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hawaiin islandsIt was a cold, snowy day in January of my senior year of high school.  The following June, on my 18th birthday, I would graduate, finally, from high school.  Sitting at the kitchen table during dinner, my mom asked me what I wanted for a graduation present.  I had to think about that for a minute.

Jokingly, I said “How about a one-way plane ticket to California?”
My mother, very seriously, replied “No one-way tickets anywhere.”
Being the smart ass that I am, I answered, “How about a round trip ticket?”
“To where?”

Seriously?  She said okay?  About a week after graduation, my mother, my grandmother, and I boarded a plane taking us to Hawaii. After a 9, 10, maybe 11 hour flight, we finally landed in Hawaii.  We were picked up at the airport by the tour company, whisked off to our hotel to drop off out luggage, and headed out for a quick bite to eat.  By this time it was 10:00 pm in Hawaii.  For me, it was 4 in the morning.  We crashed.

surfersI awoke at 6:00 am, Hawaii time, and wandered out to our 3′ x 6′ balcony to smoke a cigarette.  I don’t remember what floor we were on but it was high enough that I could see over the 2 blocks of buildings and the ocean beyond them. The streets were quiet, only a handful of cars dotted the roadways in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of last night.  The waves were rolling in with surfers riding on top.  It was a scene from a movie.  This WAS heaven on earth.

I spent the next two fun-filled, glorious weeks in the Hawaiian Islands.  We visited four of the islands – Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii. I visited the Polynesian Cultural Center, and shopped at the Ala Moana Mall – which, at that time, was the largest shopping mall in the United States.  We drank Mai Tai’s almost every night, ate fresh, juicy, and delicious pineapple with EVERY meal (everybody on the tour had canker sores by the time the vacation was over), and had coffee (Mt. Dew, actually) and dessert in a small tea garden nestled amongst the trees and lush flowers.  I built a sand castle on Waikiki Beach and walked in the ocean at least once a day, sometimes more.

hawaiian landscapeWe were driven to dormant volcanoes, to the edge of cliffs to see the most spectacular views you could ever imagine, and through pineapple and sugar cane fields.  We went to a dinner show featuring Don Ho and, of course, his song “Tiny Bubbles”, a traditional Hawaiian Luau, and to the Fern Grotto where performers performed – music and dance – the Hawaiian Wedding Song for us.  We took a boat past the memorials of Pearl Harbor and into Kealakekua Bay where the first westerner, Captain James Cook, landed on the island.

The islands of Hawaii are one of the most beautiful places in the United States.  The beaches, the volcanoes, the pineapple fields, the architecture, and oh, those surfers. This really was heaven on earth.  I have not seen another more beautiful than Hawaii.  Well…maybe Italy but that is for another day.

Have you ever been to Hawaii?  What is the most beautiful place you have visited?