Hawai'i One-3, Day 3: Beach Bums

One of the things we loved about our last trip to Maui was when we rented a cabana and spent several hours on the beach; just resting, enjoying the sun, maybe reading a magazine or two, and drinking a cold refreshing beverage. We definitely want to do that again this trip, but also want to supplement that with something new that we didn't do our last trip, so we decide that today will be a hotel-centric day.

We start the day early with some exercise -- Lucie goes for a walk/jog along the "beachwalk" path,
a 3 or 4 mile long paved path that connects several different hotels and the Whaler's Village high-end retail megaplex while I walk for a mile or so then do knee exercises that seem to help my mobility and range of motion. After we shower and get dressed for the day, we head out to the hotel's free breakfast buffet, where they give their temporary residents their fill of the standard fare (eggs, bread, bacon, Portuguese sausage, potatoes, juice, coffee) while talking about the commercial ventures available (snorkeling, Hana and Haleakala tours, etc.) with which they partner with other local companies. It's not timeshare-type stuff as far as predatory marketing is concerned, but it's also definitely not a free lunch (or breakfast) either. We do use the opportunity, though, to sign up for Kupanaha, the hotel's magic show, for that evening; and for a snorkeling trip for tomorrow with Trilogy Tours.

After the breakfast, Lucie and I sign up for some of Ka'anapali Beach Hotel's Hawaiian culture lessons -- we had taken the Hawaiian language lesson last trip, but have forgotten everything we learned. We also rent one of the cabanas on the beach, for later in the day. Our first class is in lei making; KBH's Cultural Expert and Guest Services Representative, Malihini (of whom we have incredibly fond memories from 2011), is giving the class. She greets us warmly, and we take our seats at a table covered in carnations. Using a special needle, we learn to string the flowers so they sit properly on the lei while Malihini tells us about the lei's importance and symbolism to the Hawaiian people. As is custom with married couples, I place the lei I made on Lucie's shoulders and she places the one she made on mine.

We're the only married couple in the class; in fact, I'm the only male in the class -- it's not golfing, and there are flowers involved. There are three other women in the class, and we of course hear a chorus of "awwww" as we place the leis on each other, and Malihini grabs my iPhone to take a picture. It's a nice moment, but unfortunately the picture is a little badly timed and makes me look like a technicolored troll trying to eat the face off a woman who just sucked on a lemon, so it's a picture that will NEVER see the light of day. Ever.

Our next class is a repeat of the Hawaiian language class we took last time. As it turns out, Lucie and I are the only people who signed up, so we get personal instruction by Malihini in the pronunciation, grammar, historical significance, and meaning of Hawaiian diphthongs, words, and phrases. The two of us do have a *very* basic knowledge of some words, so we ask questions as needed, and voice insights when (occasionally) relevant. When we practice the sound pu'u, for example, I recognize this as the Hawaiian word for "hill", and ask if this is the case, mentioning the area of Pu'unene near Kahului. Every time we do something like this, Malihini seems both surprised that we actually know about the language and happy that we're actually trying to embrace the culture. This might just be her job, to encourage the appreciation of culture; but it really does come across as true warmth and generosity of spirit. Everything about Malihini is warm and generous of spirit; and it's not just us that believes this...

After the language class, we head out to the cabanas and get our relaxation on. Early in the afternoon, our final cultural lesson for the day, learning the hula, is scheduled; Lucie makes a difficult spur of the moment decision to stay on the beach and make sure the cabana doesn't get blown away in the (beautiful, sunny, and windless) weather, and I head up to the hotel lobby for my lesson. Because I'm the only participant for this one, Malihini recruits another hotel employee, Rayce, to teach me a hula kane, a dance performed by men. Taking my bad knee into account, he gives me some basic pointers (hula should be performed barefoot, as the dancers are grounding themselves to the earth as part of the performance) and walks me through Kalakaua He Inoa, a traditional dance in honor of Hawaiian King David Kalakaua (ruled 1874-1891), nicknamed the Merrie Monarch, known primarily for fighting to preserve Hawaiian culture and bringing back the art and tradition of hula, which had been banned for religious reasons in 1830 by Queen Ka'ahumanu, wife to the first King Kamehameha (she took over as regent upon his death in 1819.) There's an annual hula competition in Hilo on the Big Island named the Merrie Monarch Festival, named after Kalakaua. Rayce chants the song as I dance (a little slowly and unsteadily at times, if I must be honest), and shakes my hand after we're done.

