The Cooks Part IV

The Hardcore Traveler in front of One Foot Island

I heard something rustling around in the bushes...OMFG I thought, what was making that sound? My heart was beating at least a thousand beats a second.... The sound got closer and closer until....I looked over my shoulder and there it was the culprit, a wild/feral pig digging around in the bushes! Having hiked extensively throughout Hawai'i I knew not to mess around with these guys due to their sharp tusks. I slowly moved away and continued my journey home!

After a close call with the wild pig, I felt I was just about “out of the woods” until the path turned into nothing but bushes! I had made it too far to turn back, so there was no other choice but to push on and hope that somehow I’d find my way out. When I finally returned to the bungalow I started calling
Te King
around to local snorkeling tours. Unfortunately most were either full or did not go out on Saturdays. Luckily, I found a tour with some guy who called himself “The King” or “TeKing”.  He claimed his family was and still is the ruling class of Aitutaki. Who knows whether or not any of that was true or not!

The only thing that mattered was the jaw dropping, out of this world, incredible scenery! I really don’t feel words or even pictures can begin to give justice to all the beauty I witnessed!

The excursion began with a stop off to feed the locals. Within several seconds of dropping bread into the water countless fish of every size, shape and color swarmed our boat in an attempt to grab whatever piece of the action they could. After the offering to the locals we continued through the lagoon until we approached what looked like a GIANT purple and green colored coral reef. The coral turned out to be a giant clam, which are famous for its ability to grow beautiful black pearls.

One of the giant clams below the surface
The snorkeling was outstanding! I have snorkeled in Hawai’i, The Great Barrier Reef and even the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, but none of them could compare to what I experienced in Aitutaki!! After drying off, our adventures continued through the lagoon by touring several different islands/atolls, one of which was used in the hit American reality TV show, “Survivor”.

Picture perfect! The One Foot Island coast!
However, unlike in the TV show, “Survivor”, where contestants are forced to eat insects or other weird things, we were treated to a full buffet lunch. Before we hit the buffet line we had some spare time to explore One Foot Island on our own. Although the island is larger than a foot, it was so small it took only ten minutes to circle. Most spent the time shooting pictures of all the beautiful scenery in and around the island. I had never visited One Foot Island, but felt a sense of deja vu. Maybe it was because I had visited Hawai'i so many times or the fact I had been in Polynesia before? It was likely because every tropical calendar, desktop wallpaper and/or screensaver has the exact same scenery.  

The Hardcore traveler eating lunch in the water! YUM!
The buffet lunch was delicious with lots of wonderful fresh island fruits to go along with our meal! And, the dining arrangements could not have been any better, picnic tables literally knee deep in the water with fish swarming beneath us looking for a handout. One fish who was especially aggressive in the pursuit of a handout was a stone fish they
On the left is George!
named George. The locals told us not to feed him saying, “George had enough food for the day!” I reckon George must frequently crash the buffets.

Following our delicious lunch, it was time for………hermit crab racing! TeKing instructed us to go out to the beach, find a hermit crab and meet back in 20 minutes at “the racetrack”, a mere circle drawn in the sand. I had no idea what the criteria for choosing a hermit crab was, so I randomly picked up a guy in a white shell. The goal of the race was simple; your hermit crab had to stay in the circle and get to the middle! First one to reach the middle won. 

The hermit crab race track!
After a brief pep speech to my hermit crab I placed him in the circle hoping for the best! Unfortunately my crab had a mind of his own and left the circle several times finishing near to, if not last. I was disappointed, but proud of him for giving it his best! After the race I eventually returned him and his shell to the beach where I found him. Last I heard he never did make it to major league racing and decided to live the rest of his life hold up in a small hole.
One Foot Island through the inches deep lagoon

When we headed back to shore the clouds began to thicken. I started to feel hot, but was puzzled why since the temperature was cooler and I was sure I'd covered my body in suntan lotion.
Thickening clouds as we leave One Foot Island
To my horror I looked over at my back and it resembled the color of a well-done lobster. My worst nightmare had come true; I forgot to put suntan lotion on my back!! Ooops! In only a matter of hours the sunburn went from uncomfortable to bad to painful to feeling as if my back had been lit on fire! Being that Aitutaki was a tiny island I had no way of finding any type of relief for this very painful burn. And to make matters worse I was flying back to Seattle via Rarotonga then to LAX and then home to Seattle, totaling nearly 20+ hours of traveling!!!

