Sometimes I feel like I’m not supposed to like Hawaii. I’ve had seasoned backpackers look at me funny when I mention a trip here, and just days before flying to Kaua’i I listened to a fellow traveler’s tirade about all the things that are boring about these islands.
It’s got too many resorts. It’s overly commercial. It has couples in matching Hawaiian shirts.
All those things are true… in some places.
I’m typing this from Waikiki where not wearing a ridiculous shirt is unusual. The other day I saw a woman with a full-length Hawaiian print dress that exactly matched her husband’s shirt. For reals.
But there’s so much more to Hawaii than that! I’ve spent a grand total of six weeks on these islands in my life and this is the first time I’ve spent more than two minutes in Waikiki’s resort-filled atmosphere.
Hawaii is waking up early to watch the sunrise over Kailua Bay, scrambling over dried black lava in Volcanoes National Park, hiking over the untouched Na Pali coast or staying up late to see Saturn’s rings at the Mauna Kea observatory. It’s eating your body weight in shave ice and then doing it again the next day because there are still flavors you haven’t tried.
It’s roadside stands selling just-caught shrimp, acai smoothies or ice cold coconuts hacked off with a machete. It’s visiting endless farmer’s markets every weekend. It’s passing beat up pickup trucks on the side of the road and knowing there’s a great hidden beach just beyond the trees.
There’s so much to do here I never even have time to spend laying on the sand. Every time we leave I think “next time we’re coming back for more beaches!”
Even the resorts, with their luaus and leis, don’t bother me much. They’re not exactly taking over the islands, and no one’s forcing anyone to partake in them. You can spend your day here hiking, surfing, sunbathing or eating and still say you experienced a part of “real” Hawaii. And I think that’s what I like about it.
Yes, Hawaii is a “safe” American destination. But it’s also full of drop-dead gorgeous scenery, wonderful hiking, great food and the most welcoming locals. The chill relaxation gets under my skin and makes me want to come back over and over again.
And I have to say I’m actually digging the international buzz of Waikiki, where Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese culture has meshed with the local vibes and Americana to become something utterly unique. Wandering around the massive outdoor shopping centers at night is just like being in Singapore, Indonesia or Thailand with just a bit more English and POG juice. Who could possibly object to that?