimming in a waterfall, learning about the ancient Hawaiian culture, and seeing unique and beautiful endemic and indigenous plants and animals – plus doing a bit of hiking and enjoying beautiful gardens and tropical flowers – then you should probably head straight to Waimea Valley and Waimea Falls on the North Shore of Oahu.
This stunning 1800 acre park has one of Oahu’s most beautiful waterfall hikes, historical sites, reconstructed and preserved archaeological sites, botanical gardens filled with indigenous plants and native birds, as well as a wealth of friendly and knowledgable employees and educational displays.
At $16 per person – this is probably one of the most affordable and enjoyable activities on Oahu. There is a 1.5 mile round trip hike on a gently sloping paved path that leads to the falls. At the falls, swimmers are required to wear provided life vests and there are life guards stationed to assist if you get in trouble. Along the path there are plenty of side trails that will take you to hidden parts of the valley – or you can stick to the trail and explore the many educational displays along the way.
In the visitor center there are frequent educational activities, a lovely gift shop, a good restaurant and always clean restrooms (as well as free wi-fi which you may need since there is no cell service in the valley). On Saturdays, the Pupukea farmers market is a fun and lively event with live music, plenty of great food, and a beautiful open lawn to picnic on. The visitor center also hosts weddings and parties as well as concerts.
There is a great luau which takes place in Waimea Valley.
This valley was one of the main settlements of Oahu in ancient times and it is filled with rich archaeological sites. It was evacuated in 1893 due to heavy flooding and never recovered. The valley is a sacred ahupua’a to the Hawaiian people – that’s a land division.
There are 41 different gardens in the valley containing more than 5000 different plants. For many of my visitors, this is the most fulfilling and memorable part of their journey to Oahu. In addition, it may look familiar because there were quite a few movies and TV Shows shot in Waimea Valley including Lost, Hawaii 5-0, 50 First Dates, Joe vs. The Volcano – and many more.
Children (4-12 years): 8
Seniors (60 years and older): $12
Kama’aina/Military Adults (ID required): $10
Kama’aina/Military Children: $6
Kama’aina/Military Seniors: $8
Annual Pass Individual: $50
Annual Pass Family (2 adults and up to 4 children under the age of 12): $100
Open daily from
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.