Three years ago when I was invited by Starwood Hotels to their Rendezvous in Honolulu, I had mixed emotions about taking the trip having never visited Hawaii before.  I convinced myself that I could break the seal on Hawaii with Honolulu because it wasn’t quite the same level of awe inspiring beauty found on Hawaii’s other islands.  I made myself believe Honolulu was a business city with a fine beach, a Miami but much further away.  And having now returned with my bride to both Maui and Kauai, I feel fortunate that I was right.  I saved real Hawaii for my honeymoon.There’s something to be said for traveling to a far off exotic place, a place where one’s passport is required and the language is foreign.  But what if you can get that far off exotic experience without those hassles?  Maui and Kauai do just that.  It takes eleven hours to fly there – it certainly meets the requirements of being far and off.  And one quick look around will check the box for exotic.   Not having to exchange currency is an even bigger bonus, although one can certainly make the case that the dollar I know doesn’t quite go as far on the islands.  Is that Hawaiian dollars?  I have not one morsel of regret spending the most significant vacation of my life, right here in the US of A.

The jury is still out as to whether we enjoyed Maui or Kauai better.  We were told that Maui was “fast paced” compared to Kauai and indeed we can corroborate that.  There’s simply more to do on Maui.  We personally liked an island where there was more to do but we wouldn’t presume to make that choice for others.  Kauai probably has more natural beauty unto itself, but Maui has higher elevations and Maui has the famous Road to Hana.

On Maui we enjoyed a five night stay at the gorgeous Grand Wailea resort, a Waldorf Astoria Resort.  Wailea Beach is immaculate and the ocean views here are priceless.  Maui afforded us the opportunity to take in a Haleakala sunrise, where the tour van picks you up at your hotel at three in the morning.  That was not a typo!  You are driven to an elevation of roughly 10,000ft – the view from up here is breathtaking – literally.  At roughly quarter to six in the morning, you stand huddled with your mate, wrapped in hotel blankets and two layers of sweatshirt, bearing the forty degree temperature coupled with forty mile per hour winds, and you watch a mystical sunrise over the crown of the volcano.  It’s nearly heavenly.  And all that and back to your hotel before ten.  On Maui you can also enjoy the Road to Hana, which, if driven by one’s self we’re told can be renamed the Divorce Highway.  We chose to take another tour van here and we were blessed with an exceptional tour guide.  Hana itself is nothing to write home about at all – but the Road To Hana, and the Road From Hana – well you could write a novel about each.  We saw the most beautiful rain forest and the most beautiful desert, all in the course of one day.  Waterfalls every few hundred feet and an oil painting in every direction.

Kauai is super laid back.  We enjoyed a three night stay here at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.  You just feel so far from the real world here.   The natural beauty is almost unreal.  On Kauai we’d enjoy a luau hosted by our hotel, so not quite as authentic as we might have liked.  But we also experienced mystical sunsets including one in a town called Hanalei.  In Hanalei we had our one and only celebrity citing – a real A lister even – Beau Bridges.  We were seated at the very next table, too close for me to even say to Jaime, “Hey, that’s Beau Bridges at the next table.”  So instead I pulled him up on my phone, on the IMDB, passed my phone to her and said, “Does this look about right?”  Beau, his wife, and daughter, were simply there to enjoy a nice dinner as we were.  The last thing they needed was an interruption from the paparazzi especially this far from civilization.  So instead, strategically, to force an interaction I said, “Excuse me.”  Beau’s wife said, “Beau?” and then Beau turned to me, ready to be super friendly if need be.  But I didn’t need.  I said, “Would you mind taking our picture?”  Beau’s wife was apparently the better photographer but nonetheless, we now have a picture taken by the Bridge’s family and they will never know if we knew their celebrity status ever.  A much better use of our fate.

We loved every second on these islands, from our spa treatments, to sitting poolside, to lounging on the beach, to private cabana dinners, to learning how to say Humuhumunukunukuapua’a two times fast, to the delicious seafood, to the sunrises and sunsets, to the glorious natural environment.  Although we both saved our visit until now – we will not delay in returning.  Is it too soon to renew our vows?

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