Although Paradise is powerful, we could not stay forever, utterly absorbed in our visit there… although it is tempting.
We so enjoyed our trip to the Hawaiian Islands and our visit with my sister Deborah in Kaua’i. But after this article, I will try to get my brain to join the rest of me back East.
We have made so many memories… Oahu’s Diamond Head towering over Honolulu…
The impactful solitude of the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor…
The famed Waikiki Beach, and those surfers on turquoise waters.
Maui brought us snorkeling to sites like the Molokini crater.
This was followed by a true, once-in-a-lifetime experience. We watched the sunrise from atop the world’s largest dormant volcano on Maui. Haleakala boasts 10,000-plus feet above sea level, but a whopping 29,704 feet from base to summit, topping Kilimanjaro, McKinley, K2, and Everest with its 29,032 feet.
On the Big Island, in Kona, we enjoyed more snorkeling… and more dolphins.
We also found some fun, colorful geckos hungry for local flavor at the heralded bar Da Shark Shack.
We also visited Hilo, known as the Tsunami Capital of the World.
This is the place to visit the active volcanoes, including Kilauea, where activities like wildly steaming vents and burgeoning lava are ongoing daily.
Just days before her November 28, 2022 eruption, all looked peaceful on Mauna Loa. Attention was focused on Kilauea, with its daily lava and steam vent activity… and volcanic warning levels had been elevated to Yellow.
And then it happened… Mauna Loa, 2½ miles from sea level to summit and 5 miles from base to summit, considered the world’s largest active volcano, erupted for the first time in nearly 40 years.
As of now, despite new lava flows from Mauna Loa, the lava is flowing to the sea. While it has crossed the road to the observatory, so far it has not placed any populated areas at risk. May the situation stay that way. (11-28-2022 photo from U.S. Geological Survey; 12-01-2022 photo from USGS & Civil Air Patrol)
Sir Ronald and I were enjoying our cruise with our good friends Priscilla and Ken Rondeau.
While we love cruises, this was our first with the Norwegian Cruise Line.
We will remember being on board the Pride of America ship and having the smallest cabin we have ever seen, although we also had our largest balcony. The staff was great, and we had an awesome time with plenty of laughs.
Then we got to my sister’s island… the Garden Island… Kaua’i, and I spied my sister waving broadly as she stood at the base of the Nawiliwili Lighthouse, welcoming our ship into the harbor.
We saw a great many wonders on this island… like Kalalei, the place where many believe all souls enter the earth.
Naturally, we took in stunning waterfalls, the largest navigable river in Hawaii, called the Waimea.
Further, one must not visit Kaua’i without visiting the always dramatic Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the Waimea Canyon.
Then we left the ship and stayed at the Marriott and enjoyed the various pools and the protected Kalapaki Beach.
Mostly we enjoyed time with my sister, as she introduced us to local foods, apple bananas, lilikoi passion fruit pie, and Elu bars made from breadfruit, a starchy carb originally from New Guinea and Philippines.
She showed us some of the great taro fields of Kaua’i and shared local secrets like favorite food trucks that serve up all sorts of local deliciousness.
At one called Da Melting Pot, I knew I simply had to try to much-heralded Hawaiian shrimp, which is locally harvested shrimp grilled in a lemon garlic butter sauce… ummm… and yes, these are whole shrimp.
Plus, I will now forever crave true Hawaiian shave ice served over macadamia nut ice cream.
And then there’s lilihoi… or Passion fruit… a new favorite that makes a lovely juice drink, too.
It also became my new favorite ice cream… really yummy paired with macadamia nut at the Tropical Dreams gourmet ice cream parlor in Kapa’a.. Yes, it’s true. Ice cream solves anything.
We also were reminded of Responsibility… which happened to be the word of the day. In Hawaiian, that is “Kuleana.”
As Deborah first greeted us, she presented us with leis she had made… one from flowers for me and a fern one for Ron… as well as a bracelet for our guide Kana’e. Later she carefully showed us how she dries and prepares the leaves and tried to teach me to make a laua’e fern lei. (No, I was not good at this.)
