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Hawaii: outlook on paradise.

While the rest of the world stands at attention, Hawaii floats nonchalantly at ease, a routine maneuver for a flotilla of islands that just happen to be moored at the most congential spot on the globe. So suitable is Hawaii for human habitation that Honolulu residents start shouting "cold spell" if the temperature slips down to 68 degrees. Yet the special ambiance of Hawaii is more than a matter of degrees; it's a pleasing amalgam of sun, ocean, trade winds and stars, all brought together here ages ago by a group of highly active volcanoes.

Some of these volcanoes, such as Kilauea at Hawaii's Volcano National Park on the big island, are still earthshakers. Kilauea boiled over 32 times last year. But most of them are long defunct and stand in varying stages of disrepair, as if waiting around to see how their handiwork will turn out.

Only a native can identify some of the old craters, such as the one at Hanauma Bay on Oahu that has been overrun and flooded by the ocean. The result is a gigantic, circular swimming pool, popular among fish because the government protects them there, and also a favorite of tourists, judging from the ranks of tour buses parked daily along its rim.

Another crater barely visible to most people is Puowaina, nicknamed the Punchbowl, where ancient Hawaiians practiced human sacrifice. Iths almost in the center of Honolulu and now serves as a cemetery. Ernie Pyle, the World War II correspondnet, is buried there.

But by far the most recognizable volcanic cone on Hawaii is Diamond HEad, the only one whose name has become a househould word. It's parked right at the end of Waikiki Beach, two miles from downtown Honolulu. Diamond Head has long since retired from island-making, but it still plays a role in making Waikiki the most picturesque beach in the world. Some people have taken exception to its hulking presence, and a movement was afoot to clothe it in a tunic of brightly colored bougainvillaea, but nothing has happened so far, and the volcano remains mostly bare.

So many tidal waves of change have spilled over Waikiki in recent decades that the people at one of the most venerable hotels there completely lost sight of Diamond Head for years, only to rediscover it by chance last during renovation. It happened when a chain of luxury hotels bought the Halejulani, the only hotel at Waikiki that's found a niche in literary history. It was here over drinks in the early 1920s that The Saturday evening Post writer Earl Derr Biggers met a Honolulu police inspector on whom he based his famous character, Charlie Chan.

The new owners set about transforming the old Halekulani, a collection of low cottages, into the most elegant luxury hotel in Hawaii.

"We are trying to recreate the atmoshpere of the old open-air dining room as it was in the 1930s," said the Halekulani's new manager Andrew Thomson," and we thought that was the view," he said, pointing out front to the bright blue sweep of the Pacific. "Then we tore out a section fo the wall and discovered what the original builders meant it to be"--a tastefully framed portrait of distant Diamond Head.

Biggers once described this view in "The House Without a Key," a Charlie Chan mystery that was set at the olk Halekulani. "The shadows cast by the tall coconut palms lengthened and deepened;" he wrote, "the light of the fallin sun flamed on Diamond Head and tinted with the gold the rollers sweeping in from the coral reef. A few late swimmers, reluctant to depart, dotted those waters whose touch is like the caress of a lover." That was 60 years ago, and Biggers is no longer there, but the tall palms are there, as well as the sweeping rollers and the lingering swimmers. The description might have been written only yesterday.

Although the evening is serene and romantic here, the daytime is another story. Sixty thousand people or more take to the beach to make burnt offerings of themselves under the tropical sun. That's as many as the entire resident population of neighboring Maui, 40 minutes away by plane.

Maui is much less crowded than Oahu, but it's got a bigger volcano, a great dollop of a cone 10,026 feet high with a crater 20 miles around (the largest in the world). It's called Haleakala, and like a huge traffic cop, it even controls the island's weather by stopping clouds on the windward side, where they dump some 400 inches of rain a year.

"The remarkable thing about this place," one resident told me, pointing at the azure Pacific and then flicking his thumb in the direction of Haleakala, "is, within two hours you can go from scuba diving on a beautiful coral reef to walking on the moon." Apollo astronauts once hopped around like kangaroos on the lunar landscape of Haleakala. And the cone is still home to a handful of scientists who man the airy monastic retreat of Puu Ulaula Observatory, perched (above the clouds) on a barren cinder peak. While they busily track satellites in space, other visitors to this second largest of Hawaii's islands pursue more earthbound activities.

