I just returned from my yearly trip to Hawaii. This year I spent a couple of days on Oahu before heading to Maui for the rest of the week. As usual, I was amazed how easily and completely I fall under the islands’ spell. I have rarely in my life experienced the level of calm and relaxation I do when I am in the islands. Here are a few “snapshots” of my recent stay.
TV addict that I am, just walking amongst the crowds along Kalakaua Avenue in Honolulu I half expect Hawaii Five-O’s McGarrett and Danno to come speeding around a corner in their black Camaro, tires squealing and police lights flashing as they try and stop the latest evil plot to disrupt life in Honolulu.
I never feel as though I have actually arrived in Hawaii until I experience the crunch of cinnamon and sugar as I bite into a warm malasada at Leonard’s famous Portuguese bakery in Honolulu or have my short stack of guava pancakes and a fresh papaya at Cinnamon’s in Kailua.
I typically stay in properties located at the far end of Waikiki, lulled to sleep each night by the sounds that emanate from the exotic animals that live just across the street in the Honolulu Zoo, and waking up to a spectacular view of Diamond Head.
I catch myself shaking my head in disbelief every single time I see the gorgeous colors of the water off windward Oahu’s Lani Kai Beach. I can float on the calm waters for hours, staring at the changes in shadow and light over the nearby Mokolua Islands.
Despite my best intentions, I dutifully follow the ritual of accepting a plastic cup of P.O.G. “juice” on Hawaiian Airlines’ 20 minute long inter-islands flights. P.O.G. stand for Passion-Orange-Guava, a rather watery and sugary drink that is only 10% real fruit juice. But it’s a tradition and I just can’t resist it.
As soon as I arrive at the airport in Maui and pick up my rental car, I brave the narrow, winding 13 mile-long road to Kahakuloa to reach my friend Lorraine’s shave ice and banana bread stand. Hearing her whisper “welcome home” as she greets me with a hug is worth 100 flower leis.
The spectacle of watching sunset at Napili Bay on the northwest coast of Maui is a date I keep faithfully at the end of each day that I stay there. After creating an ever-changing palette of golds and oranges, the sun finally sinks behind cloud-shrouded Moloka’I to the west, the skies turn grey and the ocean glistens silver, and the show seems to be over. I throw my beach towel around my neck and fold up my chair and start to head inside, but when I turn to take one last look, I often find find that in those few seconds, the sky has turned a vivid crimson, and the bay turns pink and purple and it always takes my breath away.
There’s something so freeing about driving from Lahaina to Napili along the nearly empty Honoapi’ilani Highway, late evening with the windows down, listening to the Hawaiian duo, Hapa’s stirring version of the song He’eia.
I dissolve into laughter as a brazen red cardinal, taking advantage of an open patio door, strutted into the apartment as if he owned the place, making it almost all the way to the kitchen before I stared him down and shooed him back to the door. Meanwhile, a noisy mina bird serenaded me with songs that were so loud I thought it was using a megaphone. This was one intense looking bird!
I love to create a special dinner by picking up a few basic groceries and then stopping at my favorite places for things like fresh ahi tuna salad from the Honokowai fish market which makes a great sandwich with Hawaiian sweet bread or inside a luscious papaya from the farmer’s market, or a chocolate macademia nut pie from Leoda’s in Olowalu. I feel like I am dining like a king… King Kamehameha himself.
I feel my blood pressure drop, my breathing get slower, and my mind become untroubled as I navigate my air mattress away from the shore and head out into Napili Bay. I have never become so familiar and so comfortable with any other body of water. I know its patterns and navigate just far enough from shore to float innocently over the periodic swells that swoop onto the beach, where dozens of kids on boogie boards scream and ride the wave far up onto the sand, sometimes deposited onto someone’s meticulously laid out beach towel. Meanwhile, I float far from shore, visited occasionally by a sea turtle floating right beneath me or poking its head up beside me to check out the thing that from his vantage point below must look like the mother of all turtles.
The beauty of a stay on Maui is having no bigger decisions to make than where to have lunch and whether to go for a swim now or later. Maui has so many great places to have a meal by the water, sip on a big tropical drink and dine on great seafood.
The last day of every trip I have ever made to Maui has been an emotional struggle. My “last swim” is particularly difficult, and I have to drag myself out of the 76 degree water and face putting on long pants, shoes and socks for the first time in a week to get ready for my drive to the airport. I feel like a weepy, pouting, 3 year old boy who desperately begs his mom for “just a few more minutes” in the water. When I simply cannot allow myself to stay any longer, I emerge from the water, grab my towel, and walk back to the apartment without looking back, all the while silently praying that I will have another chance to return to these beautiful islands.