Please don’t take this the wrong way. Hawaii is home to me, and I’m blessed to have been born & raised here. So let’s just call this article a Call To Action. To you, Hawaii. Whether due to cultural niceties or just out of comfort, we tend to settle. A LOT. We love what we know, that much is true. It’s just that once we settle in comfortably with something, we start a lifelong relationship with it. We swear by it, commit to it and defend it until….well…until we realize that whatever it once was is not the same thing as it is now. The sad thing is though…even after we KNOW that something is not living up to its reputation, we pretty much just live with it. We don’t argue with it, we don’t question it and we don’t replace it with something better. We are content to a fault, and it’s something that I’ve never quite understood about our culture. With that being said, here is my personal list of the most overrated, overhyped and generally overpraised things about Hawaii.
5 Most Overrated Things About Hawaii
You’re gonna have to trust me on this one. I realize that you may be reading this 4,000 miles away wrapped in a parka and scarf, but in my opinion, you’re the one living in “paradise.” Despite the subtle (and I do mean SUBTLE) changes in weather we have throughout the year, we pretty much wake up and go to bed HOT each and every day. And you know what? After a while, it kind of BLOWS. Now, for every sun-loving person who disagrees with me on this, I’ll show you 9 other Hawaii residents who can’t wait to get back inside to the artificial air-conditioned crispness they’ve come to rely on. The real problem lies in the fact that Hawaii, just like everywhere else on our globe, seems to be getting hotter every single year. However, knowing us, we’ll keep bragging about how wonderful our weather is long after we melt away.
“But hey,” you say. “Won’t you miss your sunscreen, car shades, short sleeves, sunburn, body odor, sweaty orifices and glistening body hair?” Honestly, give me a snow shovel, chapstick, tire chains and 5 layers of Eddie Bauer gear and I’ll be a happy camper.
Leonard’s Bakery, Zippy’s Restaurants & Matsumoto’s Shave Ice
For the uninitiated, the above names represent the “Big Three” in Hawaii’s “If-you’re-a-visitor-you-GOTTA-go-try-these-places” eateries. To ME (and I suspect, a growing number of locals) these establishments are pretty much the definition of OVERRATED. Don’t get me wrong, I truly do respect the history, traditions and memories that these places may hold in your hearts. But let’s be honest here – we all can name at least a half-dozen places that are just flat-out BETTER than these.
Hungry for a good local plate lunch? I suppose we could make our Next Stop Zippy’s, overpay for the smallest rice scoops around and end our visit with a trip to their immaculately tended restrooms (I’m laying on the sarcasm pretty thick here). In the mood for shave ice? Well, I guess we could travel 45 minutes to the North Shore of Oahu, have trouble finding parking, stand in line for 30 minutes more and eat next to a hot & sticky garbage can with a mob of tourists around us (ala Matsumoto’s). I think you catch my drift here. All I’m saying is, with great power comes great responsibility. If you’re known as “the best,” then step your game up and make it so. There’s no more room for coasting on nostalgia.
With the exception of the occasional wedding or hotel convention, I avoid Waikiki at all costs. Dirty, overcrowded beaches, wandering prostitutes, a plethora of cheap kitschy souvenirs, ticket-happy police on every corner, a lack of public parking, one-way roads, zoo smells, the homeless sleeping in every nook & cranny….need I say more? I realize that a lot of money and effort has been poured into the area’s “beautification,” but let’s not kid ourselves here – Waikiki, once the playground of Hawaiian royalty, has evolved into the Tijuana of Hawaii. Enough said.
The Farm Fair. The 50th State Fair. Punahou Carnival. Annual events that bring together Oahu’s families, hopelessly drawn to the sights and sounds of the rides, games, food & attractions of E.K. Fernandez. For the unaware, E.K. Fernandez Shows, Inc. is a third-generation family-owned business, who year in and year out host a variety of carnivals, fairs and circus events throughout the islands. The problem is, they’ve been doing the same thing since 1903, with no competition to spur them on towards greater things. Traditions and a long history in our islands aside, they just fail to impress. I can honestly think of no larger waste of money than an evening at one of their events. Parking fees, admission fees, outrageous ride ticket prices, costly greasy food, cheap carnival prizes and a who’s-who of C-list celebrity appearances (I mean, Nick Cannon, really??!)…well, it all adds up to a tradition in Hawaii in desperate need of an overhaul.
The Aloha Spirit
Not a day goes by where I don’t see the “Aloha Spirit” being touted by someone. Companies use it in their daily advertising. Our entire visitor’s industry seems built on the promise of it. We reference it whenever we get pissed off at someone else’s behavior – ala “Where’s your #@*!*# Aloha Spirit?!?!” We brag about how much aloha we have, and yet it seems to me that we pretty much have no concept of what it means anymore. Wikipedia defines aloha as “affection, peace, compassion and mercy.” Now take that translation and apply it to every single memory you have of someone claiming the “Aloha Spirit.” For me personally, it just doesn’t add up anymore. Today’s version of having the “Aloha Spirit” means you treat someone politely. That’s it. There’s very little genuine affection or peace, and most certainly not compassion and mercy.
However, all is not lost Hawaii. Pick your head up and realize this – nothing is too far gone that it can’t be fixed, improved, redefined or healed. I for one hope that everything on this list gets better – we deserve it. So let’s make some waves, challenge our traditions, and demand better of ourselves. There’s no reason to settle anymore.