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How to Get Lei'd

Mele Kalikimaka is the wise way to say Merry Christmas to you

Day 1: Board Pride of America in Honolulu, Oahu

The day before we embarked upon Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America, we flew into Honolulu, Oahu - the island's capital. I had only ever seen a few pictures of Hawai'i before I went, so I didn't have much of an idea of what it was supposed to look like. The pictures that I had seen seemed unreal and over-edited, and it felt too far away to be real. When I got there, however, I was blown away. It looked exactly like the photos. Prettier, even.

I had the privilege of staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village located just at the edge of Waikiki Beach. The resort had a breezy open-air lobby that led right to the beach and Rainbow Tower. Besides the breathtaking views, I think what I found myself most amused by was the elevators. The building was so large that when you wanted to call an elevator, you had to enter the floor number you wanted to go to, and then wait for your floor number (along with a group of other floor numbers) to be assigned to an elevator. The Empire State building might want to invest in a system like that to avoid another Buddy-The-Elf situation.

We spent the day hanging out on the beach and strolling around Waikiki before embarking our ship where we were greeted in the most iconic way possible: with a real flower lei.

Day 2: Kahului, Maui pt. 1

Our first official day of voyage was spent docked in Maui as we took the famous Road to Hana. It was a full day filled with stops at breathtaking locations, including a black sand beach and volcanic rock formations.

Day 3: Kahului, Maui pt. 2

The next day spent at Maui was relatively more adventurous. We decided to embark upon an excursion to Molokini, a cresent-shaped uninhabited island that's popular for snorkeling and diving. While the sea life wasn't the most impressive I've seen, I had a really cool experience hearing the sound of whales underwater. You can read more about that (and my other top snorkeling experiences) here.

Day 4: Hilo, The Big Island

We eventually moved on to the city of Hilo on the island of Hawaii - aka the Big Island. There, we took a tour of two prominent macadamia nut factories: Mauna Loa and Big Island Candies. I never knew where macadamia nuts came from or even thought about it, but it turns out that Hawai'i is one of the biggest producers of Macadamia nuts in the world. The Mauna Loa factory was interesting, but my favorite of the two was Big Island Candies. There were free sample everywhere, and in the back you could watch people hand dip their famous shortbread cookies into chocolate. I felt like I was in less dangerous version of the Wonka Factory.

Live look at me swimming in the chocolate at the Big Island Candies factory

Ever since we've visited Hawaii, my family gets a basket from Big Island Candies for Christmas and it's one of the things I most look forward to during the holidays. If you haven't tried them before, do yourself a favor and place an order.

After we all filled up on shortbread cookies, we piled back on the bus and headed to the volcano. It was really rainy that day, so it was hard to see the center of it, but it was cool to know we were standing right next to sudden death. Afterwards we went to the way-less threatening Rainbow Falls.

Day 5: Kona, The Big Island

Now here's where it gets interesting. Like I've mentioned a few times, my family is big into snorkeling. On our second day on the big island, we docked in Kona and took a little speed boat with a glass bottom to a popular snorkeling and diving cove away from the main port city. The boat was fun and sporty, but it took a crazy turn when suddenly our captain stopped the boat and turned off the engine. Looking through the window into the water below us, we saw a large object swim underneath us.

I couldn't make out what it was until I heard someone whisper under their breath that it was a whale. I suddenly became aware of how small humans are and how not-secure a little floating speed boat is. Moments later a humpback whale came to the surface just feet away from where we were idling. It was incredible. The rest of the day paled in comparison.

Day 6: Nawiliwili, Kaua'i pt. 1

Christmas Eve meant vacation was coming to a close, but there was still one more island left to be explored: Kaua'i.

I honestly didn't even know the island existed until someone told me we where we were going, but it ended up being my favorite spot. We took a private helicopter ride (!!!) around the island and up over the island's highest peak. Did you know it rains almost every day in Kaua'i? We were super lucky to experience 2 days rain-free on the island, so we were lucky enough to completely circumvent the island with an unobstructed view.

There was enough moisture in the air to catch a rainbow from the sky as we flew over multi-million dollar estates.

The best part of ride was when we approached the area where the waterfall scene in Jurassic Park was filmed. The pilot even played the theme music over our head sets to set the stage.

That night we had the honor of attending a real Luau. It was hands-down the coolest holiday dinner I've ever attended. There was fire, music, incredibly fast dancing, ripped topless men, and - yes - leis! It's difficult to describe the performance, but it kinda looked something like this:

Of course, we snapped a fam photo - minus my little brother

Day 7: Nawiliwili, Kaua'i pt. 2

One of the best Christmas Day's I've ever had was when I got spend a whole day lounging on the beach of the Kauai Marriott Resort. It was just a short walk away from where the ship was docked, but it felt like I was a whole world away from the rest of the planet. I could've stayed forever.

Eventually, we had to get back on the ship and journey to Oahu. The ride home was full of breath-taking views, and it was unforgettable.

Day 8: Disembark Pride of America in Honolulu, Oahu

Refusing to end our vacation any sooner than we had to, we spent the full day between disembarking the ship and boarding a plane driving all over the island of Oahu. We visited Diamond Head (or at least the base of it), Pearl Harbour, and Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. The banner photo for this website and on all of my web pages was actually taken at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on my phone. That photo was the cover photo for many of my personal social media pages for several years as well. It's one of the most photogenic places I've ever been. That night we ate dinner at a resort near famous Turtle Beach before boarding our plane.

Did you know the oil is still leaking from the ships sunk at Pearl Harbour?

I built my online image around this trip, thanks to the help of this photo:

The sun finally set on our time to escape from reality.

It was hard to leave paradise. Hawai'i was one the most amazing travel experiences I've had. It was completely breath-taking from start to finish, and I can't wait to return. For more photos from Hawai'i follow #mcverrymerrychristmas2k14 on Instagram.

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