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The Washington Post (29 January 1984)

Travel: The Hidden Hawaii

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When actor James MacArthur speaks of Hawaii with warmth and affection, the words reflect his authoritative background. Ever since he arrived in Honolulu 15 years ago to begin a starring role in the long-running TV show Hawaii 5-0, MacArthur has been in love with the islands.

Besides performing in the familiar series, MacArthur also headed a Hawaiian travel firm that arranged vacations for visitors -- and at one time he toured the mainland with a troupe of singers and dancers who put on a show about Hawaii for the visitors bureau.

“Beating the drums for Hawaii is not hard to do ... the place just grows on you,” he says. MacArthur left Hawaii 5-0 after 11 years, a year before the show went off the air, but he still spends two months or so there each year.

His Honolulu home is a high-rise apartment at Diamond Head “where the ocean view is spectacular. The park is between us and the big tourist section downtown.” He finds the Hawaiian air incredible, with “a fragrance ‘more better’ (to use a little Hawaiian pidgeon) than any other ... And I have neither heat nor air conditioning because this is the best climate in the world.”

One of MacArthur’s occasional favorite things is to “get up at 6:30, get on a plane with friends and my golf clubs and fly to one of the outer islands. We jump in a rented car and drive to one of the great golf courses, later have lunch, then get back on the plane and come home.” Or, as a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club in Honolulu, he may board a charter boat to Molokai to view the annual Molokai to Oahu canoe race. “We spend the night in the harbor at Molokai and then follow the 37-mile race back.”

Sometimes he drives to an old airport at Kaena Point in Mokuleia on the north shore of Oahu and takes a ride in a glider. He remembers Fern Grotto, on the island of Kauai, as “probably the nicest place in the world to get married.” Once he was a groom himself there.

MacArthur believes that “if you really want to get to know a place, the best way is to work there, share long hours with the local people. Hawaii, with roughly 1 million people, has many different ethnic groups. Of course, there is a tremendous mixture within all these groups. And all of these diverse cultures have contributed to shaping life as it is in the islands today ... and the best of it is reflected in what we know as the ‘aloha spirit.’”

But paradise is not without its detractors, the actor notes. “Recently it’s sort of been the ‘in’ thing for certain jet setters to put down Hawaii. They look down their noses and complain that “it’s not what it used to be.” The soft, well-modulated voice rises slightly and takes on an edge, “I say you can find as much quiet as you want in Hawaii, you can get away from people ... You can find anything you want here.”

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