Mele Kalikimaka from Hawai’i

overlookWelcome back to school (whether you’re ready for another semester or still wish you were on holiday), and here’s to a great semester and brand new year! I hope everyone had an amazing break, whether you traveled or had a great time at home.

Over break I made a wonderful little stop on Kauai, Hawai’i to meet up with my family the week before Christmas. For my sisters and mother, who live in Seattle, it was an easy journey. Coming from Boston, well, it was tad bit longer.

Called the Garden Island for its lush, green landscape, Kauai is the oldest and fourth largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago.

Waimea CanyonFrom Waimea Canyon to the Napali Coast, Kauai is absolutely stunning. From the South to the North, even the drive is incredible. You encounter small, one lane car bridges that take you through the green jungle, and at night, stars that keep your head permanently turned up towards the sky. Make your way to Waimea canyon, and it feels like you’ve traveled from green, tropical jungle to flat, golden prairies, to a deep and intricate canyon.

There is a ton of hiking and exploring to do as a result on the island. The Napali Coast (which is actually featured in Jurassic Park) is untouched by infrastructure and roads, and is only accessible by the 11 mile Kalalau Trail. On the multi-day trail, you can find waterfalls, stunning valleys, and secret beaches. Waimea canyon also provides some trails. There are man-made overlooks and simple nature walks, but also more extensive trails for the more adventurous.

ChickenFun little fact about Kauai: A crazy amount of wild chickens roam the island. Released by tropical storms and hurricanes over the years, wild chickens are found pretty much everywhere.

I arrived a good five hours before the rest of my family and decided to explore the small town of Lihue, the town next to the airport. Lugging my backpack off the plane, I waited for the local bus at the airport and ended up getting a little tour around the town. From the old folks home to the Walmart, Monica the bus driver helped me find my way around until the rest of my family arrived.

For this trip, we used Airbnb – a great tool if you are traveling with a group. You can find local places to rent (a house, condo, etc.) and it is MUCH more affordable than staying in a hotel. You’ll also be able to meet neighbors who actually live in the area, unlike the experience you might have at a hotel (you’re also supporting locals rather than a big hotel chain). There are a few hostels on the island, if you do happen to embark on a solo trip.

airline viewThe best way to get around is usually to rent a car. Pedal bike is an option if you’re not traveling too far out of the area. There is also a bus that runs throughout the island, if you have the patience to wait and figure the schedule out.   

And ah, the beach! Just being in a warm climate with SUN was enough for me. Coming from Boston and Seattle, we all welcomed the warm temperatures. Even the rainy days we had refused to spoil the mood. Between the lovely weather, the good company, and the oh-so-good local food, I had an amazing time, and can’t wait to go back and hike the whole Kalalau trail!

Just a little side note… Out of all of the places I’ve been lucky enough to travel, Hawaii was a place that I felt particularly conflicted over visiting. Perhaps it due to a reading in my Intro to Sociology class last semester that compared tourism on the Hawaiian islands and the culture to prostitution; Kānaka Maoli, author of Lovely Hulu Hands, suggests that the industry devalues many different aspects of Hawaii and her people. And I agree; I think the packaging of traditional events (such as a luau) and parts of a culture for the sake of having “cultural experience” is in no way a true representation of what it means to be Hawaiian, and in many ways, extremely disrespectful to the Hawaiian people. Maoli straight out says to think twice about visiting, that the islands don’t need any more tourists. I can’t say I completely agree with that point – I have visited Hawaii. But I think one must be aware of the place they visit, and refuse to take part in big tourism that takes a culture for granted. There is so much more I now want to learn about Hawaiian and Polynesian culture, and I’m glad that even such a short trip has sparked an intense interest.

Thanks for reading, as always, and have a lovely week.

Merry Christmas

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