Eight things you didn’t know about Hawaii
For most people on the mainland, a trip to Hawaii feels like an international escape. The environment is different, the scenery is nothing like anywhere else in the states, and the culture is unique. So even though it’s a part of the union, it’s not quite like any other place you know. Speaking of things you know, here are seven interesting facts about Hawaii that you probably didn’t.
1. A culture of 'leave no trace'
Before traveling to Hawaii, this is one of the most important things to know. Natural elements like plants, animals, stones, and flowers carry spiritual significance in Hawaiian culture and beliefs and require respect. Leaving no trace comes from the idea that people are guests and should not disturb the land. This includes cultural sites like volcanos and temples. Do not take stones and do not touch the wildlife. Touching endangered wildlife is not only extremely disrespectful it’s also illegal. So if you come across a Hawaiian sea turtle basking in the sun, steer clear.
2. Hawaii is the only state with a royal palace
The Hawaiian Monarchy formed in 1810 when King Kamehameha united all of the islands under one rule. The kingdom only lasted 80 years when American businesspeople and sugar farmers plotted a coup against Queen Liliuokalani in 1893. The entire kingdom dissolved over the next few years as it became a US territory and eventually the 50th state in the union. Liliuokalani was kept in Iolani Palace under house arrest after attempts to resurrect the Monarch. Iolani Palace, located on Oahu, is the only official palace in the United States that belonged to a royal family. The first two floors are available to tour. The interesting and unique history of the Kingdom provides insight into the darker colonial story in Hawaii. The rules of succession in the Hawaiian Kingdom were quite progressive. The monarch recognized any children and adopted children of the ruling families could be eligible rulers. Centuries later, many Hawaiians could be considered eligible successors.
3. Hawaii is the only state to grow coffee and chocolate commercially
It’s the only state that falls within “the coffee belt,” where the warm temperature makes it suitable to grow. A Spaniard colonist planted the first coffee plant in 1817 that failed to take but inspired the Hawaiian Monarchy to pursue it again in 1825. Over the next 50 years, experimental coffee growers explored the different islands, finding Kona the most promising. Kona’s rich volcanic soil nourished the plants, so they thrived in the valley sheltered by volcanoes. While coffee production remained steady, it barely compared to the number of colonial sugar plantations. Over the years, Kona coffee continued to grow, drawing more and more attention for its unique flavor. The secret, they say, is love. Everything made in Hawaii must be done with Aloha.
4. You'll see tons of wild chickens
Tourists may be surprised by the number of chickens just walking around random parts of the islands (especially Kaui), but locals aren't. In fact, it's kind of a sore subject. The local legend has it that 1992 Hurricane Iniki destroyed much of Kaui's farmland including crops... and chicken coups. The chickens escaped into the wild and no one was able to tell who's chickens belonged to who. Some speculated that the domestic chickens used for farming started breeding with the jungle fowl brought to Hawaii a thousand years ago. National Geographic proved both correct. Their genetic testing showed how the wild chicken population grew so much. It's definitely a shock to walk around market streets and just see chickens, but when you're interacting with locals, it's better to keep your surprise amongst yourselves. It's not a particularly pleasant topic and they hear about it a lot.
5. It has its own language: Pidgin
Hawaii is the only state to have two official languages. English and Hawaiian are both recognized but don’t be surprised to hear a third, informal language called Pidgin. Though the language can sound foreign, it comes from the communication between Hawaiians, plantation owners, and international laborers. It’s a mix of English, Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Portuguese words. You’ll see Pidgin the most among signage and hearing local slang. For example, “We Stay Close” is Pidgin for “Closed.” Any traveler knows that learning local languages can enhance your trip. In Hawaii, learn Pidgin. It’s a culmination of mixing words, cutting words out, or saying things in a different pretense.
6. There are roughly ten million visitors a year
When a state’s population is less than 1.5 million people, bringing in 10 million visitors like they did in 2019 is impressive. In 2019, the islands could expect over 200,000 tourists walking around on any given day. Visitor spending was over 17 billion dollars in 2019 and supported 200,000 jobs. While tourism in Hawaii remains down by 60% since COVID, the Hawaiian Tourism Authority last month noted a 1.1% increase in visitors compared to March 2020. The first increase in a year. They also report bringing in some international travelers, including Japan and Canada, but it still doesn’t compare to the millions in past years. Despite the obvious importance of travel for Hawaii’s economy, the disparity between locals and tourists can strain the culture and environment. Hawaiian tourism is hoping to use insights gained by COVID and the ability to control how they open up travel to set more intentional tourist practices.
