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Month: February 2014

Honolulu layover

Honolulu layover

(more and higher resolution photos here)

A week before we’d left for Hawaii Go! airlines had cancelled our original flight from Lihue to Honolulu (to connect with our flight in Honolulu to Los Angeles).  So, we had to book an earlier flight out of Lihue, which, by the way, is a place where all time stops, apparently.

This meant leaving our hotel in Kauai early, which were sad about, and having a long (five hours) layover at the tiny Honolulu airport.

On the way in I snapped a shot of Electric Beach from the air:

Luckily a few days earlier Sam’s friend Yen had reached out and offered to take us to lunch on our layover in Honolulu.

We went to lunch at Bogart’s, which has really great omelettes, but is jam packed (Sunday brunch) and anything other than a granola bowl can take a long time.

After lunch we still had about an hour so Yen took us up to Round Top Forest Reserve lookout for a more than 180 degree view above the city.

Stopping on the road up:

After that she drove us through ChinaTown and the Punchbowl cemetary before heading back to the airport.

Once at the airport we received a piece of paper from our airline stating they may divert our flight once in the air to Las Vegas because of “Los Angeles weather patterns.”  The scary thing was that the airline claimed to have no responsibility for what would happen to us in Las Vegas and we might be stuck waiting for a flight to LA for a considerable amount of time.  Luckily when we were all boarded the pilot said this was essentially a crock and we’d be going to LA for sure.   Of course, he didn’t say when, as we had to wait on the tarmac for an hour for some “paperwork” to be found.  This got us home later than expected and it was after 1am before we finally got to bed.  Not the best way to end a vacation, but that’s what we got for booking cheap flights…. otherwise we wouldn’t have made it to Hawaii in the first place.

Sunset on vacation

Sunset on vacation

(more and higher resolution photos here)


On Saturday, our last full day in Kauai, we decided to spend our time seeing the sights on the east side of the island.  After watching a bit of the sunrise at the cliffs we started our day at the Menehune “fish pond.”    I’m not sure if the water is blue in photos because of photoshop or if it was muddy on our day because of rain.  In any event, we were not as impressed as we expected to be.

Then we went to Costco (Sam’s addiction).

After that we went to Wailua Falls.

and then Lydgate beach in before heading to Kapa’a for bubba’s burgers for lunch.  Bubba’s burgers were delicious, but small and pricey.  After lunch we visited Opaekaa Falls.

After that we went back up north to see the Kilauea lighthouse, where we could look far out and see many whales.

I tried to take pictures and video of the whales, but the human eye is much better at zooming than a camera without zoom…

Again, the lady(bug)s love me.

After that we went on the long drive up to Anini beach, where we actually saw closer breaching whales than at the lighthouse.  Like before, we tried to record this, but they’re virtually invisible to the camera.


From there we went back to the main road and proceeded down Hanalei road, which is actually the end of Kuhio highway, stopping at a few different beaches.

I think this is Wainiha beach.

And this is Haena Beach.

Across from the beach is the “dry” cave.

 Up the road a little further is the “wet cave” – called that because it has a standing pool of water inside and a ton of warnings about the nasty things the water contains.

Across the street is a “swamp” of sorts with some interesting birds, both in their audio and visual stimulation.

Just a few hundred feet away is the parking lot at Ke’e state beach, the end of Kuhio Highway.

One great feature of this park is the Kalalau Trail which probably goes all the way to Kalalau Lookout in Waimea Canyon.  We didn’t have time to hike ten miles, we just went a half mile up to the vista point to see both coastlines


That beach down there is the right side of Ke’e.

We hiked back down just in time to watch a brief sunset at the beach.

 A lot of the beaches on that side of the island have this really cool green algea growing on the rocks that abut the edge of the tide.


After the sunset we briefly explored the interesting trees on the beach that have exposed roots taller than me.

Is it just me or do the modular lifeguard towers in Hawaii look a bit like a lunar lander?

