Hawaii Travelogue

Okay maybe not a complete travelogue (like the one’s we went to as kids where we sat there for hours watching slides on a screen and listening to someone talk about their trip), but rather a highlight reel of a few stops along the way.  This one is for my Mom and Dad – so they can live vicariously through my latest adventure!  Heck, who am I kidding, summer in Michigan and winter in Florida – most of us should be so lucky.  Still, I know they want the rundown on the trip so here goes…

To celebrate my 50th, my wife and I went to Hawaii for a week.  We have been before, but not without the kids so this was a bit special (see the previous post entitled “You’re not taking me?” to chuck at my son’s reaction that he was not invited).

A big thank you to Aunt Barb for the use of her condo on Oahu (the BEST way to see Hawaii), and to my VISA card for the points I saved for three years to afford the flights – all in all, a cheaper trip than driving up north for the weekend (or very close to it)!

So tell me, how can two flights take over 16 hours and get you there at 10:30pm, when three flights leaving at the same original time (all via the same airline) get you there by 5:30?  Usually we would opt for less stops and go with two, but took three and as it worked out it was the same plane for all three legs – just get off for each stop and walk right back on (new crew for last leg).  At least we got there before dark which allowed us to get our bearings and onto the right highway heading for our destination.

The coolest thing about the flight was in the last 3 minutes as we were circling the runway just prior to landing, and looking out the window at the shoreline we spotted a Seawolf Class Nuclear Submarine coming into Pearl Harbor flanked by a host of other Navy craft escorting it in – a first for me!  Even with all that excitement, after 12+ hours in the air, and losing 6 hours and several time zones we crashed upon our arrival at the condo.

Good morning!  this is the view from the condo looking straight out into the ocean from western Oahu – I could stay right here and watch this scene forever.  Million dollar view that we have seen whales, dolphins, cruise ships, Navy vessels, sailboats, kayaks and lately stand-up paddlers on long boards cutting across the horizon.  The small cove in front of the condo served well as the kids were younger as we could snorkel and even go a little boogie boarding as the waves came in.  We have seen lots of colorful fish and even an eel hiding in the coral at the bottom of the cove.  The beach is protected fairly well, but if the wind gets to hard there are two saline pools nestled into the complex to enjoy.

Our past visits have always been in the winter when the sun sets straight out in front of the condo, but the later time frame of this trip put the sun off to the right behind some of the distant shoreline.  At first we were concerned that the timing would not bring good weather, but before we booked the flights we researched online and found out that the post-winter months actually were the most temperate months of the year and as a bonus, it was considered off season so much less crowded and expensive.

After recovering from the long flight, we ventured out to get groceries for the week.  We did stop off for breakfast at a local spot that has been there forever – I splurged and got banana pancakes, mmm good.  Maybe it was because we were on vacation but these were fantastic (can’t go shopping on an empty stomach anyway).

Shopping is actually one of the most memorable experiences I have had in Hawaii – now that may seem odd, but let me explain.  To get a few pieces of Ahi tuna in Michigan it can cost anywhere from $5-15 depending on where you go.  The first time I was here and found this treat I was blown away, and it continues to be high on the list to revisit every trip.  The grocery store looks pretty much like you might expect anywhere until you get to the deli counter (the fish counter to be specific).  There, in trays as common as baked beans or potato salad sit bin after bin of every variation of Ahi tuna you can imagine.  Spicy, oyster sauce, teriyaki, seaweed, and on and on.  Then, they ask if you want to try any.  Just like Baskin Robbins or Zoup, they skewer you out a taste and you can have as much as you want.  I still remember the first time I must have sampled every one.  My wife found me grinning from ear to ear and I said, do you have any idea how much sushi I just ate?  In Hawaii they buy it by the tub and snack on it whenever they want.  Needless to say we always buy plenty (at pennies on the dollar of what it would cost back home)!

So, all settled in we kicked back for a day or so just enjoying the view and getting started on a couple good books, and even took some time to actually plan a couple things we wanted to do during the week.  What did we want to do that we had not done here before: learn to surf, scuba, explore the east side of the island.  What had we done before that we absolutely had to do again: go to the north shore for lunch at the shrimp trucks, get shaved ice from Matsumoto’s, drive as much as possible with the top down, and hike Diamond Head.

We actually decided to try a different hike than Diamond Head, and picked Manoa Falls.  It was a bit longer and more treacherous as it was not paved, and it is basically a rainforest so there is mud, roots and rocks to climb over – but wow, talk about being transported to another world – I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie.  Dense Jungle area, lots of trees as big as a house around and dozens of stories high, very neat bamboo groves everywhere, rivers and streams, rocks as big as trucks and all kinds of interesting sounds you would not hear at the shore just 20 minutes away.

The trail wound tight in some areas where it took you to all fours just to navigate and not slip off some dangerous edge, and other times it was wide open.  We traversed huge roots and other times found some stairs that had been built years ago that were helpful but still a bit rough and slippery.

