Posted by: Mickey Goodman | September 15, 2009

Blue Hawaii

“Dreams Come True in Blue Hawaii

-Elvis Presley

Hawaii waterfallI came of age to the strains of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Hawaii” and lusted for both the side-burned, wiggle-hipped singer and the lush island with palm trees, wide sand beaches and endless ocean. For me, that was the sum and total of Hawaii’s beauty. How little I knew.

My aloha fantasy faded over the decades and I put Hawaii on permanent hold until my friend, Phyllis, suggested a cruise that served up a smorgasbord of islands — Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii (The Big Island), plus two days in Honolulu.

Honolulu

On our first day in the island’s capital city where skyscrapers outnumber palm trees, we headed for the North Shore which is both a surfer’s nirvana and his or her worst nightmare. In February, one lone daredevil had ventured past the prominent signs that warned of waves that swell from two-feet to 25-feet in the span of a single day.

Looming over the city like a protective giant, the long dormant volcano, Diamond Head, called. We had heard the climb to the peak was doable but quickly found we were not prepared for the steep ascent, pitch black tunnels and 99 stairs including in a narrow spiral tube, there was no rest for the weary and nary a cool drink in sight. TravelgramTip: Take a water bottle, hat, sunscreen, flashlight and sturdy sneakers.

USS Arizona

The haunting visit to Pearl Harbor where more than 1,200 crewmembers died aboard the battleship USS Arizona on December 7, 1941 is etched on my soul. Sections of the rusting ship were still visible through viewing windows and oil continued to seep to the surface forming ghostly rainbows. A heartrending memorial wall immortalized all who perished, including 23 sets of brothers and a father and son, forever enshrined in their watery tomb. TravelgramTip: A must for all generations.

All Aboard

We boarded the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America (http://www.ncl.com/) two days after arrival and set course for Maui. First excursion: the 10,000 foot high Haleakala Crater. Billowy cumulus clouds lay beneath us and at sunset, the rays erupted in a riot of color as they cut a swath to the ocean far below. TravelgramTip: Heed the warnings and wear layers of warm clothing. Temperatures dip in to the 30s, even in summer.

Though each island was exquisite, the Big Island wore Mother Nature’s most exotic mantles. At Volcanoes State Park, where Kilauea began erupting in 1983, we walked gingerly atop swirling formations of hardened lava that resembled the surface of a far-off planet. The most striking example of nature’s power was the mammoth Thurston Lava Tube (a natural underground conduit through which lava flowed, then cooled, leaving a cave-like channel). I expected a narrow passage. Instead, the tube was large enough for a locomotive to chug through. TravelgramTip: Watch your footing.

That evening, our ship passed less than a mile from the spot where fiery molten lava from Kilauea collides with the Pacific, sending steam hundreds of feet into the nighttime sky. In the distance, what appeared to be twinkling red city lights was actually a new fissure. We were told that within weeks, the lava tube conduits would merge, providing an additional show for cruisers. Millions of stars shimmered in the inky sky, ready to pluck. What could top this experience?

My question was answered during a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter ride through the diverse scenery on Kauai. It was even more breathtaking than the sight of Kilauea erupting. We soared deep into the brightly striated Waimea Canyon, known locally as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and hovered near the top of double waterfalls framed by full rainbows. Like birds, we dipped into the rain forest where “Jurassic Park,” “King Kong” and “Survivor” were filmed and skimmed over the lovely NaPali coastline. Ethereal rainbows – one after the other — put on a dazzling performance. TravelgramTip: Well worth the splurge.

Last Dance

On the last day, the familiar rocky formations of the Waimea Canyon called and we hopped aboard a bus for a twisty climb along the rim. It complimented my lofty panorama the day before. At sea level, we stripped off our shoes and squished through the sand to watch baby lava tube blowholes waft steam puffs playfully into the ocean. Back aboard The Pride of America, we raised our wine glasses and toasted, not only new friends, but also to fulfilling my “Blue Hawaii” dreams (sadly, minus Elvis).

Fun Facts:

  • Local McDonalds serve a popular concoction of Spam, eggs and rice for breakfast.
  • The Hawaiian alphabet has only 12 letters, five vowels and seven consonants.
  • Milk is $8 a gallon. A loaf of bread costs $4.
  • Only 20 percent of people living in the islands are Hawaiian descendents.
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