As an east-coaster this hour would be harsh but in Honolulu I awake to a gift-  the OluKai  Kama’aina (ka-ma-ay-na) experience gets an early start.  Kama’aina means “Native Born” or  “One Born in a Place”.  Some translate as “I am a child of that which feeds me.”   Over the next 5 days my cup of OluKai Kama’aina would filled to the brim. But first – Coffee!


The hotel coffee bar here at The LayLow, begins service at 4am. How awesome is that!  I grab my headlamp (#everydaycarry), hydration-pack and phone.  I head to the lobby prepared to roam.  At the front desk Victoria greets me with a wakeful smile and tells me about the courtesy bikes.  One cup of Kona later I’m leaving Waikiki and pedaling towards Diamond Head. Great coffee next door also at Kona Brewing but they don’t open until 6am.


Two things to know for a sunrise hike up Diamond Head:  #1 – The tunnel gate doesn’t open until 6am. #2-Look for Bob  “The Motivator”  Thompson.  He’s the 85 year old with a wad of singles for those who forget cash as I did.  Oh, a third item – The view across the Pacific is priceless but bring a $1.

View while descending Diamond Head


Back to the hotel to meet the OluKai crew led by Austin Kino, a lifelong Maunalua Bay resident who sailed on the Hōkūle‘a during it’s 2006 voyage helping to revive the 2000 year old legacy of exploration that brought the first Polynesians to Hawaii.


This morning Austin takes us to the Makapu’u Lighthouse where many of Hawaii’s navigation students learn ocean conditions and observe the stars.

View of Rabbit Island from Makapu’u

In his 20’s  Austin founded Holokino Hawaii — a traditional Hawaiian canoe adventure tour on Oahu’s south shore — where locals and tourists alike can experience first hand the ingenuity of Polynesian way finding. His hope is that Hawaii will continue to be known for its legacy of great ocean explorers.  The passion for Hawaii’s navigational history as passed on to him by Master Navigator, Nainoa Thompson,  is in good hands as he teaches young adults this skill.

12 noon

While traveling with Austin I learned “kuleana” — meaning responsibility — a word Hawaiians use when it comes to taking care of their land and ocean. We found ourselves waist deep in kuleana one afternoon at Loko i’a Fishpond at Paepae ‘O He’eia – an ancient Hawaiian fishpond located in He’eia, Ko’olaupoko, O’ahu.   Hawaiians were the first islanders in the Pacific to develop ponds and fish farming. Paepae ‘O He’eia has been working since 2001 to rebuild an 800 year old fish pond that will once again serve the local community.

Paepae 'O He'eia Fish Pond

Since ocean fishing is subject to weather and sea conditions the use of fish ponds provides communities with a regular source of fish.  In 5 more years, this pond will be ready to harvest its first fish and is projected to provide over 40,000 fish each year.


Austin seems to know everyone on Oahu.  We arrive at Mahaka Beach and are greeted by Kai(Ha’a)le’a Keaulana.  Like Austin, Ha’a is recognized around the globe because of her genuine love for the ocean lifestyle along with being featured on NatGeo as a world-class surfer.  Ha’a and her cousin Noah are hosting at their neighborhood beach for an afternoon of snorkeling and body-surfing.  Like all of our new Hawaiian friends Ha’a welcomes us and shares a bit of local knowledge.  The rocks and reef come up close to the beach making it fairly easy to reach what locals call Turtle Rock.   But the surf is pretty strong so Ha’a suggests we take her 17′ SUP which 6 of us carry out to the water.  Despite the rip-current I’m feeling safe because I learn that Ha’a’s uncle developed surf rescue techniques that are now used by Navy Seals.

Mahaka Beach SUP 6
Mahaka Beach SUP 6

We paddle out past the surf to where Ha’a suggests we grab our masks and take a look under the surface.   A whole new world opens up beneath us.  And as if on queue, two sea turtles appear along with a school of fish nibbling on their backs.

Mahaka Turtles
Turtles at Mahaka Beach


Recall the phrase – Kama’aina – “I am a child of that which feeds me” ?  Well no one in Hawaii feeds you better than Ed Kenney, the talented chef at Mahina & Sun’s.  Ed is the state’s leader in ocean friendly sourcing practices and his 4 restaurants connect locals and visitors to exciting Honolulu artists, designers and musicians. (Just missed Vivian Howard)  We connected with Opakapaka – Hawaiian Pink Snapper at Mahina and Sun’s with local roots and veggies from area farms.

Opakapaka – Hawaiian Pink Snapper at Mahina and Sun’s

Aloha Spirit Everyday

The time line above is representative of each day where OluKai and Austin served up amazing Kama’aina experiences.  One afternoon we visited The Kahumana Farm, a nearly 50 year healthy and inclusive farm based community that serves the homeless and people with disabilities.  Kahumana also provides Oahu’s finest eateries with eggs and produce.

Kristin with Kaumana Organic Farm
Kristin with Kaumana Organic Farm

Thru the support of OluKai the Ama OluKai Foundation is working with several Hawaiian based organizations to help preserve land and ocean, serve the community and maintain the Hawaiian culture and traditions. POW! WOW! HAWAII is one such cultural tradition that celebrates contemporary artists that engage with the broader community in the process and creation of art.   Think murals. Think large murals!

Sustainable Darth Vader by Wooden Wave
Sustainable Darth Vader by Wooden Wave

Wooden Wave are among the artists within the POW! WOW! HAWAII community.  Matt and Roxy were born and raised in Hawaii and their work has a whimsical take on sustainability.  Above the explain how Darth Vader has hung up his cape and now enjoys sustainable farming and lives in a treehouse.  He wants us all to come together and rule the galaxy in a way that helps everyone.  He’s probably wearing his OluKai ‘Ohanas.  See more of Wooden_Wave murals at http://www.woodenwaveart.com/murals 

Our OluKai Kama’aina  experience concluded in a fitting manner – a sail with Austin and his family with Holokino Hawaii.  Launched in January of 2017, Austin provides voyaguers a cruise on the Uluwehi – the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe which celebrates the way-finding techniques used by Polynesian Navigators for centuries throughout the Pacific.   Austin’s sailing vessel is based at the Kahala Hotel on Oahu’s South Shore where we cruised out beyond the breakers and caught breath-taking views of the island causing one to ponder

Holokino Hawaii Sailing Canoe
Holokino Hawaii Sailing Canoe

When asked what traits a person must have when upon a  voyage such as that of the Hōkūleʻa Austin’s response provides wisdom for all of us.

The ability to get along and work with other people. To confront differences. You can’t jump off of the boat if things aren’t going well and communication is breaking down. You have to be able to humble yourself. You have to be able to learn to forgive others and move past things. You can’t hold on to negative experiences or thoughts, because they will break you down. You need to stay as a team. I think that’s the biggest trait.

OluKai embodies that same spirit of humility, courage and adventure.

With Aloha Spirit to all our friends at OluKai.

Helpful links for those looking for more of the OluKai Kama’aina experience: