Lava of islands - Hawaii a destination to dream about

I'm glad I'm not in Hawaii now, as much as I love Hawaii.

It appears the spectacular Kilauea eruptions, the flowing lava and toxic gases have not had a too much of a detrimental effect on tourism yet, but they surely will. When Mother Nature decides to play up, her wrath has no concerns for anything as mundane as tourism dollars.

Hawaii is one of those destinations to dream about. I think we should blame Elvis and those movies, I think he started it all.

We have visited several times, spending just a day or two on the Big Island before getting over to the mass charms of Maui. Now that is one lovely Hawaiian island.

We favoured the town of Wailea on the island - very welcoming and with more than its share of glamour.

The sugarcane plantations on the drive from the airport to Wailea set the island mood. Actually, the mood is set at the small airport when a friendly person drapes a lei around your neck, but those fields of sugarcane flowing to the horizon certainly lift the spirits and fill you with anticipation.

Wailea has more than 600ha of luxurious beaches, resorts and golf courses.

While we spent some time in the lounges and lobbies of the sumptuous Wailea Four Seasons Hotel, we didn't stay there, couldn't afford it (one day, maybe). The resort's lush gardens and lawns meander gently down to the pink sand and blue sea. Its grounds have been a backdrop for many television series and featured in movies. It's one of those "can't-believe-I'm-here" resorts.

There are dozens of other adjoining resorts and apartment complexes, connected by a long boardwalk that winds its way between the accommodations and the beach, and passes luxury condos (the sort that make you hate the rich people who could own a place).

We walked the boardwalk every evening, peering into the luxe resorts and watching staff light the flares and lanterns, preparing for the luau feast and the hula dancers.

In the mornings we walked many kilometres in the other direction along the beach, marvelling at the pinkish tinge of the soft sand. We were told Oprah owned one of the enormous oceanfront homes that sprawled to the sand, and we looked in each morning, perhaps to catch a glimpse of her, but of course we did not.

In the mornings the sea was mirror calm and some of the ladies in our resort, all women of a certain age, would come out in their one-piece swimsuits, don bathing caps and swim way out into the deep, so far they became tiny specks in the distance. You required binoculars to see them.

Once there, the women would tread water and gossip for the entire morning. I used to watch in wonder and admiration as they finally swam back to shore around midday. When I asked them why they stayed out so long, treading water, they said it was simply for the enjoyment, the serenity and the profound deepness below them.

In the afternoons as winds changed, the sea became a different being all together. Gone was the mirror-like surface, replaced by great pounding waves that crashed majestically to the shore. Signs along the beach warned to never turn your back on the ocean - not that we needed warning, it was obvious if you were even ankle deep and not watching those huge waves coming in, you would be knocked under in a nanosecond.

There is a lot more to do on Maui than swim and walk and stare at rich people. Horse riding is popular, snorkelling and golf will keep you entertained, galleries and shops abound, and a short drive way in the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve there is a coastal lava field, quite the surreal experience to walk over.

And isn't a hard-black solid lava field the only kind we want to experience right now?

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