Breathtaking sandy beaches. Tropical climate. Unique wildlife. World class golf courses. It is difficult to describe the islands without resorting to clichés, Hawaii is truly a paradise. Unfortunately, all paradise have their snakes.

«Aloha”, shouts Mick (56) and welcomes the newly arrived tourists at Honolulu airport. He is impeccably dressed in a flowered Hawaiian shirt, runs the express bus to Waikiki and came himself to Hawaii eight months ago.

– Do you know that Hawaii is one of the most visited tourist place, he says as he helps the tourists on the bus.

Most travel magazines describes the islands as a paradise. High celebrity factor and annual visits by President Obama do not make the islands less attractive .

Hawaii attracts every year eight million sun-thirsty tourists, who in 2012 spent 14 billion dollars. To handle this tourist wave Hawaii has, with its 1.4 million inhabitants, made ​​large investments and transformed the island into the perfect assembly line of world class tourist experiences.

Unfortunately, the transformation has also contributed to that Hawaii now tops several less flattering rankings.

The ex-warrior
On Kalakaua Avenue, one of main streets of Waikiki, Sheraton, Hyatt, Vivan Westwood and Louis Vuitton lay like beads on a string. Palm trees cast cool shades over newlywed Japanese, surfers and shorts-clad seniors who walk between skyscrapers on the way to the Waikiki beach or one of the gourmet restaurants along the strip.

Chinatown is an eclectic mix of cultures and an important gateway for most immigrants

Chinatown is an eclectic mix of cultures and an important gateway for most immigrants

A few blocks away is Chinatown, which with its 15 blocks in downtown Honolulu, could be from any city in the United States.

– Everything was better before. People were kind to each other and we didn’t lock the doors, reminisces Kaiko (53), a native of Hawaii, while sitting barefoot on a bench in Chinatown.

He is a large, heavily built guy with a scarred face. The gray-white hair contrasts the dark complexion. He has no permanent job, so he spends much time on his favorite bench in Chinatown, where he enjoys the fresh breeze.

– We are called the Aloha state, but now it’s just words. In the 80s the commercialization began and everything has gotten worse, says the 53-year-old.

During the conversation his gentle face changes, eyebrows tightens, his eyes and voice become clear.

– Money talks and the whites took the land from us, he says, before he takes a break and gets back the calm face.

His ancestors were warriors and warrior blood runs still in his veins, although it rarely now breaches the surface.

Minority in their own kingdom
From dominating the islands a few generations ago, Kaiko and other native now constitute only ten percent of the population in Hawaii, according to U.S. Census Bureau. The percentage drops every year, much due to immigration from other states.

A pool the natives however top is among the most disadvantaged in society. According to the Institute for Children and Poverty, the natives from Hawaiian and other Pacific islands account for 59 percent of homeless who sought shelter in Hawaii. In addition to the loss of homes, they are also powerless spectators to their identity and heritage being eroded.

A survey in 2010 conducted by the Hawaiian Tourism Authority among 1650 residents showed that most were overwhelmingly positive to tourism. The exception was among natives, who had long complained about how the industry abused their culture for commercial purposes. Nearly 60 percent of the 401 native said tourism has not helped to preserve their language and culture. It is frequently used in the marketing of Hawaii, but today everything from the tourist’s garlands to the Polynesian dance shows, appears as authentic as an Indian community in a Disney movie.

Complimentary polynesian dance show if one order a dinner buffet

Complimentary polynesian dance show if one order a dinner buffet

The dog that runs in rough water
On an island northwest of Honolulu something breaches the surface. A round gray head rises up with a wriggling fish in the mouth and belongs to one of the local monk seals. On the volcanic rocks at the beach some other seals are taking a nap in the sun.

It is a young seal that enjoys the first meal of the day and fish is one of the favorites, as well as lobster and octopus. The small head with large eyes and short hair, resembled a monk a scientist once thought. The native focused more on its agility and named it “Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, or «dog that runs in rough water».

