“Aloha!” is the most common word of greeting or farewell in Hawaii. The Insight guide describes it as a composite of 2 words- “Alo” meaning “to face” and “ha” meaning “the breath of life”. To me, a vacation in Hawaii, nicknamed “the Aloha State”, felt akin to facing the breath of life!
After a long, sleepless and tiring 8 hour journey from Phoenix, we reached the Big Island. But once we set foot onto the tarmac of an airport too tiny to be called “International”, we were overjoyed to see it dotted with coconut trees and buildings with tiled roofs that were reminiscent of South India. We felt like we were home!
Kona, or the Big Island, stretches for about 60 miles from Kona International Airport to beyond Kealakekua Bay(1). It is one of the 8 main islands of Hawaii, which is the 50th state of the US. But it was so easy to forget we were still on American soil. “Aloha!”, names like “Kealakekkua Bay” and, simply, the whole environment felt so unlike the mainland that I kept expecting to come across a different currency or language.
If we were overjoyed to spot coconut trees and tiled roofs, we were thrilled to have a beautiful balcony with a spectacular view of the ocean from our room at the Royal Kona Resort. Sleeping to the sound of waves splashing against boulders felt like lullaby to our ears at the end of a day’s exploration and adventure.
For about 5 days we explored the length and breadth of Kona starting with Kailua Kona where we explored the sunny beach, the cool interior of Mokuaikaua Church, the exterior of Hulihee Palace (which had been turned into a museum whose tranquility We didn’t wish to disturb by taking a couple of feisty kids inside) and its tiny shops selling accessories resembling exotic Hawaiian flowers like Plumeria, and other knickknacks.
Kealakekkua Bay was one place that we visited almost everyday at different times to catch a glimpse of Dolphins sleeping after a night of foraging. But we never spotted one. A localite we spoke with said they were out greeting the whales that were arriving just then from Alaska. Makes one good story, doesn’t it? But that didn’t deter us. We loved its postcard-like views of the mountains and the ocean and went there whenever we had time. Sometimes we took our lunch there so we could have picnic by the ocean. Medha just loved the idea of eating outside where she didn’t have to follow table manners!
“Kapu” refers to the ancient Hawaiian code of conduct of laws and regulations. Kapus were strictly enforced. Breaking one, even unintentionally, often meant immediate death(2). A kapu-breaker’s only chance for survival was to evade his pursuers and make it to a puuhonua, or a sacred place of refuge. Once there, a ceremony of absolution would take place and the law-breaker would be able to return to society(3). Puuhonua o Honaunau National park preserves one such sacred site. Before we got there I had assumed the place must have been full of sinners but I was wrong. It had a “Great Wall” that secured the Royal grounds where “Ali’l” or Chiefs lived,. There, we saw the royal canoe landing; the Keoua Stone, the favorite resting place of the high chief of Kona; as well as halau (thatched work house), fishponds and a heiau (sacred temple)(4) with beautiful wooden statues carved out of coconut tree trunks. A breath-taking view of the ocean pulled us to the Two-step beach close to the park.
“It was like an aquarium out there!”, Prasad exclaimed after a bout of snorkeling in the ocean. His exploration took him through jungles of coral reefs inhabited by colorful fish. One experience couldn’t satisfy his thirst for the sea and adventure; he wanted to don his snorkeling gear and go swimming every chance he got. He had found his passion and he wanted me to partake in his pleasure; but being unable to swim and having to look after the kids, I resisted the idea. “If only I could rent an underwater camera!”, he wondered
, wanting so badly to capture that world for me….. (continued in my next post)