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Melanie Nilles
03-24-2008, 10:44 PM
I've never been there, although DH and I wanted to for our honeymoon (but other bills had to be paid first, so we never went). Now I'm writing a UF with some scenes in Hawaii, but I want what the internet and books can't tell you.

For those who have visited, what were your first impressions? Where did you stay and why? What did you see, smell, feel, hear? What was the land like? Where did you visit and what did you experience? What were your impressions of the culture? (For those who might live there, please tell me about the culture)

Please tell me all about your experiences. I really want to know so I can portray the islands as tourists see them and from the other side as natives see their home.

TIA!

Calla Lily
03-24-2008, 11:06 PM
First impression: balmy air, the sound of the sea, and touristy songs from the Hilton Hawai'ian Village lanai. The DH took me to the beach and after all-day flights (from the cold October northeast mainland), we walked into an ocean as warm as bathwater.

Oh, my.

Okay, it was our honeymoon so everything was tinged with romanticism. We spent the money then because we knew we'd never do it any other time--and we were right. Our oldest goes to college in a year. Eep.

We used a travel agent (it was 1987) who got us a deal because the Westin Kaua'i wasn't finished and was giving huge discounts. "Not finished" meant that the golf courses (plural) weren't ready and such.

We stayed 2 nights in Waikiki: waaaay too touristy. Noisy and crowded. Then 3 nights on Oahu, 2 on one of the other islands, then 6 days on Kaua'i.

Walked the beaches, did the Polynesian Cultural Center (gack--too Disneyland fake-happy for me), the Dole Factory, the Pearl Harbor Memorial (eerie and sobering). Bought a Niihau shell lei--still have that, treat it like gold. Bought tacky shirts at Hilo Hattie's. Walked and walked and walked--the air smelled so fresh (away from the typical downtown fumes, of course). The DH went parasailing, we went horseback riding. Got up at 3 am to see sunrise on Haleakala. Drove to Waimea canyon. Drove to that overlook--I forget the name--on Oahu, where you can see the whole island. Lush, lush, lush. Then for the last 6 days we walked Kaua'i, which has gorgeous woods and beaches.

The DH had been there before (on his first honeymoon!) so he knew a few out-of-the-way non-tourist places. The big thing: everyone was so much more laid back than us uptight northerners, LOL. Didn't run into a cranky person--but they all did work in the tourist industry, so they're paid to be nice even when they're not feeling it. I've done my time in customer service, so I know how that goes.

We looked once at housing prices for a laugh. Keep a defibrillator handy if you do that. Yike.

Overall impression: Sell the car, mortgage the house, do what you have to do to go there at least once. It's the only place I've been that lived up to everything anyone ever said about it.

heyjude
03-24-2008, 11:17 PM
Hubby had a contract out on Oahu once and of course I just had to go. Yanno, for moral support. :) I went to the pool and the Ala Moana mall while he worked, which had fabulous stores (Tiffany!).

But, to be honest, I was a bit nervous about walking around on my own, especially in the park. There were a lot of homeless people there. I asked hubby why and he said, where better to be homeless than paradise?

Overall it was gorgeous, wonderful, beautiful, and some guy brought me fruit drinks while I sat by the pool.

Oh, and for an extra bit of romantic, we found out I was pregnant for the first time in Hawai'i. It was unbelievably romantic.

Forgot to add: We stayed in a really nice hotel on Waikiki Beach. The most important touristy thing to do is climb Diamondhead. Do not do it pregnant. I can tell you that's not fun. But the scene from the top... there are no words.

Sarpedon
03-24-2008, 11:25 PM
Some people go for the beaches. Me, I preferred the mountains, and the lush jungles, the grassy plains, the waterfalls, the flowers and the plants.

The temperature is always around 80 degrees (F). Little rainsqualls happen randomly throughout the day, but it doesn't matter as the sun comes out again and dries you quickly. Gentle breezes waft the scents of hundreds of flowers. There are few insects; windows and doors don't have any screens, and air conditioning units are rare. Everywhere you look, in the city and outside, there are plants growing like crazy; palms, banyans, and more ordinary trees, hundreds of varieties.

The architecture is largely uninspired, but the beauty of the land and the vegetation makes Honolulu one of the most beautiful american cities I've been to. Concrete predominates as a building material. Lighter wooden frame buildings are confined to the mountain slopes and less developed areas. Spanish colonial style is surprisingly common. Brick is quite rare, as there are no good local clay deposits.

