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Madelyn Dunham

A presidential retreat in Kailua, Hawaii

A presidential retreat in Kailua, Hawaii

This laid-back beach town 12 miles northeast of Honolulu on windward Oahu has no hotels — which is just fine with the locals — but it can boast of being home to what some call the "winter White House." Kailua hosted the vacationing Obamas in December and on two previous occasions. Most residents are just fine with that too, despite the disruptions caused by the arrival of the presidential entourage.

On a recent day I toured the Plantation Estate, which the Obamas leased in December 2008 and again last December. If it's not paradise, it's close: A perfect green lawn slopes down to the white sand and turquoise water of beautiful Kailua Beach, and a very private lagoon...