Later that day we made plans to see the Volcanoes National Park. Our tour guide pulled up in a van and after waiting a bit, we were told no one else was on the tour. Our guide promised us a tailor-made tour to meet our needs. A promise he certainly kept! We began our afternoon with a stop at the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens. Orchids are an integral part of the flora on the island and the stop provided us with a peek at the many beautiful species. As part of our visit to the shop, we had orchids pinned in our hair and were given about 20 minutes to shop for souvenirs. (Too short by any measure!) On the road again, we soon entered Volcanoes National Park, and made our way to one of the volcanic tubes in the area. Volcanic tubes are made when lava flows in channels during an eruption. The liquid rock cuts its way deeper and deeper into the rock until it sometimes crusts over, forming a tube. The lava inside is hotter than the surrounding area and keeps the inside from becoming solid while the outside keeps the walls solid against the flow. The tube was lit with lanterns and each provided an eerie reddish-orange glow as we made our way through the tunnel and out the other end.
My first full day in Waikiki, I awoke early, as my internal time clock was still adjusted to Green Bay time and I was too excited to sleep. Although I had been ito Oahu before, it had only been for a few days in 1992, an island hop to visit family friends. It had become a lifelong dream to go back and explore the island. I had booked myself into the White Sands Hotel, a modest hotel just three blocks from the beach on Nohonani Street. With the sun just coming up as I made my way down my street to find a place to eat.
I stopped at the Lamill Coffee and Breakfast Shop on Kuhio Avenue and ordered an egg and avocado sandwich along with Kona coffee to wash it down. Taking my order to one of the patio tables on the sidewalk, I made myself comfortable as I watched the people pass by while I ate my breakfast. A few shops began to open as I sat and took in the sites, sounds and smells of morning the island. Vinny, Dylan and Heather tended the store while pigeons scampered about at my feet, pecking at crumbs that had dropped onto the pavement.
Today began with a quick early breakfast on the lanai of the the Hula Grill, what was to become my favorite restaurant in Waikiki, So excited to be going on the Beautiful Hawaii Photo Tour, I called twice when they didn't show on time. I was told on the second call there was an accident enroute, and soon the white company van arrived in front of my hotel and picked me up. The driver, Christian, turned out to be one of the most engaging, informative and kind people I’ve ever met. Kudos to him and this wonderful tour!
Quickly leaving the city behind, we began to climb the mountain, driving along winding roads passing million dollar houses. Along the way we learned the area had been developed by a group of boy scouts who had raised money and invested in the land. We also discovered many trees along the way were not indigenous to the area and our driver pointed out the vegetation that was.
This was Linda’s last full day on the island, so we packed everything together and made our way down to the Farmer’s Market in Kona. A local church skirted the market and we were fortunate to find a parking space for a short visit to the shops. The market booths were about as big as the ones in Hilo, but the produce was mixed in among the others here. We picked up a few fruits and vegetables to last us through Monday, and shopped a bit more for presents to give to family and friends. Finally it was home to do some packing and swim in our outdoor pool and hot tub.
The Island Breeze Luau we attended was held next to the King Kamahamaha’s Kona Beach Hotel and we arrived to check in with time to spare. Still there was a long line around the desk and beyond. Once the door was opened and the line had begun to move, we made our way through the hotel and out the backside. I was amazed by the size of the hotel and with its shops, it resembled a mall. As we went out the door and neared the luau area, it opened up into Kamakahonu Bay, a small beach and bay, home of Ahu Ena, where King Kamahamaha’s historic home still stands. We were given a brief tour of where everything was for later reference and were shown our seats, very near the front.
First up was a visit to the free bar. A punch bowl filled to the rim with Mai Tais and a booth to order other drinks was available. On our way back, we stopped at one of the many booths and had a temporary tattoo of a stingray put on our backs. We stopped at each of the craft tables, looking at the many trinkets they had to offer, then browsed through the buffet we would be eating from later. We went back to our table, but remained seated for only a short time talking with some of our tablemates. Soon, we were off again to join in a bit of hula and watch the chefs take the roasted pigs from the pits where they had been prepared.
Finally it was time for the food and we were led to the tables. I tried most items, but with over 20 dishes, my plate filled up fast. As usual, I tried their version of poke and really enjoyed it as well as the roast pig. I also sampled cucumber salad, banana cake, and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. It was truly a meal fit for a king!
Shortly after this the main show began, with a Royal Court procession leading the way to the stage. Because Hawaii was born out of a mixture of many Polynesian cultures and their descendants can be traced back to even New Zealand, each culture was represented by the dances of their islands. My favorite by far was the fire dancer, but there were Fijian and Mooarian dances as well. (Linda got a picture of the fire dancer and myself together at the end of the evening as we were leaving.) The female hula dancers seemed to float through the air on stage and were as graceful as the male dancers were manly. This was truly worth the money spent!
The beach was beautiful and it was not hard to understand why the Hawaiian Royalty chose this part of the island as their own. It was lined with palms and other trees and the black volcanic rocks of the island hemmed it in on both sides. The guard tower, which was stationed in the middle of the beach, was a constant sign of how dangerous the waters could be. People from all over the world could be found swimming and lying on their blankets. As I walked along I noticed many were from Australia and China. I continued along the left side of the beach and soon found myself up on the rocks. Slippery with water, I carefully made my way along looking in the tide pools and on the rocks for sea life. I was delighted to find a number of small crabs clinging to the side of a rock at the far end and stayed for a while to watch as they scuttled about.
