The sun peeks out from behind a smattering of clouds, bathing the gently lapping waves in gold. I shut my eyes as its warmth touches my face. The breeze picks up yet again, rustling the palm trees behind me and filling the air with the sharp, salty aroma of the sea. 

Sudden laughter breaks the trance. I look up to see an approaching passel of kids, clearly enjoying their afternoon. Gazing beyond them, the white sand stretches for miles, back-dropped by dramatic green hills. 

Turning back to the surf, I watch my sons splashing and rolling in the turquoise water. Further out, kayakers are passing by. It’s an hour before sunset on our final day in Hawaii, and I’m soaking in our final moments, keenly aware what a gift this trip has been.

A Slice of Heaven

I cannot get over the beauty of Hawaii. Oahu is a delight for the senses. Our first afternoon was spent splashing in the rolling surf at Three Tables Beach, coarse sand underfoot. The boys played a pickup game of beach football with local kids. Mild jealousy welled up inside that I quickly stamped out. Yes, there are people fortunate enough to call this place home, where you can simply walk down the road to a piece of paradise. 

Fast-forward to early Sunday morning, and we’re ascending Diamond Head. It’s a climb. They boys aren’t thrilled, but the views from the top are worth it. The sky threatens us with rain the entire time, not knowing how little a threat that is in a place with perpetually perfect temperature.

The following day, we take a drive around the east tip of the island. Waves violently crash into the sand at the first beach we come to. It’s mesmerizing, but we can’t swim here. Onward we go. We settle on Kailua Beach for the day. The boys run out into the gently lapping surf. I’m thankful. I could sit here on the sand and watch them forever. We are so blessed to be able to enjoy such a place.

beauty of hawaii

Back to Earth

Not all is perfect. There are the usual problems, of course. I’m traveling with my two sons, who don’t always get along. Whether it’s fighting about who gets to push the button on the elevator or where we should eat, there is friction. It’s the real side of family travel

Then there is the weight of Oahu’s recent history to contend with. We crawl through the bunker at the edge of Diamond Head Crater, an installation occupied just a matter of decades ago. The air is still and solemn at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. Few places have hit me as hard as the Arizona Memorial. It’s a somber reminder of the ugliness and tragedy of war. So many lives lost in such a short time. The only place that has held similar gravity is the American cemetery we visited in Luxembourg a few years back.

Watching the footage of that fateful December morning reminds me just how terrible the world can be. I’m thankful in the moment for this era of peace and prosperity that we are able to enjoy. I’m thankful my kids can enjoy the life they do, yet we can’t forget the awful realities of the past. I’m glad to have brought them here.

Beauty of Hawaii: A Place Like No Other

For years, I didn’t understand the draw of Hawaii. It sounded nice. But I always had eyes for so many other places. Now I understand better. Other places offer idyllic beaches and swimming, but these islands are remarkably unique. From their geology, to their history, to their variety, I have a much greater appreciation for the islands after this trip. I didn’t expect to be hit by the beauty of Hawaii like this. It took me 30 years to get there for the first time. Now I hope to return many times.