This was once all craggy, inhospitable terrain for as far as the eye could see. Starting from the impassable shoreline and stretching out for miles toward Mauna Kea to the east or Mauna Loa to the south, nothing but rugged and uninviting lava fields. A far cry from what anyone might call paradise. However, there were folks who had a vision, not of what was or what had been, but of what could be. After two years, thousands of workers, and some $500 million dollars, this tropical wasteland was transformed. The metamorphosis was so complete that nobody would ever be able to fully understand what this area used to be, how it was for thousands of years. What was an unwelcoming and barren sea of rock, had been transformed into a paradise of architecture, flowing streams lined with beautiful flowering trees, pieces of art and sculpture, all woven seemlessly into an organic existence of peace for mind and spirit.
But push through the carefully cultivated hibiscus and plumerias, dig down through the thin layer of imported top soil, and you will quickly reach the original underlying lava bed. Does this mean that this beauty is really only skin deep? Is the transformation merely cosmetic? Is there some substance behind and beneath the man-made waterfalls, gardens, and rock formations? What is natural here in this man-made Arcadia, this Eden, this Shangri-La? Does it really matter as I walk past the simple wedding in the chapel? The couple looks so deeply into each other's eyes that nothing could convince them. The small group of elderly women sitting around the ornate Buddha carving harmonizing together and reliving old times. The children splashing in the fountain have grins and giggles that are clearly the genuine article. Finally, there is my young daughter sitting in the hammock sipping her fruit juice. The twinkle in her eyes tells me all that I need to know.