I am not sure I have ever been in such a remote rainforest type area – one of the coolest things there was the bamboo.  Just knowing what it takes to grow bamboo, and the fact that it is beautiful and really peaceful to look at (not sure why that is), it was really neat to be deep inside huge areas of the tall bamboo trees and be able to take some pictures.

There are a lot of places to hike into the mountains of Oahu, and this was a fun, new excursion to take.  The falls themselves might be a bit more dramatic depending on the time of year that you take the hike, but they were still neat to see – a very tall shear rock face falling into a small pond area before heading out to the stream and downhill.

I have heard there are other falls to hike to that you can actually get in and swim the pond at the bottom of the falls, but because of falling rocks and the small size of this point it was restricted – and yes, being the rule follower that I am we obeyed (although my wife is a bigger rule follower so even if I was tempted there was no way we were crossing past that sign to take a dip.

This was easy to get to and just east of Honolulu where lots of people tend to stay.  We did not really see many people on the hike so it was almost like being in the middle of the rainforest alone.  That in itself was worth the effort to get there.  We have done the hike up Diamond Head more than once and it is always very crowded (although the view is cool), but being the only two people watching the falls here is really something more unique and memorable.

One of the highlights of being in Hawaii is the waves.  There is nothing like getting into the ocean and riding a wave by just body surfing or using a boogie board – my son and I do it for hours when we are there together, but I had always want to go to that next level and actually learn how to surf.  After researching the best sites on the north shore for instruction, we contacted North Shore Surf Girls.  We took a semi-private lesson (just my wife and I) and it was very cool.  Yes were were on the north shore, but since this was not the winter season when the waves are as big as your house, we got to do instruction right where the “real” surfers play.  If you get the chance, get in touch with NSSG and ask for Carol the owner – she was great – patient, informative and fun!  One thing I would do the next time would be to wear a better rash guard or even some type of wet suit – we got board rash from all the ups (and downs) and ended up looking like we had serious rug burns that lasted until after we got back.

The next excursion was diving.  I had been scuba diving years ago (about 10 to be exact) and really wanted to go again.  This time, My wife said no way, she did not want any fish getting in HER face, so I went solo on this outing.  We found Captain Bruce Diving not even a mile from where we were staying and they had the best package as well – they took care of everything, all I needed to do was show up.  We went out for a half day that started at 8am.  The first dive was an introductory dive down to a minesweeper that had sank off the coast – very cool, still intact, and after roughly an hour under water we started back up just in time to see a school of manta rays (about a dozen or so) swim over the bow of the vessel.  Then we cruised up the coast to the second dive site – the Makaha Caverns which were lava flows and caverns that you could swim into – lots of sea life, about 5 different types of eels and dozens of fish varieties and even a small shark eating what was left of an eel.  Very cool.  One of the instructors brough up an eel that he though was dead, until he got it to the stern of the boat and it tensed up on him – very large and we got to touch it (with him holding onto the head) so big I could not get both hands around it in the middle.

Now, it was not all scheduled activities as we had plenty of down time lounging at the cove right outside the condo – and we were both able to get through some serious reading and relaxing!

One thing we did do at the end of the week, was to explore the other side of the island that had eluded us in our first visits.  The entire island of Oahu would fit in one corner of Michigan.  We took off one morning after breakfast, dropped the top and started our cruise.  The other side of the island is like a completely different island – more lava, rocky areas and interesting areas to pull off the road and take pictures of some really spectacular views.

We passed Hanauma Bay State Park it was the front edge of Memorial Day weekend so they were totally full and not allowing anyone in.  Just past that there were a few cool spots like Halona Beach Cove made famous almost 60 years ago in a steamy scene in the movie From Here to Eternity starring Burt Lancaster.

Next time we will have to bring our bathing suits and maybe a picnic basket and spend a bit more time in this unique spot.  There were some sea turtles swimming around in the cove and a few people sunbathing on the wind-protected beach.

Just past this spot there was another turn off with parking and an amazing view.  One spot they call the Halona Blow Hole and it is an area of massive lava flow outcroppings that stretch way into the ocean and then drop off.  At the edge of one of the spots is a hole completely through the lava clear down to the water so when large waves come crashing into the ridge the water shoots up through the hole like Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.

We were glad we took the time to see the other side of Oahu.  Sites like the Chinaman’s Hat on Oahu Hawaii (named after its shape, also known as Mokolii Island), and Popoia Island (known as Flat Island because it looks like a flat slab of rock in Kailua Bay.   All in all, the Windward coast was a very cool spot to tour through – if you get a chance take time to see it.  A bit off the normal path for most, but worth the drive.

As far as birthday celebrations go, this was a fantastic present – a gift of time, exploration, relaxation, excitement, new experiences and lots of fresh fish right out of the ocean.  I could spend a lot more time talking about food (as far as people either eat to live, or live to eat – I am a foodie), so maybe in another post we can delve into the Hawaiian cuisine a bit further.  Nothing against parties, but given the choice I would head out on a travel adventure every time.

Aloha!

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