by Patti Podgers
Hawaii...just the “word” conjures images of brilliant rainbows, Lucy gardens, sweeping beaches, and melodic music. Correct on all counts! One of the most beautiful places in the world, Hawaii has something to offer for the young, and, well, mature visitor. And this past Christmas had me singing along to Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka” under a star-lit sky on Waikiki Beach. Now, can it get any better than that??
Photo of Oahu vista courtesy of northshoreexplorers.com.
Although I am not a Hawaiian newbie—this was my third trip to the islands—each visit has been an adventure. On previous visits, I explored Kauai, Maui, and put my toe in the waters of Oahu’s beaches. However, this trip would be different. I was returning to Hawaii at the request of my brother, Jimmy. A connoisseur of all things Hawaiian, he requested some of his ashes be scattered on Oahu. The time had come to fulfill his wish as my brother succumbed to cancer a year ago. But first, I was going to walk in his footsteps on the island known as “The Gathering Place.”
As I planned my last trip to Hawaii two years ago, my brother prepared a travelogue for me. Filling four letter-size sheets of paper with handwritten notes, Jimmy shared advice on specifically the island of Oahu, his favorite. A professional writer, my brother was very articulate and precise. His notes included favorite restaurants, beaches, shops, and historical sites. I kept those notes, tucking them into a file for future reference. And now I would visit Hawaii as he had.
Hawaii takes my breath away, in a good way; my heart slows as soon as I step off the plane. My brother had a favorite hotel—though “hotel” does not accurately describe the Breakers. Though frayed around the edges, the family-owned lodging is clean and well-operated, actually staffed 24/7. (It’s all about location!) Constructed in the Japanese style with sliding doors and lanai, or balconies, the hotel surrounds a pool and boasts an Asian-themed restaurant. However, Jimmy’s list of favorite restaurants was so long, I tiptoed past the on-site eatery...visions of Thai, Chinese, Italian, and traditional Hawaiian cuisine were dancing through my head.
For the next week, I enjoyed breakfast at Eggs ‘n Things, where the pancakes floated above my plate. Chaing-Mai was a fabulous choice for authentic Thai. On Christmas Eve I traveled across the street from the Breakers to Aracino, an Italian gem. And Christmas Day, well, for this Jewish girl, it had to be a trip into Chinatown, where every restaurant is a home run. Drinks and a light meal are absolutely a must at The Royal Hawaiian, more commonly called The Pink Hotel. Or stop by the House Without a Key, the setting of a famous Charlie Chan mystery.
Shopping was a highlight of the trip, accompanied by Jimmy Buffett’s “Christmas Island.” I bought a pair of Olukai sandals, though locals call them “slippers.” Packages of Maura Loa macadamia nuts and traditional Hawaiian Cookie Company treats...yummy! And, of course, I had to purchase a floral dress. Who knows where or when I might wear it, but I just had to mimic my brother’s passion for the historically significant Hawaiian designs. I also visited Queen Emma’s Summer Palace and the Bishop Museum, enjoyed a traditional Hawaiian show (minus the politically incorrect stew skirts), trekked up to Diamond Head, and hiked up to Makapu’u Lighthouse. The views from both sites are spectacular and worth the effort.
When it finally came time to bid my brother adieu, I chose the beach below the lighthouse to send Jimmy on his final journey. The sun was just setting; the beacon in the lighthouse was beginning to twinkle. And so I knelt in the water and set my brother’s ashes free...it was perfect.
Aloha...may the Hawaiian spirit of “shaka” fill your heart!
Disclaimer: I would not recommend visiting Hawaii during the Christmas season. Too many people. And keep in mind, the Hawaiian Islands are very different siblings with distinct personalities. But I can guarantee that after your first island visit, you will want to spread your wings, or board a Hawaiian Island flight, and explore each sib.