7. Hawaii has 14 different climates to explore
In fact, they have ten of the world’s 14 climates across the islands. Eight of them exist on the Big Island. The Koppen Climate Classification System, the most accepted method by climatologists, helps categorize the world’s climate zones. It’s kind of crazy to think that so many can be found on an island that is only 4,000 square miles. Many of the ten zones found in Hawaii are tropical climates, including Tropical Continuous Wet Zone, Tropical Monsoon Zone (which is actually quite rare), Tropical Winter-Dry Zone, and Tropical Summer-Dry Zone. Some of the more unusual climate zones in Hawaii are the Periglacial Climate Zone and Desert Climate Zones. The first one describes the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. The temperatures reach below freezing, with a treeless, tundra-like landscape. Some areas near certain beaches qualify as desert zones with hot, year-round temperatures and less than ten inches of rainfall.
8. You can send coconuts in the mail
Let me repeat. You can MAIL coconuts. While you can mail them from any post office in Hawaii, a few things need to be noted. You can’t mail a coconut you find on the side of the road or in a supermarket because that interferes with agriculture inspections. Don’t worry, several shops around the island will sell decorated coconuts that are ready to mail. In theory, you can send it anywhere in the US, but Postmasters in Hawaii are more familiar with coconut mail than your average USPS.
5 perfect rentals for plant lovers
The home gardening trend that bloomed during the pandemic has planted roots for the long term, with nurseries continuing to report record sales as consumers test and refine their green thumbs. Plant-loving travelers looking to take their plant parentings skills to the next level will be rewarded with stays at these five botanical vacation rentals courtesy of Vacasa, the leading full-service vacation rental management company in North America. As an added bonus, there are parks, greenhouses, gardens and more nearby, offering plenty of additional opportunities to enjoy nature’s beauty in full bloom. Source: Vacasa Arcadian Gardens (Sequim, Washington) - It’s fitting that this vacation home is in The Evergreen State, where an indoor koi pond—and hot tub—are surrounded by an impressive display of tropical plants that create a jungle-like oasis. Spend an afternoon at Pioneer Memorial Park, a beautiful 4-acre park and arboretum located right downtown and maintained by the Sequim Prairie Garden Club. Home Run House (Warren, Vermont) - This custom-built vacation home uses greenery to soften the steely gray of its industrial-style interior architecture, with a two-story living wall of plants and a forest of potted trees. Nearby, the Von Trapp Greenhouse in Waitsfield has been growing all of its own plants from seeds, cuttings, or divisions for more than 40 years. Source: Vacasa Mellow Marsh (Folly Beach, South Carolina) - Wicker baskets and plant stands dot the living area of this beachside rental, proving that even with a view of palm trees from the deck, a fiddle leaf fig tree can really bring a space to life. Head about 20 minutes inland to Charleston and stroll through acres upon acres of romantic blooms at the popular Middleton Place or Magnolia Garden. Source: Vacasa Yellowtail Home in the Meadow (Big Sky, Montana) - This Big Sky sun porch, complete with skylights, is decked out with a container garden of trees that artfully brings the outdoors in, but will keep any chilly evening temps at bay. An abundance of wildflowers line area hiking trails nearby, including Beehive Basin and Cinnamon Mountain, but remember to leave the colorful buds rooted—picking them is against hiker (and plant enthusiast) etiquette. Tabor Treehouse (Portland, Oregon) - As a house in a plant, this vacation rental gives guests the true “one with nature” experience. If that’s not enough, nearby Leach Botanical Garden (which unveiled a $12 million renovation this spring) is home to a diverse collection of more than 2,000 plants across its 16.5 acres Source: Vacasa This content has been provided in partnership with Vacasa.
