This article is a part of series of articles about my 2017 trip to Hawaii. Please see the table of contents that contains links to other chapters.
To take a break from our self-guided adventures we decided to hire someone to give us a personal chartered tour of the West part of Oahu island where there is less development and more natural scenery. We chose Zekoo Tours whose tour guide is Haruko Sagara (相楽晴子) and her husband Geary Haynes, who drove the SUV we rode in. Haruko was actually a celebrity in Japan over twenty years ago when she starred in a several dramas and movies, debuting in the cult drama “Sukeban Deka II” in 1985, and even had her own Photo Album. You can see the full list of her works here.
In 2008 she began work as a production coordinator (撮影コーディネーター), and later started Zekoo tours. You can see their website here. In case you are curious, I am pretty sure their company name comes from the word ”絶好” (zekkou) which means “perfect”, and is often seen in the word 絶好調 (“zekkouchou”) that which means things are going great.
Geary himself has an interesting background, having worked on commercials, photo books, and other similar jobs, and also done his share of surfing. If you are lucky, maybe he’ll tell you his stories about how he nearly didn’t come back from the sea (twice!).
The guides took us around to several natural places on the “west side”, including a very memorable Yokohama Beach (according to Geary the origin of its name is unclear) which boasts a spectacular view of mostly untouched nature–as long as you pretend not to see the array of giant fishing poles stuck in the sand along the coast. I was especially awed by the dazzling contrast of the bright green plant life inhabiting the mountainside on one side and the nearly infinite shades of blue in the sea on the other side. Except for a few fishermen and people who I assumed were locals, there were very few people around which made the beach feel even more pristine and pure.
The untamed plains in that area call to mind the famous dinosaur movie Jurassic Park; in fact, the tour guides told me that they are actually shooting another sequel to it somewhere nearby, and some of the scenes from the other movies were also shot in Hawaii.
They took us to another beach where we gathered various types of shells, some of which were very different than what I’d seen on South Florida beaches as a child. We asked about rumors of seeing dolphins on the Oahu coast, but they said we weren’t likely to see them during the day. Dolphins apparently do come to sleep in a nearby cove when night falls, however. (Alas, I wouldn’t be able to see Nameless on this trip, after all.)
After that we stopped by a simple, but tasty cafeteria and dined with locals. I had the shoyu (soy sauce) chicken special which was excellent and reasonably priced. We also stopped by a few other places including a stylish shopping center near some old train tracks where I had a refreshing ice latte.
Both guides were extremely knowledgeable, kind, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say they treated us like us good friends. While they have prepared several different suggested tour itineraries, they will also adjust things to fit your needs as much as possible. Haruko broke into “tour-guide” mode to explain the history of certain places a few times, but more often than not she was just talking informally about whatever came to mind. I also felt very safe with them, especially with Geary paying special attention to make sure our son didn’t go too deep into the water, or to double check that we gave him proper suntan lotion.
Both Geary and Haruko are fluent in English and Japanese, but my family and I tried to keep to Japanese. While Haruko used Japanese most of the time, Geary kept switching between Japanese and English mid-sentence, which to be honest is a major pet-peeve of mine. At some point, I hinted at this and he seemed to shift to more Japanese in the latter part of the tour.
I think had we been Japanese people who knew little English, Geary would have probably stayed in Japanese the whole time, being quiet if there happened to be something he didn’t know how to say in Japanese. But since he knew we were all fluent in both languages, he only did what is natural in order to communicate effectively. He was aware of this tendency himself to mix languages, calling it a chanpon style of speech (soup with mixed vegetables and other things). They talked about how one of the major aspects of Hawaii is its mix of many cultures, and in a sense his speech accurately reflected this. He even said local people will mix in certain Japanese words in daily life when speaking English. So while Geary did put in an effort to accommodate us, I also gradually learned to accept his way of speech. After all, the purpose of hiring them wasn’t supposed to be for a Japanese lesson, but rather a tour of Oahu.
The cost of the tour was a little expensive, around $400 for 5-6 hours, but if you can afford it I think it’s well worth the money.