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Destination: Hawaii : The Last Hula Show

POSTCARDS FROM PARADISE. The Paget family explores Hawaii on a budget. This is their last report.

August 07, 1994|DALE PAGET and SUSAN PAGET | Free-lance writers, Dale and Susan Paget make their home in Cardiff by the Sea, and are writing a book on how to make family adventures come true

KAPAA, Kauai — "Alooooooha!" our 7-year-old, Henri, announces from behind a partition in our ($44 with discount) room at the Kauai Beach Boy hotel in Kapaa. "Welcome to the Matilda and Henri Hula Show!" A tanned and skinny Henri hops out wearing a towel, a shell lei from Hilo Hattie's in Lihue and a coconut leaf visor from the Big Island.

Matilda, 5, is clad in a bikini from Waikiki and a ti leaf grass skirt, handmade by a lady in nearby Hanalei. She shakes her hips and sings her own version of a Hawaiian chant: "Ohala molo ah, uno, dos, tres."

Baby Presley, whose blond hair has been bleached white by the sun and surf during a summer in Hawaii, dances around the pair and also sings. "Ahhh haaa," baby talk for "aloha. "

Nine weeks after landing in the islands, this impromptu show is proof that our kids are just as smitten with Hawaii as we are.

We've flown and ferried to six islands, camped for 46 days, eaten every variety of Tuna Helper known to man, gone through five big bottles of sun block and maxed two credit cards.

This, our final, week began on the north shore of Kauai at Haena Beach. There are caves, incredible mountains and secret coves. But even with the majestic surroundings, we find ourselves with a small dose of the traveling blues.

At times like this, we've found that it only takes one kind of person to put a smile back on our travel-weary faces. There are a dozen of them in the village of Hanalei.

Every Tuesday, in a poi factory near the Farmers Market, a group of patient ladies teaches island art to anyone who cares to learn.

"I love to do this. It's my most favorite thing," says Vanda Chandler, who tells us her great grandmother was next in line to be Queen of Kauai before the monarchy ended a century ago.

This week's class is ti leaf leis, made by spinning and braiding the moist green leaf the traditional way, around our big toes.

"To give this lei means good luck or have a safe voyage," Chandler explains.

The campers at Haena are a mixed bunch. Kayakers and hiking mainlanders use the site as a pit stop before exploring the Na Pali coast.

We spend our final days away from the tents, snorkeling and searching for shells in the crystal clear waters of Lumahai Beach.

For one hour, while Presley falls asleep under the shade of an almond tree, we adults finally snorkel together--holding hands just like newlyweds.

During these months on the islands, which seemed to be the quickest of our lives, we've watched our kids grow to love the ocean as we do.

Our encounters with Hawaiian culture have deepened our appreciation of the land and the sea.

We feel healthy and fit . . . not even a sniffle among us during the whole adventure.

Each island has a unique personality. Our fondest memories include Oahu's north shore, the volcanoes of the Big Island, the rain forests of Maui, the beach at Manele Bay on Lanai, the fruit of Kauai and the warm smiles of the people of Molokai.

On the final night of our holiday, we dress in our best travel clothes for a celebration at the Kauai Coconut Beach Resort Luau in Kapaa, for which we have paid a total of $39 for our family, by combining various discounts, including a 2-for-1 coupon we earned by listening to a time-share lecture. (The normal rate would have been more than $100.)

Six hours ago, Moke Keale and his son prepare the imu-- an underground oven used since ancient times to bake a whole pig.

"I've been doing this for 16 years, but the first time I did it I got really nervous," he told us, laying the pig on hot rocks and a mattress of banana stalks.

Later, we load up our wood platters at the luau buffet with roast pig, poi, salmon and fruits. Eating the food and watching the hula show we're totally immersed in the glorious tastes of Hawaii.

Our adventure has cost around $7,000 for the five of us, including air and boat fares, car rentals, accommodations and food.

Three months ago, before we plunked down our dinero for the trip's plane tickets, we had thought about buying a new van. Tomorrow we'll search for our old reliable Toyota parked at LAX, knowing it will now be with us at least one more year. The scent of plumeria in warm humid air will still be fresh on our minds as we head down Interstate 5 toward home.

We've swum with turtles, watched lava flow, slept among wild ginger and been spellbound by tropical sunsets. Mainland life might take some getting used to.

Luckily, when we need a gentle reminder of our honeymoon in paradise, we know three little keikis (children) we can call on to do the hula.

Hawaii on the Cheap

Here are our tips for cutting family vacation costs in Hawaii:

* The Entertainer '94 card cuts 50% off selected hotels on all islands except Lanai, where lodging is limited. Also check local newspapers, bulletin boards and real estate agents for cheap vacation rentals.

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