Hawaii: A Rant
Hawaii is a top travel destination among tourists among worldwide. The first things we think of whenever Hawaii is mentioned are the resorts, the mountain ranges, and the magnificent golden sand of the beaches that glimmers in the sun. Indeed, Hawaii is a tourist hotspot but what if one seeks to backpack around the island rather than do the usual tourist stuff?
A rule of thumb is that every city has an area that is specifically designed to suck money out of tourists. The visual appeal, the sounds are all artificially crafted to ensure that we think we are having a good time, but in reality are falling for traps set by resort, hotel, and brand corporations. In Hawaii, the place is known as Waikiki; as much of a paradise as it seems, no local will tell you to spend time there.
And now as a “immigrant” from Singapore that has been living on this wretched island for two years, let me give you my take on what true Hawaii is like. I would like to structure my “rant” by separating the aspects of Hawaii and comparing between expectation and reality. That way you can really see how this island is different. So sit back, relax, and enjoy getting educated on why Hawaii is not exactly the paradise many people have been fooled into believing.
First of all, housing costs are absurd. Hawaii has one of the highest housing costs in the nation, with the median house price being more than half a million dollars and also double the national living cost of $278,900. With such high housing costs many residents are forced to resort to renting or even become homeless (Hawaii has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the country).
Basic affordable housing is something that is not widely available as the construction rate for these houses is extremely slow. If you don’t have a secure job and are planning to move to Hawaii because it’s paradise, you should think twice as paradise doesn’t come cheap. And it’s not just the houses that are expensive -- basic necessities like milk, fruits, and clothing are all a notch higher than what the same items cost on the mainland.
Hawaii’s food isn’t something to be proud of, either. Food costs are through the roof, wth a simple plate lunch setting you back eight dollars. The best local delicacies Hawaii has to offer are mediocre compared to food in other places like Thailand; the dishes here are rather simple and, personally, I consider them to be just bad barbeque.
Take for instance the loco moco, a ground beef patty topped with a ketchup-based sauce, served atop a pile of white rice, smothered with caramelized onion gravy and topped with a fried egg. Its description may sound appetizing but most eateries produce a cheap version -- a thawed hamburger patty with barbeque sauce served with processed and bland macaroni salad on dry rice. If you want high-quality traditional food, be prepared to spend a lot more. Put it this way, take-out food is overpriced and the variety isn’t much.
Let’s say you actually want to get around the city to eat at some food places. Let’s also say that you don’t drive. So the bus is probably the way to get around. You might expect a bus service that tens of thousands of people rely on to be reliable, but that is only a dream that many Hawaii locals have.
The Bus service in Hawaii -- that’s its name -- is average at best. I’ll give you a firsthand experience to let you visualize it. When I first arrived in Hawaii in 2016, a bus pass cost me twenty-five dollars per month, the next year they hiked it to thirty dollars, and the following year thirty-five dollars. Apart from that there have been many instances where The Bus schedule is just downright ridiculous.
Once the app mentioned that the bus was coming at 5:15 P.M. and I had approximately two minutes to get to the station. I ran as fast as the wind and when I got there at 5:15, there was no bus to be seen. Obviously it couldn’t be spot-on accurate so I waited. Five minutes later, nothing. Ten minutes, nothing. So I checked the app I found out that the bus was running late and would arrive at 5:30 P.M.
At 5:30 there was still no bus and I found out through the app that it had once again changed and would be arriving at 5:45. Great, I thought. At 5:45 there was still no bus and I just gave up, sitting there with my head down until the bus arrived at 5:54 P.M. From my experience, The Bus also comes once every forty minutes which, compared to other countries like Singapore, where buses come once every fifteen minutes, is a total disaster.
If you think that public transport is bad, wait until you hear about the trouble of driving in Hawaii. A study done by the personal finance website wallethub found that Hawaii ranks thirty-fifth in terms of rush-hour traffic congestion. Hawaii residents also spend an extra 60.8 hours a year in traffic.
During rush hour, Hawaii residents flock the highways to enter or leave downtown, but the highway infrastructure is simply incompatible with the influx of cars. In terms of other factors like road quality and auto-maintenance cost, Hawaii ranks forty-sixth and forty-ninth, respectively, in the nation. Gas prices are costly too, where a gallon of gas puts you back at around nearly four dollars a gallon. You must be willing to pay a high-price to drive in Hawaii. Literally.
My next complaint is entertainment in Hawaii, something which these islands aren’t particularly known for. I personally think Hawaii only has about three decent shopping malls like Ala Moana Center, Windward Mall, and Pearlridge Center. Many might disagree and argue that Hawaii has tons of shopping centers, but their idea of shopping centers is an outdoor lot where there are rows of shops next to each other.
Hawaii is a small place and, unlike other places like Hong Kong or Los Angeles, the amount of actual shopping facilities is very limited. On the other hand, live entertainment is uncommon on this island. Musicians and bands rarely come to Hawaii because it’s out of the way. If you’re hoping to catch sport events where famous teams play, then good luck. The only sports you’re going to catch are those at the local universities.
But if you’re more of a nature person then Hawaii might be just the place for you. Hawaii has many exotic flora and fauna and it’s especially enchanting if you manage to get a view of the wildlife on nature hikes. If not, then the hikes will also often provide you with the spectacular view of the islands from the top of beautifully sloped mountain ranges and the vibrant colors of the landscape.
Even the waterfalls in Hawaii are magnificent, looking like something coming out of a painting, the water that flows from rock to rock, and the rainbows that form from the refraction of the waterfall mists show nature at its best. The sea waters in Hawaii are also, for the most part, crystal clear with great waves where you can surf. The beaches provide many photo opportunities, ideal for instagrammers and other photographers. The climate is just right year-round -- not too hot, not too cold and, most importantly, not too humid. You definitely won’t complain spending time outdoors.
To be fair, Hawaii is not an ideal place to stay unless you’re well-off and appreciative of nature. Only then you can enjoy the islands at its fullest and have the true Aloha spirit.