My wife and I recently had the privilege of traveling to our 50th state, Hawaiʻi. While every state in the contiguous United States offers its own unique slant on what makes our great country what it is, Hawaiʻi and Alaska in particular have long held an allure due to their geographic remoteness and utterly unique histories as compared with the rest of the nation. Having visited Alaska back in March (yes, it was cold, but having grown up in northern lower Michigan and my wife having grown up in eastern Ukraine we’re used to this stuff) it seemed to make sense to hit Hawaiʻi next. And so we did…
Hawaiʻi holds the distinction of being one of the most naturally awe inspiring places on the planet. While the exotic nature of Hawaiʻi may seem obvious due to its location and climate, for some reason what we were in for didn’t really dawn on me until I began researching all the spectacular things to do and see once we got there. With many different islands to choose from, each with its own unique scenery and history, it was challenging to fit so many exciting experiences into a 4 day trip.
I’ll spare you the brutal details of the flight in. It’s probably obvious how one feels after spending 12 hours on multiple airliners traversing a country and an ocean (we flew out of Detroit). Upon landing and exiting the plane for the concourse I was immediately struck by the flavor of the “island” lifestyle. This includes open-air hallways, warm breezes, tall palm trees swaying in the wind, and comfortably humid air. Being notoriously un-well traveled, I had never been in the tropics before. I’d been to the Bahamas once, but this was something different altogether. I was prepared for scorching hot temperatures and scalp-frying sun, but the weather was actually some of the mildest, most beautiful I had ever experienced. I don’t think it ever got warmer than 85 degrees the entire time we were there and the temperatrure averaged around 75 degrees.
Anyway, what we did while we were there: Since we’re not really “touristy” types, we chose to do things that gave us the opportunity to experience Hawaiʻi as authentically as possible. Sure, there were the occasional “tourist traps” (like the lava tube on Maui), but generally it was a lot of being outdoors and enjoying nature. For the most part, our trip was confined to the island of Maui. We had discussed the possibility of making a trip to Oʻahu to see the Pearl Harbor Memorial, Diamond Head, the beaches, and so forth but decided it would have probably been more difficult than it was worth to charter a plane and all that. However, Maui proved to be so chock-full of amazing things to see that we didn’t feel like were missing a thing. A brief list of what we did includes a flight-seeing tour of the island of Hawaiʻi (known locally as “The Big Island”) which included amazing waterfalls, coastal valleys, the caldera of Kilauea, and a flight between the two big volcanoes Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea before returning back to the airport in Maui, a drive up to the top of Haleakala (the dormant volcano which makes up ¾ of the island of Maui) to view the Martian-like terrain inside of the crater, a drive on the Hana highway which is known worldwide as one of the most scenic stretches of road anywhere, visits to several coastal towns for snorkeling, sailing, and a variety of on-foot activities, and fresh mahi-mahi and pineapple for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day we were there. There are few things I enjoy more than fresh fish for a meal.
A note on the Hawaiian language. Something else I thought was kind of neat and wasn’t quite prepared for was the degree to which the local inhabitants recognize, respect, and embrace their ethnic Hawaiian roots. Many signs in local businesses (like Burger King) were printed in English AND Hawaiian and being greeted with the ubiquitous “aloha” and thanked with “mahalo” was a pleasant surprise for somebody who was used to hearing very few languages in day to day life other than English and Russian.
In summary, Hawaiʻi is a fantastic place to visit for anybody who’s looking for an exotic vacation offering a different climate, geography, culture, and language, but who isn’t quite prepared for the need to learn a new language to get around or who doesn’t want to be tethered to a foreign language phrasebook the entire trip. Plus, because it’s in the United States, there is no visa required! I’m convinced that there’s something there for everybody and we hope to make it back at some point in our lives.
Been to Hawaiʻi? Got any experience learning or speaking the Hawaiian language? Tell us about it.