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Really Long (again) review of "The Big Island Revealed" Book

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Really Long (again) review of "The Big Island Revealed" Book

Let me start with a disclaimer – please don’t take anything I have to say in this posting in a negative light. This is simply my humble opinion, which I offer being in the unique position of being born and raised in Hilo, having traveled the islands extensively when I was younger (Mom was born and raised in Honolulu, so family on three islands) and being prior military I have also experienced all but 7 of the 50 states. I lived on the BI for about 20 years and still have family and friends there.

I found Trip Advisor by accident, when going to Las Vegas and looking for a good hotel. Found one, it was a good experience and started contributing off and on. For my recent trip home I started lurking again and then posting. Now it is a daily thing for me. In many of the posts I see the mentioning of the Big Island Revealed book, by Andrew Doughty, published by Wizard publications. This is also referred to as the “Blue Book.” Curiously, it was always someone from the mainland recommending this book. So I bought one and on the flight to the BI read the book, cover to cover. Here is one person’s opinion of this guidebook.

My first impression of the book was quite surprising. The author has an ability to be condescending through much of the book, and his lack of respect for the land and people of Hawaii was almost shocking. His book started off with an incomplete and some times inaccurate history of Hawaii, but left me feeling like much of what made ancient Hawaii what it was wasn’t included, or presented in such a way that the order of events did not fit. No one who went to school in Hawaii and learned about Hawaii from elders AND books would have ever written this section.

For a better glimpse of history try: http://www.hawaii.gov/about/history.htm

I did like the bit about kolea (golden plover).

Throughout the book there are little inset Hawaiian stories, most of which I had previously heard, but the selection did not necessarily give an accurate representation of Hawaiian culture.

The author does a decent job of answering basic questions in the basic section. But here I started getting and uneasy feeling with some of the recommendations. He “Strongly” recommends a 4WD vehicle. Here I have to disagree – there ARE things on the BI that one needs a 4WD for but I almost never recommend one for the entire trip, gas prices being what they are. For a one week vacation on the BI with normal driving, one should budget about $150.00 – 200.00 for gas. Most do not, and with a SUV it could be as much as $220.00 – 500.00 for the amount of driving the book recommends. Also the recommendation to risk driving your rental SUV where it is prohibited by rental contract is absurd. I would never recommend anyone ever violate their contract knowingly. Their caveat is the fact that your insurance company at home would cover it. While this MIGHT be true, most travelers don’t check if replacement tires due to lava damage is covered before they leave. They also recommend room and car packages. In my personal experience, this has never been a good deal. Air and Room yes, car I almost exclusively use Hotwire and Priceline. I just got a mid size from Alamo for $14/day, when the same vehicle and company combined with any room the cheapest I could find was $28.00. YMMV.

At about this point I started getting worried. I thought this book was going to be a good guide judging by others posts. Doughty’s continued use of “ours” and “we have” gets annoying very quickly and I wonder if he is trying too hard to appear local now?

The section on pidgin English was not only inaccurate, but somewhat offensive. Funny too, though. One thing consistent is the author’s attempt at humor, most of which is not funny but makes the book an easier read.

The basics also introduce the fundamental problem with this book, and my guess the series and why so many locals abhor this book. The sense of entitlement that pervades this book concerns me. Ironically in the “personal responsibility” section he notes that they have removed items from previous editions due to liability and touts it is due to their “exposed heretofore unknown attractions.” I wonder if this is due to his willingness to encourage others to ignore private property and kapu signs? The single biggest problem I have with this book is the continuous encouragement to violate private land owner’s property in the name of right of way. In the same way cities have evicted elderly landowners in the name of imminent domain, Doughty suggest merely crossing someone’s land is justified since all shoreline is public access. In Hawaii this is the epitome of rudeness and can get one hurt. My family owns two lots in Kapoho and we used to have a shack (you know, roof iron and 2x4’s) that we could “camp” in. We had our own pond with fish. We could walk down to the tidepools and torch at night, but we ALWAYS respected others property, and learned where the access is. There is NONE of that in this book, just a lot of “all beachfront in Hawaii is PUBLIC” and you can ignore the sign, the fence, the gate etc. Here is my note regarding personal responsibility: if it is someone’s house or property and they have taken the time and effort to put up signs or a fence – don’t climb the fence or ignore the signs. There are a number of armed locals who will not look kindly on trespassers – I know I would not.

