In the early months of 2012, I spent some time on the Big Island of Hawaii volunteering on an organic coffee farm in Captain Cook, South Kona. While I was there I learned a lot about people, the culture, and myself. One of the most interesting things about my stay: hitchhiking in Hawaii. At first I thought I was committing a dangerous act that I could never tell my mother about. Only a few days into my stay, however, I quickly understood that hitchhiking was more than just a form of transportation—it was a way to meet and connect with a complete stranger.
When I first arrived on the island, I was surprised to see how many people were standing on the side of the road with their thumbs pointed up, walking backwards and hoping for a ride. I would see people of all ages, shapes, and sizes looking to hitch a ride. It wasn’t too long until I realized why people relied on hitching to get around. There is definitely a reason why it’s called “The Big Island”: getting to the nearest grocery store would take an average of 20 to 30 minutes.
Getting anywhere took longer than you would imagine. Working on a farm, I was required to get supplies throughout the day, and after a while I finally decided to try it out.
My first experience hitchhiking in Hawaii was a lucky one. I had just finished hiking the Captain Cook trail and was exhausted from snorkeling in the sun all day. I walked about a mile away from the trail head and decided to stick my thumb out, not believing I would get a ride at all. Lo and behold in only two minutes a Hawaiian native picked me up in her blue Chevy pickup. She was by far one of the most beautiful girls I had seen in a long time. She was sweet, polite, and intelligent. She even thought she knew me from somewhere, possibly the school she went to on the island. Having someone think I was a Hawaiian native was one of the best compliments I think I have ever received.
Once I was more comfortable with hitchhiking, it was no longer a surprise as to who was looking for the ride, but instead who was actually giving the rides. I one time had to get a ride to the hardware store a few miles down the road, and after 10 minutes of walking I was picked up by a woman who must have been in her 70s. She was clearly from the mainland and it was unclear as to what the purpose of her stay on the island was. Either way, she was a sweet woman with many questions. At the end of our ride she gave me her phone number and told me to call if I ever wanted to come by for dinner!
I stayed on the island for another two months, all throughout using hitchhiking as my main form of transportation. I was even able to hitch a ride all the way to South Point—the southernmost part of Hawaii. Throughout my stay in Hawaii, I was able to share a ride with so many interesting people. Travelers from around the world flock to Hawaii for a variety of reasons, and being able to meet so many different people was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I will never forget.
Have you visited Hawaii? Traveled by hitchhiking? Share your stories below!
Sam Lowy is a writer, actor, and musician. When he’s not traveling, Sam is teaching and performing improvisational comedy in Phoenix, AZ. See more of his travel stories at VagabondSummer.com.