Street art in Waikiki

So, with the photo of the pineapple and the title of this post, you may have pieced together that the tropical paradise that I was lucky enough to visit was the grand state of Hawaii. (I had no idea that their state flag included the Union Jack in such a prominent position. Now I know a bit more of their history (colonialism and all that), it makes sense, but I was confused at first..)

With my twin sister and my 50th birthday having occurred last year, my mum was kind enough to take us both (sans husbands) to Hawaii for a week of great vacation. The university where I work is closed between Christmas and New Year’s (great present from the State of Texas – thank you), and so, in terms of vacation days used, this was a free week and it was the best one that worked for all three of us. We had a super-great time and it was lovely to spend some time together. (Really – it was.)

Wow. I can see why people will move there from the mainland. It’s paradise (if you have a job and sustainable income). For people who move from there to somewhere else, I only have one question for you: WHY? 🙂


It is a gorgeous place. We visited Honolulu and Waikiki and then island-hopped over to Kona and so we got to see different sides of this far-away state. I have not been to Hawaii (or any part of this Pacific world) before, and I had put no thought into how its location is so close to countries such as Japan and other Pacific islands. Hawaii seems to have one of the most diverse populations that I have ever seen anywhere, and it was rather interesting to see a lot of signs in both English and Korean/  Japanese /Chinese etc. (Sorry – I’m not familiar enough with each language’s graphology to spot the difference most of the time.)

Honolulu and Waikiki have a very different much more urban vibe to them. Kona is much more like a 1950’s American surfer town to me (at least from what I saw). I really enjoyed visiting both places, but if I had to choose, I’d choose Kona as the place to live.

Synset at a local beach.

Palm trees, ocean breezes, lots of waves, and a very relaxed atmosphere – Hawaii is one of those places that actually exceed one’s expectations. I had also just finished Tony Horwitz’s Blue Latitudes non-fiction book which is a historical travel narrative of how he followed the trail of Captain Cook and his ongoing effect on the Pacific nations post-contact. (Obviously, Cook didn’t discover these islands – there were people already on them, and so I like how Horwitz refers to this time of first contact as pre- and post-contact.)

Reading Horwitz also gave me a much deeper understanding of Hawaiian history, especially once we had visited the fabulous Bishop Museum which details Hawaiian history from a native people’s perspective and which was FASCINATING. A pain to get to, if you’re carless, but one hundred percent worth it if you’re interested in “real” Hawaii as opposed to the tourist side of things. Relating back to Captain Cook – references are there on the islands (in place names etc.) but they are not spotlighted as Cook’s arrival was not always seen as a “good thing” — for valid reasons as well, I think.

We visited a live volcano – wow. I have never stood on land that is younger than me before and the national park people have done a good job of explaining the volcano field for neophytes (such as me). Steam coming from the ground, lava everywhere, and the astonishing difference in landscape between where the lava has streamed and where it hasn’t. That was an amazing day. (See the pic below.)

Steam from the earth emerges from cracks in the surface close to the volcano.

Steam from the earth emerges from cracks in the surface close to the volcano.


(I think I’m gushing just a bit. But it was that good. Did you see what I did there?…)

Sacred carvings at the Place of Refuge that we visited.

Sacred carvings at the Place of Refuge that we visited.

We went to a sacred place called Pu’uhonua O Honaunau (or Place of Refuge) where villagers of long ago could go for refuge if they’d offended people under the Kapu* system, and we paddled with giant turtles on the shore.

We had a couple of hanging out on the beach days (fab), and managed to visit a Target shop (as you do). My brother-in-law claims that my sister and I could find a Target on the moon, so that was a bit funny. And this was cool – we went to the Southernmost point in the U.S. (farther south than even the Florida Keys) and the winds there are so strong and always in the same direction that they affect the direction of growth for the trees. (The Trade Winds always come from the West, I think.) (See pic below.)

Southernmost point in the U.S. Pretty windy (in one direction) due to the Trade Winds.

Southernmost point in the U.S. Pretty windy (in one direction – guess which one!) due to the Trade Winds.

Duke Kahanamoku was a 5-time Olympic medalist in swimming and instrumental in spreading the sport of surfing across the world.

Duke Kahanamoku was a 5-time Olympic medalist in swimming and instrumental in spreading the sport of surfing across the world. People hang flower leis on his outstretched arms as a tribute to him.

And, of course, we are all big readers so we did tons of that. (There are not that many bookshops in Hawaii that I could track down, but I would bet that most people who visit this state are interested in doing other things than strolling down book aisles. More bookish talk in another post.)

Mahalo Hawaii (thank you in Hawaiian language).
• Kapu is the ancient Hawaiian code of conduct of laws and regulations. (See here for the Wiki on it. ). The word is quite often used on signs (similar in some cases to the concept of “No Trespassing” but also with a sacred reference as well.) (Linked with English word “taboo”.)

2 thoughts on “Aloha!

  1. P.S. All the Borders bookstores closed a couple of years ago. And just the other day the Barnes and Noble store in the Kahala Mall closed, leaving only one B&N left in Honolulu. A tragedy.

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