How My Honeymoon in Hawai’i Warmed My Heart
When my husband suggested that we go somewhere tropical for our honeymoon, I felt less than enthusiastic. Hear me out: I love a good palm tree, an ocean breeze and a seat in the sun. It simply was that I was full of judgement and didn’t know where to go. Hawai’i was never on my list of places to visit, ever. As it is an American state and I am an American, it lacked appeal as I preferred to go abroad. And my idea of where honeymooners go for fun in the sun contained images of flower petals in bathtubs, too many tourists, arrows pointing to anything other than local culture and too many folks that looked just like us. It also seemed very high on the cheese factor. How could I navigate the world of “tropical” “honeymoon” and stay true to my travel values? I kept searching, but in the end we opted for Hawai’i — Maui to be exact. It was nothing like I had expected, and it was everything that I needed.
In retrospect, I can see that my ambivalence about traveling to Hawai’i was not rooted in my distaste for tropical paradises, even American ones. The source of my angst was the wedding itself, which was shrouded in ongoing, unspoken family dissension about issues that both of our families had seized hold of and refused to evolve from a long time ago. Neither my husband-to-be nor I wanted a wedding. We wanted to elope. Not just for the sake of having a private ceremony between the two of us on our own terms, but also for the sake of minimizing family drama. That was not to be.
Allowing ourselves to be talked out of eloping, we married at The Wynn in Las Vegas among 14 friends and family. Considering that we didn’t want anyone to come, we felt obligated to choose guests for the sake of inclusivity and did so out of guilt. We did not want to continue stirring family pots, or feel ashamed for doing so. We had to choose among step family members, some of whom we weren’t even close to. My father and his wife were not in attendance, which was as much my doing as their own. My husband’s father and wife were in attendance, much to the chagrin of others. Furthermore, my mother and stepfather were utterly distracted by his recent lung cancer diagnosis. I hated every minute of planning a wedding I didn’t even want, too depressed to have the energy, once again, to deal with family issues that seemed to perpetually take away, rather than give.
Neither my husband-to-be nor I wanted a wedding. We wanted to elope. Not just for the sake of having a private ceremony between the two of us on our own terms, but also for the sake of minimizing family drama. That was not to be.
But we did it, and it was okay. The folks who came to bless us did so at a cost, for any trip to Las Vegas isn’t cheap, particularly at the The Wynn. We ate well, saw some great shows, talked, swam and communed. We were very grateful to those who made the trip; we knew that it was important to them to see us wed. Furthermore, marrying the way we did forced some of those family issues to the surface, mostly for me, which kickstarted a renewed mission to continue finding my own resolution to them. Painful as it was, a less private wedding made room for serious personal growth for me. For that I am grateful, too.
Nevertheless, not eloping stung both figuratively and literally: likely the product of my high family stress, I capped off our wedding night with a painful, ruptured ovarian cyst in a super sketchy Las Vegas ER. It all felt like a terrible joke. I could hardly wait to be alone with my husband. On an island. In the tropics. Far away. From everything and everyone. I needed to soothe my soul, heal my wounds, toss aside regret and move forward into a life of our making. Thank God for tropical paradises.
It was April when we landed at the mostly open-air Kahului Airport in Maui. Immediately, I felt grounded and a stronger connection to my surroundings. It was quiet and slightly balmy as we walked the hall to retrieve our luggage. And it was quiet on the way to our hotel as we took in the new-to-us mountainous landscape, the ocean views, the sea air, the palm trees, the small houses and winding roads. We stayed at the Westin on Ka’anapali Beach. It, too, was mostly open-air on the main floor, and the feeling of connectedness to Earth and ocean and environment grew.
So many challenging karmic debts were paid before and during our wedding, but as we made our way deeper into Maui, other softer, gentler karmic credits were granted. We had earned enough travel points to upgrade to the “Mothership” room, as the staff jokingly called it — a large apartment near the top of the hotel with way too much room for two people, but with delightful amenities and utterly commanding views of the ocean. Flowers and gifts from friends awaited us in our room. With fewer visitors in the area in April, we felt like we had the place to ourselves.
We ate fresh pineapple with toasted coconut and macadamia nuts every morning. We rented a bungalow by the pool everyday. We napped. We walked the beach and walked to dinner. We talked, or we didn’t. We had massages under palm trees. We listened to the beautiful jazz of a solo guitarist every evening, sometimes from the balcony of our room as his voice made its way through the air. We took a few boats out into the ocean. We saw whales and fish of all kinds. We ate well. We rested, and the sounds of the waves lulled us to sleep at night.
In Lahaina, it was sleepy, too. The former royal capitol of Maui and later an old whaling town, Lahaina now is mostly for tourists, but it was not without its charms and it felt cozy. Strolling was easy in Lahaina; there were plenty of wonderful places to eat and drink, and the famously large banyan tree is a must-see. With so few tourists around, Lahaina was a great place to go on a date with my husband, who didn’t need to be my husband for me to feel so close to him. We had always felt “married” — connected at the heart, souls intertwined, for so long it had seemed. But this quiet venture into tropical Maui as a married couple did so much to us and for us, spiritually. Our bodies rested, our minds rested, our spirits healed, and our journey together — one that began long before the act of wedding created or revealed bumps in the road — continued onward peacefully.
We ate fresh pineapple with toasted coconut and macadamia nuts every morning. We rented a bungalow by the pool everyday. We napped. We walked the beach and walked to dinner. We talked, or we didn’t.
We have a child now and we travel full time. Our daughter knows that we honeymooned in Maui, and she has her own dreams of going to Hawai’i to have a “real coconut.” I told her about the toasted coconut and macadamia nuts over fresh pineapple. My husband and I have told her about the ocean and the beaches and the whales. We have told her that there are so many other places to visit and things to know about Hawai’i — beautiful Kaua’i, friendly Moloka’i, the pineapple haven of Lana’i, Hawai’i’s Polynesian and royal history — and that we can’t wait to take her there.
We travel very differently now with a kiddo in tow. We have very few possessions, choosing experiences over things. We travel low and slow. We feel like we are travelers more than we are tourists, and so we seek environments that cater to that mindset. We hope to go back to Maui or Hawai’i generally and stay for a while so that we can really get to know her better. I feel that we owe it to Hawai’i to do so as she gave so much to us.
I knew not what I was getting myself into when I agreed to a tropical honeymoon, ignorant of my own needs. But not-eloping set off a renewed self-awareness within me and catapulted me across the ocean to an island of bliss and relaxation that I had never really known. I keep that image and feeling in my pocket for times when I need to remember how to just be. The warmth of the sun, the smell of the ocean, the breeze on my skin, the coconut, macadamia nut and pineapple created a natural elixir for my soul.