BIG ISLAND, HAWAII - “It is interesting that people give me praise for what I do,” confessed Dawn Marie. “I feel more like a piano that’s being played and not that I’m actually the music or the player.”
Yet people come from as far away as New York and California just to experience Dawn Marie’s therapeutic yet sublimely relaxing massages. Her self-taught tactile talents are legend; to this I can attest. People she includes among her clients include movie and entertainment stars — yet she also provides a holistic and refreshing insider’s view of the island to many.
Active in The Healing Arts for 25 years, she says obtaining a license as a massage therapist was a technicality.
“I’ve been asked since I was a child to help people with minor ailments, whether they were muscle sprains, headaches or emotional upset.”
Always curious about the world and other cultures, Dawn Marie travelled somewhat extensively earlier in life. Landing in Hawaii 11 years ago, she “in one way or another became some form of a guide helping people get from where they are to who they are. Becoming a tour guide was brought to me.”
People kept asking her to show them around, and she found pleasure in sharing the Hawaiian culture, language and spirituality that was naturally something that she felt needed to be shared. “I find that this allows people to drop in on a deeper level to Hawaii.”
Dawn Marie personalizes each and every tour: like perfect, fragile snowflakes, no two are the same.
“I talk to people and find out what their passions are, what their ages are and what their physical capability is and then I go from there.”
One of the tours Dawn Marie is most noted for is based on the famous Red Road area at the south end of the Big Island, home to the active Mauna Loa volcano. The largest volcano on earth and one of the most active, it covers half the island.
Above: Going off road in Hawaii leads to some natural beauty.
Like a meandering incision across the southern end of the volcano runs The Red Road (officially known as Kapoho-Kalapana Road 137). Dawn Marie tells us that it was originally called The Red Road due to its unique red cinder pavement. However, the cinder pavement only remains at the northern stretch of the road since the rest of the road was resurfaced with more modern black asphalt in 2000.
Starting at her home and studio on The Red Road, we were regaled with the background of an area where the lava has been flowing over the last three decades. Rather than go to the very public and sometimes busy Ahalanui Pond (a volcanically heated thermal pond where people can enjoy a dip), we went to a private location; a smaller, more intimate venue where we were amongst the only visitors. At water’s edge, along the way, a young native boy was being taught to fish in the ocean by his father. Awesome.
Dawn Marie provided homemade sandwiches, snacks, drinks and even island beer for the trip. However, we stopped at a local market at the unmarked entranceway to Green Lake and Green Mountain and talked to Smiley, a delightful local who sold us daily fresh pressed, ice cold sugar cane juice and fresh bananas, lychee and guava for our breakfast the next morning. Dawn Marie paid respects to Smiley, the "manager" of the area, and we had her permission to go beyond Green Lake and hike the mountain to the water tower at the top. Green Lake is known in local lore as a central spot for spiritual and energy communication within the Polynesian islands, a "hub" if you will. Leaders and chiefs are said to have come here just to throw crystals into the lake.
Dawn Marie knows all the locals well. She makes sure that we meet and interact with them – she feels that this forms a unique and integral part of experiencing the island. This connection and community demonstrates intangibly the overall feeling of Aloha.
Left: Remote Hawaii is the most beautiful. Right: Secluded paradises await.
And this speaks to Dawn Marie’s very being. “Aloha is generally understood as a greeting, however, aloha is so much more. The more literal translation of aloha is the Breath of Life or the Breath of God. To share breath with another in greeting is to recognize that we are all born from the same breath as one.” A profoundly spiritual person, spending a day with her is both a rejuvenating and invigorating experience.
Asking us if we really, really wanted to go off the beaten path and go off-roading, we nodded in the affirmative. To the faint of heart, this could have been a mistake. "Terra," her trusty 4x4, did us proud as we turned off the road, again — an unmarked spot — and went through what could only be called a maze of fallen trees, overgrown brush, deep mud pits, flooded road (if you could call it that), potholes and ruts deeper than I thought possible. At least half a dozen times I thought we’d be struck. Broken stumps mauling the side of the truck, hanging branches the thickness of my arm scratching at the roof, and with the four-wheel drive fully engaged in war mode, we had the mirrors folded in and at times I thought we’d tip. But we didn’t. Finally, mercifully, the island gods delivered us to the destination but not without a thankful prayer from Dawn Marie. Not to be patently passive passengers, we off loaded shaky legs and hiked off to reap the reward for surviving the descent to the coast. We saw naturally occurring lava tubes, and saw a truly beautiful rugged natural formation known as a sea arch.
The antidote for our off-road adventure was our stop at the thermal heated tidal pools that attract in-the-know swimmers and snorkelers to Kapoho Kai, an unmarked set of volcanic pools set backside of the Wai ‘Opae subdivision of permanent homes and vacation rentals. If you know just where to enter you’ll go where few do. The mixture of heated freshwater mixes with the seawater to attract tropical fish to populate these pools — some 10-metres deep — just like an aquarium.
Shortly thereafter, still smiling like giddy schoolchildren, we explored a hidden coconut forest behind McKenzie Park, smiling from the knowledge that this hidden gem was not known to everyone. It was Our Place to share only with Dawn Marie today.
All day she regaled us with her wit, warmth, and unsurpassed knowledge of the local and island heritage. We felt we were with her as friends, not tourists. Sincere and sensitive, she makes you feel just plain comfortable.
“Personally I’m always looking for beauty,” Dawn Marie says with a genuine smile. We found it with her, this day, on many, many levels here in Hawaii. <