On May 30, 2016, Memorial Day, Mike and I began our first vacation in Hawaii. This was a trip I had wished for my entire life. I grew up watching Elvis movies, Blue Hawaii being my favorite. I love the ocean and beautiful foliage and flowers and have always imagined Hawaii to be one of the most picturesque places on earth. My sweet husband didn’t really share my desire to see our 50th state but he loves me and tries to please me most of the time, a commitment I am eternally grateful for.
Mike retired from his teaching career 5 years ago but agreed to return (something he had said he would NEVER do) to the classroom to teach the last 10 weeks of this past school year. His compassion for his teacher friends who were working hard to fill a vacancy and his desire to help struggling students motivated his decision. His first week back at school he asked me to plan our 43rd wedding anniversary trip to Hawaii.
I thought the photographer in Mike would totally love the photo opportunities Hawaii offers. I was hopeful that would offset his big dread, the LONG flight. Oklahoma is about a 3 hour flight to Los Angeles then 5 1/2 hours to Hawaii. I completely agreed that was a lot of hours strapped in a chair beside total strangers with only pretzels and Diet Coke for nourishment. I prayed the experience would be worth it.
We watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean for more than an hour before we arrived at Lihue (pronounced LeHooey), Kauai. The beauty had already begun.
Mike is an early riser, always has been and always will be. One big advantage to that is you get to see the sunrise. In Hawaii that is a spectacular event, these are some of his mornings. He took lots of shots of our resort, The Sheraton Kauai Resort, we stayed at Poipo, Beach, pronounced Poy-Pooh, wanted to share a few
Having arrived after dark our sightseeing didn’t start until Tuesday morning, May 31. After being advised of some not to be missed sights from a young resident of Lihue we drove to the old Lihue pier, near the airport. Mike loved the ancient concrete and wood pier. Our next recommended destination was Alekoko (Menehune) Fishpond. The first photo is the mountain beside the Fishpond These next two are of the actual Fishpond. We enjoyed that view before heading to Wailua Falls This was our first Hawaiian waterfall and it did not disappoint. Opaekaa’s Falls was another short drive away Just can’t see too many beautiful waterfalls. Across the street from this falls was a lookout for the Wailua River. Another beautiful site was one we saw every time we left or returned to our resort. To enter or exit our resort we drove through The Tunnel of Trees, built in 1911. They were swamp mahogany eucalyptus trees, the tree tunnel is a mile long. They make for a beautiful, shady and fragrant drive. I loved the drive every time we made it. As you entered the tree tunnel there were Tarzan like vines and I grabbed this photo of Mike playing
We attended our first luau, entitled Luau Kalamaku. It was described as a mesmerizing dinner theatre with a dash of Cirque du Soleil. There were hula dancers and fire poi ball twirlers and a show stopping Samoan fire knife dancer. We enjoyed a lavish buffet of local delicacies, the main course was unearthed from an underground oven. The theatrical performance depicted the voyage of the first families to leave Tahiti and journey to Kauai told with dance, story and song. Being my first luau I had nothing to compare the experience to but I thoroughly enjoyed it and was moved by their story. We didn’t take photos but Mike caught this one shot as I received my first Hawaiian lei, made from beautiful orchid blooms.
June 1 was our wedding anniversary and we booked an air tour with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. When you have been married 43 years it is hard to give a unique and special gift. Mike thought touring Kauai from the air would give us a forever memory of this anniversary, he was so right.
The journey began with a flight to Hanapepe Valley above the Hoolahee River where Harrison Ford took off in a small plane in the movie Indiana Jones. We continued to what is commonly referred to as Jurassic Park Falls, as we experienced a milder version of the Jurassic waterfall drop the Jurassic music was piped into our headphones. Amazing! Another highlight was the Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, The canyon is 3 miles wide, 10 miles long and 3500 feet deep. The canyon has incredible color changes and beautiful waterfalls.
Brodie, our guide, told us The Hawaiian Islands is the most isolated piece of land mass on earth. It is 2,400 miles away from the nearest continent, North America. The islands consist of 132 islands, reefs, shoals, and atolls, stretching 1,600 miles. If you took a map of the Hawaiian Islands and laid it on top of a map of the United States it would stretch from Texas to Alaska.