Luckily the Air New Zealand flight attendants had a type of cooling gel on them, which helped me survive the flight. When I got home to Seattle the burn only intensified! Although it was very painful it failed to dull my warm and happy memories of The Cook Islands!
Heading home on Air New Zealand

The Cooks Part III

The coral atolls of Aitutaki
My next destination in the beautiful Cook Islands was the small island of Aitutaki, famous for its clear turquoise blue lagoons, coral atolls and as a destination for honeymooners. However, I was not on my honeymoon and definitely did not want to wait until Miss Right came along to visit Aitutaki (FYI ladies, I am single and looking, so address any inquiries to:         
Rarotonga Airport. Looks busy doesn't it?
Checking in for my flight to Aitutaki was quite an enjoyable experience compared with the security theater we continue to endure in the US. No lines, no snarky TSA agents, no disposing of liquids, no removing your shoes and no metal detectors beeping due to a rogue penny you forgot to take out of your pocket! Nope this was as simple as it got; check in at the desk, wait for your flight, board the plane! How I wished it were that simple back home!

The flight over to Aitutaki was relatively short, just over 30 minutes in a small Dash-8 airplane. As we approached Aitutaki the scenery became breathtaking with countless coral atolls in the turquoise blue lagoon fanning out from the main island of Aitutaki. Within minutes we were on the ground and the “frenetic pace” of Rarotonga felt millions of miles away. Rarotonga was nice, but Aitutaki felt several levels up on what I would call “the paradise scale”.
One of the many atolls off the Aitutaki coast.
When I entered the arrivals hall a representative from the bungalows I’d be staying at greeted and escorted me to the shuttle. Following a few moments of small talk she asked me if I wanted to rent a scooter or a car while on Aitutaki. I said no, but that I really wanted to rent a bike. She about ran off the road when she heard me ask this, calmly asking “why you no want to rent moped, bicycle not fast, better to rent scooter”. You would’ve thought I was asking to rent a bright green unicycle the way she acted. She indicated there were not a lot of bikes to rent on Aitutaki, but that it’d be best to check tomorrow with the local moped rental guy in the village.

Since I did not have any wheels to get me around the island that evening, I figured I might as well sit
Who would guess there were mosquitoes?
back, relax and enjoy my bungalow. The bungalow was beautiful, right on the beach with a great view of calm turquoise blue water! Once I unpacked I figured it would be fun to sit out on the deck in the hammock and enjoy some rest and relaxation. As I lay there soaking up all the beauty around me I suddenly noticed a small annoying buzzing sound in my ear. Hmmmm…. I thought, sounds like a mosquito. But, I thought mosquitoes at the beach……… way! I lay there a few more seconds and I was buzzed again. To my horror I found out the entire island was full of mosquitoes and that along with suntan lotion, repellent was also a necessity for a peaceful vacation!

I quickly went inside, covered every inch of exposed skin with DEET (no Pa repellent unfortunately!) and ventured outdoors again, this time to the beach, which like the hammock looked so inviting.
My beach, but where are all the people?
When I got out to the beach I discovered the sand was not soft like what you would find on Maui or in Waikiki, but rather hard and compact. Oh well, luckily I had not planned my entire time on the island around simply laying out on the beach all day. I’m much too restless of a person to do that.

The next morning I hiked into the village to see if I could find a bicycle, knowing that if I didn’t I would likely have to walk everywhere (not an option since the island was way too big for this) or be at the mercy of a tour group (another option I did not like since I like to explore things on my own!). When I arrived at the moped/bike rental place, the guy said he just rented the last bike. I was rather upset and asked him if he expected any back that day. In typical island fashion he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “don’t know”.

