Art Medeiros is a fourth-generation inhabitant of Hawaii, yet it
took him many years to appreciate the native plants and animals of
“I grew up with a family that didn’t have knowledge of the
environment. They were ranchers,” he said.
Medeiros has been a research biologist for the U.S. Geological
Survey for the past 20 years. He received his Ph.D. in botany from
the University of Hawaii.
“I used to think things like guava were from here,” he remarked.
(They are actually from Central America.) “It was a discovery
process to learn the native plants and animals. It took traveling
throughout the Pacific to learn that Hawaii is without
Hawaii’s isolated location as the farthest outpost of Polynesian
navigation and its volcanic geology, which gives rise to some of
the tallest mountains in the Pacific, makes it unique.
“There is only one Hawaii. There is so much other appeal beside
the beaches. People in Hawaii and visitors can be slow to realize
it,” he said.
Medeiros encourages people, especially Hawaiians and also
visitors, to learn a little about the native plants and
One of his favorite places on Kauai is Kokee State Park. Its
trails traverse rainforest to dry-land forests, and the park has
several cabins that can be reserved for overnight stays. For
birders it is also one of the best spots to find unique
“Kauai is an ancient island, one of the oldest in the chain. It
has a number of endemic species,” Medeiros said, noting that the
Hawaiian names for birds are generally onomatopoeic, thus most of
the birds are identified by their calls.
Another one of his favorite sights is the state’s number-one
tourist attraction, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big
“Most people think of it as Disneyland,” he said, adding that it
is truly amazing to be so close to one of the world’s few active
volcanoes. “You are at the hot spot that created the Hawaiian
islands 7 million years ago.”
Medeiros said the park rangers are top-notch and will tell
visitors what they can and cannot do, as well as provide hourly
“In relative safety, you see rocks that are orange-colored
liquid, pouring into the ocean. It’s unforgettable,” he said.
Clients can marvel at the Kilauea crater, hike on fresh black
lava, walk through the Thurston lava tube or simply drive through
the rainforest and hear the birds.
On Maui, Medeiros recommends Haleakala National Park.
“It is a full-on physical experience and it can even be
spiritual to go into the crater,” he said. “You don’t see a city.
You barely see people. You feel like you are really alone on earth.
It is such splendid isolation in such a small place. It feels like
the land that time forgot.”
To hike with the silversword plants if the silversword is
flowering in the summer is especially majestic.
Medeiros also recommended spending a day, or even half a day, at
Ahihi-Kinau Natural Preserve at the end of Makena Alanui Road in
South Maui. Clients can hike on Maui’s newest lava field and then
snorkel some reefs where they will see a lot of fish, he said.
As a child, Medeiros’ visits to the Bishop Museum on Oahu
inspired his own searches for artifacts. He was fascinated with the
museum’s giant whale and brilliant red-and-yellow feather cloaks,
helmets and staffs.
“It took 80,000 birds, which are now extinct, to make King
Kamehameha’s cloak,” he said. “The museum teaches you about culture
Not every place is as rich as Hawaii, Medeiros stated, and
learning about the natural history and indigenous culture can add a
whole different dimension to anyone’s experience of the
Kokee Lodge, Kauai
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park,
Haleakala National Park, Maui
Bishop Museum, Oahu