Honeymoon in Hawai’i

How is it when on holidays you feel the need to do everything, climb mountains, find the best vintage shop, stand on a surf board, navigate an island, all on the first day? One benefit of doing all the ‘must dos’ first, is that by the end of the trip I have whitled the list right down to just one thing – hang out on the beach.

Paloma’s pram is laden with beach toys, woven mats, towels, a blow up beach ring, small bottles of Malibu, everything a gal needs for some fun in the Hawaiian sun. My penchant for pom pom decorated sombreros, psychedelic maxis and daily glam doesn’t exactly make one inconspicuous. A man rushes over from the other side of the street to tell me I look like ‘Lady Gaga but with a baby!’ It’s hard to know what to do with a comment like that.

Mahalo Aloha!

Waikiki Beach provides hours of people watching pleasure. They watch you, you watch them, and only occasionally does anyone spare a glance at the horizon. There are some whacky fashions getting around on the beach every day. Pint-sized Japanese girls in lurid bikinis and gold glitter high heels, trying to walk through the sand. One woman with DDDD boob job, lip job and what ever else job mincing along the shoreline stopping tourists each hour asking them to take her picture. We see her every day, like we see the frog man with yellow headphones and metal detector combing the sand and shallows for treasure. Ben and I get obsessed watching a couple we have diagnosed with OCD, arrange their space-age beach mats to the millimeter, standing for hours parallel to one another, pivoting slighlty on the spot at angels to the sun, quietly reading airport thrillers. One day I overhear the husband chastising his wife for laying down at the wrong time and for kicking a little bit of sand on his mat. I actually saw that he fell asleep and scared himself awake and blamed his wife for it. People are fascinating creatures to behold.

Not one to shy away from strangers, Paloma delights the adults and terrorizes the little kids on the beach. Trying to be friendly she babbles away with a little Japanese girl only to get over excited and squeal in her ear and make the little girl burst in to tears and run off. Paloma stands dumbfounded but all the parents are hysterical with laughter. While Ben is at work we spend hours hanging out here, swimming, looking for fishies and drinking pina coladas, trying to pretend we have longer than a few days left.

In the afternoons, when Ben is with us again, we watch the sunset as Paloma is serenaded by ukelele players under Waikiki coconut palms.


Later in the week we meet up with Don Tiki and his wife, king of new exotica whose album ‘South of the Boudoir’ has just been released, for a Mai Tai or two.

Celebrating our Hawaiian honeymoon we spend one of our final nights at the famous Royal Hawaiian enjoying their fabulous luau. One of the original hotels on Waikiki Beach, the Royal Hawaiian is built in a Spanish style and painted the perfect pink, with archways and broad verandahs and lush tropical gardens.

The immaculate lawns level out to the beach and an uninterupted view of Diamond Head. Its our second home! Getting in the spirit of things we dress for a 1960s luau and are pleasantly surprised to find the experience has completely retained the feel of that era when Hawaiian holidays were all the rage.

Paloma Rose and the Royal Hawaiian Beach Boys

The band looks like they have stepped off the sleeve of a Hawaiian LP, the sensually swaying hula girls, the savage fire dancers and crazy ukelele players, and a charming MC with countless costume changes.

All-you-can-drink Mai Tais complimented a delicious 5-star Hawaiian menu. It is the ultimate vintage Hawaiian experience. But when the audience applauds it is just as much for the glorious sunset and the pink sky of Waikiki.

Tsunami deja vu!

Neither Ben nor I are much into Teddy bears, but somehow Paloma has become obsessed with them. Try as we might, we can’t even distract her with a battery operated hula girl. Any time she spies a bear we hear her yelling ‘Teddy! Tedda! TEDDY!!!!!’ Luckily Honolulu they has a Teddy Museum where a child can see mechanical teddy displays acting out various moments in history. We thought the Elvis teddies and Cleopatra teddies would entertain her enough, but the most fun Paloma had was delivering near total destruction to the gift shop and its countless shelves of teddy bears.

Ben gets some time off work and we hire a car for a road trip round Oahu. Walls of monsteria climb up the sides of the highway, vines of Liana hang down from the majestic tropical trees that seem to grow everywhere in Honolulu. Bright hibiscus flower in abundance along side other exotic plants and the delicious fuchsia coloured ginger lily rocket flower. It’s the best place to take references for our planned home jungle! We stop at a cute little bay where Johnny Depp once stood while filming ‘Pirates of the Carribean’ and I wonder out loud if we will see a whale flipping out of the ocean. Seconds later, as if hearing my thoughts, an enormous whale does indeed rise gracefully out of the sea and crash back in! Spectacular!

