We’re winding through Kuhio Hwy northbound, disguised as locals in our ’95 Chevy Impala rental car. The tropical Kaua’i air is so humid that the windows begin to fog. I’m too distracted by the idyllic landscapes outside my window to navigate, watching the smoke rise from the mountains and getting lost in lush greenery – a palatable color green that seems to swallow me. Thankfully, our local tour guide Mahina Alexander is directing us from the backseat.
Born and raised on the island, Mahina seems to know every unexpected twist, scenic turn off, and passerby. As we drive towards Ha’ena, she points out various houses along our journey, identifying their tenants and narrating her affiliation to each. I sit back and listen, extremely impressed with her local knowledge; I barely know the neighbors in my building, let alone an entire island’s worth.
We arrive at cold pond in Ha’ena – our final shoot destination for the day and the furthest point in our journey. Like a true islander, she has spent the entire day barefoot and in a bikini. My feet are aching and I’m covered in bug bites. She changes quickly and helps carry our bags over to the water before fearlessly plunging in.
And this moment perhaps accurately sums up what I admire most about Mahina, this bravery – her boldness, but also her gentleness. She radiates an aura of independence – a young fearless soul (with the exception of snakes), with a captivating kindness. The type of person you want to hang around all the time to soak up their positive energy and good spirits. And this is what makes her our muse.
Biggest Fear: Snakes
Favorite local breakfast place?
Kiluaoa Bakery. Order the artichoke biale toasted with cream cheese. I don’t even know what biale is but it’s amazing. They also make a delicious blended vanilla chai!
CULT: In the last 24 hours, what has inspired you?
Mahina: You guys. All of your photos are so crisp and raw and in the moment. You make capturing beauty and experiences look so simple. I want to be a part of all of them
CULT: Song that you can’t stop listening to?
Mahina: Alle Farben – She Moves Far Away feat Graham Candy
CULT: If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?
Mahina: Superwoman, of course! you can fly AND save people and do it all in good time.
CULT: What does beauty mean to you?
Mahina: Beauty means being comfortable in your own skin. Theres nothing more beautiful than a woman who is confident and comfortable with her flaws.
CULT: The best advice you’ve ever received?
Mahina: Is from my grandma. She always reminds me, “Let go or you’ll be dragged. Life keeps moving and changing, don’t let it leave without you.”
CULT: If you could do anything in the world and money, time and resources weren’t an issue, what would you do?
Mahina: I would travel the world with my closest friends and explore as many different places as possible. I’d meet many different people, try different foods, get my scuba diving license so I could also explore the ocean world, and base jump into Zakynthos, Greece… These things, amongst many others, are my life goals and I will eventually make them my reality.
CULT: What’s one thing that a visitor to Kaua’i must do?
Mahina: Jump in cold pond in Ha’ena on a beautiful hot afternoon. The ice cold water makes your skin feel like its glowing afterwards. You feel so light, refreshed, and pure.
Words to live by:
Every day is another chance to do something great. Another blank canvas to paint.