I have to admit, when I close my eyes and think of Hawaii, I used to see images of tourists at resorts, stuffing themselves at all-you-can-eat-buffets and never leaving the pool to look at the ocean.

And maybe, for some, this is the reality. But for us, we were pleasantly surprised to find an island full of adventure, and nature, and locals and tourists alike eating out at fantastic restaurants. There was surfing and hiking, fresh coconuts and island cats. Macadamia nut pancakes and walks down the beach, luaus and leis, striking sunsets and brisk tradewinds that whipped your hair and your dress until you could barely see and felt you might be carried off on the breeze.

It was a real place. That was the unexpected part. Person after person that we met had come to visit 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 5 years ago, and then just never left. People who came and fell in love with Maui and figured out a way to make a living and stay there forever. The people we met were kind, and helpful, honest and friendly. I guess it would be  difficult to be in a bad mood if you lived in such a beautiful place.

Anyway, my vision of Hawaii, and Maui in particular as just an endless string of resorts with no soul was unfounded. It was a beautiful, inspiring place, full of lush greenery and hardworking people and the best damn fruit you've ever eaten in your life. It reminded me that places want to surprise you. And that even beneath the most soulless tourist spots in the world, there's always beauty and adventure waiting, if you are willing to look a little deeper--and in Maui, we thankfully didn't have to look deeply at all.

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