After going back up the highway we stopped at the Dolphin Market for some amazingly overpriced, but good tasting, dinner.  $32 for a 4″ x 4″ seared ahi steak.   In Kona this ran about a third (or less) of that price.

When we got home we did laundry and packed up to fly out the next morning.





(more and higher resolution photos here)

On Friday it was raining, so much so that there were flood warnings, so we decided to drive to the other side of the Island to check out waimea canyon, hoping it would be dry when we got there.  As we drove through the look-outs it was still raining a bit.

Even when we got to the last stop, Kalalau Lookout, it was still very foggy, so much so that we could hardly see the coast.

The winds that day were 40mph, and on top of the lookout trail you could stand on a rock and have the exhilarating experience of feeling the cool fog streaming by making a beeline for the ocean.

 We hiked down maybe ¾ of a mile on the red slippery trail until coming to a section so muddy we’d have to plunge in or go back, so we went back.

 We drove back down to the next lookout to use the restroom and the sun started peaking out, so we high-tailed it back to Kalalau and enjoyed about ten minutes in the sun with good visibility until the next bit of fog rolled overhead and down the cliffs, once again obscuring the view of the coastline.

The fog rolling over actually made the view and the experience much more dramatic and enjoyable for me than if it had just been a sunny day with clear sky.  Maybe that’s the Ohio genes in me.  Would have loved to follow that mud trail further around the cliffs on a sunny day though.

As with everywhere in Hawaii, there were lots of chicken in the parking lot.

Here is a video of the main Waimea overlook on the way out, with much more fog.

And one of the many waterfalls on the side of the road:

We took the 552 road down (there are two routes out) to the southwest and headed up around the coast north to Polihale state park.  The park is only accessible via a 5 mile long unfinished dirt (read: mudhole) road.  I think my brother’s girlfriend, who bought a Jeep just to do things like this, would have loved it, but Sam was reticent at first.

Then we saw a rented mustang go by with two women inside.  If they could do it, we could do it.  None of this was a surprise, we’d had the spot recommended to us by Byron’s wife and she’d warned about the rough road.

After a little over an hour of creeping along the extremely bumpy and muddy swiss cheese road we came to what has to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and watched the sunset.  Even the dunes back from the beach were amazing looking and had a backdrop of the majestic mountains that framed the canyon.

The lady(bug)s love me in Kauai for some reason.

We drove back out in the dark, which would have been terrifying if we hadn’t made it okay in the daylight earlier.  Every few seconds a brave frog would hop out in front of the headlights and we’d play a game of chicken (or frog) seeing who would move first.

Once out of the unfinished road it was a long dark drive up around the coast to Princeville.  Ironcially we were not that far from Princeville, but there isn’t a public road that connects the Polihale area to Hanalei Bay (west of princeville).  It felt a lot like driving in Ohio, we even passed a small-town fair with Hawaii’s version of rednecks eating cotton candy and riding those questionable whirly-gig things held together with duct tape.  America!

To Lihue

To Lihue

(more and higher resolution photos here)

On Thursday we ate breakfast at HiBlend Cafe before heading to the airport to take our short hop flight to Kauai.  On Kauai we got an upgrade to a Nissan Altima.  We first drove down the coast to visit Poipu beach.   People were leaping off the cliff (after much hesitation).  We decided we weren’t brave enough (it looks more dangerous and higher up in person!).

Then we visited sprouting horn.


Then we drove all the way to the other side of the island to Princeville Cliffs.  Our room there was actually a condo (they sell the units when someone is interested), so it was quite nice.  Our only complaint was that there was no AC (generally not a problem) and the hot water wasn’t so reliable.

After we checked in we headed down Hanalei Bay road for dinner at an L&L Hawaiian BBQ stand.

From first lookout point on Hanalei road:




(more and higher resolution photos here)

On Wednesday we ate breakfast at a little coffee shop before heading north to the Dole Plantation.  We ate “dole-whip” (the same pineapple ice cream cones we had at Leonard’s, but double the price) while riding the Pineapple express.  No that is not a euphemism, we actually rode a train called the Pineapple express. Then we spent thirty minutes stumbling around the world’s largest maze.


