Hawaii Trip 2005

Thursday 1/13/2005

We woke up pretty early (before 6am) in order to drive to SFO. The trip to the airport was uneventful, and once we got to the airport we were quickly through security. We got bagels at a little deli place near our gate and soon we were on our way to Honolulu.

The flight was OK. I didn't watch the movie, Noel, which I had never heard of before. For "Brunch" on the flight they offered a cheese lasagna thing as one of the choices. I basically ate the roll and crackers. I think the big difference between brunch and lunch and dinner is no dessert with the crappy food.

We got to Oahu and had a couple of hours before our flight to Maui. We took the shuttle to the inter-island terminal and then got some lunch. Soon enough we were on our way to our final stop for the day. The inter-island flight was short and quick, but it had some nice viewing. When we got down to baggage claim all the stuff was already waiting and arranged by passenger group, which was pretty cool. It took barely any time to get the rental car, and soon we were off to the hotel.

At the hotel, the Four Seasons in Wailea, we were greeted with leas. We were scheduled to be changing rooms on Sunday, due to availability when I reserved the room. However they informed us that we would be able to remain in the same room the entire time if we so wished. Of course we didn't want the hassle of changing rooms!

Soon we were up to our room, which was just fantastic. We had an excellent view of the beach, ocean, Molokini, the smaller mountain of Maui, etc, which I made a neat panoramic view almost immediately upon getting into the room. Actually I somehow missed one shot to the lefthand side which might have shown Molokini, but I believe that it was sort of foggy and late at the time and it wasn't visible. You can clearly see it in other photos though.

After we settled into the room a bit we went down and got some drinks in the lobby lounge. We felt sort of out of place because there were all these people dressed up in fancy dresses and suits and we were wearing jeans and t-shirts. But it turns out there was some wedding function or the like and usually we didn't stick out that badly. After our drinks we headed up to the room, relaxed, and ordered creme brulee from room service, which was excellent.

Friday 1/14/2005

We woke up later this day than pretty much any other day of the entire trip, sometime around 9:30am. After and such we decided to head down to breakfast at the hotel buffet. The buffet was expensive, but it was most excellent, it also filled us up for most of the rest of the day. While we were eating Erin was going over the Maui Revealed:Ultimate Guidebook to see the various things we could do on the Island. I had read this cover to cover a few weeks prior, but she had just pecked around it so far.

After breakfast we took a walk down the beach path in front of the hotel. It was quite warm out, and more humid than we were used to. After the walk we decided to spend some time swimming/playing at the beach in front of the hotel. The water was fairly warm, and at the time the surf was quite moderate.

A bit later we went out to run a couple of errands - go rent some snorkel gear from Snorkel Bob's and get some sundry items at Longs Drugs in Kihei, which is the town just north of Wailea. Erin was originally thinking about not renting snorkel gear, and just using the gear on the boat at Molokini (see the report for 1/15/2005 for more information on this subject). However, after finding out that due to her small face she could get away with renting a child's mask for a $10 savings I was able to convince her to just go with the weekly rental. It was a good thing too, because she ended up liking snorkeling quite a bit.

After the errands we meant to run, we also made a couple of stops at some surfing/clothing stores as Erin wanted to look for new bathing suits. I ended up getting an aloha shirt at one of them, one of the most subdued, reasonable aloha shirts of all times. I was pretty much planning on doing this so I didn't bring any nicer shirts to wear to any dinners at nicer restaurants and figured I should have at least one.

After getting back to the hotel we decided to test out the snorkel gear at the Wailea beach. It was at this point that Erin fell in love with snorkeling. She fell in love with the ability to float on the water and look around while the waves simple bob you up and down. Of course if a wave actually breaks on you, it gets a little exciting, and the waves at this time were a tad strong, but if you went far enough out they would all break behind you. After swimming in the ocean we decided to also try out the pool, so we spent a bit of time in there and in one of the adjacent hot tubs.

At this point it was getting into early evening, and after showering we decided that it might be a good idea to get some dinner as we hadn't eaten since the morning and we were very hungry. We decided to go get some Thai food, which ended up being quite a nice dinner and not too expensive either. We went up to our room at quite a reasonable hour as we had to wake up early on Saturday.

Saturday 1/15/2005

At 6:10 AM the alarm went off, playing "In a Hula Heaven" off the Hawaiian Steel Vol. 2 CD provided by the hotel in our cd player/clock.radio. Not a bad way to wakeup, and we would do so quite often during our stay. We got our stuff together and drove up to Maalea, where our boat to Molokini was docked.

