Waikiki and What is Left of Paradise

From the top of Diamond Head: a sea and a sea of high-rises

Can Waikiki, the perfect paradise, since covered with concrete, reflect the days of yore?

Why do you feel this way in paradise?  Why do islands and resorts tear your heart this way?

You have landed in Honolulu for the first time.  You walk through the terminal, concourses open to the tropical air, and you want to exchange your currency, so strange is this place.  You snag a cab to the city, as you can’t wait for the airport shuttle to make a dozen stops en route to your hotel.

You hop into the back of a 1984 Cadillac taxi cab, windows rolled down, your driver smaller than your large suitcase.  You cruise into the city on the interstate (we’ve all heard the same jokes about an “interstate” in Hawaii).  You arrive at your hotel and, tired of sweating in your jeans, run into the restroom to change into shorts.  The check-in line is too long.  The elevator takes too long.  You want to run into your room (how is the view?).  Your key fumbles in the lock.  You dash to the balcony.  The view is a postcard.  Your life is a Brady Bunch special, but that is the way you want it.  There is Diamond Head, which proves that nature holds some power over man, even as development snakes closer and closer.  There is the beach.  That is why you are here.

You dash to the suitcase, dig through.  Where are your swim trunks?  Here they are!  You change in the room, forgetting, not even caring, to close the curtains.  You dash back to the elevator.  What could cure jetlag like sea water?

Perfect palms in the perfect paradise

That’s it?!  The beach seems so small, but it snakes along the coast and out of sight.  The sun is perfect, the palm trees are perfect.  How could they not be?  In paradise, the palm trees are perfect.

Look!  There’s the Royal Hawaiian, still pink after 50 years.  Look!  There are the surfers, clumped together, heads like little ducks bobbing in the waves.  You don’t want to sit here in the sand, you jump in.  You can’t help noticing how hot the surfers are.  Who wouldn’t notice.  You turn away to face the water and run in.  That nasty cramped cabin, strangers coughing at 30,000 feet are forgotten.  You want to stay for a long time.

You wonder what Waikiki was like fifty years ago.  You wonder about Cancun.  You wonder what it would have been like to spend a year here.  If paradise feels this good after an eight-hour flight, You wonder how paradise would seem after a steamer journey.  You realize there are not many who are still alive who can remember journeys before the Pan Am Clipper.

You thank air travel for bringing paradise to you so quickly.  So cheaply.

You mourn for a lost culture.  You mourn for lost buildings and lost parks.  You mourn for the paved gardens.

You are torn.  You celebrate for the Midwesterners who remember Waikiki from their honeymoon.  You shed a tear for those who will never see this place, this concrete version of paradise.  A land which retains its beauty no matter how much concrete is poured.  No matter how tall the hotels, Diamond Head is still here.  At least for now.  And for now, it’s all yours.

By Matthew Stone
Travel to Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawai’i

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