I suppose there’s a reason I’ve not spent any time in West Oahu before. No one tells you to go there, no one says, oh, you’ve got to go check out the beaches around Nanakuli or Waianae, no one says anything, really about West Oahu to mainland visitors like me. And as the suburbs dwindle, it starts to become perfectly clear why no one has sent me this direction before.
There are some industrial sites. There’s the big dump, Waimanolo Gulch, where Oahu’s garbage piles up waiting to either be packaged and sent to the mainland or processed into electricity, depending on what the current plan is. And as the number of Hawaiian flags goes up, so does the number of homeless camps, complicated structures of dead cars and tarps and string and plastic lawn chairs. It’s a shanty town along the shoulder just above the beach. A lot of the houses look poor too, and for a minute I think, oh, I’m on the rez in Yakima, Washington, that’s what this feels like.
A half a day later, I roll past the guards at KoOlina. The guys at the gate are friendly enough, they ask me where I’m going, I give them the name of my hotel and they wave me through after giving me directions. I walk the immaculate grounds, admire the empty beaches, eat a tiny creme brulee for dessert. It’s beautiful, there’s no traffic, the lawns are mowed short, the valet dressed in white. It is very pretty, I have a lovely room and I can hear the surf. There are no homeless people on the beach here — if they could get past the gates, certainly they’d not be allowed to set up camp.
My brain twitches and I feel weirdly colonial and defensive at the same time. I spent the morning helping on a Waianae farm and now, as I poke at my expensive salad, I wonder where the greens were grown. The resort has a big fancy entry way with torches and a rotating glass door and on the beach south of Waianae there was a tent camp with a battered Holiday Inn flag flapping at half mast in the trade winds. From my room I can hear the drums from a luau taking place just up the beach, but in my memory of the day, I can hear the kids (okay, they’re not kids, they’re very young adults)Â that worked the farm singing their lovely thank you song in Hawaiian.
Nobody will tell you to go to Nanakuli, Maili, or Waianae, but Hawaii is there, too.
Disclaimer: Travel and accommodation portions of my trip were sponsored by the Oahu Visitor’s Bureau in exchange for my blogging about my experiences in Hawaii. And hey, props to them, they’re the ones that sent me toÂ Waianae.