The latest pastime that's caught their fancy is Cruiser Bob's Haleakala Downhill, an absorbing and, Bob contends, "safe" plunge by bicycle down 38 miles of the crookedest, steepest road in the world from the crater's rim toward the sea. Bob guarantees that his clients won't have to peddle more than half a mile. He charges $70 for the all-day affair and includes rental of a bike equipped with "superbrakes" and a van ride to the top. If you can manage to get to the top on your own, the cost will be less.

Cruiser Bob's van leaves daily from Lahaina, Maui's old whaling town and a former royal capital on the southwest coast. Once a haven for drunken sailors, Lahaina is now populated by pirates disguised as shopkeepers who will gladly sell you all manner of goods at twice the rpice you'd pay back home.

Although low-lying areas of Maui have been sectioned off into resorts such as the manicured 1,000 acres of Kapalua, or squeezed into ranks by Dole and Delmonte, the cooler highlands, rather grandiosely referred to as "the upcountry," have been given over to sprawling ranches that produce cattle, sheep, foodstuffs and flowers for the surrounding islands. One resident of the volcano even dabbles in wines: Emil Tedeschi, a soft-spoken immigrant from the Napa Valley of California, for years has been doing his best to improve Hawaiian spirits. Tedeschi now runs Hawaii's only winery, situated high on the 18,000-acre Ulupalakua Ranch.

visitors able to tear themselves away from oceanside pursuits are welcome to stop by his winery, situated at about 2,000 feet, and engage in a high-level pinic under a huge camphor tree. The required beverage, of course, is one of Tedeschi's wines.

From the heights of Haleakala, the far-off Lahaina coast appears to be 100 miles away. Its flock of luxury hotels at Kaanapali Beach (a kind of struggling understudy to Oahu's Waikiki) is only a speck on the Maui landscape, and residents would like to keep things that way.

Just down the way from Kaanapali beach, the Kapalua resort flaunts its own private Garden of Eden, a paradise within a paradise, designed to tempt the credit cards right out of the pockets of an affluent clientele.

Never mind that the first Adam and eve stayed in paradise for free: the "ultradeluxe" package for six days and five nights, all inclusive, costs $10,000--a couple, a sizable bite out of the apple. Of course, one can get by here much more cheaply. Scuba and snorkling lessons are free, and so is the view: coconut groves, birght ambuscades of tropical flowers and a lawn as smooth and green as a fresh roll of Astroturf stretching all the way down to the beach. But the view doesn't end there; it picks up nine miles out on the horizon with the faint and serene presence of the island of Molokai.

The best way to tour Maui or Molokai is by helicopter. The copters lift off from a pad atop Pineapple Hill near the Kapalua Hotel. Each one is fully produced, directed and orchestrated (through stereo headphones) by the pilot. Ours climbed to 10,000 feet past the west Maui mountains to the top of Haleakala; then buzzed down into the crater, disturbing the daydreams of scientists at Puu Ulaula. After warning passengers to start swallowing hard, our pilot dived through the thick bankd of clouds on the windward side into another world of tropical rainforest, deep gorges, hidden pools and towering waterfalls. He flew low over the isolated homes of George Harrison and Jim Nabors and then, as if on a whim to fulfill some tropical-island fantasy, dropped toward a tiny postage stamp far below tht turned out to be a beach--one so remote and isolated by sharp coral reefs, it can't be reached safely by boat.

The passengers stepped out for a few minutes to explore the area completely carpeted by gray volcanic rocks. Pocked and pitted, yet worn satin-smooth by a thousand decades in the Maui surf, they looked like tiny island replicas churned out by Haleakala. Before we took off again to return to the world of people, I slipped one into my pocket as a souvenir of the exquisite volcanic reality of Hawaii.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Kreiter, Ted
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1984
Words:1584
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