Stick to the makai side. That is what the locals told us. We had no idea what they meant, but it sounded like good advice.
My brothers and I were in Hawai’i for our grandfather’s 80th birthday. Most of our group had retired for the evening, but we were still up for some action. Seemed the tourist enclave of Ka’anapali went to bed with the sunset, so we decided to walk to town. We’d heard the typically cautionary stories of native residents exhibiting predatory behavior towards hapless vacationers, but we were unconcerned. We were three lads from Montana; there was nothing in this paradise for us to fear. If anything, the locals ought to be afraid of us.
A public beach began where the exclusive sands belonging to the hotels and condominiums ended. When we reached it, two voices hailed us over the roaring surf. Two forms, silhouetted against a vast ocean, sat upon a picnic bench. Barely visible within a growing darkness, they beckoned us to join them.
Beers were offered, and accepted. We come here every day, they told us, to watch the sun set. It is characteristic of Hawaiians, even temporary ones, to quit whatever mundane pursuit might be occupying them and watch the sun as it slips beyond the horizon each day. Almost ritualistically, they pause and bid it farewell.
As we prepared to take our leave, a dark hand fished amongst the few remaining ice chips still floating in the cooler. Five beers left, its owner announced, and five people to drink them. Unable to refute such logic, we stayed on. The beer was cold and the company good. We drank and listened to tales told in waves.
Where you headed, we were asked. Town, we answered. Simple, we were told. Walk that way, and stick to the makai side.
Makai side, we asked.
Makai side, they answered. The ocean side. That’s the literal translation, but it is much more than that. It is a direction, yes, but it is also a point of view, a mindset. In all things, keep to the makai side.
The beers were gone. They got up to leave. We went on, always looking makai, and it worked out just like they said it would.