By Joan Larsen
Make the world go away . . . and I know I reflect you, and probably most others – in feeling that LIFE – yes, life in big letters – has to be better than it had been lately. It has to. We are all drowning in the ever-changing news cycles predicting every sort of gloom and doom. The joy in life that we all still remember seems muted these days.
A change of scene seemed called for. My family was quick to jump on the bandwagon. Hawaii has direct flights from everywhere now. With a lively family aboard, we all agreed that it was a skip and a jump.
Alighting from that plane, seeing the sun and sand, the mountains framing the islands, the easy-going attitude – oh, and the indescribable feeling of the air itself — instantly had us relaxing. Paradise is definitely hard to find in our world now . . . but this was close. Very close.
Sitting out there in the Pacific, Hawaii itself is composed of a number of islands that all have unique features, hidden places just asking to be found. Once out of Honolulu, it is hard to go too far wrong.
But – for my family – it is the island of Kauai that easily has become the one we return to every time. And for good reason . . . as you will see.
Kauai. As our plane descends, we find ourselves hanging at the windows, gazing down at some of the most jaw-dropping scenery on our earth. The island is a study in extremes – skyscraping cliffs meeting plunging valleys, stunning beaches that seem never-ending, and, topping it off, lush rainforests that beckon you to explore.
Yes, we have returned more than a few times, but each time its beauty is new once again. We so needed a getaway from our world. Kauai promises us a complete escape, and – as always – fulfills its promise.
We are older now – and smarter. We begin with rest and relaxation for a day or two, once again choosing St. Regis Princeville Resort, just opened in 2009, and fabulous (and I don’t use that term often!!). Built into a cliff, it is here that you’re mesmerized by the endless waterfalls spilling down into deep green valleys, the sand beaches with the ocean lapping their shores.
I feel as if I am in another world.
Here at the North Shore, we find it an ideal jumping-off spot for so many adventures. Adventures that never pale.
Those of you who know my absolute addiction to adventures in small planes will want to know that the two of us suited up in nostalgic cloth helmets, goggles, and headsets – before settling in to an open cockpit bi-plane, piloted – of course – by The Red Baron. “Show us the hidden places that few know about” was all he needed to fly us low and slow over the Na Pali cliffs and far beyond, filling our eyes and hearts with sheer joy.
In the meantime, our fairly newly married children have made their own plans, choosing what kids do – a bit of camping, renting a quite reasonable condo for a week, and traversing cliffside trails to hidden beaches, exploring all the most active choices that we too once had done until only a few years back. Seeing the joy in their eyes as they talk up a storm as we meet for dinner now and then is always seen as a celebration. We manage many toasts to the good life we have found. And yes, we have a whole new meaning for “sparkling conversation”.
The “kids” – aka younger adults – managed to kayak, horseback ride into places otherwise pretty inaccessible, hike on cliffside trails where sure-footedness is a necessity but with hidden beaches below that left stars in their eyes.
Days had rolled by, unaccounted for. When we weren’t stretched out in hammocks beneath the trees, we took new trips that explored places not yet seen. We slept like babies. We found the food – from food stands on the roads to fancy dining at our hotel – so delectable that it will be forever remembered. It wasn’t like home – and that is for sure.
This year’s glorious memories of beautiful Kauai – the island that has it all – are again going to be “forever ones”. Now back home, we smile at each other as we remember this island apart with its own “ private moments”.
Once again, we are ready to take on the world.
Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth. But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again. She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”