After the maze we were hungry so we headed to Giovanni’s shrimp truck on the north shore.

After that Sam was still hungry so we went to Famous Kahuku shrimp truck on the north shore.

Since the sun was out we wanted to snorkel in Hanauma bay one more time before leaving Oahu.  However, the bay was on the opposite side of the island, so it took us about two hours to get there.

We stopped at a scenic point on the way there that showed us a side of the island we hadn’t seen before.  This was something much more beautiful than the touristy beaches near Waikiki.

Once down in the bay it took us maybe a half hour to find a teenage turtle.

We hovered near it for maybe ten minutes and watched it eat and swim, until some young humans came and started harassing it (touching it and screaming), so we watched it swim away as quick as it could.  Sam said there were two turtles at one point, which I didn’t see as I was fumbling with my camera, but I managed to catch them both on video.

After leaving the bay we went back around the eastern tip of the island to stop at Halona Blowhole.  At the right time of day you can see a rainbow in the spray coming through the hole.

Next to the blowhole was Halona Cove. If we ever come back to Oahu I want to spend some time in that cove, as we could see several turtles swimming in the tiny cove from our vantage point on the cliff.

Afterwards we headed to the scenic point on the west side of hanuama bay to watch the sunset.

After the sun had set we drove to drop off the snorkels and, like the little piggies on vacation we were, drove two blocks away to pick up even more Leonard’s Malasadas for “dinner.”


Electric Beach

Electric Beach

(more and higher resolution photos here)

On Tuesday we woke up to sunshine peeking through the clouds and we were lucky to keep the sun with us (as well as intermittent clouds) for the rest of the day. We started off the day with breakfast at MAC 24/7 before heading to Kailua State Beach.

The drive to Kailua took us through Pali Lookout.


The beach is known as one of the most beautiful in the world, and of course it is, but we quickly realized that our snorkeling gear was useless as the water was filled with a lot of sand and no fish.  Below I can be seen giving my opinion of the snorkeling:

We needed the opposite of that, so we decided to change plans and head back west to the opposite side of the island to Kahe beach, also known as “electric beach.”

Before that though we stopped for shaved ice.


The road from to Kahe is majestic, weaving through the lush forest covered cliffs with low hanging clouds drifting through the slopes.  We could tell why Avatar was (partially) filmed there.

When we got to Kahe we realized it was an entirely different situation than Hanauma bay.  The beach is very small, and could be quite dangerous if you’re not careful.  Sam was not feeling up to it, so she stayed on the beach while I spent about 90 minutes splashing around hovering over the coral hundreds of yards from shore.

It wasn’t as good as Hanauma bay, there weren’t nearly the same amount of fish and although I tried to scour every inch of the coral in every direction I couldn’tfind a single turtle.  The real reason we chose that spot though was the report that dolphins were often seen there.  When we got there we realized it was the same spot we’d paid to snorkel and “swim with dolphins” (in which we weren’t allowed to enter the water with the dolphins) two days before.


After snorkeling we changed plans again and headed to Pearl Harbor.  We arrived around 3:30, which is apparently after the last trip to the Arizona memorial leaves.  I’m guessing that time schedule places the median age of visitors to the memorial around 70.

Rebuffed at Pearl Harbor we went back to our airBnB and walked to Waikiki beach to watch the sunset.

We walked all the way up to the fishing area in the north and saw another green sea turtle on the way.

Walking back a little bit we sat on the end of the rock pier north of Waikiki to watch the actual sunset.

