Thursday, April 25, 2013:
We started the morning off in a very smart way – coffee and doughnuts with Cathy and Charlie. Denver was finally snapping out of its Winter/ Spring dilemma. After breakfast, they drove us to the airport. We had an easy way through security (even saw Shawn White ahead of us!), and a nice brunch at Wolf Creek.
We boarded our 777 plane flying direct to Honolulu on time. Elizabeth thankfully was able to take the middle seat to my right so we could sit together. We watched Total Recall and Life of Pi together. It was a nice flight, just under seven hours. We arrived early in Honolulu, which was awesome! The time was around 3pm in Honolulu, a four-hour time change from Denver (7pm). The weather was beautiful – sunny, humid, warm and breezy. The humidity was such a pleasant change from the moisture sucking dryness of Denver – our skin was so happy!
We took a taxi to our hotel and enjoyed the sites of a shipping port and big Hawaiian city along the way. Our hotel was the DoubleTree in the Waikiki area. It’s a nice place, more catered to business travelers, but because it’s about a 10 minute walk from the busy area of Waikiki, it is much more quiet. After getting settled, we grabbed a few things and decided to go explore.
Walking in the area, it’s easy to get around, but the streets are curvy so it’s also easy to forget where you just walked from. There are towering hotels, condos and apartment buildings, so they also tend to blend together. We walked near the shopping area, then along near the Trump Hotel and finally onto Waikiki beach. It was busy, but not so busy you couldn’t easily walk around. Naturally, the first thing we did upon arriving was to talk and put our feet in the Pacific. Warm, clear and beautiful water!
We wandered east down the beach looking at the hotels and fellow travelers. After awhile, we turned around and walked back down the beach towards our hotel. Along the way, we stopped to get some tropical blended drinks (Lava Flow and a Blue Hawaii). There was a nice beach area that we picked out for the next day. After enjoying our drinks, we decided to head back for dinner. A place called Cheeseburger at Waikiki is about 50 feet from our hotel, so we decided on a close place for dinner. It was a good meal, but afterwards we decided to call it early in hopes we could get a good sleep schedule. Lights out sometime around 9pm local!
Friday, April 26, 2013:
Beach day! After waking up sometime around 6am (stupid time change), we headed out to find breakfast at a place recommended to us. We wandered for nearly 30 minutes before giving up and heading to a place called Shore Bird. They had a great breakfast buffet, which coincidentally ended up being one of the cheapest places we’d find to eat.
After breakfast, we headed to the beach area we had scoped out the previous day. It was practically empty, couldn’t have been more than 20 other people in the area yet. We let our sunscreen soak in, and then walked out into the ocean. It was a bit colder than the previous day, but still felt great. We played in the water for a bit before retiring back to our towels to dry. There was a water sport rental station right next to our spot, and we decided to try paddleboarding! It was $25 per person, per hour, which was a great price. After a very brief lesson, we were on the boards and paddling ourselves!
It was a really good test to learn to balance and really worked your legs and core. Paddling is no different than canoeing or kayaking, so that was the easy part. I tended to get distracted looking at scenery and lose my balance and slip off. Elizabeth didn’t fall once – I can’t say the same. The wind picked up while we were on the boards that added another challenge. Blowing strongly from east to west, the trade winds created some small waves to give us a workout. While on the boards we saw two sea turtles. An adult, and a teenager in turtle years! From that point on until the end of our hour rental period, we were on the lookout for turtles!
We finished our rental, returned the equipment and decided to go shopping for beach and ocean friendly wedding rings we wouldn’t worry about losing. Elizabeth found hers ($2) right away, but we had to go to the International Market to find one for me ($5). Elizabeth’s is a simple silver band with white paint, mine is silver with black paint. A little yin-yang for us. With our successful shopping trip behind us, we decided on lunch at The Beach Bar at the Westin. We paid Westin prices, but it was all worth it to sit under the Banyan tree. The tree is protected by a preservation society and is recognized as the protected tree in Hawaii. It’s an absolutely beautiful tree and both agreed we could have sat under it for hours.
Fully content with our meal and enjoyment of the Banyan, we moved back to the Shore Bird for a couple drinks before heading back to our hotel. We went to the pool for a bit to rinse off the salt and sand and swam around for a bit. By now it was around 5pm, and we showered up in advance of dinner. I read some recommendations in our travel book and decided on a Thai place near the hotel called Keo’s. It was a great local place that has been frequented by plenty of celebs in the 80’s and 90’s as evidenced by their photos on the wall. Elizabeth had their most popular dish. I ordered pineapple shrimp curry and it was easily the best pineapple curry I’ve ever had. Content, stuffed and ready to relax, we went back to the hotel.
