Hawaiian sunsets: A cliché worth witnessing (and photographing)

Some moments in life just take your breath away. It sounds so cliché, but there is magic in Hawaiian sunsets. Photographer Catherine Opie said, “The biggest cliché in photography is sunrise and sunset.”

Sunset at Anaehoomalu Bay on the Big Island

Sunset at Anaehoomalu Bay on the Big Island

There’s this legend of the Hawaiian green flash—an optical phenomena of a blast of green that occurs right before or immediately after the sun sets. It’s there and then—poof—it’s gone in a split second or two. Intense. Fleeting. Elusive. I can’t say for certain I’ve seen a green flash, but I could easily spend my days trying. I know it exists.


On a visit earlier this year, we caught the most magical sunset at Anaehoomalu Bay—also known as A Bay—near Waikoloa on the Island of Hawaii. The brilliance of the most amazing purple sky I’ve ever witnessed. Shades of red and blue combined to a purple hue like I had never experienced before.


Then, the sky turned a deep and peaceful red and orange.


Someone lucky enough to be a Hawaiian resident told us that over the course of a year she took a photo of every single sunset. That’s 365 days of ever-changing, magical moments. Long before the days of the iPhone camera, she had the images printed and put them in a book. I can only imagine. She told us that some of the best sunsets happen in August. I think this is a good excuse to plan a late summer visit.

These untouched, no filter (and yes, iPhone) photos show the progression over the evening of that sunset. It started out innocently enough. And then…whoa. By the end of the evening, everyone was trying to capture the moment with cameras. People were giddy. A young girl on the beach asked me to take a photo of the sunset and text it to her. If trying to capture the cliché of a Hawaiian sunset is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

A reminder, once again, that the best things in life are truly free.



Fifty shades of grey

The gratuitous headline actually fits the photo below perfectly. This is February in the Midwest—cold, often cloudy, always monochromatic.


Compare and contrast to the vibrant colors one experiences on the islands of Hawaii—reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, indigoes and violets. Yes, a rainbow of colors wherever one turns. Even in the rain, there is usually a rainbow to be discovered.

The minute you step off the plane it’s apparent. It doesn’t matter if you land in Honolulu on Oahu, Kona or Hilo on the Big Island, Lihue on Kauai, Kahului on Maui, or if your final destination is via a smaller aircraft to the Lanai or Molokai airports.

Kua Beach

This photo above, from March 2014, was taken at Kua Beach on the Big Island—officially known as Manini’owali Beach. It’s a gem of a beach with crystal clear waters, white sand, sea turtles, reefs for snorkeling. This photo, taken on a whim from my cell phone, shows the entrance area to a walkway to the beach. I love how a coconut near the rustic, weathered picnic table looks as if it was positioned there on purpose. When we returned from this trip, I sent this one off to Canvas on Demand, so that I could hang in on my wall for days like this when it’s 3 degrees outside.


This quintessential beach above is in front of Mama’s Fish House on Maui. The palm trees provide just enough shade from the sun. If you stop for lunch or dinner, this is the view.


On Kauai, home to one of the rainiest spots on earth at the summit of Mount Waialeale, beautiful color is everywhere—even in the rain. This photo is from a lookout near Princeville. I love the serene colors and landscape. So peaceful.

On Lanai, the landscape has its own beauty and is completely different on the shore as it is in upcountry Lanai. This view below is of the lush gardens at the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele. The air is crisp here. The manicured Japanese gardens are stunning. Icing on the cake is the orchid house they have onsite. Rain or shine, gorgeous.


Pick an island, any island. Really, you can’t go wrong. Need. To. Go. Back. Soon.

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.


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.


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.



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.




Cabin fever

This just in from meteorologists in the Midwest: After this week, this winter will be one of the 10 coldest on record in the past 140 years. This bitter cold forecast adds insult to injury after a foot of snow and ice fell over the past week. All weekend, officials have been warning drivers to stay off the roads. “We continue to advise no driving,” is the headline this morning. “The roads are still awful.”

