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How to Navigate Through Traffic in Honolulu

Even though visiting Hawaii can definitely be a vacation dream come true, the Aloha State’s largest city, Honolulu, is a busy, vibrant metropolitan area with many of the attributes of America’s largest cities, including rush hour traffic.  One national survey has rated the City and County of Honolulu only behind New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area in terms of traffic congestion. There are a number of reasons for this, including lack of highway options, metropolitan Honolulu’s high population density and lack of public transportation alternatives.

Luckily for cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco as well as Honolulu, most tourists are not deterred by rush hour traffic, and neither should you if you, particularly if know how to best deal with it. Regardless if you are renting a car, taking a taxi or riding on public transportation, here are some tips that you can help you spend less time on the road and more time doing on what you came to Honolulu, Hawaii for.

Drive in the Opposite Direction of Heavy Traffic on H-1 – If you’re staying in Waikiki as most tourists staying in Honolulu do, you’re in luck because if you’re driving outside the city in the morning on Honolulu’s major freeway, the H-1, you’re going opposite the flow of the heaviest traffic. But when you’re returning to your Waikiki hotel, try to return before 3:00 pm or after 7:00 pm as the afternoon rush hour on H-1, as you get closer into the city, tends to not favor one direction over another.

Be An Early Bird – Regardless where you are going, if you can, get up early and head out as soon as you can to avoid the morning rush hour traffic. This will not only get you where you want to go faster, but when you arrive at your destination, it will also tend to be less crowded.

Take Along A Good GPS – If you plan to rent a car, a GPS could be a useful tool while driving in Honolulu. Some of the newer fully featured GPS will not only give you directions; but they can also tell you about traffic conditions and how to avoid them. As they are pretty compact, you can bring it along with you or you can rent one from most rental car companies.

Visit Honolulu During the Summer – Traffic tends to be less congested during the summers because schools and colleges are out during this time. So there is less traffic on the roads during this time, especially during rush hours.

Visit Attractions by Tour Buses – There are numerous tours companies that will conveniently pick you up at your hotel, take you to major attraction such as the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Diamond Head Crater and more, and then take back to your hotel. Even though you might still be stuck in traffic, at least you’re not doing the driving. So when you get to your destination, you’ll be in a better, more relaxed state of mind to enjoy it.

Hawaii Fun Facts

One of the Hawaii fun facts about Waikiki Beach is that much of its sand came from California.

Need to learn about some interesting Hawaii fun facts? If so, please read on. Hawaii is a very small state in the country and comprises very little land mass compared to other countries in the world.  Despite that, the Hawaiian Islands is a worldwide leader in an amazingly large number of areas.  Furthermore, it stands unique compared to other states in the US. The Aloha State’s leadership and uniqueness in such areas constitute our list of Hawaii fun facts.

Areas of Hawaii’s Worldwide Leadership

  • Being nearly 2,400 miles from the nearest continental land mass, Hawaii has the most isolated population on earth.
  • Spanning over 1,500 miles, the Hawaiian Islands is the world’s longest island chain.
  • Hawaii’s Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world and has been continually erupting for the over 30 years.
  • Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii is the world’s tallest mountain when measured from its base on the ocean floor at 33,476 feet.
  • Haleakalā on Maui is the world’s largest dormant volcano, forming more than 75% of the island.
  • Kilauea Iki on the Big Island of Hawaii is the world’s most active volcano.
  • Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii, by volume, is the world’s most massive volcano.
  • Molokai’s north shore has the world’s tallest sea cliffs measuring more than 3,000 feet high.
  • Mauna Kea on Big Island of Hawaii houses the world’s biggest telescope.
  • The Big Island of Hawaii leads the world in harvesting macadamia nuts and orchids.

Areas of Hawaii’s Uniqueness Compared to Other States

  • Hawaii is the only state in the country that grows coffee, cocoa and vanilla beans.
  • Ka Lae, popularly known as South Point on the Big Island, is the southernmost point in the United States.
  • Covering over 1,500 miles, Hawaii is the widest state in the United States.
  • Hawaii is the only state in the nation with its own time zone, Hawaiian Standard Time.
  • Hawaii is the only state in the nation with a tropical rain forest.
  • Iolani Palace on the island of Oahu is the only royal palace in the country.
  • Hawaii is the only state comprised entirely of islands.
  • Hawaii is the only state in United States where Caucasians are in minority. In fact, every race and ethnicity is a minority in Hawaii.
  • Hawaii is the only state that honors a king when it celebrates every June 11 as King Kamehameha Day.

