Destination: Hawaii

Obama in Hawaii: Commander in Kitsch

Obama bobblehead doll in Oahu Photo by Pam Mandel

Obama bobbleheads! Obama license plates! Obama meets Elvis! Pam Mandel reports from the souvenir section of Obamaland.

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Hawaiian for Travelers: It’s About the Vowels

Hawaiian for Travelers: It’s About the Vowels Photo by quinn.anya via Flickr (Creative Commons).


Photo by quinn.anya via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Aloha and mahalo. Those will get you out of the gate in Hawaii, though it’s also handy to get a good grasp on mauka —inland—and makai —towards the sea, just in case you find yourself getting directions from locals.

A few more words might make their way into your vocabulary, especially when it comes to food—there’s poke and poi and ahi and ono. I learned how to say no problem or thanks—a’ole pilikia—from a park ranger and I can read Hawaiian out loud with a halting conviction, but there’s no way I understand it. I still stumble over directions and streets signs—Hi’ilawe and Ali’i and Ala Wai and Kapiolani and Kalakaua—they all start to run together in this haole’s mind. We were going where, now?

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Finding Hawaii on the Mainland

Aloha Tavern by Nerd’s Eye View

I’m not sure why I’m surprised when, on the mainland in the middle of rural territory, I find a town named “Aloha,” or when a festival in Seattle brings thousands of Hawaiians out to listen to traditional music and see hula. The Hawaiian diaspora is extensive—hey, it reaches all the way to the White House these days.

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Kilauea’s Hot Summit

Kilauea’s Hot Summit Photo by Image Editor via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Image Editor via Flickr (Creative Commons)

It used to be that you had to go to the end of the winding Chain of Craters road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park if you wanted to get a look at hot melted planet. I’ve never done it—once the road was closed due to excessive volcanic activity, and once there wasn’t time and once ... Oh, my excuses are endless.

But if you’re on the Big Island right now, you don’t have to make that trip. According to the L.A. Times, Kilauea is “glowing brightly as molten lava swirls 300 feet below its crater’s floor, bubbling near the surface after years of spewing from the volcano’s side.”

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About Those Souvenirs: Made in Hawaii?

About Those Souvenirs: Made in Hawaii? Picture from magical-world via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Picture from magical-world via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I find souvenir shopping tricky. I like things that really scream of place or are packed with a trip’s significance—no pressure, souvenir makers! I was eager to buy a Hawaiian-made uke on my last trip, though the one I ended up getting is more global than I’d have ideally liked—the parts are made in Indonesia and shipped to Oahu for assembly. Is it made in Hawaii? Sort of.

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Brother Bertram, Photojournalist

Brother Bertram, Photojournalist Image courtesy of Lyman Museum.
Image courtesy of Lyman Museum

I’m a sucker for Hawaii’s unreachable past, a somewhat imaginary time when there really was a little grass shack in Kaleakakua to go back to. So I’m pretty excited about the photography show that’s running at the Lyman Museum in Hilo.

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Why Should You Follow Airlines on Twitter?

Photo of Qatar Airways plane by Rob Verger

Lately, I’ve been enjoying receiving tweets from airlines, and there are a few reasons why.

First up, airlines frequently announce fare sales and other news on Twitter. United has been offering what they call “twares,” which are very brief sales broadcast on Twitter, and Southwest recently tweeted about their new pets policy—you can bring dogs and cats on board now—while Virgin America tweeted to announce that their entire fleet had Wi-Fi.

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Hanalei Is America’s Best Beach: Really?

Hanalei Is America’s Best Beach: Really? Photo by Fire Horse Leo via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Fire Horse Leo via Flickr (Creative Commons)

OK, it’s a beautiful crescent of golden sand. It’s wide and clean and almost aggressively picturesque. There’s no denying that it’s an archetype of what a perfect beach should be. And it was recently selected as the “Number One Beach in the US” by Dr. Beach, a self-declared beach expert. He seems to have gained quite the cred; my Google alerts are crowded with mentions of Hanalei Beach’s new “honor.”