Why you have to see Georgia's 'Little Grand Canyon'
A steady flow of water runs through the bottom of Georgia’s Providence Canyon, but unlike other canyons, that’s not what carved it out of the earth. Formed by enslaving plantation owners who improperly managed the land about 200 years ago, it’s now a state park with hiking and camping options. Known as “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon,” it’s been such a popular spot during the Covid-19 pandemic that the park has had to limit car access for day hikers who aren’t staying at one of the six primitive campsites. Even with vaccinations underway, outdoor vacations close to home remain a great option for safely getting out of the house. If you’re in the southeast U.S., you don’t have to travel far to feel like you’re in the American West. Providence Canyon is a geological wonder of its own. Located about 150 miles southwest of Atlanta near the Alabama border, the canyon sits in one of Georgia’s least-populated counties. It’s named for the Providence Methodist Church, which was swallowed by the newly forming canyon gorges in the 1800s. A new church was constructed across the road after the chasms started to form. From observation decks near the parking lot, you can see the islands of remaining ground-level earth with a few pine trees that dramatically drop off into the canyons below. But to really experience Providence Canyon, you’ll want to take a hike along the canyon floor. Walking down into the gullies is like entering another world. After a short tree-lined descent, you’re on a flat plane looking up at the layered pink, yellow, and purple canyon walls. You’re now more than 100 feet below where you started. The ground has eroded away so much that it’s hit the water table, so rain or shine, there’s a stream of water pulling silty soil along the floor of the canyons. You’ll want to wear ankle-height hiking shoes and be prepared for that iconic Georgia clay dirt to get on your shoes, pants, and inexplicably other parts of your clothes or body where you didn’t expect to find it. From the main loop trail, you can fork out into individual paths to nine canyon walls. A backcountry trail through the shallow creek leads to the primitive campsites. The canyons were formed in the early 1800s, after the Muscogee (Creek) indigenous people were forced from their land and plantation farms growing cotton took over the area. The plantation model of agriculture, reliant on enslaved labor, didn’t take precautions to prevent erosion. They couldn't have been prepared for how quickly and dramatically the land would change. Year after year, the cotton and other crops washed away along with clay and topsoil every time it rained. Within 20 years, enough of the ground had sloughed away that gullies four feet deep had formed. This erosion continued over time, and the gullies are now as yawning as 150 feet deep and 350 feet wide. The canyons are still evolving today. Every year, rain and erosion wear away another two to five feet of land. Their sandy sides are fully exposed, so there’s not much the park staff can do to stop it from continuing to slough off. Most of the erosion these days is horizontal, widening the gullies: the canyon floor now has pine trees and other vegetation that keeps the soil from running off, and there’s not much deeper it could go. In the 1930s, the local paper in nearby Columbus, GA, started to make Providence Canyon a national park, hoping to bring tourists driving in to see “the natural wonder and beauty. . .instead of having it principally a discussion of erosion.” But despite the newspaper campaign emphasizing the “natural wonder,” its unnatural origins kept Providence Canyon off the national parks list. Georgia made it a state park in 1971, and it’s presented as the human-created formation that it is. Although Providence Canyon wasn’t naturally formed, it reveals parts of the natural world that are normally hidden. There are 43 different shades of sand that create sunset-like patterns along the canyon’s walls. The shades come from four base colors created by minerals in the soil. In addition to the classic red Georgia clay, which gets its pigmentation from iron, there’s white from kaolin, yellow from limonite, and purple from manganese. Above the canyon walls, there are other unnatural features: walk up the loop trail and you’ll emerge to the ridgeline where a small collection of cars has been slowly reclaimed by nature. The cars date back to the ‘50s, and only the rusted-out bodies remain — no glass, no tires. Leaves cover the interior, and root structures grow in the tire wells. The park managers have determined that it would be more harmful to the wildlife to remove the cars than to leave them as they are, slowly becoming a part of their surroundings. The canyons are a reminder that everywhere on earth has been shaped by humans in one way or another. Whether by plantation farming practices or pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or moving plants from one continent to another, human life has completely altered the planet. Providence Canyon just makes that impact more visually obvious. It’s a state park for the Anthropocene, and a fantastic day trip.