Popular Hawaiian Flowers

Being given flowers from Hawaii, whether they are in the form of a floral arrangement, a bouquet or especially a lei always makes for a special gift of Aloha.  The Aloha State’s warm but temperate climate, fertile soil, clean air and abundance of rainfall often make it an ideal place for exotic flowers to bloom and thrive.  Hawaii has a diverse range of flowers of all kinds; but there is a universal commonality for almost all of them, which is:  almost all of them are not originally from Hawaii.  They were all at some time brought into Hawaii where they have found themselves an ideal home.  Here is a sampling of some of the most popular and well-known ones.

Protea – This flowering plant was originally introduced into the island of Maui in the mid-1980s and was imported from South Africa as well as from Australia.  These unusually looking, but stunningly beautiful, flowers with brightly colored stamens and pistils are known for their ability to last a long time in a vase or even when they are dried, and because of that, have become a very popular flower that is exported to many places in the world.

Bird of Paradise – This popular ornamental plant is originally from the Cape of Good Hope area of South Africa. It is so called because its brightly colored and ornate flower resembles al bird that would come from a tropical area. Even though it does not share a close resemblance, it is a close relative of the banana plant. This plant is popular in Hawaii and can be found growing and thriving in the home of many local residents.

Heliconia – This popular ornamental plant is related to the bird of paradise and the banana plant; but is originally from South and Central America. The plant, which is sturdy and can last a long time after they are cut and displayed in vases, can grow up to 6 feet tall. Like the bird of paradise, you can find a number of the 22 species found in Hawaii growing in the yards of many local residents.

Anthurium – This plant with its waxy and glossy flower was brought to Hawaii in the late 1800 from, of all places, England. It can last very long in a vase, making it very popular as a flower arrangement. While the flower can last a relatively long time, the plant needs a lot of water and requires protection from the sun and wind. The anthurium is one of Hawaii’s biggest exported flower and nursery products.

Pikake – This fragrant flower, otherwise known as the jasmine, is a very popular flower in Hawaii, particularly for lei-making. The plant is originally from India. When used in lei-making in Hawaii, its buds, rather than the bloomed flowers, are used. Typically, a number of pikake strands are combined in a lei with a greater number of odd numbered strands indicating how popular or important the recipient is to the one giving the pikake lei. In Hawaii, pikake leis are usually given to female prom dates.

Ginger – Is another fragrant flower with a lovely lingering scent used in lei making. The plant is originally from eastern India. As they are very delicate, much skill is needed to make leis from the ginger plant. Furthermore, because they do not last very long and because of the effort required to make them into leis, those who receive them in the form of leis can well appreciate their transitory beauty as well the skill and patience that went into making them.

The Road to Hana

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Seaside view along the Hana Highway by Barry Inouye.

One of the most picturesque drives you can take in Hawaii or perhaps anywhere else in the world could very well be the road to the idyllic town of Hana on the island of Maui. The approximately 64 mile journey along the Hana Highway from Maui’s largest town of Kahului to Hana can take 2 ½ hours, provided you don’t stop along the way.  But you should stop by as many places as you can because the when driving to Hana, the goal should not be the destination, but the journey.

Plan on making your sure-to-be memorable journey–to and from one of the most famous places on Maui–a whole day affair.  Not only because there are a lot of things to see; but most of the road will be narrow and winding with more than 600 curves. There are 59 bridges along the way, while 46 of them can only be traversed by cars going in the same direction. The highway was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2001.

There are many interesting and scenic stops that you should make during your journey to Hana as well as after you pass the town. You can visit one of innumerable secluded waterfalls in a lush tropical setting made possible by abundant rainfall along the northern slopes of Haleakala. Some of the more notable waterfalls that you can see on the Hana Highway include:  Twin Falls at Mile Marker 2, Upper Waikani Falls or the Three Bears at Mile Marker 19, Hanawai Falls at Mile Marker 24 and Wailua Falls at Mile Marker 45.

There are a number of quiet and beautiful public roadside areas, such as the Kaumahina State Wayside Park, Wailua Valley State Wayside Park and the Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park. Stop at any one of these parks to take a break from your drive and enjoy some of Maui’s best places for leisurely strolls and relaxation.  In addition to waterfalls and parks, there are numerous scenic lookout spots as well as roadside stands where you can sample exotic fruits and other locally made food products.

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View from a scenic lookout along the Hana Highway by Barry Inouye.

Other very notable places to stop include the Garden of Eden Arboretum and the Keanae Arboretum where you can see a large number of native plants and farm crops on display. You should also stop by the Kahanu Garden which is a part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Once used as a sugar plantation and pasture, the garden is now used to showcase Hawaiian plants, history and culture. The area is also home to the Pi’ilanihale Heiau or temple which is one of the largest in all of Polynesia.

