Our normal vacations have always taken us to places we could drive to. In 2003, my wife found a conference in Wailea, Maui, Hawaii. I was informed that I was going too. I wasn't sure I wanted to spend that much money but was told to shut up and deal with it. Part of the trip was an educational benefit anyway.
If I was going, I told her we had to go to Pearl Harbor and had to see a volcano. Always up for an adventure, she agreed. The trip was planned for March, 2003 and off we went.
The flight is very long and makes your butt numb. The landing in Honolulu was scary with lots of cross winds. We drove the interstate and fought traffic as we headed for Waikiki. My aggravation increased as I wound through Honolulu and Waikiki city streets trying to find the %$$%&# hotel. We finally found it and checked in. While we were inside, we left fruit rollups in a zip lock in the car. When we came back to the car, it was full of roaches that were enjoying the rollups. Wife not amused. We got the car parked in a lot and went exploring. We were a half block off the beach and near the military hotel.
The hotel we stayed at was The Breakers. It is a very affordable hotel if you don't need to over look the water. It was convenient and the people were nice. There was a pool even though we didn't use it.
At this point, things were looking up. Seat in the bar by the open air window. Waves breaking. Diamond Head in the distance. Drinking a Mai Tai and eating seared ahi tuna. Pretty girl asking if I wanted another Mai Tai. This was going to be OK after all.
The next morning we were up early, Very early. Had breakfast and watched the sun come up. Then it was off to see Pearl Harbor.
The only reason we visited Oahu was to visit Pearl Harbor and see the Arizona Memorial. We were disappointed because the Arizona Memorial was closed for repairs. Its still impressive but not nearly what it would have been. Still the movie they showed put things in context. Very difficult, though, to relate to the bombers and war ships actually being there. We toured the submarine USS Bowfin while there. Interesting to see just how cramped those things are. The Pearl Harbor link above is to a site with much information, including maps, of Pearl Harbor and the attack.
Since we had more time than we expected, we decided to see Oahu. We didn't do any tours, we just headed around the perimeter of the island. We stopped at the Banzai Pipeline but it wasn't real big that day. Still impressive. The rest of the trip was fascinating with some of the most beautiful scenery and beaches I've ever seen. Turned out to be a very good day.
The day ended with a trip to the bar and dinner at Duke's Canoe Club. Very good. I'd be happy to do it again. And I didn't expect to like Oahu.
The Big Island
Next its off to the Big Island of Hawaii. We didn't plan to see much of it, just the volcanoes. We got our rental car and looked around Hilo. We found Rainbow Falls and thought it was pretty. From there we headed to Volcanoes National Park. On the way, we tried to go in behind Kilauea to see if we could see lava going into the ocean. That proved to be pretty ignorant but we did find old lava fields. We talked to a lady who said her house was right over there. It turned out this was the former site of Kalapana Village and Royal Gardens subdivision that were destroyed in 1990 by lava from Kilauea. Lava more than 10 feet thick covers this area now. We walked on out to the water and found a beautiful black sand beach. It sparkled in the sun. We had lunch at Verna's. They catered to a local crowd more than tourists. We liked their "Watch out for falling coconuts" sign.
Our next stop was the Volcano House Hotel located in Volcanoes National Park. Its an old place that doesn't offer a lot. Unless you think looking into the Kilauea caldera from your room is cool. Trust me it is. The caldera is a very large crater that isn't active at this point. There is still steam coming from it in places. The restaurant at Volcano House was adequate but no better. They were the only game in town and it was late. If you visit the hotel, check out the fire place in the lobby. The fire has been burning for over 100 years.
After a quick trip to the visitor's center to see the movie on volcanoes, it was time to do what we were there for. We drove Crater Rim Drive to Chain of Craters road and found the lava fields. It wasn't hard to walk on but was hot. It took me a while to realize that the red I was seeing wasn't cinders but lava. We hung out there until dark and then things got very interesting. We'd been watching lava build up under an cooled formation. It finally broke through and was flowing straight toward us. From 15' away. It was very cool.
The next day was still pretty much volcanoes. After munching on a breakfast of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, we checked out an old lava tube. They form when the lava on top of the flow cools and turns solid while the lava below continues to flow.
The rest of the morning was spent in a helicopter. How could you be there and not want to look down inside the active Kilauea crater. You have to see that to actually believe it. When we were coming back, the pilot pointed out a community near Hilo and said the housing was cheap. The problem was that they were susceptible to lava flows and tsunamis. It was a good deal if you are serious about living an adventure. If you visit that end of the Big Island, don't miss the helicopter tours.
Next it was off to visit Hana on the island of Maui. Hana is on the eastern end on one of the curviest roads I've ever been on and I grew up in West Virginia. Its 35 miles of 65 (I think) one lane bridges and over 500 turns. It never is really straight. The scenery is very nice. At least in the day time.
