Photos: Hawaiian paradise

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  1. Waimea Canyon, Kauai

    Kalalau Valley, on Kauai's west side, is more than 3,000 feet deep and provides stunning panoramic views. Waimea is nicknamed "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." (John Borthwick / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Honolulu, Hawaii

    Men row their Hawaiian outrigger canoe towards Waikiki beach, with Diamond Head in the background. Outrigger canoes are now used for recreation purposes and to ride the waves, but in times past they were the main means of transportation between the Hawaiian Islands. (Mike Nelson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. The tranquil waters of Oahu

    Hanauma Bay is one of the finest stretches of beach in the world. (Eric L Wheater / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Surfer's paradise

    Australian Luke Egan competes on Oahu's North Shore, one of the best places in Hawaii to ride the big waves. (AFP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Water colors

    A school of manini fish pass over a coral reef at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Donald Miralle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Wailua Falls

    The beautiful 83-foot tiered Wailua Falls is an easily accessible, must-see waterfall on the island of Kauai. Wailua Falls was first made famous when it was featured in the television show, "Fantasy Island." (James Randklev / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Emerald peaks

    The iconic, towering emerald peaks of the 1,200-foot Iao Needle, stand out in Maui's Iao Valley State Park. (Adina Tovy Amsel / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Historic reminder

    The USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, marks the resting place of many of the battleship's 1,177 crew members who lost their lives during the Attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 by the Japanese. The memorial is the "ground zero" of World War II. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Aloha!

    Hula dancers welcome the sailing crew of a Hokule'a, a canoe, into Kailua Bay. (Ronen Zilberman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The heart of Hawaii

    The sun sets on Honolulu, Oahu's capital and Hawaii's largest, most populous city. (Robert Y. Ono / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Polynesian heat

    Brandon OFueo Maneafaiga, 23, of Waianae, Hawaii balances two flaming knifes during the 13th Annual World Fireknife Championship at the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Laie, Hawaii. (Lucy Pemoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Explosive attraction

    People watch from a viewing area as an explosion takes place on Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, in Pahoa, Hawaii. Legend says the volcano goddess Pele dug fire pits as she traveled from island to island looking for a home with her brothers and sisters. She finally settled at Kilauea's summit, where she lives at Halemaumau crater. (Leigh Hilbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Forces of nature

    The Dragon's Teeth are bizarre lava formations eroded by wind and salt spray at Makalua-puna Point. (Karl Lehmann / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Heaven on Earth

    Astronomy observatories are seen on the peak of the snow-covered, Mauna Kea mountain near Hilo, Hawaii. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano. (Tim Wright / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. On the way to Sainthood

    Tourists walk through a cemetery past the grave, left, of Father Damien at Kalawao, Hawaii. After cancer patient Audrey Toguchi prayed to Father Damien, known for helping leprosy patients in Hawaii, to help her, and her cancer went away, Pope Benedict XVI approved the case in July 2008 as Damien's second miracle, opening the way for the 19th century Belgian priest to be declared a saint. (Eric Risberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Cool colors

    Rainbow eucalyptus (Mindanao Gum) trees grow in Keanae, Maui. Once a year, these magnificent trees shed their bark and take on the colors of the rainbow. (James Randklev / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Magic Sands

    An aerial view of La'aloa Beach Park or Magic Sands beach in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The beach is called Magic Sands because when rough surf hits, all of the sand is emptied off the beach and temporarily moved out to sea. (Brian Powers / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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By
updated 1/16/2006 2:57:46 PM ET 2006-01-16T19:57:46

Hawaii is one of those destinations on everyone list of must-see-before-I-die places. I recently found myself airbound to Oahu for the visit of a lifetime, totally unaware that I would be entering the land of the LOST.

Flying over the Pacific Ocean, I watched the first season of LOST on my laptop. I was immediately hooked on this phenomena, made just for couch potatoes and puzzle solvers alike. As I watched I was vaguely aware that the shows are taped on a Hawaiian island.

I couldn't wait to get to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, so I could hunt for the suite where Elvis stayed, partake in the hotel's trademark Mai Tai, and head to Waikiki Beach.

Hilton's Hawaiian Village is an enormous resort that offers just about everything imaginable, including the traditional lei greeting. I wanted to see just a bit more of Hawaii, without renting a car. So, I opted for a pre-arranged tour, one that offered a glider ride, a local lunch, a visit to the beach where LOST is filmed and a nature tour.

