“The meaning of ‘Alo’ is to share and be in the present moment,” explains my yoga teacher. “And ‘ha’ means breath.”
It translates perfectly to the task at hand.
I deeply inhale the ocean air in unison with the class. And exhale. With each breath, I’m mindfully aware of the gentle fizz of waves crashing on the shore, the rustle of palm trees in the early morning breeze and the playful cheeps of birds darting like paper kites across a pale sky.
While it’s common to exchange a warm “Aloha!” when greeting or parting with locals, it’s not as easy practising its deeper meaning. But a sunrise yoga class at the Moana Surfrider hotel along Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach helps me appreciate the abundance of beauty and rich history there is on offer in O’ahu. The third largest of Hawaii’s eight main islands, O’ahu, is home to creamy shorelines, turquoise waters, tropical rainforests, volcanoes and the notable Pearl Harbour, so my partner and I hire a car to discover some of the charms that make this place so special.
Heading east past the iconic Diamond Head, or Le’ahi, a 300,000-year-old crater formed by a single, explosive eruption, we reach Hanauma Bay. The State Park is home to a pristine marine ecosystem which is reflected in its bright blue water enveloping a coral reef.
We follow the coastline north, to Kahuku, renowned for its shrimp trucks. With rumbling stomachs, we order helpings of garlic and lemon seafood. Chickens peck at fallen crumbs on the dirt floor.
The mid-afternoon heat is thick and sticky. We cool off at Turtle Bay then carry on to Sunset Beach where the waves are far too intimidating to join the surfers riding impressive barrels. It’s no surprise the surf is good here; further down the coast is Ehukai Beach, home to the iconic world surfing championships, Pipeline. My partner, a keen surfer himself, hitches his board shorts up and wades out into the shallows, watching in awe as the sets roll in. I’m happy slumped in the shade cast by a row of coconut trees, making friends with the women who’ve come here to keep a watchful eye as their partners take to the water.
Hale’iwa, a charming coastal village is where we quench our thirst. Renowned for the iconic Hawaiian beverage, shave ice, we purchase cones of refreshing and sweet slushies and smile as local children leap into the estuary from a walk bridge, dodging paddle boarders who push through the calm waters.
Cutting inland, we follow a rusty red ute with two locals husking coconuts on the back trailer, past the Dole Plantation, where James Dole pioneered Hawaii’s pineapple industry.
While it’s tempting to sip cocktails under the century-old banyan tree that shrouds our historic 1900s hotel, or join the droves of shoppers along Waikiki Strip, we opt instead for an authentic Hawaiian experience in Chinatown, Western Honolulu. Fruit and vege stalls line cobbled sidewalks and we follow mouth-watering fragrances to The Pig and the Lady. A sign on the restaurant wall reads ‘Only good vibes’ and as we devour delicious Vietnamese flavours, it’s clear there is only one vibe here, and it is indeed of the good kind.
These vibes are felt throughout Hawaii. The following morning, we hire a surfboard each. The ocean is silky. I lay on my stomach running my hands just below the surface, the ripples I make are the only obstruction to the visibility of the sandy seabed below. A long wave propels us forward and together we rise onto our boards, riding the gentle break back to the shallows.
I make a vow to continue a life of good vibes only.
The writer travelled courtesy of Hawaii Tourism and flew Hawaiian Airlines
Just eight hours direct from Auckland, Hawaii makes a great stopover destination either en route or returning from the United States.
Visit an AA Centre to arrange travel insurance before you go.
Reported by Monica Tischler for our AA Directions Autumn 2019 issue