Destination: Hawaii

Ka’iulani:  the Activist Princess

Photo by clliff1066 via Flickr (Creative Commons).

The Hawaiian Hall at the Bishop Museum is still closed for renovations (we got a sneak peak on our visit—it’s going to be stunning when it opens in August) so there is only a limited amount of Hawaiian artifacts currently on view. The Kāhili Room at the museum is open, though—it’s in a different building—and it displays portraits of the Hawaiian monarchy and their feathered standards. These torch-like staffs were carried in front of royalty to visually announce their arrival.

Two of the portraits really stuck with me: the photo of Princess Ruth, a frowning, broad woman contained in severe Victorian dress, and the portrait of Princess Ka’iulani, also in Victorian attire but looking less awkward. Princess Ka’iulani cemented her place in the hearts of Native Hawaiians by traveling to the mainland to plead with Congress and two US Presidents for the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy.

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Jizo, Protector of Travelers and Children

Jizo Shrine Photo by Pam Mandel
Photo by Pam Mandel

On my latest trip to Hawaii, I left my lei draped on the Jizo statue at a little shrine on a bluff between Hanauma Bay and Sandy Beach—to get there, you have to park at the Halona Blowhole viewpoint and walk back along the Kalanianaole Highway.  Last time we were there, a ceremony was taking place and we didn’t want to interrupt—a group of 20 or so people stood in front of the statue chanting in Japanese, their prayers blown away on the brisk wind.

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No Shark Dives Here, Say Oahu Residents

No Shark Dives Here, Say Oahu Residents Photo by hermanusbackpacker via Flickr (Creative Commons).

There are a handful of critters I hope never to get all that close to. Sharks are on the top of that list; I’d rather share my time in the water with occupants that don’t potentially see me as food. But plenty of tourists are more than willing to shell out $120 (give or take) to get in the water with the thing I so fear, “secure cage” or no.

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Eight Great Stories of Beaches, Islands, Travel and the Tropics

Eight Great Stories of Beaches, Islands, Travel and the Tropics Photo by Oscalito via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

To mark our eighth anniversary, we've collected eight favorite stories from our archives that celebrate and explore travel at land's end

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May Day Is Lei Day in Hawaii

May Day Is Lei Day in Hawaii Photo by Nerd's Eye View via Flickr (Creative Commons

May 1, 1928, was the first Lei Day, the holiday that celebrates the Hawaiian tradition of making and wearing leis. Island festivities include lei-making contests and Prom King and Queen-like coronations. After the contests are over, the leis are taken to the tombs of the ali’i—the Hawaiian royalty—and left there as offerings. I’m more than a little delighted to be arriving in Kaua’i just in time for the island’s Lei Day festivities. There’s a rather nice video montage of some older and new Lei Day photos here:

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Hilo Hattie, Don’t Leave Me!

Hilo Hattie, Don’t Leave Me! Photo by lrargerich via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by lrargerich via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I confess: I love Hilo Hattie’s, the kitsch-tastic chain of retail stores where you can buy matching aloha wear for your entire family, hula girl lamps and beaded curtains, nightlights that have the word “Aloha” etched into their cowrie shell shades, coffee cups with your “Hawaiian” name on them, 73 different varieties of macadamia nut treat, straw hats, sun screen, flip-flops, tank tops ... oh, it goes on and on.

Most of the stuff they sell isn’t made in Hawaii; the shirts are from China, the mango candy from Thailand, even the shell leis they drop around your neck as you walk in the door are probably from some place other than Hawaii but never mind, never mind. I take the coupons from the airport brochures, I get on the shuttle bus and off I go to buy more ridiculous Aloha-themed junque. Don’t judge me. I openly admit I have a problem.

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Hawaii to Obama: Save Our Business Travel!

Hawaii to Obama: Save Our Business Travel! Photo by bobster1985 via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by bobster1985 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

According to Hawaii tourism leaders, “Workers who attend meetings in Hawaii are happier, more productive and more focused afterward.” That quote (from lots of sources, including the Los Angeles Times) is part of a campaign Hawaii has launched to further promote the islands as a business travel destination. Is anyone surprised to hear that a business trip to Hawaii cheers a lackluster worker right up?

But here’s the catch, courtesy of the Honolulu Star Bulletin: “Public anger at extravagant spending by companies receiving bailout tax dollars has extended throughout corporate America and created a sharp decline in travel to meetings in Hawaii, described as junkets. The state’s tourism industry is suffering as a result and faces a huge challenge in trying to revitalize business travel to the islands.”

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For Sale: One Pocket Globe, Complete with History Lesson

Like most travelers, I’m a sucker for old maps and other travel ephemera. That’s why I spent way too much time clicking through the catalog after reading about the collection of Hawaii artifacts that went up for auction last week. The items included “an early issue of Ke Kumu Hawaii, the first newspaper printed in Honolulu; a copy of Lili’uokalani’s translation of the Kumulipo genealogy chant; and a 19th-century Hawaii flag hand-painted on silk.”

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Rooster Racket on the Chicken Isle

Rooster with Beach Chairs Photo by Mr. Thomas, via Flickr (Creative Commons).
Photo by Mr. Thomas, via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Oddly, it’s one of the first things you notice about Kauai. They’re everywhere, it seems: all over the airport souvenirs, on the grassy shoulder to your right when you’re driving your rental car out of the airport, scratching along the path that goes down to the beach ... Chickens. Feral chickens.

