Thirty Years of Revealed Travel: Hawai‘i and Beyond

It’s official. This is my 30th anniversary of writing travel guides to Hawai‘i. I held my original Ultimate Kauai Guidebook in my hands in 1994, 30 years ago this week. That book and the rest of the Revealed series have been flying off the shelves ever since. These guides came from humble beginnings, and it’s been quite a ride having reached this point, three decades later. I’d like to share a little more about those beginnings and where the the path will take us in the future.

How it Began

More than three decades ago, I bought a one-way ticket to the island of Kaua‘i after another venture failed spectacularly. (That’s a really good story… for another time.) I was devastated, broke, and working in the construction industry as an unskilled laborer just to survive. I was thinking that I had peaked at a young age and it was all downhill from there. But at least I was living in Hawai‘i. I spent my free time exploring the island, but I got frustrated when weekend after weekend I couldn’t find a particular beach I’d heard about that I wanted to visit. I looked at a couple of guidebooks, but they all referred to a road that hadn’t existed in a long time. And I dreamed that maybe I could find a way to do it better.

Within days of entertaining that dream, however, I had to return to the mainland due to the declining health of my mother, who passed away shortly thereafter. It was while I was away that a plan emerged—I would return to Hawai‘i and start writing guidebooks. There were just a few problems with this plan: I had no writing skills, I didn’t know how a book was published, I wasn’t good at photography, I didn’t know how to use a computer, and I had no money.

The Best Laid Plans…

I spent the next year on the mainland and applied for every credit card I could. At the same time I tried to acquire the skills I would need to make my dream and return to Hawai‘i come true. Just when I was ready to return to the islands in 1992, I watched in horror as the category 4 hurricane, Iniki, smashed into Kaua‘i. The hurricane caused widespread devastation and life there was upended for years. I couldn’t pick another island because Kaua‘i was the one I knew, the island I had fallen in love with. Knowing that hurricanes clear out old growth, giving sunlight (and a chance) to encourage younger foliage, I figured that the same might be true in business. So with a huge stack of credit cards and two suitcases, I moved back to a ravaged island and got to work.

Living the Dream

Even with my familiarity with the island, I had my work cut out for me. Housing and my vehicle situation were eventually secured, albeit with their own quirks. (My first island cruiser didn’t have the ability to reverse. I haven’t looked at parking the same way since.) Finding waterfalls was one of my early goals, and identifying the places where they’re most likely to be is a good place to start. I completely covered one of the walls of my 290-square-foot rented room with highly detailed topographic maps of the island. This way I could study the maps while drinking my morning coffee (gotta have coffee) and explore the area. This was before Google Earth, after all.

Over the next year, I spent my mornings exploring the island and checking out various visitor activities like helicopter rides and snorkel tours (which I did anonymously and paid for with my credit cards—at 22% interest). I’d review a restaurant at lunch, and then I’d spend my afternoons doing a hike or swimming a beach in multiple conditions to assess its safety. Each night I’d return to my room to have a simple dinner of canned chicken and rice (because it was so cheap), then worked into the evening making my own maps of the island. Before going to bed each night, I would read every book about Hawaiian history I could get my hands on. I immersed myself in all things Hawai‘i.

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

The first edition of “the blue book” came out in March 1994. I paid to print the first 10,000 books (with cash advances from that stack of credit cards) and mailed free copies to newspapers for review. The first order was for only one case, but a year later a nationwide bookstore chain agreed to stock the book. It took off from there. Next came the Big Island of Hawai‘i, then Maui and O‘ahu. I packed up my equipment and lived for two years on each island researching, mapping, writing and photographing.

Today the Revealed Series is no longer a one-man show. I have an awesome team that has expanded over the years, all with a passion for travel, research and discovery. Ultimately the books and the apps are an expression of what I think about Hawai‘i and comes from the experience of actually doing all the things you’ll read about. And our ability to keep current and find new things is greatly helped by feedback from our incredibly enthusiastic readers. Please keep it coming.

There’s Still More to See

Even though Hawai‘i is where it all started, I’ve expanded my horizons and have been exploring new places. I wrote a guide for Las Vegas. I started narrating driving tours (so you can hear my narrations while you drive around) and have begun putting together guides to some of my favorite National Parks. The sights, activities, food and adventures across this great nation are seemingly infinite. It’s been a blast sharing what I’ve discovered, and I can’t wait to show you more.

I recognize how lucky am I to help you all make some extraordinary memories in some of the most beloved places on this planet. On this 30th anniversary of Revealed Travel, I want to thank you for supporting these guides over the years. For exploring the islands. For having a desire for adventure, to get out of your comfort zone and experience something spectacular. For wanting to see something beautiful. And for allowing us to help you find these extraordinary places. Here’s to the past 30 years of travel writing, and here’s to another 30 years of us writing guides for you. Mahalo nui loa—thank you very much.



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