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by Susan Purdy


My recent visit to Hawaii was one of life's great surprises. I was delighted to finally discover this island paradise that had been on my to-see list for some time, yet I wasn't prepared to be as emotionally moved by the natural beauty and spirituality found there.

This is probably our most interesting state, characterized by a long history of human sacrifice, royalty, missionaries and transitions. It became a state in 1959, yet the British Union Jack is part of its state flag and two languages are spoken — Hawaiian and English.

George and I began our trip on the island of Oahu, home to the state capital, Honolulu, and to the famous Waikiki Beach where Diamond Head looms over the blue Pacific waters. A group of us were invited to Kapiolani Park, where we sat under a magnificent Banyan tree and met Alfred Abiua, a Hawaiian historian and a Kuma Hula: a Hawaiian priest who has trained and studied the ancient hula and who can approach the altar of the hula gods with offerings and prayers. He explained that hula means dance in the Hawaiian language but it is so much more. Hula is the poetry of his people encompassing passion, joy, fear, triumph and love. The hula, songs and chants were the way Abiua's people kept their oral history alive. The Kuma Hula told us that interest in learning the modern hula is sweeping the world; Japan alone has 300,000 hula dancers, many more than are found in Hawaii. For those who wanted to learn more, he recommended reading Nathaniel B. Emerson's book, Unwritten Literature of Hawaii — The Sacred Songs of the Hula (Mutual Publishing).

We continued our lessons in the park with Kahuna (expert) spiritual healer, Mark Kauluokane Saito ( He explained that our soul is on a long journey and by looking inward into our past lives we may find fragments of our soul, releasing any spiritual entities that are causing problems. He advised sitting quietly and asking God for our password to the magic. "It's like your own E-mail password." We discovered that the Hawaiian language is very spiritual, even with a simple word like aloha, which people use to say hello, goodbye and I love you. When saying aloha, let your breath out as well as your spirit and the person you are speaking with takes it in. Speaking of communicating, conch shells were used to call people in ancient times — the cell phones of that era.

While in Oahu we also visited the beautiful Bishop Museum ( where Hawaiian history is not only on display but performed each day. Visitors can hear stories about the past and then take a behind-the-scenes tour of items not on public display but pertinent to the story. I was impressed by the series of plaster head casts of island people taken in 1920-21 to study the change and differences in the population due to inter-ethnic marriages.

George and I stayed at the romantic Outrigger Waikiki (, home to Duke's Canoe Club & Barefoot Bar named for Duke Kahanamoku, the father of surfing. This put George in a 'dude' state of mind and he decided to 'hang ten' the next day. He took a lesson on land and then paddled out from novice-friendly Waikiki Beach. And by George, he did it. The man was hard to live with after that.

At the shop, Newt at the Royal ( located on the grounds of the elegant Royal Hawaiian Hotel, we met hatter extraordinaire Jim Tomasi. Tomasi knows all there is about the fine straw hats known as Panama's that are really from Ecuador. Prices range from $300 to $7,500 depending upon the weave. I tried on a $575 rakish number that was heaven but unlike Warren Beatty and William Hurt, I left mine behind.

Dining in Waikiki is a treat for the palate especially if you visit Chef Mavro ( for dinner. Award-winning chef/owner George Mavrothalassitis, with wild curls reaching his shoulders and a thick French accent, is a stickler for fresh. "I don't have a freezer in my kitchen!" But he does have the hottest ticket in town. His restaurant, designed by Mary Philpotts made us feel like we were in Honolulu without the kitsch. Chef Mavro's menu had three, four and six course meals all with wine pairings.

We left Oahu for the Garden Isle of Kauai — the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and the most breathtakingly beautiful. We discovered that you can only see the Waimea Canyon by air so hopped into a Will Squyres helicopter ( and had the view of our lives. Waimea, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, is majestic with deep velvet green mountains and sparkling silver waterfalls. We flew into a crater that was once home to the gods and where people were sacrificed, viewing white ribbons of beaches hugging the bays. My mouth felt dry and I finally realized it was hanging open in awe. We didn't have enough of this beauty so we booked a cruise on the A Na Pali Eco Adventure to see the NaPali Coast up close. This coast is where movies from Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and Six Days, Seven Nights were filmed. What a day: turtles and dolphins swam alongside our boat and the views were spectacular.

The island of Maui, home to the world's most magnificent beaches, is the place to snorkel. We signed up for a day with Pacific Whale Foundation Eco Adventures ( and swam in Mother Nature's aquarium, the blue Pacific. We stayed at the gracious Sheraton Maui ( where there is a natural reef on the beach and guests can snorkel all day or learn scuba with free lessons. The town of Lahaina is just minutes from the hotel area of Kaanapali and has both shopping and history. We used a free walking tour guide to discover the 19th century Baldwin House and a floating replica of a whaling ship, the Carthaginian. The place for dinner in Lahaina is Gerard's restaurant (, part of the Plantation Inn Bed & Breakfast ( The restaurant serves Island-influenced French cuisine and the B&B has 19 individually decorated and well-appointed rooms.

When we left for home, our new friends bid us A Hui Hou, until we meet again.


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