However, when I really pressed him he did say he had a bike, but it was in rather poor shape and needed fixing up. Suddenly there was hope! Unfortunately he said he did not have the parts and would not have them in until the next week at the earliest when the container ship came in from Rarotonga. Having traveled around the world I have learned never to accept no as an answer, so I asked if he was sure he did not have the spare parts just lying around somewhere. He went back into his shop and miraculously found some spare parts thus giving me new life!!

Mind you my bike was not exactly Tour De France worthy, but it did the job and that’s all I could ask. My first stop was out to the “east coast” of the island. As I cruised the near deserted/open roads, I noticed gigantic monster crabs scurrying across the road. At first I thought I had stumbled across the
The Aitutaki "east coast" on an overcast afternoon
elusive blue coconut crab, but unfortunately they were just giant mud crabs. The coconut crab is quite the creature, known to come out  late at night when it climbs coconut trees and break open the coconut shell (not an easy task even I have a hard time breaking open coconut shells). Nobody really knows exactly how they do it, but it’s speculated they likely either break it open with their sharp claws or cut the coconut off the vine, thus breaking it open upon impact. Either way these guys are pretty impressive! I have also read they make a tasty entrée at local restaurants : ( .

After my tour of Aitutaki’s eastern end, I noticed the sun was getting lower on the horizon. I figured I better start making my way to the “west coast” before it got too dark. I thought of going back the way I had come, but wanted to try something different. So, instead of going north and then south, I decided to cut right through the middle of the island, which I thought would get me home faster. Bad idea! As I began my lonely trek home it suddenly became a lot darker due to the thick forest canopy. In the bushes I heard a loud rustling noise as if something or someone was in the thick bushes…….OMFG I thought, what's making that sound, my heart was pounding a thousand beats a second………... To be continued…………….
The lonely dirt road I decided to take home

The Cooks Part II

The Rarotongan Mountains
In the cross-island trek brochure it was recommended we bring our own mosquito repellent. Having been the “victim” of many mosquito attacks on past hikes, I made sure not to leave home without it. Once everyone had assembled we started to liberally apply mosquito repellent until Pa told us to stop! We put down our bottles of DEET and Pa said in a broken local accent “don’t put on, you get halfway up mountain and you get tired!” He insisted we instead apply his own homemade mosquito repellent consisting of eucalyptus oil, which I must say worked wonderfully!!

As we started our ascent to "The Needle”, Pa told us to hold off on conversation so he could listen to people breathing. By listening to the sound of our breathing he would be able to tell if anyone was 
Pa blazing the way for us hikers!
having a heart attack, which happened on one of his treks. Luckily the guy was ok, but Pa had to carry him down the mountain. Instead of talking to one another Pa recommended we stay quiet and focused. He added, “If you need to talk to someone, talk to God (pointing to the sky), he listen.” It was quite a nice change from the usual group hikes I take when you have people talking loudly as if they were in a bar.

Besides leading eco-tours up and down the Rarotongan mountains Pa also was the local “medicine man” and ran a small naturopathic
clinic out of his house. So, once we reached the top of the mountain, he gave us a quick crash course seminar in “bush medicine”. To the average tourist all the flora and fauna growing in the rainforest does not amount to much, however to Pa the rainforest served as a gold mine! It was amazing all the different plants, flowers, leaves, etc.., which could be used for cures to common illnesses and all types of disease. The one “bush technique” that really stood out in my mind was a way to tell if someone has diabetes. According to Pa you simply pee on to a leaf, set it on the ground and if ants flock to it, you likely have diabetes. If the ants leave it, then you are ok. My crash course in Rarotongan bush medicine made me realize why naturopathic medicine is such a fast growing field!

The Hardcore Traveler @ Te Rua Manga
As we approached the top, the rainforest canopy disappeared behind us and before our eyes was the legendary and majestic Te Rua Manga, otherwise known in English as “The Needle”. It was too steep to actually climb to the tiptop, however we were able to get far enough up to pose for some cool pictures. After standing around admiring the view of “The Needle” and the rainforest below us, it was time to descend down the other side of the mountain.

