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Opinion

Final voyage explores hidden wonders of island state

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December 16, 2011

Wow, this semester has gone by really fast! Just like any fun cruise, all good things must come to an end. As I said last time, I’ll be picking two ports that I’ve yet to visit. While I’ve been to Hawaii, I’ve never been there on a cruise. In fact, Hawaii was the last pre-cruise vacation I took nearly 11 years ago. For most people, Hawaii (along with Alaska) is one of the last states to visit due to geographical distance. For me, they were among the first. No matter when you get here, Hawaii is truly a land of paradise. So let’s begin to explore this unchartered territory together, specifically Hilo on the Big Island and the island of Kauai.

The Hawaiian Islands were spotted by British Captain James Cook in 1778. He was originally looking for the Northwest Passage, naming Hawaii “The Sandwich Islands.” Hawaii became a united kingdom under King Kamehameha in 1810. Hawaii is one of four states—along with Vermont, Texas and California—to be independent prior to statehood. Along with Texas, Hawaii also received diplomatic recognition internationally.

In all, eight monarchs—seven kings and one queen—ruled the kingdom until 1893, when a group of Americans and Europeans led a coup against Queen Liliuokalani. The monarchy was abolished, and it paved the way for annexation to the United States in 1898. Everyone remembers the day that lives in infamy—the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. It was also the same location of the Japanese surrender four years later. Hawaii was set to be admitted to the union in January 1959, but it was postponed because President Eisenhower was in Alaska, accepting them into the union. It might have been a good thing for the delay— “Hawaii Four-Nine” doesn’t make for a catchy TV title. If you go to Hawaii, don’t be surprised if all Hawaiian words sound the same. Their alphabet consists of only 13 letters: the five vowels plus H, K, L, M, N, P, W and the “okina” (seen as an apostrophe). Some letters were dropped to limit redundancy of sounds, while other letters were dropped in memory of a deceased monarch.

First, here are some highlights to include on your trip to Hilo. For history, visit the Pacific Tsunami Museum. A threat for the islands, tsunamis are a common occurrence. Hilo is home to the only tsunami museum in the state. There are survivors on hand to share their experiences, in addition to photos and artifacts collected. There is an exhibit where you can create a tsunami firsthand, and learn the science behind this natural disaster. Hawaii is notorious for volcanoes, and the Big Island is home to three of the largest ones: Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Guided tours will take you to see lava oozing into the Pacific. There are two gardens dedicated to the last two monarchs: King Kalakaua and Liliuokalani. Also, no visit to Hilo is complete without visiting a mix of white and black sand beaches.

Now, let’s change islands to Kauai. Kauai is known as “The Garden Island” for its lush rainforest and botanical gardens. It’s more of a quiet place to relax, but there are plenty of activities to do. Snorkeling is among the best in the state, particularly along the Na Pali Coast on the northwest side. Although it’s not accessible by car, the clear crystal blue water provides excellent opportunities to see some sea life. If you’re a hiker, visit Waimea Canyon, the state’s version of the Grand Canyon. Further along is the Spouting Horn, where the high waves meet the lava rocks, shooting water as high as 50 feet into the air! Of course, if you feel like being lazy, head up to the North Shore for some beachcombing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of some of the greatest ports in the world. My best advice to you is this: if you have an opportunity to study abroad, take it! Be it J-Term or a semester, you will learn so much and see a lot of interesting, memorable sights—sometimes even more than in a classroom. Although it’s time for me to disembark the college cruise ship, I wish you all a successful, fun journey here at UW-River Falls. Let me say “Mahalo,” or thank you for reading my column. Farewell!

Michael Leonard is a Spanish major at UW-River Falls.