I stayed at the university, so my stay was not typical of a tourist. The University of Honolulu was the most beautiful of College campuses I've been to.

Unfortunately, all is not well in Hawaii. When the Kingdom was annexed by the USA, the families of the US missionaries and plantation owners siezed the land. As a result, most Hawaiians don't own their own land. Hawaii has one of the most acute housing crisises of any US state. Poverty is also a problem, as things are very expensive there, and rent is very high. The homeless rate is very high (in that way they are most fortunate to have such a nice climate) If you walk past a normal sized house, you will see several mailboxes, indicating that many families are living there.

When my uncle died, they took his ashes out onto the ocean in canoes, and spread them along with flowers out at sea. This is traditional.

I do not believe that there are any native mammals. Bird populations have been devastated by rats, pigs, dogs and cats. Traditional foods include the taro, the breadfruit, along with pigs, introduced by the polynesian settlers.

My first impression flying in were the green mountain slopes, and the ever so blue waters of Pearl Harbor, with the gray bulk of the US warships floating it, looking far too big for the delicately shaped bay. I could clearly see the USS Missouri at its berth, with the white Arizona memorial nearby. Coming in by air is very dramatic for a history lover.

DeaconBlu
03-25-2008, 10:30 AM
First impressions: Before we left I looked at a topographical map of the earth and the islands of Hawaii on that map look like needles sticking up from the ocean floor. So my first impression when we landed in Honolulu was I'm just thankful it didn't break off and fall in. I've been twice and I can tell you it's very beautiful in places and dangerous in others. People are quick to let you know you shouldn't go to those kinds of places. Some parts of Hawaii the locals really hate non-islanders. This all seems bad but these are my first impressions. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights but the day we got there the skies cleared. The damage had been done. The sewage system backed up and it was either flood the city streets with raw sewage or dump it in the river and out to sea. Well money talks and there you have it. The proof is in the pudding so to speak. The first night we were there some poor drunk schlep got in a fight and somehow found himself swimming in the harbor. He went home to sleep it off, passed out on his couch without a shower and woke up with diseases we don't have cures for. He died in the hospital. There were other circumstances to his death but you couldn't look at that brown harbor water and not make the connection. My first impression of Hawaii, YUK! Who calls this paradise? Granted the ark building weather, though biblical in proportion, is a rarity. Unless it's connected to global warming in which case I'd say take your own boat to the islands - just in case.

Where and why we stay: We got lucky, my wife was there to conduct two days of training and since she's a big wig at her company (read that as owner) we stayed at the Hawaii Prince Resort Hotel in Waikiki. Free 18 holes of championship golf. Guess what I did while my wife was working. It's a very beautiful hotel and we had a stunning sunset from our balcony every night if we wanted it. The brown plume kind of turned our stomachs but what can you do. Waikiki is terrific shopping, beaching, eating. All within walking distance. We walked back via the beach at high tide one night. It can't be done without getting wet or moving back to the walkway. It was fun trying though.

Sights and smells: It smelled like a city to me. Maybe it was sewage dump. We took a drive around the eastern and northern part of the island. We stopped at local attractions and one of those fresh prawn stands. You catch 'em, they cook 'em. Or you can take them home. Not as cheap as I'd have thought though. Still good. We tumbled around in the big waves hitting the north shore. We checked out the surfer crowd and ended up at a city park talking with some extras from the "Lost" TV series. I'd never seen the show (still haven't) but had heard of it. We drove back to Waikiki on the express way, stopped at a Dole plantation and did the tour (I love pineapple). We did Pearl Harbor, I'm a 1st gulf war vet U.S. Navy. The Arizona memorial, The Mighty Mo, talked my way on the Naval Air Station and got a tour from a really nice first class petty officer.

We went on a submarine ride. That was awesome. Sea turtles, sunken ships (sunk on purpose to help get back the coral reefs), eels squirming across the dull khaki ocean floor. Flocks of fish and a couple sharks. That was a blast and something I'd do again. The Honolulu Zoo, eh, it's a zoo. The beach sand along Waikiki is grainy. If you go over the sea wall it's crushed shell and sand. The north shore beaches have wonderful sand like you think of when you think perfect beach sand. I'm a shark-a-phobe so I didn't venture out past my waist.

