See America First was a tourism campaign funded largely by railroad companies. They were instrumental in preserving America’s deserts, mountains, plains and forests for the national parks that lay along their routes and were a boon to rail travel. But there was somewhere you couldn’t get to by train: luxuriant tropics far from the tumult of mainland cities yet developed and rich in diverse culture.

Honolulu airport is Hawaii’s principal hub. This is Oahu and you can get busy fast. Like all Hawaiian Islands, Oahu is developed mostly along its shore. Tourism being a large piece of its economy there’s plenty to choose from: snorkeling, boat tours, canoeing, fishing, paragliding, diving, hiking, or just grabbing a towel from the hotel and sitting on the beach. All that is fine. But Hawaii is largely untouched and cracking with things to discover. Put on a pair of solid shoes and go have a look.

Meeting locals is easy. It’s not just the weather that’s mellow. The shops are, too. The streets and beaches are mellow. Naturally the people are. Guards aren’t posted on every corner, telling you what to do, to wear a helmet, nor when you can or can’t swim. Your new friends know an off the grid spot for lunch, a hidden cave, and where to cliff jump.

Route 31 is 52 miles of coastline highway unwinding across bridges so narrow your mirrors hang over the side and catch the mist off waterfalls. Maui, like many young volcanic islands, is a microclimate, ranging from lush tropiscapes under leaden clouds to drier parchment colored lava flow and sensational blue skies. On the way from Hana to Kahului you’ll find anything from burger shacks to trucks dishing Thai food, from vineyards to cow pastures.

Around any one of the highway’s 620 turns the scene can change suddenly, with an almost disorienting beauty. The journey might be your destination, but all the same you’ll stop at Haleakala Park. Here, the Pipiwai trail, a 2-mile hike through a dense bamboo forest that seems in collusion with the wind to create music of gentle clatter and susurration, delivers you to the Waimoku falls, a 400-foot tall curtain of water at the head of O’heo Gulch. Oh, and there’s surfing, too.

He’e nalu is as much a spiritual activity as it is recreational. In Ancient Hawaii, when the water was flat, surfers called upon high priests to ask the gods for waves. The best beaches and boards were reserved for the ruling class. The best surfers among the commoners could earn their way in. A hierarchy remains though the division is mostly between locals and outsiders, and “good” and “bad” surfers. Hawaii is one of the best places to surf, and not only for pros. 750 miles of coastline will give you plenty of room to practice. Sunset Beach, on Oahu’s North Shore, is a popular and tolerant place for “outsiders” to surf. You don’t have to rent a surfboard.

Your new friend’s got one to lend, in his garage or slid into the struts of his house. If you’re among surfing’s ruling class then you’ve already been to Waimea Bay, where champions like Makua Rothman ride nui nalu in the winter months. Hanalei, on the north shore of Kauai, is another surf spot friendly to newcomers. While you’re there, another long drive will deliver another miracle of nature.

Behind the Na Pali coast, a white sand beach lattice-worked by 4x4s and spotted here by fishermen, there by tents and grills, is the Waimea Canyon. 10 miles long, it’s known as the Grand Canyon Of The Pacific. Layers of brown, reds and umber, iced with emerald fern and sprouting Eucalyptus, and at the bottom a little cobalt shimmer of a stream, it’s worth the drive from Princeville, where you’d do well to stay at the St. Regis Hotel.

See America First promoted tourism as “a ritual of American citizenship,” a way to define our culture by linking American identity with a shared territory. Hawaii, far from the shared mainland, is a convergence of identities, both ancient and modern. It is a place of imagination, reflection, where nature delivers free of charge the monumental spectacles that awe and inspire, that connect you to nature.

It’s a place where, as our publisher says, “you can recharge your batteries,” and being a laid back, chilled person will make the experience the more energizing. No need to leave the States. See America first, and go to Hawaii.

Sunset Beach – North Shore – Oahu

If there is such a thing as the perfect wave, you’ll find it on Oahu’s North Shore. The big, glassy winter waves of this legendary surf mecca attract the best surfers in the world, while summer waves are far smaller and more gentle – all of which makes the North Shore a great perfect surf spot for beginners and veterans alike.

The North Shore offers various rental homes. The house featured is a former army barracks that was loaded onto a truck and delivered to the verdant shore of Sunset Beach. Now stocked with surf boards, this property also includes an outdoor shower and a tree house that overlooks the Pacific. Other rentals, like this one, are located near Haleiwa Town, where you can shop and eat like a local.

For rental inquiries please contact Man of the World at (800).221.0490
Photo: Erik Rasmussen

Oahu – ChadLou’s Coffee Shop

Located on the back roads of Kailua, Chadlou’s is a good place to read or just hang out. The French-inspired chairs and tables give the shop a vintage feel. Sit in one of their velvet mix-and-match couches and take in the décor filled with vintage objects, art and weathered books. Chadlou’s has coffee, tea, gelato, pastries and sandwiches, oatmeal and their acclaimed custom-made ice cream sandwiches.

Chadlou’s Coffee Shop
45 Kihapai St
Kailua, HI 96734

Oahu – Oliver

Oliver Men’s shop carries brands we love: Aloha Sunday Supply Co. and Pidgin Orange, which are displayed on shelving and vintage fixtures the owner, Parker Moosman, installed himself. Even the unique welcome mat at the front of the door, made entirely of pennies, is impressive. The store carries exclusive men’s lines, some of which are not available anywhere else in Oahu. If you’re not looking to shop for clothes, check out the surf books and natural soy wax candles that come in a variety of scents.