At last I grew tired and hot in the tropical sun and looked for a quiet, cool place to read. I finally had to settle for just a cool space as all were filled with people chattering in different dialects. Soon after, it was time to catch a tram back up the hill and into our waiting van, then back to the hotel.
Today was moving day from Hilo to Kona. But it was much more than that… It was about the trip along the way. If I had to pick out my favorite place on the Island, it would have to be the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. Our Volcanoes Tour guide had given us tickets to what we thought was this venue. But when we arrived, our tickets were to another place. Fortunately we were mistaken and lucky to have found such a fantastic paradise by mistake. Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse, from San Francisco, built these gardens over an 8-year period. It was first envisioned when he saw the area in 1977, then an overgrown junkyard in an otherwise awe-inspiring valley.
I honestly could have spent a whole day at this place with its jaw-droppingly beauty, but with three hours of driving ahead of us, we opted for about two hours, (That and our legs began to complain!) I cannot even begin to describe all of the beautiful plants and trees that surrounded us in this garden. The park covers over 40 acres of land and contains over 2000 species of plants, including bromeliads, orchids, torch ginger plants, monkeypod trees, palms and antheriums. Part of the garden crosses over streams and along the paths one can see stunning waterfalls, ponds, and a lookout over the ocean at Twin Rocks Vista. I have included a sampling of the pictures I took on my stay, but a much more complete set of pictures can be found on their website at http://www.htbg.com. You can also hear from one of the founders at https://youtu.be/xri8rvS-XXU and see the 30th anniversary of the garden.
At the corner of our street, we boarded a local bus which took us to a stop near town. Once we arrived, we had to walk only a few blocks to where the shops and stores were. Stopping at a small Thai restaurant Linda and I split a package of avocado spring rolls and shared a can of young coconut milk. We then made our way down to the Farmers Market. The Hilo Farmer's Market was excellent, with booths selling trinkets and crafts. The booths covered with cloth canopy were lined up for a full block with so many items one could spend a full day browsing. These contained everything from miniature shell boxes to wind chimes and masseuses. There was even a chiropractor waiting to give adjustments! I lost myself among the stalls looking at shells and leis. Linda finally caught up with me and suggested a massage, which I quickly agreed to. I splurged on 30 minutes in heaven. Bob Holland DC, LMT had magic hands and gave me one of the best massages I have ever had! Afterwards, he treated both of us to some rambutans and water before bidding us aloha, sending us on our way to still some more gift shopping.
Linda found a woman, named Pinky selling Hawaiian oils at another stall in the market while I was getting my massage. She had some Hawaiian oils made specifically for pain and after listening to her presentation and feeling the immediate soothing of the product, I bought a package. Leaving her booth we bought a few more souvenirs and then wandered off to the street shops to window shop for a while. By this time we were hungry again, so we stopped into the S. Hata Building and dined on pizza and delicious Hawaiian beer while planning our afternoon.
Saturday was moving day with a shuttle back to the airport. But first I had to make a last visit to my favorite café for a quick breakfast and a stop at my favorite store where I bought a few snacks. After a stop at my room to pick up my luggage, I turned in my keys and with a quick farewell to the hotel desk staff, Tyler and Chester, I was off to meet my friend.
I arrived at the Hawaiian Airlines doorway thinking I would have to look for my bestie, but who should be waiting for me at the gateway, Linda! After letting out an involuntary scream of delight we gave each other the biggest, longest hug. Going into the doorway I offered her the traditional lei greeting of the Hawaiian Islands. Nine years had passed since I had seen this woman, but it hardly seemed like any time at all.
After checking our luggage to the Big Island, which involved several failed attempts, we busied ourselves with a small breakfast and cappuccino at the airport Starbucks and getting caught up on the latest, which in itself was a feat, as we had gotten in the habit of communicating a couple of times a week.
Upon taking off, I had the distinct impression that the spirit of my dad was present, looking over my left shoulder and watching Linda and I. Linda, very tired after a long flight from Australia, promptly nodded off for a few moments of shut-eye on the airplane. Too excited to sleep, I watched as we quickly approached the Hilo airport and busied myself reading about the opportunities that lie ahead on the island. The really fun part of the vacation has begun!
Not wanting to waste any time, I quickly finished my food and found my way to the beach. The sun was just breaking over the beach hotels as I looked out over the ocean glittering in morning sunlight. Several surfers were riding the early breakers on the bay as maître d's scurried about getting their open-air restaurants organized for the morning rush. I set out to explore the nearest café I saw overhanging the beach to get a cappuccino and a better view. Finding my way up the stairs to the second floor, I was greeted by festively dressed hostesses at the front desk of the Hula Grill.
Seated at one of the premier spots on the lanai overlooking the beach, JC brought me a menu and we chatted briefly. I ordered a small plate of pineapple and a cappuccino. A lovely breeze blew through the balcony as I sipped my coffee and watched the sparrows hop about on the railing. I finished up by chatting with Brian, another visitor, like myself, at the table across from me. He was visiting a friend and was in the process of moving to Oahu to make his dream of living in the islands come true. On my way out, I stopped and chatted with Beth, Alyssa and Kristin, the hostesses of the establishment and promised to make a return visit.
