Despite growing up in the frigid tundra of the midwest, I’ve never been a big fan of winter. When I was young, I enjoyed sledding, ice skating, skiing, and snowman building as much as any other kid, but somewhere along the way it all changed and I developed a severe allergy to the cold. (It makes me feel paralyzed and lethargic. Seriously.)

I recently spent three magical weeks visiting family in Indiana, and while I absolutely loved every aspect of that time because any time with family is The Best, the cold was a bit of a shock. I wore more clothes than I wear in an entire year in Hawaii, but survived splendidly and even enjoyed experiencing a white Winter Wonderland for a little while…the silent, pristine beauty of a fresh snowfall; the glittering, falling snow that dazzles in the sunlight; the icicles that cling to branches and leaves; the hush of a naked winter forest (yes, I went hiking in 9-degree weather…) In its own way, the stark beauty of winter is unparalleled. I can appreciate it.

But it’s lush jungle, vibrant coastal colors, soft trade winds, ginger-scented air, rugged green mountains, and warm sun rays that make me feel the most alive and connected to the pulse of the universe.

Setting foot back on Maui soil a few days ago after a 26-hour trip and a month-long absence was divine. One of the best things about leaving Maui — whether it’s for a long vacation thousands of miles away or for a day of shooting on another island — is getting to come home to her at the end of it all. And this recent adventure through a real Winter made me appreciate the magic of a Hawaiian “winter” all over again. Not to say that it doesn’t feel a bit weird to go buy a Christmas tree in a bikini, or spend Christmas day getting sunburnt at the beach. But I love that. I love Hawaii’s eternal summer, and I love the subtle seasonal changes that do occur throughout it, like gently shifting tides of the ocean.

Since coming back home, I’ve been thinking about these “eternal summer” winters and there are, in my mind, three things that make winters in Hawaii spectacular. 

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1. Whales

Approximately 2,000 whales winter in the warm waters around the Hawaiian Islands every winter, amazing visitors and locals with their sheer size and strength.

2. Eternal Summer Bliss

This one really speaks for itself, but I’ll add a couple photos to illustrate the contrast in Winters I’m describing:

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3. Cool(er) Temps and Cozy Rain Showers

This one might sound odd, or as if it contradicts the previous point,  but I promise it doesn’t. I dislike being cold, but sometimes it feels nice to sleep under a blanket or get cozy in a chair (or hammock) with a steaming mug of tea and a book. Most of the time in Hawaii, it’s too hot to sleep under a blanket (at least in south Maui, where I live) and it’s hard to sit still and read a book because the sun is always shining, calling me out to explore a new mountain trail or go snorkeling with the turtles. And I drink tea every day, but iced, thank you very much. So the very subtle but real (5-10 degree) temperature change during the winter months, combined with the extra winter rainfall, can create some delightful blanket-sleeping and cozy-nook reading that makes my heart happy. (By the way… isn’t ‘cozy’ such a delicious word?)