PAHOA, Hawaii // There were hippies and hitchhikers everywhere.
Once we turned off the main highway before Hilo towards Pahoa, Jenny noticed a distinct change in scenery and vibe, and at one point looked at me with a strange skeptical look on her face. Every 100 meters there was a person or group with their thumbs out trying to get a ride, and once we got into Pahoa town there were people just laying on the sidewalk sleeping or smoking. This place was very different from Volcanoes National Park where we had just been. Tour buses and selfie sticks were now replaced with dreadlocks and tie dyed t-shirts. We booked an Airbnb for the night and based on what we saw in town, debated if we should even stay here.
We had time to kill before checking in, so we took a joy ride along the coast in the rental car and it turned out to be one of the most scenic drives I have ever been on. There was hardly another car even on the road. It was called the Kalpana-Kapoho Road, and was literally like driving on gravel through a rainforest. We took this road all the way to the coordinates the GPS gave us and met our hosts. This couple turned out to be totally free spirited and amazing, nothing like we thought based on the nearest town. They traveled for 6 months out of the year and worked the other 6. Now settled, they run a bed and breakfast and survive off the grid on rain water and solar power. They live on 7 acres, make tiny houses, work hard on the farm, and live a minimalist life with recycled odds and ends used for their distinct architecture style. Chatting with this couple about their unconventional life, and staying on their property was an experience.
After this trip through the strange town of Pahoa, the lesson we both learned from this is: “It’s ok to have a gut feeling, but never judge a book by its cover.” If we would have just called it quits after seeing the people in town we would have missed out. This was a chance to meet unique people, learn about their different lives, and stay in an environment that few people have had the opportunity or even desire to do.