I have judged that there is only one solomn rule for this trip: If I’m not physically in the water, high heels will adorn my feet and crystals will dot the lobes of my ears.
Friday afternoon - Delta flight to OGG (Maui)
This is my first, first class ticket. No, I don’t mean that it’s the first time I’ve ridden first class. I’ve flown enough and gathered enough miles in my time to have graced the elite sections of a Boeing 777, rubbing elbows with business savvy or the upgrade lucky.
No, this is my first time paying for a first class ticket and that means something. Namely, it means I checked a bag.
Typically, this is unheard of for me. I’ve come to pride myself on spending numerous days at various locations around the world with only my roll-on and a shoulder bag.
Checking a bag is for suckers and the undisciplined, I’ve thought haughtily to myself, rolling like the wind past congested bag drop-off lines.
Of course, those thoughts are ridiculous. There are numerous reasons why a person would or wouldn't take a large bag while traveling. Occasionally, I’ll check a nearly empty bag during holiday travel or if I’m shopping for goods while on a Black Hound hunt.
The bag I checked for this trip however is anything but empty. In fact, it’s over-weight.
Here’s another fact: It’s my 33rd birthday.
I’ve been eyeing a trip to Hawaii for some time, ever since I left my beloved East Coast for the West, and a long weekend on one of the most romantic islands on earth sounded like a great destination for my milestone.
The bag I’ve checked is loaded with various dresses, bathing suits, shoes, fragrances, jewelry, camera equipment, and other personal items, all thrown haphazardly into it’s maw at the last minute.
As I packed, I channeled Donyale Luna and Helen Williams, determined to be dressed and ready for an imaginary Vogue shoot at any moment. I knew well that I was only staying for four days, while I was clearly packing for forty.
I held my head up high as the bag checker struggled to load my monstrosity onto the conveyor belt. Helen Williams, indeed.
The Hyatt Andaz is five-star, gorgeously appointed property along the Mokapu Beach and is approximately an hour from the airport.
As I’m helped out of the car, a lei is placed gently over my head. It’s big, fluffy white flowers give off a scent of fresh perfume and I breathe it in deeply. Walking past the grand entrance, I arrive in the generously proportioned and beautifully modern lobby and break out In an excited smile.
I had researched my Maui hotel choice for weeks before finally settling on the Andaz. I favored its fresh and modern setting over that of a more traditionally styled hotel and resort for this particular trip.
It does not disappoint boasting a high, vaulted ceiling, low furniture, natural wood accents and vast, open balconies. Everything about it was like poetry to my eyes.
A glass of chardonnay is almost telepathically whisked into my hand by Julya Frattalone, a bubbly resort host and guest liaison. She kindly explains the numerous amenities and facilities that are at my disposal on the property. We walk up to one of the countless open balconies that overlooks the main infinity pools and I scan out past the hundreds of perfectly white umbrellas, past the dense palm trees and onto the crashing ocean.
Both bodies of water reflect the bright moon and twinkling stars in the sky, while the babble of late night swimmers and bar guests float up to meet our ears.
I close my eyes against the breeze, tasting the wine on my lips and smelling the salt in the air and know I’ve found my happy place.
I retire to my room, my second room, having asked for a change so I could get a better view of the ocean. I gingerly remove my lei, it’s delicate petals having bruised slightly at my footsteps.
The room décor fabulously echoes the modern look and feel I experienced in the lobby, with dark wood furniture, pale, soft linens and bright steely hardware in the bathroom and closet.
I pop momentarily into the 24 hour market they have on the property and gather up a bottle of wine, a freshly pressed panini before returning to the room.
After unpacking my crazily over packed bag, I step into the over-large rain shower, then slip into bed, resting my head against my feathered pillow and sleep as deeply as my excitement will allow.
Am I totally incapable of just relaxing on a beach? Can I not not do something?
| Saturday - morning planning and afternoon lounging at the Hyatt
This is what I wonder to myself over a tasty breakfast of Hawaiian-style eggs benedict. I sit at attention, lavishly dressed, my fingers flying deftly across my tablet, looking to book last minute activities for the next few days.
All around me, I’ve given, what I will now label as the subtle stare.
The subtle stare, is the kind that other people give you when you are clearly not fitting their definition of normal, but they deem themselves too polite to publically point it out. This manifests itself in sideways glances and casual gestures in my direction.
