It was wet. It was hot. It was pure and utter perfection. I cracked my window a centimeter, stuck my nose out, and inhaled as enthusiastically as a dog. Hawaii I thought as I closed my eyes and smiled.
When my father had first proposed the idea of this vacation the previous Christmas I had been ecstatic and terrified, being it my first plane ride ever. However, I loved the trip, in addition to the destination; the beautiful island Kona that had soon felt like home. We stayed on “The Big Island” of Hawaii for almost two weeks, half the time on Kona, half on Hilo. Kona, the dry side, was the first stop, in the bustling town of Kilauea. We were always out, never staying in our little condo for long. Every day we visited the local farmer’s market, a pocket of tourist-free wonder. I’ll never forget the face of the local woman who smiled through tears when we bought the wooden turtles her blind son had painstakingly carved. Her heavily accented “thank you” struck me in a very profound way. The market was the place where I was exposed to the culture and the life of the natives who affectionately referred to us tourist as “main-landers”. It was often the highlight of my day. Until we went to Hilo that is.
On our 5th day of the trip we headed over to Hilo, the wet side of the island. Traveling across the island I felt as if we were going to a whole different country, the sides were so different. Kona was much more populated whereas Hilo was rural, local. The ride to our rented home, named Hale Pukana La or “Sunrise house”, was almost perilous, filled with twists and turns that left my family and I dizzy and disoriented. We feared we would never make it to our destination but that was nothing compared to the anxiety felt en route to the giant Kapoho tide pools.
Having befriended the neighbors across the way, they gave us the inside scoop on a “shortcut” that was guaranteed to cut our time in half. Twenty minutes later, we were on the infamous, local named “red road”, cramped between two dense jungles of a tropical nature. An occasional sign would only read this warning: “Indian Burial grounds. KEEP OUT”. I didn’t even dare snap a picture of it, fearing some ancient wrath. We begged my father to turn around but he was adamant; we were going. After an eternity, we made one final turn and the ocean spread out in front of us. I couldn’t contain my gasp. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. The crystal blue ocean interrupted by the occasional island of lava rock was so serene. I saw families snorkeling, wading and laughing. I launched myself out of the car and into the water. I giggled in glee like a small child while my 7 year old sister looked incredulously at my behavior. Underwater there was even more wonder. The tide pools that were about as wide as the average garage was actually 20 feet deep. I saw fish dart in front of me, shyly swimming away if I got too close. I never wanted to leave, either the water or the island itself. However, I often recollect my trip, dwelling on the peaceful market and the enchanting Kapoho tide pools.
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