Yet the book has value and I think can be of some use to a visitor. But the number of people that buy into the author’s self promotion is scary. Please remember, if he tells you this is one to two years of research I submit my dad has lived on the island, an explorer by nature (holo-holo for those that understand) and used to drag us kids along and in 74 years he has not seen it all. If this guidebook is your ONLY guidebook, you can have an excellent vacation, but hey it’s Hawaii. You would have a good time with only the Hawaiian Tel phone book as your guide! Will you have seen all there is to see? No. If you visit everything in this book will you have experienced Hawaii? No. Whatever you do, do NOT take this book as gospel on Hawaii. From someone who grew up there I find it interesting that someone who is clearly NOT from Hawaii is attempting to guide others who are also not from Hawaii. While the green sands are amazing, is it worth the time lost out of our vacation to see it? The beaches at the end of the road to the sea ARE known by locals (I sure did) but we don’t go b/c there are better beaches that are less remote. And the author absolutely does NOT eat local. In fact, I am not sure he has eaten at many of the places around. I can assure you, he has no clue where to find good local food in Hilo.

Other critiques I have: two of the diversions along the Hamakua coast are a waste of time for the average visitor. OK, wait maybe not, since to me anything along the Hamakua coast is beautiful. Umauma falls are very nice, but the admission they charge as gone up from $8.50 to $11.00/person, per the lady at the cash register: “due to the increase of visitors recommended by the Revealed book.” It was not worth $22.00 IMHO.

Some of the advice like staying away from Kolekole on weekends is good. How can anyone who has lived on the BI NOT recommend or even MENTION Tex’s Drive Inn? Definitely NOT a local. Also not local: even thinking about driving a rented SUV INTO Waipio valley. <sigh> Please, please do NOT try to drive your rented SUV, Jeep or anything else down into the valley. Take a tour.

Generally I found the beaches section the most helpful, and they do list almost every beach on the island. This is the section I would encourage those considering visiting Hawaii to read. Pay attention and don’t drive over lava (even in a 4WD) and don’t cross private property to get to a public beach. Use the access points.

The Activities section of the book doesn’t provide anything one is not able to get from the 101 things to do on the Big Island, Hawaii Gold etc you are practically forced to take at the Kona airport. Better advice can be found on this board for sure.

Don’t even read the dining section. Seriously. Read one of many traveler review boards like TA. Ask TT or KamaainaK.

Seriously lacking also was any good advice regarding hotels/condos and the like. Do your own research and homework on that.

Keep in mind this book is outdated quickly and clearly the author does not live on the Island (I hear he lives in Lihue mostly) and their principle goal with this book is to SELL books. Like all other guidebooks, they are publishing the book to make money. I was surprised how many people on my plane disagreed with me about that when they saw me reading this book. Wizard Publications is in business to sell books and make money, not ensure you have the best, safest trip to paradise possible.

Sorry this is so long. I will post on Amazon etc a much shorter version. In one paragraph:

While occasionally helpful, this books’ pervasive sense of entitlement to the natural beauty and wonder of Hawaii overshadows its usefulness. This can be dangerous advice and lead to tensions between visitors and locals. Please kokua and ignore anything in this book suggesting you ignore private property signs or fences. Take all lodging and dining suggestions and opinions with skepticism and do your own independent research. Read through the beaches and adventures for ideas of what would make your vacation wonderful then get independent verification. This book also makes some hikes seem shorter and easier than they really are, and doesn’t tell you how much time you will lose on a “diversion alert.” Lastly – the ranking system is completely subjective. What is a “real gem” and “not to be missed” is entirely dependent upon each individual. Know what you want do see and do, then do it. Don’t let a book tell you what to do. Good luck and happy travels!

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1. Re: Really Long (again) review of "The Big Island Revealed" Book

EL, the only reason why the book is successful is "the author’s attempt at humor, most of which is not funny but makes the book an easier read." Most tour guide books are "dry" and hard to read. I live here for 16 years and I am still learning about this island and I am still discovering new places. You probably noticed neither HD nor I ever recommended this book. I actually got into a heated argument about the private property section with the author on another forum where he was pushing his book. He referred to PASH (which is the native Hawaiians right to cross over certain private properties to practice religious ceremonies and native cultural activities) and it clearly indicated to me that he has no clue about Hawaii and the local customs.

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2. Re: Really Long (again) review of "The Big Island Revealed" Book

Could not have said it better.

I and TT have been trying to confince folks the Blue book is not a Bible in any sence.

I had a local Hawaii tell me once that if you see someone with "that" book the they already tought they knew it all and were pretty much jerks. I hate to judge a book by its cover or by its owner but this judgment is pretty wide spread here.

Its not a way to make fiiends or influence people.............. quite to the contrary................

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pzp
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3. Re: Really Long (again) review of "The Big Island Revealed" Book

As has been said before, the book(s) is/are useful to a point, but one needs to ignore anything advising trespassing. I make a point of chatting up folks I meet on-island who are carrying a blue book, and doing what I can to emphasize that trespassing anywhere in HI is just as obnoxious as it is anywhere else in the US.

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4. Re: Really Long (again) review of "The Big Island Revealed" Book

echolynch,

so glad you took time to write out your critique. This forum is lucky to have someone like you who was raised in Hilo.

I don't know why people think that the concept of private property doesn't apply in Hawaii, but as you point out it can be dangerous to test the limits.

