On this trip, I gathered friends together to live like locals for a couple of weeks at my childhood home on the verdant slopes of Manoa valley, a world away from the tourist bustle of Waikiki.  

 

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I spent my tenderest years on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu where I learned hula and lei making, hiked haunted jungle hills, ate mangos and spent long days at the beach. In the back of my valley there are a series of pools and waterfalls that you will not find in any tourist guidebook. I’d guess you’d be hard pressed to find anybody living in the valley who knows about it. But I know about it.  My dad used to take me there when I was a wee lass. We’d roll up the pitted road in his old jeep, past the abandoned tea leaf and banana plantations to a forgotten place just on the edge of this world. 

So, of course I took my squad to the land that time forgot; an enchanted micro valley sprinkled with massive jackfruit trees and collapsing farmsteads. We climbed up the narrow gorge which leads to the waterfalls and swam in clear, dark pools. Native crawfish scuttled about in the shallows. Above us jungle mist and sunbeams chased each other. We left rocks wrapped in tea leaves according to Hawaiian tradition as recognition and appreciation of the genius loci, which is so powerful in these islands. On the way back we foraged bananas, stalks of wild ginger, and strawberry guavas. Smile if you know what I’m talking about.

Out past Hawaii Kai there is a rocky cove I love to swim in. A white sand cushion waits at the bottom of a steep path which cuts through dark lava rocks outlined against an azure sea. It’s all perfectly stunning. Furthermore, the road going out there is one of the most spectacular in the state. From Hanauma Bay to Makapu’u Point, the pavement writhes between breathtaking sea cliffs and high rocky outcrops. I recommend taking a day to explore the entire coastline, one turn at a time.

But my favorite truly local place is the north shore where the big surf spends the winter. I just love the surfer-country vibe, the famous shaved ice shop and the roadside manapua stalls. Most of all I love Sunset Beach, a heaving abundance of golden, large grain sand. The best kind of sand, in my opinion. It doesn’t stick to everything nor blow in your face when you’re snoozing. The water is so fresh and blue, like a hockey pool. Because of the steep beach, the water sucks you in and holds you with a firm grip; all you can do is surrender to its pull and roil. 

The moral of this travel story is that even in the most visited, most touristic destinations, you can find the path less traveled, and that is the path on which you'll find me.

Mahalo Masha, Collin, Wade, Al, Dawn, Linda, and Hicham for being o'hana for the month.