Otherworldly Hawaii, for less
On our first day on Maui, we took a ship-organised excursion to the steepling gorge of Iao Valley State Park, where misty wisps of cloud leant a volcanic air to the long-extinct peaks. We also toured the nearby Tropical Plantation, a lush garden that houses a rich variety of tropical plants, where we learned the proper method of opening a coconut (the secret is a swift blow to the top of the nut, as it can be oriented as if it were a monkey's head).
On the Big Island’s two ports of call, we were able to visit Volcanoes National Park, walking through its eerie Thurston Lava Tube (where an ages-old lava stream has left a near-100-yard underground tunnel); and then sample the wares of the Royal Kona Coffee Plantation – from lava to java in one small journey – where their 100% Kona variety is a snip at $30 a pound.
On our second day on Kauai, we visited the bird-watcher’s paradise of Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, where squadrons of great frigatebirds, wedge-tailed shearwaters and red-footed boobies soared in the thermals over the rugged cliffs.
Back on Oahu, we paid our respects at Pearl Harbor Memorial and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and travelled back in time to the amazing Kualoa Ranch, where their variety of all-terrain tours, including on horseback and all-terrain vehicles, demonstrated why this was the eye-catching location for such films and TV shows as Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Windtalkers and Lost.
Hawaii – its islands thrusting in such unlikely fashion from the depths of the Pacific Ocean like a series of green jewels – has a rare ability to beguile and enchant. Every island had its own character and superlatives, but each was linked by unfailing friendliness, the gentle lilt of the Hawaiian ukulele, a tropical climate that generally steadied between 80F and 88F, and a never-ending series of achingly beautiful sunsets.
After the week we were in another mindset, completely de-stressed, unhurried, and totally tuned in to the laid-back aloha vibe that insists on harmony. It is not so much a word as a graceful way of life.