The best US lakes for recreation
Lake Powell Lake Powell is a reservoir in Glen Canyon National Recreational Area near the Utah and Arizona border. The water is a crisp blue, and snakes through the red rock canyon, offering plenty of opportunities for water sports and recreation. Visitors to Lake Powell can take a boat tour, go waterskiing and visit Cathedral in the Desert, a stunning rock monument located in Lake Powell. Its location near the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley provides an amazing opportunity for adventurers to have the road trip of a lifetime. Lake Lanier Lake Lanier is located in North Georgia, about an hour from Atlanta and a short drive from Chattanooga. It is a man-made reservoir made by damming the Chattahoochee River to provide electricity and flood control for nearby Atlanta. More than 10 million people visit Lake Lanier annually, with many of them using the Lanier Islands as a recreational hub. The Lanier Islands have plenty of lodging and dining options for all budgets, including tent camping and an RV park. Lake of the Ozarks Missouri's crown jewel of a lake sits in the middle of the state and offers a world-class destination. Visitors can find a plethora of land-based activities, restaurants and accommodations. In addition, there are countless marinas available to rent or store a boat. There are also 32 hiking trails near the lake, along with four caves to explore. There is inexpensive camping available nearby at Ozarks State Park and Ha Ha Tonka State Park. Pickwick Lake © Laura Brown / Budget Travel Pickwick Lake, Tennessee The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) created a series of 9 major dams across Tennessee during the 1930s and 1940s to bring affordable electricity and jobs to an area stricken by the Great Depression. Today, all the TVA lakes are great for water sports and recreation, but our favorite is Pickwick Lake, on the border of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, just outside Memphis. Yellow Creek Cove on the lake is a constant party for boaters in the summer and features a rope swing into the water below. There is a great camping spot at Pickwick Landing State Park, where there is also a marina and available boat rentals. Big Bear Lake Big Bear Lake in Southern California, the ‘Jewel of the San Bernardino National Forest,’ prides itself on being open all four seasons for water recreation. Located 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, it also can be accessed easily from Las Vegas or Phoenix. Big Bear offers a mountain atmosphere, with hiking trails, winter skiing, and summer swimming. The heart of Big Bear Lake is at Big Bear Village, a charming small town that serves as the region’s hub for dining and lodging. Make sure to check out the local festivals at The Village at Halloween and Christmas. Lake Tahoe © MariuszBlach / Getty Images Lake Tahoe Lake Tahoe sits on the border of California and Nevada, near Reno. It is the second deepest lake in the United States (after Crater Lake) and is known for its incredibly clear water and vibrant colors. Tahoe is known as a gateway for recreational adventure. Visitors can access hundreds of miles of beautiful hiking trails, as well as rent paddleboards and kayaks to explore the lake. Lake Mead Lake Mead lies outside of Las Vegas, and is the largest reservoir in the United States, formed by the Hoover Dam. Boating in Lake Mead is a popular activity, with four separate marinas available to rent or store boats. Lake Mead Cruises also takes a nightly cruise to the Hoover Dam and back. Lake Mead is heaven for fishing and offers some of the best sport fishing in the United States. Lake Placid © Chuck Robinson Photography / Getty Images Lake Placid Lake Placid in the Adirondacks is a classic New York mountain town, with views so legendary the town was selected to host the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980. In the winter, Lake Placid has amazing opportunities to snow ski and snowboard. In the summer, Lake Placid is a utopia for waterboarding and tubing. For those who own their own boat, there are several public launch points. For those on a budget, there are hostels off the lake for low rates or camping in nearby campgrounds or in the Adirondack backcountry. Lake Winnebago Lake Winnebago is a glacial lake in eastern Wisconsin, north of Milwaukee near Appleton and Oshkosh. It is a relatively shallow lake, known for great fishing in both the summer and the winter, with a prominent ice fishing industry. The lake’s most abundant fish are the Walleye, Perch, Sturgeon and Bass. Boats are readily available for rent at nearby Marinas. Boaters have access to more than 18,000 acres of water, including Lake Butte des Morts and the Fox River. Lake Winnepesaukee You can explore more than 250 different islands in New Hampshire’s Lake Winnepesaukee, or hike in the nearby White Mountains. There are a plethora of small villages on the shores of the lake, which can be reached by either boat or car, and each offers an individual flavor. Rent a boat and go waterboarding in the summer or plan a snowboarding adventure in the winter. When you’re ready to go indoors, check out one of the many breweries nearby, such as the Woodstock Inn Brewery in Woodstock. The nearest major city is Manchester. SPONSORED BY GEICOAs always, prior to travel, make sure you are up to date on your destination’s health and safety restrictions. See how much you could save when you bundle your car and boat insurance with GEICO. Carefully crafted collaboratively between GEICO, Lonely Planet and Budget Travel. Both parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.Sponsored by GEICO
How 42 decaying president heads found a home in a Virginia field
From George Washington to George W Bush, each bust is 18-20 feet high, weigh between 11,000-20,000 pounds and sit in varying states of decay. The heads were moved to the field after the failure of President's Park, an attraction that was intended for tourists to Williamsburg, but wasn't met with much success. When the park failed, the busts were scheduled to be destroyed, but Howard Hankins couldn't bear the thought, and offered to take the busts to his privately owned farm. But moving the busts proved difficult, the process broke noses off and put holes in the back of some of the heads. Abraham Lincoln's bust has a hole in the back of his head (a poignant reminder of his assassination) and Ronald Reagan's bust was struck by lightening. There was at one time a miniature head of Barack Obama, but it appears to have been stolen. The busts sit on private property that is not open to the public, but tours are offered occasionally. Photography tours are run by John Plashal. There are plans to remove the President's heads to another location, potentially for another run at a museum. Those plans appear to be on hold as of 2020.