This blog, A Walk Around Oahu: My Personal Pilgrimage, is part armchair travelogue, part cultural anthropology, and part quirky travel guide. I hope you enjoy it...
In the fall of 2015, I began a personal pilgrimage—a walk around the island of Oahu. I had recently retired as a UC Berkeley professor, moved to Kailua, a town located on the windward (east) side, and was looking for a way to introduce myself to the island. Inspiration came from a PBS series, , which showcased religious pilgrimages, such as The Hajj, Jerusalem, and Lourdes. Of particular interest was the Buddhist pilgrimage on the Japanese island of Shikoku, where individuals walk around its perimeter on a 750-mile path that connects 88 temples. Shikoku is special to me as my mother was born there, and I have visited the island, though never considered visiting the temples. What interested me was that many of the pilgrims interviewed were not Buddhist nor of any religious persuasion, but they were taking the journey as a personal endeavor.
Once you get out of the tourist laden lands of Waikiki, Oahu's various regions have very distinctive colors and flavors. My goal was to get a region by region feel of the island's personality. For each day's walk, I planned ahead by reading about local culture and sites and sometimes scouted the area in advance to scope out a worthy path. I wanted to spend as much time as possible walking on the shore, as all beaches in the state are open to the public and require public access points. However, practical concerns, such as high tide or rocky shorelines, prompted me to walk along the side of a road. Indeed, there are many times when the closest path along the shore is the beachside road. During my 15-day trip, I spent about half the time walking on sandy beaches, and just as Eskimos are said to have dozens of words for snow, I developed my own vocabulary of sand, such as firm, slanted, squishy, clogged, and impossible.
Locals—people who grew up on the islands—have terms to describe the various areas of Oahu. My pilgrimage began on the Windward Coast, which extends from Makapu'u Pt. on the south end to Kahuku Pt., the northernmost point of the island. The North Shore curves around the point and includes Turtle Bay, the popular surfing beaches (e.g., Sunset Beach, Banzai Pipeline), the town of Haleiwa, and past to the westernmost spot, Kaena Pt. The dry Leeward Coast begins as you go around Kaena Pt. and consists of lovely beaches, residential areas, Ko Olina—the newest resort area, and the towns of Kapiolani and Ewa Beach. From there, we’ll refer to the Honolulu region as Pearl Harbor, the city itself, Waikiki, and Diamond Head. South Shore covers Maunalua Bay, Hanauma Bay and ends at Makapu'u Pt. (click on map for larger view).
The ancient Hawaiians had an ingenious method of parceling out regional land use. Oahu was divided into six moku—wedged-shaped sections, each having access to mountain streams for water (drinking and agriculture) and to the ocean for fishing. Each moku was divided into smaller wedge-shaped regions called ahupua`a. An ali`i (local chief) ruled over an ahupua`a and granted smaller land units to individual families. In this manner, everyone had access to primary resources from the mountains to the shore. To commemorate this ancient tradition, signs have been placed at each ahupua`a, currently along the Windward Coast, but soon throughout the state. The first ahupua`a boundary marker was put up in 2015 and located at the intersection of Kane`ohe Bay Drive and Mokapu Road—the very spot where my personal pilgrimage begins…
Go to Day 1
Go to Day 1