Upon our descent we noticed two local guys running toward us. These were not any ordinary guys they were the local police. They were on the hunt for an escaped convict from the local jail. The officers gave us a brief description and asked if we had seen him. Pa stated he had noticed at one point during our trek a guy running in the opposite direction. So, with this tip they continued their pursuit. Sure enough the next day I read in the local Raro newspaper they had caught the guy about a mile from where we were. As the old saying goes, “you can run, but you can’t hide”, especially on a small tropical island! 

We continued to tramp (the word Kiwis use for hiking) through the rainforest until darkness started to give way to light. This could only mean one thing; we were coming to the end of our journey across Rarotonga.  Once we reached the end of the path there was a beautiful waterfall and billabong (Australian for water hole and also the name of a famous worldwide surfing company) just waiting for us! I decided to take a pass since I still had haunting memories of an infamous time when I was 8 years old and swam in such a pool on Maui, subsequently ending up with leeches all over my body. My poor mother had to pick them off one by one! Not a good memory and not something I really wanted to repeat.

As everyone dried off from his or her swim, it was time to say aere ra to Pa, meaning goodbye in Cook Maori. He was in a real hurry since he had to get to the other side of the island to preside over a big wedding. Supposedly he was also an ordained minister or something to that degree. Although we had only known Pa for several hours it felt like we were saying goodbye to a dear family member or friend! We all felt as if we had known him our entire lives.
Pa saying a prayer for our safe return down the mountains

If anyone is planning to vist Rarotonga, Cook Islands, a trek
The view from the top!
with Pa is strongly recommended. For those who are not all that thrilled about a long, grueling hike through the mountains, Pa also runs a low key nature tour where he discusses in depth all the different tropical floral and fauna used to help and cure diseases. A visit to Raro without meeting Pa is like visiting Sydney and never seeing the Harbour Bridge! 
Stay tuned for The Cooks Part III about my adventure out to what is popularly known as the “Honeymoon Island” of Aitutaki. Meitaki ma’ata (thanks a lot) for reading!
The beautiful island of Aitutaki, coming up in The Cooks Part III

The Cooks Part I

Cook Islands place in the world. North of New Zealand and Australia, south of Hawai'i
America has Hawai’i; the Kiwis (the name given to residents of New Zealand) have The Cook Islands, a small chain of islands located directly to the south of Hawai’i and very, very popular with Kiwi travelers. So, just why are The Cook Islands so popular with Kiwis/New Zealanders? The main reason is simple; it is a territory of New Zealand and only a 3 ½ hour flight from Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. And since it is a territory, visitors don’t have to waste time worrying about obtaining a passport and/or visa in order to gain entry. Furthermore, there is no hassle regarding currency exchange since the New Zealand dollar and Cook Islands dollar are pegged at a 1:1 exchange rate.

Over the years I had heard and read a lot about The Cook Islands mainly thanks to my unending fascination with all things Polynesia. It fascinated me that this island nation was made up of only 15 small islands, but covered a vast area of 690,000 square miles of ocean. After years of dreaming of visiting The Cooks, my dream finally became a reality in 2009 and 2010 when I got the chance to visit the islands of Rarotonga (the nation's main island), Aitutaki (the honeymoon island with crystal clear lagoons), Mauke (a remote rural island) and Mangaia (a small outer island that consists mainly of coral called "makatia).

Having had so much experience living and visiting Hawai’i the bar for The Cook Islands was set pretty high. How could a small island chain outdo Hawai’i with its three active volcanoes (one of which has been erupting non-stop since 1983) and all the lush green cliffs and valleys that dot the Garden Island of Kaua’i? And, how could The Cooks match the “aloha spirit” I had become so accustomed to while visiting and living in Hawai’i? To my surprise I found that not only did The Cook Islands match all my expectations, but exceeded them. True I thought, there were no erupting volcanoes with seas of orange lava oozing down the volcano’s slope and there were no lush green cliffs, but still there was something about this place which really touched me deep inside.  

