Hawai’i — they call this place paradise. I am wearing a long sleeved shirt, a hoodie over it, a pair of jeans and my Nike trainers. Immediately feeling silly (and warm) upon alighting from the plane, I take my hoodie off and proceed to roll up my sleeves. The tropical winds gently brush against my cheeks and playfully nudge at the loose ends of my ponytail. During the winter months, the temperature in Hawaii stays in the comfortable zone of around 25 degrees Celsius — cool enough to stay comfortable without air-conditioning, yet warm enough to be decked out in tank tops and shorts.
As we approach the city, I cannot help but feel nostalgic. “This is like a step back in the time machine! This is 1970s Singapore.” I exclaim to my friend, Chris. Wide roads straddled by low rise shops with kitschy looking sign boards; the majority of them ruled by unfortunate color combinations and typography — an ugly charm lost in modern day aesthetics which the designer in me finds endearing.
The next day, I welcome the rays of sunlight streaming into my little Hawaiian pad as I change into my bathing suit. After weeks of embracing fall fashion in the cooler mainland American cities, I am on the verge of turning into several shades of pale. In the car, our windows are wind down. The residents on this island love to be close to nature as much as they can be — having wind in their hair, smelling the ocean, listening to the waves, are all parts of it.
Every now and then, Chris stops the car for me to take in the sights. We stop to explore caves off the beaten trail, for homemade mochi ice cream, for waterfalls and for the beaches. Our first stop is at Kailua beach where the sand, the waters and the skies combine to form a breathtaking landscape of stunning colors. The water is a magical gradient of clear greens and blues. Sometimes when I close my eyes and transport myself back to that moment, I am almost certain that even the winds were a sparkling green color.
After beach hopping for hours, we are both starving. In some parts of the island, food trucks line the busy roads. Usually these trucks offer Mexican or Greek street fare, both of which I adore but I am looking to try something specific to Hawaii. I am looking to try what the locals call Ahi Poke. Ahi is the Hawaiian word for yellowfin tuna while Poke is the Hawaiian verb for to slice or to cut. Some describe the dish as Hawaiian ceviche or Hawaiian tuna tartare.
Being a huge fan of sashimi and intentionally living off raw herrings when I was traveling in The Netherlands, I know that Ahi Poke is food which I would enjoy heartily. Finally, we pull up by a food truck selling different types of marinated raw fish. For $12, we get a huge serving of sashimi swimming in a marinate of a mix of seasonings and garnishes. The dish is served cold with the tuna cubed. Using a toothpick, I pick up a piece of Ahi and it is, for the lack of better words, utter perfection. It is comforting to later find out that the recipe can easily be replicated at home.
It takes exactly 2 days for me to look like I belong on the island — with adequately sun kissed skin, ocean kissed hair, bathing suit under my tank ready for another day out by the beach. Other than the beaches, Hawai’i is also home to a horde of hiking trails that the active traveller can take on. An invitation to go on a challenging hike is one of the few reasons a gym rat like myself would skip the gym for.
The Napali hike in Kaua’i is one of the most popular trails on the island. The trail takes nature lovers across streams and caves and gives you stunning panoramic views of the mountains and oceans. Avid photographers set up their tripods on the beach in eager anticipation of the gorgeous sunset. The first few miles of the trail is an easy hike for most people; the deeper parts are often taken on by the seasoned trekker or for the ones ready for a challenge. In my opinion, any passionate hiker should make it a priority to travel to Kaua’i and take on the full Napali trail. To experience the rocky trails and the beautiful coastline the island has on offer is incomparable, plus you get a good workout and a healthy dose of vitamin D while at it.
On my last day in Hawaii, I am at least 3 shades darker than when I first arrived. A tan I will lose when I return to the mainland. It is not just my skin color which has changed, I leave with a sense of wonder and a heavy heart. I like the island and its offers much more than I expected to. Day by day, it has been tugging at my heart strings. It is near impossible to not find an activity to do here. Nightlife, however, is hardly wild since the residents would much rather wake up at dawn to soak up the sun and be active in the day. Voted as one of the healthiest places to live in the world, Hawai’i is where you can expect to clean your act up!
The waters are pristine, the food is delicious and the weather is perfect. All this is served on a platter with plenty of smiles and kindness from its people. Everyone may lead different lives here, but it is under the Hawaiian sun that they seem happy and content. If you need a dose of happiness, this is the place to be.