Our condo was on the second floor and once we had dragged all of our luggage and other supplies into the apartment, we could look over the surrounding area and investigate our accommodations. The apartment was a nice size, with king sized bed and pull out couch to accommodate the both of us. Every room was dressed in island colors and the sliding glass doors to the lanai let in the afternoon sun. The lanai looked out over the pool and with palm trees silhouetting the ocean hitting against lava rocks on the left, I felt I was in heaven! I imagine everyone would envision this as a place in which they could retire for life!
We took a short swim in the pool before dressing to go into town for supper. After a brief walk around, we settled on Humpy’s, with an outdoor table. My fare was seared squid, along with vegetables and light Hawaiian beer. After such a long day, we called it quits early and headed back to the condo and bed.
Once done with lunch, we meandered over to the markets again to see the rest of the market stalls. Linda bought some artwork at a corner stall from a local printmaker. We splurged on green smoothies before hitting the produce section of the market. Everything was so tempting and exotic looking to me and we began to gather some of the fruits and veggies we would be eating on the island in the next few days. I picked up some lychees, rambutans, bananas, papaya, avocados, and a number of others I can’t remember the names of. By this time the sky was darkening and we were off to the nearest grocery store for a few necessities.
With arms filled with groceries and gifts, we called for a cab to take us back to the lodge, but no one would answer. So out of desperation, we went down to the Market Place once again. No taxis. A very kind gentleman even helped us call different companies to no avail. It happened that the yearly Hilo party was that night, so no one was driving to into the downtown area. Giving up, we finally began to walk back to the bus stop. Nearly at the stop we became confused by where a returning bus would stop for pick up, so we asked two gentleman if they could help us. One of the gentlemen, Steve, was from Perth, and because Linda was a fellow Australian in need, he offered to drive us back to the lodge. He had come to the islands years before and was now the head of two of the local radio stations in the area. Incredibly thankful and relieved, we made our way back to our temporary home leaving only time to put away our food, make dinner, have a shower, and toast to our adventure, we were soon asleep.
The afternoon found us walking across the street and down a block to “Uncle Paul’s” house. Kumu Hula Paul K. Neves, a master Hawaiian Hula teacher and a member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha, met us at the door and invited us in. After introductions and offering us some lemonade, we listened intently as Paul described the history of the Islands, it’s people and their traditions. As we sat in his studio, we learned some of the Hawaiian language while he described his background and the movement to make Hawai’i an independent nation once again. Paul was so hospitable and so welcoming it was truly one of the most enjoyable afternoons of my visit to the Islands. If you enjoy history, spirituality and learning about culture, I encourage you to look him up. Before leaving, he shared with us a Hawaiian blessing of song and prayer in his front yard and invited us back to his hula class that evening. It was easy to see this was a man of incredible stature and spiritualism in his community and the Islands. Such an inspiring man!
The first part of the trip was a stop at Rainbow Falls in Hilo, where we watched and listened to the beauty of the waterfall. The surrounding area was filled with exotic palms and flowers. Linda made the trek up to the lookout to see the waterfall up close, but I stayed down to read the information about the falls and the area. Then it was off on the cross-island highway, Saddle Road. As we drove the highway, we saw many varieties of vegetation along the edge of the road. At one point we turned off the main road to make our way to our first stop. I began to feel the effects of the Hawaiian sun at this point and although I had used a fairly strong sunscreen during our morning swim, its rays still burnt this fair Wisconsin skin. The driver encouraged us to drink plenty of water to help counteract the altitude sickness we were later to encounter.
I thought we would be getting our jackets at the first stop, and when we didn’t, I did feel a bit nippy. However, it was not too much worse than a summer’s night or afternoon in Algoma, Wisconsin where I had lived for 13 years. We all made use of the restroom to put on our long johns and change into what we had brought along with us. Afterwards, a cup of hot chocolate or tea awaited all who needed to warm up.
Once more we were on our way up coastal highway 19 on our way to Kona. We drove through hilly farmland as we curved left around the top of the island. As we neared the western part of the island, the vegetation abruptly turned desert-like and the clouds dissipated. The palm, deciduous trees, and tropical plants suddenly gave way to cactus and scrub, along with mountains. All of the vegetation had a mossy green look to it and we soon found ourselves in a valley between a mountain to our left and hills to our right. Soon we rounded a curve to our left along the coast and were our last leg of the drive. Now the green gave way to black boulders of lava rock crowding the sides of the road. This side of the island was full of cliffs and huge drop offs and more often than not, I hugged the centerline white knuckled as we made our way down into Kona. The street our condo was on skirted the beach and diving was once again very easy once off the Queen’s Highway. After one failed attempt at finding our housing, we called our renters and finally pulled in at the beautiful apartment we were to call home for the next five days.
That night was an epic night out for dinner to Huggo’s on the Rocks, and ate at their Lava Lava Beach Club. I ordered the Ahi Poke Bowl, made with ahi, edamame, ocean salad, and a number of other items. We finished off the evening with a huge Mai tai, which we shared, listened to the Hawaiian music and watched the Hula dancers. Finally with all cares put aside, I began to share secrets I had been sitting on over the years and we ending the night in hoots of laughter. Linda and I were finally able to have the girl’s night out I’d envisioned!
When we were done with our visit to Thurston Lava Tube we made our way to the lookout above the park. A rainbow greeted us as made our way to its summit. Our guide introduced us the various plants and trees in the area, as we walked to the top. Along our walk, we found a number of braided tealeaves, an offering to the goddess Pele of the volcano. The Kilauea Iki Crater in the midst of a grey valley of devastation lay in the background while we took in the sights and snapped numerous photos.
