Captain Cook Never Sailed Here

It's a long line from the old salt to the swarms at Waikiki. So real Hawaiians head for the far sides of paradise.

   

Our boots begin to smolder as we walk across the beach. All around, pinpricks of light bob in the darkness as other hikers hop gingerly from foot to foot. Then, with a noisy hiss, crackle, and spit, another wave of molten rock hits the Pacific, rolling instantly into glowing, red-neon balls. The 2,100-degree lava burns for a moment beneath the waves until—poof—in a cloud of white steam it's transformed into grains of black-sand beach. Here, at Kilauea Volcano, on the Big Island, we've just witnessed the creation of the world's newest patch of terra firma.
Hawaii is constantly being remade. Large swaths of it have become everything that adventuresome travelers dread: crammed, canned, plasticized, mai taied. But other pockets of Hawaii remain as they always have been: serene, lush, silent. And empty. Paradoxically, the more tour groups and honeymooners crowd Waikiki and Honolulu, the quieter the island backcountry can seem. Too many discriminating types dismiss and avoid this archipelago now. It's where people go for blue drinks and a bad sunburn. It's not a land, they think, of cloud-forest treks and badlands gallops and utterly deserted beaches.

But you can have this Hawaii—and have it to yourself—if you're willing to leave behind both established resorts and voguish preconceptions of the islands. Pack a lunch and a tide chart and kayak out to an evanescent sandbar. Swim to a remote beach accessible only by boat. Stare out for hours over a sea devoid of ships, populated by humpbacks, and indistinguishable at its far edge from the horizon. This is the Hawaii of those of us who live here. This is the Hawaii we seek out and love. We need refuge from Waikiki now and then, too.

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