It was the Pog juice that turned my son an avid island-hopper.
Pog juice, for the uninitiated, is the Passionfruit-Orange-Guava juice that’s served by Hawaiian Airlines on every inter-island flight, regardless of the duration. You can always count on Pog-juice when you’re flying in Hawaii.
On the last of our five recent island-hopping flights, from Kauai to Oahu, Aren managed to convince his younger brother surrender his cup and persuaded the flight attendant to give him an extra. He finished them all before we landed.
In Hawaii, inter-island flights are the equivalent of mass transit. The tickets are generally affordable, and everything is functional and fairly comfortable. You won’t find any lie-flat seats on these planes, but since most of these flights are between half an hour and 45 minutes, all you really have time for is to take a seat and enjoy a cup of Pog.
Flying between islands is also a great way to see a more authentic Hawaii. From the minute you arrive at the open-air terminals and walk through the TSA line for locals, which is considerably more relaxed than the more uptight line for mainland flights, everything feels different.
The flight attendants seem a little friendlier, the passengers more accommodating. The in-flight announcements in Hawaiian — seriously, they’re in Hawaiian — made the kids wonder for a moment if they were visiting another country.
Inter-island flights are rarely experienced by mainland visitors, because they usually travel directly to their island. Unless your final destination is one of the smaller and less-visited islands, like Kauai or Lanai, you won’t have to take a puddlejumper.
In addition to the tasty Pog juice, regional flights offer some of the best opportunities to see the islands from above. It’s not quite as intimate as those ever-present helicopter tours, but you get to see a lot more than when you’re flying in from LAX.
On our first flight from Oahu to Hilo, we saw a spectacular view of the southern coast of the Big Island, with its black volcanic rock, and off in the distance, the active Kilauea volcano blowing off steam.
Flying from Hilo to Maui, we came within eye level of the observatory at Mauna Kea hidden above a thick layer of clouds. We saw the winding road to Hana from above as we descended into Kahului’s airport.
From Maui to Kauai, we passed directly over Oahu and saw its intriguing North Shore, where we had stayed only a few weeks before. As we came in for a landing in Kauai, we caught an amazing view of the island’s incredible topography, including its highest mountain, Mount Waiʻaleʻale.
It would be tempting to connect a few obvious dots and call the Pog juice a metaphor — for the islands, for inter-island flights and indeed, for the Hawaiian experience. Nah, too obvious.
But as my son will tell you, it’s worth flying to Hawaii just for the Pog juice. I agree with him. It’s good stuff. And I can’t think of a better reason.