Once you get to the town of Hana, take the time to explore the sights and attractions for which the town has become famous for. One of the things you definitely do here is to head out to Wai’anapanapa State Park, which feature the black sand beach named Pa’iloa.  You can also visit the Wai’anapanapa freshwater caves which are good examples of anchialine pools, which are landlocked bodies of water, typically freshwater, with a subterranean connection to the ocean. Such pools are unique to places where there are aquifers within coastal bedrock formed by lava, as in the case of Hawaii.

Another must see place in Hana is the rustic and inventory-crammed Hasegawa General Store. The store sells almost anything and everything to the local Hana residents and visitors and has been a long-time part of local island lore and culture.

Don’t plan on just stopping in Hana as there is still much to see beyond this town. In Kipahulu, stop by the Palapala Ho’omau Church to visit the grave of one of America’s most famous aviators, Charles Lindbergh. In his latter years, Lindbergh and his wife lived in this part of Maui on a half time basis and loved it so much he opted to be buried here when he died in 1974. Another very famous attraction in the Kipahulu area is the Ohe’o Gulch or Seven Sacred Pools area. Here, you can find waterfalls, picturesque freshwater swimming pools, forest trails, waterfalls and a historic heiau.  This area, stretching down from Haleakala’s summit, was added to Haleakala National Park in 1969.

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Seven Sacred Pools in Kipahulu by Barry Inouye.

Hawaii’s Samoan Crab

The samoan crab.

The Samoan crab, known elsewhere as the mud crab or the mangrove crab, has a storied history in Hawaii. It has to be one of the strongest and most aggressive crabs to be found in the Aloha State. There are stories about the legendary strength of the Samoan crab, which reportedly can easily snap off a broom stick with its powerful claws when cornered. But on the other hand, it is one of the tastiest crabs you can eat and many in Hawaii consider a Samoan crab, especially if it is big, a prized catch. The largest Samoan crab ever to be caught in the Aloha State was well over 7 pounds.

Why it is called the Samoan crab in Hawaii and not the mud crab or mangrove crab as it is elsewhere? It’s simply because it was introduced into Hawaii in the mid 1920’s from Samoa with the intention of establishing commercial crab fisheries on Oahu, Molokai and the Big Island. The Samoan crabs were first introduced into Kaneohe Bay on Oahu, which was an ideal place to establish a foothold because it possessed the kind of environment, muddy bottoms, estuaries and mangroves, where they typically flourish. By the 1940’s, the Samoan crab population was firmly established throughout the main Hawaiian Islands in estuaries and even in areas far upstream. Today, there are even reports of Samoan crabs found as far as the freshwater reservoir of Lake Wilson in the town of Wahiawa, located in geographic center of the island of Oahu.

This crab can be found in abundance throughout the South Pacific, Oceania, Southeast Asia, India and parts of Africa. Supposedly it’s not that hard to farm and raise this crab on a large-scale basis and there are aquaculture operations overseas that do so. But here in Hawaii, while it is far from being an endangered species, some feel, because many so people enjoy eating their succulent white meat, that Samoan crabs are becoming increasingly more difficult to find and catch. To protect the species, State regulations prohibit the taking of Samoan crabs smaller than six inches across. Female Samoan crabs of any size cannot be harmed or harvested nor can any crab be speared. You must also have a commercial fishing license in order to sell Samoan crabs. So why aren’t Samoan crabs farmed and raised in Hawaii on a large scale as they do in other countries?  Unfortunately, we don’t have the answer to this question at this time.

So how does one go about catching of these delectable crustaceans? Definitely don’t try to catch them by hand as you could lose one of your fingers. Instead, catch them with the time-tested method of using a crab net. Tie one of the smelliest baits you can find at the fish market, like the head of an aku or skipjack tuna, to the net, then throw the net with a line and floater attached to it from a bridge or boat in an estuarine waterway. Return in about 20 to 30 minutes to haul up the lines and hopefully you’ll catch a few of them. Throw back the undersized ones and all of the female crabs (i.e., the ones with the eggs carried on their undersides). Then repeat the process. Or it you don’t catch any, go back to the fish market where you bought the bait and buy the Samoan crabs there.

When first caught, the Samoan crab, with its greenish brown color and inhabiting waters that are typically not that inviting, doesn’t look particularly appealing or appetizing. But things change after you cook them in salted boiling water as the color of their shells changes from greenish brown to a more attractive looking light red. Unfortunately, like with most crabs, there is no easy and nice way to eat a Samoan crab. But your diligence and hard work will pay off as you break through the shell, peel off the scrumptious white meat and begin to eat it.

