Sunday, January 8, 2017

An Alaskan Vacation: Hawaii!

Since we moved to Homer 10 years ago, every year "Hawaii" seems to be on many people's lips in the winter, though especially at Christmas-time. With no basketball games for our kids to play this year during Christmas break we decided to make a Hawaii family vacation happen.

I was impressed with many similarities between Hawaii and Alaska, and how those things attract Alaskans to Hawaii.


Both Hawaii and Alaska have ocean, beaches and cliffs.

Hawaii seems to have more sandy beaches and larger surf, though I will say that Alaska has a whole lot more beaches and I've only seen a very small number of all the beaches in this state. Most beaches here are pebbly or stone-covered.  I will say the waves were much larger in Hawaii than in Homer, with the 'normal' size waves there being the very largest waves we get in Homer, but we are also in the protected Cook Inlet so that makes sense.

Hawaii has remote areas with wide-open vistas, just as Alaska does.

There are areas of Alaska that are so wild and remote, though most are not quite as barren as this mountainside of inactive volcano Mauna Kea that we climbed up.

The drive and then the hike to the Green Sand Beach on the southern shore of the Big Island struck me as remote, despite the dozens of folks walking the rabbit warren of roads to the beach with us, and the handful of amped up trucks carrying tourists to the locale.  This was my favorite hike of our 2 weeks' stay, with the ocean crashing onto the volcanic rocks on one side and a grassy plain reaching as far as we could see.

Both Hawaii and Alaska have gorgeous sunsets and sunrises.

The one difference between Hawaii and Alaska sunsets is that there are beautiful palm trees outlined in many of Hawaiian sunsets!

The fascinating thing with the Hawaiian sunsets is how fast they were!  We could literally see the sun setting in a 2 minute process in this picture, and within 20 minutes it was pitch black out.  Contrast that with the sunset the next day when we arrived home in Anchorage. The sun set at 4:15 pm and we were treated to the afterglow of the sun and dusk till 5:30, over an hour later. The hang time of sunsets in Alaska is amazing!

Both Hawaii and Alaska have wildlife.

As we were hiking the trail to the Captain Cook monument and snokeling area, these wild goats posed on the lava rocks.  In Hilo later in the week traffic was stopped on a busy city street for goats crossing.  Feral goats, pigs and cats are common sights on the Big Island. Alaska, as you know, has moose and bear. Not the same, but wildlife nonetheless!

Both Hawaii and Alaska have steep, narrow roads.

The road into the Wapio Valley reminded me in many ways of the switchbacks at the end of the road in the Old Believer Village. Although it is paved, it was slippery, one way in many places, sheer cliffs on one side with amazing vistas on the other.  It also had an amazing number of tourists walking and driving down it, which is unlike Alaska!

There is food everywhere in both Hawaii and Alaska.

Bananas, papayas, you name it, there is fruit just hanging about in Hawaii, coconuts waiting to clobber an unsuspecting walker or nuts galore.  In Alaska we have an insane abundance of berries, and only in late July through September. The food is different in each place, and the timing is different but the abundance is still there.

Both Alaska and Hawaii have large and beautiful waterfalls.

In Alaska many of the waterfalls are remote and difficult to get to, while the waterfalls in Hawaii are mobbed by tourists and have roads and paved trails leading to them.

Rain forests are found in both Hawaii and Alaska.

In Alaska they are known as temperate rain forests, and are noted by moss hanging on the trees and deep, cushy moss covering the forest floor.  In Hawaii, obviously, it is a tropical rain forest, with the distinctive smells that come with that and the cacophony of birds that seems to come with the tropics too.

Other unpictureable similarities:

There are native Hawaiian cultures that they are working to preserve, just as Alaska has its many native cultures as well. There are many tourists in both places, though I feel like they were very concentrated in Hawaii as we were there during the busiest time of year.  Like Alaska, Hawaii is expensive, with gas prices right about the same at $2.90 a gallon.  However, a survey of Costco in Kona showed items we regularly buy as $2-$5 cheaper in Hawaii than the Anchorage Costco, which outraged me.  And while Alaska is not an island, it sure feels like one, albeit a very large one! But once a person is in Hawaii (or Alaska), it is going to cost some money to leave. It's not a place you want to get stuck. Apparently some folks in Hawaii are very anti-homeless, while in Alaska the climate makes it an inhospitable place to be homeless.


There are round mountains in Hawaii versus sharp peaks in Alaska.

Mauna Loa, above, is the largest volcano on earth, reaching more than 30,000 feet from the ocean floor.  Even this peak, which is 13,600 feet above sea level, sure doesn't look like a 13,000 foot peak. Distances were amazingly deceptive because of these long, gradual slopes and we were having a very difficult time estimating elevations in Hawaii because of this.

Other nonpictureable differences:

The most distinct difference is the daylight hours. In Alaska, having very short days in the winter and very long days in the summer leads to lethargy to insanity from winter to summer, a frenetic pace that takes a winter to recover from. Hawaii, with it's moderate climate and moderate daylight hours, seems more tempered and sane.

Supposedly folks fish in Hawaii, but we didn't see many marinas or boats in our time there, and didn't really see much sign of fishing, whereas in Homer or Seward, you cannot miss the fishing industry with the dozens of boats being hauled down the road, fish processing plants, charter advertisements and more.

Both Alaska and Hawaii have volcanoes, and in fact a volcano erupted on the Aleutian chain while we were in Hawaii, spewing ash up to 35,000 feet. But the volcanoes here are not the 30-year-flow of Mauna Loa, and the areas around Alaskan volcanoes are not very populated so they are not as high on the world's radar.

Overall, though, I was very comfortable in Hawaii and could see why many Alaskan's feel at home there. In fact, we met Homerites and Alaskans at every turn on our vacation. Will it become a regular pilgrimage for us?  Likely not.  There is much world to explore and as much as  we liked Hawaii, there are other places we want to see as well. The other Hawaiian Islands are on our list, though!


Unknown said...

I was very much attracted to the Big Island. I noted many of the similarities too between there and AK. The remoteness, wildness, and natural wonders are endless.

Unknown said...

I too saw many of the same similarities on the Big Island that you saw too. The remoteness, the natural wonders, and the wilderness are on the list. I think if I go back, I'll probably meet someone from AK too.