Monday, January 18, 2010
My Hawaiian Journal
Hawai'i is a beautiful place to visit, as I did for our 25th wedding anniversary. This Hawaiian site was my first web-site and I include it here as a tribute to how this all started. Surf on over. You'll find lots of tips and other useful information about Maui, Kauai and O'ahu. Have fun browsing. If you get a minute, let me know what you think.
Maui was the first island we visited on our trip to Hawai'i. For a first time trip to the islands, or a revisit to the islands, Maui is a definite destination point.
In Maui, we stayed at the Aston at Papakea Resort, an oceanfront haven set within 13 acres of freshwater lagoons, picturesque bridges, and lush tropical landscapes. Even though an ocean wall separates the resort from the water, the beach is easily accessible for an enjoyable stroll or dip. I highly recommend staying at Papakea's when visiting.
Snorkling at Honolua Bay
Great snorkeling for beginner and intermediate. There's lots of turtles, octopus, turkey fish, parrot fish, surgeon fish and jelly fish. Be careful of the jelly fish. Best to snorkle in the morning on a clear day. Avoid snorkling after it rains or on cloudy days. Rain tends to stir up the water and will bring out the jelly fish. As we were leaving, a young woman asked us to take her to the hospital as she was just bitten by one. We learned a few things about snorkling and the weather from her. Luckily for us, we had just finished for the day. Nonetheless, next to the Island of Molikini this is the best spot in Maui for snorkling.
No trip to Maui is complete if you haven't experienced snorkeling, or scuba diving, at Molokini Island. The Island is a Marine Preserve under water and a seabird sanctuary above the water. Being a preserve, Molokini has a plethora of fish, eels, turtles, and even humpback whales. The water here is crystal clear and some divers claim to be able to see the 60 feet or so to the bottom.
The shots at the top left and right are borrowed from the Pacific Whale Foundation website. There are many tours to Molokini, but we found the Pacific Whale Foundation Eco-Tours to be the best value for the money. The guides are marine biologists and provide a wealth of information on all the sea life in the area.
We took the Molokini - Lana'i tour, on the super-smooth (yeah right), high-tech power catamaran. If you have a tendency to get sea-sick, come prepared. The tour starts around 9:00am, goes straight out to Molokini where you have a chance to snorkel for about 1.5 hours. Then, it's off to the island of Lana'i for an afternoon snorkel.
The tour lasts about 7 hours. We certainly got our money's worth. On the trip back, we managed to see a few whales, even though whale season was coming to a close. We also spent about a hour watching some green turtles before going back to Maui.
If you're going to go to Molokini Island, I highly recommend one of the Pacific Whale Foundation Eco-Tours.
Historic Lahaina Town is known as the"jewel in the crown of Maui". It is said that 83% of all visitors to the island visit this quaint, old whaling town. After the beaches, it is the most visited spot on Maui.
The first thing you will realize upon arrival to Lahaina Town is that it is very much a tourist town, though much of it's charm from the whaling days remains. Front Street is the main road through the town. You can usually find a place to park along the street without problem. Walking is the best way to see all Lahaina Town has to offer.
Front Street is lined with shops all every imaginable kind. The galleries really have some unique offerings. And if you are into jewelry, there is no shortage of shops with all the usual island product.
When you're hungry, restaurants abound. I'd recommend Bubba Gumps, the Kobe Japanese Steak House, Cheeseburger in Paradise, or BJ's Chicago Pizzeria. We spent an enjoyable evening on the upper patio at BJ's, eating, drinking and listening to one of the local musicians they have entertaining in the evening.
For those with extravagant taste, rent a Jag or Harley from the Toy Store.v
The banyan tree in front of the Baldwin Museum spans a complete block. If you've never seen a banyan tree, check this out. It's amazing.
The cat we found wandering around the marina. She's blind in one eye and just loved the attention we spent on her. The artist we photographed putting the finishing touches on the wooden sculpture we bought.
Road to Hana
I survived the"Road to Hana". Known as the world's most beautiful drive, the road to Hana is one of Maui's most popular activities. This scenic drive is filled with spectacular waterfalls, freshwater pools, hiking trails and endless tropical scenery full of exotic plants and flowers.
The drive begins in Kahului, though you really don't get a sense of what's ahead until you hit Ho'okipa Beach Park. Here, the landscape takes a turn, so to speak. For the next five hours or more, you will travel from one micro-climate to the next, not knowing what's around the next bend. And there are a lot of bends. Literally, there is no straight road at any point. The drive ends about 30 minutes past Hana at Kipahulu. Don't make the mistake we did and end your adventure at Hana or else you will miss the spectacular Seven Pools. Unfortunately, we discovered this wonder only after making our trip. And it was too late to go back.