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay

(more and higher resolution photos here)

On Monday we went around the corner from our airbnb to a Korean hole-in-the-wall that our host had recommended.  The place was called Me’s Korean and our host was right, the food was cheap (for Hawaii) and delicious.  After eating we boarded the #19 bus to the airport and rode for an hour and a half to cover only nine miles.  There was a very peculiar proliferation of senior citizens jamming themselves on the bus.  One would think retired folks with gold watches and union hats travelling to Hawaii could afford a rental car, but instead they all jammed aboard and one by one realized there weren’t enough seats on the entire bus for every senior to be offered a seat.  When we finally got to the airport we picked up our rental car and headed to Snorkel Bob’s to rent equipment.  On the way there, two blocks away, we passed Leonard’s Malasadas and swerved into the parking lot.  Leonard’s had already been recommended as a “must do” from a co-worker.


They were right, the malasadas (Portuguese donuts) are just like creme filled “american” donuts but they have powdered sugar on the outside. I ordered pineapple ice cream to top each one with.

Half an hour later with our snorkels in the back seat we went to diamond head.  The rain that had started pouring the moment our plane touched down in Oahu two days ago would not let up all day.

We had considered skipping our outdoor activities, but then realized that with the rain it would actually be less taxing in the heat.

However, it wouldn’t have mattered for our first hike as diamond head is surprisingly easy and surprisingly “safe” (lots of rails everywhere, etc.) compared to the more “raw” hiking experience back at home.

Unfortunately the experience would get more “raw” than we ever could have hoped for.  At the very top of the volcano crest there is a small viewing area which would be great for photos, however, the entire place was swarming with perhaps millions of flies.  There were flies everywhere, on every surface, in the air, on your face, under your clothes, in your ear, in your eyes, in your mouth and up your nose.  It was impossible to even focus on taking a photo as you couldn’t keep your eyes open long enough.  We basically closed our eyes and clicked the shutter a few times and then hurried the hell out of there.


We both had hundreds of little black flies caked into our sunscreen covered flesh all over.  It was disgusting, but now we were looking forward even more to our next destination; snorkeling in hanauma bay.

We got to Hanauma bay around 3:30 in the afternoon and were dismayed to see signs saying the bay closed at 6pm.  We hurriedly got our clothes changed and paid for entry, only to find we had to wait until 3:45 to watch a ten minute “introductory” film that’s mandatory.  By 4 we were finally at the bay.  The sky was churning with rain clouds, but the water had actually stopped falling when we got to Diamond Head earlier, and it was still holding off for us now.

We got in the water and instantly started having a better time snorkeling than we had the day before on the expensive “dolphin snorkel.”

 However, after forty-five minutes I was getting perturbed that there were no turtles.  It was then, drifting towards the north that I saw a turtle hiding from the current in a little “cave” in the coral.  For ten or fifteen minutes I drifted along with the sea turtle until another snorkeler started crowding me into it.  By that time the lifeguards had started barking about the beach closing.  The lifeguards started demanding we leave the water around 5pm, but by that time I’d seen more interesting fish than we ever saw on any other snorkel (including Thailand).


For dinner we went to a tiny hole-in-the-wall Japanese musubi restaurant called Musubi Cafe Iyasume.

Swim with Dolphins without swimming

Swim with Dolphins without swimming

(more and higher resolution photos here)

On Sunday morning we ate a simple breakfast at a local place by the beach before getting picked up for our “swiming with dolphins adventure.”  The ship was launching from Ko Olina, which is about 45 minutes from Waikiki. Unfortunately it was raining and it didn’t stop when we were out on the water.  We decided to rent wetsuits at the last minute and were glad we did.


Our first snorkel stop was at a reef which we were told was a common stopping point for turtles.  It took a long time to find one turtle, which was about two feet wide, and that’s the only one we ever spotted.

On our way to the next spot we saw a humpback breaching a few times and then ran alongside a pod of dolphins for about ten minutes.


The dolphins were swirling beside and under the boat as we kept pace with them.  However, we never got to jump in the water with them, and they were keen on getting somewhere else as they rarely broke the surface.

Our last spot was a shallow (twenty feet) area with both smooth sand and some coral.  There were no turtles to be found, and certainliy no dolphins.  Sam and I had to remind ourselves that after our luck with the tours on the big island we were probably setting our expectations too high, after all, this “dolphin tour” came with a disclaimer that we may not even see dolphins, let along swim with them.  Still, it’s hard to ignore mising out on one of the few chances in a lifetime to swim with wild dolphins.


