Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa
It’s easy to feel Zen in Hawaii, with soothing ukulele music and tropical Mai Tais on white sand beaches. But on a recent trip to Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa on Oahu, it was the Hawaiian phrases themselves, and the journey into their deeper meanings, that melted my tension away. “When you get really into Hawaiian, it changes your whole worldview,” says Manako Tanaka, Aulani Resort’s Ambassador 2017, who is getting a master’s degree in Hawaiian language. A perfect example is aloha, the first word you hear from the friendly Aulani Resort staff. Yes, it’s a basic greeting, but it also means love. When you say aloha to a stranger, it’s as if you’re anticipating that there will be love—or at least a warm bond—between you to look forward to. Imagine if, instead of grunting in your general direction, everyone you met smiled and said (in essence), “Hey, let’s be pals!”
Courtesy Aviva Patz
Yes, it’s an iconic flower necklace you so often see in images of Hawaii, but according to Tanaka, a lei can be anything that surrounds you—even a child with his arms around you or a mural on the wall. “It’s the security of being surrounded by something,” says Tanaka, who was born and raised on Oahu. “Instead of you hugging someone constantly, you can always be holding them symbolically by giving them a lei. It’s become an extension of an emotion.” Since the exquisite aromatic handmade lei I received would have wilted on my nine-hour flight back to the East Coast, I bought gem necklaces in the gift shop as leis for my daughters, because we should all feel that kind of familial love and security wherever life takes us. Find out which secret Hawaiian island might be the most romantic spot in the country.