Happy Wanderer: Hawaii’s Big Island Tickles the Senses


If it were up to the senses, Hawaii would win as the number one travel destination. From the moment you land, your nose is treated to an arresting bouquet of Plumeria, Orchids and sea salt.

Your eyes are bathed in soft light and swaying palms – with golden-sand beaches and electric green valleys. Your ears hear the slightest whisper of breeze and the lapping of the tide – and the faint sound of ukulele and drums. From there it builds – the taste, the touch, the total immersion in nature’s masterpiece.

A few years ago, I won a company contest– a vacation for two on Hawaii’s Big Island. I couldn’t imagine a better prize and a better person with which to share it than my daughter. We both love adventure – and flying by the seat of our Seven jeans.

We packed lightly and spent wisely. We made lunch for a week with just peanut butter and bananas – saving cash for necessities like surf lessons and that cute pair of flip flops in the island gift shop.

Each day began with breakfast and a show from our deck overlooking the ocean. A production of Bye Bye Birdie was unfolding in chocolaty red Koa trees. Birds with colors of peaches and lemon sang the chorus line, sending branches into happy convulsions.

Our afternoons were filled with Indiana Jones-style adventures. We hiked to a waterfall deep in the rainforest where vines hung from trees like Medusa’s snakes.

We bounced along on a Hummer tour through miles of off-road terrain – following wild boar tracks and an unmarked trail to a secret pool where we swam in azure blue water.

We surfed and we swam and we snorkeled with sea turtles – prehistoric looking creatures with cartoon-like faces and curious smiles. We never touched them but they brushed up against us more than once, making a surreal connection between two beings.

But the day that stands out in my mind as unique, was the day we went horseback riding. A Hawaiian horseback ride is a trip back in time, in many ways. You cover more ground than on many trail rides, and you often get to canter or trot. Our Paniolo must have had great confidence in us, because we galloped along the ridgeline overlooking a patchwork of ranchland and sugarcane. The sun was high and we were kicking up dust – an exhilarating ride on well-trained steeds with smooth gaits and speed.

Our Parker Ranch guide showed us where it all began – where cowboys and horses first met. Together they drove over 5000 head of Hereford Cattle down from the slopes of Mauna Kea and into stone corrals. 150 years later, you can still see those historical sites.

It’s the combination of history and nature and sensual delight that make the Big Island so special; that and bananas and peanut butter – and watching a bird show at sunrise.

For more information Big Island adventures, log on to Gohawaii.com.


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