And other cool stuff about The Garden Isle.
Aaahhh, Kauai...as you lie back on her golden sands, the sun warms your face and the only sounds you hear are the distant strumming of an ukulele and gentle lapping of the waves on shore, and “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOOOOOOO!” Wait, was that a rooster? Absolutely! The most common question we’re asked as tour guides is, “So, what’s up with the all the chickens on Kauai?” (The second most common question is “Does the water go all the way around the island?”) The answer is like the lau-lau you’re served at a luau–keep peeling back the layers and you can figure out what it is.
The first people to reach the Hawaiian islands, the Marquesans, brought with them all kinds of stuff they’d need to survive, like bananas, coconuts, and, chickens and roosters (CHICKENS: THE FIRST POLYNESIAN EXPLORERS). Over the years, other races came to settle in Hawaii and brought more species of our friendly feathered fowl (say that 3x fast!), so the wild chickens you see today are a mixture of all different races and cultures. You might hear through the coconut wireless that the reason Kauai has so many, is that 1992’s Hurricane Iniki destroyed a lot of chicken farms and unleashed the unsuspecting birds into the wild, where they not only survive–they thrive. That’s partly true, but the real reason the fowl flourish is that they are the top of the food chain on Kauai! There are no predators here to eat them, and even though they’re the freest of free range birds, people don’t eat them, either. The locals joke that the wild chickens are so tough that if they’re boiled with a lava rock, the rock will be more tender. Kauai is also the only Hawaiian island that doesn’t have mongoose, so the eggs of ground nesting birds like chickens (and our state bird the Nene goose) are safe and sound. Not only does the Garden Island have the most beautiful beaches and spectacular scenery, it’s the greatest place in the world to just be a chicken!
People might be catching on to what the chickens already know: Kauai is an awesome place to be. As of 2009, our island population was about 65,000 and climbing. It might seem like a lot of people, until you realize that you could take all those people to the Rose Bowl and still have almost 30,000 seats left over! This leads us to another question we hear pretty regularly, “Do you guys live here?” The answer to this question can vary from person to person, as can the level of sarcasm. Usually, a Kauai local will point out the difficulty and expense of a daily mainland commute, if they’ve ever been there at all. Now, you might not understand him/ her, because what our local friend is speaking is called “Pidgin,” pronounced like the bird. Pidgin combines words and phrases from many different languages, and was originally created so that the immigrants–Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and Filipinos as well as the Hawaiians and Americans–could do business. For example, you might overhear this as you walk down the beach, “Ho, brah, get choke mangoes at my Auntie’s for grind. So ono!” Translation:“Oh, Hello, Friend. There are a lot of mangoes at my female friend’s house to eat. They are the best!” For our visitors, speaking pidgin can be like cliff jumping–if you’re not sure about it, best not to jump in.
Visitors should, however, dive right in to Hawaiian culture and cuisine! One of our guides’ favorite topics, especially at the end of the day, is FOOD. You’ll hear about the virtues of Kalua Pork and Ahi Poke (poh-kay), and where to get the freshest taco (octopus) and sashimi. And, hey, what is poi, really? Poi was the staple of the Hawaiian diet. It’s basically a root from the taro (or kalo) plant mashed and mixed with water. Come on, you came all the way to Hawaii–try it! It’s pretty good with the above-mentioned Kalua Pork. Remember, things like grits, rocky mountain oysters, and cheese whiz might seem odd to someone raised in Hawaii. Don’t be afraid to ask where to find the ono grinds, we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.
The history of Kauai and the Hawaiian Islands is as rich as the food. Kauai’s museums can offer so many insights to the culture around you. Check out the Kauai Museum, the Koke’e Natural History Museum, and the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, just to name a few.