Before we knew it, we were both starting to crash, right around 9pm again!
Saturday, April 27, 2013:
An early morning once again, this time around 5:30, thanks to some yelling outside. Oh well, might as well get started! Went to Waialua Coffee House for an amazing, and affordable, breakfast. I was extremely stuffed and sported the food baby for quite awhile afterwards. Duke’s beach beckoned us and we enjoyed the sun/ ocean combo for a few hours. We headed back to the hotel around noon to jump in the pool as a rinse for a bit, then ventured out in search of an authentic Japanese noodle restaurant.
After two failed restaurants as suggested from our tour book, we ended up at Marukame Udon. The noodle bowls were incredible, but very filling. With no real destination in mind, we found ourselves wandering the Waikiki shopping area and eventually ending at Shore Bird for their happy hour once again. We played Cribbage for a bit, and after 4pm, headed over to Spam Jam.
Spam Jam was celebrating it’s 11th Annual festival dedicated to the goodness that is Spam. There were thousands of visitors and fest-goers, probably thousands of cans of Spam and lots of live music. It was pretty sweet in an ironic and hilarious sort of way.
Following Spam Jam, we headed back to the hotel for a more relaxed evening. It was a very hot and sunny day – we became shadow masters! With plans to see Pearl Harbor tomorrow, it’s time for a simple evening.
Sunday, April 28, 2013:
Woke up a bit later than we have the past few days (6am, whoa!) and got ready for a busy day. After our initial plans for breakfast fell through because they weren’t open until 8am, we settled on Konabean Coffee, which turned out to be amazingly delicious, and a perfect choice. What luck!
Shortly after, we went to pick up our rental car at Hertz a mile east of us. We waited quite awhile due to a massive line of people all arriving at the same time for their cars. Patiently we waited, and eventually got our Chevy Impala. It’s a nice ride, good speed, but small enough to get around easily.
We then took off for Pearl Harbor. Elizabeth is always awesome, but she was particularly amazing today for agreeing to go with me here. I’ve wanted to see Pearl Harbor for probably close to 20 years, so it was a big deal for me. Elizabeth wanted to see it as well, but it was really nice to have someone who wanted to share that experience.
Our tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial were for 12:15, so we headed to the USS Missouri Memorial first. What an amazing ship! The history that surrounds the ship is astounding, but actually seeing the size and layout of the ship was incredible. I took a ton of photos and we did the full tour. We saw virtually all of the decks, the bridge, and the exact spot that WII ended and marveled at the enormous gun turrets. After that, we headed back to the visitor center in advance of our turn to visit the Arizona.
It was a very solemn place. I was a little overwhelmed by the significance, legacy and sadness that surrounds Battleship Row. I took a lot of photos again, but mainly stood with Elizabeth in silence paying our respects to the generation that gave so much to this country and the world. It was an honor to pay tribute to their resting place and their legacy.
With the historical portion of our trip concluded, we drove up the middle of the island to Ted’s Bakery on the North Shore. We were told to go here from our neighbor strictly for the pie. WORTH IT. We ordered two huge lunches (mistake! far too much food), and finished things up with their famous coconut chocolate pie. We continued our tour around the east side of Oahu and stopped in Laie at Kokololio Park to view the beach. Tons of locals around and this area of the island feels distinctly like another country, very similar to our experiences on St. Maartin. From there we also stopped at Kahana Bay, drove through the Tetsuo Harano Tunnel twice (whoops! stupid GPS navigation), and ultimately found our way to our desired destination, Lanikai Beach.
Our waitress at the Shore Bird suggested Lanikai to us yesterday, as a great beach that locals go. It was very empty and extremely beautiful. The ocean was calm, wide open, and had a few sporadic islands amongst the shallow water. We relaxed as the sun began to set, jumped and played in the ocean and enjoyed every second before heading back to Waikiki.
After jumping in the pool and playing for awhile, it was back upstairs to shower, drink a rum & coke, and then head to the hotel bar to watch Game of Thrones. Priorities! Packing up tonight so we can enjoy a few more things in the area tomorrow morning before checking out, seeing the west coast of the island then flying to Maui tomorrow night!