Oliver Men’s Shop
49 Kihapai Street
Kailua, HI 96734

Maui – Hana Beach Park

Located within Hana Bay is Hana Beach Park, which has a long black-sand beach and is considered the safest swimming beach along the East Maui coast. The bay is protected by a coral reef and harbored from big swells by its curved shape. On the right side of the park is Hana Pier. Outrigger canoe racing is frequently practiced in Hana Bay. The black-sand was created by years of lava erosion from a nearby stream.

Photo: Erik Rasmussen
Fishhook necklace carved from fossilized walrus tusk
by Maui artist Kenneth Hiraoka
Illustration: Jakob Smedhagen

Maui – Maui Stables

Maui Stables offer more than a simple horseback riding tour; they offer an all-encompassing experience. Owned and operated by locals, the Maui Stables’ guides (alaka’i) take you on a journey through the unspoiled lands of Haleakala National Park. The alaka’i provide an insightful, historical narrative of these protected lands.

Maui Stables
40-900 Hana Hwy
Hana HI 96713
Photo: Melinda Podor

Maui – Travaasa Hana

Located in the town of Hana, the Travaasa feels like it is a world away from the rest of Maui. Enjoy the beauty of Hawaii right in your front yard. Set above the red sand of Kaihalulu Bay, amongst rolling green fields and palm trees, you will find peace and quiet. Travaasa Hotel’s luxurious cottages and spacious suites are free of distractions, allowing you to immerse yourself in the natural luxuries of Hana. Snorkel with wildlife, trek the local gardens with a guide, or decompress through guided meditation.

Travaasa Hana Hotel
5031 Hana Hwy
Photos: Courtesy of Travaasa

Maui – On the Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is 52miles of narrow, winding road through the rain forests of Maui. The road has several one-lane bridges along the route, which date back to 1910. Breathtaking views of the rainforest, several waterfalls and a perfect coastline emerge from nearly every one of the sharp turns. The trip itself is an unforgettable experience. But you’ll have to stop and go to Haleakala Park. A two mile-long trail will take you through Maui’s legendary bamboo forest and past age old Banyan trees, “trees you get advice from,” before delivering you to the Waimoku falls at the head of the Oheo Gulch. The Seven Sacred Pools are also located in Haleakala. You can walk right up to the ledge or reflect from above it on a crossing bridge.

Photo: Erik Rasmussen

Maui – Hasegawa General Store

Established in 1910, the Hasegawa General Store is one of the oldest family-owned businesses in Maui. Its narrow aisles are stocked with everything you need, from fishing gear to felt water shoes. They carry many local items too, like coffee, macadamia nuts, poi (mashed taro root), and coconut ice cream served in its own shell. Conveniently located next to the Travassa Hotel, you can stock up for your drive up the Hana Highway or your hike through the bamboo forest.

Hasegawa General Store
5165 Hana Hwy
Hana, HI 96713

5 Tips For the Road

1. Plan to spend the entire day in Hana. It’s a long, winding road and it’s not always paved. There’s also a lot of rubber necking at the incredible nature as well as tight corners that makes oncoming traffic difficult to manage.

2. Let Locals Pass. While you’ll want to bask in every postcard-perfect moment on the way to Hana, be sure to pull over on occasion and let the local drivers pass (they’ve seen it all before, and they probably just want to hurry home).

3. Take stuff with you. Besides the obvious sunscreen, water, bug spray and a camera, bring a towel and a change of clothes. If you stop at the Waimuku falls or one of the beaches you pass, you are going to get wet. Bring cash, too. There are a few roadside fruit stands and lunch wagons along the way that don’t accept credit.

4. Hike at Haleakala Park. A half hour’s drive past Hana brings you to Haleakala National Park with several hiking choices, including Pipiwai Trail. 5Take a Motion Sickness Pill. If you get car sick, it will happen on this drive.

Maui – Kaupo Store

Kaupo is an old fishing town on the coastline of South Maui. It is home to incredible ancient lava flow covered by emerald green growth and cracked by sudden cobalt and black canyons that roll towards the sea. Driving over cattle grids and a few miles of dirt road you’ll come to the old Kaupo Store, the perfect chance for a break from the drive. The store offers snacks and soft drinks and a unique collection of antique cameras, calendars, clocks, and odds-and-ends. Horses are often hitched to the post outside. Chairs and end tables are set on the porch for you to “sit a spell.”

Kaupo Store
Hwy 31
Kaupo, HI 96713

Maui – Keokea Gallery

Keokea Gallery is situated in the small outpost of Kula. It’s the last bit of civilization before Kula Highway turns into winding dirt road. Inside the gallery you’ll find affordable, small paintings and collages by the artist John Wallau, as well as larger works of traditional canvas, and untraditional surfboard art.

Keokea Gallery
9230 Kula Hwy
Kula, HI 96790

Kauai – St. Regis Princeville

The St. Regis Hotel in Princeville, Kaua’i is a resort location that takes luxurious pampering to decadent levels. It’s beautifully situated on a scenic cliff overlooking the Hanale’i Bay and the views from the rooms are breathtaking. There is mountainous terrain as far as the eyes can see, complete with a panoramic backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. Highlights of the St. Regis include an outdoor infinity pool, 540sq.ft rooms with terraces and their famous Kaua’i grill. For relaxation we suggest you visit their Halele’a Spa, with 12 treatment rooms including a couple’s room and a VIP room.

St. Regis Princeville
5520 Ka Haku Road
Princeville, HI 96722
Photos: Courtesy of St Regis