Wait - back up a second. A visit to the beach where LOST is filmed? Sign me up, who do I pay and what time do we leave? Go ahead, put me in the cheesy group-tourist category. It was a small crowd, so I didn't feel like I was selling myself out - too much.

The driver, Ernal, was a local and stopped by Leonard's Donut Shop to show me Malasadas, island donuts served plain or filled and topped with granulated sugar. Mmmmm. I grabbed a warm chocolate Malasada. It was crispy on the outside with warm dough and chocolate filling that dripped down my chin. I was in carbohydrate-sugar heaven.

After finishing the Malasadas we headed for the island tour. We drove past Diamondhead and drove beyond a few pineapple farms. Our first activity was a glider ride along the northern tip of Oahu. A small plane pulled us up into the air by a tether. We went higher and higher near the mountains and over the beaches. Finally the tether was released and we were gliding silently over the North Shore. I felt like a bird perusing the area. I asked the pilot, Mary, where the beach site for LOST was filmed and she pointed down. It was near the road from the airport we left just minutes before. Holy smoke, I was so close. After a bit, we touched down for the smoothest landing in my entire life. I thanked Mary for the safe flight, and then I hightailed it - with Ernal in tow - across the street to the beach to get a glimpse of the filming location.

Ernal explained that all the beaches there are public and anyone has access. We walked through the sand, keeping an eye out for broken beer bottles and other sharp objects. I guess public access has its pros and cons. I almost cut my foot once or twice, but I made it through the trek unscathed.

Standing by the shore with my feet slowly sinking as each wave lapped past and inhaling ocean air cleansed my thoughts. I had a brief imaginary moment and could almost see the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 gathering wood for a fire, or hanging clothes to dry. I searched the horizon for Hugo, my favorite on the show. I looked to my left and could see the same mountains I saw from a television set, now there before my eyes. It was surreal, almost like standing on the Yellow Brick Road, but this was really Mokuleia Beach.

Ernal motioned for me to leave. He confided that he just found out where the plane wreckage was being stored so it wouldn't wash away with the tide. We snuck behind the airport through some back roads. I could see it. It was like finding the Holy Grail. Other tourists followed behind, eyes glazed, reverently touching the fence that protected the wreckage. Two armed men in military uniforms, hidden behind the fence, suddenly appeared. One said, "You need to leave the premise. This is military property." Ummm, OK, did I just step into a LOST episode, now being filmed?

Of course, I noticed that the military property was on the other side of the fence and I made a point to mention that to them as I was leaving. Yes, call me coward. I am not going to stand around arguing with armed men, but I can still have the last word as I'm leaving.

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We drove away and found a place called L&L Drive Inn and ordered lunch. It's a local spot that offered a decent lunch that was both filling and satisfying. We stopped for dessert at Matsumoto's Shaved Ice. People were lined out the door and were raving about how good it was. Where I come from we call these sno-balls. I ordered a strawberry and was a bit disappointed. I was not impressed in the least. Maybe I should have ordered extra syrup. Either way, it did, however, provide a cooling snack in the afternoon heat.

Our last stop was the Waimea Valley Audubon Center. It is considered to be the most sacred spot in the Hawaiian Islands. We paid the small fee to walk through the pathways, and I was pleasantly surprised. Down on my left was a river that looked very familiar. Was this another secret LOST spot? It sure looked like it.

I continued my leisurely walk until the path ended at a waterfall. I noticed there was a lifeguard, but no one was swimming. I looked at him questioningly and he nodded his head. That was all the confirmation I needed. I threw off my clothes until all I had on was my swimsuit and I navigated through the boulders and slick rocks until I could swim. This had to be the spot where Kate and Sawyer found a bit of wreckage, corpses and those infamous guns under the water.

I swam around and floated on my back, trying not to think of what Kate and Sawyer found. Another tourist was inspired to come into the water with her clothes on. The spirit in the air made everyone want to jump in. We laughed without inhibition. It was a fabulous ending to a wonderful tour. I never realized a group tour could be so much fun.

The ride back to the Hilton Hawaiian Village was somber. We were all exhausted from our swim and reminisced over the day's events. We passed Kualoa Ranch, where Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, and the LOST castaways golf game were filmed. We were lost for a bit in our own minds before reality of the real world intruded again.

My visit to Oahu was memorable and all that I could hope for. I'm diligently saving my hard-earned dollars so that I can get LOST in Hawaii once again.

For more information:
www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com
www.audubon.org
www.visit-oahu.com

Shannon Hurst Lane is a Louisianna-based travel writer and a Romance columnist for Travelworld and another online magazine.

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