The Halemaumau Crater and Jaggar Museum was our last stop on the tour and we spent about an hour on our own to browse through the museum and gift shop and watch the sun go down. I sat on the knee high wall lining the museum watching the night sky become darker emphasizing the glowing crater in the distance. Soon we were back in the van and on our way home, laughing all the way. Special thanks to our guide!
Away to the mountains and the coffee shops we drove along the winding roads until we reached Thunder Mountain coffee plantation, rumored to be the tastiest coffee on the island. Upon arrival at the plantation, we were fortunate to get in on a tour that had just begun. The guide showed us some of the coffees and other products produced at the plantation. We were shown the roasting and processing machines, as well as having all of our questions answered. Last of all, our guide led to the coffee shop where several coffees and teas could be taste tested and all of their products were for sale. Warning: give your credit card to someone else while here, as everything is too tempting! After leaving this place, we stopped at another coffee plantation in Healakekua, but not before treating ourselves to some ice cream at a local shop to cool us down. (Yum!!!)
Driving back was not as bad as I found a road to the main highway and we made it back to the apartment in record time. With a quick shower and packing the last bit of luggage, my friend joined me in the car and we began our drive to the airport. What we didn’t count on was the amount of traffic from the Iron Man competition and the construction on Monday afternoon. Between the two, it took us three times as much time to reach the front door of the airlines. Not leaving enough time for a proper goodbye, we hopped out, hugged and bid a hasty adieu. (I discovered later, she didn’t make that flight, but was put on a later one.)
Tired of traveling, I went back to the condo, packed everything and turned in early for the flight home the next day.
Once we left the gardens we shopped for a bit in the center’s gift store, and followed this up by a visit a few miles up the road to a mom and pop restaurant/local store. We ordered sandwiches and ice cream and ate them on the upper deck of the store. As we finished our desserts, a couple of florescent green lizards with red markings joined us on the walls and floor near where we were sitting.
Finally with car keys in hand we made our way out of the airport parking lot and were on our way to the markets once again.
It was a quite a treat to visit this market again with all of its stalls and treasures. We scoped out the area looking for Magic Bob to give me another massage, but when he was not to be found, we moved on. Buying a few more items, we again splurged on a green smoothie before going to the produce section. Once finished we beat a hasty retreat to the local grocery store for a few necessities and then made our way home to our last night at the hostel.
The rest of the afternoon went by too quickly as we first made our way to Makapu’u Beach Lookout, then to Halona Blow Hole Lookout, Sandy’s beach, Hanauma Bay and a quick stop on the Kalanianaole Hwy. Each was beautiful in it own way. Makapu’u Beach Lookout was so picturesque that many of us couldn’t stop taking pictures and had to be reminded there were other sights to see. The lighthouse on the mountainside to our right and the beach below to our left were only a few of the areas that make this one of the most beautiful parts of the island. Sandy’s beach, our next stop had seashells, so I spent my time beach combing, taking few pictures. This long strip of beach seemed perfect for those wanting to spend the day with family and friends. The group had to call for me when it was time to go as I was so engrossed in my search for treasures.
Hanauma Bay was next on the agenda, and as I had a ticket for a trip there on Friday, I listened intently. This bay had once been a restricted area in the time of Polynesian rule with only royalty allowed to enjoy it’s waters. Now it is a UNESCO site with the waters and land protected. Only a small number of people are allowed to swim in its waters each day to protect it for future generations.
The last stop was on the Kalanianaole Hwy, by Koko Head. I was far too tired by this time to get out of the car, by this time, so I stayed inside resting and took pictures through the window. The mountain to our right, reminded me of Ayers Rock in the Red Center of Australia, but this had a railing and stairs to guide those wanting to climb it to the top. Christian told us he had climbed it several times, and every time he did, he was reminded of how much strength one needed to make it all the way to the top.
Before long we reached the end of our trip and our guide dropped each of our tired bodies off at our hotels. I ate a quick dinner and went straight to bed, too tired for anything else.
My last day in Oahu began with a visit to the Hula Café. (Of course!) I found my newly made friend, Brian, sitting at a table by himself, so I invited him to join me. We sat together as he told me about his dreams to move to the area, his other friend Vickie and how much he enjoyed hula dancing. I told him about my life of writing, teaching and travel. Finally we both said our goodbyes and I made my last trip up and down the beach. Stopping at my favorite store, I picked up a few snacks and beverages for the day and my airplane trip on Saturday.
Once back in the hotel, I readied myself for my ride to the Hanauama Bay Nature Reserve for a day of sun and snorkeling. A protected part of Oahu, Hamauama Bay is located on the southeast end of the island. Grabbing my snorkel gear and my other supplies, I quickly made my way out to the street and waited for my ride.
It was a small group I joined as our guide drove us to the beach. We chatted during the twenty-minute drive as we enjoyed the scenery. Soon we were in the parking lot and made our way around the center to the entry area. The wind was blowing again and I was quite certain the water was going to be a bit choppy. I sat in the shelter and waited for the video we were required to watch to prepare us for how to treat the bay’s inhabitants and the preserve. I had all I could do to sit still during the presentation and wait for the tram down the hill to don my snorkel and swim with the fishes. Unfortunately when I arrived at the bottom, I found there were warnings about swimming alone, as well as rip currents and high tides for the day. As I was by myself, I decided to heed the warnings. I hid my disappointment by walking the beach along the edge of the water and did not snorkel, but took pictures and spent the rest of the day in the shade. If there should be a next time in this area, I will bring a guide with me so I have someone to swim with!
