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Hawaii After Dark


Honolulu City Lights by Dan Zen via Flickr

“If I were a tourist, I’m coming here for the weather, the culture, the sightseeing. But one night I might go to the casino, because what other entertainment is there to do at night?” said James Boersema, an investor of a Waikiki nightclub and restaurant. — MSNBC: Is Hawaii gambling with paradise?

That quote is from an article about the islands considering — again — adding gambling as a source of much needed revenue. Gambling might be a path towards income, surely, but it’s a willfully naive response to the question of what to do after dark in Hawaii.

For starters, there’s a staggering array of music options, and lots of them are free. Waikiki’s Kanikapila Grill hosts the stars of Hawaiian music — hang out poolside at the Outrigger and hear the sounds of island music for the price of a cocktail. You can do this at the Marriott, too, and a number of other places. The Royal Hawaiian has a newish entertainment series — it’s great fun to catch a show in this grand pink hotel by the sea. There are loads of nightlife tourist traps along Kalakaua Ave., discos and kitchy luaus, or you can book a package that includes transportation to and from the Polynesian Cultural Center to catch their big cultural showcase.

In the confines of Waikiki, it’s easy to forget that Honolulu is a real city with a university and residents that work in industries other than tourism, a place where people live and work and play after dark just like any other city. Crack a local paper — one that’s not labeled “Top 100 Things to Do on Oahu!” and you’ll find loads of other options.

There’s a burgeoning foodie scene in Honolulu — try Town in Kaimuki or, if you’re feeling flush, Chef Mavro‘s. You can attend a food event like Dining in the Dark where you’ll give up vision for taste. If you’re looking for alternative entertainment there’s Art after Dark at the Honolulu Academy of Arts and there’s Chinatown’s revival with bars and nightclubs and the First Friday gallery walk.

Admittedly, things slow down a little on the neighbor islands, but you can still dine in an amazing array of restaurants in Maui’s county seat, Wailuku, catch a jazz show at the historic Honoka’a theater on the Big Island or hear local music at the Hotel Moloka’i on, you guessed it Moloka’i.  There are nature activities too — star gazing and flashlight tide-pooling and night diving… it’s not over just because the sun is down.

What is there to do at night? Really? Pick up a local paper or look online and find out.

Whales and Nets

Humpback Whale by Big Blue Ocean via Flickr

Humpback Whale by Big Blue Ocean via Flickr

While I was on Oahu last month, I took a tour with Oahu Nature Tours. The guide mentioned a friend of his who’d been out in the waters around the Northwest Hawaiian Islands collecting abandoned nets. This recent story in from the AP illustrates how critical it is to manage all the  marine garbage that’s choking the waters around the islands.

A juvenile humpback whale entangled in hundreds of feet of heavy rope off the Hawaii coast was being tracked by marine experts Wednesday.

“The entanglement is life-threatening,” said Ed Lyman, marine mammal response manager for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. “It’s in the mouth, and it’s over the body. It’s yellow, polypropylene line, pretty heavy gauge, and it’s several hundred feet of line on the animal.”

Humpback whales migrate to warm Hawaiian waters every winter to give birth — it’s a common though still amazing site to see them in the Maui channel, slapping their fins, breaching the waters, eyeing the tour boats. On a snorkel tour off Maui some years back we watched a junior whale — about the size of the boat we were on — breach and fall, breach and fall.  His mother just surfaced beside him, a long slow expanse of shiny black and gray, and then, she was gone.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, around 1000 whales are killed every year in fishing gear. Hawaii based efforts to gather and recyle abandoned nets are underway, but it’s clearly not happening fast enough. Hopefully, rescue efforts to cut youngster free will be successful, though the great tragedy is that once he’s good to go, there’s no guarantee he won’t swim right into another potentially lethal web of abandoned heavy duty nylon.

Update from the LA Times:

The good news, Lyman added, is that the whale was relocated and another transmitter package was placed on the mammal, and it appeared to be trailing significantly less line than before, thanks to grapple efforts during the previous rescue attempt.

The bad news was that the line was still wrapped around the whale’s head. Another attempt to free the whale will occur today, conditions permitting.

Top Notch Snorkeling

Coastal Living lists Papalaua Wayside Park as one of the planet’s best snorkeling spots. I confess, I haven’t been there, though I have snorkeled at Molokini, the pretty little crater off Maui’s shores and at Kona’s amazing turtle packed little beach at Kahalu’u Beach Park.

Yellow Tangs by Nivek Woods via Flickr

Yellow Tangs by Nivek Woods via Flickr

I’m not surprised that a Hawaii spot is listed in an article about snorkeling wonderlands, but what, no Kaleakakua Bay? Those sparkling clear waters? Those friendly and wierdly grinning eels? Those schools of yellow coral munching fish, all facing the same direction like grazing cattle? Not to mention the tragic history underlying this magical spot — it is, after all, where the great explorer, Captain James Cook met his end.

If you are on the Big Island and looking to do a snorkel boat trip, I can’t recommend the Fair Wind tour enough. Great service, a clean boat, well maintained gear, yummy snackage, and location, location, location. Go in the morning and book in advance. It’s not cheap — today the web is turning prices at nearly 125 per person, ouch, but you get the best part of the day in spectacular waters and a late afternoon cruise back to Keauhou Bay. You’re as likely as not to see dolphins and, in season, humpback whales at no extra cost. It’s a splurge and every time I’ve made the trip, I have loved every single minute of it.

Hat tip for the Coastal Living links to the LA Times.