Off the Beaten Path…

June 5, 2012 | By Allison Schaefers

Photo: Leah Friel

As I stroll on assignment through the skyscraper-laden streets of modern day Waikiki, I think about how much the world has changed since Hawai‘i’s first visitors arrived. Try as I might, I can’t imagine what Waikiki looked like before the shopping centers and hotels and throngs of tourists.

Then, an aha! moment in an unlikely place—the lobby of the Outrigger Reef on the Beach—makes me realize that now is not so different than the past. Starry-eyed tourists still come to Hawai‘i for the same reasons that brought the first visitors to the isles and brought me in 2002. We are all voyagers. We can all make discoveries here. A dramatic 18-piece, 36-foot mural featuring artwork by the late Herb Kawainui Kane hangs behind the Outrigger Reef’s front desk for anyone to see. The artwork, which depicts canoes from the Pacific Basin, pays homage to Hawai‘i’s first voyagers and inspires its newest crop to follow adventure until they find their own paradise.

“The Polynesians discovered Hawai‘i after traveling thousands of miles without a compass,” says Matthew Kawaiola Sproat, who is a cultural specialist for Outrigger Hotels & Resorts and whose roots in Hawai‘i go back 1,000 years. “They knew to follow the stars and the sun. They were voyaging—they were moving forward.”

Moved by the lesson, I took a new route back to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Waikiki Bureau. It was a true voyage of discovery. I’m going to leave my compass behind next time, too.

Fun Fact

Herb Kane’s passion for Polynesian canoes and voyaging inspired him to design and build a historically accurate Hawaiian canoe called the Hokule‘a, which sails without modern navigational instruments. Since 1976, Hokule‘a has made nine voyages to Micronesia, Polynesia, Japan, Canada and the U.S. mainland. Sometimes, you can spot it in the waters off of Waikiki.

A three-time national award winning reporter, Allison Schaefers serves as the Waikiki Bureau Chief for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Based in Waikiki, she covers Hawaii tourism and Waikiki issues. Contact her at