Hawaii is known for unique wildlife and lush vegetation. Extreme isolation and a diversity of ecosystems has resulted in a very high rate of endemic species, where more than half of the 18,600 native species documented are found only in Hawaii.

The world capital for endangered species
Hawaii’s development has also affected plant and animal life that Kaiko and his ancestors grew up with. The islands have currently the most endangered species per square mile on the planet. The list is increasing every year and includes everything from insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, snails and plants. It is especially bad for the remaining local birds, where almost all are endangered .

According to US Authorities, 377 species from Hawaii are now at risk (2014), of which 58 animals and 319 plants. Among the endangered animals are the monk seal , where the last 1,100 remaining seals often end their days in fishing gear, green sea turtle («honu»), albatross and the local goose («tions»).

Man-induced factors are a major cause, like deforestation, urbanization, agriculture, excessive harvesting and introduction of new species and diseases. It is disturbing that the trend is now accelerating, particularly as a result of loss of ecosystems, where species are unable to adapt to the new environment .

Two sweet girls with flower dresses
– Hey, do you want some company? asks the sweet girl standing outside a bar in Waikiki. The darkness of the night has descended, but her smile is lit by lamps along the street. The smile seems genuine and she and her friend are catching some fresh air.

The Palestinian Amir (53) shows apartment buildings where one can meet young, asian girls. Almost every preference can be fulfilled and Amir knows the place

The Palestinian Amir (53) shows apartment buildings where one can meet young, asian girls. Almost every preference can be fulfilled and Amir knows the place

– Hey, where are you from? says her friend with a slight accent as she adjust her black, tight-fitting dress.

The girls are dressed up for the evening with subtle makeup and short, tight dresses. The dresses, one with large flower printed on, matches the black heels. The girls seem to be in their late teens and their black, straight hair and milky white skin indicate that they are from Southeast Asia somewhere.

Soon after the girl with flowered dress hooks up with a man in his late 50s and they disappear into the night to continue the party.

Paradise for human traffickers
What blooms in Hawaii are criminals from the East, where India and Thailand are key suppliers of illegal labor, sex slaves and drugs. Hawaii’s legislation made it long a favorite place for criminals. In 2012 Hawaii was one of five states in the U.S. that had established no laws that would prevent modern slavery.

According to Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS) the sex trade is a billion dollar industry in Hawaii. Most prostitute are immigrants who have fallen into the hands of cynical traffickers, where girls are forced into the street through violence, rape and intimidation. Every pimp has often 10-20 girls, which brings in $ 2-3000 a night.

Despite the fact that few girls dare to break out, PASS has saved some dozen girls already. The youngest was 11 years old.

Sex slaves is an international problem, but already well established in Hawaii much due to tourism.

Largest slave case in U.S. history
In 2010, the largest slave trafficking case in U.S. history was revealed when Global Horizons Manpower, Inc. was alleged to have made 400 farmers from Thailand work under slave-like conditions in Hawaii. The farmers got debts, confiscated their passports and threatened with deportation.

After two years, the authorities dismissed the cases, despite the fact that some of the defendants had pleaded guilty.

On 2 May 2013, four new bills passed, which better can protect victims and prosecute traffickers. But traffic will probably not decline, as demand and tourism is growing.

Several has also expressed skepticism about the justice system, as many cases over the years have been dismissed or resulted in minimal penalties. Corruption and cronyism are common accusations.

From five star restaurant for 14 years on the streets
At Ala Moana mall some Japanese girlfriends trip from the Hermes store with several shopping bags under their arms. They giggle and then disappear into the Dior next door.

One of the many luxury stores in Hawaii

One of the many luxury stores in Hawaii

Here the rich and fortunate can find a wide range of the latest luxurious items. Others come here to daydream.

Outside the shopping centre Robert (53) in going through the bins for bottles and other useful items. He came to Hawaii from Idaho 30 years ago.

– I used to work as a chef at a five star restaurant, says Robert.

Despite the long, sprawling hair and beard, some missing front teeth and a shirtless upper body adorned with ethnic necklaces, Robert looks surprisingly good even after many years on the street.