Keep an eye out for the forest of"rainbow" bark trees. I've never seen anything like it before. Be sure to stop at the Garden of Eden. This is one of the finest nature trails and botanical gardens in Maui. It's located between Kailua and Keanae at the 10.5 mile marker. Here you will see Puohokamao Falls (check out the people jumping into the pool at the bottom of the falls in the pic below), vast rain forests, endless tropical plants and gorgeous hiking trails. Be sure to look for Keopuka Rock which was used in the opening scene of Jurassic Park.
Further along the way, you will discover the black sand beach at Honomanu, an authentic Hawaiian village with a lava rock coast in Keanae, and the Tara fields of Wailua. As you get closer to Hana, looks for markers to the Blue Pool. It's a long, dirt road to this magical waterfalls. You're best to do this trek with a 4x4. At the end of the road you will have to hike for a few hundred feet before spotting this incredible work of nature. Be sure to bring you bathing suit as you will definitely want to take a dip in the Blue Pool.
Royal Lahaina Luau
Set against the dramatic backdrop of the legendary Kaanapali Beach, the Royal Lahaina Luau's grand Hawaiian feast and Polynesian revue unfolds. From the sound of the conch shell, followed by the lighting of the torches and the beat of the pahu drums, the party begins. Luau's have long been a part of what Hawai'i is all about. And the Royal Lahaina puts on a spectacular show. The event is both stunning and well polished.
Just remember, the show will go on rain or shine. My suggestion to anyone planning to attend a Luau for the first time is to wait until the day you scheduled to go and book a reservation then. Although rain doesn't impact on the performance, it's a bit of a let down feasting in the open rain.
One of Maui's more popular adventures, Atlantis Submarines will take you 100 feet below the surface to explore the ocean floor. The whole adventure lasts about one and half hours. However, you're not underwater for all that time. As the sub cannot come into the marine, you have to boat out to it; about a 15 minute trip each way. By the time everyone gets settled into the sub and it gets going, you're left with about 50 minutes underwater.
If you want to just experience what it's like being underwater in a sub, this is a great outing. But if you expect to see lots of exotic fish all the time, I recommend visiting the Maui Ocean Center. It's less expensive, fits to your schedule and guaranteed to have an abundance of aquatic life.
This sunrise at the summit of Haleakala was beautifully photographed by Linda Ching. Check out her web-site for more great pictures of Hawai'i. To catch a similar sunrise, you will have to get up pretty early in the morning. Depending on where you're staying, expect to get up between 2:00 and 2:30 in the morning in order to make the 38 mile trek to the summit of Haleakala; some 10,000 feet above sea level. The sun rises around 6:00am. Be sure to check the weather reports before you head out. Though it was raining when we left our hotel, we thought we might get above the rain by the time we reached the top. We were wrong! The picture of the van and trailer with people milling around is what Haleakala looks like at 6:00am in the middle of a rain cloud.
Once the sun rises, turn around and look west. You'll then see the erie Haleakala crater pictured at left. This shot was borrowed from the US Geological Survey website. Be sure to visit.
A popular Haleakala activity is to take one of the bike tours 38 miles down the volcano. Picked up at your hotel, you'll ride to the peak in a comfortable van. Sleep might be a good idea here as there's not much to see in the dead of night. After watching the sunrise, you'll cruise down the volcano on a mountain bike. Even in the rain.
I'm told there are 28 micro-climates between sea level and the summit. We found some interesting yellow flowers set against solid black lava rock. The landscape continually changes on the way down and provides amble picture taking opportunities.
If you decide make this trip, don't forget to dress warm and take a blanket. It's very, very COLD at the top! And DARK! Also bring a flashlight.
Just a few minutes away from Kahului and Wailuku, nestled between two mountains, lies the 'Iao Valley. Mark Twain once referred to the valley as the"Yosemite of the Pacific". The mountain air here is cool and crisp. Often it rains, but that's part of the beauty of a rainforest.
At the entrance to the 'Iao Valley is Kepaniwai Park, also known as Heritage Gardens. Various areas of the park are designed around ethnic themes. You'll find traditional Hawaiian gardens, Japanese gardens, and Portuguese gardens among others.