During the hour long ride out we saw a number of humpback whales from the boat, as they spend their winters in Hawaii. A little more on this subject will follow in a bit. It was kind of cloudy when we headed out, but by the time we made it out to Molokini, which is a half-sunken crater of an ancient volcano a few miles off of Maui, it was sunny out.

The snorkeling there was very nice. The water is about 20 feet deep around the rim of the crater, and it is filled with large variety of fish along the reef. The water is incredibly clear too. All of this means that there are LOTs of people snorkeling there. More than a dozen boats go out there every morning, just for snorkeling, and there are more boats further out with SCUBA divers. It's crowded but quite pristine. It's a shame that we didn't have a waterproof camera, because it would have been nice to get pictures during this outing. In fact we didn't bring a camera along at all, which was a mistake on hindsight.

After about 2 hours moored at Molokini, of which I spent a large portion in the water, we headed back to Maalea. On the way back we saw an awesome sight, a mother humpback and her calf. When you see whales you are supposed to turn the boat engine off and not approach them, but if the whales want to approach the boat they can. These two ended up coming quite close to the boat, maybe 50 yards away. The size of them, particularly the mother, was simply astounding. I've seen full sized replicas of whales in aquariums before, but it really doesn't hit you just how gigantic they are until you see them in the flesh. One of my favorite memories of the trip happened then, when the calf "breached" by throwing most of its body out of the water and slamming back in. It was an awesome sight; I just wish I got to see a full-sized whale do it up-close. After a fairly long them the mother and calf dove down and we then went on our way back to the harbor. Outside of the harbor we had a brief stop where we looked at green sea turtles, that floated by looking all big and round and funny. They're pretty neat, but after seeing the whales slightly underwhelming.

When we got back to the hotel we took a nap. We made reservations to dine at one of the hotel restaurants, and read a bit in the lounge before going on to dinner. The dinner was quite nice, and we could see whales in the distance and the sunset over the ocean while we were waiting for our food. It was actually amazing how fast the sun went from being a full disk to half a disk to nothing while we had our heads turned for a moment. The restaurant was a bit pricey, but certainly a good meal.

After dinner we went back up to relax. There was a message on the phone saying that there was going to be a fireworks show on the beach at 9:15PM from one of the groups staying at the hotel. The show ended up starting 30 minutes early and slightly startled us. I watched it from the balcony and took some silly pictures and a video of it.

Sunday 1/16/2005

I woke up earlier than Erin, so I went out and read on the lanai. The surf looked really strong at this time and I was happy that we had gone out to Molokini the day before, as it looked like it would be a rough journey at this time. After Erin awoke and showered we went out and got bagels for breakfast and then headed up to Lahaina, which is the "city" on Maui.

Lahaina is very touristy. In fact, downtown Lahaina reminds me vaguely of the Wisconsin Dells... which is probably not the most flattering of comparisons. All the stores were the same, T-shirt Factories, ABC Stores, and an activity booth every third door. Add in some fancy galleries and you have my idea of Heaven! Ok, it wasn't that bad, it just was underwhelming, as I had been warned about. Erin bought some new Tevas as her thong-style sandals were not treating her well during our walking. We got some yummy burritos for lunch and then headed back to Wailea.

We wanted to snorkel the beach some more but the surf was just too high to do that. We ended up playing in the water and getting pounded by the waves before getting tired and heading up by the pool to relax and read and have a drink, a mojito for me. We then went into the hot tub a bit, but there were a bunch of kids in and around it and we soon tired of their craziness and went up and showered again. After showering we spent some time reading about the Road to Hana, our activity for Monday, and took some pictures of the hotel's parrots.

After a cocktail in the infamous lobby lounge we went and got pizza at Shaka's pizza, which had relocated from the location presented in our guidebook. A quick peek at a payphone's yellow pages showed us were to find it, and on hindsight we should probably have realized we had passed it multiple times on about the only road that goes N/S through Kihei! The pizza was pretty good thin crust and hit the spot. Afterwards we returned to the room and relaxed before sleeping.

Monday 1/17/2005

The soothing sounds of Hawaiian Steel awoke me at 7:05 AM, but since we went to sleep so early the night before this was no problem at all. After showering and such we headed out to Kihei and got cinnamon rolls around 8am, and then drove north to begin our journey down the Road to Hana.

