“Aloha. Welcome to Hawai’i,” the taxi driver said as he approached me with a warm smile at the airport, stretching out his right hand before he gently placed his left over mine as if to solidify his sincerity.
He slowly placed my luggage into the trunk as I nervously tried to find the Airbnb apartment address in my wallet.
“I’m sure you’ll find it,” he smiled, “no need to worry.”
The word Aloha is visible everywhere. But Aloha does not simply mean hello or welcome as most tourists would think and remains deeply embedded in Hawaiian culture, the very spirit of how the Hawaiian people choose to live.
It is an inherent respect for the eternal connection between the individual and nature, the fixed relationship between your soul with the fabric of the world.
Compassion and empathy are weaved into every action and decision, in every word, and where the suffering of others would mean your own suffering. Nature, animals, the earth itself is a part of who you are.
Aloha is a commitment to take care and protect the environment one lives in just as much as one would take care of themselves. There is no individual, but an individual consciousness as part of a whole.
As globalisation begins to transform our world, the concept of individualism means that people identify themselves as separate from nature, where our priorities are to protect our own assets and whatever is of benefit to us and those important to us alone.
We begin to see the impact of this through global environmental degradation, where deforestation, pollution and urban sprawling oils the mechanics of globalisation that only strengthens this distance between us and nature.
Aloha, the suffering we are supposed to feel for harming nature and failing to protect this cultural spirit is lost to the idea of buying the best things or anything that feeds our wants that we soon forget how to give back.
I chose to remember that when I spent several weeks travelling between the islands with only a seven-kilo backpack that contained a few bits and pieces of old clothing that I simply tossed in the bin, making room to add things along the way. Make-up? Not a chance.
Hawai’i is not just Waikiki and surfing but offers one the opportunity to really absorb themselves into nature and culture with each island conveying its own unique personality.
Snorkelling, swimming in waterfalls, there is so much you can do! Drive around The Big Island of Hawai’i and you will visually witness the sharp climate changes with significant differences in the landscape – from dry and arid to tropical rainforest – in only a few minutes that prove just how wonderful the eight climate zones that encompass such a small island can be.
For those like myself who love to trek, Hawai’i has so many different trails that you can experience and I had the privilege in the short time I spent there to enjoy many.
Unlike Australia, you won’t find dangerous animals lurking about, in fact, that only danger you have is either falling or something falling on you! If you find yourself lucky enough to visit this amazing place, the following favourites should be included in your itinerary:
- Kalalau Trail (Kauai) – the Kalalau Valley along the Nā Pali Coast offers the most stunning views that truly inspire a deep appreciation for the Hawai’ian landscape. There is the option of breaking up or extending the trail into a multi-day and other options also include the short but strenuous Kalepa Ridge Trail. The dirt is slippery and you will find yourself walking very close to the cliff edge, so if you are afraid of heights, beware. It is absolutely spectacular.
- Volcanoes National Park (The Big Island of Hawaii) – taking the Kalapana road (12km) to the volcanoes is only the first step and the beginning is littered with bike stalls that can ease the hike into a shorter ride. But, moving right when you reach the end of the road and hiking for another 8kms over the dried lava is absolutely monumental. Eventually, you can reach very close to pockets of molten lava that oozes out of the ground. Go in the afternoon and take a torch, as I was lucky enough to hike back as it became dark and the experience with the stars above me was phenomenal.
- Maunakea Trail (The Big Island of Hawaii) – you will need permission to hike the summit of Mauna Kea and it is only a short 10km trail starting at the visitor centre, but nevertheless incredibly tough due to the altitude and it is best to go with a private guide or be a very experienced hiker and well prepared. But, what an experience! Mauna Kea holds special significance to the people of Hawai’i and it is important to respect that and do you research prior to the climb, but you will get a chance to see the observatories high above the clouds.
- Canyon Trail (Kauai) – The Waimea Canyon is just stunning and there are a number of various trails that you can do throughout Koke`e State Park that will give you great views of the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”.
- Mokoliʻi (Oahu) – a part of Kualoa Regional Park, you will need to rent and kayak over to Mokoliʻi or ‘Chinaman’s Hat’. This is a tough hike because you will need to rock climb incredibly steep terrain and while short can nevertheless be quite dangerous. But, what a view!
There are some popular ‘tourist’ hikes such as the Diamond Head trail that I would say you should avoid at all costs.
If you have an hour or two in the morning and want to squirm your way up with hundreds of others, fine, but personally you are better off doing the Kanealole trail that still offers fantastic views of Honolulu.
Aloha ‘āina, which mean the love of the land is my inherent love and respect for the land and the people of Hawai’i and may the Hawai’ian culture and ecology continue to resist the beast of globalisation.
Be sure to follow Sarah and all her adventures on Instagram: @saraaurorae