The surf, the sand, the sea: what’s not to love about Hawaii? Well, besides the continuous fleet of rental cars that circumnavigate the island every day. This week in the Thought Kitchen, guidebook author and Hawaiian local Bree Kessler gives us a little insight into the art of low-carbon road tripping and how to travel the big island Kama’aina-style.
By Bree Kessler
There are a variety of reasons why the kama’aina (Hawaiian word for “local”) take the bus on the Big Island of Hawaii. When living in Hawaii, I ride the bus because it combines my two favorite things: public transportation and conversations with strangers.
Just like the lifestyle in Hawaii, a ride on the Hele On bus ($1 per person and an additional $1 for large bags and bikes) can move slowly. But this pace allows for the opportunity to “talk story” with fellow riders. I seldom ride the bus without sitting near someone who invites me to a party or suggests a great hidden beach to check out. Sometimes the conversations are more serious like on one trip from Hilo to Volcanoes National Park when I offered a therapy session to a transitioning woman and in turn learned about the unique history of transgenderism in Hawaii (this meeting seemed fated given that I am a trained social worker who teaches courses on the psychology of gender).
The Big Island essentially has only one main highway that circumvents it – making it extremely easy both to figure out the bus routes (on the website) and to catch a bus from nearly anywhere. There are some established bus stops and times, but the bus system in Hawaii is similar to the bus culture in Latin America: meaning you can hail down a bus anywhere and be dropped off anywhere you want.
While some bus routes run hourly, there are other routes that are only available a few times a day making it necessary to plan your schedule carefully. Nevertheless, the extra effort definitely is worth it not only for the money you’ll save on the rental car itself and gas (the islands ain’t cheap) but also, the bus is the best way to interact with the local community who, for the most part, relish in “talking story” with anyone who gets onboard.
Bree Kessler is a freelance writer and storyteller who fears the continental United States and thus splits her time between Hawaii and Alaska. She is the author of the Moon Handbook: Big Island of Hawaii. You can check out her stories on life in the Arctic Circle at www.parkdispatches.com.