A Whole New World


A whole new world.

I’m standing in line waiting for a towel, of all things.

At our vacation spot, I’m holding my towel card at the Activity Desk, but four other people are ahead of me, and they all seem to be ready to rent chairs, kayaks, and surf boards. I may have a long wait ahead of me.

But one of the clerks behind the desk motions toward me in excitement. Since I’m four people behind the desk, I’m not sure what he’s pointing out. I smile, raise my finger to my new straw hat, and mouth “Thanks.”

He shakes his head no and points lower. Then he moves his head from side to side while holding his hands over his ears. Whaaa?

Oh! I bring my fingers to my ears and remember that I put on my turtle earrings this morning. They’re bright and green and cheery. “Thanks!” I repeat.earrings, turtles, Honu

The clerk ignores everyone else in line, leaves his spot behind the desk, and races up to me. “You just need a towel?” he asks, conspiratorially.

“Yes,” I whisper back.

As if he’s waiting for the secret word first, he probes, “What’s the Hawaiian word for turtle?”

I really want that towel, but darn if I can remember. Then I look behind me at the bar sign and exclaim, “Honu!”

The young man smiles at me as if I’m the smartest student he’s ever had. As he hands me a towel, he asks another question. I wonder what the reward is if I get this one right.

Sea Turtle Diving, Kauai

Creative Commons Zero-CC0

“What would the world be like if it was filled with only Hawaiian turtles?” he asks, winking.

I move from one foot to the other. Come on, Pam, you can do this. Suddenly I shout out:

“A HONU world!!”

My inquisitor pats me on the shoulder as if I myself have just saved an endangered Hawaiian turtle.

And then he hands me a second towel.

I beam as if I’ve just won first place.

Kauai, Honu, Turtle Sanctuary

Hawaii’s green sea turtles, Honu (pronounced hoe-new), are named for the color of their body fat, which is green from the algae that they eat.


I hiked the cliffs with a few grand people to find the Hanaka’ape Bay Turtle Sanctuary and meet some of these amazing reptiles.


101 thoughts on “A Whole New World

  1. Well done, Pam!! 😀 You are a great student! How lovely to connect through your earrings … so sweet and thank you for sharing the wonderful photos of you and the beach and the turtle! Magic and I imagined the warmth on this bitter artic cold morning. Hugs xxxx

    • I’m soaking in the sun and the turtle love before I go back to snow and sleet and rain, Annika! Interestingly, the turtles really responded to my voice and brought their heads out of their shells to turn and look at me. Coolest thing. 🐢💚

  2. There is just something about turtles that makes me smile, regardless of their size. I remember well my encounter with the giant turtles while snorkelling in Hawaii. It was a very special experience.
    Great story!

  3. Hi Pamela,

    great post. We need to learn every day something new, and now you know a few words in Hawaiian , and me too 🙂 Pictures are great and those turtles are big …really big

    • Turns out turtles can live until 80…or more. Those that I saw were between 20-40 years old. They were quite friendly, and when I talked softly to the one (in my photo), he stretched his neck out more as if he didn’t want to miss a word. So wonderful, communicating with creatures big and small.

  4. Wonderful, haven’t heard that one before. I’ll share it “for the good of the Chapter”today! Love Jeanette

    Sent from my iPad


    • I tend to be introverted and not begin conversations with strangers, Gerlinde, so I’m always appreciative when someone opens up a conversation with me, and my shyness kind of melts away.
      Particularly if he offers me a towel – and a Honu World. 🙂

    • I love your perspective, Balroop. Yes, just getting a towel to cover a sandy beach (and a wet bathing suit) can bring me joy. Of course, what delighted me most was the fun conversation with the towel man. 🙂

    • That’s one of the reasons I wanted to write about this sanctuary. We all need to take care of all the beings on our planet. And weirdly, I felt like the turtles appreciated this safe space. ❤

  5. Thank you Pam for this wonderful story. It is so funny how you lit up the day with your new ear rings and then was clever answering two questions right.
    An event that will live with you.
    The pictures are wonderful and you look so healthy and pretty.

    • Isn’t it true that sunshine and relaxation help bring out the happy spirit within us, which then shines through our being? I think so. Great joy to share this time with family, and the turtles…Well, they seemed to shine their spirit also. ❤

    • We were able to see the Honu in action, floating in and out of the ocean waves in what we called “Turtle Coves.” They swim/float so joyfully and with so little effort. There’s a lesson in there… xoxo

  6. All turtles are tortoises, but not all tortoises are turtles…It is a land and sea thing. Not all tortoises can go in the sea, but some turtles can! I love Kauai…a magical island full of treasures…

    • My grandson is still at the age of being amazed and enthusiastic about life. How he shouted and yelled happily at every turtle and whale he saw. We can all learn from that kind of enthusiasm!! 🐢 🐳

  7. What a cute story! I love your beautiful blue-green earrings.

    Last June when we visited The Great Swamp in New Jersey, we came upon a large turtle getting ready to lay her eggs. It’s big, slow process. We watched for a long, long time as she slowly dug a hole with her back feet. Sadly, we didn’t have as much patience as she had and left before she was finished. We came back later, and she was still covering the eggs. She was worn out by then.

  8. Very clever, Pam. If only saving the turtles was as easy. How exciting to visit the turtles in their (…). I want to say rookery, but I don’t think that’s right. I googled “What do you call a turtle’s home?” and got the answer “shell”. 🙂 I guess turtles are solitary animals and don’t usually live together. I thought it was called a rookery where they all (females) come ashore to lay though, but I could be wrong.

  9. Yep, I agree, you win first place – in the line, and in storytelling.

    How lucky you are broadcasting your story from Hawaii, a great place to warm up those Boston bones. And with grandkids too, it would apppear! 🙂

  10. What a girl has to do to get a towel these days!!! I love turtles. We saw them nesting at night in Nicaragua with flashlights painted red so as not to disturb them and it was quite a magical sight to see them digging holes to lay their eggs in the soft sand.


  11. I’m going to shout now: THOSE EARRINGS ARE ADORABLE!! Where did you find them? Turtles are one of my favorites. I have a bracelet made from the handles of silver spoons and a turtle charm between them. When Hubs and I honeymooned in Mexico, we went on a snorkeling exhibition along Turtle Cove or Turtle Way or something like that, where we got to hang with the turtles. I loved it.

    What a fun interaction with Towel Man!!

    • My mom found those earrings for me over a decade ago. I always bought fish earrings for her, and she used to buy fun turtle or whale or bird earrings for me. I have quite a fun collection, and it always makes me feel good remembering when she gave them to me! 🙏🐢
      I love your bracelet!

  12. Customer service with genuine interest in you, the customer, and with a smile. If given the choice I’ll always make a beeline for the place I know I’m welcome. Nice story Pam.

  13. Tee-hee! What a fun post, Pam. It’s just the thing to get my morning going. Such a delight. I felt like I was there with you.
    It’s what I still think of as the only *real* vacation I ever had — in the mid 80s I went to Hawaii, alone, the first time I had even been on a plane. I was about 25 I think, maybe younger. A wonderful place and people. Have a wonderful time. Hugs.

  14. Love your new earrings Pam. That’s a great story and I remember the turtles of Hawaii. A most beautiful place. It must be especially nice being with your grandkids there. Enjoy the rest of your visit and thanks for sharing a bit of your vacation with us.

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