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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Searching for the Hawaiian Honu

I stood on the rocky shore of the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park with a dozen other tourists, cameras musically clicking away. The ocean scenery was stunning and the historic park interesting, but everyone’s eyes were directed toward the shallow water in the small bay. A group of endangered green sea turtles were diving for food, likely seagrasses.

Because the sea turtles – Honu in Hawaiian – travel such great distances for food, many tropical and subtropical islands around the world are known as Turtle Island. The turtles would be seen on the islands sunning themselves or laying eggs in the sand. While the honu are now protected worldwide, humans still collect their eggs for food and adversely affect them through other means – like pollution.

I was on the island of Hawaii, nowhere near a Turtle Island as far as I knew, watching a small honu bob up and down in the water. I was captivated by its grace in the water and the ugly, little face that kept peeking above for a breath of air. It wasn’t a large turtle, since they can grow to five feet in length and average 230 pounds in size – some even tipping the scales near 700 pounds – but it was just as big as the others I had previously spotted.
I drove south from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. I was told there, just before Ka Lae (the southern most point in the United States) that I was likely to see some honu sunning on the beach. And sure enough, not far from the signs telling visitors not to ride the turtles (seriously), there were two on the beach – one making its way clumsily back to the water.
Ther other honu, now on its own, was content to soak in the sun a little longer, even moving farther up on the volcanic shore when the water lapped at its tail. A small group of admirers gathered a short distance from the turtle, as would be the case later in the day at the historic park, content with creating their own memories through cameras.
I was not surprised by the popularity of the sea turtles at either location on the Big Island. I had seen them before, including on my previous trip to Hawaii. Then I spotted them on Oahu‘s North Shore, far from most of the major tourist sites around Honolulu. I was visiting a friend on the island and, since he knew my love of wildlife, we drove north from his home in Kaneohe to find a group of honu acting like celebrities; a huge crowd was gathered around the turtles snapping photos.
During my return visit to Oahu, on this sponsored stay by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, I was also fortunate enough to get a glimpse of the honu, but not on the North Shore. I had a rental car and could have driven there, but I preferred to stay around Waikiki Beach due to a very busy itinerary. And thankfully, while on a submarine tour, I was fortunate enough not to miss out on such a special experience of watching the honu swim through the ocean.

The pair paddled by a mesmerized crowd on the submarine, each person jostling to get a photo as the captain positioned the ship for everyone’s delight. I was near to the point of being giddy at seeing another sea turtle on my return. I had anticipated having no luck at any wildlife, since I was spending my stay around the very busy Waikiki Beach. But, luck favored me and I left Oahu for the Big Island excited for the possibilities at such places as the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park and at the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach.

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