Story & photographs by Masada Siegel
n 2014, according to a Gallup poll the hypothetical happiest American
was described as a tall, Asian-American man over 65 years old, who lives
in Hawaii, is married with children, owns a business, earns a household
income of more than $120,000 a year and is an observant Jew.
While I don't fit most of the criteria, I thought why
not investigate on my own. Hawaii was a mere plane ride away. And if
you are seeking a mecca for happiness, and, in my case, taking a first
trip with my baby, Hawaii offered the ultimate for a relaxing holiday.
Upon arrival to Kona in the Big
Island of Hawai'i, we were whisked away and taken to the Four Seasons
oceanfront luxury resort in Hualalai. Our check in was completed on
comfy couches where we were presented with thirst quenching drinks,
tasty treats and sweet scented leis.
The view was endless at our oceanfront cabana, only
broken up by palm trees caressing the skyline. There were black and
white rocks dotting a shoreline filled with fine white sand. This along
with the soft sound of the wind dancing over the water made me realize
I had arrived at a garden paradise. One of the most relaxing aspects
of our quarters was the outdoor lava rock shower decorated with pink
and white orchids.
We left our room and strolled towards the beach, and
I held my baby close. I put him down to stand on the sand, and as his
eyes looked up he gasped. It was our sons first time seeing the
ocean. The enormity of the vast blue blanket of water, with its gentle
crashing waves topped in blues, greens and grays made me also stare
with wonder and awe. It was as if I was also viewing the world through
my nine-month-old babys eyes.
The next morning we found our way to Kings Pond,
a perfect place for snorkeling as there are over 4000 tropical fish
to see and to swim amongst and it is mere steps away from the beach.
After a quick dip, I held my sons hand as he grinned and walked
on the sand towards the water. We played and giggled in the ocean under
swaying palm trees until our stomachs growled.
Luckily the majestic breakfast buffet was our next stop
and it was overflowing with fresh papayas, star fruit, mango slices,
blueberries, melons, croissants, buttery rolls, Hawaiian pastries, meats,
cheeses, smoked salmon and a entire breakfast selection just for children.
After rushing through breakfasts for months, the outlandish spread was
a sight for sore and often hungry eyes.
My plate was crowded with delicacies; I stared at the
ocean and sipped on my coffee. I was jolted by the smooth taste. It
was among the best coffees I had ever tasted from around the globe.
It was called, Buddhas Cup and was 100 percent Kona coffee.
The Big Island of Hawaii is dotted with coffee
plantations, both big and small. Visiting one and learning how coffee
was made was on the adventure to do list once we completed the relaxing
part of the trip.
A few days later, we met up with the rest of our family
at the gorgeous Fairmont Orchid which is a family friendly resort located
on the coast. The sandy lagoon with its azure waters is filled with
snorkelers, an endless amount of colorful fish and they even host yoga
classes on paddleboards. If you are in the mood for a scenic stroll,
walk past the golf course to experience a spectacular coastal trail
filled with brilliant views.
Every afternoon, anywhere from five to eight Hawaiian
Green Sea Turtles appeared to catch some rays and relax as the warm
setting sun hit the shoreline.
We elected to stay on the Gold level, which was a great
move, as not only is the food delicious; it is plentiful and there are
meals and snacks provided daily, so no need to waste time looking for
Now in earnest the touring began, as The Big Island
of Hawaii is filled with stunning sites and interesting activities
and untold beauty in every direction.
One morning we set out towards Hilo and with a few scenic
stops in mind, one being the magnificent Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens.
Today, the gardens are breathtaking, however it was a labor of love.
Their creator, Dan J. Lutkenhouse, discovered the Onomea Valley in 1977
while vacationing with his wife, Pauline. He purchased the area, an
overgrown jungle, choking with wild invasive trees, weed and thorn thickets,
and strangling vines. His goal was to create a garden paradise. After
eight years of backbreaking work on the part of Dan, his assistant Terry
Takiue, and two helpers the Garden was open to the public in 1984.
The 40-acre valley is filled with nature trails, a tropical
rainforest, bubbling streams and it boasts over 2,000 species of international
plants. Visitors are also treated to several scenic waterfalls and the
crashing waves of the ocean along the rugged Pacific coast.
Photo credit: Ari Marlar
Another coastal must see area is Hawai'i Volcanoes National
Park, a World Heritage Site comprised of two active volcanoes: Kilauea
and Maunaloa. Founded in 1916, the Park encompasses 333,000 acres from
the summit of Maunaloa to the sea. There are 150 miles of hiking trails
through volcanic craters, scalded deserts and even rain forests. Visitors
can also tour a museum, see petroglyphs, and experience a walk-in lava
Because of the rich volcanic soil, Hawaii is filled
with an enormous variety of flora and fauna. It also is the perfect
place for coffee trees to thrive, and since the morning I tasted Buddhas
coffee, I couldn't get it out of my mind. So while en-route to somewhere
else I asked my sister Audrey and brother in law Gabriel to add it to
our tour itinerary for the day.
They agreed, and without a thought to call and see if
they were even open, I Goggled the address. We drove up a tiny windy
road until we were completely surrounded by coffee trees in all directions
on what seemed to be the top of the mountain.
We saw nothing but construction. Moments later, a woman
with long blond hair appeared and asked us what we were looking for
and where we were from. Her name was Christine Coleman, and she was
the owner. She explained the visitors center was being renovated,
but invited us for a personal tour where she explained they not only
grew coffee beans but also macadamia nuts too.
The area was stunning, filled with large trees with
flowers dangling down, and greenery as far as the eye could see, it
was clear even under construction that the facility was going to be
Since our visit, the coffee plantation is once again
open and it provides guests free tea and coffee tastings. Additionally,
visitors can pay a small fee and go on a four-wheel drive education
tour of the plantation.
Photo credit: Ari Marlar
Meanwhile I have returned back to reality from my Hawaii
paradise relaxation vacation.
At home, alas, there are no long, lingering breakfasts
by the beach filled with exotic fruits and someone serving me. However
once in a while, I brew Buddhas Cup and for a brief moment in
time, it all comes rushing back, the beach, the garden paradise bursting
with orchids, the crashing waves and it makes me smile. Finding happiness
is easy in Hawaii, but you don't have to live there to take homes its
Tropical Botanical Gardens
Volcanoes National Park
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