Tell us office colleagues that you are going on vacation and we may grunt, nod, smile or say something in your general direction but when you reveal that the destination is Hawai’i, it jolts us enough to give you our undivided attention. Our dull faces transform into an exploding canvas of colors, saliva begins to drip from the corners of our mouths and for a few precious moments in the middle of a monotonous workday, our mind travels far away to the land of sunshine, sea and sand. Even at the airport, there is a twinge of envy when glancing at passengers waiting to board a flight to this particular destination.
My husband and I finally got to experience the Hawai’ian island of Maui for five days in May and every moment, if sifted out like fine grains of sand from its beaches, proved to be immensely memorable. Maui, suggested to us for our first time visit to that region, was a lovely dream. It entranced us with its beauty right from the moment the plane landed and throughout our entire stay. The convertible that we had rented allowed us to consume it all to our heart’s content as we sped along with the top of the car open, sugarcane fields flanking our sides beyond which the sapphire blue Pacific ocean sparkled under the warm sun while green mountains wearing a crown of clouds towered on the other side and the pleasant wind bellowed all around, matching our speed and joy.
We reached the island at noon and that evening, attended a Luau at the Royal Lahaina Hotel. The traditional Hawai’ian party or feast was held close to the beach against the backdrop of the setting sun. Tiki torches lit up all around, Lei (garlands) around people’s necks, Mai Tai drinks, the Kalua pig roasting ceremony, splendid performances by Hula dancers accompanied by melodious songs and the audience feasting on a traditional Hawai’ian spread under the stars made up the great time that we had.
The next morning saw us waking up at 2.30 a.m. and heading to the Haleakala crater to catch its famed sunrise. Our car climbed up higher and higher on a winding road in the darkness until we reached about 10,000 feet. It was surreal looking down on a sea of clouds as the sun rose from between them, high on top of the mountain which is higher than Mount Everest if measured right from the bottom of the ocean floor. That day was sandwiched between two performances of the sun as we caught the sunset on Ka’anapali beach where we watched the Tiki torch lighting ceremony taking place in front of the ocean-facing Sheraton Hotel. A Hawai’ian man dressed in traditional attire with a garland around his neck briskly climbed up Black Rock jutting out across the beach into the ocean and and began to light up the Tiki torches on top of it. He then walked to the tip of the structure and removing the garland, raised it up to the sky, turning around in all four directions, as if offering it to the Gods or the setting sun. He then flung the necklace into the water below and in a graceful swoop, dove straight down into the ocean waters.
Can a trip to Maui ever be complete without its famed drive to paradise? ‘Road to Hana‘ or ‘Hana Highway’ was an adventurous beauty. A stretch of this route snaking around lush green tropically forested mountains with the blue ocean on one side boasted of extremely narrow roads, around 600 sharp turns and numerous one lane bridges. Countless waterfalls forced visitors to stop driving and pull over; some of them were not even visible behind thick foliage but made their presence felt through the noise of their hearty, gushing water. The air smelled fresh, beautiful flowers burst forth, exotic birds fluttered about singing sweet melodies, and of course, being in Hawai’i – the land of rainbows, at least one colorful band had to pop up, brightening the sky. Little stalls lined the drive on the road to Hana selling fresh fruit like pineapples, mangoes, bananas, papayas, cool sugarcane juice, refreshing coconut water and delicious banana bread.
Back near the coast, Honolua Bay and Kapalua Bay offered us a wonderful experience of snorkeling as we gazed in wonder at underwater life full of corals and pretty fish beneath us. What a pleasure it was to enjoy the warmth of the water there in contrast to the constant freezing temperatures back on the Californian coast! The beaches too, were lapped up with equal enthusiasm as we spent time with the frolicking waves and the smooth sand. However, the weather which was a well-behaved child up until the day before last suddenly turned cranky and the skies let out a heavy downpour dampening (pun unintended) our spirits and locking us indoors. We moped around, expecting the next day to go waste when it suddenly opened up and the sun shone bright and innocent as if nothing had gone wrong, proving to us how the rapidly changing weather in Hawai’i can give surprises. We then began to wish it had meddled enough with air traffic to postpone our flight back. Being stranded on an island would not be so bad at all if it is Hawai’i!
Needless to say, it is one place which would be a pleasure to go to again and again. In the meantime, listening to Hawai’ian Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow…What A Wonderful World” will have to do as it refreshes lovely memories. What A Wonderful Trip indeed!
Mahalo, Maui! (Thank you, Maui!)