Ben has put together an atmospheric hawaiian play list for us and it enhances our road trip experience listening to ukulele’s and the gentle Les Baxter exotica as we watch the ramshackle little wooden beach houses, roadside coconut stalls, shrimp stands and the sea shores of many pretty bays pass our window.

Stopping at Turtle Bay we arrive just in time to see a beautiful ancient sea turtle plod onto the shore and snuggle between two rocks on the beach, posing for photographs. Paloma goes ballistic yelling ‘Dut-dle! Dut-dlel!!!!’ part of her ever increasing and hilarious vocabulary. In the waves behind the creature we see many little heads and fins poking out of the water. We visit a fellow film producer friend Michelle who lives on the glorious Lanikai Beach. She babysits the sleeping Paloma while we sneak off for an hour of honeymoon bliss down at the beach and a burger at Buzz’s Steakhouse where tiki-tune legend Martin Denny used to play.

An Hawaiian holiday is best when one doesn’t know, and one doesn’t care, what day it is. Days and nights merge, you take the same photo of the same palm tree not remembering if it was here or there you sat yesterday and your hair becomes a matted mess of mermaid tresses. I never want it to end. We belong here!

Caught up in the bliss it is easy to think of Hawaii as totally removed from the world’s turmoil and danger. And then comes a tsunami. ‘Your mum and Karsten just texted saying a Tsunami headed for Hawaii darling.’ It’s two thirty in the morning and I turn over wondering if Ben is talking in his sleep again. But no, he’s serious. It not our first tsunami and in less than a minute we have a bag of nappies, passports and Paloma’s teddies packed and are heading out the door to the tallest Waikiki hotel nearby. An eerie wail, the tsunami siren, echoes like the sound of underwater whale song through the streets. In the lobby of the neighbouring hotel we are informed the tsunami is going to hit in under 20 minutes. Once he has made sure we are settled safely on the 15th floor, Ben races out into the night armed with his camera. Sitting there with Paloma on my lap I recal the tsunami wave we ran from on Koh Lanta beach in Thailand on Boxing Day 2004. That experience was scary enough without a child in my arms, and the thought of running from a wave carrying a baby isn’t one I want to have. By the time the waves reach Hawaii they are only 3 feet high and not dangerous at all. We sit glued to the television back in our hotel room in tears as the disaster, trauma and magnitude of the devastation in Japan becomes evident in all it’s horrific detail. Feeling almost guilty we return to our nice clean sheets, safe and sound, while millions of people are cold and homeless and experiencing the worst moment of their lives.

Some people are quick to make a buck out of disaster and tee shirts printed with ‘I survived the Tsunami 2011 Hawaii’ are selling quickly on the street corners of Waikiki the next day. We decline the offer to purchase one.

Fourteen month old Paloma has really taken the whole toddler thing to the next level. Finding self assurance in her walking skills she happily turns in the opposite direction from me any time I call her name. In seconds after her little feet touch the ground she is off and running, either in the direction of road traffic or into the alluring blue of the ocean or the hotel pool. Like Ben and I, Paloma runs toward danger, not from it. But her joyful screams of rebellion and independance make me proud, at least for now!

Kaspia Kahanamoku

2011 is the seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Aloha shirt and we celebrate the fact in style by heading to Baileys where fifteen thousand Hawaiian shirts await us. We rifle through racks and racks of every vintage, quality and print. Ben has reached Aloha heaven and rolls about in Hawaiian shirt ecstasy. All those desperate years at Vinnie’s praying for quality cotton Alohas are suddenly forgotten. They’re here and have been here all along, though some are well and truly out of the budget. Who out there is truly ready to pay $8000 for a Hawaiian shirt, no matter how rare?

Learning to surf has been one of my lifelong ambitions and are few better places than Waikiki where the rides are long and the waves are easy. That being said, it must be the ultimate active meditation only after parenthood. Paddling out was a killer, but I am rewarded by the long lulls between sets sitting on my board surrounded by nature, waiting in anticipation. Getting on a wave was something else. A perfect blue sky over Diamond Head is the spectacular backdrop as the waves roll in here and I experienced my first thrilling ride. I knew then how easily this could become addictive. As my 10-foot Malilbu hurtled to shore I stood up and rode it all the way, arriving at the smiling faces of Ben and Paloma waiting in the shallows. Simply ‘awesome dude!’ Of course I had to throw that weird hang loose as is custom here, even among the Japanese tourists. Paloma crawled up on the board then and we caught a few waves in together. Ben thinks we are naturals at it.