Our pilot was also our guide, he gave us more facts than were possible to remember but the story he shared of the Valley of the Kings I will never forget. In ancient times when a Hawaiian king died a young warrior was chosen to be lowered into the cliff by a rope where he was to bury the king’s remains. The rope was then cut and the young man would fall to his death, taking the secret of the burial location with him. It was considered the highest of honors to be the warrior chosen for this task.
One of my favorite things we saw was the NaPali Coast. I was and always will be in awe of that coastal landscape. The color of the water was gorgeous, this is not the best photo because it had started to rain and this was taken through the helicopter window. This might be a little better shot, I could not get over the color of the water. Brodie told us many of his own family members who have lived in Kauai their entire lives have never seen the Na Pali coastline or even a fraction of what we viewed. Nearly 70% of Kauai is not even accessible except by air. Another of my favorites was The Cathedrals, they stood above the NaPali coast, incredible cliffs. I just have to share one more which includes the coastline
The tour continued to the pristine blue waters of Hanalei Bay Our guide told us this was his favorite bay because of the mountain view behind the crescent shape Hanalei Bay You can see the interweaving falls in this picture.
Then it was on to the elusive Mt. Waialeale, the second wettest spot on earth, with an average rainfall of 450-500 inches annually. The top of the mountain is only visible around 30 days per year, the pictures we took were foggy and from a rain covered window. Flying into the center of the crater with its 5000 foot walls towering above and its 3000 foot waterfalls surrounding you was awe-inspiring. The womb of Kauai was our last destination and our pilot said the weather would determine our ability to enter the area. We were able to fly into the crater and the views were “amazing on steroids” but the photos were not clear because of the rain.
We were given microphones and headsets to be able to hear and speak with the pilot. He encouraged us to ask questions but Mike and I and the four others we shared this experience with remained mute for most of the tour. We all seemed at a loss for words, unable to communicate as we were processing such visuals.
We spent the evening enjoying a beautiful shopping area called “The Shops at Kukui-uli” just blocks from our resort. One day a week (we just happened to be lucky) the local farmers and craftsman set up an outdoor market. There were dozens of beautiful permanent shops and there was live music with many restaurant choices offering outside tables. One booth sold locally grown Sugarloaf pineapples, the most delicious I have ever tasted. It was like a rich dessert that melted in your mouth. After a relaxing dinner with live music we returned to the resort. We wanted photos of the two of us on this special anniversary so we played “photographer” using Mike’s tripod and the timer on the camera. We knew we would probably never have a more beautiful backdrop. The perfect end to our evening was the sunset over the Pacific. We found a comfortable bench and watched the sky’s dramatic changes and listened as the ocean sang. No pictures, no camera, just the two of us and a view only God’s majesty could paint.
We had saved our next day to enjoy our beach, we walked in the sand with the waves splashing us and just absorbed our surroundings. I wonder if I was a beach bum in a former life, although I don’t believe in former lives and the word bum has always made me think “lazy”, I don’t think I could ever be labeled that. I truly know my love for the ocean comes from happy childhood memories. My Aunt Do took me to Santa Cruz every summer my family made the long drive to California to be with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Precious family memories.
Later that same day we had an afternoon flight to our next island experience. We flew to Kahului, pronounced “Ka-who-lee”, Maui. We rented our second vehicle and began the 50 minute drive to our resort, Kaanapali, pronounced “Ka-nah-paw-lee”, Beach Hotel. The drive was such a contrast, the passenger side of the car was barren mountains often draped in a chain fence like covering to prevent rock slides with little to no vegetation but the driver’s side was the gorgeous Pacific Ocean. The terrain was so different from the island we just left.
We stopped at the very tourist friendly city of Lahaina, pronounced “Luh-high-nuh”, and ate at The Hard Rock of Maui, . We sat at a window with no glass to hinder our view of the ocean. We have dined at many Hard Rocks from New York City to Rome, even Las Vegas but none with a view like Maui’s. Lahaina is known as Maui’s historic jewel, an old whaling town. Lahaina’s Front Street is filled with shops and restaurants.
