Nature goes well beyond typical in the 50th state.

When “Hawaii Five-0,” the popular 1968-80 TV police series was re-made recently it topped the ratings just as its predecessor had.

Images of awe-inspiring big wave surfers, endless torch-lit luau feasts, dancing by reed-skirted Hawai’ian beauties, and a band of ukeleles playing as the late Don Ho enchants with his plaintive tones, all inspire a deep sense of fascination for people around the world.

Yet Hawaii, the last state to join the United States in 1959, is so much more than that. If you take time to explore the incredible natural beauty of the islands and really get off the beaten track, you’ll be absolutely amazed by the many striking splendours and distinctively primordial physical features that abound on the islands.

Every time I visit Hawaii, I learn more, each time leaving with a deeper affection for what is a very special place. I feel honoured to have experienced her treasures and I definitely recommend anyone else does the same.

On my first visit several decades ago, I fell into the familiar pattern of being “lulled by the typical,” which is fun and interesting in itself. I strolled the large island of O’ahu’s state capital, Honolulu, sampled local fare, and was wowed by the skaters, jugglers, muscle-builders and their lovely admirers along the beach. I loved just hanging out at a lively eatery called “Zuke´ Bistro” (now gone) and talking to locals, but I also ventured south to Hanauma Bay, which has a wonderful nature reserve and had some decent snorkeling.

On return visits, I decided wanted more of nature – up close and personal – and I soon discovered some incredible locations that I now feel compelled to return to regularly just to see how they alter over the years. Hawai’i is constantly changing – a chain of volcanic islands that are continually growing and altering, literally before our eyes.

There are 5 memorable national parks with historical, cultural, and geographical significance on Hawai’i. Take only a camera and a willingness to be astonished. Nature, Hawai’ian-style, will do the rest.

Ala Kahakai NHT

Established in 2000 for the preservation, protection and interpretation of traditional Native Hawai’ian culture and natural resources, the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail is a 175-mile corridor full of cultural and historical significance. It traverses through hundreds of ancient Hawai’ian settlement sites and through over 200 ahupua’a (traditional sea to mountain land divisions). I particularly enjoyed the trekking over paths coursed by fishermen for hundreds of years. I can’t imagine they did it barefoot – you’ll need strong boots to trek the volcanic rock.

Hawai’i Volcanoes

Volcanoes are monuments to Earth’s origin and evidence that its primordial forces are still at work. During a volcanic eruption, we are reminded that our planet is an ever-changing environment whose basic processes are beyond human control. As much as we have altered the face of the Earth to suit our needs, we can only stand in awe before the power of a volcanic eruption. The only active volcanoes on Hawai’i are found on The Big Island (so-called to cut confusion, as it is also named ‘Hawai’i), and mostly undersea. I was mystified by Halema’uma’u Crater At Volcanoes National Park. It yields stunning remnants of lava flows, and you’ll be ‘mist-ified’ by the steam vents releasing the Earth’s inner pressures at Kilauea Iki.

Kalaupapa

The primary story being told at Kalaupapa National Historical Park is the forced isolation from 1866 until 1969 of people from Hawai’i afflicted with Hansen’s disease (aka leprosy but now cured) to the remote northern Kalaupapa peninsula on the island of Molokai. Effectively breaking centuries-long links between various Hawai’ian families, this “relocation” still scars the hearts of many native people. Some of those whose ancestors were affected still choose to live in the colony areas with their families. My stark pictures of the Saint Philomena and Siloama churches, established by Belgian missionary-priest Father Damien, still ring with an empty echo.

Kaloko-Honokhau Park

To survive in a hot and arid environment the native Hawai’ians (kanaka maoli) used ancient fishing skills, including the building of fishponds, and the knowledge of the location of precious fresh water (wai) that flows into the many brackish pools throughout this park. The spirit of the people (poe) and the knowledge of the elders (kupuna) created a tradition of respect and reverence for this area. Take the rather obscured trail leading off to the left of the visitor centre to get a real sense of the original feel of this place. Ancient fishpond remnants and some petroglyphs kept me and my camera captive.

Pu’uhonua Ohnaunau

Imagine you had just broken the sacred laws, the Kapu, and the only punishment was death. Your only chance of survival would be to elude your pursuers and reach the Pu’uhonua, a place of refuge. The Pu’uhonua protected kapu breakers, civilians during  times of war and defeated warriors. No harm could come to those who reached the boundaries of the place of refuge. Respect for the bones of ancient nobility, this place was always treated with absolute honour, until Lord George Byron (cousin to the famous English poet) looted bones in 1825. I found it rather chilling to look about, imagining fleeing for my life across the precious lines that would mean survival.

Now, I’m not putting down the weight-lifters, and you should definitely catch some hula-dancing and ukelele acts, but do yourself a favour. Explore this wondrous chain of naturally stunning islands and take in some of the most interesting parks and history you will find in any destination on the planet. Like me, you’ll want to find more places like these. Not only in Hawai’i, but also wherever you travel in the future.


Here are five filling Hawai’ian luau dishes to fuel to your explorations around the island

  • Lomi Lomi Salmon – the Hawaiian word for massage is used for this dish because salt is rubbed onto the salmon then onions and tomato are then massaged together with your hands.
  • Tuna Poke – a sushi-like dish with raw tuna marinated in soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, then served over cucumber slices
  • Poi – the island’s national dish made from taro root, peeled, boiled and then crushed into a purple paste
  • Manapua – savoury Chinese style dough balls stuffed with delicious fillings then steamed. Local shops sell them straight from the steamer with pork hash and other types of dim sum.
  • Malasadas – a legacy of the Portuguese in the form of deep-fried doughnuts rolled in sugar. The gourmet variations served at restaurants, are often filled with vanilla or chocolate cream.
SHARE
Previous articleEat your way round Crete
Next articleKoh Samui Midnight Run
Jim Grubman
Jim Grubman has lived more lives than the average cat, though he's hoping his two Flame-Point Himalayans beat him. He has written and edited many things, including cookbooks (he's a qualified chef), and he has even saved lives as a dialysis technician among a long list of medical and other jobs. For fun, he travels, writes about it, and sails as close to the Southern Seas as a sane man dare try.