The question behind these stares are clear: where is your date/boyfriend/husband/companion? I toss my freshly coiffed hair in the opposite direction and press the phone against my jeweled ear, continuing on with the burden of single life.
“Okay, I’ll try again the next time I’m on the island. Thanks for letting me know,” I say for the umpteeth time in sadness, while waving away two bold sparrows from absconding with raspberry scone.
In the end, I’m able to nab a few activities over the coming days. I leave the rest of my time to practicing the art of relaxing, an ability I’ve yet to master.
I bounce between the beach and pool, with no fewer than three outfit changes, because of course I do.
Beach side, I run into the surf, my legs stinging bitterly at the salt in the water. I jump around like a kid, running towards and away from the tide, watching the sand undulate within the waves of the ocean.
Afterwards, I rinse off and head to one of the properties several infinity pools.
I select the ones that are open to both adults and children as they offer the most spectacular view of the beach. I saunter pass other guests who have lazily draped themselves across their numerous poolside loungers. Each patron displays their on personal take on being either dressed or undressed, depending on their level of sun worship.
I order and enjoy a multitude of fruity drinks and an excellent pork taco while drifting between sleeping and reading for hours on end.
Couple’s kiss and take pics together. They cling tight to one another and tangled their fingers up in each other's hair and clothing. Kids laugh. A dog barks.
I swish up the long winding stairs back to the rooms, past the live guitar at the open bar, and call it an evening.
I had not planned on a helicopter tour, so when the website said, “wear dark clothing” I looked through my brightly colored dresses and pops of color shirts and thought, “sh*t.”
Sunday - morning helicopter tour, followed by a lunch and luau
The next day, I arrive at the heliport for my noon tour with Air Maui over the west side of the island. The waiting room is dotted with a few other folks also on the tour, including a family of three whose daughter smiles shyly at me when I catch her eye.
I’m catching a special deal with Air Maui, who sells single available seats, last minute at a discount. Our group is filled out in special order to face the craft and be loaded onboard. I’m thrilled when I get a front row seat in the center, right next to the pilot.
My fellow passengers, by the by, are not dressed in dark colors. I am the only one who showed up in a mixture of dark oppressive threads. Apparently this was recommended for the photo they take just before you get on, the helicopter is white and so dark colors pop more. I missed this footnote and fellow passengers missed the suggestion completely.
My helicopter ride with Air Maui can only be described as thrilling! The exhilaration of lift-off, the force of forward motion, the smoothness of the ride, it was all amazing.
The island of Maui winks up at us from below in a rich palette of colors. Bright, blue ocean; dark looming cliffs; lush green jungles. We buzz past waterfalls and down cliff faces, making a few hairpin turns with enough G-Force to push our brains down into our skulls. I hum the Jurassic Park theme-song silently to myself.
The helicopter ride is followed by lunch at Mama’s Fish House, a wonderfully kitchy and delightfully tasty restaurant near the little town of Paia, decorated with bamboo furniture, tiki-style posters, blown glass and fishing nets.
After some time in the charming town of Paia, I call up a car, having made a connection with a nice car driver named Jules, and we start our way to The Drums of the Pacific Luau at the Hyatt Regency.
This luau is an epic affair. The master of ceremony is a suave, stout man, with a smooth radio voice and easy smile.
He welcomes everyone to the night’s performance and encourages everyone to say hello to their neighbor. The seating is communal style, so after a few hellos I’m instantly adopted by a family of three; a mother, father and their adult daughter.
While we dine on a fairly good buffet ( I enjoy an over abundance of pork, fish, soft breads and noodles to compliment yet another Mai-tai) our host informs the audience about the traditions of Hawaii and the significance of the luau and its dances.
Māui, the name of the island, turns out to have gotten it’s namesake from a demi-god in the Polynesian mythos. He is said to have created the Hawaiian Islands by using his fishing hook, and tricking his brothers to haul the islands up from the ocean floor (by convincing them they were were actually hauling up fish).
Once the show really gets going, my temporarily adopted mother heavily foreshadows a moment in the future when they will ask guests to join them on stage to be taught how to hula. When the time comes, they eagerly encourage me to take to the stage and I obliged them.
My fellow dance mates and I laugh our way through the instructions, trying our level best to mimic our betters, as we pantomime the lyrics of The Hukiluau.