“The journey is the destination” is the way most people describe The Road to Hana. We had been advised by many to plan a day for this and it was certainly on our “to do” list. It is a 42 mile road from the historic old plantation town of Paia to Hana, but the drive is an all day excursion. We didn’t totally understand how that was possible since in Oklahoma that same number of miles could be traveled in around 30 to 35 minutes. We learned quickly, 30 miles of the drive is a winding adventure with more than 56 one lane bridges and 617 hairpin curves. One way took us a little more than 3 hours, stopping at the only 2 restroom stops on the drive, and a few brief photo stops . The road had breathtaking and panoramic ocean views of the Pacific , there were jungle enclosed swimming holes , tropical flowers , phenomenal overlooks and majestic waterfalls At the end of the journey the small town of Hana was not very impressive but the Waianapanapa State Park with its lava caves, blow-hole and black sand beaches was incredible. When Mike noticed a sign in Hana that boasted “Airport” he said, “how much do you think it would cost to fly back?” We both laughed but I think his question might help one understand the nail-biting very intense driving required to reach Hana.
That evening we dined at Leilani’s on The Beach. It was part of The Whaler Village which was our neighbor resort. The village was a group of shops, multiple floors, with two outdoor anchor restaurants. We were there for sunset, I think this photo speaks volumes
Mike took a few photos of our Maui hotel. It was not as private as the hotel in Kauai but it was beautiful too. This was the view from the balcony of our room. From the beach in front of our hotel there was a view of a cliff where people lined up to dive.
The next morning we had reserved for our beach time. As luck would have it the Maui Jim Oceanfest 2016 was being sponsored by our hotel and was taking place on our beach. To get the audience involved they were taking people for outrigger sailing canoe rides. Mike was quick to sign up. Mike thought it was a smooth relaxing ride and the crew friendly and informative. We spent the morning on the beach watching men and women compete in water sports, many I had never heard of. The announcer explained we were watching some of the best water athletes in the world compete.
At the end of our beach/rest day we treated ourselves to the chef’s tasting menu at the upstairs dining room at Leilani’s. . It was a delicious 3 course meal, one I would highly recommend if you visit the Kaanapali area of Maui.
We were a little sad that it was the last Hawaiian sunset of the trip. Mike used his tripod again and tried to capture the sky and water one last time. . Here is that beautiful view without us We flew home the next evening and even though we had many hours of Sunday to explore we knew we would be Oklahoma bound before the sun set.
The captain of the outrigger sailing canoe that Mike was fortunate enough to ride with had told Mike about a special Hawaiian send off that would take place Sunday morning and invited us to attend. We gathered on the beach where all 10 vessels were lined up ready to depart. There was a Hawaiian woman, she was the Director of Culture for Kannapoli, she asked all of us to form a circle around the 10 captains. She spoke to the group and sang a beautiful prayer then offered a blessing as she poured water on each captain’s head. It was a touching ceremony and so spiritual I was truly moved. . Another couple told us they had been coming to Maui every summer for 26 years and had never experienced such a ceremony.
After the send off we drove a short ways to another beach. We walked in the sand at the shore’s edge searching for shells and found many pieces of coral. . I had received a very nice hat from Courtney and Roy and the kids on my birthday and it was perfect for the beach.
The islands have such beautiful flowers and trees that bloom as well. The plumeria tree blooms in many colors and their blooms are often used to make leis. The hibiscus is gorgeous as well , the yellow being the state flower of Hawaii. Hawaiians grow plumbago as shrubs, their lantana and geraniums grow at least 3 times the size of Oklahoma’s.
As we headed back to the airport we stopped in Lahaina for a late lunch. We became fans of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant on a trip several years ago to New York City. Earlier this year we visited the Destin, Florida Bubba Gump’s. It seemed only fitting we add the Maui version to our list. It is a fun restaurant but also serves delicious seafood. The wait staff is trained to entertain you and your Forrest Gump trivia knowledge will be tested. Every table has a sign that you turn according to your needs, “Run Forrest Run” or “Stop Forrest Stop”.
Mike and I did not turn a television set on for the 7 days we were gone. I never crushed one candy. We used our electronics to catch up on emails and post a few photos for our kids to see. I was guilty of occasionally checking Facebook and played my Word Streak games with some down time but for the most part both of us tried to always be in the moment.
I have often heard Hawaii referred to as “paradise” and I now understand why. I loved seeing the 2 islands we were fortunate enough to visit and certainly treasure the memories we made, BUT my real “paradise” is home. Home means so much more than walls and furniture, it means roots, family and love. Being away makes you incredibly grateful for all the loved ones God has blessed you with. Mahalo (thank you) Hawaii for the wonderful vacation spot, but as beautiful as you are you will never be home.