Olivia Harden

Travel Reporter at SFGATE -- based in California. Writing about social justice and mental health everywhere else. Passionate about food, exploring the world, and uplifting the voices of those who often go unheard.

Authorities investigate intentional killing of Hawaiian monk seal

The law enforcement arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the suspicious death of a Hawaiian monk seal, an endangered species. Recent developments suggest the seal was killed intentionally, the organization said in a news release.

On March 12, the Hawaii Marine Animal Response, a nonprofit organization, received a report that someone had found the body of a Hawaiian monk seal known as Malama at Ohiki-Lolo beach on Oahu.

HMAR transported the carcass to NOAA

Prop. 8 plaintiffs throw same-sex vow renewal in unexpected venue

Love was in the air, literally, when Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, a couple who fought California’s same-sex marriage ban all the way to the Supreme Court, renewed their vows at 40,000 feet.

On June 3, Perry and Stier, former Berkeley residents, renewed their vows on an Air Tahiti Nui jet to celebrate almost 10 years together. The couple flew from Los Angeles International Airport to the Faa’a International Airport in French Polynesia to enjoy a vacation in Bora Bora and Tahiti.

Yellowstone tourists put baby elk in their car for a drive

Tourists visiting Yellowstone National Park thought it was a good idea to put a newborn elk in their car, the National Park Service said in a statement.

“During the Memorial Day weekend, visitors placed an elk calf in their car while likely driving on U.S. Highway 191 in the park and brought the newborn to the West Yellowstone, Montana, Police Department,” according to the news release. “The elk later ran off into the forest, and its condition is unknown.”

Bedbugs invade Hawaii's Honolulu airport, prompt gate closures

The Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Oahu is fighting a tiny but mighty enemy of travelers — bedbugs.

On May 29, the Hawaii Department of Transportation received reports of unidentified bugs in Terminal 2, a spokesperson told SFGATE in a statement. HDOT sent staff to clean the area and “remove items they thought had attracted the bugs.”

The next day, a Southwest Airlines manager spotted more of the bugs, collected a sample and contacted HDOT. The department identified them as bedbugs.

I spent the day at California's 'Midwestern Disneyland'

Before stepping into what looked like a chamber of doom, I asked the attendant who pulls the switch on the waterslide — when children’s lives flash before their eyes as they shoot down the tube — if he thought the ride was as scary as it looked.

“I don’t mean to scare you,” he said, “but I think so.”

Still, I stepped inside the Wolf Tail, a trapdoor waterslide that drops you straight down six stories. I crossed my arms and legs in what felt like a dead man’s pose with anxious anticipation as I

SFO adds first cat to animal therapy crew

The popular animal group bringing moments of bliss to San Francisco International Airport travelers has added a new member.

Duke Ellington Morris, a 14-year-old cat, is joining the Wag Brigade. The program is designed to spread comfort before flights through its animal members, who wear “Pet Me” vests while interacting with passengers in the terminals. SFO has slowly been adding more non-canines to the team. In 2022, a rabbit named Alex the Great joined the group. And before that, LiLou gained

The ‘hottest new hotel’ in the country is in San Francisco

Tripadvisor released its list of Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best Hotels for 2023 this week, and topping the hottest new hotels in the country is the Luma Hotel in San Francisco.

The hotel opened in 2022 in the Mission Bay neighborhood, nestled between Chase Center and Oracle Park, homes to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors and the San Francisco Giants, respectively. A newer San Francisco neighborhood, Mission Bay is also home to tech companies like Uber. The Luma Hotel takes a design-fo

'Ridiculous': Frontier admits to controversial carry-on bag policy

Frontier Airlines' controversial policies are attracting attention once again, this time on TikTok, where customers allege that the budget airline is imposing unexpected and unwarranted baggage fees.

A user with the handle @noahglenncarter recently uploaded a video detailing passengers' fury over Frontier’s personal item policy. The clip is in response to several TikToks from March in which Dayana Villa, a Univision TV reporter, documented her experience with the airline. In those clips, Villa

Family feud over Disney World photo spot ends in fistfight, bans

A fight broke out Monday at Walt Disney World over a family photo. Unfortunately, no one was wielding a lightsaber.

When the park decided to put up a sign to celebrate “100 years of Wonder,” it likely didn't expect it to inspire a fistfight. Two guests were banned from Walt Disney World May 15 after a fight broke out in front of the 100th anniversary sign. It started around 2:30 p.m., when the Orange County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call for a case of battery, a spokesperson told SFGATE.

Inside the creepy Calif. chain restaurant that might be haunted

The Friday lunch rush at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Duarte, California, looked indifferent. The crowd was made up mainly of retirees or families with small children.