Some people even consider the crab mustard, the gooey, unappealing looking residue from the inside of the body cavity a delicacy. This part of the crab is called the hepatopancreas, which the crab uses to filter out toxins ingested from its surroundings. This is what scientists say makes eating other parts of the crab relatively safe even though crabs, like the Samoan crabs, do not usually live in habitats where the waters can be considered pristine. But this can’t be said for directly eating the hepatopancreas and the residue that surrounds it. So bear this in mind when you consider eating Samoan crab mustard, or for that matter any type of crab mustard.

 

When Hawaii Became the 50th State

There are still many people in Hawaii that still remember the days when Hawaii was not the 50th State, but only a territory of the United States. Hawaii is the country’s youngest state, entering the union in 1959. Before that, Hawaii had been a territory of the United State when it was annexed by it in 1898. Today, most people in Hawaii as well as on the mainland could never image Hawaii not being one of America’s 50 states.

A number of prominent politicians had sought statehood for Hawaii since the early 1900’s but a number of factors prevented it from happening. Initially, the large sugar and pineapple plantation owners in Hawaii, at the time, liked the less restrictive immigration policies associated with US territories as opposed to those associated with states. So these large plantation owners were influential in keeping Hawaii a territory for decades as they depended upon immigration to supply a steady stream of foreign laborers.

Despite being often debated before the US Congress, other factors made it difficult for Hawaii to become a state. Southern states were generally against Hawaii becoming a state, because if it did become one, it would be the first state in the nation where whites were not in the majority and were concerned that it would further the cause of racial desegregation and the civil rights movement in America. Some also questioned the loyalty of Hawaii’s residences because a predominant part of its population was of Asian ancestry, which was overriding concern especially during the early days of World War II. There were even local people in Hawaii that protested statehood on the grounds that Hawaii should have never been a part of the United States to begin with, claiming it was illegally annexed back in the late 19th century.

One of the key movers for Hawaii becoming a state was John A. Burns, who was elected as Hawaii’s territorial delegate to Congress in 1956 and who also later became governor of Hawaii. He successfully lobbied then Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, and then Senate Majority Leader, Lyndon B. Johnson, to push statehood for both Alaska and Hawaii in the US Congress though an act called the Hawaii’s Statehood Bill. Hawaii became a state after a local plebiscite vote, where over 96% of voters in Hawaii ratified the recently passed law, and after an official proclamation was made by then President Eisenhower on August 21, 1959.

Hiking on Diamond Head

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View from the top of Diamond Head by Barry Inouye.

Undoubtedly one of Hawaii’s most famous and state natural landmarks is Diamond Head. It’s been prominently featured on postcards, TV series and major motion pictures. The summit of Diamond Head offers great panoramas of Waikiki.  And it’s also one of the best places in town to the beautiful Hawaiian sunrise.  So it’s no surprise that hiking on Diamond Head has now become a very popular tourist activity in Hawaii.

The extinct 760-foot volcanic tuff cone is located on the east end of Waikiki. Originally named Leahi by ancient Hawaiians, its name means “brow of the tuna,” which some could say its upwardly sloping profile toward its south peak suggests. The crater’s current name was given by British sailors in the 1800’s who mistakenly believed the glimmer of valueless calcite crystals on its slopes were diamonds.

When Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898, Diamond Head played an important role in defending Honolulu’s harbors. Fort Ruger was established on the outside as well as on the inside of the crater. In the early 1900’s Diamond Head proved to an ideal location for the harbor defense. Cannon batteries were situated within the crater which offered both concealment and protection from any potential invading naval forces. The construction of fortified observation points as well as network of stairways and tunnels to and along the crater’s rim and summit also provided commanding views for observing and targeting potential offshore targets.

Today, these fortified observation points, network of tunnels and stairways to the Diamond Head’s rim and summit offer visitors a relatively short but exhilarating hiking experience. There are two sets of long stairwells featuring a total of 175 steps as well as a 225 feet dimly lit tunnel that hikers will have to traverse. Once you reach the summit after a brisk .75 mile hike, you will be rewarded with some of the most panoramic and picturesque view of Waikiki and Honolulu. Many especially enjoy hiking to Diamond Head’s summit to watch the sun rise from the east in the early mornings.

Hikers can access the trail through entering the Diamond Head State Monument park, located inside the crater. You can access the inside of the crafter through a tunnel located on the north side. There is even a convenient bus stop nearby. Hikers arriving by car will have to pay a $5 fee while those entering by foot will pay a $1 fee. The park has water fountains and bathrooms at the foot of the trail. The park closes at 6:00 pm with no one accessing the trail after 4:30 pm.