The Sunday New York Times had a feature in its Travel Section today on how to spend 36 hours in Honolulu. It singled out some of my favorite places like Kapiolani Park, Chinatown and the drive from Hanauma Bay to Waimanalo with stops at Sandy Beach and Makapuu. With no disrespect to the author, Jocelyn Fujii, I would like to suggest my own itinerary based on recent travels and a reunion with Na Kani Pela, a choir I sang with in high school that represented Hawaii for the Bicentennial celebration. I guarantee you will have a magical time.
First, start by bringing in the people who made your high school years memorable. Collect them all on Facebook then invite them and their families for a big reunion bash. Bug them until they say yes, as showing up for a reunion 35 years later gives people considerable angst. Get people warmed up with a small gathering at the Ground Floor on Richards Street in downtown Honolulu and listen to some Hawaiian music. Hold a pot luck at the home of your calabash mama who looks just like she did 35 years ago. Watch the spark of recognition in her eyes with each arrival and the tears of joy as she gives you a huge ohana hug. Realize you are older now then she was back in 1976. Shudder! Celebrate as each of your high school friends walks through the door. Sing the songs that were the soundtrack of your youth. Take photos. Hug alot. Talk story. Bring tons of food and pig out.
Stay in room 1431 of the Waikiki Beach Marriott with a view of Honolulu that will make you never want to leave. Spend time with your sisters for the first time in three decades on your island home. Bring your sons along as dates. Let them roam around Waikiki like you did when you were teenagers. Get up early every day and walk around Diamond Head. Discover the Farmers Market at Kapiolani Community College. Have inari sushi, fried green tomatoes and shave ice for breakfast. Talk to a homeless man named George on Kalakaua Avenue who reminds you that “just because you don’t have a roof over your head, doesn’t mean you don’t have a home.” Visit your favorite beaches on Oahu. Eat plate lunch at Zippy’s, L & L, Kaneke’s and Ted’s Bakery. Have breakfast at Wailana. Char siu omelet. Ono!
Have a picnic on the beach at Sherwood’s in Waimanalo. Make Kukui Nut leis with your buddies and talk more story. Watch your children play in the surf and get stung by Portuguese Man of Wars just like you did when you were a kid. Be baffled as they stay in the water even though the pain makes them want to jump out of their shorts. Realize that if your son was growing up in Hawaii today it would be a perfect fit just like it was for you so many years ago. Have a banquet at the Elk’s Club and watch 4th of July fireworks in the distance. Ooh and aah! See all your friends in their muumuus and aloha shirts. Realize you are all older and a few pounds heavier but you can still sing and raise the roof like you did when you were teenagers. Watch two generations of hula dancers and tell your friends just how much they meant in your life. Hug some more, this time holding on tighter, as you say goodbye for now.
There is no place like Hawaii, and to me, there is no place like Honolulu, where I grew up and still continue to call home. The only problem is that you eventually have to leave. 36 hours go by quickly. This time when I flew back to the mainland over the lights of Waikiki I took so much more with me. I carried my friends from Na Kani Pela, I took a tropical sea of memories and the music that played in the background of my youth. I came back to Colorado with a full heart and a sense of how lucky I was to be a kid who grew up in a place like that, with friends like that, surrounded by love like that. That’s how you spend 36 hours in Honolulu. Now we’ll have to stay in touch on Facebook.
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