The first morning in our hostel, I woke up early and tried to let my friend sleep in. But soon, she too was up and ready to hit the beaches. While I was getting ready she made breakfast, a beautiful plate of fruit and granola, with Kona coffee to wake us up. After collecting all of our things for the day, we slipped out the door and down the path to our nearest beach.
On our short walk we passed a cornucopia of beautiful yards; one with a pond, ducks and baby pineapples growing along its edge. I had never seen pineapples growing before, so I was delighted to see such immature ones along the roadside. At the end of the path, we took a sharp left on the road to the beach. Wearing my new sarong I had picked up at the farmers market, I carrying the rest of my gear to the swimming area. We looked around for a spot to unload everything and then went into the water for a swim. Linda, having come from an area of the world where most kids were in the water as soon as they could walk, did most of the swimming. I sat on the rocks and gazed across the water while taking numerous pictures until I felt brave enough to wade in. The land hugged us on our right and left, with large boulders piled across the mouth of the small bay to form a breaker and an area in which to swim. On our right there was a small lagoon with rocks on which to sit. I tried unsuccessfully to snorkel so after my failed attempt, I crawled back on shore once more. There, I lay in the sun and took in my supply of vitamin D until we both grew tired and walked back to our digs.
Back in the hostel, we rested for a while and made plans for that evening. Deciding on the observatory tour on the top most part of the island, we quickly made the booking and readied ourselves for the tour to pick us up. Several others were already in the van when they stopped for us, and soon we began the long journey to the top of the world.
This day was very sad indeed, just like saying goodbye to my friend was the day before. As my plane was scheduled to leave early in the morning, I was out the door as soon as I could to make certain my arrival to the airport would be in time. Surprisingly, the traffic was nowhere near what it had been the day before and dropping off the car was flawless, so I had an hour to spare. I busied myself looking around the airport shops for some snacks, but was horrified when I discovered how high the prices were. So settling on just a beverage, I waited in the hot morning sun until our flight was ready to board. As I walked along with the rest of the passengers to my airline, I turned around and glanced one last time at this island paradise. With a tug on my carry on, I made my way up the stairs and into the plane.
Today was slower as we decided to remain in the area and recuperate from last night’s adventure. Linda had learned about a local native historian on her last visit to the island, so we made plans to visit with him during the afternoon. Morning was a flurry of activity though as we quickly ate and made our way to another of the beaches near us. Again the beaches of the Big Island didn’t fail to amaze and waters to relax! Sitting under a beautifully twisted tree, we spent most of the morning sketching and painting on shore; me on my laptop and Linda with supplies she had brought along from home.
Today it was packing day for Linda, as she was to fly out to Oahu for her trip home on Tuesday. But before that, we decided to hit one more beach before the drive to the airport. One of the snorkel areas the travel books had recommended, was Captain Cook’s Monument, about twenty minutes to the south of our condo. However, before long I found myself driving along the cliffs of the west shore. White knuckled, we took the turn-off my GPS directed us to, but never saw the beach we wanted. We did pass a group that was walking down a decline, but I was not about to try it. So we drove to the bottom and wound up at the beach, with a public park and parking lot. We were fortunate to find a spot to leave our cars. Linda spent the morning swimming and I exploring the beach. After each was finished we ate the lunch we had brought along. Both of us walked up the beach exploring tide pools and watching the waves break over the black lava rocks for the last time. As we walked along the white sand and black lava boulders we saw the rocks provided many spaces for the ocean and its inhabitants to creep in. We slowly followed the water’s edge until the beach ended at a wall, then noticing our watches, we hurried back to gather our things and head back to the condo.
Today was one of those days one can laugh about later, but certainly not at the moment. Linda and I decided to get our car one day early, so we could go to the farmers market one last time and get ready for our move on Thursday. After a quick breakfast of leftovers, we called an Uber (Yes, they are even in Hilo!) and made our way to the airport to pick up our car… or so we thought. But upon arriving at the airport car rental desk, we were told that our reservation did not exist. When we finally found someone who could help us, we were told Linda needed her passport and plane voucher in order to rent the car. So it was back in the Uber and back to Arnott’s for our information. We even called back to the desk when we arrived at the hostel to double check we had all we needed and would not have to make a return visit. Then it was back to the airport. A big shout out to Mel, our Uber driver, for his patience while waiting for us to find our information and for not accepting any of our money for the return trip. You rock Mel! Once there, Linda showed her passport and ticket, and I showed my license and began the paperwork. However, it appears that whether you are driving or not, you must provide your license… Go figure! This time the airport provided our car and we made another trip back to the hostel. Making sure we both had everything that had been asked for, and then some, we made our way back to the rental desk at the airport. Of course, there was another problem this time, because we were from two different countries. By this time, we were nearly in tears. Seeing how distressed and frustrated we were, the attendant finally worked out a way to let us have the car. Lesson learned! Never, ever mix two countries when paying for a car!