We observed and learned so many things from the wonderful local people we met. They taught us how they also valued us as visitors, not to be confused with tourists. (Yes, when we humans travel, we can earn a most distasteful reputation for tourist rudeness.) We also learned the honor of becoming what the Hawaiians call “ohana.” This means more than family. Ohana are those we recognize as family to us, regardless of bloodlines. No one gets left behind or forgotten. I thank all of YOU who have become my ohana. You are treasured more than you can possibly know.
Deborah took us to fantabulous places on her island… including one of many places made famous in movies… Hanalei Bay.
Of course, we also regularly drove down Tunnel Road, dubbed the Tunnel of Love for its arching trees. The northernmost point will remain unforgettable, not just for its iconic lighthouse that saved many a sea captain and even some pilots, but for Kilauea Cove, too.
I enjoyed seeing items in the supermarket that I’m not apt to see elsewhere, too. Case in point: surfboard-shaped tortilla chips.
And local vending machines garnered a second look, as they featured local items like banana bread and a wide variety of packaged dried fruit… from papaya and guava to mango and pineapple chunks.
Sir Ronald met a new and extremely tall skeletal pal. He first met him in a plaza in the town of Waimea. They ran into each other again in a supermarket on Halloween, both adoring the same type of wine.
We learned so much during this long-awaited and thrice-scheduled vacation. WWW stands for more here than World Wide Web. Instead, try Wind, Water, and Wings… this is how life came to live on the lava mountains that rose from the Pacific Ocean. At least 2400 miles from the continents, the Hawaiian Islands are an annual destination for migratory birds and whales.
The ancestors of Hawaii’s land animals and plants arrived by accident. Some were carried by storm winds, atop floating driftwood, or with migratory birds. Many evolved into the native plants and animals of the present day, most of which are found nowhere else in the world.
While the Nene Goose is Hawaii’s official bird, we also liked the White-Rumped Shama, brought from Southeast Asia to Kauai in 1931.
And the Chakar Partridge found only at the heights of Haleakala on Maui… Plus the Brazilian Cardinal, which we had never before seen. Such fun we had watching the hunting egret off our lanai.
And remember Hurricane Iniki that struck the Hawaiian Islands on September 11, 1992. It’s interesting that the name “Iniki” means “strong and piercing wind.” In addition to destroying and damaging so many structures, thousands of pigs and chickens and cats were tossed into the winds.
Their descendants are now wild. Seriously, chickens and roosters are out of control on every island. We even saw signs like this one asking visitors to not feed the feral cats and chickens.
We saw firsthand that Going Green does not mean saving green. Despite the strong showing of solar panels on homes and businesses and the multitude of windmills taking advantage of the constant trade winds, Hawaii suffers with the highest residential electricity costs in the entire U.S., even dwarfing New York and California.
Looking at the average price per kilowatt hour, New York averages 25 cents, with 28 cents in California. Most states in the continental U.S. come in well below that, with typical numbers ranging from 10 to 15 cents. Hawaii averages a bold 43 cents per kwh. Numbers vary from island to island from as low as 38 cents to as high as 75 cents. Yikes! No wonder the most popular residential air conditioning comes from home construction that keeps air flowing underneath the house, allowing trade winds to seep up through the floorboards. Ok.
While there are medical centers on all the major Hawaiian Islands, there is only 1 actual hospital in the state of Hawai’i. Patients needing surgery or serious emergency services are air-lifted to Honolulu.
And we learned that rainforests and deserts can and do exist side by side. My meteorologist friends would say, “But, of course, Cathy” and then scientifically explain it all. On the windward side of Kaua’i, rainfall increases by 100 inches for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain. The trade winds trap warm air on the mountainside.
As the warm air cools, the moisture condenses and falls as rain. Kilauea Point… the northernmost one on Kaua’i with the lighthouse… receives only about 40” of rain each year, but at the top of the ridge of nearby Namolokama Mountain, just 8 miles away, over 400 inches of rain falls annually.
