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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

What Can I say About Hawai'i? (Part 1)

A couple of days ago we returned from a superb vacation: eight days on the big island of Hawai'i. It's an enormous blessing to visit that island paradise--and we've done it four times. My parents own a time-share condominium on the west side of the island, in Kailua-Kona, which they travel to every wintertime, and when budgets, schedules, and frequent-flier miles have allowed, we've visited them out there for a week or so in January (our previous trips have been in 1998, 2001, and 2005). By this time, we've gotten to know the island pretty well--though there are still parts of it we've never visited, and parts we'd love to get back to, if ever the opportunity for such a trip may fall into our hands again. The last time we went I summed up some of my thoughts and recommendations this way:

[The island of Hawai'i] is a gorgeous and still relatively simple place. People drive slow (the roads are two-lane, and often not good), the shopping options are limited, and you either conform to the environment or head back to Honolulu (or the mainland). Sure, I'm painting with a broad brush here: there are plenty of pricey resorts all over the island, and they deliver food and entertainment and services with all the speed and efficiency that one might expect from a complex tourist economy....And yet the socio-economic stakes are still pretty small. Head up from the coastline, into the forests that cover the hillsides, and you've got farmers and ranchers and fishermen living day to day, ex-hippies and local Hawaiians rubbing shoulders with long-time Japanese immigrants and various European refugees, any one of which you're likely to bump into on the beach or at the one big Costco up the road where most everyone shops at least once a month or so. It's a remarkable place, possibly the most multicultural non-urban environment I've ever encountered, and one in every way inviting to people who are looking for a vacation that will allow them to step off the road and find their own pace for a while, rather than rush even faster to get it all in.

In other words, though lacking the urban amenities of bigger and pricier vacation locales, it's the perfect location for wanna-be slacker-localists like ourselves. As proof, some photographic evidence:

1) It's the simple things, natural world edition:
You can travel from the northernmost part of the island (the black sand beach at Polulu Valley)...

...to the southernmost part (the raw lava stone cliffs at Ka Lae, or South Point)...

...and visit zoos and museums and beaches and parks all throughout, and what will be most memorable? Probably that awesome banyan tree jungle right beside Rainbow Falls:

2) It's the simple things, food edition:
We cooked for ourselves, ate at cafeterias and restaurants, and checked out the wonderful Hilo Farmers Market. Four of us ate at a fun local luau, and two of us took a meal at over 9000 ft. in elevation (more on that here). We had some fine local fish: 'ahi (tuna), ono (wahoo), mahi-mahi (dolphinfish), and my favorite, kajiki (blue marlin). But what was my favorite food-related discovery? Nothing less than a simple dish of saimin...

...and a delicious loaf of sweetbread...

...available at the Punalu'u Bake Shop in the tiny town of Na'alehu in the Ka'u District (whose oranges are pretty awesome as well).

We drove right by this place on our away to South Point; good thing Melissa insisted we stop there and grab some lunch on our way back.

3) It's the simple things, family edition:

As I wrote in that old post of mine, nearly fifteen years ago Melissa and I had a chance to take a Caribbean cruise--and despite the sun and the sand and the swimming, the truth is that with only a couple of exceptions, we really didn't enjoy it too much. We didn't like being rushed; we didn't liked being overwhelmed by the tourist economy (however much we were obviously a part of it); and mostly we didn't like being without our daughter. Well, we have four daughters now, and the opportunity to get away without the kids is an increasingly rare and precious commodity. But still, the fact remains: we like doing this together. From our stop our first Sunday there at the LDS temple in Kona-Kailua...

...to our visit to the Place of Refuge National Park just south of the city on our final Sunday before flying home...

...this is why we take vacations: to see things we haven't seen before, and too see them together with people we love. Wasting away our final Saturday afternoon awaiting the sunset at Hapuna Beach State Park on the west side of island?

Works for us anyway.


Fine Art by Jennifer said...

How lovely! I can't say we've been able to fly away anywhere with all our girls. But we've driven across the country! Does that count?

Barry DeCicco said...

Very nice; thank you for sharing.