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This was the view above the Mississippi yesterday morning. A frozen sea of white, but at least we have a brilliant blue sky to help us get through the predicted low of -2 on this Sunday.

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The snow, heavy and relentless, made for harrowing commutes and window-high drifts. We are running out of places to put our shoveled snow. Here, we have tools like roof rakes to deal with ice dams and roof leaks from the melting and freezing.

Perhaps the most difficult part of our winter is that it’s only February. Last year we had snow in May.

IMG_0225Meanwhile, it’s comforting to know that elsewhere in the world, brilliant blue means something else. For example, on Hapuna Beach on the Big Island.


Or, the stunning Kohala Coast of the Big Island.

Cabin fever has officially set it. This is when we find ourselves on vrbo.com, searching for a warm getaway. If someone has been lucky enough to escape the cold, this is not the welcome back you hoped for. Somewhere, under all of that, daffodils and tulips are waiting for spring.

On a Sunday morning, dreams of Hawaii get me through winter. We have Hawaiian music playing in the house. I may find some mac nuts and Hawaiian spices in the cupboard for creative cooking. Oh, and if anyone living on one of the Hawaiian Islands needs a gardener next winter, drop me a line.


Princeville on the North Shore of Kauai


Located on the North Shore on the island of Kauai, Princevile is lush, green and gorgeous. It is home to the St. Regis Princeville Resort, which overlooks the beautiful beach of Hanalei Bay. This is also a paradise for golfers.


The cliffs on some parts of this side of the island are 200 feet above the Pacific, offering panoramic views of the ocean. It’s often rainy in Princeville, but you don’t seem to mind when you look in the distance and see the lush valley of Hanalei.  With an average rainfall of 85 inches a year, the rain is welcome as it usually tends to fall during the evenings and the showers are typically brief.


Green everywhere you look. Lush plants and trees surround you. Enjoy the views of mountains with waterfalls in the distance.  Here, you’ll find temperate weather with highs in the 80s during the summer months and 70s in the winter months. The rain doesn’t distract from the beauty of Kauai, it adds to it. And, quite often, you will be greeted with a rainbow in the distance.


Honolua Bay on West Maui


Honolua Bay, Mokuleʻia Bay and Lipoa Point are located just north of Kapalua in West Maui.

Honolua Bay is a popular snorkeling spot, for good reason, and in the winter is known as a great spot for experienced surfers. On Highway 30, there is an overlook with spectacular views of the many shades of deep blue, crystal clear water. Honolua Bay is located just after mile marker #33.

IMG_6508You could easily combine some time here with Slaughterhouse Beach, located just after mile marker #32 and down the stone steps to a private beach area perfect for relaxing in the sun or at Punalau Beach, which is located a little more than half-way in between mile markers 34 and 35 and is also the last sand beach on West Maui.

Beach bliss

South Kohala-20130304-00559It’s a common misperception that the Big Island is not the island to visit if you are looking for the quintessential Hawaiian beach experience. The picture perfect, fine, soft sand beach you would expect to see on a postcard.

Yes, the island’s landscape is filled with lava and there are many gray and black sand beaches, and even a green sand beach at the island’s southernmost point. These beaches are uniquely gorgeous and you should visit as many as possible. This could be a good lifelong goal to set.

Head north, however, and you will discover one of the world’s top rated beaches on the Kohala Coast side of the island—Hapuna Beach.

I took this photo with an antiquated cell phone camera on a whim. You could point and shoot anywhere near this gorgeous beach and your photo would turn out beautifully.

Although I am not too much of a spend-all-day-at-the-beach person, a visit to Hapuna Beach is a must when visiting the Big Island. It’s one of the most peaceful, calming places you could imagine. Give me my 50 SPF, a place in the shade, a good book and I am set.

Parking is a breeze as the beach is part of the Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area and there is no entrance fee. The entrance is on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway (Highway 19), 2.3 miles south of Kawaihae.

This place is a gem. It’s April 10 and in the Midwest we are in the middle of a major spring snow and sleet storm. Hawaii, how I miss you.