Jessica Kane is the college editor for millennial outreach at The Huffington Post. She hails from the Los Angeles-area where her upbringing allowed her to be relatively close to Hawaii (only 2,400 miles away). She has spent nearly all her vacation time with her family competing for the title of "tannest Kane," which her father unfortunately continues to win.
I wish I could accurately put the warm, tingly feelings I have for you into words. They're similar to the warm tingles I experience on my skin when I bask in your sun beams, but instead they radiate from my core to my fingertips. It spreads simply when I think about visiting you, as I imagine the salt water, the smell of sunscreen and taste of Kona coffee.
The euphoria begins at the airport. When I travel to any other place in the United States, my first steps from the tarmac to the gate include a fresh burst of cool, refreshing air. Not in Maui. Maui gives me a humid, tropical hug and the sweating begins before I've even reached the baggage claim. My high can't be contained as I watch the exuberant expressions of the first-timers receiving their leis from the hotel representatives, see the innumerable flip flops and rush to get my luggage into a taxi as quickly as I can.
The 16 miles it takes to reach you are filled with anticipation as I run through a mental checklist of everywhere I must go and everything I must eat. I have butterflies in my stomach like I'm about to meet someone important for the first time, but in reality, you're more like a dear, old friend with whom I can't wait to reunite.
Our routine is what I look forward to most: I can always anticipate an early rising from bed (with a moment of gratitude for the time difference), a breakfast filled with fresh, colorful fruit and strong-brewed Kona coffee, an afternoon listening to the waves crash, a multicolored-evening sunset and fish for dinner that's been caught just a few hours earlier. Some might find our routine too repetitive -- but each day you surprise me with something new and spectacular. Whether it be a group of whales to watch at lunch, a much-needed drizzle to break up the heat, a new friend a table over at dinner or a delicious Hawaiian-themed dessert I never would have tried elsewhere, you continue to surprise me.
If you couldn't tell, Wailea, our meals tend to be the highlight of my day. You can't visit without a few meals at Longhi's -- I don't know what I'd do without the pizza bread, ahi tuna encrusted in macadamia nuts or the famous Shrimp Longhi. Don't even try to stop me from running to Ferraro's for lunch, where the lobster salad is to die for and you may spot a celebrity attempting to take a relaxing vacation from work. No trip is complete without Lappert's ice cream for dessert. You can smell the waffle cones the moment you enter the Shops at Wailea, which creates a particularly difficult dilemma when I'd rather get two scoops of Kauai Pie before salad and mahi mahi.
I've introduced you to my friends and you've passed with flying colors. They can't wait until the next time we're all together, playing volleyball or doing yoga on the beach, going for walks on new paths and reading magazines and books we wouldn't otherwise have time to finish. It's tough not to fall in love with you with your silky sand, endless slides into the multiple pools and the friendly, happy-go-lucky attitude of the residents who choose to never leave.
Wailea, though your beaches are nearly flawless and your food is out of this world, the ultimate reason I'm so in love with you is your ability to unite my family in a way no other place can. With three of the five of us currently residing in New York City, it takes a pretty exceptional place for us to volunteer to fly 11 hours for a four-day trip. Our dynamic mimics your environment: calm and carefree with a special focus on ohana.
Thank you for your abundant sunshine, your lush, green landscapes and your overarching sense of peace you share with all who visit you.
Mahalo nui loa,