On a Saturday in June, I found myself wide awake at 5am for the first time in… ever? I was strolling the beach with other victims of the time zone change, taking in the array of resorts that line Maui’s Kā’anapali Beach. Between the “hellos” and “alohas” I could hear the waves crashing against the rocks on the far end of the beach. As I counted down the minutes until the start of the breakfast buffet, I whispered to myself, “You made it, kid. You made it.”
It was around this time that my landlord texted, letting me know that my most recent rent check bounced. It wasn’t the first time, either. Still, a person needs vacations (even when they can’t afford one) and Maui is legendary among vacation destinations. Who can blame me for putting bankruptcy on the line for some fun? (Besides my landlord, obviously.)
The island, its beaches, and the aquamarine slice of the Pacific that surrounds Maui are all really hard to describe without sounding like a brochure. Sandy beaches, smiling families, sugary cocktails — it’s the quintessential tropical spot, the place middle American families spend their winters dreaming about. There were more athletes than sunburned midwesterners this weekend, however, as I was in town to cover the Maui Jim Ocean Shootout, a “unique, two-day ocean event” comprised entirely of sports for Australians that I’d never heard of.
NOTE 1: I didn’t know stand up paddleboarding could be competitive. Never even considered it. I just thought it was a cool thing that bored surfers invented and blonde people on Instagram made famous.
While on the island, I stayed at the Kā’anapali Beach Hotel — the perfect introduction to the Pacific Ocean lifestyle, and an experience seemingly designed by locals to maximize the amount of sheer fun you’re able to have on Hawaii’s second largest island. Activities, events, crafts, personalized songs… there’s a little something to appeal to everyone at the property (and yet still enough rum and open space for when the desire to be alone got the better of me, which was fairly often). Furthermore, such an emphasis is placed on cultural education that your vacation never really feels wasted. I found myself learning about local culture in a truly organic way and, as someone whose entire perception of the Hawaiian way of life was shaped by Lilo and Stitch and behind the scenes featurettes on the LOST DVDs, the effort that the property put into me leaving a more knowledgeable person was beyond admirable.
Being single, childless, and armed with too many drink tickets, I was drunk roughly 75% of the time I was in Maui, only furthering the weird, ecstatic, but also weirdly solemn vibe I had going. When you’re alone, Maui makes you feel introspective. I found myself alone on something called “The Big Black Rock” at 2AM one night, muttering stuff like “but I mean what is life even though, really?” while several fellow tourists nearby felt obligated to yell “Are you safe?!” and I had to be all like, “Yes, I will come down. I can see how this looks worrisome.”