Oahu may not be the biggest island in the state of Hawaii, but it is by far the most populated. It’s quite fitting that the name Oahu means “The Gathering Place” – approximately 950,000 people call the island home, and the island plays host to somewhere in the number of 8 million guests a year. Many flock to the region for the year round temperatures in the mid 80s and the transparent water that reflects the shades of the undersea world – turquoise, blue, green, and the dark black that signifies the lava rocks beneath the surface.
While visiting the many areas of the island, most hit the town on the famous shores of Waikiki. High end shops like Saks Fifth Avenue, Harry Winston’s, and Tiffany’s all draw visitors eager to shop ’til they drop. On any given day, you can watch the many faces pass by you on the streets and listen to the array of languages being spoken, and in this know that Oahu is a vacation destination for the world.
If you are really paying attention, you may spot a celebrity or two dining at the world famous Duke’s restaurant on the beach or checking into one of the hundreds of amazing resorts. As we all know, Oahu is one of our former President’s favorite places to call home and play golf. But beyond all the hype and hubbub far from the shores of Waikiki is another location hundreds of people flock to in hopes of catching a glimpse of a few of our other very famous local residents.
Although the North Shore is host to world renowned surfers in the winter months, the residents that draw the most year round attention have been surfing the waves of the islands long before surfing competitions were even around.
These residents are so wildly popular that people will rush towards them when they are leaving or going into their homes. Tourists will run across beaches, rocks, and even over other tourists just to get a picture of them. I can only imagine how many pictures of these Hawaiian natives there are scattered across the world. Many of these local celebs can be found all around the island, but a small area called Laniakea Beach on the North Shore seems to be the area they prefer to live most. On a recent visit to this beach, one of the regulars who hangs out in the area had made an appearance earlier that morning and decided to stay and nap.
To the delight of the herds of visitors, local celebrity Kulihi, an adult male, had decided to make a day of it. He lay there basking in the sunshine, sleeping the hours away as if he had no idea what all the fuss was about. Playing bodyguard, I watched over 100 people stand at the end of the protected barrier attempting to snap a photo of him in all his glory. This 37-year-old superstar made the trip to the North Shore worthwhile for the many guests who stopped on the beach that day, leaving them filled with glee.
I have been a volunteer (aka Sea Turtle Bodyguard) for over a year to these wonderful ambassadors of the islands. Most people ask us questions about what they are like and what they like to eat. Sometimes the local celebs sleep on the beach for so long, people ask us if they are okay. I have heard over and over again how someone’s trip was complete because they were able to come face to face with them. I know that the pictures of these locals will be cherished forever and they will always be a welcome reminder of someone’s fabulous trip to Hawaii.
I must say, I am so completely thrilled to be a part of these famous Hawaiians’ lives. I volunteer with a group called Malama na Honu. This group assists the honored guests if one of them wants to come onto the beach, allowing them to move about freely without interference. The rule issued by NOAA is to stay 10 feet away so the honu (the Hawaiian green sea turtles) can swim, eat, and rest without human interaction. The Malama na Honu volunteers are always on hand to place a rope barrier between the turtles and their adoring fans. Once the honu is settled on the beach, the volunteers field hundreds of questions.
Although there is always a turtle in the water in these parts, Malama na Honu has been recording statistics on about 25 turtles that regularly come to rest on this beach since the 90s. The honu are named and are recognized by their shell patterns and facial scale patterns. When they arrive and how long they stay are recorded and given to NOAA for research purposes.
It is always a big ordeal when they make their way out of the ocean but once they’re settled into the warm sand of the North Shore, fast asleep, I am quite sure they are completely unaware of how amazingly special they are to all the people that flock to see them on this small swatch of Hawaiian beach on the North Shore of Oahu.