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Farewell Ukulele Player John King

Uke players around the world are saddened to learn of the death of ukulele master John King. He was a popular teacher—many of my ukulele playing friends took lessons from him here in the Pacific Northwest and were looking forward to his upcoming classes at the Portland Uke Fest. His blog, Nalu Music, includes exhaustive back information about the history of the uke, his tour schedule, quotes about the ukulele, sheet music for skilled players, and lots, lots more. John King was a writer, a musician and an advocate for Hawaiian music and his instrument of choice.

Here’s John King playing Ka Ipo Lei—a love song for David Kalakaua the last king of Hawaii—on his uke. John King died much too young. He’ll be missed.

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Rock, Paper, Angry Volcano Goddess

From Menehune Land Sales, LLC:

And it was then that I saw her, bathed in the full moon light, a female Menehune. She was beautiful, regal, similar to the male Menehune I had seen many years ago. Seeing her on our property was truly magical. It was the sign I had been waiting for. I was being directed not to sell the land as a whole, but to share the property in Menehune size pieces with those who wanted not only to own land on Maui and perpetuate the myth of these awesome little people, but to become stewards for this land and the spirit it possesses.

In other words, “How about a tenner for the Menehune?” Actually your contribution will go to Froyam Edel, the Menehune appointed real estate agent. He’s selling the land to you, dear reader, in one foot square parcels. For $9.99 (a little more if you want the embossed seal) you’ll get, well, a paper certificate, and not much more than that.

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The Deep-Sea Discoveries of Papahanaumokuakea

The submersible plunged into the deep waters of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in 2007,  but it’s only recently that we’re learning about what was found there. Seven new species of bamboo coral have been identified in the protected area northwest of Hawaii’s main islands. Researchers also located a coral graveyard that might have died a million years ago. The NOAA site has some pictures of the coral, the submersible used for exploration at depths of over 5,000 feet and, whoa, cool, that’s a robot arm poking a sponge. And, uh, a milk crate? Whatever is best for science, I guess.

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Island Eats: Mango Smoothies

I’m an extremely addicted coffee drinker, but I have a guilty confession to make: I didn’t find the coffee in Hawaii all that great. That’s why, given the choice between a less-than-satisfying cup of joe and a big orange slurp of calorie-laden deep orange-yellow lusciousness, I went with the mango smoothie every time. I’m sure mangoes are full of things that are way better for me than caffeine salvation, but that’s not why I made the switch during my island time. Nope, it’s because mango smoothies are seductively, amazingly delicious. And at least as revitalizing as a poor-to-middling cup of coffee.

My favorite was, hands down, the one from that guy in the Maunakea Marketplace Food Court in Honolulu’s Chinatown. That fruit stand on the way back from Hana, its weren’t bad either, though I was sure one of those stoner kids was going to lose a finger at best, an entire limb at worst, swinging that machete around while high as a kite on one of Maui’s other abundant crops. I skipped the bicycle-powered blender, also on the Hana Highway because I was having an uncharacteristically un-Hawaiian moment of impatience. But I swerved to a halt at the first fruit stand on the way towards Volcano on the road from Kaleakakua Bay. “Large, please. Mango. Mahalo.”

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Hawaii’s Endangered Birds: Wake Up, Already!

Hawaii’s Endangered Birds: Wake Up, Already! Photo by quinn.anya via Flickr (Creative Commons).
Photo by quinn.anya via Flickr (Creative Commons).

I’m as surprised as anyone to find myself turning into a bird watcher—it’s a short walk from where I am to high-waisted cargo pants, a vest full of pockets and a pair of binoculars that will allow me to see well into the next county. (I kid, I kid. Bird watchers come in all shapes, sizes and victims of fashion.) My affection for all things avian is why I was saddened to read the report on Hawaii’s failing bird population.

From the AP

One-third of the nation’s endangered birds are in Hawaii, said the report issued Thursday by the Interior Department. Thirty-one Hawaiian bird species are listed as endangered, more than anywhere else in the country.

Birds are a critical part of any visit to Hawaii—the moment the sun pops over the horizon, the birds go off, alarm clock style, making all kinds of racket until they are sure you are good and awake, settling down to spend their days in a less disruptive way once you’ve given up the earplugs, found a cup of coffee and admitted defeat. Maybe they know you have to be on the pier, pronto, to catch that snorkel boat or whale-watching tour, and they are not going to let you miss it, not if they have anything to say about it.

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The Superferry’s Last Sail

The Superferry’s Last Sail Photo by James Willamore via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by James Willamore via Flickr (Creative Commons)

From day one, Hawaii’s Superferry was fraught with problems. It’s all over now. On March 19, the Superferry made its final run between Oahu and Maui.

From a logistics point of view, the ferry made travel between Oahu and Maui seem a lot easier. Drive on, drive off, with whale-watching thrown in for the price of the crossing, in season. Tourism boosters loved it, as did parents and schools—it made getting your baseball team to that game on Maui a snap, and you could bring your own bus or squeeze the whole swim team into the minivan.

But Hawaiian traditionalists objected to the Superferry because it made it too easy to plunder, like a pirate in a pickup truck, island resources. Environmentalists worried about the whales. And quality-of-life types bemoaned the traffic, suggesting that the cars lined up on either end would cause not only pollution, but delays and crowds.

The Superferry ran, and then it didn’t, and then it ran, and then it didn’t. If you held a ticket, you had to check the website the day of your sailing and, even then, there was no guarantee that you wouldn’t be turned back by protesters. The case to block the Superferry went all the way to the Hawaii Supreme Court. The issue? The Superferry had been allowed to operate before the environmental impact research was complete.

The Hawaii Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a law allowing the Superferry to operate while conducting an environmental impact statement was unconstitutional.—MSNBC

It’s back to interisland flights for travelers.You can’t take your car, but you’re less likely to get seasick. And yeah, you can get a refund for that Superferry ticket.