For some, summer vacation is jumping feet first into paradise, where there is an abundance of palm trees, white sandy beaches and crystal-clear water. That is what the Milligan family had in mind for this summer͛s family get-away; a trip to Paradise of the Pacific, Hawaii.

“We started planning for the trip back in March, Donna Milligan said. “We had been talking about Hawaii for a while and decided to take the trip May 30 – June 7. Donna, along with husband Steve and daughters Rylee and Sydney of Russellville, made the most of their eight-day stay on the island of Oahu. “We tried to not waste a minute,” Donna said.

The family stayed on the North Shore at the Turtle Bay Resort. “We had little down time,” Donna said. “We went snorkeling at the resort in a cove that was blocked off from the barrier reef. There were rock formations where lava had formed all those years ago. You could walk out on the rock formation and look at the reef. It protected the little cove and you could see all the little fish and sea life.”

This isn’t Donna’s first trip to Hawaii. “Steve and I first visited Hawaii for our honeymoon 27 years ago,” Donna said. “We discovered so much more this time; we were able to do so much more research beforehand.”

During their trip, they toured historic sites: Pearl Harbor, the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri. Another day was spent with a family excursion on a 4,000-acre private nature reserve, Kualoa Ranch. “It’s the location where 50 First Dates, Jurassic Park and Jurassic World were filmed,” Donna said. She explained that Hawaii was a good choice for filmmakers to use Kualoa Ranch because it had the jungle landscape and is still within the 50 states, which makes it more affordable for filming without going to South America or elsewhere. “We went on a Raptor Tour, and my husband got to drive one of the ATVs. Along with two other families we drove through the mountains of Hawaii,” Donna said. “They were just as beautiful as the ocean.”

She also recalled coming across an old-looking building that had Spanish words spray-painted on the outside. “Our tour guide told us that that was one of the locations where they filmed part of Snatched movie with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn.

On the same reserve the Milligan family visited Chinaman’s Hat, and saw several sea turtles basking in the sun on Turtle Beach. “They had employees that would stand out on the beach every day and wait all day long for sea turtles to arrive,” Donna said. “Once a sea turtle arrived the employees would rope off the sea turtles and keep people away and not bother the turtles. It was really neat to see them in their natural environment.”

The Milligan family did quite a bit of hiking in Hawaii. One destination was Manoa Falls. “You hike up through a jungle-like forest; it’s amazing. There is a beautiful waterfall. The terrain all around it makes it look different than the ones we have at home. We know we are in the woods when we see a waterfall in Arkansas, but in Hawaii it’s different.” Her description of Manoa Falls did sound a lot like Arkansas though, “It was hot and humid like and the trail was muddy, rocky and steep,” Donna said.

Another family trek included a hike around a volcano crater. “It’s not even a mile hike up there, but it felt like twenty, said Donna. “There were lots of hairpin twists and turns. They cut the trail out of rock so you were at the mercy of mother nature.” The top of the volcano provided the perfect panorama of the island. “You could see so much of the island; all the way around, it was so blue and beautiful; crystal clear water you could see all the way to the bottom,” Donna said.

Hawaii is known for their fresh cuisine just as much as they are known for their breath-taking views. “There is a lot of seafood on the North Shore; fresh pineapples, fresh shrimp and fresh coconuts, mangoes, and watermelon,” Donna said.

On the north shore they visited Tropical Farms, a macadamia tree farm. “They also grow tropical plants that they sell to hotels that are used for floral displays for guests.” On their trip, the Milligans had the chance to learn about the Polynesian heritage by visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center. “They have replica villages you can visit and learn about a specific culture,” Donna said. “In the evening, we went to a Luau where they gave us leis, they performed a twirling fire show, showed us how to open coconuts and how to start a fire from scratch. They also baked a Kahlua pig in the ground. It was so good, they cooked it with pineapples.”

Another common dish that they saw served in most restaurants was Locomoco, a white rice dish served with a hamburger patty with brown gravy. “It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is delicious,” Donna said. “This time we ate at a place called Rainbow Drive-In. It was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” It was sold at a lot of restaurants that we went to, but theirs was really good.”

Donna said they also had the opportunity to tour Byodo, a recreated Japanese Buddhist temple. “I can appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship that it had to offer, even though I’m not a Buddhist myself,” Donna said. “You got to ring the gong that monks would have rung before going into the temple. In the back was a huge cemetery and a koi pond.”

And of course, it isn’t a vacation to paradise without some toes-in-the-sand beach time. “There was a day that we drove around the island and stopped at different beaches and did a little site seeing,” Donna said. “Not a bad view to be had. Beaches and mountains. It was paradise.” Donna said she’s not one to leave much on the table when it comes to vacations. “I try to do as much as I can while I’m there,” Donna said.

Donna added that she hopes that they will all return to Hawaii sooner than later. “Oh yeah, we will definitely be coming back and we won’t wait 27 years to go back,’ Donna said. “I’d sleep on the floor to go back. It was awesome.”