An Eye-opening Staycation

The author shot this photo from her family’s room at Hilton Hawaiian Village

The author shot this photo from her family’s room at Hilton Hawaiian Village

We recently had the opportunity to enjoy a couple of mini vacations here at home, something we rarely do. But our son was going back for his junior year at university, and we wanted to treat him to something special. A couple of nights in a Waikiki resort made for a perfect getaway — all the benefits of a vacation without the hassle of flying. We had a corner suite in the Tapa Tower at Hilton Hawaiian Village. It was spacious, had a great view and didn’t break the bank (factoring in that we didn’t have to shell out big bucks for airfare).

If you’re like most locals I know, you avoid Waikiki like the plague unless you work there. But it’s different when you’re kicking back in a resort. Then you get to do all the fun things, like enjoying the pool and the beach, and leisurely strolling the length of Kalakaua Avenue. You can walk to restaurants for lunch and dinner without fighting with traffic and parking.

Just a week later, relatives traveled from their homes in various places on the Mainland to Kauai. My husband and I joined them for a little reunion over Labor Day weekend. They (and we) stayed at the beautiful Marriott Resort fronting Kalapaki Beach in Lihue.

I thought about how precious the experience of coming to Hawaii is to people from all over the world. I had forgotten how much fun being a tourist in Hawaii can be.

But, for me, it was a little jarring. While on Kauai, we focused on the beauty. There was plenty of it to absorb and appreciate. About the only criticism I have (and it really isn’t one) is that everybody is on “Kauai time” — which means attitudes and service, especially in restaurants, tend to be slow-paced and laid back. That’s only a bad thing if you expect everything at your vacation destination to be just like home.

My advice? Chill. As a visitor to these Islands, you’ve got it made.

I was keenly aware, as we did the sightseeing and the eating and the shopping, that in a couple of weeks I was going to be back on Kauai. It will be for a very different purpose: to meet and write about families who are struggling to scratch out a living. During these bi-annual trips for Hawaii Foodbank on Kauai, I meet people who do their best every day to keep their families intact, fed and sheltered, but who need our help to do it.

It’s the flip side of paradise. It’s outside the bubble.

I’m grateful our family is in a position to occasionally take advantage of the paradise aspect of Hawaii, but also mindful of the reality many people face on a daily basis.

And all our lives are likely to get harder — consider the latest report from University of Hawaii, which blares out a warning that climate change will bring devastating effects to our state and to the visitor industry.

We’ll be dealing with hotter temperatures, fewer tradewinds, more extreme weather and a rise in the sea levels. Think: Waikiki under water. Kalapaki Beach gone. No more vacations or “staycations” or visitor-industry jobs.

As citizens, we need to pull our heads out of the sand, however pleasant that sand may be. In the coming years, we will be asked to look at every aspect of our lives — from our energy consumption and generation, to how we manage our shorelines, to what drives our economy.

What we can’t do is ignore what’s coming. It will take all of us in Hawaii to participate in the discussions and decisions needed to be ready for extreme change.

My two “staycations” left me grateful for what we have. It also made me more keenly aware of what’s at stake.

Can we do it? Can we educate ourselves, talk about our problems, develop workable plans and solutions before it’s too late?

We must. We have no choice.
Twitter: @JadeMoon1