We were told to spend an entire day at the nature preserve known as Hanauma Bay and we're glad we did. This is a live reef with lots of fish. We snorkeled for hours looking for an octopus. We found one. It was amazing. He was about as big as my hand and he jetted off squirting his ink. Except for the movie they make you watch (they have to drum it into you that this is a preserve and you need to keep it clean) this was my best day there. That night we did the Luau with the fire knife dancers but I wanted to see Don Ho. We should have, sadly, he passed away a year later.

The Luau food is made to feed lots of people really fast. I got the feeling we were more like a herd than a group of tourists. If there's one thing I'll do differently next time, it's to avoid the large crowds. Where people are flocking, I'll spend some time and a twenty getting some local information. But that's me, I hate being a tourist.

I got copious notes on the whole trip. If you want more, just send me a PM.

Sassee
03-25-2008, 10:09 PM
I've never been there, although DH and I wanted to for our honeymoon (but other bills had to be paid first, so we never went). Now I'm writing a UF with some scenes in Hawaii, but I want what the internet and books can't tell you.

For those who have visited, what were your first impressions? Where did you stay and why? What did you see, smell, feel, hear? What was the land like? Where did you visit and what did you experience? What were your impressions of the culture? (For those who might live there, please tell me about the culture)

Please tell me all about your experiences. I really want to know so I can portray the islands as tourists see them and from the other side as natives see their home.

TIA!

Mosquitos. Lots and lots of mosquitos.

;)

I loved Hawaii, though I tend to like warmth and humidity anyway. I really loved how open a lot of the buildings were. The airport opened to gardens of palm trees and other tropical plants, the hotels were open air on the ground floor so visitors could experience the ocean breeze, many buildings did not have air conditioning (which was better, because we weren't walking in and out of cold air all the time), the beaches were fantastic, and the atmosphere was very relaxed. So different from the mainland.

As an example, my entire wardrobe for two weeks consisted of swimsuit, wrap, tank top, and flip flops. We could wear that attire anywhere - beach, stores, restaurants, you name it. Though, since we were being very tourist-y, we only stuck to the cities that catered to tourists, so I didn't experience any of the non-islander hostilities. Quite the opposite happened. Everyone was very friendly towards us.

Though I did get my first major sunburn there. I'm blessed with olive skin so I had never before experienced a burn that lasted longer than a day. Learned my lesson about ocean sun *real* fast. Oh, I had sunscreen on my upper body for sure. Better safe than sorry. But I hadn't counted on sitting with my feet up on a bench for several hours as ocean spray coated my legs with salt (our scuba diving trip took a while to get back to shore due to waves). Two hours later my shins were lobster red and stayed that way for a week. It f***ing hurt!

My strongest impression of Hawaii was overall relaxation (besides the sunburn). Second I'd have to say was the drool-worthy food, followed closely by mosquitos. (I'm a magnet for those damned bugs!)

Melanie Nilles
03-26-2008, 01:59 AM
All of these are helping me form a mental image. Please, keep them coming! It's great to read all the different experiences. It helps IMMENSELY!

Sandi LeFaucheur
03-26-2008, 03:57 AM
I went in the early 80s with my sister. It seemed that everything smelled of flowers. We stayed in a lovely hotel at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki--The Hawaiian Regent, I think it was. View of the sea. Wonderful. I remember lying on the beach and it was raining a very fine rain--like a scotch mist. So refreshing. As we had a kitchenette, we ate breakfast in our room, mostly fruit. The fruit was amazing! It actually tasted like fruit--which it doesn't by the time it gets to Canada. The garbage disposal even smelled of fruit. We went two years in a row. The first year we visited Kauai as well as Oahu. The mountains looked like they'd been draped in green velvet. The second year, we went to the big island. Went up the volcano and the smell of sulphur was overpowering. Wonderful, lovely place. At least it was 25 years ago. I hope it still is.

Maui Author
03-26-2008, 09:59 AM
I've lived here for a few years and would be happy to answer any questions you have.

Karen Duvall
03-26-2008, 10:09 AM
I grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii, in Hilo. Volcano National Park is the most phenomenal place in the world. There's nothing like witnessing the birth of the Earth. Anyway, if you have any specific questions about the Hawaiian culture or the Big Isle in particular, I'm happy to help. I still have family there and I visit them every couple of years or so. You can email me at jkduvall at bendbroadband dot com.

Maui Author
03-26-2008, 10:18 AM
I grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii, in Hilo. Volcano National Park is the most phenomenal place in the world.

Karen, have you heard about the recent activity at the summit of Kilauea? The past couple of days, the Halema`uma`u crater has been spewing ash and tiny bits of lava. If it increases, I'm going to fly over and see it.