I've looked at other performances of this hula on YouTube since my lesson, and it's very clear that I was taught an extremely basic version of this particular hula; however, seeing as how I'm an old fat haole with bad knees, it ain't bad for a 45-minute first-ever hula lesson. I also manage to forget most of the dance by the time I perform it for Lucie later that evening, but it's a fond memory nonetheless.

After the lesson, I return to the beach, where Lucie has been successfully defending her half of the cabana from UV rays, and relax next to her for the next couple of hours. The sun's heat is intense but wonderful and relaxing, the water is that amazingly clear blue that one just can't find off the California coast, the other tourists on the beach are for the most part quiet and far enough away to ignore, and the beverages we enjoy are ice cold and perfect -- Lucie makes a trip to the hotel's deli store to provide for us, since they don't offer catering service out to the beach. It's a very welcome time, just reclining and enjoying the moment; doing absolutely nothing at all is sometimes the thing that is best to do while on vacation.

Late afternoon, we begrudgingly leave the cabana for the day and head up to our room to get ready for dinner. We put our best vacation clothes (my shirt for the evening actually has buttons and isn't tie dyed) and go to the hotel's lobby. Just outside the showroom, they preview the show with some decent close-up magic; classic tricks like the Professor's Nightmare (three ropes of unequal lengths that turn into equal lengths and back again) and the Chinese Linking Rings are done to an appreciative audience before the doors open and we enter. There's a brief line as the family groups are posed for the obligatory souvenir photos (which we of course later buy) and we're offered our beverage of choice (we both go with a blue Hawaiian) before getting seated at our table. Lucie, knowing my geeky appreciation for magic, has gotten us seats at the front row of tables, and in a nice example of serendipity our table actually ends up being front row center.

We engage in small talk with the other people at our table -- a retired couple from Austin and a family of three (a twentysomething guy and his parents) from Portland -- as our dinner is brought out to us. Our appetizer of Kalua pork (for me) and grilled veggie (for Lucie) bruschetta is actually on a soft flatbread instead of traditional bruschetta, but tastes fine. A brief tableside performance of the Cups & Balls by the same close-up magician as earlier is fun -- one or two moves that I catch because I know where to look and when, but a finale move that completely takes me by surprise -- and is followed by our main course. Lucie chooses the tenderloin steak and shrimp over mashed potatoes; I opt for the red snapper with asparagus over seasoned rice; both are good (not necessarily outstanding, but certainly not bad at all.) During the main course and dessert (pina colada cheesecake for me, assorted fruit plate for Lucie), the main stage show of Jody Baran and his wife Kathleen and her breast implants (with lighting support by their son Robert and stage assistance by daughter Crystal) performs several intricate stage illusions, with dance routines from a local hula halau as interstitials. The dance numbers are a combination of the traditional Hawaiian and/or Polynesian dances, with one or two modern takes mixed in (one in particular is a heavily World War II - influenced routine with accompanying outfits, as a tribute to Hawaii's home to servicemen, and possibly an homage to the upcoming Veteran's Day holiday.) The tricks are, according to Jody Baran, inspired by various famous magicians that had visited the Hawaiian islands in the last century or two -- Houdini, the Great Nicola, Long Tack Sam, Raymondo (for some reason my favorite magician name) -- and for the most part very well done. There's humor, magic, dance, good food, and family. There's a lot to like about the show, and it's an enjoyable evening well spent.

After the show, we briefly consider stopping by the outside courtyard for additional drinks, but we've got an early day ahead of us -- one of the few planned outings for which we have a timetable -- so we head upstairs to our room for the night. We can, however, still hear the live band playing music from our hotel room, so we drift off to sleep with a Don Ho song as a serenade.

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