After we got back to our hotel we did laundry and then ate dinner at Tiki’s before taking a long walk out on the short pier to take some photos.


Oahu Pop Art

Oahu Pop Art

(more and higher resolution photos here)

 On Saturday morning we headed to the Costco at Sam’s request.  As a consolation prize we got to go to the beach across the street.

After the beach we headed back to Hilo the way we’d come, this time stopping at the Mauna Kea visitor’s center for some clear views.


On the plane we flew past the mountaintop.

After checking into our AirBnB in Waikiki we took the #19 bus to the honolulu pow wow art festival.

It was a little bit like the art walk in Los Angeles, but smaller and more dense.  The food was incredible, though.  We ordered some mix plates at All Kine Grindz and I had the best crab cakes I can remember.

While waiting for our dinner to be cooked I noticed that the mural across the street looked like a James Jean piece.  It turns out I was right – it was James’ first mural ever and done for this very event.

The weird thing was that it was being hidden behind a trash dumpster.

Our BnB was on the 12th floor of what used to be a condominium but was now sectioned out into vacation rentals.  We were very close to the Hyatt across the street from Waikiki beach.

A Whale of a Time

A Whale of a Time

(more and higher resolution photos here)

On Friday morning Sam finished her acai bowl leftovers from the previous day and I drove down to Basik for a new one.  Apparently the little bowls of cold acai smoothie, fresh fruit and granola are very popular on the islands.  Sam and I are looking into figuring out how to reproduce them in LA we enjoyed them for breakfast so much. After I finished up some freelance work at the hotel lobby (wifi in hotels in Hawaii is generally bad) we walked down the street to do some souvenir shopping and see the palace.  On the palace lawn was a performing group of musicians.

Afterwards we walked to Umeke’s again to get more poke for lunch.  From there we walked to the pier for a scheduled Body Glove whale watching tour.

After going out on the water for only a few minutes we were approached by two teenage humpback whales.  They swam under the boat back and forth and then started bobbing their heads straight up in the air above the water to look at us clearly.

 The tour operators, who do this every day for a living, started freaking out.  They said this was the best tour of the year so far, and probably one of the top three they’d ever done.  They started getting out their own cameras (and a go-pro set up to be stuck under water) and told us that they needed to record this visit from the whales for their own future marketing.  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any of these videos on their website… but Sam started taking her own.

Sam cut off the guy’s whale juices joke, you’d think the punchline would be something impressive since the guys does it for a living, but it’snot.  Get it?

After about twenty minutes the inquisitive whales dove down and didn’t return.  It didn’t matter though, as the excitement for the day wasn’t finished.  For a while we observed a calf and it’s mother, who were being pursued by an aggressive male.  They never came closer than a hundred yards from the boat, but we got to observe a lot of behavior.

When those three swam off we headed south and started to see some whales breaching and fighting, which means bashing their heads into the surface of the water.

A little further down still we started to see dolphins, a lot of dolphins.

And, in their midst, was an adult male humpback spinning end over end as the dolphins harassed him.

This activity actually headed straight towards our boat, which the extremely excited dolphins (called “spinners”) leaping out of the water and zipping around the boat.  The whale eventually splashed right next to the boat, nearly hitting it.

Since the rules dictate the boat captain must kill the engines when we get close to whales we sat there and watched this display keep going south past us.  At this point our guides must had decided we’d gotten more than our money’s worth as they decided to go back north along the coast.

As if in protest (“what, leaving already?”) a large male came about 100 yards from us and did at least five acrobatic breaches.  These were the breaches you’ve seen on TV in the prudential commercials, a leaping backflip, flipper toss and massive backwards splashdown, all that good stuff.

After the tour we rested at the hotel for a bit before walking down the street to the Royal Kona Luau.


After the Luau it was still early so we walked up to the Pier to take some night shots back across at Kona.