Fifty shades of grey

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Time flies

It’s been six weeks since my last post. During that time, we had two kids graduate—one from high school and one from college. We also said good riddance to one of the nastiest winters on record. It was painful. Snow and cold and then more snow and cold, plus sleet and freezing rain to add to the misery index. Today, it’s a lovely 75 degrees and mostly sunny, which reminds me of my favorite place on earth.

We were able to escape the cold, gray and ice for a week in late March to this favorite place of ours. This time we visited the Big Island. Heavenly. Here’s the view of what we gladly left behind in the Midwest. It was snow and ice as far as the eye could see. Okay, it sort of looks pretty from this angle, but it really wasn’t pretty to live with day in and day out.

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The biggest obstacle for us spending more time in Hawaii is the flight. There is no doubt about it: It’s long. The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated place on earth in terms of distance from land. Los Angeles is more than 2,500 miles away and Tokyo is even further at more than 3,500 miles away. I try not to think about the fact that there is nothing in between, but for some reason we always seem to get the pilot who wants to remind us of this fact on takeoff.

Most return flights to the mainland leave at night. A blessing since this seems to be the only time I’m able to sleep during a flight. On the flight over, I do my best to focus on the destination, but I am not a big fan of long flights.

For most of the flight, you look out the window and see something like this.

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And then, magically the southernmost island of Hawaii is in sight. What a sight it is. Even from 10,000 feet its beauty and majesty always get me.

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The Kona International Airport feels familiar and welcoming to us with its charming outdoor baggage carousels and lack of jet bridges. Down the stairs to the tarmac you go. This time, we were greeted with an afternoon shower. It was warm, smelled like paradise and we could have cared less that we were soaked by the time we picked up our luggage.

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For the first time in months, the landscape is filled with color, flowers, a familiar tropical perfume that once experienced you do not forget.

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We made it just in time to watch the sunset near Kona.

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Aloha indeed.

 

 

 

The beauty of the Big Island

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When you land at the Kona International Airport (KOA) on the Big Island, you are greeted by the unique beauty of West Hawaii. This is the island known for its active volcano, gorgeous coastlines, diversity in climate and natural, rugged beauty. Once in a while, you find yourself stopping to take it all in, such as when you discover an orchid thriving in a bed of lava rocks. As you explore, the scenery is difficult to describe or categorize. Ocean views or a trip to the 4,200-meter high summit of the Mauna Kea Observatory. Snowboarding or surfing? It’s your choice. The Big Island of Hawaii lives up to its name. It will call you back again and again.

Interisland flights

In the Midwest, we are bracing for more April rain and snow, so the thought of flying between two of the Hawaiian islands sounds like a dream.

If you fly into Honolulu and it’s not your final destination, you will likely take an interisland connection on Hawaiian Airlines. There are other airlines serving the Hawaiian islands with interisland flights, such as go!, Mokulele Airlines, Pacific Wings and Island Air, but we have always been automatically booked on Hawaiian with a major airline connection.

These flights are quick (or wikiwiki as the Hawaiians say) and you will be served an island juice from a happy flight attendant who truly seems to enjoy his or her job. Yes, the female flight attendants will usually have flowers in their hair, they will be wearing Hawaiian-inspired uniforms and the in-cabin music will be Hawaiian when you board the plane. This is not a commuter jet between Minneapolis-St. Paul to Fargo. (With apologies to my North Dakota friends. I just couldn’t resist.)

We have always found these flights to be at or near capacity. It would be interesting to know the number of visitors to the islands on these flights and the number of Hawaiian residents who commute or visit another island, perhaps even on a regular basis if they live on one island and work on another.

KOAIf you are traveling to the Big Island and fly into the Kona International Airport, you will exit the airplane directly onto the tarmac down stairs—no jetway. I think it adds to the charm and feeling like you are landing on a tropical paradise.

As you make your way to baggage claim at Kona International Airport, you’ll walk through the open-air gates past a lovely statue of hula dancers. No, you will not be greeted by someone who puts a lei around you as you descend the stairs from the plane. This only happens in the Brady Bunch.

If you fly into Maui and would like to visit Lanai, there is a ferry that departs from Maui and Lanai about five times back and forth each day. This is purely anecdotal and I do not have any statistics to back it up, but many Hawaiian residents we have met over the years mentioned that they vacation in Lanai. I have always wondered where Hawaiians would vacation since they are all blessed to live in paradise year-round.

Many people choose to visit more than one island during a trip to Hawaii. Planning for interisland flights is still somewhat overwhelming for me. For instance, a few years ago we planned a trip split between the Big Island and Kauai and in order to get from Kona to Lihue, Kauai, we first needed to fly back to Oahu.

Hawaii—not the easiest or quickest place in the world to get to, but so worth it once you arrive and get settled after your flight. Pack light and stay a while.

Our next stop is Kauai—the Garden Isle.