Destination: Oahu

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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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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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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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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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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Waikiki Beach Boys

If you want to hear about the golden days of Waikiki, your best bet is probably to head up to the Haleiwa to the Surf Museum. Since I’m no surfing aficionado, I wasn’t exactly roped in by the displays, but I sure enjoyed the time I spent talking with the museum’s proprietor, Hurricane Bob. Ask Hurricane Bob about what Waikiki used to be like, and he’s full of stories.

I couldn’t help but think of Hurricane Bob, the North Shore and Waikiki when I stumbled over this short documentary about the Waikiki Beach Boys. It crams a whole sensibility about Hawaii, surfing, Waikiki, and beach culture into just over six minutes. Six minutes well spent, I’d say.

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Pork on the Pali: Prohibited

Pork on the Pali: Prohibited Photo by The Pug Father via Flickr (Creative Commons).
Photo by The Pug Father via Flickr (Creative Commons).

It’s a top tourist destination on Oahu; don’t blow it by traveling with the wrong meat.

There’s a Hawaiian superstition that says it’s forbidden to take pork across the Nu’uana Pali. Your rental car will die, you’ll fall off the edge, maybe you’ll be chased by bees or rocks will fall on you. Who knows what bad luck you’ll encounter if you don’t leave your bacon on the Honolulu side. Here’s the story from Wikipedia, though it checks out with a bunch of other sources, too:

According to legend, the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele and the demigod Kamapua’a (a half-man-half-pig) had a turbulent relationship, and the two agreed not to visit each other. If one takes pork over the Pali, the legend goes, one is symbolically taking a piece of Kamapua’a from one side to the other, and it is said that Pele would stop that from happening.

Still unexplained? How Spam is transported from the harbor to towns on the leeward side of Oahu. Maybe it’s OK if you go the long way, around the south end. Whatever you do, finish up that Hawaiian pizza before you head up to see the view.

Hawaii vs. Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Photo by k*8 via Flickr (Creative Commons).

A brief disclaimer: I’m not an expert on legal matters and while I’ve been doing lots of reading, there’s still lots I don’t understand. Because of that, I absolutely welcome your more enlightened comments on the case. I’d just like to get you interested in what’s happening and why it’s a big deal, I’m going to keep it brief and send you elsewhere to more expert commentary. Now, in summary:

The Hawaiian State Supreme Court previously ruled that the state (Hawaii) could not sell lands ceded in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy until a settlement on those lands had been reached with the Hawaiian people. The gist? The lands were ceded to the U.S. government by those who had no right to do so.

The state of Hawaii is appealing the decision—it wants the right to sell those lands. It says that its ability to manage the lands is impeded by this ruling. That’s the bare bones of the case. But Native Hawaiians see a lot more at stake in the Supreme Court’s first case tomorrow.

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Gov. to Hawaii: Tear Down This Clothesline

Gov. to Hawaii: Tear Down This Clothesline Photo by s2art via Flickr (Creative Commons).

From the Pacific Business News:

A similar bill, jokingly referred to as the “right to dry bill” passed the Legislature in 2008 but was vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle.

House Bill 1273, introduced by several environmentally conscientious House representatives, includes language that says a residential board may implement “reasonable restrictions with regard to the placement of the clothesline so long as the restrictions do not prohibit clotheslines altogether.”

Ah, the politics of a tourism-driven economy. I’m going to stick my neck out and guess that the reason the gov vetoed the bill was hefty lobbying about aesthetics from resort developers and tourism boosters. “All that underwear is going to wreck our view!”

Confession: I’ve shot photos in any number of European towns of laundry drying on the line. The Italians seem to do a nice job making laundry aesthetic. I’d be hard pressed not to be giddy at the sight of a line full of Aloha shirts flapping in the Hawaiian breeze.

Must Be Something In the Water

A whale calf either washed up or beached itself on Kauai’s west side. The calf was first spotted by a tour-boat captain, there’s still no known cause of death. From The Garden Isle.

The USS Port Royal, a billion-dollar warship, got stuck on a reef just outside Honolulu. It spent a few days there while measures were taken to lighten the load so it could be freed—that happened early Monday morning. Here’s the story on MSNBC.

Dead fish—including many of the famous humuhumus—are showing up in the waters around the privately owned island of Ni’ihau. The Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Aquatic Resources is still trying to find the cause but in the meantime, fish is off the menu for the residents of Ni’ihau. From the Honolulu Advertiser.