A few months ago, my mom and I strolled through the city-run, 27-acre Wahiawa Botanical Garden.
When we stopped to sit on a bench by a rainbow eucalyptus tree, my 76-year-old mother, who has lived in Hawaii all her life, said, “I didn’t even know this place existed. .
I hear that a lot from locals.
As a Honolulu-based travel editor and writer, my job – quite literally – is to roam the islands, explore neighborhoods, and discover new things to do and see (at least for readers). And I’m always surprised how “new” many of these things and places are to people who grew up here.
I did an informal survey of friends who live on Oahu and found that the vast majority of them had never been to the USS Arizona Memorial, hadn’t hiked to at the top of Diamond Head since they were kids and, like my mom, had no idea. was a botanical garden in Wahiawa.
We live in arguably one of the best travel destinations in the world, a spot on vision boards and bucket lists, and yet many of us don’t explore our island home beyond the occasional baby luau. in an unknown beach park.
And that’s a shame.
Hawaii welcomed more than 10 million visitors in 2019, setting an all-time record according to year-end data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority. And even now, more than two years into the pandemic, the state has seen a surge in numbers — total arrivals in March were close to pre-pandemic levels, at 788,931 visitors — with the summer promising the highest number of visitors since 2019.
Clearly, Hawaii is a popular vacation destination — and yet many of us are planning summer trips anywhere but here.
Not us. We are booking a trip to Kauai – maybe another to Maui – this summer. That’s it.
With Covid-19 numbers soaring — new cases are averaging 1,200 a day now across the state — and the cost of everything rising, this really should be the summer of staycations.
And think about it: we live in the perfect place to stay. We can jump to another island for less than $100. There are dozens of hotels, resorts and vacation rentals to choose from. We have some of the best beaches, restaurants and hiking trails in the world. What’s the point of living here if you can’t enjoy it?
According to a survey by personal finance site WalletHub, 29% of Americans do not plan to travel for leisure in 2022. Comparing more than 180 cities across 44 metrics – parks per capita, restaurant dining costs, vaccination rates for residents – Honolulu ranked #1 on its list of best places to stay. Talk about Lucky We Live Hawaii.
And there are plenty of reasons to consider a stay.
First of all, it’s usually cheaper. According to Google Flights, nonstop flights from Honolulu to Los Angeles in June cost around $900 round-trip. (That’s $1,700 to fly to New York nonstop.) Compare that to a direct flight to Kahului, Maui, or Hilo, which costs about $100 round trip. Now multiply that by your family of four. It’s a huge saving.
And the money you save could be spent on local businesses. Imagine all the places you would visit if you were on vacation in, say, California. Maybe buy homemade strawberry jam and artisan bread at a neighborhood farmer’s market, shop for souvenirs at a family-run boutique, book a farm tour, eat at a renowned restaurant run by a local chef. You can do all of these things here – and you’d be supporting the local economy.
Vacations are also better for the planet. Greenhouse gas emissions from commercial flights represent about 2% of total global carbon emissions and are expected to triple by 2050, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation.
Last year, Google Flights added a carbon emissions feature to its search engine, allowing travelers to consider their environmental footprint as well as ticket prices and flight times. A nonstop Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles produces about 491 kilograms of carbon dioxide per passenger. FlightFree, a site dedicated to encouraging people to give up air travel altogether, explained it even further: A flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles creates enough carbon dioxide emissions to melt 48 square feet of the arctic sea. Avoiding that trip, he says, is as climate friendly as being a vegetarian for 2.8 years and carpooling for 1.5 years.
Compare that to a quick flight to Maui, which produces only about 50 kilograms of carbon dioxide per passenger. You only need to be a vegetarian for 6 weeks to catch up on this flight.
Plus, you’d be vacationing in Hawaii. Hawaii! Think about all the things you’ve never done or the places you’ve never been because your kids have soccer games and swimming lessons all weekend or you end up cleaning the house at place to go to the beach.
Take a week off and hike to that peak you always see from your car on your morning commute. Finally learn to surf. Go camping. Hop on a plane and see an erupting volcano on the island of Hawaii. Do yoga with Nigerian dwarf goats in Kula. Eat kulolo on a Kauai beach. Or just take a walk around your neighborhood.
It’s probably the same kind of stuff you’d do in California anyway. Only you can sleep in your own bed afterwards.