SOJOURNER

HAWAII: Catching the Aloha Spirit

Christian Travel

Those who venture to Hawaii’s coasts are met with an unforgettable ‘aloha’ welcome. Decades ago, every incoming passenger was made to feel like royalty as greeters welcomed them with a handmade floral lei. With millions of tourists a year, that’s no longer possible, but today’s visitors can still get a taste of royalty by visiting Iolani, the royal palace in Honolulu.

The most unique and ecologically diverse state in the Union, Hawaii is regularly cited as one of the world’s top travel destinations. Travel Weekly’s Readers Choice Awards named Hawaii the best U.S. state. The islands of Kauai and Maui landed in Travel + Leisure’s 2017 list of The World’s Top Ten Islands, with readers of Condé Nast Traveler identifying Maui as the best island in the U.S. for the 23rd straight year.

But more than these superlatives, Hawaii is known for its captivating hospitality and genuinely charming people. “Few places on Earth more clearly embody the spirit of paradise than Hawaii,” writes Travel + Leisure.

Creation’s Splendor

For Believers encountering the physical beauty of these emerald islands, which boldly testify to the imagination of the Creator, worship is a fitting response. Surrounded by perfect temperatures and idyllic landscapes, visitors discover an environment unlike any they’ve known before. Its spectacular ecosystem includes cloud forests, verdant valleys, snow-capped volcanoes and—on the Big Island alone—eight of the world’s 14 climate zones.

How remarkable that a single archipelago is home to:

  • Black sand beaches (Punaluʻu Beach on the Big Island)
  • A green sand beach (Papakolea Beach on the Big Island)
  • The tallest mountain in the world, from ocean floor to summit (Mauna Kea on the Big Island)
  • The world’s largest dormant volcano (Haleakala on Maui)
  • One of the wettest places on earth (Mt. Waialeale on Kauai)
  • A moonlike volcanic desert (Ka’ū Desert on the Big Island)
  • The tallest sea cliffs in the world (Moloka’i)
  • The largest permanent Army post in the U.S. (Schofield Barracks on Oahu)

Far enough away to be exotic, yet inviting enough to appeal to the typical traveler, Hawaii nears the top of most tourists’ bucket lists. And more than eight million of them visit the islands every year! Yet how did this remote island chain in the Central Pacific come to win the hearts of millions of Americans throughout the contiguous United States?

The Rise of an American Paradise

Before being annexed by the United States in 1898, most Westerners viewed the Territory of Hawaii as one of many far-flung Polynesian destinations. Located nearly 2,500 miles from the U.S. mainland, it took (and still takes) a cargo or cruise ship around five days from the West Coast. A century ago, this meant the only visitors were sailors on merchant vessels or wealthy passengers who could afford to get away to the islands’ pristine beaches and pineapple plantations for weeks (or months) at a time. This all began to change in 1935, when Pan American Airways offered the first commercial flights to Hawaii (a staggering sixteen hours from L.A. to Honolulu). Following this came the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Today, the meaningful museums and grand memorials of Pearl Harbor constitute the top tourist destination in Hawaii. Here, visitors reflect on the bravery and sacrifice of the crews on the USS Arizona and Battleship Missouri. Some who come to pay their respects will personally remember America’s entry into the Second World War. Those dark days are difficult to imagine when standing in the warm, bright sunshine of this tropical paradise.

When the WWII servicemen stationed in Hawaii returned home, they brought with them accounts of glittering beaches, lofty volcanoes, sumptuous rainforests and warm-hearted people.The booming post-war economy saw an increase in Hawaiian tourism, to the tune of a few hundred thousand visitors each year.

But Hawaii’s true ‘moment of arrival’ as a vacation mecca wouldn’t come until it was admitted as the 50th state of the union on August 21, 1959. Three days later, Pan American launched jet service from the mainland—making Hawaii not just a jaw-dropping paradise, but an accessible, jaw-dropping paradise. Since then, scores have traveled to Hawaii to celebrate anniversaries, honeymoons, graduations or simply to treat themselves to its natural wonders and unique delights.

A highlight for most visitors is the island’s royal palace. Built by King Kalakaua in 1882 and designed to rival any European castle, Iolani is the only royal palace in the country. Inside, it’s easy to imagine the islands’ proud King and Queen descending its elegant koa wood staircase. Ancient Hawaiians believed the ground the palace came to be built on was sacred. Today, the 7,000 square-foot National Historic Landmark is open to wide-eyed wanderers who want to come experience it for themselves.

Is Hawaii on your horizon?

Cruisers typically get to explore not just one, but several of Hawaii’s famous islands, which they almost always agree surpass anyplace else they’ve been. Its climate is delightful. Its people are gracious. Its melting-pot culture is fascinating. And its gorgeous geography proclaims the glory of God like few places in Creation.

If you haven’t experienced the phenomenon that is Hawaii, maybe it’s time to expand your travel aspirations on a cruise with us and The Aloha Talkers this August. Best of all, you can travel thousands of miles away and see one of the most intriguing destinations on the planet…all while leaving your U.S. passport at home.

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