BLOG: Lessons learned from the Aloha spirit

By Assunta Ng

I spent my New Year’s in Maui, and I didn’t want to come home. The photos of palm trees and the ocean taken from my hotel room will tell you why. The five-hour flight back from Maui to Seattle changed my perfect paradise to the cold, icy, gloomy, and rainy Seattle of last week.

One of the many rainbows we saw. (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

Why Hawaii?

Hawaii is considered the least-stressed city in the entire United States during the holidays. No wonder why President Obama and his family often visit the Rainbow State for vacation.

How is America so lucky to have Hawaii as part of our country? This state is nothing like any other on the Mainland. Its natural beauty, sunshine, and the genuine Aloha spirit of the people cannot be compared to anywhere else. I haven’t seen any stars in Seattle for years, but in Maui, the unpolluted sky is so full of stars that I feel like I was on another planet.

Even its rainbows are one-of-a-kind. They’re so big, bright, and intense that they feel close enough to touch. They also show up often, sometimes three times a day.

In late November, I felt like I needed to rest after stress from planning the Asian Weekly’s 30th anniversary and from the emotional toll of my mother’s dementia.

“If you want to feel relaxed, go to Hawaii,” most of my friends told me.

Visiting Hawaii also kept my goals of driving less and spending money in America. It was the best choice.

The view from our hotel room (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

Maui’s Hana

We decided to stay at Hana, the most beautiful part of Maui, for two days.  It turned out to be both a blessing, as well as a mistake.

It rained ferociously during our stay. First, a couple of drops would fall, but it quickly became a full storm. There was no time to run from the hotel room to our car, even though it was only 30 feet away. An umbrella or raincoat would not be enough to prevent wetness.

We spent a lot of time inside our cozy hotel, Hana Kai, one of the two hotels in town. I never felt stuck, though. I watched the ocean, listening to the clashes of waves and the rhythm of rain. I was immersed in the moment of content of doing nothing, experiencing the silence of calm and peace in my heart. There was no television in the room, and the Internet and phones were usually down. It was awesome not to think about work, deadlines, and responsibilities.

The moments when the sun came out, we hiked. Often, we would end up soaking wet. The lush green trees, gigantic bamboo, pastoral hills and farms, blue ocean, and multiple waterfalls cannot be depicted in words.

In the afternoon, we shopped at the historic local Hasegawa Store. If you like massages or the spa life, Hana is famous for its reasonable prices.

A bird trying to get a piece of my food. (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

Interesting food

All guidebooks advise you to bring your own groceries when traveling to Hana because there are no grocery stores or restaurants near there, but we didn’t follow conventions.

To be adventurous, we ate whatever we found. There were many small food stalls, so my husband and I shared the most delicious banana bread hot from the oven ($2.50), fresh coconut juice ($5), and roast chicken with rice and corn ($8).

At Hana, there are only two restaurants, Ranch and Travaasa Resort Hotel, for the whole town of 2,500. We liked both. Ranch is a local favorite, and Travaasa is upscale with more choices and yummy dishes.

“Where do you locals eat?” my husband asked a bag handler when we arrived at Sheraton Maui Hotel at Kaanapali. Notice that he didn’t ask, “What’s your favorite restaurant?”

“Go to Lahaina,” he said. We walked four miles to the local packed restaurants in the waterfront area. We picked HoNu. It featured Hawaii fusion-style cuisine, including a little bit of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, and Western cooking. The bill was over $100 for two entrees and drinks, but the food was good.

The only Chinese meal we had was at Fu Lin in the same district. Who would imagine Maui could give us a decent Chinese meal?

That dinner was only $44, including stir-fried veggies, chicken with eggplant, salty fish hot pot, and seaweed with tomato soup. It was not only authentic, but exceeded our expectations.

The Maui Aquarium (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

Snorkeling and swimming

Located next to Black Rock, the Sheraton Maui Hotel has the most beautiful views compared to the resort hotels at Kaanapali in West Maui (see photo for evidence). My husband swam and snorkeled next to the Rock, where an abundance of fish and corals are found.

This is in contrast to his experience at the Caribbean, where there were hardly any fish or coral.

Why? Fish in the Caribbean are probably eaten up. At Hawaii, there are plenty of warnings for swimmers and divers to protect the environment and wildlife. An advertisement in a tourist guide magazine reminded me to visit the Maui Aquarium. Hawaii has over 600 fish species, 25 percent of them unique to the islands. Never in my life had I seen so many gorgeous and colorful tropical fish of different shapes and strange heads. The Seattle Aquarium is nice, but it doesn’t have as many fishes as Maui’s. The only thing we beat them at is our larger collection of jellyfish.

The beach walk (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)


The most exquisite beach walk

Where in the world can you find a place where you can walk for free with the ocean to one side and a golf course on the other?

Only Kannapali’s beachwalk provides this setting. The three-mile walk transforms again when the sun starts setting.

“You got your wish,” my husband said. I love to stroll on golf courses, except I don’t golf.

The Hawaiian government is brilliant. The developers can build all the hotels they want, but the beach belongs to the public.

What souvenirs

If you want to buy souvenirs from Hawaii, my suggestion is don’t. It’s for good reason.

Hawaii’s products are expensive. Why? Most of them are imported. Anything you want, you can buy in Seattle, not Hawaii. Just go to Uwajimaya. It has a huge Hawaiian selection, featuring everything from Hawaiian jam, coconut butter, and honey to candies with Macadamia nuts, and even Hawaiian juices.

I was going to buy a large painted seashell only to find that it was made in the Philippines.

My late mother-in-law taught me a trick. Buy Hawaiian souvenirs in Seattle for your friends, they won’t be able to tell the difference. It saves you the trouble and fees of flying with extra luggage.

So don’t waste your time on souvenirs. Instead, just enjoy your trip and carry the Aloha spirit back with you to Seattle. Live effortlessly, be free of worries, be warm and content, and smile, no matter how challenging your days can be. (end)

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