Frugal Traveler - Hawaii
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Frugal Traveler - Hawaii

I’m Matt Gross, the frugal traveler for the New York Times. It’s my job to roam the world looking for cool hotels, luxurious meals, and life-changing experiences. And to prove that comfort doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It’s not just about how to travel; it’s about why to travel.

Ah Hawaii, so beautiful, so romantic, so relaxing, so expensive.

Not an easy place to spend a week as a frugal traveler, especially with a companion along for the ride, my wife Jean. But as exorbitant as Hawaii can be, we found bargains a plenty on the southern Kona coast of the big island. Like, The Lucky Farm, an eighty dollar night bed and breakfast slash eco lodge. Our room was cozy and comfy. There were free beach towels and snorkel gear. And best of all the B&B was a working farm.

Manager: The owner named this Pomaikai Farm because Pomaikai means lucky in Hawaiian. And when she had the place blessed they noticed there was a lot of tea plants, a lot of these tea tree plants all over the place, and the Hawaiians use that to ward away evil spirits. And so when he was doing the blessing he told her, “wow you have a lucky farm”. So she decided to name it that. This right here is a Cuban red cooking banana. This is all soft ground underneath so I literally wait for them to fall down and I pick them up off the ground.

When we worked picking fruit up off the ground we were having it for breakfast, along with good Kona coffee. Of course we couldn’t just stick around and eat food all day. So we spent much of our time at Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau a traditional City of Refuge just south of Lucky Farm. Parking is free after four pm. Once, this was the home of Hawaii’s royal chiefs. And a place for women, children, and the elderly to wait out times of war. Now it’s a place to cook up a cheap meal and watch the sunset over the pacific. We’re making really easy food tonight. We got fish, “mahi mahi” and some tombo, which is a lesser kind of tuna. Should be pretty good then. Just let these ears of corn soak before we throw them on the grill. Hopefully the tide won’t come in and wash them away. It’s good right?

The next day we were back at the refuge.

Hi! We are at the southern end of Kairali Kokua bay. Just doing a little bit of snorkeling. The water is clear and warm. And there’s all kinds of beautiful yellow fish and black fish even a sea turtle down there. There’s fish everywhere you look. Jean and I spent hours and hours in these waters, following the creatures of the not so deep, wherever they went. Occasionally those creatures came a little too close. After a few days, we left the big island for Kaua’I, the oldest of the Hawaiian chain.

This place was so green. And up on the north side, where we were staying, the highway shrank to these little cute one-lane bridges.

So, we have directions from our host, Mark Peirson, to go to the Blue Room. It’s a pool in a cave, a spring water pool in a cave. This’ where all my nightmares from “Lost” start to live during the day. I don’t know what kind of invisible monsters are going to come screaming out of the water here. Hopefully, none.

It’s really creepy when you can’t see the bottom. You put your face in and it’s just completely… it’s not black it’s just grey. It’s just grey, grey, grey as if there’s nothing in the world at all to look at, not even the absence of light. Let’s go to the beach.

Kauai beach was just a little down the road, the very end of the highway. After the Blue Room, we needed simply to relax and enjoy the sunset. But Kauai beach is also the starting point of the Kalalau trail, an eleven mile trek along the Nepali cliffs. We weren’t quite going to full distance, just four miles down the Hanakapiai Falls. Along the way there were million glorious vistas and some random encounters. Harold Hardgrave here spent a week out in the wilderness.

Harold Hardgrave: Each trail has its own significance.

What’s the most significance to you?

HH: To me, it’s the beauty of seeing the ocean from high up. You know, to other people it’s being back in the valley surrounded by the sounds of nature. You can hear birds communicating from miles away.

For us it was a surprise discovery.

What’d you find?

Guava, guava trees.

Is it ripe?

The hike was strenuous, but stunning. And at last we reached the falls. God the water’s just spilling of onto my head. I can’t believe I’m sitting here. I can’t believe I’m going to have to leave this tomorrow.

For the New York Times, I’m Matt Gross, frugal traveler.

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