I have an older copy of the book I bought at Costco (at least I didn't pay full price, lol), and I noticed when he directs people to snorkel at the Kapoho tidepools he tells them to come park at the "no parking" sign. That doesn't sound like a solution the residents would appreciate, but I don't know Kapoho and clearly you do.

My question: what if any public access is there to use to reach Kapoho tidepools now that that community is gated? access that respects the property owners. There must be some, right?

One big objection I have to to Big Island Revealed is that he recently revised it and he still lists Ahalenui pond and other warm ponds as a gem, a must see to swim in ... and with no warning about bacteria, whereas the health professionals here warn their patients to stay out of them these days. People should at least know there have been problems and be warned about swimming if they have cuts and such, but no.

I can't really put my finger on what is irritating to me beyond what you say so well about entitlement, which I agree with-- except that he promotes an unreal picture of the island as having all these pristine places to go if you just follow his directions. I think people who are first time on the island would probably do better to explore on paved roads and learn more about the place before taking off over the trails and back roads and driving over lava.

I understand the desire to find less crowded places and pristine spots but it's a small world now and most places that people don't regularly go it seems there's a reason why that is. Sometimes you will not be welcome, simple as that.

Also I agree I would never use the book as a guide to dining, but it never occurred to me to do so as there are better guides for that. The thing BI Revealed does that other books don't is to give more specific directions for getting to places that are not signed by the State and County for the benefit of visitors and/or not accessed on paved roads. Too bad it does it without respecting private property.

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5. Re: Really Long (again) review of "The Big Island Revealed" Book

Excellent review. I have this book and it's quite a jolly read, but I certainly couldn't imagine myself blithely swanning past hotel staff or local people and "smugly telling" them that I'm "exercising my beach rights" as I trample through their property. WTF??

I'd also love to hear your thoughts on how to access Kapoho safely and respectfully. I went there many a year ago, waaaaaaaaaaaay back in 1991; my future inlaws lived in Hilo for almost 10 years during the mid80s-mid90s, and snorkelling at Kapoho was one of the highlights of my trips.

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6. Re: Really Long (again) review of "The Big Island Revealed" Book

A very big part of the problem in rural areas especially (like most of Kauai, lol) is that beach "access" is poorly marked, if at all. People may know that all of the beach areas are open to the public, but who can fault them if they can't figure out how to get there? Land owners also sometimes don't have much more than a few rocks or a broken down fence to delineate their property.

I do agree though that if something is fenced off, and especially if there are signs posted, I don't care if the Queen of England is the author - go the other way!

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7. Re: Really Long (again) review of "The Big Island Revealed" Book

Thanks again, echolynch. Another valuable review. I have to admit that I bought both the Big Island and Kauai books in this series. And, while they've been especially useful in helping me understand the geography and locational aspects of both islands, the tone is obviously a little flip, and even I--someone who's never visited any of the islands (though I do live in a summer-touristed coastal community)--wondered if it wasn't borderline disrespectful when it came to access issues. I now know that my instincts on that were correct.

Would you be willing to recommend other guidebooks that might offer more useful information on the dining and activities side of things? We've pretty much got our lodging pinned down (we're down to 2 or 3 options out of the 10 billion or so out there), so that isn't of such importance to us.

Oh, and one last thanks for the advice on the 4WD. I'd been waffling between a regular (and more economical) car and the hard top 4WD, (the latter of which I was considering based purely on the BIR's recommendation). Now, I know I can save my $ and still enjoy the island.

Cool beans!

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8. Re: Really Long (again) review of "The Big Island Revealed" Book

thank you for your opinion... I wil admit we used the book while on Big Island to steer us in the direction of some of the places to see... but never ever would it cross my mind to decide to trespass private property just because someone told me it was ok to do...

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9. Re: Really Long (again) review of "The Big Island Revealed" Book

Thanks echolynch for the nice review. I have been reading the blue books for Oahu, Maui and BI. I think the biggest thing going for them is readability (even my husband manages to read them:-)) and the well-inserted pictures. Most guide books (lonely planet, frommers, fodors etc) don't have many pictures and the ones that do (like the eye witness series) are heavy on pictures and light on content.

I did find his condo reviews to be inconsitent with the reviews I have found on TA and decided to go with the TA reviews.

My biggest concern with the blue books is their lack of warnings of the dangers involved in various activities. I don't want to drive roads that are forbidden by the rental contract. And neither do I want to underestimate the dangers of snorkeling in lesser known areas.

I would appreciate guide book references from the locals who post here -- an alternative to the blue books. I still plan to use the blue books, but they won't be the only books I use.

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10. Re: Really Long (again) review of "The Big Island Revealed" Book

I also admit to having used BI Revealed book. One big problem with avoiding trespassing, is that the author is not always clear as to whether his directions involve crossing private property.

What do the local experts think about the Moon Publication books? I have used them the most on my trips.