The most remote city on earth

Honolulu from Diamond Head crater. Waikiki is at centre.

A week in Honolulu goes by very fast. Although the city is the most remote in the world (3,841 km from San Francisco, the nearest > 500,000 city), it is very easy to forget that you are in fact on a tropical island, in the middle of the pacific, with coconut palms. Honolulu is a tourist city – although the population is on the order of half a million, more than eight million tourists pass through per annum. This makes it great as a place to visit, but does it make the grade as a place to live?

Our first few days were spent in the “Polynesian Hostel”, one row of buildings behind the very pretty Waikiki beachfront road. Walk down the street and you’re faced with azure blue water, shining beaches, swaying coconut palms. The beach throngs with tourists. Harleys drive past Japanese crowds under waving palm trees. The water seethes with novice surfers, ready to nail you with their boards the moment you step in. Further out, better surfers catch obscenely long rides (we timed one at >45 seconds on one wave) on the reef break. Before arriving, neither of us were aware of the history associated with the place. Here is the birthplace of beach culture. A bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku, the 5-time Olympic champion, lifesaver, actor, and man who popularised the Hawaiian sport of surfing stands covered in flowers. Just slightly away from the beach, the mark of high class society is everywhere. Extremely well dressed asian tourists frequent the enormous Chanel and LV stores. Impeccable Japanese restaurants offer triple-digit sushi meals. A ‘rare hawaiian shirt’ store offers $3000 hawaiian shirts(!).

Waikiki beach, or more appropriately, “Japan”.

Waikiki hits you with the absurd and beautiful at once but our minds were somewhat occupeid with the aforementioned ‘lost keys’ issue. Fortunately the hostel has (over)compensated us and apart from Simon losing HIS keys in the rental car (another trip to the airport to retrieve them) the issue is now closed!

We’ve moved in to our flat (sublet) for the first month and things are going fairly well. The other tenant has two dogs – great company although we feel that the puppy (named ‘moose’) should more appropriately be named after some kind of weather event (tornado? hurricane?). The tendency to destroy floor-based objects is more than compensated for by the cuteness, however. We’re currently living in the Manoa valley – very close to UH Manoa, and more importantly for some of us, to Yogurtland. Since the discovery four days ago that this store is 5 minutes walk away we have been there twice.

In an effort to be frugal with research funds, Simon has decided to return the rental car after 5 days – thinking that we save $50 for every day we don’t have a car. We are certainly saving money, but Simon’s 45-minute walk to work each morning will probably wear on him and it is likely that come the end of next week we again will have wheels. As a consolation a hybrid bicycle has been purchased for Lauren, potentially negating any savings regarding the rental vehicle if the bike can’t be sold in September! A silver lining to not having a vehicle: the traffic is crazy! The highways aren’t very large and public transport is fairly poor (remind anyone of any other city?) so gridlock ensues for much of the day in central Honolulu. Elections are currently underway and there is fervent debate on the radio on whether or not a public rail project (late and over budget) should be finalized.

The Diamond Head walk is steep but worthwhile!

Simon has started work with Dr. Marc Lammers at UH/NOAA. UH appears to have some great facilities on Oahu including Coconut Island in Kaneohe bay, where Lauren and Simon met well known ocean acoustician Whitlow Au. Currently, both Simon and Lauren are ordering the last pieces of hardware required for the cruise. Shipping is a tad expensive: the shipping cost for eight 50″ sand anchors ($8 each) from Mc MasterCarr is $100! The next week should see Simon and Lauren meeting NOAA staff members associated with the bio-acoustic monitoring effort in the pacific and also the climate science group!


One thought on “The most remote city on earth”

  1. Simon & Lauren,
    Thank you for this. After a lifetime of looking at pictures of Waikiki and Honolulu with Diamond Head in the background, it is interesting to see how things look from the top. Is it true that there are rock crystals in the ground and hence the name?
    By the way, My teaching has hit a slight slump but, I am determined not to return to tour guide/bus driving work as this would be too much of a step backwards having just attained my Cert.TESOL. However, I am looking at teaching Japanese (I am qualified to do this), firstly on a volunteer basis with the New Zealand/Japan Society of Auckland and then perhaps even paid
    work, along with my TESOL. I need the money to feed my hungry horse! However, I have been looking at upgrading my PC to a Toshiba with Skype capability (and a built-in camera & microphone). I will try to contact you once this is up and running and I have it figured out.
    Keep up the good work and, keep n touch.


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