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I Stay Windward

For some time I’ve been meaning to write a blog about my typical Saturday on the Windward Side of Oahu and struggled to find the right story for it….until this past weekend!

I have the goal of trying to stay on the Windward and rural side of the island each weekend. Yet it’s hard as my friend base is scattered and Honolulu and to a lesser degree Waikiki (blech, gag, barf) offer experiences, activities and resources not available on the rural Windward side. To me the Windward side is more of the “real” Hawaii I envisioned when moving here.   Verdant mountains, quiet bays, and sparsely used beaches, in a rural setting on par with a third-world country.   It’s odd that those type of locales exists on an island with 1million people and the hordes of tourists who arrive daily.  If there is one saving grace of Oahu’s tourism it’s that the Waikiki attractions do a great job of keeping people in Waikiki.  I applaud them.

Kaneohe Bay

Kaneohe Bay

On most Saturdays I have the great fortune to work alongside Rallen Caya on a boat leaving from Paradise Bay Resort near my home in Kahaluu.  Somehow over the last three years I’ve managed to hide the fact that I have almost no boating skills.  The trip is a short two-hour cruise to a reef for snorkeling and then to the sand bar (ahua o Laka).   The vistas are as stunning as is the fact that many locals and visitors rarely, if ever, have been to the sand bar.   The typical trip includes plenty of turtles and fish and the occasional excitement of a manta ray or hammerhead shark.   It’s a great trip and I encourage you to visit Kaneohe Bay and come on board to hear what’s been voted as ”Hawaii’s Best Tip Speech” for the last three years.1

This past Saturday on the bay was one of those spectacular weekends with sunny weather, mild temperatures and incredible visibility for snorkeling.  I generally enjoy the trip event during the infrequent windy, rainy and choppy days on the bay as I still get on the ocean and that in itself is a treat.  I feel some obligation to force feed the guests something of the real Hawaii and so as part of the tour I give guest a brief introduction to the bay’s formation, some Hawaiian words and place names and a summary of the recent history of the islands. The blend of fact, some fiction, jokes and irreverence makes for a fun day for me and most of the time for the guests too.   We had a great crew from far flung places like Stockholm and even Millilani – adding vibrant diversity to the boat that day.

A great day was followed by a great night. I will almost always lean towards a house party over a trip to Waikiki and bare feet over dress shoes.  Two friends invited me to a concert at a home in Lanikai and it could not have turned out better. Lanikai is known for its stunning beaches and views of the “Mokes” – two offshore uninhabited islands. And the party was BYOB and BYOP (pupu) – just my style!  If you haven’t tried Hawaiian Gingerade I suggest it…with soda water and tequila – I call it a Mahalo-ita™.  I digress, as usual.

I’m not typically moved by large homes but these homeowners nailed it.   Open floor plans with spacious yards and sitting areas with curving palm trees and starlight skies.  Stunning. And the music? It was unreal.  I’ve had the great fortune to emcee alongside Walt Keale at Hui o Koolaupoko’s Makua fundraiser last year and I love this human being.  Saturday’s concert  with Native American R. Carlos Nakai was a much talk-story and kanakapila as concert.  There was as much or more talking about the songs’ origins and history as there was playing of the song.   Organic music yet and so impressive when two great storytellers, musicians and historians weave together their skills.  One man with an ukulele and the other with a suite of flutes. It was incredible.  The overlapping mythologies and beliefs of native Hawaiian and Native American cultures added another level to what would have already been an amazing experience.

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I went to bed slightly sunburned, with raw feet, red eyes and dehydrated but above all else grateful.   And I managed to stay on the Windward side all weekend. #notwaikiki

1 This is a self-certification much like “World’s Best Coffee” as seen in Elf.

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