When you grow up in a place like Kaua`i, it does something to you. The island’s enchantment ruins everywhere else. I call it being corrupted by beauty.
This can be difficult, because ever after you try to find a way to live in a place people visit on vacation, and few but millionaires own homes. When I grew up here on Kaua`i and started life as a young married, I worked in hotels and restaurants, and cleaned houses for Charo, Bette Midler, Billie Jean King and Guns’ n Roses. (Yeah, they really did throw some crazy parties, as least back in the eighties. It wasn’t fun being the maid.) My husband and I had to leave Hawaii for college, to scrape our way into middle class by education—only to find there weren’t jobs on Kaua`i when we tried to return.
So we settled on Maui. What a hardship, right?
Many people think Maui is “no ka oi” and yes, it’s very nice. But Kaua`i is just hands-down the prettiest island in my opinion. Returning to the place I grew up is rich in memory, legend and lore. I’ve been fact-checking locations for my sequel, Torch Ginger, against my memory of the places and so far, so good.
- Polihale, that swath of dunes, kiawe and rugged cliffs- just as remote and peopled by peripatetic characters.
- Hanalei Valley and the river, so recently flooded—now a green-skinned eel snaking through lush green banks, spinning with golden hau blossoms.
- Hanalei Bay, where Lei goes on a canoe-paddling date—yes, as gorgeous as I wrote it, and paddlers criss-crossing it in sync in the bright red and yellow traditional canoes.
- Kapa`a—a utilitarian town of Laundromats and auto shops, taken over by cutesy shrimp and shell stands. It’s barely dolled up for a few blocks before the seediness of old town re-emerges. I grin at the cinder block Church of Latter Day Saints that I reinvented into the “urban ugly” Kapa`a Police Station in my novel.
- Rainswept, overgrown Wainiha Valley, isolated and always a little spooky—yep, just the same as the 1970’s.
- But some areas are so gorgeous words can’t really describe them.
Maybe my books will do so well I can afford to come home and live here. A girl can dream, right?
What are some of the vacation places you’ve visited that made such an impression you wish you could live there?