Hawai’i is not just O’ahu; it is also Maui, the Big Island, Molokai, Kauai, etc. O’ahu is also not just Waikiki; it is a bunch of other excellent beaches like Waimea, Waimanalo, Kailua, Kualoa, Ka’a’awa (pronounced Ka-a-ava). If there’s a perfect place to get lost in, is in some beach with un-pronounce-able place names like Pupukea or Kaihalulu.
The ultimate road trip remains a car driven by you or by your partner. The next best thing is to get on TheBus, where your $60/month bus pass takes you anywhere in the quadrant that makes up the island of O’ahu—up the North Shore and the Windward Coast, to Leeward and all over Central O’ahu. Imagine spending only the equivalent of a little over a hundred pesos (at Php43 to $1) from downtown Honolulu up to the North Shore, and the excitement mounts. Assuming you do not get off Bus #55 you took at Ala Moana Center terminal to go to Kailua Beach, the trip will set you back only $2.50. And the savings increase if you have time on your hands, and get off at quaint towns along the way to check out Mililani and historic Hale’iwa towns, Whitmore Village and Waimea Valley, Dole and Helemano pineapple plantations, and back on the bus again. You flash your bus pass and you’re in for a scenic bus ride. Take bus #52 for a straight trip to the North Shore which takes the route of the highway; but take bus #55 for a more scenic ride, as it winds along the sides of mountains, past tunnels, and speeds past along sparkling stretches of ocean.
Have a skit ready for when some cheeky guy tries to chat you up, and the attention is not welcome. While waiting for Bus #52 (Wahiawa/Circle Island) up at Mililani Town Center to go to Waimea, a chunky 6-footer of an Asian-American man must have guessed, quite correctly, that I wasn’t from there, and tried this age-old tactic: “You’re not from around here, huh?!”
“No, no, no,” I said, shaking my head, and bringing my hand up, as if in defeat. “Vietnamiz, ha!” I lied, trying to suggest, with that inflection, that I did not know another word of English. Searching my eyes behind very dark glasses, not quite believing the sound and content of what he had heard, he slunk quietly away, handing me back my peace.
Traveling on your own can get a bit lonely, but try not to break down when the 30-minute wait between buses gets unnerving, sitting by your lonesome in a deserted bus stop at Waimea Valley at half past 6 pm on a drizzly Sunday—that’s when your Canon becomes all the company you need.
There is, on the other hand, the comfort provided by strangers. Kathryn, whom I felt to be Filipina, was an engaging bus companion. “I grew up here, and do not intend to leave,” she confided. “I’m an ocean person.” Up at Lanikai, she pointed out both the better vantage points from where to get the best shots, and the best beach to sink your toes in, if that’s all you’re prepared to do. Pack a bikini, at the very least. The knowledge affords you the freedom of being spontaneous. From the raised road in Lanikai, I saw her wave from inside TheBus, and I had felt less solitary.