I wondered how many people having their lunch knew the rumor that the restaurant they were in was haunted.

Unlike other major chains that have withered away recently, the Old Spaghetti Factory has remained a part of the modern landscape of chain restaurants for almost 55 years. The chain first opened in 1969, and to this day, it

Cracked windshield diverts Southwest flight back to Hawaii

A Southwest Airlines flight was diverted back to Hawaii after the plane's windshield cracked, a spokesperson told SFGATE.

On May 14, Flight 2367 departed from Inouye International Airport in Honolulu at 4:20 p.m. HST, bound for San Diego International Airport, according to FlightAware. However, the aircraft was forced to return to Honolulu for maintenance of an “individual window pane in the flight deck,” the airline said.

A passenger took a picture of the cracked windshield upon deplaning, ac

YouTuber who crashed plane to go viral to plead guilty, DOJ says

Trevor Jacob, a California skydiver and former pilot and Olympic snowboarder, is expected to plead guilty to intentionally crashing his plane to go viral on YouTube, according to the Justice Department.

On Nov. 24, 2021, Jacob took off from the Lompoc Airport in his single-engine airplane, which was supposed to land in Mammoth Lakes. Instead, he planned to purposefully parachute from his plane and let the plane crash, according to the plea agreement Jacob signed.

Jacob crashed the plane in an

Bay Area highway has multiple crashes every day. Can these fixes work?

Highway 17 between San Jose and Santa Cruz has been characterized as one of the “most dangerous roads” in California due to its sharp, blind curves and sudden changes in speed along the mountain road.

Data from as far back as 1998 found the highway corridor particularly dangerous, according to the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission’s Safe on 17 Task Force. In 2019, the commission reported 839 total collisions, with four crashes resulting in death and 275 crashes causing injuri

Popular Hawaii bay reportedly contaminated with fecal bacteria

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) issued a Water Quality Advisory warning last Friday to tourists and residents to avoid the water at Kailua Bay. Between April 8 and May 4, the agency reported 13 days of wastewater discharges that exceed the state’s permitted enterococcus bacteria limits, according to a DOH news release. On April 28 and May 1, the dates with the highest levels of bacteria, tests found over six times the limit of bacteria.

Kailua Bay is located on the windward, or east

JetBlue passenger to LAX allegedly makes bomb threat, forces evacuation

On May 4, a “disgruntled” JetBlue passenger who missed his flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles allegedly said his luggage contained a possible bomb, a spokesperson for Los Angeles Airport Police told SFGATE. Airport police evacuated passengers and crew members on the flight once it landed in Los Angeles.

“At approximately 12:57 p.m., the LVMPD was notified of an irate passenger at Harry Reid International Airport. The individual had made some concerning comments about his luggage after missing

Man boarding flight at SFO allegedly attacks United employee

San Francisco law enforcement arrested a man from Texas on April 30 after he allegedly attacked a United Airlines flight attendant on a flight from San Francisco International Airport to Houston, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

“At approximately 11:59 p.m., San Francisco Police officers assigned to the Airport Bureau responded to terminal 3 regarding a physical altercation that had just occurred on an airplane. Officers were provided with a description of the suspect and subse

Hawaii tourist misreads GPS, drives van into harbor

In true Michael Scott fashion, two Hawaii tourists followed their GPS right into the water.

On April 29, a tourist drove a Dodge Caravan into the Honokohau Small Boat Harbor in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island, according to Hawaii News Now.

Christie Hutchinson, who was at the harbor after sailing with a group of friends and her husband, posted a video of the event on social media. She said the two tourists were using GPS to find a manta ray tour and may have been confused because there was a car

Another popular Hawaii attraction will now require reservations

The Iao Valley State Monument on Maui is the latest destination in Hawaii to implement a new reservation system for out-of-state visitors. The new system begins as the park reopens, following a nine-month closure for slope stabilization work.

Hawaii is rethinking how to manage popular tourist spots, and the move is a response to the impact of tourism. Following a recent trend in Hawaii, Iao Valley State Monument is now the fourth attraction in the state park system to implement a reservation sy

I pilgrimaged to the 'last free place' in California

The story of Salvation Mountain is one of resilience and perseverance.

Since Leonard Knight began construction of the Southern California desert monument in 1984, it’s been met with various challenges, from structural to environmental to political. And yet, almost four decades later, the folk art piece still stands.

Visiting Salvation Mountain is a pilgrimage, even for those in nearby desert cities like Indio and Palm Springs. The trek was a three-hour drive from Los Angeles, and even Joshua T
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