Tiger
03-26-2008, 10:11 PM
Vog occassionally makes breathing a challenge in Honolulu--I don't know how Big Island folks living near the flows cope.

Tiger
03-26-2008, 10:43 PM
Some people go for the beaches. Me, I preferred the mountains, and the lush jungles, the grassy plains, the waterfalls, the flowers and the plants.

Me too... Tho' there are not a lot of waterfalls on O`ahu.


The temperature is always around 80 degrees (F). Little rainsqualls happen randomly throughout the day, but it doesn't matter as the sun comes out again and dries you quickly. Gentle breezes waft the scents of hundreds of flowers.

Yes, this part of paradise is dangerous... If you're not careful, you can fall asleep in unexpected places.


There are few insects; windows and doors don't have any screens, and air conditioning units are rare.

I don't know where you visited, but I've not seen many houses or apartments without screens or air conditioning. As you mentioned, the temps (at, or near sea level) hover in the mid-80s, and humidity is almost always 80% or over. Also, insects are far from rare. On top of several thousand native varieties, introduced species such as roaches and mosquitos make life pretty interesting for folks living here--especially if one enjoys the mountains and forests. The large, flying roaches (AKA: B52s) get so big, you can almost hear them breathing, and there are places where mosquitos will suck you dry if you don't lather on repellant.


Everywhere you look, in the city and outside, there are plants growing like crazy; palms, banyans, and more ordinary trees, hundreds of varieties.

Yes, everything grows like crazy. Green should be the State color.


I stayed at the university, so my stay was not typical of a tourist. The University of Honolulu was the most beautiful of College campuses I've been to.

That's the Unverisity of Hawai`i--not the University of Honolulu.


Unfortunately, all is not well in Hawaii. When the Kingdom was annexed by the USA, the families of the US missionaries and plantation owners siezed the land. As a result, most Hawaiians don't own their own land. Hawaii has one of the most acute housing crisises of any US state. Poverty is also a problem, as things are very expensive there, and rent is very high. The homeless rate is very high (in that way they are most fortunate to have such a nice climate) If you walk past a normal sized house, you will see several mailboxes, indicating that many families are living there.

The annexation is a can of worms topic--which I would avoid in any work of fiction, unless one were willing to do a ton of research. But, yes, Hawai`i has a big housing problem--largely do to people moving in from elsewhere. As for poverty: sure, pay is very cheap here, but, Hawai`i also has a very low unemployment rate.


I do not believe that there are any native mammals. Bird populations have been devastated by rats, pigs, dogs and cats. Traditional foods include the taro, the breadfruit, along with pigs, introduced by the polynesian settlers.

There is a native mammal: the Hawai`ian monk seal which is critically endangered. I would agree that the pig is one of the most destructive forces to ever hit Hawai`i.

Sorry, I don't mean to nitpick, but the OP is doing story research.

WendyNYC
03-26-2008, 11:10 PM
We were in Maui a few years ago and stayed in one of the villas along the beach in the Kea Lani Hotel. The light at sunset was beautiful every night -- we would stay out on the deck overlooking the ocean and watch the colors hang in the air: pinks, oranges, reds, blues. Since the air was full of humidity, everything had a soft feel to it, almost as if it had been lit by a movie crew. The light reminded me of Capri.

We also took the road to Hana, which was fantastic. We would stop every few minutes for pictures--there were waterfalls everywhere. The road was incredibly curvy and this motion-sickness-prone person had to drive to keep myself sane.

The snorkeling was just ok compared to other reef areas like Great Barrier, Cayman Islands and Mexico, but we did see more sea turtles there than anywhere else. We also went on a whale tour and saw several humpbacks with their babies.

Melanie Nilles
03-27-2008, 06:55 AM
Sorry, I don't mean to nitpick, but the OP is doing story research.

Please do! I'm enjoying even the nitpicking :) It's helping to read so many different experiences, because everyone sees things from a different perspective.

Tish Davidson
03-27-2008, 07:47 AM
Most surprising thing to me about Hawaii was all that water and no seagulls.
Also, the McDonalds serves saimin ( an type of noodle soup) at breakfast.

Tiger
03-29-2008, 07:23 AM
Yah, no gulls... I did see a cormorant sleeping on a beach umbrella, not too long ago. There are also lots of frigate birds. Truth's to tell, I wasn't that fond of gulls when I was in California.