Monday, April 29, 2013:
Headed to breakfast at Wailana again, then for a dip at Duke’s Beach. We checked out around 11am, and drove the car to Snorkel Bob’s to get Elizabeth a new snorkel mask. From there we decided to drive to the west coast to see a beach, but ended up settling on White Sands Beach, which is on the south side still, but west of Pearl Harbor.
It’s another beach frequented by locals and great for surfing. There is a small area to swim, but the waves were quite big. The sand was really hot at 12pm, so we didn’t stay too long. We got lunch/ coffee and a local shop in Ewa and then headed to the airport around 1:30 to return our car.
Returning our car took a matter of minutes, as did check-in and security. We ended up being 3 hours early for our flight. If we’d know the sheer ease and zero lines that would exist at the airport, we’d certainly have done things differently! At an airport tiki lounge we got a few drinks (but you can’t play cards while drinking!) for airport prices. Would not suggest doing THAT again.
Our flight to Maui was a breeze, short and sweet. Got to see the islands from the air, then landed quickly. We rented a Subaru Imprezza, which is a speedy little devil! We had a very short drive to Paia where we’re staying at the Nula Kai Lounge, a very sweet and quaint privately rented room. It’s small but comfy, despite the very, very early noise as the locals start their day (5am!).
We went to Flatbread Pizza Company for dinner (amazing) and then to Charley’s Saloon for drinks and watched open mic night for awhile. We also stopped by Mana Foods to get a couple snacks for our drive to Hana, and then headed back to our place to play cards a bit before going to sleep. All in all a nice, relaxing day with a few travel lessons learned!
Tuesday, April 30, 2013:
Road to Hana! We woke up pretty early (noisy outside very early due to some unruly neighbors, and also darn hot and humid!), so we got our gear together and headed to Anthony’s Cafe for coffee and breakfast to take on the road.
Thankfully since we stayed in Paia, it was a quick drive to get to the start of the “Road” and adventure ahead! Using our travel book, we kept a few places in mind for definitive stops.
The first of which was a small fruit stand just past mile marker 2. We hiked behind it to Twin Falls and saw two fifteen foot waterfalls pool into a small pond that fed the stream running downhill. It was a beautiful and quiet little area. We had managed to beat the rush for the most part, so as we were leaving, a lot more people were taking the short 1.5 mile hike.
We sucked down a smooth from the fruit stand and continued on. We stopped at a few side places to take photos of beautiful overlooks, waterfalls and decided to get ahead of the rush again and skipped ahead to around mile 15. We stopped at a rest area that had a big waterfall and natural pool at it. The Pua’a Kaa wayside was awesome! We climbed over a few rocks to get to a swimming area and both jumped in. It was clear, clean freshwater, but cool – somewhere around 60 – 65 degrees. We both swam for awhile and played in the waterfall at the same time taking advantage of the chance to cool down from the warm temperatures.
Continuing on the winding switchback road (thank you Colorado for preparing us for a road like this!), we made more stops for picturesque views and photo opportunities. Around mile 32 (of 36), we stopped at the Hana Lava Tube for a brief tour. It was reasonably priced ($12.50/ person), grabbed two flashlights and headed in. Once you descend into the tube, it becomes virtually silent except the noise of water droplets hitting the tube floor. It’s pitch black with railings and signs guiding the way. It was incredibly cool and unique to see something like this so it was completely worth it.
A few times we turned off the flashlights to enjoy the complete darkness. It’s literally pitch-black – you can’t see your own hands in front of you! After the 1/4 mile hike, the tube access ends and we turned around. Emerging back into open light is refreshing and awesome. Where nature has grown, it’s completely fresh and lush.
Getting back in the car, we drove one more mile to Wai’anapanapa State Park – the real highlight of the drive! It’s a big and absolutely beautiful park. We walked to the black sand lava rock beach, hiked along cliff edges, and finally to a natural cave pool we swam in. It was cool like the previous pool, but this one had full expanding cave areas we could swim into. We didn’t go too far as we didn’t have flashlights, headlamps or goggles, but those that did said it was very cool and expansive beyond the initial pool.
We finished the drive into Hana and completed the first half of the journey. We checked out Hana Beach Park and a few areas around the small city before turning around for the drive back. Other than a few stops on the way back for a few more photos, we made the drive back in about two hours. You could tell that other drives on the road were wigged out by the turns, but it was a very easy drive for us (no snow!).
After getting back to the lodge, we showered and went out for dinner at the Paia Fish Market, which was great. Talked to a few locals, and finally retired to our room after a long and tiring day. Success!
READ PART TWO HERE.