The valley is close enough for a short day trip and shouldn't take more than a morning or afternoon to enjoy all there is to see.
Kauai, the Garden Isle, is a relatively untouched paradise. You'll find no large cities or highrise buildings here. In fact, no building is allowed to be built taller than the tallest palm tree. The unspoiled landscape, including the spectacular cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, is one of the reasons filmmakers have been flocking to the area for years. The beaches, bays and mountains are among the most beautiful you'll find anywhere in the world.
While in Kauai, we stayed at the Best Western Plantation Hale in Kapaa along the"coconut" coast. Kapaa is situated along the east coast of the island, and as such, is extremely windy. Though unprotected beaches are unsafe for swimming, the sheer power of the ocean is stunning.
If you have been planning a trip to Kauai, you probably heard about all the roosters running wild. They really do! It's an unbelievable site.
Images Around Kapaa
Kapaa is a quaint, little one road town lined with fancy store-front shops and numerous restaurants. Whether out for a stroll during the day or a bite to eat in the evening, there is plenty to do. For good, old fashioned hamburgers try Bubba Burgers. And for those that need to stay in touch, grap a coffee, check email and surf the web at the Portal Internet Cafe.
The Coco Palms, made famous by the 1961 Elvis movie, Blue Hawaii, was the island's oldest hotel and the world's most famous Polynesian resort. The last twenty minutes of the movie was either filmed on or around the property. While in Kauai, Elvis always stayed in the small hut pictured here.
Hawaii's torch lighting ceremony,"Call to Feast," held every evening around 7:30pm, originated at the Coco Palms and was a daily event for some 40 years until the hotel was closed following the devastation of Hurricane Iniki in September 1992. Damage to the hotel proved too costly to repair and the whole island strugged with recession. Over the last decade, the property has been left to decay. For a history of the Coco Palms, click here.
Getting around in Kauai is not very hard. Essentially, there is one road around the perimeter of the island... at least most of the island. The north shore of the Na Pali Coast is unreachable by car.
The beaches of Kauai are immensely beautiful, though not well suited for family swimming. Poipu Beach, however, is ideal for the whole family with gentle wading pools for youngsters and snorkeling or bodysurfing areas for more accomplished swimmers. If you've come to Kauai for sunshine and relaxation, stay in Poipu. The sun shines most of the time.
Ten minutes away, you will be astonished by the sight and eerie sound of the Spouting Horn. This is one of the key attractions in Kauai. While in the area, take a stroll on the suspended bridge in Hanapepe, or visit the Giorgio's Gallery of surfboard art and other collectibles.
Driving north of Kapaa, stop at the lighthouse in Kilauea to view gorgeous cliffs and untouched seascapes. Admission to the grounds is in the form of a donation to help preserve the area.
If you like to golf, you'll want to try the greens at Princeville. This town is actually built on a golf course.
A little further along, stop by the side of the road and take in the magic of the land called Hanalei, the inspiration for the Peter, Paul and Mary 1960 hit, Puff the Magic Dragon. This tiny town in the heart of the north shore is surrounded by lush countryside. Though a popular stop for tourists, Hanalei resists the typical tourist trappings and echoes a much simpler time.
Continuing, you will come to Wainiha Bay, famous as the setting of the movie South Pacific. This is where our journey ended, as you can see from the pictures below, the weather turned quite stormy and the roads ahead washed out.
Situated in the picturesque Lawai Valley, McBryde Garden was the first National Tropical Botanical Garden. Over the years, it has become the largest ex situ collection of native Hawaiian flora in existence.
These images were all captured in the McBryde Garden or the surrounding area.
Known as the Grand Canyon of Kauai, Waimea Canyon is easily viewed all along highway 550, accessed from Waimea. The highway winds itself through Waimea Canyon State Park into Kokee State Park and ends at spectacular Kalalau Lookout. Though it is tempting to stop along the way, Kalalau Lookout is where you want to go first. From the lookout you can view a section of the incredible Na Pali Coast. This is as close as you're going to get to the coast by car. The only other way is by boat or air.
If you want to make this trip, start out early and plan to arrive at the lookout before 10:00am. Otherwise, the view will likely be fogged in. We found out about this little tidbit from the helpful staff at Kokee Lodge Camp and Museum on the way back... late in the afternoon.
On the way back down, you will have plenty of opportunity to stop along the road to take in the wonder that is Waimea Canyon. Some of the best views are spyed through small openings along the way. You'll also want to stop at the Waimea Canyon Lookout. It's often busy as all the tour buses stop here.
