A Trip Across Three Islands Is Filled With History, Beauty And Wows
BY RAY SPECKMAN
I have this photo, circa 1970s, of my father attempting the hula in Hawaii. It was a trip of a lifetime for a pig farmer and his homemaker wife. Except for my father’s attire, chosen when it was still gauche to go to dinner, even a luau, in something other than a coat and tie, Hawaii’s magic allure has not changed.
I know because this spring, it was my turn.
My travel companion and I planned a trip to visit three of Hawaii’s principal islands — Oahu, Kauai and Maui — and made amazing memories at each one.
We spent two nights in the bustling, hustling metropolitan Honolulu in order to accomplish one thing: Visit the USS Arizona and USS Missouri memorials.
Honolulu is not that much different than Chicago, Houston or any other large mainland town. The stores are the same, the traffic as heavy, and the people on the street just as rushed in their shopping and heading to work.
It was an all-day trip to the Arizona and Missouri, both located in Pearl Harbor. A water shuttle takes visitors to the USS Arizona Memorial. It was a solemn trip across the few hundred yards of water. There is usually a “wise guy” on every tour, but on this trip, there was only a reverent silence from all 150 passengers on board.
The battleship itself was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the memorial is directly above the sunken ship. Someone on a previous tour had tossed flowers into the water. It might have been in tribute to one or to the more than 1,100 who perished on that ship, which still serves a tomb to most who died aboard her. It is a quiet visitation, with much to fill the thoughts of those who come to pay their respects.
A few hundred yards up the harbor, the USS Missouri mightily stands moored, a monument to the strength of the U.S. Navy. It was on the deck of this ship that World War II officially ended. A plaque marks the spot where on Sept. 2, 1945, the Japanese government signed surrender in the presence of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.
Kauai was our favorite island, and the five nights we spent here just were not enough. Beautiful does not describe nor do photos do justice to the wow of this place.
On Kauai, the luau to experience is the Smith’s Family Garden Luau. The family roasts pig in the earthen imu oven, filled with white-hot lava rocks. Seasoned by the banana leaves, tea leaves and salt in which it was buried, the pork is served along with other delicacies to the luau guests, who also get a feast for the eyes thanks to the hula dancers. The show climaxes in a spectacular fire-eating demonstration.
On Kauai there are stunning drives into dense rain forests, along with impressive beaches. Around each bend of the road, the beaches turn from white sand to magnificent black lava rock formations, and the blue waters of the Pacific crash in ever-rushing waves.
Then there is the must-take drive to Waimea Canyon, every bit as magnificent in its own lush way as the mainland’s Grand Canyon. Dozens of shades of green and fabulous waterfalls spill over the rock formations formed eons ago by dramatic volcano eruptions.
We spent three nights on this island of jetsetters. The beaches are just as spectacular as Kauai, but prices are higher, and there’s more snootiness among tourists. There are more golf courses, and they are beautiful with emerald fairways next to a rolling cobalt ocean with white caps that rush against the shore and make one wonder how linksters can concentrate on their game.
Lahaina seems to best typify Maui with its bustling, shoreline downtown. Trendy shops, five-star restaurants, extravagant jewelry stores and high-end art and gallery shops line Front Street, which is anchored by a famous, huge banyan tree.
On Maui’s north shore is a 60-mile stretch of highway called the Road to Hana. It is one of the most treacherous roads I have ever seen. The natural beauty along the road is unsurpassed, with incredible ocean views and spectacular waterfalls. There are 54 bridges on the winding road, most one way. A diligent lookout for oncoming traffic mixes with the desire to see the stunning scenery. It is a road of conflict, a continuing argument of practicality and desire.
Desire always wins in Hawaii.
Ray Speckman can be found dreaming of traversing the Road to Hana, awakening in a sweat, or at email@example.com