You’ve seen the pictures. The island of Kaua’i is just 550 sq miles. That is small. The state of New Hampshire has 8,953 square miles, and even Rhode Island has 1,214. So, to find several microclimates in just 550 square miles is extraordinary. Kauai is dry in the south and west, but so lush and green in the north that all firetrucks on Kauai are red to provide contrast with the green. Elsewhere in Hawaii, they are yellow, not red.
I loved a related story that our half-native guide Kana’e shared on Kauai. Where the Wailua River meets the Pacific Ocean has tremendous rip tides all the time. Too many people have been carried out to sea and lost here. One of those was almost Frank Sinatra. He was in Kauai’i, staying at the then-glamorous Cocoa Palms Resort, of course. An off-duty firefighter saw him being swept out to sea and jumped onto his surfboard, paddled out to the exhausted swimmer, and rescued him safely on his surfboard.
Sinatra was grateful to be saved, but he asked why the man had not come out by boat to help him. The firefighter explained that launching a boat is nearly impossible in most places due to the jagged lava rocks. Sinatra accepted the explanation, but as a sign of gratitude, he purchased a rescue boat for the man’s fire station in Kaua’i. They accepted the gift graciously, but they explained again to Mr. Sinatra that it might not get much use. In water emergencies, there is little time to waste. Getting the boat to a launch area or beach could take too much time, so they tended to use surfboards, which were more readily available and could be launched almost everywhere. Frank Sinatra understood. He then gifted a new truck to the off-duty firefighter who had rescued him… and he donated surfboards for every firetruck. All firetrucks in Hawaii carry surfboards to this day… from Honolulu to Hilo.
Hawai’i has also become Hollywood West. It is easy to see why the dramatic terrain of the Hawaiian Islands, especially Kaua’i plays backdrop to dozens of movies. Our jaws dropped upon seeing miles and miles of jagged lava cliffs, contrasting sharply with lush green valleys. To say that planet Earth is an amazing place is a gross understatement. Its molten interior can cast repeated volcanic eruptions, creating mountains that are so many thousands of feet high that they grow into islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean’s depths. And somehow, within these islands, burst a multitude of freshwater springs.
There are also hundreds of miles of trails in Hawai’i. Pick an island, any island. There are many dozens of trails from which to choose. Hikers report that Oahu has the best hiking trails, but for walking and biking, Kaua’i is tough to beat. One is Kapa’a’s paved multi-use trail called Ke Ala Hele Makalae. What had long served as the rail bed for sugarcane transportation for the McKee Plantation, is now a 7.3-mile paved trail from Lydgate Park to Ahihi Point on Kaua’i’s East Coast. Walk, jog, or bike here, enjoying great views, too.
Another bit of information I had not known is that Hawai’i governs its population of 1½ million differently than the other 49 states. Governing happens on two levels… State and County. There are just 4 counties in Hawai’i, and each has a mayor and council. Hawaii is the county name for what we call the Big Island. Honolulu is the county name for the island of Oahu, as well as the lesser northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Kaua’i is the county name for the northernmost islands. Maui is the county formed by the island of that name and smaller area islands, including Lana’i and Molokai. I should also note that in name there is a 5th county. Kalawao County is actually just the village of Kalawao on the island of Molokai, with a population of 82. Historically, this village was used as a leper colony, so they do have their own mayor. However, all services are handled as part of Maui County.
Of course, we also loved seeing gorgeous flowers everywhere we went… from orchids and ginger to birds of paradise and so many more. We enjoyed the trees that we simply do not see regularly, from Banyans and some that look as if we must be on an African safari to trees bearing lusciously plump fresh fruit.
We will also never forget the precious green sea turtles. These docile survivors have been here a very long time, especially considering that they saw the dinosaurs come and go.
Speaking of going, it’s now farewell to tropical sunrises and colorful sunsets over the Pacific.
So long to lava rocks and lush vegetation growing on volcanic mountains.
Bye for now to my dear sister, Deborah. May you continue bringing radiant rainbows to the people you serve.
For Sir Ronald and me… We had the time of our lives. As they say in Hawai’i, “Mahalo… Until we meet again.”