Different Islands

This weekend we hopped on a plane and went to visit Kauai for a couple of days. Yes, the airfare was outrageous--I bought a roundtrip from SF to NYC for less a couple of years ago-- but it was an adventure. And besides, it was the patriotic thing to do-- spending a bit of our economic stimulus money on a mini vacation (which doubled as a chance for a job interview).
And after four days on the Garden Isle, I went home with this profound impression:

All of the Islands are different from each other.
The Big Island is big. Kauai, Oahu, and Maui are small.
We have vog, they have clear blue skies.
They are green and verdant jungles, we are yellow rangeland plains.
They have a lot of good food, we have a little bit of good food, spread few and far across the island.

And maybe I'm nuts, but everyone was very friendly on Kauai. I kept nudging my husband and saying, "am I nuts or is everybody friendly on Kauai?" The museum lady let us in for free, the shopkeeper pinched baby's cheeks, the rental car lady called everybody "sweetheart."

There seemed to be lots more plantation influence-- more Japanese culture, with the Native Hawaiian culture segregated away onto seperate (but, um, equal?) Hawaiian Homelands.
They are developed with paved sidewalks, parkbenches, bike paths, and nice restrooms at the beach. You have to hack your way through a thorny jungle to get to the state beach park on the Big Island.

Not that one is better than the other-- just different. The way that Boston is different from Charleston which is different from San Diego-- as if the islands are seperated by vast open spaces and disparate histories. Which, thanks to high airfare and a long native legacy, they are.

I like the Big Islands stubbornness-- its closed-circuit, one-road-on-the-island feel. It's sort of tantalizing and mysterious to think there's all this open space, all this coast, all these mountains and jungles-- and none of it open to you. The allure of the forbidden I suppose. But I also loved being able to go for a hike every day we were on Kauai, and finding easy, beautiful, plentiful beaches everywhere we went.


  1. Aloha from Kauai! My name is Melissa and I wanted to comment and say that I am so glad you had a wonderful experience on Kauai. You mentioned the new bike path in your post so I wanted to comment a little since it just recently officially opened. Walking along the path is so beautiful and relaxing. The paved path is almost 6 miles round trip now, so no matter how you choose to travel it, (bike or walk) it is fun and great exercise.
    The locals are using the path as a place to get together to talk story and spend time together. Moms with strollers or kids (of all ages) on bikes are out there enjoying it together. The visitors are also getting in the mix now too, with some of the local bike shops (like mine) offering rentals and the east side hotels promoting the path. Renting a beach cruiser is easy and so much fun to ride on the path. The path is nearly flat, so riding south is almost coasting. The ride north takes a little more effort, but even that isn't hard as there are so many places to stop and take a break. As you mentioned, the county put in nice covered pavilions with picnic tables and rest areas, so if it starts to mist a little, or you just want to stop for a snack, there are plenty of places to find a little bench or table. There are also restrooms available every 1/2 mile or so, and beach access along nearly every stretch. The surfing in Kealia is awesome on most days, and the calm waters in Kapaa or down at baby beach make for perfect wading with no waves at all. Pack a picnic lunch and head down to the path to search out your ideal spot!
    My husband and I just opened a beach bike rental shop in Kapa'a where we hope to encourage locals and visitors to get out there and take advantage of this one of a kind path on the islands. The trade winds breeze by nearly all year on the east side so getting some fresh air isn't hard to do. Kauai is known for its beauty, but also it can be expensive. When visiting Kauai on vacation, I recall spending hundreds of dollars on very fun boating trips or exciting helicopter rides, but that kind of money for a family or even a couple can wipe out a vacation budget. Walking or biking the path is an eco friendly and low cost alternative to sitting in traffic (if you call it traffic compared to the big cities). I hope those of you planning on visiting Kauai in the future will take a day and spend it on Kauai's Coconut Coast via the Ke Ala Hele Makalae....the path that goes by the coast.
    Thanks for the opportunity to post! Melissa

  2. Thanks for your comment, Melissa. Next time we're over there we'll have to check your shop out.


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