Goodbye cold Seattle, hello balmy Waikiki with a sun-bronzed Santa Claus, in red shorts and a Santa hat, strolling the Waikiki beach. And local ladies dancing the hula at a beachside park, wearing sparkling green leis and swaying as a band croons “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”
When fresh off the plane from deep-freeze Seattle, there’s something wonderfully incongruous about Christmas festivities in a tropical haven like Hawaii. In Waikiki, the Honolulu visitor epicenter, the warm ocean waves lap the beach by the hula dancers. Santa stands under a swaying palm tree, by the light of a sparkling moon and flaming torches. Christmas decorations and lights shimmer in stores.
And those stores … I haven’t stayed in Waikiki for many years and I was dazzled by the number of luxury stores that have sprouted here. Along Kalakaua Avenue’s Luxury Row, a stretch of uber-elegant boutiques, big-spending tourists (especially from China, Japan and Korea) splurge at Tiffany, Saint Laurent and Gucci.
While the stores, and Waikiki high-rises, have sprouted, Waikiki Beach has shrunk, suffering from erosion like some other beaches in Hawaii. It’s still glorious, but definitely narrower than I remember it. More about that later.