Paul Theroux’s Hawaii

The latest book from the travel writer’s travel writer is The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari, which was published in 2013

Image: Susan Seubert

I live half the year in Hawaii, on the north shore of Oahu, the other half in Cape Cod. Saturday in Hawaii usually begins with a breakfast of pineapple and matcha, a Japanese green tea, or eight-grain porridge with blueberries. I have chickens, ducks and geese, so every day I feed them, check they have water and collect their eggs.

Next is paperwork and writing letters to people who live beyond cyberspace in remote places: the African bush, India or South America. I’ll do these in my studio – a building about 100m down the hill from where I live with my wife, Sheila. It has a desk made for me in Singapore in 1969 and from the window I can see the bamboo I have planted – Indonesian black, blue, Balinese and weeping Mexican. I can also glimpse the Pacific.

I have to get to the post office before it closes at noon, then I’ll come back and have lunch with Sheila. I like cooking, so, with the six or eight eggs I collected in the morning, I’ll maybe make an omelette with salad. Now and then we go out to eat in nearby Haleiwa – in Hawaiian this means “the house of the frigatebird” – probably at Kua ’Aina, which is famous for its burgers; one of its secret ingredients is vermouth. It also does fish sandwiches and, as I don’t eat hamburgers, I’ll have one of those.  

Sheila is a keen gardener and, after lunch, we’ll often go to a nursery and buy plants. Two very good ones are Koba’s Nursery in Waimanalo and Mari’s Gardens in Mililani. We’ll then head to Waimea Bay or Haleiwa Beach, where I’ll paddle my kayak for a couple of hours. At times, there’s a big swell, so I try to get out past the waves, as they are too dangerous. I’ll then set up my chair and read a book before heading home.

Saturdays are date night. We’ll have an early dinner and head to a movie. We go to a couple of places: the Mililani, which is nearest and has mainstream films, and the Kahala Theatre in Honolulu, which shows art movies. But as Honolulu is 45 miles away, that takes motivation. We might go to a sushi bar first; Sushi Sasabune in Honolulu is super – one for the cognoscenti. It has a ritual whereby you say you’ll have what they are making and they give it to you in sequence, insisting you eat it in a certain way.


If we don’t see a film, we might go to any number of restaurants. Locally, it would be Café Haleiwa, where we’d have some freshly caught fish – mahi-mahi or ahi tuna [yellowfin]. Honolulu is full of great restaurants. I like the Side Street Inn, which is more like a diner and has specialities such as popcorn shrimp. It’s so friendly and relaxed; you can wear shorts, flip-flops and a short-sleeved shirt.

Then we head home. We don’t stay up late or go to parties. I suppose you could say that’s a fogey way of living, but it’s very important to me that I get enough sleep so that I can work well.

Every Sunday, I go for a cycle ride with friends. We ride from sea-level near the beach to Peacock Flats on Waianae Ridge, on a very steep service road with hairpin bends. It takes an hour and a half. We start in sunshine but, by the time we get there, it’s so high that it’s misty and cool. I’m the slowest and complain all the way. The road is so steep, it only takes 10 or 15 minutes to descend. You can go at about 35mph, although I don’t, because of the wild pigs running around. My bike is a super titanium Merlin, which I’ve had for 15 years.

I come back and have a bath. On Sunday nights, we usually watch TV or a DVD. There was a glorious period when we would eat spaghetti or meatballs and watch The Sopranos. I have a low tolerance for television and I’ll usually finish the crossword while watching because I get agitated – except when my kids, Marcel or Louis, are on. I don’t do the crossword when I’m watching their shows.


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