Yes, shopping at Ala Moana, lying on a beach, and snorkeling at Hanauma Bay are great. But if that’s all you do while in Hawaii, you’re sorely missing out.
Hawaii is more than just beaches
One of the best things about the Islands of Hawaii is their diversity. The Big Island alone is so diverse it has 4 out of the 5 major climate zones in the world, and 8 out of 13 sub-zones. This makes it one of the most diverse places on the planet.
Getting out of the city and off the beaten track is still one of the best ways to enjoy the islands. There are many beautiful trails, paths, streets, agricultural roads, and other ways to explore safely. This is why hiking, running, walking, biking, cave exploring, zip-lining and off road vehicles make a great way to discover the natural beauty of Hawaii.
Don’t fear the wildlife
Now, if you are afraid of being bit by a poisonous snake, getting lost in poison oak or attacked by a wild animals don’t worry, because Hawaii is the place for you. There is no major life threatening animal, insect or vegetation to worry about while wandering around on land. Most of the danger lies in the natural landscape, and in the water. However, if you keep your footing and don’t get too close to the top of cliffs, valleys and waterfalls you will most likely come back home in one piece. And with a great story to tell.
Think about it. A person could visit an active lava flow in the morning for breakfast. Drive up to Mauna Kea and go skiing for lunch. Then still have time for dinner and a snorkeling session along the Kona Coast.
Hawaii Five O is not real!
If you watch the TV series, Hawaii Five-O, you would think Hawaii is a place of gun fights, shoot outs, car chases and explosions. However nothing is further from the truth.
Now, of course, you want to pay attention while you’re exploring, especially when you come across a sign that says KAPU (which means keep out or no trespassing). However with 25 years experience exploring the wilderness of nearly every island, I have never felt threatened by people, plant or animal.
Of course, I have come across some dangerous situations, but most of these were due to my own enthusiasm, and lack of attention. One example can be found in this little story.
For many years I participated in the Kilauea Volcano Wilderness Run. One could compete in the 5, 10 or 26 mile race that occurred every Summer. By the time I got to my seventh year running, I began to get cocky. This time I trained hard for the 5 mile race. My goal was to finish in the top of my 40-50 age classification. I knew the course well, and made plans for the speed of my descent down the crater, the exact footing across crater and how I was going to navigate the “stairway to heaven” switchback portion up the craters cliff.
In the first two miles all seemed good, and I could still see the lead runner just ahead. I decided it was time to decelerate my speed as we came down the last switch back before we entered the crater. We were just about to enter the lava field, when I suddenly heard a runner coming up behind me very quickly shouting, “right, right, right”.
I realized he was probably new to the course, because running too fast, or passing, while entering the lava field increased the chance of tripping and being shredded by the glass-sharp lava.
I quickly glanced back, and noticed that if he didn’t slow down he would run right into me on this part of the narrow trail. Up ahead I saw a large embankment on my left. I realized I could probably run up it, let him pass, and then back on the trail. Judging the distance, I increased my speed and hit the bank just in time to let the runner pass.
Everything was going well, until my right foot landed on a buried rock. The combined force of gravity, angle of the rock, loose dirt, and sudden shifting of my weight was no match for my ability to stay upright.
Within seconds I went from looking to possibly being one of the first to finish the race, to wondering how I was going to get out of this crater and back to civilization. After the initial shock of landing hard, my first thought was to get up and keep going. Getting up was no problem, but continuing on was another.
As a dedicated trail runner, I had fallen many times before. This time proved different because the pain was instantaneous. I suddenly realized that if not broken, I was at least in for a long recovery. Tearing off my shoe and sock, I could see the outer ankle and foot turning purple and swelling, but no signs of a broken ankle.
Still under the rush of Adrenalin, I decide the best move was to get out and to an aid station as soon as possible. After ten minutes I saw an aide station, but kept going because the pain had turned into anger. All I wanted to do was catch up to the stupid guy and push him off the cliff and back into the crater. Although I didn’t get a good look at him, in my mood any runner would do…
Now if you are wondering, my anger allowed me to finish the race, but I never found the guy nor got the chance to push him off the cliff. However, due to the damage to my ankle, I didn’t reach my goal, but I did finish in the top ten percentile of all runners.
Hawaiian Adventures Lesson 2
The reason I tell this story is to show how important it is to stay aware, and not misjudge the land around you. Hawaii is beautiful to those paying attention, but deadly to those not paying attention.
So if you ever find yourself in Hawaii, try getting away from the tourists and trinkets and get out and explore a side road, trail or just away from the crowd. Just be aware of your surroundings, try to bring someone along, and remember to let people know where you are going. Just in case.