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Hawaii: Life in a Tropical Paradise

Updated on October 18, 2010

Hawaii. The name no doubt brings visions of tropical paradise instantly to the mind of the hearer. It is a well-known fact to mainlanders that Hawaii is synonymous with vacation, with everlasting sunshine, with perfect peace and harmony. Hawaii is always beautiful to the visitor, and let him think so: it can do him no harm. I was naïve when I first came to live in Hawaii. I was unaware that life, whether you live in Kansas or Kauai, is life. It’s not a vacation. Life includes chores and jobs and hardship. And although Hawaii has so many benefits, it isn’t perfect.

Living in Hawaii is vastly different from vacationing here. On vacation, all sorts of activities are planned, and everything is new and interesting to the tourist. The tourist has many options laid out in front of him. He avails himself of the prominent tourism industry to receive almost anything he could desire. Shopping and dining out and sports are all at his fingertips. In short, the tourist is used to being catered to. On the other hand, the local is so often the one who is catering to the tourist. Tourism employs many residents, and these many are thankful for the work.

But both tourists and locals alike enjoy Hawaii for the same reasons. There are hundreds of white and black sand beaches: beaches for sunbathing, beaches for snorkeling, beaches for surfing, for sunset-watching, for picnics, for skimboarding, for kite-surfing, for whale-watching. The list is endless. There are many trails to explore, through jungles and over mountains and into canyons. The scent of the plumeria and pikake flowers and the taste of the pineapple and fresh fish, the sound of the palm trees rustling and warm rain and the sight of the emerald cliffs and sapphire sea – these fill the senses of one and all.


Hanalei Bay
Hanalei Bay
a cane spider
a cane spider
Christmas in Hawaii
Christmas in Hawaii
sunset over Poipu
sunset over Poipu

Life in Hawaii is no vacation, although it is a beautiful and coveted life. Here are some things that locals have to deal with:

Insects – Whether it is a parade of ants that found a couple crumbs under the toaster, or a ten-inch-long centipede that found its way inside through that cardboard box from the garage, or a tarantula-like cane spider, bugs are inevitably present. Cans of insecticide are quite as inevitable. Everyone likes to share their stories of how they get rid of centipedes, as if they are deadly enemies. One person said he used to burn the centipedes over the gas stove and then throw them down the garbage disposal. So yes, there are bugs, but the good news is, there are no snakes on any of the islands.

Sunshine – Yes, sunshine. That thing that is so craved among the mainlanders in the wintertime. We have it all. And we do enjoy the sunshine, but when Christmas comes around and the mall is shooting fake snow out onto the warm cement and Christmas carols are sung in the eighty-degree weather, some of us remember Christmases past with cold, snowy shopping weather and fires in the fireplace and Christmas trees that didn’t have to be shipped over the ocean in air-conditioned containers. The idle remembrance goes so far with some that they have threatened to go Christmas caroling in the freezing-cold produce section at Costco.

Humidity – Everything in Hawaii is pretty much wet, even the air. In fact, the wettest spot on the planet is on the island of Kauai. Lots of water means lots of incredible waterfalls, lots of rivers for kayaking, and lots of ocean. But lots of moisture also means mold and mildew. Whatever you may try to do, mold in some form or other is inescapable. Keeping your house clean and your food fresh will prevent mold from taking over.

Tourists – We once belonged to this sunscreened, nondescript social order, and yet we are often caught deprecating tourists and their careless ways and poor driving skills. But our economy would be nowhere without them. They clog our roads and beaches, they are sometimes rude, and they often do not understand our way of life. But we need them regardless, and Hawaii is so beautiful that it needs to be shared.

Racism – This is not that much of problem here, but I mention it because there is a subtle strain of it in some. Caucasians are a minority among residents. Occasionally, underneath it all, the haoles can be condescending and the locals can be resentful. Although most living areas have a mixed population, there are some local neighborhoods and some white neighborhoods. There are local hangout beaches and there are haole tourist beaches. I believe most of the racism that occurs is among the younger population. But on the whole, racism is not an issue and most people are friendly and peaceable. In truth, Hawaii is one of the friendliest places you’ll ever find yourself.

Isolation – Hawaii is the most isolated land mass in the world. We live in a time when technology has made distance a non-issue. And yet, Hawaii feels like a world away from the mainland. The East Coast is five time zones away. I know some who would rise in the early morning hours on a weekend just to watch a football game that others on the mainland would be watching in the comfortable afternoon. Mainlanders like me who have come to live here, will sometimes get “island fever,” a feverish need to get off-island and back on the continent.

Expense – The cost of living in Hawaii is phenomenal. The cost of rent and food and gasoline is much higher than it is in most of the country. We learn to be more careful with our money here. We shop sales only. For example, milk, when it’s not on sale, can be eight dollars. We wait until it’s on sale, and we pay maybe around four dollars. That is still expensive! Economizing is a priority. Most homes don’t have air conditioning. Those people who do have air conditioning often don’t use it because it costs too much. Paying expenses in Hawaii is difficult, especially considering the condition of the current economy.


All these things regardless, Hawaii is a beautiful state and a wonderful place to live as well as to visit. There may be negative issues to deal with, but the benefits of living here make it worth it. God has truly blessed those who can call Hawaii their home. It is like paradise, or at least as close to it as we can imagine. But here, as anywhere else, we are reminded that perfection on earth is never attained. We live in a fallen world. But God through Jesus Christ has promised a perfect soul, a perfect world, to those who believe on Him. And those beauties that we taste of in Hawaii are just that, a taste of what true beauty is.


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