Monday, June 9, 2014

Hawai'i ~ Part One

The first time we traveled to Hawai'i was in 1995. Now, I'm a Californian, native born and bred. So when I say that I found the other part of my soul in Hawai'i you may think " of THOSE Californians". But I'm really not. I'm not the hippy-dippy type of person. More June Cleaver than Goldie Hawn. But, in Hawai'i, I really did feel totally "whole" for the first time in my life. I finally found another place where I could actually live out the rest of my life and be perfectly happy other than California. I AM a real beach baby. Never happier than when my feet are in the sand, usually with the surf kicking around my toes. Hawai'i is the best of everything. 
 No matter where you fly in from eventually you will find yourself flying over the ocean for hours. As tempting as it is to shut the window shade and grab a nap, don't forget to take a peak from time to time out of the window. We all thought the way it looked like the clouds were almost touching the water was really cool. I loved the rainbow effect as well!
And chances are good, no matter what airline you are flying, the first literal taste of the Islands will be at your first snack break! 
 There are lots of choices on how to get to the Big Island of Hawai'i but we took the direct flight into Kailua-Kona. The first glimpse you have of the beautiful coastline is from thirty thousand feet but it's still a gorgeous view!
 Chances are, unless you have landed in the islands before, the airport in Hawai'i will be wonderfully strange. It's an open air place where tropical flowers, palm trees and lots of birds live. You can also, if you are lucky, find some wonderful Hawaiian musicians providing a free performance for you as you try to find your baggage. We happily camped out for a few moments to enjoy their art!
 But that is nothing compared to after you have secured whatever transportation to your hotel and are actually on the road. You have ARRIVED! I've visited several times and each time it's still totally thrilling! We always rent a car so we can drive all over the island on our own time schedule but there are plenty of tours available if you would rather have a guide.
 This last visit was a bittersweet one for us. Since that first visit in 1995 we have always stayed at the Keauhou Beach Hotel. It has had a couple of owners during that time and the most recent ones decided it wasn't turning a high enough profit for them so they tore it down after our visit. The good thing is that it went to a preservation society and where the hotel stood heritage gardens will be planted instead. So next time we visit the Big Island it will be to tour the gardens, not stay in this lovely place. 
 But wherever you stay you are most likely going to end up with a view like this one! Soak it up, enjoy it, because you will soon be out there playing in the island sun and nowhere near your room or this view!
 So we headed out onto our hotel grounds to take in the views. Hawai'i has lots of gorgeous colorful birds like these little canaries. Many of us have never seen a canary in the wild and here there are dozens all in one spot! But they are VERY fast so be prepared to take dozens of photos with the hope of just getting one in focus!
 The lush vegetation is what will pose for you in all of it's glorious beauty! You will find so many different species that you will never have seen before and all of it is colorful. 
 "Manicured" Hawai'i looks pretty much like "wild" Hawai'i. The Hawaiians take care of the islands with a respect that protects and doesn't destroy what is so wonderful about the area.
The King's Summer Cottage is on the grounds and right past it is our favorite bay. King Kamehameha would visit this lush place. It is easy to see why he would have found this to be the perfect place for his summer home.
 But it's the beautiful flowers of the Islands that draw millions to the Tropics. And they never, ever, disappoint. We had been to the Big Island several times before this trip but had never visited in September. What we found out is that the heat and the humidity of that time of the year brings out even more flowers that ever before!
 Of course we took some relaxation time. Hammocks dot the grounds so you can just crawl in and take a nap or just enjoy the view of the tops of the palms whenever you want. Now I'm showing you the hotel we stayed at but, trust me, we have toured a lot of the islands hotels and they all have these same features. Some have water slides, even boat rides, but all of them have gorgeous grounds with lots of places to just sit and enjoy the views.
The other reason the islands are so popular is the fresh food. Food that has to be shipped in costs a lot of money and eats into a restaurants overhead. So "farm fresh" has been a motto and "farm to table" has been a staple of Hawaiian cuisine for as long as there has been Hawaiian cuisine! As much as possible is grown on the island and prepared fresh for you each day. Seriously amazing to eat like this every meal. 

 Each day we are in the islands ends with a "fru-fru" drink on a lanai (porch) somewhere. This first night was at our hotel and the drink of the evening is called a "Lava Flow". Think "Pina Colada" with fresh strawberry puree. They are really amazing and one of those drinks that you can actually leave out the alcohol and enjoy it just as much! 
And there's always sunset. People in the Islands stop each day for sunset. If you are driving around you will see cars just parked on the side of the road, people hanging out on their lanai's, tour boats cruising the horizon, restaurants full of people enjoying dinner or their own fru-fru drinks and just soaking up the sunset. Every. Single. Sunset. There is something so beautiful about a whole population that knows how to stop and enjoy something beautiful. 

Next week we'll head South to South Point, Punalu'u Black Sand Beach and Hawai'i Volcano's National Park.


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