One of my most fond memories was the trip I took to Hawaii with my family. It was both my graduation and 18th birthday present. While I was there, I saw beautiful sunrises and sunsets, lovely beaches, and I got to snorkel off the coast of the Big Island and Lanai. There were also some drawbacks, one being the long plane ride. We flew from Lincoln to St. Louis and then took an eight hour non-stop flight to Hawaii. The other drawback was my height. I am 6’ 7” tall. On the way over I had an exit row seat so I had enough room to stretch my legs. On the way back I was stuck in the middle of a row and had to sit upright the entire time. Overall, the trip was very beautiful and memorable.

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When we first arrived in Hawaii we stayed at a beautiful place called the Kanaloa at Kona. It was right on the ocean so we had a beautiful view of the ocean from our balcony. We also soon discovered that we were sharing our place with some little green geckos, which were everywhere inside and outside of our condo. My brother got one to crawl on his hand. On the first day we drove to the Place of Refuge where we found a lot of sea turtles that were on the beach and swimming around in the ocean. There were also totems at the Place of Refuge which were made by the ancient Hawaiian people.
I also learned to snorkel at the Place of Refuge and snorkeling soon became my favorite thing to do in Hawaii. The ocean there was a clear blue green and the coral and underwater life was amazing to watch as you floated above it. The sensation is like you’re flying because the bottom could be thirty or forty feet down. While snorkeling, several brightly colored fish swam right up to me. I also spotted a moray eel that was hiding in the rocks and coral at the bottom. Several sea turtles also swam around us. I could see huge schools of bright yellow tangs and other really large fish but I thank God that I didn’t see any big sharks while I was swimming or snorkeling.
Hawaii has many beautiful beaches and panoramic views of the ocean. One of the most beautiful was Hapuna Beach where we did some sunbathing and swimming. We also tried bodysurfing which is fun but can be very dangerous even if you are not careful. Although the sea is very beautiful, it is also unpredictable and can be very dangerous. The waves wash into shore at different intervals and heights, so they can knock you down or drag you out if you don’t keep an eye on it. If you aren’t careful while bodysurfing, you can at the least get a suit full of sand or a sand burn on your back or at the worst you could break your neck if you get slammed against the beach. It was really fun despite the risk and how nervous it made my mom.
The islands of Hawaii were made from erupting volcanoes and some are still active. While on the Big Island we visited an active volcano. The lava fields there were created when hot lava cooled on the way to the ocean and they either dried smooth or formed into jagged black rocks. At one field near Kalapana the road ended where the lava had flowed over it and hardened. The people who lived in a village near there had to relocate after the hot lava destroyed their homes. We drove through Volcanoes State Park and hiked through the rain forest and the Thurstein Lava Tube. We tried to hike to where the red, hot lava enters the sea but the weather turned rainy and windy and we had to turn back.
Hawaii’s beaches come in many colors. The sand can be white, yellow, pink, gray, green, or black. Black beaches were made from the ocean waves pounding lava into small, smooth pebbles. One of the black beaches on the Big Island is the nesting area for the green sea turtle. Tourists stop in big tour buses to see the black beach and to take pictures of the turtles. The turtles don’t seem to mind and the locals have set up small shops to sell food, jewelry, and t-shirts.
Hawaii also has wonderful forests and spectacular waterfalls. One of these waterfalls is located at Akaka Falls State Park, which reminded me of a rain forest because of the massive amount of green ferns and lush vegetation and very tall bamboo trees. Big Kahuna Falls was something to behold after we hiked through the forest on a narrow path. It was hidden across a huge gorge. The water emerged from the forest and fell about a hundred feet straight down. With the great weather, lush vegetation, and beautiful scenery Hawaii is as close to paradise as most people get in their lifetime.
After we spent a week on the Big Island, my family and I took a quick plane ride over to Maui. Maui attracts a lot more tourists than the Big Island. Maui also has a lot of great beaches where we spent a lot of time. At one of these beaches I was buried in the sand and my brother and I did more bodysurfing. The waves were much higher which made it a lot of fun.
While on Maui we drove the infamous “Road to Hana”. All the shops sell t-shirts that say “I survived the Road to Hana”. I can see why, the curves were enough to make most people carsick. That two lane road had over 100 turns or switchbacks as it followed the ocean through a rain forest around half the island. Locals from Hana actually drive this road each day to go to work in bigger towns. The scenery was gorgeous. There were dozens of waterfalls along the way and lots of pullouts so that the tourists could take pictures. At a couple of the stops we saw people jumping off waterfalls into the ponds below. Most people only drive to Hana, turn around, and repeat the trip in reverse. The road does go all the way around the island, but the rental car agencies don’t recommend you take it. We did and found only one really narrow rough spot. We got to see the dry side of the island. It looked more like the range land of eastern Colorado than Hawaii.
Maui has a lot of narrow, winding roads. On another day we drove to the top of the inactive volcano, Haeleakala. Most tourists leave their hotels during the night to make the trip up to watch the sunrise. My parents have been to Hawaii two other times and knew that my brother and I would not be impressed with a sunrise. The drive takes you from sea level to the top of a mountain. You drive through several different climate zones and the plants and animals change in each one. We even drove through the clouds and once above them could see the ocean again. It was cold at the top and unfortunately it was foggy inside the crater of the dormant volcano. We saw hundreds of brave tourists who paid to ride up the mountain in a van and ride down the mountain on a bicycle. We did not choose that adventure.
While on Maui, we took a catamaran trip on the Trilogy to Lanai. Lanai was formerly known as the “pineapple island”. Dole moved their pineapple business to Thailand where labor is cheaper about ten years ago. The island is now sparsely inhabited by native Hawaiians and has one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen. Bill Gates got married there. Sailing on a catamaran took a few hours so there was plenty of time to absorb the wonderful scenery in the mean time. When we arrived, we were taken on the tour of the island and allowed to play and snorkel on a very secluded beach. On the way back the ocean was a lot rougher than when we left. I was on a bench in the front of the catamaran over one of the two keels when a huge wave hit the side of the boat causing me to get soaking wet. Everyone cheered and my parents took a picture.
One evening we went to a luau at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. It was a great experience. The staff demonstrated how to open a coconut the traditional way and how to blow a conch shell. We ate a roast pig that had been cooked under hot coals and palm leaves in the sand all day. They put on a great show that night which included fire dancers and hula dancers. They also explained what the music and the movements meant in the Hawaiian culture. It was very interesting.
There were many other things that were different from Nebraska. The Hawaiian alphabet has only 13 letters. That’s why so many words sound and look alike. Don’t call the mainland “the United States” when someone asks where you are from. Hawaii is the 50th state. “Aloha” means hello and goodbye. An obscene looking gesture with your thumb and pinky finger hanging down means “hang loose” and is used freely as a greeting. People honor their dead by leaving food and flowers along the highways instead of a white cross. They believe their dead need food for their journey. There is no graffiti on walls or bridges, people use white stones to spell out words and place them on the black lava. There are hieroglyphic drawings in caves and in the old lava fields that look a lot like the drawings left by Native Americans in Arizona.
As I look back at this vacation it stands out as being my favorite. My favorite things were swimming with the fish and turtles, bodysurfing on the many beautiful beaches, and of course the wonderful luau we had on Maui. The only drawback to this trip for me was the long, nonstop flight over and back with limited leg room. Next time I will go first class. And my parents reminded me that next time I will have to pay my own way. And I will be glad to do that, because Hawaii has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth!
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