There is a dizzying number of costume changes and impressive dancing throughout the three hour show. While the finale boasts an impressive fire dance performed by three Hawaiian warriors, my favorite performance is of the arrival of the Princess. Borne by a litter of men onto the stage, her slow, mysterious and meticulous movements stand in stark contrast to the faster paced dances previously seen throughout the evening.
I end the luau and the day stuffed and humming to myself, vowing to find take a real hula lessons stateside someday in the future.
I wake for my early morning snorkel and surf lesson only to find that the god Maui has deemed it untenable.
Monday - beach side relaxing and romantic sunset cruise
I look into the eyes of the beach crew member manning the desk and present him with my best sad face.
“Really? Could we do it later in the day?” I plead.
“Sorry, the waves will only get stronger and make it harder to see anything," the beach rep apologizes.
I press him, seeing how these are the only underwater activities I had planned, but when he tell me that a guy has “already been pulled of the water” from earlier that morning at another resort, I end my feeble protest and try to book for the following day.
After an hour or two of ocean side relaxing, too weary of venturing into what seemed to be dangerous waves, I turn to one of the men at the concierge desk that afternoon and ask him to book me on a boat tour for the evening.
“Ah, the only one I would recommend and has availability is a sunset cruise at 5pm.”
There’s a strained sound to his voice at this proclamation. I lift my eyebrows at him.
“Well--it’s just that, it’s a romantic cruise for two, and --” he trails off, turning a slight shade of red at the directness of my stare.
I laugh aloud, throwing my head back and pat him on the shoulder genially.
“It’s okay!” I spread my hands out and look around me. “This whole island is engineered for couples. I knew the risks coming alone. I’ll be fine!”
He breathes out a visible sigh of relief.
“Unless,” I begin, looking at him meaningfully, “you wanted to come with me.”
This joke triggers an outburst of laughter from one of the other concierges and my guy turns a perfect shade of crimson.
Shortly afterwards, I leave for my romantic, sunset cruise...for one. It's set on the Alii Nui, a beautiful 65 foot catamaran that coasts the side of the island till sunset.
I wear my favorite dress, a BCBG dress I took with me to the African dessert, which catches the wind like a sail and creates a glamorous look wherever I walk. The other couples stare at my open solo-ness with a mixture of confusion and respect.
Too bad though, because about an hour into the cruise, I go completely green around the gills. I spend the majority of the evening at the back of the boat, huddled under a blanket. All around me, perfectly well couples are enjoying food, drink and each other's company.
Though I am a seasoned solo traveler, I find that in this moment, I am unprepared for Maui's intimate atmosphere, saturated with pairing of couples constantly making out.
Behind me, I hear a cork pop and cheers from the other passengers. Someone just got engaged. A wave of nausea passes through me.
The next day, my last day, I dress for my morning horseback ride. I find I am channeling a Ralph Lauren ad: I've paired my favorite white traveling shirt with cropped khaki pants, dark leather Sperry's and my favorite crystal earrings.
Tuesday - morning horseback ride and return to Seattle
After dressing, I take a cab to Makena Stables and greet my horse, Sam. The group is small, with only me, another couple and the trail guide. I bring up the rear, which is dusty, but gives me the ability to stop my horse periodically for photo opportunities without bothering anyone.
The trail cuts along the coast of the Waianapanapa State Park, whose coast is covered in black and white stones between gnarled trees. Afterwards, we head into the woods and up to a high vantage point to look out over the coastline.
Post trail ride, snorkeling and surfing are still off the menu due to powerful waves. Instead, I take up my book and a lemonade and read under an umbrella along the beach and let the wind and ocean spray breeze over me. I stay there till the sun starts to dip low and the sky beings to purple behind the fading clouds.
That evening I check out, say goodbye to the excellent staff, and am loaded into a cab, the driver mentions that he needs to make a call.
Bleep. “Picking up Williams, and on our way to the airport.”
The warm crack of the two-way radio sparks to life, filling the air with a buzz.
“Copy that. Thank you very much Ms. Williams for your stay with us. We hope you enjoyed it.”
I smile at this attention to detail and unique send off.
“Thanks!” I shout a little, leaning into the front of the cab. “ I did! I had a great time!”
“That's great to hear.” the voice replies warmly. “We hope you’ll come back and stay with us again. Have a safe flight. Mahalo."
And with a crack of disconnection, he was gone.