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A look at The Out Traveler: Hawaii, a gay guidebook by Matthew Link

Matthew Link's excellent gay travel guidebook on Hawaii

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A look at The Out Traveler: Hawaii, a gay guidebook by Matthew Link

As a point of disclosure, I'll let it be known that the author of The Out Traveler Hawaii, Matthew Link, is both an old friend and a frequent colleague, as he's been editor at a number of magazines I've written for. But given this, I also know him to be an enthusiastic traveler, dogged researcher, and a huge fan of Hawaii - he even lived there for quite some time.

His LGBT guidebook on Hawaii is really a follow-up of sorts to one that he published himself several years ago. This edition was published by Alyson Books and is one of a few excellent gay guidebooks put out by the Out Traveler brand.

Another first-rate title in the Out Traveler gay guidebook series is The Out Traveler New York City, by Dan Allen (okay, okay...another friend of mine...but these really are excellent guidebooks). And in 2009, the Out Traveler Atlanta came out - it's authored by knowledgeable Atlanta scribes Jordan McAuley and Matt Burkhalter. As did Out Traveler South Florida (Includes the Keys, Orlando, and the Tampa Bay Area), by Paul Rubio. Paris and Los Angeles/Palm Springs titles are also in the works.

I've also written plenty of guidebooks myself, gay and mainstream, and they're a huge undertaking. They can also be a bit dry without an authoritative, personable voice, which is one thing Matt Link really brings to the table with Out Traveler Hawaii. The first of his 11 chapters delves colorfully into the history and politics of Hawaii, including specifics on "long and bumpy" attempts by the state to legalize gay marriage, and even a recap on the many rumors about the sexual orientation of governor Linda Lingle.

Hawaii ranks among the gay-friendliest destinations on the planet, but it's also a low-keyed place lacking big nightlife and emphasizing eco-tourism and romance. Link goes to great lengths to provide an insider's sense of Hawaii's customs and it's overall vibe, and he also throws in some fun sidebars on such intriguing topics as to whether gay guys surf (they do...there's even a Gay Surf Club on Oahu) campy movies set in the state (anyone remember Goin' Coconuts, with Donny and Marie?

Other useful info includes a pronunciation primer to help speak the Hawaiian language (it includes Pidgin terms like "brah", for good friend), and a good summation of state facts, including demographics, events, weather, useful GLBT sites in Hawaii, and so on.

The rest of the book is broken down into individual chapters on each island, including the big four (Oahu, Maui, Kuaui, and the Big Island), and the lesser-visited islands of Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe). Each chapter gives a quick but colorful sense of key attractions and towns/neighborhoods to explore, gay nightlife (which you'll really only find on Oahu, in Honolulu - and at one establishment on the Big Island, but Link also lists some gay-friendly mainstream spots on other islands), both gay-oriented and mainstream lodging reviews, and dining reviews.

The book is selective rather than exhaustive in its lodging and dining coverage, which can be overwhelming in many of the major guidebooks out there. This is fine by me - if you're looking for a handful of well-researched, convincingly rendered reviews of several reliable hotels and restaurants in the areas you're most likely to visit, you'll find them here. If you're a major foodie or resort buff, you'll want to pick up an additional mainstream guidebook, or do additional research on the Web.

To me, the mark of a first-rate gay guidebook is whether it contains enough useful information to function as your sole guide for planning and visiting a place. And in this regard, The Out Traveler Hawaii fits the bill, and is an immense resource. My only quibble is that the maps, though attractive, are very small and not always as detailed as they might be. Otherwise, Link's guide is well-executed and written in a lively voice - it's packed with both gay-specific and general advice, tips, and reviews, and you could easily plan an entire multi-island trip to Hawaii with just this book in your back pocket.

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