By Alejandra Fernandez-Rubio, Army Spouse
Ah, Hawaii – land of perpetual sunshine and rainbows! Some people save throughout their entire lifetime to be able to spend a week in the islands. As military families, some of us have the opportunity to live here for years at a time and get paid for doing so!
Fall in Love with Hawaii
Being stationed in Hawaii is an opportunity like none other! It’s an OCONUS (outside continental United States) duty station, but unlike most other OCONUS duty stations, you’re still part of the United States, which means no need for passports, conversion rates, or having to learn a new language.
Due to the cost of living and distance from family, it took me a while to warm up to life in Hawaii. Early on, island fever (getting sick of living on an island) seemed to be a real thing. The lack of craft stores and chain restaurants, like Olive Garden and Sonic, made me long for the mainland.
Once I learned to appreciate the beauty around me, Hawaii quickly became a favorite duty station. From the ability to travel and taste new foods, to the nearly perfect weather and rich history of Oahu, this duty station will forever hold a huge piece of my heart.
Alright, this is the obvious one. With crystal clear turquoise waters, white powdery beaches, and bright blue skies, Hawaii may be unlike anything you’ve ever seen! The cotton candy sunsets and lush mountain scenery make it easy to fall in love with the land.
After three and a half years on Oahu, I’m still constantly wowed and blown away by the beauty of this island. Even simple drives to a local park or convenience store have opened my eyes to beauty that I had never noticed before.
It’s easy to miss the comfort dishes from home, but being the melting pot that it is, Hawaii offers the opportunity to discover new tastes from around the world! Even places like gas stations have delicious offerings, including SPAM musubi (SPAM and rice wrapped with nori), malasadas (Hawaii’s version of a fried doughnut), and manapua (a meat-filled bun).
Ever heard of poke? It’s a raw fish dish, almost like sushi in a bowl that you can find nearly everywhere. And speaking of sushi, it’s some of the freshest you’ll ever find, as fish is caught and brought in daily. Fishing charters even make it possible to catch your own deep-sea ahi for fresh fish at home!
At a luau, you can find tender kalua pork, pulled straight from the in-ground cooking pit and poi, made from taro root pulled from the ground!
Even as a semi-picky eater, I’ve always been able to find something to enjoy when out and about. So many events (even just a beach day) can revolve around delicious, home cooked, hearty meals!
Hop, Skip and a Jump
Living in the middle of the Pacific has some major advantages when it comes to traveling. Visits to locations such as Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Japan are a mere skip and a hop away.
One of the biggest perks of traveling from Oahu is the availability of Space A flights. These free flights (available only to military) from Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, fly to bases all over the world. Vacationing sure does feel nice when you take the outrageous cost of flying out of it!
Island hopping is a fantastic option for travel in Hawaii as well, and 4-day weekends are the perfect opportunity for it! Each of the Hawaiian Islands has its own unique terrain and claim to fame! I’d have to say my favorite island is the Big Island and taking a helicopter tour over a live volcano is near the top of my all-time best experiences list!
As it is, friendships within the military community seem to progress faster than they would in civilian life. Living in Hawaii is the chance to make close friendships – perhaps even closer than the friendships made at CONUS duty stations. Being that we spend so much time secluded away from actual family, the friendships made in Hawaii being to feel like family.
Since it can be expensive to fly home, holidays are often spent with comrades and close friends. I’ve even found myself asking, “What are we doing this weekend?” to that one family that we seem to spend all of our free time with.
I can’t forget the locals that we interact with on a regular basis either! Gymnastics coaches and preschool teachers have truly become uncles and aunties. Before PCSing to Hawaii, I was worried about not being accepted. Now, I know that the rumors couldn’t be further from the truth! There is so much love and aloha, which is what I think really makes Hawaii feel like home.
With an average 271 days of sunshine, a year and temperatures that typically hover between 70 and 80 degrees year-round the weather on Oahu feels like paradise!
Life can literally be sunshine and rainbows since it will almost always be sunny, or there will be a rainbow to accompany the rain. Plus, if it happens to be raining on your part of the island, just take a short drive to the other side, where you can usually find some sunshine!
Even though I wouldn’t consider myself an outdoorsy person, spending time outside picnicking or even standup paddle boarding are enjoyable with the mild weather. I’m sure PT can’t be too terrible when it consists of surfing or playing football on the beach!
History and Culture
On top of it all, Hawaii has a rich and beautiful history. Oahu is home to the Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on U.S. soil. There are many historical sites all over the islands the date back to when Hawaii was ruled as a kingdom.
Being able to learn and have my children learn to hula dance is an experience that we get only in Hawaii. Living here has afforded our family the opportunity to learn so much about a culture different from our own.
The Pearl Harbor bombing in 1941, propelled the U.S. into World War II. Visitors to Ford Island have the opportunity to see memorials commemorating the bombing, including the USS Arizona Memorial.
Around each of the bases, you can find housing and other buildings dating back to the WWII era. Many of the houses include the story and information behind the service members that lived there when the Pearl Harbor bombing happened. Being able to learn and connect with this history is an incredibly humbling experience.
Just like any other duty station, Hawaii is what you make of it! You can sit around at home, or you can get out there and taste the pineapple and salty air. For me, I’m forever grateful that I did the latter.