Our flight and baggage were late. We drove to Hana in the dark. Very intense driving. I was pretty stressed when we got there. Dinner at the Hotel Hana Maui helped. Mai Tais helped more.
We rented a place at the Hana Bay Hale. Beautiful place overlooking Hana Bay. Nice lanai to enjoy the view.
We spent our only full day there exploring. We used the Maui Revealed book as a guide and found two different red sand beaches. We drove out to see the Seven Sacred Pools and a 400' water fall named Waimoku Falls. We found out later that the pools weren't sacred but so named to attract tourists. They have since been renamed. We left a few bucks at the Hasakawa General Store. We also discovered a Macadamia Nut Liqueur that cost us even more money as the trip wore on. GOOD STUFF. The second evening we didn't go out for dinner. We got hot dogs and steak at the local grocery store. That was an experience in itself.
All in all Hana is a very nice, peaceful place. If you go there, don't make it a one day trip. At least spend a night.
From Hana, we went to Makawao. We spent the night at the Banyan Tree House. It used to be part of the HQ for a pineapple plantation. The grounds were beautiful. The room small, but very nice. They had a nice pool. We didn't swim in it but had drinks beside it.
We met an interesting guy there. He was using a post hole digger in the grass at the end of the pool. He had been an attorney in Erie, PA. He visited Maui and never went home. He's doing whatever it takes to stay there. Seemed pretty happy to me. We met several other folks with similar stories.
We had dinner at Mama's Fish House. I highly recommend it but you might have to skip some meals to stay on budget. The service, food and drinks were all excellent. The restaurant is located right on the beach.
Wake-up time was 3:00AM for the trip up Haleakela volcano. We debated but climbed out of bed anyway. The reason you have to leave so early is there isn't much parking on top. We didn't want to do the bike ride thing so we needed parking. It was 38 degrees on top. You need to be ready for it. It was pretty cool looking down at the clouds for sunrise, but it was a lot of effort to get there as well. (If you think getting up at 3:00AM isn't effort you're a better person than me.) The bike rides down the mountain seemed very overly controlled. They start early in the morning and seemed to take six hours to complete. Hind sight told us we were right to skip them. They didn't see anything we didn't and we got to use a lot more time to see other things.
We looked around at some of the old lava flow areas on the way down and checked out the Silver Sword plants. Rugged plants in rugged terrain and they're only found on Haleakela. One of the things that was interesting was the view from that altitude. You almost never get to look down at sea level from 10,000'.
We had already packed and cleared out of the Banyan Tree House. It was still so early when we came off the mountain that we went back. They didn't even know we left. We had breakfast packed and had planned to eat it on top. We changed our mind and ate it under the Banyan Tree. After breakfast, we made a quick stop at Ho'okipa and headed for Wailea.
From Makawao, it was off to the Marriott Outrigger (appears to no longer be an Outrigger) in Wailea. This, after all, is where the conference is. Remember we're here for a conference, not a vacation. They put us in a water front room that had a spectacular view. It was very nice. We don't normally stay in high-end hotels but this was nice. The price was reasonable too since we were attending a conference.
When we got there, we sat by the pool doing the Mai Tai and seared ahi tuna thing. I turned around and thought a submarine was coming out of the water. The humpback whales were there and having a big time. It was a lot of fun watching them from shore.
We picked the Feast at Lele in Lahaina as our luau. I made reservations a couple of weeks earlier and we had front row seats. They do dances and serve food from five Pacific islands. The food was good, the service great and the dancers wonderful. It was a more pleasant evening than I expected. The dancers all smiled like they were enjoying the evening as much as we were. Not a traditional luau but very nice. If you are going, make reservations. Some of the seats are kind of far away. It might have been nice to Look around Lahaina, but we didn't have time.
We went snorkeling one day at Molokini. My wife had snorkeled before but it was my first time. On the ride out, we saw several humpbacks. One looked like it nearly sank a boat but it may not have been that close. The snorkeling was good, but not the best we've ever done. It was also kind of crowded.
When it was time to leave, we went through Lahaina to go around the western of end Maui. Remember when I said the road to Hana was one of the curviest roads ever? This road was as bad and much narrower. The ride is beautiful but real intense. Do this one at your own risk. Some of the scenery is spectacular, though.
Off to Virginia
Time to go home. Way less money and no energy. Did have 3 bottles of Kahana Royale Macadamia Nut Liqueur with us though.
We planned the trip ourselves. We used the internet and an assortment of books. Its hard to imagine how it could have gone better. My wife says she doesn't want to go back because she's afraid of ruining perfect memories.