One part of The Cook Islands that really struck me was how laid back, rural and real the islands were compared to the insanity of Hawai’i. In Hawai’i it feels like the entire state is overrun with what one of my tour guides in The Cook Islands described as, “plastic resorts”, otherwise known as over the top all in one mega resorts that seem to suddenly just erupt out of the ground every couple months. Now of course Rarotonga (the main island of The Cook Islands) has its fair share of a few plastic like five star resorts, which will set you back a few years pay, but they just are on a much, much smaller and on a less grandiose scale than in Hawai’i!

My quaint resort, Muri Beach Hideaway
Besides the lack of giant “plastic” resorts, I found the warmth and sincerity of the locals to be a welcome respite from the rat race that is Honolulu and even some of the outer islands. Everywhere I went I was warmly greeted with the standard greeting “kia orana” meaning “hello” or “welcome”. However, this is not to say Hawai’i does not have its fair share of kind and warm people. After all, Hawai’i is home to “The Aloha Spirit”, a source of constant debate amongst Islanders over whether it even exists, or whether it has disappeared like a lot of old relics of Hawai'i. Others say the spirit is still and always will be alive and well?! I tend to be rather undecided. I sometimes can see it and other times, like when I am cut off by some person on the freeway, I tend to think it is likely extinct.  Whether it is alive and well or extinct one thing is for sure, it still exists in some form in The Cook Islands, where it is the local way!l!!!

Air New Zealand's once a week flight from LA @ Rarotonga Airport
The moment you step off the jet and onto the tarmac in Rarotonga you suddenly feel a sense of calm and peace as opposed to being tense and even tired once you depart LAX (Los Angeles Airport) for the 14-hour haul down the Pacific Ocean. Even when I land in Honolulu after a 6-7 hour flight from the Mainland I never feel quite as relaxed as I do when I have arrived in Rarotonga.
I've been to more than 40 nations in my life and met a lot of different people along the way,,  many of whom I will never forget… But the person who stands out the most in my mind is a man of Cook Maori descent (the indigenous people of the islands) who goes by the simple name of Pa. Pa is no ordinary bloke, but likely the most well known person in all The Cook Islands. Mention his name ANYWHERE from the small island of Mangaia to the bars of Avarua, Rarotonga and you are sure to get a smile and a story to go along with it.

Before I even departed to Rarotonga all my Kiwi friends insisted that if I were to there for ANY amount of time that I MUST, MUST sign up for the cross-island trek with Pa. Since I loved to get out in nature and hike, it was a no brainer. Naturally the moment I arrived on “Raro” I contacted “Pa’s Treks” and arranged for a trek the following day.

The next day came and I was anxious to meet the myth, the legend and the star of The Cook Islands, Pa. The instant I met Pa I knew my Kiwi friends and all the people on Rarotonga were right, the man was quite the character! Instead of wearing hiking shoes for the 3+ hour journey he showed up in nothing more than………….bare feet.

The man, the legend, Pa!
Surely I thought he must have a pair of shoes he kept at the trailhead, no way was he crazy enough to hike up 400 meters to the top of the “Rarotonga Needle” in bare feet?!?! Not only was he barefoot, but he also was not wearing any kind of shirt. I suppose that unlike me who burns easily (even after a few minutes in the sun I tend to resemble a well-done lobster) he probably was pretty immune to the sun’s effects. But, the shoes and lack of shirt were not what really caught my eye. The feature on Pa that most stood out to me was his looooooooooooong dirty blonde dread locks, which would put Bob Marley to shame!

Paradise lost?

Hawai’i’s Eco-system is not only extremely unique but at the same time is quite sensitive! This is illustrated by the fact that Hawai'i only has 10% of its Native Species left with the rest consisting of endemic/foreign species. Over the centuries when foreign species have been introduced the results have been nothing short of catastrophic to the islands' indigenous species. This threat continues today with the acceleration of globalization where thousands of planes and cargo ships a day are bringing in the constant threat of new foreign invaders who
The Silversword plant native to the island of Maui
could damage this unique land forever. This threat has likely only grown since budget cuts hit both the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) and the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture who both oversee inspection of all things coming into Hawai’i.

