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.