george Applegate is a soft-spoken man whose message rings loud
and clear. When it comes to discovering Hawaii’s natural side, it’s
hard to beat roughing it under the stars especially on Hawaii’s Big
Island. And he should know. The executive director of the Hawaii
Visitors & Convention Bureau’s Big Island Chapter was born and
raised on the island he has so eloquently promoted since hopping
into the hospitality industry as a bellman in 1968.
Anyone fortunate enough to meet Applegate immediately senses his
genuine spirit of aloha and love for the Hawaiian Islands. Joining
the Bureau as director of sales and marketing in 1989, Applegate
has served as its executive director since 2000. In his tenure,
he’s traveled throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Yet,
Applegate has been happiest spending time in his own backyard
“Growing up, my family had sugarcane land we worked every other
summer with the plantation workers,” said Applegate. “It was tough
work, so we didn’t get to go camping or fishing much. I really
started going more when my son Paul was born.”
In the beginning, Applegate’s outings were limited.
“It was really about being outside,” he said. “So we’d camp out on
the roof and look at the stars or pitch a tent in the backyard if
it was raining. We learned a lot about nature and about our Big
Even on the road, treks remained very basic.
“For us, camping was as simple as fishing and sleeping out under
the stars. We’d always tie fishing in with camping,” he said.
Outings were often shared with other fathers and sons.
“In those days, we’d camp along the Kohala Coast or dive off the
Hilo break wall. You can’t go just anywhere like you used to,” he
But he adds that there are still many wonderful parks to
experience across the Islands.
This casual approach to camping became a tradition Applegate’s son
now shares with his children.
“Paul’s a policeman on Kauai now,” he said. “What Paul learned
back then, he’s now passing on to his kids like I did with
These days, Applegate enjoys loading up his four-wheel-drive and
heading to places like Mauna Kea for stargazing or to the beach to
enjoy the sounds of the surf and breezes flowing through the
“No cell phones. It just takes me back to a time when things were
more simple. I find a sense of peace and find myself feeling really
grateful,” he said.
Naturally, Applegate’s preference is camping with Paul and his
family on Kauai.
“I love beautiful Kauai,” he said. “It’s still very local and
people stick together. My son lives in Waimea, so we go around
In the late 1960s, Applegate was a tour guide with Berry World
“I spent a lot of time on Maui because we brought charter
flights,” he said. “Back then, Kaanapali only had the Kaanapali
Beach Hotel, Sheraton and Royal Lahaina. So it was pretty empty
with lots of sand and not much else. We’d night dive and camp right
Most recently, Applegate set up camp at the Big Island’s South
Point with a group of 100 fathers and sons.
“It was such good clean fun,” he said. “We fished all night and
slept all day. Some of us threw net. It was a very special time
where we were really in touch with nature.”
Hawaii State Parks with campsites and shore fishing:
MacKenzie State Recreation Area
13.1 isolated acres, with old Hawaiian coastal trails and cultural
Polihale State Park
138 acres of wild coastline with large sand beach backed by dunes.
Scenic views of Na Pali Coast.
Waianapanapa State Park
122.1-acre park in forested volcanic coastal setting, with
black-sand beach and ancient coastal trail to Hana. Cabins also
Friends of Malaekahana (State Park)
37-acre gated campground on one of Oahu’s most beautiful