After our taste for hiking adventures in Iceland we are inspired to do a ‘hike’ up the Diamond Head volcano. We decided to go on a whim and I was dressed far from appropriately for a hike, as it usually happens. Lucky it ended by being more of a stroll up, for us. People we passed on the way down were warning us of the climb and the arduous road ahead. But it was a gentle and paved incline. As for the view of the ocean streaked with the long white lines of waves far below, it was well worth the stroll. Afterwards we treated ourselves to a famous ‘shaved ice’ – de rigeur in Hawaii!

Roughing it in Hawaii is reclining under the swaying palms with a warm breeze and the scent of reef oil, looking out to the ocean flickering with sunlight. While the trolley cars ring their bells down Kapiolani Street, we venture to see the pink flamingos at Honolulu zoo where Paloma gets more attention from the tourists than the big cats. Later we hang loose under the surf legend sculptures adorned with fresh flower leis. And all day long the super friendly locals are greeting us ‘Aloha’.

Aloha nui loa!

Where ever I lay my lei, that’s my home.

First impressions of Honolulu is a crazy mix of Las Vegas glitz, Bondi chill and romantic Hawaiian Hollywood history. We skipped straight off the plane into our fresh flower leis and bikinis and onto the smooth as silk sandy shores and aquamarine waters of famous Waikiki. Long waves breaking over the reef with scattered surfers and paddle-borders silhouetted against the landmark Diamond Head comprises our first glimpse of this little paradise we will call home for just under a month.

Along Dukes Lane where we ducked to avoid Made in China ‘hand carved’ signs such as ‘Welcome to the Tiki Bar’, tons of shells adornments and super-synthetic Aloha shirts, we arrived at The White Sands Hotel – our fabulous two-star 1950s hideaway just two blocks from the beach. Here Ben welcomed me with a bottle of Sailor Jerry spiced rum and for Paloma a bag of buckets and spades for the beach.

On the far side of Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay nestles in the crater of a long extinct volcano that is, with good reason, heritage protected. It is a nature reserve teeming with gorgeous tropical fish and a huge coral reef and seems eons away from bustling Waikiki. Without a wink of sleep since leaving the plane, I dived down to the bottom where fish swam through my hair and watched a school of convict fish glide past wearing black striped pajamas.

Paloma is now walking, practically running in fact, and does exactly that as soon as she hits the sand. We spend hours in the sea and sun with tall spindly palms swaying their green Mohawks above us till our tummies rumble.

A few gems of information were passed down to us as ‘must do’s’ in Hawaii. The Rainbow Drive-in for Teriyaki burgers, Leonard’s for marsalamas. Fast food has never been our thing but both of these are yum and fun. Hawaii, like every other American state, seems afflicted by the restaurant chain and every block in town seems identical for that reason. But the Asian flavours are easy to find and is especially abundant in Chinatown, of course, where spicy and fishy scents permeate the air.

Walking down the main drag of Waikiki to the beach on day two and we’re stopped by a film shoot, which is rather annoying until we realise that we’re listening to Georgie Parker delivering lines for ‘Home and Away’. Not only is Waikiki’s sand imported from Australia, but our soap operas shot in Hawaii too it seems. For a moment we feel like we’ve never left home.

Ben has had a week up on us, diligently sampling the various Mai Tai in order to provide us with the best one at sunset. We sit by the sand at the grand old Moana Hotel where Mark Twain once stayed and drink the second best Mai Tai Waikiki has to offer.

Paloma runs among the cocktail set, meeting and greeting the guests with her latest additions to her vocabulary ‘birdie’, ‘bubby’ and… ‘turtle.’ Well yes, there are birdies and babies but we have yet to see a live turtle, but that is the aim. Paloma has a head start with her own kind – local white doves – and lets them feed out of her hand under the coconut palms.

The sky turns cotton candy pink, lemon-sherbet yellow, tangerine dream and swirled violet before dripping like Neapolitan ice cream into the ocean. A glowing golden orb sinks below the waiting horizon as another perfect Hawaiian day turns to night.