Later that night, we met our boat at the same harbor as the dolphin cruise and hopped on board. The crew took us through the preparations for the trip as we made our way through the waters to our snorkeling spot on the coast. The wind and rain were picking up, making our trip to the manta feeding area wet and bumpy. (This may be a problem to those who get seasick so make certain if you are planning this trip, you prepare with extra strength seasick patches beforehand.) When we had reached our spot, the crew passed out wet suits and snorkels for the night’s dive. When everyone had donned theirs, we jumped into the water and swam out to the lit raft. Holding onto its sides, the lights began to draw the plankton and in turn, the manta rays. When they appeared, I was amazed by the size and how close they would come to us. It looked as though we were in space or on a different planet; they glowed and put us all under their spell. Mantas can grow to 20 feet, but we were blessed once again by a little one that glided through the water with the adults. Their skins appeared to glow blue-white in the light and each had slits on its side. These majestic creatures began to dance in front of our eyes, forming huge circles in an effort to trap as many of the microscopic plankton in their lobes as possible. I was able to enjoy this ballet for about ½ hour before the up and down motion of the water finally made me head for the boat. Linda was able to take some beautiful pictures and video of these heavenly creatures. The staff was very accommodating with my seasickness, providing me with blankets and ginger ale to calm my stomach. They deserved 5 stars for the show and how they treated us! You can find the company we used at the following website: http://sunlightonwater.com/swim-with-manta-rays
Our 30 minute stop gone, we all piled back into the comfortable seats of the van and began the serious climb up the mountain. The terrain quickly changed from a paved surface to a rough, bumpy one. Our driver put the vehicle into drive to save the brakes. It became very clear to me why tourists absolutely needed to use professional guides in order to see this site. As we neared the summit, our guide filled us with stories of earlier times when people’s brakes had failed and their cars had crashed. Some had even been killed. The terrain looked exactly like the pictures sent back from the Mars Rover and this is where training for such expeditions takes place.
Finally we reached the summit of Mauna Kea at 14,000 feet and upon opening the door, I felt the full extent of the atmospheric change hit me like a brick. Thankfully, our guide had an oxygen tank with her and I spent some time getting the boost I needed. Although she was preaching to the choir with my limitations, I hadn’t even considered this a possibility until stepping out. Still as I left the vehicle, I needed help to get to a place where I could park myself, as the dizziness was overwhelming. So those of you with respiratory problems, like asthma or COPD, please be aware of altitude sickness. I hung onto a post to take my pictures for the rest of my stay. But oh, it was worth it! The overcast sky we had driven through earlier had given way to one of the most beautiful sunsets as we were now above the clouds. Stunning streaks of orange and blood red were painted across the sky in stark contrast to the landscape, becoming more so the longer we remained. The nearby ground dropped away into a far off valley and I clung tightly to my safety. Behind us were the buildings of the observatory, glowing bright with the last rays of the sun, and although we were not allowed inside for obvious reasons, we did have the chance to see where some of the world’s most valuable research into outer space is done. Thankful for the coat we were given at the beginning of the stop, my hands found the necessary warmth in its pockets, as the air was very crisp. I had never been burnt and frozen in the same day in my life! Vacationers, make sure you bring mittens and a sweater on this excursion!
While the last bits of the striking sunset were still in the sky, we loaded up our van and began our decent. We pulled off at one point to do a bit of stargazing, but the clouds had once again blocked some of the view and as the mist was falling, most of us put our cameras away and huddled together while we watched and listened to our guide as she pointed out a few stars with her laser.
After our short hop to the big island of Hawaii, we hired a taxi to the place we were to stay for the next five days; Arnott’s Lodge. (https://www.arnottslodge.com) This hostel, owned and run by an Australian born resident, provides inexpensive stays for people of all socioeconomic groups. Our room had a deluxe twin with a common kitchen and living room. All our needs were provided for in that towels, washcloths, sheets and coffee were brought in whenever we asked for new items. The refrigerator in our room provided enough space for the food needed for breakfasts and dinners eaten at home. Once we unpacked our suitcases, we quickly changed and hurried down to the Farmer’s Market and lunch in downtown Hilo.
On my last night in Waikiki I decided to treat myself to a traditional Hawaiian meal at the Hula Grill and stay for drinks to see a show afterwards. I had my sites and my taste buds already set on the local poke with a side of seaweed salad. Keven, my waiter, took my order and promptly brought my meal back for me to enjoy. With a nice tropical drink to wash everything down, I was in tropical bliss as I watched the sun set over Waikiki Harbor. As a breeze blew through the lanai, I watched the flames dance to the rhythm of traditional Hawaiian music atop tiki torches.
With time to spare, I departed my table and with the help of a wonderful hostess, I found a table in the lounge to watch the Friday night show. I ordered an after dinner drink and nursed it for the next hour while I watched the Camarello brothers play heavenly music. These brothers, both music teachers on the island, provided a background to the lovely Hawaiian Hula dancer that entertained us. Her moves glided like satin through the air, and as I remembered being told how taxing this type of dance was, I was amazed by how she made it look effortless, even after an hour. When she finally finished her set, she visited the tables to talk with her audience. I thanked her, took her picture and excused myself after she had moved on.
Back at the hotel, it was time to pack and get everything ready for an early Saturday morning. This was done in record time and I was sound asleep before I knew it.
Once again we were up early to greet another beautiful Hawaiian day. With a gorgeous breakfast in our bellies, (Linda never prepares anything but!) we were off to a new beach down the road.