The former chef says that he married and had two children. Life was a dream. But then it went downhill, fast downhill.

Robert lost his job, his wife moved away and took the kids and he ended up on the street 14 years ago. His son (22) and daughter (17) has he not seen in seven years, but he thought that was maybe the best. Like many Americans, he has never had a passport and when his certificate was destroyed many years ago, he became a person without an identity in paradise.

Robert (53), former master chef at a 5 star restaurant and now 14 years as a homeless

Robert (53), former master chef at a 5 star restaurant and now 14 years as a homeless

House prices 18 times the annual income
One of the drivers behind increased homelessness is tourism. The huge wave of wealthy American and Asian tourists have driven up housing and living costs. In addition to pressure on existing properties, entrepreneurs prioritize developing luxury apartments for tourists instead of homes suited local budgets.

The annual income per capita in Hawaii is relatively similar to the continental U.S. ($ 29,300 vs. $ 28,100), but the price of owned housing is almost 190 percent higher ($ 517,000 vs. $ 181,400) according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A house price 18 times the annual income illustrates the hopelessness of the locals.

The tourist industry has also grown at the expense of other sectors, including food production and Hawaii now imports most of the food and household items. The shipping costs have contributed to an even higher cost of living.

Congressman used sledgehammer to destroy homeless people’s carts
Few kilometers from the luxury hotels and golf courses in Oahu is the small village of Waianae . Many natives live there and the village houses the largest camp for homeless people in the U.S.

The homeless people are more visible in the city. Here from Waikiki beach

The homeless people are more visible in the city. Here from Waikiki beach

According to Business Insider the camp is home to around 300 people. Most are natives who are struggling with high costs of living and low-paid jobs. The tent camp is one of many in Hawaii, which can accommodate up to 4,000 homeless.

The number of homeless has increased dramatically in recent years and they are becoming more visible in the city. As as the authorities’ desperate measures, fearing that it could affect the tourism.

Last year Congressman Tom Brower attacked the homeless people’s carts and possessions with a sledgehammer . He retired the sledgehammer after massive criticism, but the anger had already ruined a few dozens carts.

Governor Neil Ambercrombie has made it a priority to remove the society’s weakest and several measures have been introduced with varying success. In 2011, he urged people to stop giving homeless people food in the parks , while in 2013 he launched a new program «Return to Home», which would sponsor one-way tickets to the continental US.

Hawaii currently has the third highest population of homeless people per capita in the United States, many of whom are children.

A broken man’s last dream
Like most homeless Robert did not accept the Governor’s offer of a one-way ticket.

– I can not go back to Idaho, he says firmly, while the sinewy hands take a firm grip on the cart. After a little break a gentle smile can be detected in his face and he adds:

– My kids are here, even if I never see them. If I go I will certainly never see them again .

The he walks on to the next trashcan with his cart, which holds all his belongings. The empty bottles which will secure his next meal clinks as he walks. Fortunately the Congressman’s hard-hitting politics did not affect the cart.

Money talks, the warrior walks
For Kaiko is the issue as irrelevant. Hawaii is the home of his ancestors. He looks troubled at the future for himself, his cultural heritage and the local flora and fauna .

To be a spectator watching his country being developed with others in the driver’s seat, where his cultural heritage is reduced to entertainment for tourists.

The sun is descending at Waikiki beach and so seems the days of the natives inheritage

The sun is descending at Waikiki beach and so seems the days of the natives inheritage

– What can we do? Money talks, he sighs from his bench in Chinatown.

A fresh breeze blows in from the sea, moves effortlessly between the skyscrapers of Waikiki before arriving Kaiko. He looks dreamily into the wind, take a deep breath and closes his eyes slowly again.

To transform a small island group to an amusement park for millions of tourists and their preferences, has had and has its price. Economic lucrative for many, but at the expense of the indigenous identity and cultural heritage, wildlife and biodiversity, those that fall outside the new standard of living and immigrants exploited by cynical criminals .

Hawaii’s future as a tourist paradise seems bright, but the days of the warrior are numbered.