Although the arrival of foreign species has been brutal to the Hawai'i Eco-system, the islands still pride itself on the fact that it is snake free. There have been reports in the past of snakes hitchhiking in on landing gear or being smuggled into the state, but luckily the still remains and hopefully will remain snake free. However, all bets are off if the brown tree snake, common throughout Australia, Melanesia and Guam, somehow slips by inspectors (no pun intended) and becomes entrenched in Hawai'i. This nightmare is a very real possibility which could turn paradise into the next Guam, where the brown tree snake has caused extreme environmental damage and has led to frequent power outages. How could a simple brown tree snake result in power outages? From what I have read the snake is able to climb its way up power poles and wrap itself around them thus creating short circuiting and electrical damage. It has become such a problem that brownouts and power outages normally occur once every three days. 

Recently I stumbled upon an article that indicated the US government was prepared to go to war with these pests. How you wonder? By dropping countless number of dead mice stuffed full of toxic painkillers for the brown tree snake to feed upon! I guess the goal is obvious; the snakes eat the dead mice and then get sick and die themselves. Hmmmm…. wouldn’t that make a rather miserable experience if one were hiking out in the middle of a tranquil tropical rainforest and suddenly the heavens open up like a monsoon in the middle of summer, but instead of nice refreshing rain drops pelting you, you are instead assaulted by dozens of dead mice raining down from the skies!

A nice diversion from the thought of toxic mice raining down from the heavens!!!
Compared to other nations/places with sensitive Eco-systems it amazes me just how extremely lax Hawai’i is when it comes to agricultural inspections. Whenever I fly in to Honolulu the only thing required is to fill out a Hawai’i Department of Agriculture Declaration Form asking whether I am bringing in any fruits, vegetables, seeds and plants. All you do is sign the form agreeing that under penalty of law you are telling the truth, hand it to the flight attendant and you’re done! Beyond that, there is no real enforcement except for some local guy sitting at an agriculture kiosk located at baggage claim reading a newspaper. In my countless times of coming over to Hawai’i I am not sure I have ever seen one of those guys do anything more than yawn.

Torch ginger
Contrast this to Australia and New Zealand where agents take an aggressive approach toward guarding their environment against any type of invaders. When one arrives in Australia or New Zealand, you not only are required to hand over to an official your completed agricultural declaration, but also submit all bags to x-rays. As you leave customs agents will not only question you about whether you are bringing the usual plants, seeds, fruit, animals, etc… but they will grill you about any type of food you may have packed away in your bags. And in case this was not enough to scare you from breaking the law, they distribute a scary looking flyer warning you to DECLARE IT OR ELSE! I’ve also had agents ask to see the souls of my shoes to see if they have any large clumps of dirt on them. These strict guidelines not only apply to international travelers, but to those traveling to different Australian states. When you leave the airplane or walk onto the tarmac they have inspectors with trained dogs to sniff out any type of plant, fruit or vegetable you may be bringing with you from that other Australian state.

Bird of Paradise flower
The odd thing about Hawai’i and the agricultural inspection is that the procedure to leave the state for the US Mainland is 100% stricter. You have to submit both your checked luggage and your carry on luggage to inspection. I guess Hawai’i officials figure it may be too much of a bad first impression for the tourist to have to submit their bags to inspection. Plus, HVCB (Hawai’i Visitor’s and ConventionBureau) likely wouldn’t want your average tourist “wasting” time in a line when they could be booking that next golf outing, lame luau, ATV tour, or whatever other lame tourist activity that may be popular today. After all time is money!! I guess they do not realize that if Hawai’i becomes overrun with pests, they may in the end ruin the paradise tourists so love and cherish thus killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Oh well, that’s America for you, short sighted and not very long-term thinking.

I have hope that Hawai’i will someday do the pono (right in Hawaiian) thing and introduce stricter agricultural rules so it stays pest free for generations to come! Mahalo nui loa kakou (thanks to all) for reading! A hui hou (till next time)!
Ohia Lehua flower and tree

Another Ohia Lehua flower and tree, the official flower of the Big Island of Hawai'i

Hawai’i Paradise?