We both hired bicycles for the day and after trying out a few on my end, we began to pedal down the road. The rule about riding a bike doesn’t quite apply to seniors who have not been on one for nine years! I found myself stopping every few blocks to catch my breath and let my legs stop burning. I could feel the vog (Volcanic smog) irritating my lungs and knew there was very little chance I would snorkel on this day. I learned the big island of Hawaii can be quite challenging for those of us with respiratory problems, but I was determined to see this beach and its turtles. So petal I did until we finally made the distance to Richardson Beach. We quickly locked our bikes to a rack and headed down to the water.
Linda and I walked out together, past the lava beach and outcrops. Suddenly, she began shouting that something had bitten her. What we didn’t know was it was the breading season of the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, Hawaii’s national fish. And as they can be quite territorial, they will bite anyone they think may be a threat to their space. Linda wound up with two circular bite marks on her leg, with several of the individual teeth actually breaking the skin. So beware of the triggerfish if you swim in the waters off Hawaii in October!
I once again was in heaven as I swam along with the beautiful fishes as they undulated and danced with the waves in the ballet of the ocean. Many know this place as one of the best places to snorkel on Hawaii, and I would wholeheartedly concur. The fish were a broad range of colors from a bright yellow to black. Swimming in schools, they stayed just beyond the reach of my hands. However, I was too busy trying to get pictures and videos of them dancing in the shallows, that I hardly noticed.
Finished with snorkeling, we made our way to the Tropics Tap House Restaurant in Holualoa for a bite to eat. I ordered squid strips along with salad and we ate while planning the rest of our afternoon.
Where does one begin to share a trip of a lifetime with others? Hawaii is quite unique in its natural beauty and black sand beaches, but if one stops there, a great deal of what the islands have to offer would be missed. So with that in mind, I have decided to share my story with my readers on this site.
My vacation to Hawaii really began long before I touched down on the tarmac of Oahu when a friend suggesting we vacation together, meeting in Oahu and island hop to the Big Island last September. No one ever has to twist this woman's arm to travel and seeing one of my best buddies in the process was simply gold! So for nine months we researched airfares, places to visit and things to do. And that, my friends, was half the fun! I learned a great deal about the islands, their history as well as enough information for a lifetime of visits. Yet, it was not enough to prepare me for the incredible journey to this paradise; its history, culture and beauty, or the adventures we would encounter. That, my friends, you will have to experience for yourself on your own visit!
The day became a bit overcast as the day progressed and despite how much I wanted to snorkel, it was not to be. After a failed attempt, Linda helped me back to the shallows and I called it quits for the day. Although the rainclouds began to move in, I was able to take some stunning photos and videos of the area, while Linda continued to swim. Finally, the rain got the best of us and we had to run for cover under one of the beach structures. As soon as it cleared, we hopped back on our bicycles and then back to our digs in the hostel.
Our captain drove our boat out to the area where the pods of dolphins could be found and shut off the motor once there. Those who were going into the water quickly donned their gear and slipped beneath the waves to meet the spinners. I watched along with the captain, as our dolphin greeting party made its way out to the pod. The dolphins, including a baby are yearlong residents of Oahu and curiously came to greet our group. They jumped and played while our people watched from the surface of the water and beneath. Linda snapped pictures until the pod tired of us and moved on its way.
The group quickly swam back to the boat and boarded once again. With all seated, our captain hit the gas petal and steered the boat ahead of the dolphins to meet them once again. This continued three or four more times until our guide and captain decided it was time to head back to shore. Along the way, we ran across some pygmy humpback whales and quickly began to follow them to get a better view and possibly a swim with them. But all we got were a few quick glances, as they were not at all interested in meeting us.
Soon we were back in the harbor and on the dock with our shoes and memories. Linda and I spent some time finding the company’s shop, but once we did, we signed up for the manta ray night and shopped for souvenirs.
Our first stop was Tantalus Lookout where we were treated to breathtaking views of Diamond Head, the city of Waikiki, Pearl Harbor and the ocean beyond. Being a photography tour, we were left to take our own pictures and as our guide filled us in on all of the details of the area. Strong winds blew threw the mountains and threatened to carry any and all loose hats and papers while we took in the views surrounding us. Looking out over the valley and the ocean, I couldn’t help but wonder what this area had looked like before the Europeans had crossed its shores.
After about 20 minutes we left for our next stop, Pali Lookout. The wind whipped through the pass as we hung on to our belongings and looked out over the stunning landscape with breathtaking views of the Ko’olau cliffs and the ocean beyond. Various shades of green and black covered the landscape, and each of us adjusted our cameras to take our once-in-a lifetime photos. A haze hung over the far off shores turning the views into tints of the original breathtaking hues. As we stood near the railing of the lookout, Christian took pictures of the various groups and individuals.
Leaving this beautiful area behind we traveled through the Pali tunnels to the Ko’olau Mountains for some pictures of the rugged slopes and the vineyards at their feet. These beautiful mountains had been formed from countless years of rain flowing down their slopes, carving out the ravines and making them look similar to the Napali Coast on Kauai.
The morning began with breakfast in our gorgeous condo as we gazed out over the Pacific through the palm trees. Once in the car, Linda directed me to the dock on which we were to catch our boat for the Dolphin cruise. Our trip, named Sunlight on the Water Cruises, was captained and guided by two very capable young men. We were instructed to take off our shoes before stepping onto the boat and after leaving them behind on the dock, we hopped aboard. When everyone had arrived there were about a dozen people in our party, five just from one family. So began our adventure to the deep blue and a picture perfect morning for a swim! Although I did not join in along with my friend and swim in the middle of the ocean with the dolphins, I am so glad I went along on the boat with the group. A more beautiful morning one could not ask for! Before leaving port, the guide gave us a brief description of the rules and provided us with beverages and snacks for breakfast.
