Torch lighting ceremony at Black Rock on Maui

Each evening in Ka’anapali, as the sun begins to set in the ocean, a torch lighting ceremony followed by a cliff diver’s plunge into the sea is held at Black Rock on Maui.

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The beach near Black Rock is directly facing the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, which conveniently offers the Cliff Dive Grill and Mai Tai Bar–a great place to watch the traditional ceremony and enjoy a tropical beverage or appetizer (pupus as they are called on the Hawaiian Islands). The beach is spectacular and the sunsets here do not disappoint. This area is also known for excellent snorkeling.

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The sunsets from this viewpoint paint the sky with brilliant shades of pinks and blues. Black Rock, formed by a volcanic eruption in ancient times, was considered by ancient Hawaiians as the sacred place where souls would leave the earth and join with ancestors.

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Yes, the daily cliff dive ceremony is a tourist gimmick and yes, you should go. Watching the cliff diver reach the summit as he casts his lei into the sea and takes a magnificent dive into the sea is well worth a stop.

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Driving on an island

On a first trip to the Hawaiian Islands, the scenery may feel so different and beautiful that it almost feels overwhelming. This is especially true if you are a mainlander and especially true if you are a flatlander. This isn’t driving through North Dakota, folks. (With all due respect to North Dakotans, as some of my very favorite people in the world are from or live in North Dakota.)

On Kauai, the scenery heading from the airport to the Princeville area was so beautifully distracting that I was thankful I wasn’t in the driver’s seat and could try to take it all in.

On the Big Island, much of the scenery is so out of this world different from anything we had ever seen—and it changes so quickly. One minute you’re in the Waimea area filled with an upcountry feel, green grass and cattle ranches and you drive a bit further and you’re on the coastline with vistas of lava rock and whales breaching in the distance.

The view from Keahou to Kailua-Kona on the Big Island

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On Maui and Oahu, there are many scenic driving tours such as the 68-mile Road to Hana on Maui or a drive on the leeward, or Western, side of Oahu. You could probably make these drives dozens and dozens of times and never tire of the views and stops along the way.

The road ahead on West Maui

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A view from an upcountry road in lovely Lanai

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Once near the town of Kawaihae on the northern side of the Big Island, there were so many whales active near the shore that someone actually placed a sofa facing the ocean for people to stop and wonder and enjoy the views. It was perfect.

Time spent in Hawaii is a reminder to focus on the journey, not the destination.

Majestic Molokai

IMG_1612The island of Molokai is visible from the Kapalua area of West Maui. At 260 square miles, Molokai is the fifth largest of the main Hawaiian Islands. Its sea cliffs are majestic, awesome and immense with some towering up to 3,000 feet–the tallest on earth. If you look closely enough, there always seems to be a rainbow somewhere above Molokai. On a visit, you’ll quickly discover its natural, rugged beauty and the fact that there isn’t a single traffic light on the whole island.

West Maui: The road past Kapalua

photo[3]Maui’s most famous drive may be the Road to Hana, but the drive along the top of West Maui on highway 30 heading north also has its share of sights to take your breath away. If you’re lucky, you will be in the passenger’s seat so that you are able to take a photo of the road ahead. It is narrow and curvy and you do see netting above to stop the rocks from falling, but if you take it slowly and enjoy the journey, it’s full of places to stop and admire, or even spend the day. These include Dragon’s Teeth, the unfortunately named Slaughterhouse Beach, Honolua Bay, Punalau Beach, the Nakalele Blowhole, the Olivine Pools, Kahakuloa Village and some of the best banana bread on the planet. Enjoy the view!

The flight to Hawaii

There is no way around it. Hawaii is an isolated destination to reach if you are not lucky enough to live on one of the islands. It is, after all, the most remote island chain in the world.

The Hawaiian Islands are nearly 2,400 miles from California, nearly 3,900 miles from Japan and if you live in New York City, you are in for a nearly 5,000-mile flight.

Then there is the time zone change. From the U.S. Central Time Zone, Hawaii is either a four or five-hour time difference.  (Hawaii doesn’t observe daylight saving time.) After the long flight over, my inner body clock has me up around 2 to 3 a.m. in the Hawaiian Time Zone for the first few days. So, yes, the time zone changes and distance are challenging. But then you might find yourself looking at this view in Upcountry Maui, complete with a rainbow in the distance.

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Or, there is this view from the main road to West Maui. If you are visiting from a location with long, cold, snowy winters, the colors are a feast for your eyes.

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And before you know it, your stay is over and you find yourself heading back to the airport for the return flight home, which is often an overnight flight if you live in the United States.

Is the long flight worth it? Absolutely. Bonus: Even the signs in the airports in Hawaii are charming.

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