Category Hawaii

Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau Oahu

ancient hawaiian temple

hawaiian temple

puuo mahuka heiau

view of the ocean

wrapped rock

lava rock wrapped in leaf


waimea bay

A surprisingly short distance from the tourist gear rental shops and the Pupukea grocery store is one of the most sacred sites on Oahu. If you drive up the twisting, one car-width road, you’ll find Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau (“Hill of Escape”)–what remains of a large temple. It’s remarkably well-preserved for a structure so old, and signs indicate the area that may have served as a central altar. It’s said that this place is one of two on Oahu where the wives of ancient chiefs gave birth, and the gods were also honored here with sacrifices and offerings for success in war.  What did not happen at this temple were burials: it was believed that bones contained great power which would be bestowed on the possessor. It’s for this reason that the ancient chiefs were buried in secret spots on the mountain.

Leading from the temple is a short, easy path that leads you to a beautiful view of Waimea Bay–so easy, it can be done in slippers. Along the path, you’ll see a number of lava rocks wrapped in ti leaves–resist the urge to do it yourself, and enjoy the scenery instead.


The Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu


polynesian cultural center


ice cream from a boat

tahitian dancers

polynesian cultural center phone

Man, I just don’t know about this place. I just don’t know. Every guidebook recommends visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center, that their luau is the best and most traditional, that it’s the Disneyland of Hawaii, that it’s wholesome, educational, and delightful. And on some level, it is that place–you can buy ice cream from a boat, you can be quadruple lei’d and spend an afternoon in the sun sniffing the fragrant flowers festooned about your person, you can try poi and pork cooked in an imu, you can consume drinks out of both a pineapple and a coconut (and spend more than a few minutes playing Monty Python and annoying everyone around you), you can see traditional crafting techniques, there’s a pretty high-production value show, and everyone who works there is almost creepily nice and calls you “family”.

But on the other hand, the Polynesian Cultural Center is like a weird human zoo, where you just have to be sort of vaguely brown to play at being a villager showing off “your” traditions (I saw one guy play a member of at least three cultures). It gets even more squicky when you consider that this place is run by the mormons–not only do you get a “look how savage these people were before we civilized them” vibe, but also, it’s the fault of missionaries that hula dancing was driven underground and almost lost altogether, so it’s pretty damn ironic that now they have the “most authentic” dances. None of this is more clear than in the after-dinner show “Ha: Breath of Life” which tells the story of one man’s life, birth to death, but switches what Pacific island he’s from throughout the show: even if it wasn’t intentional, the message is clear that they believe all of these cultures and peoples are interchangeable.

Ultimately, I have been waffling back and forth about how I feel about this place for more than a month. I really enjoyed seeing all of the different dances and outfits and trying a bunch of different Hawaiian food (‘enjoy’ might be a bit of a stretch when it comes to poi) and clipclopping around with a coconut like an asshole in public was fun, but at the same time, giving money to this place is fostering the same community that’s been helping to erase these cultures from history, and I can’t help but think that in that sense, the price of my enjoyment here was too steep.

Spotted on the Roadside: Mmmm, macamadamias

“Free macadamias? I’m going to eat macadamia nuts until I barf!” I announced to my long-suffering husband. Or at least I was going to do my damndest to try. Look, they had an entire bin of free raw macadamias and the only rule was that you couldn’t fill a bag to take home. As it turns out, eating macadamia nuts until you hurl macadamia marzipan is a lot more difficult when you have to crack them open yourself, owing to each nut having not one, but two shells that have to be removed. My hands went numb from the impact of smashing them with the provided rock after only opening a few nuts.

The only other request was that guests not feed the chickens and other birds that were milling around the stumps, looking for macadamia scraps, which was almost impossible to avoid since occasionally we’d underestimate our own strength, Hulk out, and send bits of macadamia flying everywhere. And there was that one time that my rock failed to smash the nut, instead sending it flying off the stump to strike a nearby chicken in the neck. Let that be a lesson to the rest of you…nuts.



Spotted on Kamehameha Hwy in Kaneohe, HI