Where would I go? I already know – to Maui.
First, you have to understand some things. I love to swim. I grew up in the southern United States, where being on a swim team in the suburbs is a right of passage. I was the only 4-year-old who knew how to do the butterfly, so I won lots of races when I was young. Also, although I am Caucasian, I have a dark, olive complexion. I won’t go into what was said to me down south (I lived there in the early 1970s), but in Maui, I was usually not considered a “haole.”
My brother lived in Maui for 15 years. Whenever I visited, it was an assault on the senses. The breeze always picks up midday – Maui is known as the “Valley Isle,” and the wind goes right through the valley. The scents of the flowers and flowery trees (whose names I still don’t know) are so intoxicating that it’s better than any drug. The tuberose flowers are especially fragrant. We would buy some and put them in front of a window, so the breeze would spread its delicious aroma. The flowers were absolutely incredible, and they were everywhere. I can’t even describe them, except to say that puny vincas and fuschias here in the Northeast U.S. are huge vines over there.
My brother liked to live “Upcountry,” on the slopes of Mount Haleakala. The views were incredible – we saw rainbows in the West Maui Mountains almost every day, and the ocean was visible out of all the windows. The island is made up of one huge mountain over 10,000 feet high, called Mount Haleaka (to the east), and the West Maui Mountains (not as high, and to the west). As volcanos, they erupted so much lava that it created a valley of land – hence the nickname, “The Valley Isle.” However, there are all types of weather on Maui – there’s desert, there’s rain forest, and sometimes there’s even snow once in a while at the top of the mountain. The trees and flowers are so lush from rain on the “rainy side” that it’s almost like being in a jungle. There’s a lot of farmland and ranches, too, run by paniolos (Hawai’ian cowboys), with cows and horses.
The pace is also different. I live in New York state, where it seems most everyone is in a rush. Not so in Maui. It’s almost socially unacceptable to be in a hurried state there.
Beaches? They were everywhere. As an added bonus, many of them have trees nearby, so you can lounge in the shade if you’d like. Usually you could get to any beach within 20 to 45 minutes from where my brother lived. Some beaches had calm waters, so did not; some had white sand, some had black sand, and some had red. Some of them had reefs so you could put your mask and snorkel on for some fishy sight-seeing.
The best part about going to Maui is that I had my brother’s undivided attention. I bought all the food (I have celiac disease, so I need gluten free food, and also, food is also very expensive on the island, so this was one of my gifts for staying with him), and I cooked dinner for him, and we went out to eat frequently. We listened to NPR or music, and talked and laughed. We drove around the West Maui Mountains and stopped at DT Fleming beach park to jump off the rocky outcroppings (not something I recommend unless you know a local). We just had a blast, and I loved it.