The Honolulu Gold Coast. Home of some of the most expensive property in the state.

To the average tourist it is hard to grasp what Hawai’i really is all about. To most it serves as an exotic destination where time stands still and all worries are left behind on the tarmac of the person’s departing airport. Many imagine an island chain where the weather is always sunny, warm and beautiful, in other words, paradise.
The stereotypical deserted white sands beach.
However, Hawai’i is not all swaying palm trees and mai tais as there does exist a not so pleasant side of paradise. When I tell the average “mainlander haole (which means white or foreigner in Hawaiian) about this “other side” of paradise they look at me bewildered like as if I just told them there was no such thing as Santa Claus. How could it be nothing less than lush green valleys, rainbows, grass shacks and deserted white sand beaches?
Another day in paradise!

When I told one person about the daily traffic that clogs the Honolulu freeways (yes as hard as it is to
believe Hawai’i does have freeways) and streets, he commented, “well at least there are palm trees and it is warm”. I suppose the same could be said for Compton or Inglewood, California. However, there’s a certain mystique about Hawai’i that separates it from the rest of places where it’s warm with palm trees.

So, about that other side, the side that HVB (Hawai’i Visitor’s Bureau) does not want you to know about! One of the biggest problems facing Hawai’i, particularly the main island, O’ahu, is overcrowding, urban sprawl, and choking traffic. But wait a minute you’re thinking, isn’t Hawai’i just grass shacks, dirt roads and one lane roads
Classic example of urban sprawl in Honolulu
winding along beautiful coastline? Not really, but one can find such bucolic roads on some of the more rural parts of O’ahu and the outer islands like on the island of Kaua’i. Believe it or not, according to a study done by GPS Navigation Company Tom Tom, Honolulu aced out such traffic heavyweights as San Francisco, New York, Boston and even my hometown, Seattle for the dubious title of third worst traffic in North America! There are preliminary plans to build a new light rail system to take the pressure off of Honolulu’s busy freeways and streets. However, this is still at least another decade or so from coming to fruition.

People seem to think that just because one lives in Hawai’i life is somehow easier. This “the grass is greener on the other side” philosophy is perfectly illustrated through the 2011 Best Picture Nominee “The Descendants” which stars ubber mega-star George Clooney. I highly recommend watching it! Not only will it give you a perspective on life in Hawai’i or “paradise”, but also has an incredible plot and of course features some of Hawai’i’s best and most stunning scenery!

Rabbit Island off the East Coast of O'ahu
Not only is traffic a problem in Hawai’i, but the cost of living, otherwise known as “The

Paradise Tax” serves as another example of how life in Hawai’i may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Since everything is shipped in from the United States Mainland, naturally things are going to be much more expensive and combine that with a heavy tax burden one can understand how Hawai’i earned the dubious honor of being named the worst place in the United States to make a living.  

Another “fun” part of living in paradise is the seemingly endless and at times unwinnable battle against insects! Being that Hawai’i is located in the tropics you are almost always fighting against cockroaches, termites, ants, mosquitoes
Sumo cockroach!
and many other lovely critters that inhabit your home rent-free. I used to fight these battles daily when I lived in Honolulu, fighting to keep my beautiful apartment free of these pests. Unfortunately in the end it was always the insects that won the battle since I had to call in the spray company!

I have come to the conclusion that tourism in Hawai’i likely is not the number one moneymaker; instead it absolutely has to be the insect control/spraycompanies who are the kings! Think about the millions of hotels, houses, businesses and other places they must have to treat in a year! The number has to be in the tens of thousands, if not the millions.

Long and windy road into a "lush green valley"
Twilight in Hawai'i
There are many other real world problems that plague Hawai’i that are too large and deep to discuss in a single article. Even though Hawai’i is far from perfect it still is mostly paradise, it just does not feel that way when you’re crawling on H-1 at 20 MPH through downtown Honolulu on a voggy (more on that later) day! A hui hou kakou…translation = till we meet again everyone!

World famous Waikiki Beach