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More Ahi, Please*

More Ahi, Please* Photo by goochie* via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by goochie* via Flickr (Creative Commons)

You can not pile too much ahi—the Hawaiian name for tuna—on my plate. I love the stuff: raw, grilled, wrapped in rice and nori and served as sushi, marinated in soy and spice and served as poke, crusted with macadamia nuts and coconut and topped with a little mango sauce ... I swear I am turning into a big drooling mess just thinking about it.

But overfishing is depleting tuna stocks, just like it’s depleting so many of our dinner-bound, ocean-dwelling populations, driving up the price and making for scarce supply.

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Cheap Tickets to Hawaii, Costa Rica and More

Cheap Tickets to Hawaii, Costa Rica and More Photo by bobster855 via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by bobster855 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Every few weeks here, I round up some of the best air travel deals I can find.

Want to visit the Pacific? Alaska Airlines has an insanely good deal to Hawaii. They are advertising $169 one-way fares from Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon. You need to buy your tickets before June 3, and you must travel between July 3 and September 30. If you play your cards right, you can fly to Hawaii and back for a total of about $360 after taxes and fees, round trip.

Also, Air Tahiti Nui is advertising round-trip fares, after taxes and fees, of about $731 between Los Angeles and Tahiti, but it’s for a maximum stay of four days only.

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Lantern Floating for Memorial Day

Lantern Floating for Memorial Day Photo by mujitra via Flickr (Creative Commons).
Photo by mujitra via Flickr (Creative Commons).

If the pictures are anything to go by, the Memorial Day Lantern Floating ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu was the kind of visual feast that makes you think you’re in a dream.

2,000 candlelit lanterns are sent off into the ocean at sunset, each bearing “healing prayers for victims of conflict, famine, disaster and disease as well as our hopes for the happiness of all past and present.”

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Hawaii Passes Islam Day Resolution, Haters Call for Boycott

High on the list of reasons I lost my heart so completely to Hawaii?

The diversity. You’ve got your Pinoys, your Japanese, your mainland surfers, your Native Hawaiians, your Portuguese and Spaniards, the descendants of European shippers and missionaries, a whole mess of “hapa” types who are half one thing, half something else, be it Scottish, Korean, Hawaiian, Jewish ...  If you’re looking for a slice of world culture, you’re as likely to find it in Hawaii as anywhere. All those cultures make for a lively and appealing place.

But a few spoilsports are calling for a boycott of travel to the islands because the Hawaii state Legislature recently passed a resolution recognizing “Islam Day.”

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The New Sand: May Contain Plastic

The New Sand: May Contain Plastic Photo by Mason Bryant via Flickr (Creative Commons).
Photo by Mason Bryant via Flickr (Creative Commons).

The May 2009 issue of Hana Hou!—Hawaiian Airlines’ in-flight mag—includes an article called The Voyage of the Junk. The story is about a journey from California to Honolulu via the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The ship itself was a trash heap, made out of plastic garbage and leftover bits of a Cessna. The goal of the journey was to raise awareness of the impact that all the plastic crap we create, buy and use is having on the oceans.

There’s a particularly sad and telling passage in the story. Upon arrival in Honolulu, one of the sailors decided to find out how long it would take to pull a piece of plastic out of the water. He hopped overboard, and: “Less than a minute later he was out, holding up an ‘ABC Stores’ bag. ‘Thirty seconds,’ he said, with both triumph and distaste.”

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Maui vs. the Moorhen

Maui vs. the Moorhen Picture by Charles Lam via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Picture by Charles Lam via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The fluffy little chick paddling in the pond at Waimea Valley didn’t look like much of a keeper of fire. She was all black fuzz and pathetic peeping. The endangered ’Alae ’Ula chick—or Hawaiian Moorhen—was the last of a brood of three that hatched this spring. There are only about 300 of the birds left, according to a State of Hawaii fact sheet.

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Luau Chow: Chicken Long Rice

Luau Chow: Chicken Long Rice Photo by Randy Willis via Flickr (Creative Commons).
Photo by Randy Willis via Flickr (Creative Commons).

I admit it: I think you should go to a luau at least once. You need to see one of those big showy events where the dancers make you think impure thoughts with their suggestive hips and a shirtless guy twirls fire while drums pound. Also, there should be a huge buffet where a roast pig comes out of a hole in the ground and poi is dished up in polite amounts for the malahini (foreigners) and there’s a big gooey pan of chicken long rice.

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