The very first thing I saw when I opened my eyes in the morning was the ocean, stretching beyond my window curtains. If that doesn’t ground you, I don’t know what will.
Today was going to officially be the laziest day of our trip, and possibly of any trips we’d taken before. We decided to spend the entire day at the local beach just outside our hotel and not attempt to stray beyond the surrounding area. Most of the time I can’t travel this way, because I’m always buried in my Lonely Planet book looking for undiscovered secrets or places that tourists don’t normally go. I love the chase. But even dirt-road conquering girls like us need to slow down and give ourselves a moment, and that was part of the purpose of this trip to begin with.
We wandered down the beach and set up our spot, sinking into the warm sand and the crisp pages of our magazines, and forgetting about everything else. We made 3 trips in and out of the water, laying down in between only long enough for the salt to dry and the sun to become piercing. We may or may not have purchased a $3 neon blue inner tube and paid the local ABC Store (popular chain) 60 cents to inflate it. I also may or may not have draped my sun-soaked body over the top of it and fallen asleep in the sea like a piece of driftwood.
That night, we watched the sunset on our balcony after cracking open a bottle of our Napa valley wine, which consequently made our suitcase a few pounds lighter. The sky turned to orange as I typed away at my writing, feet propped against the metal railing. Did we really have to go home? Later on, we had dinner at a popular and somewhat fancy local chain, Roy’s. Despite being sun-sleepy from our day, we were re-energized by the ridiculously tasty food at our table. We ordered crispy zucchini as an appetizer, thinking that it would be light, but it arrived battered and crunchy on top of a hearty bed of pan-fried Bao buns and a sweet soy glaze. I was already half-full when the entrée came. I got Roy’s famous macadamia nut crusted Monchong fish with a sweet, creamy lobster sauce, parmesan spätzle and seared asparagus. It was like a plate of heaven. The fish was super tender and burst with the flavor of the bright and tangy sauce. There were so many tastes and aromas happening simultaneously that I had to ignore the fact that I was bursting at the seams. I dismissed my full stomach in the same manner that a child does when she is unexpectedly offered a second piece of birthday cake. By the time I was finished blatantly ignoring my limitations, I had stuffed down half of a rich and buttery dark chocolate soufflé, which we were required to order 30 minutes ahead of time because it was always made fresh. I felt like my insides were full of lead by the end of that situation, but it was more than worth it.
The next morning, we got up early for our half-day trip to Pearl Harbor. Since we hadn’t rented a car for this leg of the trip, we went with an inexpensive tour company that offered transportation and an extra Honolulu city tour after the museum. The bus driver was sweet and chatted with us about city history as we rode along. We learned that the line for Pearl Harbor starts early in the morning, and despite getting there at 7:30am, we had to wait a while before everybody got through security. Once inside, we watched a quick introduction video that gave us some insight into what happened on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack before boarding the boat thatwould take us to the USS Arizona Memorial. As we drifted up to the dock, it was eerily quiet. Seeing the memorial first hand was a bit surreal, as I imagined what it must have been like to be ambushed without warning on a quiet morning like this one. The memorial was built at water level just above the sunken ship, which also served as a grave site for many of the soldiers. When you peered over the edge, you could still see and smell drops of oil as they continued to leak from the ship even 70 years later. The water swirled with prismatic ribbons as the oil rose to the surface and visitors quietly took photos. We stood there in a contemplative state until we were summoned back to the boat.
Our final afternoon was spent with our Honolulu friends who offered to drive us to the other side of the island for a more secluded beach experience near a popular locals-only beach side camp ground. We got an inside scoop on the complicated dynamics of camping in Honolulu, where the campgrounds don’t open online booking until 2 weeks before your arrival in order to discourage excessive tourists from taking up the limited campsites. Locals are known to stalk the website up until the minute the sites become available, and they sell out in minutes. Our friends proudly announced that the spot they managed to book was “prime real estate”.
The beach was tucked behind winding cliff sides and we sat together, relishing in our final moments of Hawaii sunshine. The breeze was cool and the water was fresh, just like it had been each day. That evening, we reluctantly watched the sun set on our last night away, and prepared for the 10-hour flight and 6-hour time difference we would have to face the next afternoon. Time to open Napa Valley wine bottle #2? We begrudgingly exhibited enough self-control to avoid that choice. We knew we’d need it more once we were back inside our cubicle-sized apartment, battling NYC humidity, dreaming of crystal seas.