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April 2006


The Big Island


A few days ago I was returning to the mainland from Kona and I picked up a copy of the Honolulu Star Bulletin. By the way, if you haven’t flown out of Kona International Airport, it’s a nice blend of air travel and tent camping. It’s very similar to other airports, just without walls and jetways. This makes for a fun walk through the rainstorm as you head to the plane.

After I found my seat and wiped my face I perused the paper and noticed an interesting article. The article stated that last year the biggest population growth (by percentage) in the state was on the Big Island. Carl Bonham, University of Hawaii economist, was quoted as saying “We don’t know exactly what is causing the Big Island population to grow faster, but it makes sense.” This made me realize something: Even though I never finished college I could be an economist at the UH because I, too, do not know the cause but I, too, believe it makes sense. Saved my parents a lot of money coming to the same conclusion.

In searching for answers I have, at great risk (the editor of NWHT is a product of and big fan of the Big Island ), compiled some reasons for this population boom on the Orchid Isle. People in the know would say it’s the available housing and faster job growth. Luckily I’m not in the know.

Hilo, with a population of about 160,000 people, is a great place for Northwesterners to move to because you can be in paradise without giving up your beloved rain. So if you’re sick of buildings, freeways, independent movies, Indian Food, and professional sports but still want to be soggy the minute you walk out the door, then pack up that REI lycra walking jacket and head west, my friend. You get your rain plus mosquitoes the size of small children. And there’s snow!

At an elevation of 38 feet, Hilo is perfect for people who suffer from altitude sickness or drive Hyundais that can’t climb much higher. Also, every year the week after Easter the Merrie Monarch hula festival comes to town. The town of Hilo swells up with performers, fans of hula, and annoying Oahu relatives of people who live there. So if you open a business, for one magical weekend you can jack up your prices higher than they do at the airport. Here’s a typical conversation overheard during Merrie Monarch weekend:

“I’ll have a katsu plate and a large fruit punch.”

“That will be $43.”


If you’re the type of person that likes the beach but not the sand in your toes, then Hawaii is the island for you. Most of the island won’t have a sandy beach for 50,000 years. Another selling point is the fact that a town hasn’t been covered by molten lava in almost 20 years. With 2 volcanoes still active there is always a chance your town could go up in flames, but if you think long term, in 50,000 years that’s beachfront property.

When you drive at night north of Kona you get to see wild mules. Beats Kauai’s chickens. Sometimes on Oahu if you hang out outside the Wave at night you can see wild jackasses, but it’s not the same. Also, the land around the Captain Cook monument was ceded to Great Britain, so you can swim over there and then tell people you split your time between Hawaii and England. How cool is that?

There are probably a lot of Texans moving there because the word “big” is in the name. Texans love things big. Big steaks, big cars, big hair, big island. Kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Plus, many proud Texans say “Thar ain’t no Ameruhcan more southern ‘n me.” Well, The town of Ka Lae is the southern most American city, so many Texans have been moving there so as not to be called a liar.

The Big Island has the largest macadamia nut and orchid growing businesses in the world. It is also a major American supplier of coffee and ginger. And it is a leader in a few not so legal crops as well, which helps boost sales of snack foods and musubi. Sounds like a growing economy to me.

The Island of Hawaii is a very special place. It is the home of some important Hawaiian history, breathtaking scenery, a fully functional ranch that featured cowboys long before the contiguous 48 did, and some of the most genuinely nice and easy going people you will ever meet (including my editor). And it is the home of an active volcano erupting as we speak. That should be the Big Island ’s motto: Come live on our land, we’ll make more.

From the Editor: I love Kermet, even when he’s not writing about my home island. So I love him even more when he writes about good ole Hilo and the island of Hawai`i ! BUT…there are a few corrections to be made, reminding me that Kermet really does come from the city (if you can call ` Ewa Beach “ the city.”) First of all, last time I counted, the population of Hilo is not 160,000, unless we’re including the exploding infestation of coqui frogs. If we stick to just people, Kermet is off by a bunch of zeros because Hilo’s population is closer to 160 (and I’m related to all of them.) Nah! Truth be told, I think it might be closer to 40,000, depending on where you think the town boundaries are. And maybe 160,000 is the population of the entire island.

Next, Ka Lae. One of my favorite things is to drive down to Ka Lae – some call it South Point - and yes, it is the southern- most tip of the island and some would even say the U.S. much to the chagrin of those Texans. BUT…there’s no town, unless you count those fishermen who are always camping down there, hauling in `ulua. The nearest southernmost towns would be Na`alehu and Waiohinu. And the day anybody starts to build a town at Ka Lae, is the day this ole lady goin personally get on top one bulldozer and point it at the southern-most tip. So don’t anybody start tinking dey should go “develop” Ka Lae! Got it?!

Other than that, we all know that if Kermet says it, then it must be true – I AM one of the most genuinely nice and easy-going people you will ever meet. Mahalo Kermet! ~RdC

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