This is a day I had been looking forward to the whole vacation; swimming with manta rays. And even though I was still struggling with bronchitis and asthma, I made up my mind to make this excursion a reality.
We began the day with a hearty breakfast out on our lanai. Birds came to join us as they searched for the scraps we dropped. Off to the beach once again, we found our perfect place. I finally felt safe enough with my limitations in the calm waters of Kahalu`u Beach and tried my strength. This might not be a big thing for the average person, but it was the best morning I could imagine.
For me, though I enjoyed everything immensely, and this trip was once in a lifetime, I think the thing that moved me most was the culture of the islands. One of the things I noticed about the islanders is their great love and respect for the land. Their traditional music moves like the wind through the trees or the flow of the water on a beach, in harmony with everything and everyone. The land, lush and green where it has been preserved or hadn’t been touched by white man, this is the true Hawaii I believe everyone longs to see!
Mahalo for joining me in my journey!
On the way back to my apartment, I found the Royal Hawaiian Center that I had enjoyed so much 25 years earlier. On my previous visit, the center had tables which held traditionally made crafts made by locals. Music had been playing and a trip here had been a sampling of the older days on the island. Now, a high-end mall with trees and ponds lining the center had replaced that scene. Disappointed, I took pictures of the natural elements that had been left, then I found my way back to my apartment and I was off again to visit with my long time family friend and his mother. (Love this family!)
After my visit with my friend and his mother was done, I was dropped off at a local bus stop and rode one of the transits back to my hotel. On the way, there was a beautiful rainbow on the left hand side of the bus that followed us for about 10 minutes. A lovely way to end such a beautiful afternoon!
The evening followed with a trip down to The Market at Dukes Lane Market and Eatery on Kuhio Avenue. I had stopped in on the way back from my trip to the beach in the morning, but didn’t have time to shop. I would encourage everyone to check this place out if you are in Waikiki and have time. They have everything from organic food and cooking supplies to liquor, souvenirs, coffee and beverages, all reasonably priced. The small tables at the front of the establishment allow tourists on the go to eat their snacks and drink coffee. The manager, Eric, was very hospitable and helped me with everything I needed.
After a few hours of relaxation, both Linda and I returned to Paul’s house for the evening to take part in one of his hula classes. When we arrived we found a few of the students stretching out on the floor in preparation for dance class. The seniors were out on the lanai, and I joined them, introducing myself as I sat down. One gentleman, who was a wounded war veteran, soon joined us. We chatted about the mainland and our respective hometowns while the others continued to stretch.
Once the class began, Paul had us all line up in rows. Those of us who hadn’t danced before, like myself, were placed behind those who looked like experts, making it easier for us to follow directions. He began with very easy moves and progressed to more advanced choreography. I was fortunate to have been warned on Christian’s trip in Oahu, that hula is a very strenuous and challenging physical activity as it employs total control over one’s body. Before long, I had to sit out a while and busied myself with taking pictures and videos while watching the others practice. By mid-class, both of us were exhausted and ready to go back to our hostel. We hurried back home to have a late night meal and ready ourselves for the next day.
If you wish to read up on “Uncle Paul”, I have attached a few websites:
I decided to leave four days before my friend was to arrive to see some long time family friends in Honolulu. After nearly 11 hours of flight from the Mitchell Field Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, through Denver in Colorado and into the airport in Honolulu, Oahu, I we finally touched down on the pavement. I was truly amazed by the beauty of the surrounding mountains and the palm trees as the pilot guided our craft down onto the runway.
My luggage appeared almost immediately on the carousel and before long I was at the counter of the Speedy Shuttle Service organizing a ride to the White Sands Hotel. As the sun set behind the buildings at the terminal, our driver Jaimz, made certain all of his charges were squared away in his van and we began our short drive into Waikiki. As we wound our way through the streets of Honolulu and Waikiki, Jaimz pointed out many of the sites we passed until he finally pulled up in front of the my hotel, and by the last light of day I found my way to my room.
Our last stop before lunch was Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, with its striking turquoise waters and white sand beaches. This beach has been rated number one in America, and it isn’t hard to see why. As we walked through the fir trees and the palms that lined the beaches, I caught my breath as we neared the pristine turquoise waters. Never before had I seen such striking waters against such a beautiful white sand beach. Simply stunning! A young couple was having their wedding photo taken along the shores of the beach and I couldn’t help taking a shot of them against such a brilliant backdrop. The wind had lessened to a light breeze as we made our way up and down the coast, taking pictures as we walked along. Young boys played underneath the trees, while their clothing dried above them in their branches.
Soon we made our way back to the van and Christian. With a hungry bunch of tourists we drove to the Ono Steaks and Shrimp Shack in Waimanalo to have our lunch. The restaurant was just a hole in the wall, but oh, the food! I had seared tuna while the other guests tried some of the other island delicacies. As we talked, we began to find out about our fellow travelers and where they were from. One of the women, from Sydney, looked very much like one of my other friends from the Central Coast of Australia. Another couple had just married and still another was from Melbourne. Before long, we had become friends and were taking pictures of each other for our memory books.