I felt my arms tingle with what can only be described as, pure magic, when I first got off the plane at Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on a very warm day in March of 1985. People on the plane cheered as it touched down – and I thought – what is this? I was clueless about what Hawaii was… some of these people already knew the feeling, having been to the Hawaiian islands before. I remember them talking excitedly about arriving in Honolulu and all that they would do. I remember the flight attendants were beautiful and delightful.
The day was picture-perfect as I walked into the airport. Instantly I saw more Asian people than I’d ever seen before, growing up in Western Pennsylvania. I think we had one Chinese girl in our town – adopted, and later we had a family of Vietnamese that were able to escape their country and be sponsored by a local businessman.
Everyone seemed happy in the Honolulu airport. The space was bright and airy… there was the smell of plumeria (frangipani) and jasmine flowers in the air from the many lei’s being handed out by tour guides.
I was overwhelmed with the beauty of Hawaii, and I was still in the airport!
That first day – I still remember pretty well. At 11:30am after I collected my bags, I drove with my supervisor in the Air Force to the dorms where I checked in. I was stunned by the beauty of Hickam Air Force Base. It is too nice! I felt as if it should be on Robin Leech’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Hickam was jaw-dropping beautiful.
Imagine me almost slipping into a pleasure-coma when I finally got to see the ocean in Waikiki… Makapu’u… Kahana… Kailua… Pali Lookout… Dillingham and the North Shore.
Besides the aesthetic beauty of Hawaii – there is something else ethereal that took me a long time to put a finger on. Maybe still, I’ve not nailed it down. I’ll try to explain where I think the feeling of magic comes from in Hawaii for me – and see if it’s the same for you.
The natural beauty of the islands is unsurpassed. I’ve lived in Thailand for the last almost 7 years and there are places here that are on par with some of the beautiful attractions in Hawaii. I don’t feel the magic here in Thailand like there is pervading Hawaii. The weather is similar, the geography, similar. The people – very nice. It doesn’t have the Hawaiian Magic though.
The weather in Hawaii is nothing short of miraculous. Where else in the world is there such perfect weather? I don’t think it can be touched – only matched in perhaps in Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, and some of the other islands. The weather is always bearable, and usually perfect. The tradewinds too – cool things off when they get too warm, and overall – the weather experience is part of the magic of Hawaii because it’s near constant beautiful weather. Growing up with horrible winters in Pittsburgh, I felt like I was on another planet.
The untainted cleanness of the air in Hawaii – notwithstanding Waikiki or the H-1,2,3 highways during rush hours – is lovely. The smell of salty fresh air as one gets close to the beach where waves are breaking, is one of my favorite smells and experiences – ever. It is magical to inhale the salty wet air and breathe deeply over and over.
Working out in Hawaii is great because the air is so clean and the terrain so varied. You can run in the sand at the beach, on the flat along the Ala Wai canal on Oahu, or up mountain trails on Tantalus mountain – up to you. There is no shortage of physical activities you can take up in Hawaii – even snorkeling can give you a workout if you cover some ground. For me, surfing and bodyboarding was the ultimate and I spent hundreds (thousands?) of hours in the Pacific Ocean doing those activities, swimming, and bodysurfing.
The waters of Hawaii were always clean and though small, there were always fish to see and the occasional large sea turtle. Swimming in such an amazing place, with the possibility of seeing dolphin jumping and spinning out of the water, sharks, fish, crabs, octopuses, and sea turtles helps to give a magical, mysterious feeling about Hawaii.
There is always activity going on – especially on Oahu. If you were ever bored in Hawaii – you’re in the wrong solar system. The place is packed with fun things to do. You can’t NOT have fun there everyday – it’s impossible. I can’t remember a bad day in Hawaii, truthfully – I cannot. Everyday is a good day. Everyday is a day you can go to the beach or do something new like climb a mountain, swim somewhere new, explore some new terrain, shop a new place, or whatever your passion is. Not only that, you can choose from the other islands – Kauai, Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Lanai too – all of them a short plane ride to a completely new paradise. So, part of Hawaii’s magic is that it doesn’t end on the island you’re on. There is so much more to explore – and you’ll never do it all.
The local people of Hawaii are real gems. You might not have the same experience as I did… but, working with them and spending time after work with them – was a real treat. They have an awesome outlook on life… and are literally part of the island magic I experienced. It was really refreshing to see their attitude about life, having grown up in the mainland USA myself – and with a focus of getting ahead and accomplishing as much as I possibly could – ingrained in my head. I learned how to relax in Hawaii. I layed in the sun for 6 hours a day on the weekends. I talked to people from all over the world in Hawaii. I dated girls from Tahiti, Venezuela, Canada, Colorado, Maryland, Philippines, Japan… and more. I had never even known people from those places before I arrived in Hawaii.
I learned how to barbeque at the beach in Hawaii… we’d spend the weekends camping out in tents in Waimanolo or spending it in the beach cabins at Bellows Air Force Station – and literally having more fun than we thought we had a right to. I think that’s part of the magic… I think that’s the hidden ingredient that many visitors to Hawaii – and those living in Hawaii – can’t put a finger on.
It’s the magical feeling that – “I’m having a better time than I thought I could ever have.”
It’s the knowing, “This is the most beautiful and awesome place on the planet to experience – and I’m HERE NOW!”
It’s the incredible feeling that – “I am not worthy of this amazing place, the people, the experiences, the MAGICAL FEELING that pervades the Hawaiian islands…”
It’s too much – too perfect… I’m not worthy of it.
And I think that is the magic about visiting or living in Hawaii for me.
What do you think the magic of Hawaii is?
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(All images copyrighted by flickr.com user, paul (dex) – used with permission given by attribution license. Thanks Paul, awesome Hawaii photos both here and in your photostream at Flickr.)