Hawaii Movie Tours
Kauai has been a favorite destination for movie makers since the early 1930's. The list of films made here include:
- Jurassic Park (all three)
- Raiders of the Lost Arc
- South Pacific
- Blue Hawaii
The Hawaii Movie Tour company offers two types of tours: the Land tour and the 4x4 Off Road tour. We opted for the 4x4 tour which takes you to a lot of spots that are nearly impossible to get to in a car or van. Also, you get to visit a spectacular private movie ranch only recently opened up to the tour company.
You will get to see what's left of the gates to Jurassic Park, discover the waterfalls featured in Fantasy Island, and swing on the actual rope used by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Arc.
O'ahu, Honolulu, Waikiki... this is the Hawaii that I believe most people think about when they think Hawaii. Here, in Waikiki, is where you will find all the classic beaches, surfers, hard bodies, surfers and more surfers. Waikiki Beach hums with activity from early in the morning till very late at night. A stroll along the beach presents an ever changing viewpoint and flavor.
Waikiki, which I guess is a suburb or Honolulu, is a fairly metropolitan city... unlike any of the cities we encountered previously on Maui or Kauai. Though not part of our initial plans for a Hawaiian vacation (we only decided to spend a couple of days here because our flight flew out of Honolulu), after two weeks on the other islands this was just what we needed. Our hotel, Mirimar, though not right on the beach was only a short two minute walk away and right in the middle of all there is to see in Waikiki. On more that on occasion, we would stroll down the beach in one direction, popping in and out of the luxury hotels backing onto the beach for a drink or look in the shops. Then, we'd walk back along one of the adjacent streets... again browsing all the shops, restaurants and bars along the way.
Diamond Head is visible from the beach, but really deserves a short drive up the coast, stopping at the outlook to see countless surfers catching the waves. A drive around Diamond Head presents you with the entrance to the volcano crater itself.
Our first evening in Waikiki, we saw the lighting of the torches ceremony held every day at 7:30pm, caught a free luau and presentation on the history of the Hawaiian luau, celebrated the University of Hawaii's first national volleyball championship, and watched a movie on the beach. Every weekend, a huge screen is stretched across the beach and free movies are played. Literally, thousands of tourists and residents turn out for the event.
A short drive from Waikiki, you will find a gorgeous beach called Hanauma Bay. Set in picturesque surroundings, this beach is ideal for snorkeling (gear can be rented on site), swimming, surfing, or just plain relaxing.
Driving east from Hanauma Bay, one quickly arrives at Sandy Beach and the Blowhole Lookout. Though the blowhole doesn't moan like the one in Kauai, the force of the sprouting ocean is quite impressive. For the brave at heart, try scaling the rocks to the beach below. If you go in the water, watch out for the under-tow.
Continuing north along the east coast, you'll pass by the house where the TV show Magnum PI was shot, and a little further along, you will come to the beach at Kailua. This is where we shot the picture of the windsurfer taking a break.
Honolulu and 'Iolani Palace
Honolulu is much like any other big North American city. None the less, if you have the time or are a little tired of the beaches (never!), you might want to spend a few hours touring around. One sure site to visit is 'Iolani Palace. Back in 1893, when the US government overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy, 'Iolani Palace was the official residence of King Kalakaua and Queen Lili'uokalani. This is the only real palace in the United States.
Pearl Harbor / USS Arizona Memorial
No trip to O'ahu is complete without visiting Pearl Harbor. This is the place where World War II all began for the United States on December 7, 1941.
The USS Arizona, final resting place for most of the 1,177 crewmen who died in the attack, lies about 8 feet below the water where it sank. The memorial is built over the remains of the ship. There are FREE daily tours provided by the National Park Service and U.S. Navy. Though the tours run till 5:00pm, be sure to get there early as all seats are usually filled for the last boat ride out to the memorial by 3:00pm.
We came across Halelwa quite by accident. We intended to drive up along the west coast but somehow delightfully ended up on the north shore. Halelwa is one of many small surfing towns along the north end of O'ahu. This is where the real surfers come for the big waves in winter. The waves here can get 30 feet high. We didn't see any that high while we were there.
This was the last day of our trip and the only day we caught a terrific sunset. There are a few great seafood restaurants around. With perfect timing, we managed to co-ordinate a great meal, a few drinks and a gorgeous sunset while seating on the restaurant patio. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the restaurant now. Oh well, I'm sure you will find your own special place when you visit Halelwa.| Share More...