Hawaiian Paradise Park: A Work in Progress

By Britten Traughber

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Big Island of Hawai‘i

On the rainy eastern side of the Big Island of Hawai‘i, the cycles of destruction and regeneration in Hawaiian Paradise Park (what locals refer to as HPP) are impossible to ignore, almost like watching a time-lapse video on fast forward.

Rusted van

Physically, economically, and culturally, the forces of change in such a raw environment always remind you: this land, the sacred ‘aina, will reclaim itself—from the lava below to the invasive Albezia trees above, from the rust and mold to the vigorous growth of plant life—it’s a matter of when, not if.

Said to be the second largest subdivision in the United States, HPP sits on over four square miles with more than 8,800 one-acre lots, though only around half of the land is actually developed. Given that scope, just exploring this neighborhood has been a fascinating study in the unique qualities of island living. This is not the postcard paradise you see in travel brochures. That’s part of what makes it so interesting to live here.

Hawaiian Paradise Park was established in the late 1950s and residential lots were marketed across the U.S. in anticipation of statehood in 1959. Parcels originally sold for $795, often sight unseen, and the subdivision sold out in 1967. Although developers set aside lots for future shopping centers and school sites, their original visions for HPP (including many paved roads, water systems, and other basic infrastructure that the area lacked) proved difficult to manifest.

The turbulent story of the ongoing development of HPP over time has yielded a reputation of it being a “substandard subdivision,” particularly among those who have long expected the kinds of amenities that are taken for granted elsewhere. Even today, services such as mail delivery, water, and cable and internet are available only in certain locations. In many ways, HPP is still a work in progress.

There’s a roughness and transient nature to the state of things here that appeals to my personal aesthetic. I find humility and comfort in observing the ever-changing landscape, knowing there is little I can do other than watch, leave as little of a mark as possible, and keep a camera on hand.

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Images in this gallery may not be copied or otherwise used without express written consent of the artist. Click image to view in larger size or to begin slideshow:




Britten Traughber is a photographer and artist based in Hawai‘i whose work focuses on rural cultures and environments. She holds an MFA in photography from Illinois State University, and is the founder of RIPE Hawai‘i: Real Women, Real Stories, Real Hawai‘i Britten has walked, biked, and driven almost all of the 100+ miles of roads in HPP. Her work can be seen at www.BrittenTraughber.com.
  1. Your pictures capture the “diamond in the rough” nature of Hawaiian Paradise Park The rural, undeveloped aspect is exactly what I love about HPP. I love the fact that there are no street light (don’t want any). It’s wonderful to see the Milky Way and trillions of stars at night. I like water catchment…no water bill and can drink and bathe in pure rainwater. I like the lush rainforest…I’m dismayed when I see someone clear their lot pin to pin and destroy the beautiful native Ohias (then they let junk trees like Albizia and weeds grow!)I love my neighborhood…have great neighbors all around …we take care of each others’ properties when we are gone, exchange fruit crops and plant starts, and occasionally party together. I have lived here 12 years and can’t imagine living anywhere else. HPP is a unique and wonderful place, with very friendly, unique and creative people. Home, sweet home! 🙂

  2. Just love the “realness” of it – and an invitation to look. Thanks for your magnificent work! Some people call HPP “upscale” compared to other subdivisions here – wonder what draws people to HPP in particular.

  3. I own a home and live in HPP and just can’t think of a better place to be! …I moved here from Ohio just a year ago after falling in love with it back in 2007.

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