5 Surprising Things I Learnt About Hawaii

7 July 2015

Love those insider city guides and lists about things only a local would know? So do we. Maybe you saw some of these interesting sights on your trip to Hawaii? Or perhaps you’re planning a beach break in Honolulu and are keen to know some insider information before you go? Here are some surprising things I learnt about Hawaii on my recent Oahu holiday. Mahalo.

 A proud rooster at Giovanni's Shrimp Truck.

1.There are chickens. Everywhere.

Some countries have stray dogs. Hawaii has itinerant poultry known locally as jungle fowl. Everywhere I went on the North Shore of Oahu I saw free-range roosters, hens and chickens in supermarket car parks, at truck stops, wandering around streets and homes, and at the beach. Everywhere. They are so ubiquitous, it’s estimated there are around 20,000 wild poultry running riot in Oahu alone – mostly on the Windward side.

 Driving down Kamehameha Highway on Oahu's North Shore.

2. Aloha is real.

Lots of travel stories about Hawaii talk about the spirit of 'aloha'. When booking my trip, the perky customer service agents and hotel staff on the other end of the phone always greeted me with 'aloha' and 'mahalo'. After two days in Honolulu hearing these and other Hawaiian terms, I was saying  'aloha' and 'mahalo' right back. It sounds so much more natural in that setting. I picked up a few other Hawaiian words too, and even learnt how to pronounce 'Kamehameha Highway' before my sat nav did!

 Yes, that is a canned spam wave they're riding at Waikiki Spam Jam.

3. Spam really is a thing.

Much has been written about Hawaii's love of the 'real spiced ham' (see spam musabi), and over 6 million cans of Spam are consumed in the Aloha state every year. The canned luncheon meat is very much celebrated in Hawaii – a food staple that dates back to World War II. No less than 17 different varieties are available, with a new flavour, Spam with Portuguese Sausage Seasoning, launched exclusively there while I was in Oahu. I was also lucky enough to be there for the annual Waikiki Spam Jam, a street party on Waikiki Beach dedicated to the meat-in-a-can.


More Hawaiian food to try. Hawaii's Must-Try Street Eats

More fun in the water. Hawaii's Best Hotel Water Parks


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4. Even dogs surf in Hawaii.

Surrounded by some of the clearest water and as the birthplace of surfing, it's not surprising native Hawaiians (Kama’aina) have saltwater in their veins – even the pets. In fact, if you learn to surf at Hans Hedemann Surf School at Turtle Bay Resort, the resident canines will show you up with their prowess in the North Shore breaks. Kids are sometimes accompanied by Hina and Kahuna – the surfing dogs – on their boards during lessons.

 Vog or smog?

5. Watch the vog.

After you’ve checked the surf report and daily weather forecast, before you head outdoors you can also take note of the vog index. A portmanteau of (you guessed it) volcanic smog, vog wafts over the islands from Kilauea volcano on the Big Island, causing hazy conditions. For those sensitive to volcanic emissions, the sulphur dioxide, sunlight, dust, water and oxygen mix can cause headaches, sore throats, watery eyes and respiratory issues, not to mention mess with your holiday shots.

Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.