When you're in Hawaii, it's hard not to feel like everything is going to be okay (with the exception of the recent incident involving a ballistic missile headed straight to the islands, of course).
The problem is, eventually, you have to go back to the real world, unless you're lucky enough to live there like my friend Marci. The Aloha spirit, and signs like this can be found throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Between that, the spectacular scenery, the fantastic snorkeling, the wildlife, the people, it's really hard to leave. Maybe that's why I got so ill right after I came back - I went from 80 degrees and sun to 40 degrees, rain, dark and cold in what seemed like a instant.
Nevertheless, I feel like I'm finally on the mend ater a week of "the crud" and can finally think clearly back on my experience on the Big Island and Kauai. Strangely, for some reason I never really had the desire to visit Hawaii until fairly recently. After going, I can't recall for the life of me why that was. It might have been the scenes of Waikiki with all the high rises and countless tourists is what made me feel that way, but on the Big Island and especially Kauai, it was a totally different story.
I stayed in Kona on the Big Island, where my lucky friend happens to reside. While there is definitely some traffic there to contend with, just as soon as you're a few miles from town, things change.
The Polulu Valley Lookout, pictured above, was breathtaking and there were no Disneyland-size crowds to interrupt the view. I made my way from there across the incredible lush countryside, with the green so vibrant it felt like Ireland, with the exception of the sun and idyllic 75 to 80 degree temperatures, of course.
My next stop was the Waipio Valley Lookout - a view from the opposite side of Polulu.
One of the best days during my time on the Big Island, was a boat trip. I was extremely lucky in that I didn't have to join a tour - Marci's friend has his own boat and offered to take us out fishing and to watch for whales along the way. While we didn't catch anything, luck was on our side when it came to the whales. We got to enjoy quite the show. With a pair of humpbacks surfacing incredibly close at one point.
Another day, we drove to Punalu'u black sand beach: sea turtles!
There were at least a dozen sea turtles snoozing on the beach under the sun. Another one of my favorite animals, when I went snorkeling, I swam alongside one, just me and the sea turtle hanging out together for a good 15 minutes or more. I found out later that Kealakekua Bay was where the animators from "Finding Nemo" got their inspiration. So, yep, I was swimming near what's as close to Crush as you can possibly get in real life.
I loved the Big Island, but before I knew it, it was time to go to Kauai.
We went straight from the airport to Wailua Falls which was famously featured on the opening credits of the '70s TV show, "Fantasy Island." It was absolutely breathtaking, as was the entire island. Kauai is surely one of the most beautiful places on Earth. While there was a little rain, there was a lot more sun - and, lots of rainbows.
It's hard to decide what my favorite spot was on Kauai with so many beautiful places, like Waimea Canyon, and remote Polihale Beach that required a long, bumpy ride to get there. Snorkeling at Anini Beach was fantastic, and I had the privilege of swimming with sea turtles again - this time, there were three giant ones all around me, and another that was peering out at me from behind the coral. My next trip, I will have a good underwater camera. I attempted shots from my iPhone that was tucked into a protective case, but as it turns out, it takes a lot of practice to capture anything decent. A GoPro might be a must.
The grand finale on the island was with Air Ventures Hawaii - a flight over Kauai, and it was something I'll truly never forget. The pictures here really don't do it justice as the sun was so bright that morning.
It was on my final day, just a couple of hours before heading to the airport, that I saw the sign: "Happy New Year! Everything is going to be okay!" It made me a little teary-eyed, as I didn't want to leave, but I decided right then and there, that I was going to bring that attitude home. With so much turmoil going on in the world, some days that's hard to believe, but we have to hold out hope, and I believe in the Aloha spirit, and that we can take that with us everywhere we go.
"Aloha is being a part of all, and all being a part of me. When there is pain - it is my pain. When there is joy - it is also mine. I respect all that is as part of the Creator and part of me. I will not willfully harm anyone or anything. When food is needed I will take only my need and explain why it is being taken. The earth, the sky, the sea are mine to care for, to cherish and to protect. "