‘So how many beaches do you think there are on Hawaii’, I asked. After a few seconds of mental arithmetic, she said ‘I can count 25 off the top of my head, not including the secret places that only Hawaiians go to.’ Foreigners on the islands are known as haoles (howlies) and interestingly, the word itself is older than the arrival of Captain Cook, who is usually trotted out as the first westerner the Hawaiians met. It was first associated with non-Hawaiians around 1820 and gradually became quite contemptuous in nature. And today, haoles simply don’t know of, or don’t get to go to, certain beaches.
Ho`okena Beach Park is the historical site of one of the last fishing villages on the island of Hawaii (and is one of the top ten beaches in all the islands). A blend of fine gray coral and white sand make it particularly pretty and it has to be the hottest sand I’ve set foot on this year. It’s quite popular with the locals and we haoles were definitely outnumbered. From my vantage point, all I can say is that Hawaiians certainly know how to enjoy themselves. The biggest birthday party you’ll have is your first (even though you’re really not ‘getting it’). It’s as big a deal as, say, a 21st is in Ireland, when all the stops are pulled out. Everything from candyfloss machines to roasted pigs.
I can’t for a minute imagine how these kids could survive living, in say, New York, or Tokyo. Living without sand, sea, and the ocean is difficult at the best of times, but if you’re brought up on the water, by the beach, in the sunshine, how could you weather anything else? And yes, by all accounts, many can’t wait to get off the island. Island fever or a question of the grass always being greener somewhere else? My mother is fond of saying that happiness is knowing how to be content with what you have… I wish I’d started listening to her years ago.
When the first steamships arrived to the islands in 1836, the fishing village of Ho`okena became a busy trade centre. This commercial success would last until the mid-1930s when steamships went out of fashion, replaced by trucks and lorries. In recent years, the local community has taken things back into their own hands and now Friends of Ho’okena Beach Park (FOHBP), a non-profit organisation, is focused on the preservation of cultural and natural resources and culturally sensitive economic development in Ho’okena.
The only nod to modernisation that I could see were the kindles that have replaced the more traditional paper novels as beach reads. The rest was good, clean, old-fashioned fun, with a surfboard or two thrown in for good measure. It was as if all troubles had been parked in the car park and once you set your feet down on the hot sand and tiptoed to your spot, all that mattered was you, your friends, your family, and the fun you’d all have.
And no, that’s not me in the kayak (if that even is a kayak). I spent my time chatting to whoever popped up next to me in the water. A young girl from LA who explained the difference between surf boards and fat boards. A woman from Santa Cruz whose husband didn’t understand her hot flashes. Another from Lake Tahoe whose husband wouldn’t come out of his hotel room. A man from India, now retired in Alaska and travelling the world. When he next visits Budapest, he’s promised to take me to dinner. Well, stranger things have happened!