All things must come to an end, and so too did our Hawai'ian vacation. The last 3 days were every bit as busy as the previous.
The day after the lu'au, we drove up to the north coast of the island. We started out at Anaeho'omalu Bay (that's A-Bay to you haoles) where the beach was nice but the snorkeling sucked. We saw some petroglyphs after lunch and then drove up to Hapuna Beach State Park. The surf was up and the sand soft, but we didn't stay long. We crossed the northern neck over to Honoka'a and then down to the Waipio Valley (below, with Maui in the distance). We didn't go all the way down into the valley, since that would have been like climbing Everest on the way out. Next time. From Waipio, we drove into Kamuela (Waimea) and saw Jake Shimabukuro live in concert!
The following day, we rented a couple of kayaks and paddled across Kealakekua Bay to the State Historical Park and the Captain Cook monument. Captain James Cook commanded several voyages for the Royal Navy in the late 1700's, "discovering" the Hawai'ian archipelago in 1778 and naming them The Sandwich Isles. (Trivia: On his first trip to the Pacific, Cook commanded a ship named 'Endeavour' after which NASA named one of its space shuttles. On his second and third voyages, he was accompanied by another ship, 'Discovery' after which NASA named another shuttle.) Captain Cook met his fate at the hands of the native Hawai'ians at this spot on 14 February, 1779. In any case, the north end of the bay where the monument stands is only accessible from the water (hence the kayaks) and makes for some great snorkeling. The only downside is the 45-minute paddle BACK across the bay. That night we went to another lu'au. Unfortunately, the nicest thing I can say about that evening was the company.
Our last day on the island was a blur. We went to the international marketplace for gifts and souvenirs, to the drugstore to develop film, to Wal-Mart for more souvenirs, back to the farmer's market for even more souvenirs... with all that crap, it's amazing that we managed to repack our suitcases. For a while there it looked like we were going to have to leave some stuff behind. We took an overnight flight back to the mainland and made our goodbyes in Phoenix. After nine and half days together, I know Beth was glad to finally be rid of me and get back to her family. The price for that, however, was going from 82-degree weather on the island to 28-degree weather at home.
Just as aloha means hello, it also means goodbye. We now return you to your "regular" blogging.
We started out snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach Park, which may have been Beth's first time snorkeling. This was an interesting beach because fresh water coming down off the mountainside (Hualalai) bubbles up from underground through the sand here. You can feel it, since it's noticeably colder, and you can see it as well- when the fresh water mixes with the ocean water it makes the water cloudy and visibility sucks. But if you swim out about 40-50 meters, the visibility improves and you can see a few things. I saw a Moray Eel and some reef triggerfish, the state fish of Hawai'i. (Ask Beth to say the local name.)
After lunch, as some storm clouds were rolling in, we decided to try to ditch the crowds and try snorkeling another site, Honaunau Bay, outside the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park (it is still forbidden for non-Hawai'ian-Royalty to enter the water here). But by the time we got there, the winds had picked up to the point that getting in and out of the water would have been too hazardous. We went home to nap and get cleaned up for the Kona Village Resort lu'au that evening.
The lu'au was moved indoors on account of the weather, but the food and entertainment were top notch (Mmmm, po-kaaay). The accomodations at the Village also looked excellent, so if you're looking for a place to stay, this place gets my recommendation.
It seemed a travesty to go all the way to Hawai'i and not see the island of Oahu. But I was already laying out a bunch of money just to get there and it was looking like another couple hundred for the inter-island airfare. Fortunately there was a pricewar going on just as we arrived and we scored tickets for $20! After renting a car from the world's worst car rental company (Advantage- seriously, they suck! Do not patronize them) we started with the memorial at Pearl Harbor, where there were more Japanese tourists than Americans. At least they were respectful; wish I could say the same for the Americans. From Honolulu to the west coast (with a brief stop at the pineapple plantation) at Haleiwa (below). We continued clockwise around the island and drove past the famous North Shore where the big surf competition was underway. Along the east coast with stops at a few scenic spots such as Kahana Bay (below), Kualoa park, and the Halona Blowhole. We ended the evening on the famous Waikiki beach.
To tell the truth, traffic on Oahu was pretty miserable and the weather wasn't much better. I was very happy to be back on a plane at the end of the day to the much more serene big island.
The big island is actually named Hawai'i. It is nicknamed "the big island" because it is more than twice as big as all the other islands combined. Should you ever visit the big island, everyone you meet will feel compelled to reveal this fact as though nobody else is allowed to let you in on the secret. It really is a big island though, and it takes a good 3 hours to drive from the Kona coast (west) to the island's biggest city, Hilo (east coast). We drove to Hilo to see Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls. Hilo is also the best starting point for a helicopter tour of the current lava flow, not flowing from Kilauea itself but a vent named Pu'u 'O'o (pronounced Poo-ooh oh-oh). At the time of our visit, the lava was not flowing into the ocean (my fault) and was not erupting violently (also my fault), just ungodly hot (unless your name happens to be Pele) lava oozing out of this vent. Too far to hike, the helicopter is required. Beth and my mom initially said they wouldn't go, but when faced with the reality of being in Hawai'i and NOT seeing the lava, they relented. Little did they know, they'd be in the front seat together. Rumour has it, it was the highlight of the trip.
From the active volcano (Kilauea) to the dormant one (Mauna Kea), we set off early the next day to climb the world's tallest mountain. World's tallest if you include the part under the ocean, which nobody but Hawai'ians do. Still, at nearly 14,000 feet, it's pretty tall and high enough to give you headaches and other altitude-related ills. We started at the visitor center at 9,200 feet and got acclimated for a couple hours. Later, the rangers led us up to the summit for a tour of the undisputed best ground-based observatories on the planet. It was freezing-ass COLD up there, and had snowed only a few days earlier. Yes, it snows in Hawai'i. We stayed for sunset, then back down to the visitor center where they let us look through some much smaller telescopes at more stars than we've ever seen, nor will likely ever see again. (The entire island of Hawai'i imposes light ordinances to enable the stargazing.) Capping it off, we saw 2 satellites and a shooting star streak across the sky.