The last tourist to see Hawaii at its very best was a traveling man named Captain James Cook, who arrived, first class, aboard the HMS Resolution in January of 1778. "They are remarkably cheerful and friendly. The country seems to be both well-wooded and watered," he wrote in his log—thereby starting what may be history's longest-running string of clichés about paradise.
If we are to believe all we hear about it, Hawaii is: the green jewel of the Pacific, a heaven cooled by trade winds, the lush land of swaying palms and swaying hips. Nut-brown maidens wearing grass skirts from here on down and not much but necklaces of flowers from here on up. That old tropic moon just hanging up there, pasted against the blue-black sky. Orchids, pineapples, coconuts. Flowered sportshirts that would get you thrown out of your old home town and motherly dresses called muumuus.
Hawaii is all those things at times, true. But Hawaii also is freeways and traffic jams and homemade smog hanging low over Honolulu and empty Miller High Life cans on the beach at Waikiki. It is fenced-off holes in the ground with signs noting that a new superluxury hotel will soon rise on this spot called the Hawaii Luau or the Pacific Upapalu or something like that. One and a half million visitors in 1969, 19.8% more coming this year and a high estimate of five million by 1975. The state now has 22,275 hotel rooms, with 38,000 projected for 1970 and a $32.5 million campaign by the major airlines to convince more people to come on out and join the crowd. A crisis is coming to the land, and if you are ever going to visit Hawaii you had better do it now, say this year or next, because paradise is almost lost.
Not entirely lost. Almost. The saving thing about Hawaii is that it comes in clumps, with eight major islands. The giants of the tourist industry have been concentrating so far mostly on Oahu, slowly turning it into a sort of Las Vegas with ukuleles. Getting to the other islands is simply a matter of inevitable logistics.
In fact, you may now skip Honolulu—that is, if getting away from it all is your goal—and search elsewhere for the strum of soft guitars and lovely hula hands. Life in Honolulu, and indeed on most of Oahu, has become pretty much like the inside of a bass drum, and as that noted early Hawaiian chieftain, Kamehameha, would surely have said, "A 'ohe o'u liki hoi-hoi" or "Who needs it?"
The way to see Hawaii, while there is still time, lies in doing what the resident Hawaiians do: get out of town. A little bit of elementary research will lead one to the inescapable conclusion that Honolulans sneakily retreat to such places as the big island of Hawaii to kick off their sandals and relax, or to pure, gemlike little hideaways on Maui or Molokai.
Understand, this is not new or startling news: people have been doing this for years and you are not likely to discover a beach where no other foot has trod—nor are you going to drop anchor in some virgin cove and look up to see dugout canoes full of natives paddling out to offer you bananas. Tourists and tour groups have been visiting these same locations for years, and the islands that make up the Hawaiian chain are all explored. Still, tour groups have a tendency to hurry one up a bit, to sightsee on a look-and-run basis, and there are resorts out there which have been briefly looked at but not really discovered in the sense of time spent exploring. Better yet, some of the smaller spots in the out islands do not cater to tour groups, and it is in such places that the feeling of discovery picks up. Hawaiians tend to be adventure-conscious anyway—perhaps it is something they pump into their pineapple juice at school—and they range far and wide around the archipelago for their sport.
It is an established fact of the sport world, for example, that some of the best game fishing anywhere lies not off Oahu but off Hawaii's Kona coast, out of a scruffy little community called Kailua-Kona. It was here that a 1,100-pound Pacific blue marlin was caught in 1987 (tying the world record) and it was here that a professional fishing skipper named Bart Miller, a barefooted escapee from the Professional Golfers Association, recently broke all world records by catching 100 marlin in 10 months—the biggest one a 900-pounder, ending up with an average of 267 pounds each. He also was the first man to catch five marlin in one day, each over 200 pounds. ("The secret," says Miller, "is to catch and use live tuna for bait and not to give up. Stay out all night if you have to." The other Kailua fishermen began to call him Captain Midnight.)
And there are other excellent reasons for getting away to the out islands. Hunting is what could modestly be called sensational on the slopes of Hawaii's Hualalai Mountain—parts of which have been copied from Colorado—where pheasant, grouse, partridge and monster turkeys flush out of the brown African grass, where there are plenty of Axis deer, wild Mauna Kea sheep and where hunters practically stumble over javelina. In fact, professional guide Eugene Ramos of Hawaii Trails will kick open the door of his Land Rover at the 8,000-foot level any day at dawn and say, "You wanted a wild goat? Maybe a trophy head for your den, say, mmm, a 23-inch spread on the horns?" The hunter will nod eagerly. "Well," Ramos will say, "look right over there."
Sailing also can be a quietly lonely pastime, which is what it should be, without tacking into a boatload of Rotarians, almost anywhere along the Kona coast. And on Maui, waterfalls fed by rain splash down miles of rocks to form secret swimming holes of pure, shimmering, clean water—with cliffs all around for diving. Joe Daniels, who has no official title but acts as a social director of the hideaway Hotel Hana Ranch, knows where the Waioka Pools are and, with practically no nudging, conducts horseback picnics out to them.