I consider myself a professional traveler. Not because I travel ALL the time (debatable), and not because I am so darn good at it. But because I love it, and consulting people and companies on how their employees will travel is my profession, so I better know what I am talking about. I am supposed to be one of those who are “in the know” and who possesses an ability to spew first hand insight and experience on a wide variety of destinations. Anything less and I would just be a generic guide book. So, when I travel to a new place, I am relieved to feel a sensation of, “Yup, this is exactly what I expected.” It’s a little anti-climactic and maybe even boring compared to the wonder of new discovery, but it re-assures me that I would have done the right thing by my customers. For example, you don’t want your cardiologist to spread your ribs open and suddenly declare to everyone else in the operating room, “Oh wow, this is totally different than what I thought a heart would look like!” Not cool.
For many years, I have held an opinion that people who live in the eastern half of the United States shouldn’t waste their time traveling to Hawaii. My logic says that if you are seeking beaches, oceans, palm trees, sweet fruity cocktails, exotic music, perpetual sunshine, golf courses and sunburned Brits, you would be a fool to fly 10-12 hours to Hawaii, when you could find all the same vacation staples in the Caribbean, Mexico, or even right here in our own Florida Keys, with only a 3 hour flight.
And then, I went to Hawaii. Now I have been there before, twice in fact. My previous trips to Hawaii both lasted only 2 nights and were confined to Honolulu and Waikiki Beach. This time, I had 6 nights, and I went to Maui and Honolulu. As mentioned above, my profession is travel planning, and also as mentioned, I am more effective at this job if I have first hand knowledge of a destination. Hotels have known this for a long time and they make a frequent habit out of getting travel managers out from behind their computers, and into their hotel rooms. All the glossy brochures, and flashy websites money can buy don’t compare with a trusted travel pro saying, “Oh yeah, I just stayed at the Marriott Wailea last fall and it was fantastic!” So, this trip was sponsored in large part by Marriott Resorts of Hawaii. The hotel rooms were free and they even paid for part of my airfare.
But this post is not about Marriott (you can look up my Trip Advisor reviews for that, or call me to book a vacation or cruise). This post is about Hawaii itself. Everything I thought I knew was blown away. If you have ever pondered the vacation dilemna of Hawaii vs. Caribbean, or Hawaii vs. Mexico, I can only say you are actually comparing Jerk Chicken vs Kalua Pork. Yes, both are delicious cooked meats and very enjoyable in similar settings, but totally different in every way.
I’m being vague and this is getting long so here’s the poop. The most obvious difference was the mystical presence of the
Hawaiian landscape, yes the land itself is what impressed me most. Of course, I am a visual person so that was easy, but the dramatic up and down of the mountains, valleys, river gorges and coast lines defied my notions of what the earth can do with it’s surface. The word moonscape kept coming to mind which was ridiculous because the dry rocky surface of the moon is completely opposite to what I found in Maui (except for one particular black volcanic rock beach). I think my mind kept going to that word because what I saw seemed unearthly, so my little pea-brain jumped to the conclusion that if this is not Earth, then it must be the moon. Sometimes I hate that stupid pea-brain. I wish I had taken a photo of a particular valley we drove through on Oahu that combined every superlative you can think of for steep, green, lush, tropical, but also expansive and grand. If you get there, it is the Likelike Highway between H1 Exit 20 in Honolulu, and Kaneohe. I drove the road completely by accident, after taking a wrong turn on the way to the interstate. Thank goodness for wrong turns.
Reason number two I loved Hawaii…the local hospitality. Maybe I just haven’t explored the right Caribbean Islands, but Hawaii seemed equally willing to accommodate the beach bums and pool loungers, as it was the cyclists, trail hikers and explorers. In Hawaii, I felt comfortable and safe everywhere we went. I cannot imagine stopping in at a locals store 30 minutes outside Philipsburg on St. Maarten, or exploring the rainforest and looking for waterfalls in remote parts of Jamaica. Or even being present ANYWHERE but the main tourist drag in ANY PART of Mexico (Lo siento Amigos. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mexico and I think it is a wonderful place to vacation, but stay near the resort).
There are many more reasons like the highlight of Maui, the Hana Highway where my son and I hiked to waterfalls and bamboo forests, and also climbed like crabs over a bizarre beach of smooth black grapefruit sized rocks. There was also the man made wonder of Pearl Harbor on Oahu. I almost skipped this iconic locale as well because of the very fact it is iconic. I thought I knew what it was about and what we would see, but I was so wrong. No matter what you think you know about Pearl Harbor and WWII, go to Pearl Harbor.
I could write more, and there is more, but this post is also not intended to be a travelogue or guide to visiting Hawaii. Those things have been written. My purpose here is to apologize for my uninformed generalizations in the past, and to state my new opinion that Hawaii is a place all of its own and I wish everyone could experience it. I will be back again, and again, and again.