The Road to Hana is more of a journey than a road itself, and it certainly is not about the destination. Hana itself is merely the town on the far side of Haleakala, the 10,000 foot volcano that makes up the majority of Maui's landmass. It's a small town, and evidently its bank is only open 1.5 hours a day. The road however is filled with amazing views, stops, photo opportunities and adventures. Hana itself is not worth anything, the trip is worth everything.

We made stops at several waterfalls and took pictures, then stopped at a small freshwater pond that you can climb down to from the road called Ching's pond. The water was very cold and clear, and we just put our feet in. It was kind of nice though, because it was very hot out.

We made a stop in a small town called Ke'anae and watched the ocean on the rocky shores. Erin found a few crabs which scared her, but I thought they were neat and took some picture of them. We stopped at a fruit stand a picked up some banana bread which would turn out to be our only sustenance for the day. Very good banana bread though!

The next big stop we made was probably one of the highlights of the trip. We stopped at Wailua Valley State Park and went on a little adventurous hike up a muddy trail past the first, obvious waterfall, across a catwalk on a viaduct over a chasm (this was kind of freaky), and then down a steep and thin trail along a 20' high rock wall next to another waterfall with a beautiful pool. The water was a bit too cold for us to swim over to the waterfall, although it would have been easy if we really wanted to. When we go to this pool and fall there were a couple of people leaving, and after they left we had the pool to ourselves for a few minutes and it was just peaceful and serene, a bit later and the masses seemed to have arrived at the pool. I can't say that I blame them, it was a wonderful sight. We soon left and blazed an alternate route back to our car.

After this the next stop was at a blacksand beach park that also featured some caves. Black sand is some pretty neat stuff, it looks like dirt but course it isn't. It is the pulverized remains of lava rock. Most of the black sand beaches of Hawaii are on the Big Island, where all the active volcanoes are, but there are a couple of them on Maui as well. After playing in the sand some we had a bit more of the banana bread and then headed on to our next stop, a strange red sand beach.

The red sand beach ended up being a sort of mini adventure in and of itself. The directions we had, from the Maui Revealed book, we sort of confusing, and we ended up heading the wrong way at first. They probably should have used a cardinal direction or two to start of the description of the route, through a grassy field, into a small wooded area, turn before the old Japanese Graveyard (With a warning sign to not desecrate it) and then you are at the steep path to the red sand beach. We didn't actually climb down to the beach, but we took some pictures from up on the cliff.

After this we drove through Hana proper and then stopped at the strange, mishmashed sands of Koki beach. The surf was strong and we watched some boogie borders and surfers for a while and just relaxed. Honestly at this point we were pretty wiped, and we still had the return journey to contemplate. We did make one last stop, at a beach were we heard they had a public restroom. They did, but it was sketchy, and guarded by the corpse of a large spider. I decided to brave it, but Erin decided to hold it. I didn't really feel guilt, because I knew that as the driver having a happy bladder was going to be important.

Now, you can merely go back the way you came, which is what many people do, since all the maps say that roads on the south side of Haleakala are not navigable by FWD cars. We had heard otherwise: that although the roads are awful, you can traverse them in your rental and that technically it might not even violate your contract. Therefore, we decided to complete the loop.

Was this the right decision? I don't know. The Northern road is twisty and turny and high up for portions, and also has a large number of one lane bridges. We also had already driven it. The Southern road ended up being more twisty, and had about 5 miles of gravel roads and then 10 or 12 more miles of completely unkempt and pothole riddled paved roads with 1.5 lanes. The upshot was that the Southern road had almost no traffic and we got to see some additional views and sites, although we didn’t stop at all along it, even at the famous Seven Sacred Pools Park. But hey, we had already seen pools, and it was getting late in the afternoon, and we were tired. It's also probably good we didn't stop anymore, as driving the bad parts of the road in the dark would have been quite harrowing.

When the bumpy 1.5 lane road finally turned back into a professionally maintained two-laned state highway I had never been so happy to see a real road in my life. The downside to this was at this point we were probably only about 7 or 8 miles from our hotel in Wailea, but because there is no road that connect we would have to drive all the way up north adjacent to Haleakala, up to Kahului, where the airport waits, then back down to Wailea via Kihei. We stopped at Taco Bell (ugh) for food (this was Erin's choice and Long's for some sundries before heading back to the hotel.

When we got back we showered and then headed downstairs and had martinis. Erin got a "Hana Blue Pool" to commemorate the journey, Bombay Sapphire and Blue Curacao, more or less. She didn't like it much, so I drank the second half and she ordered a more fruity variety. My first drink was a lychee martini, which was quite refreshing. After our drinks and some snacks we headed upstairs, completely wiped out from our long day.

Tuesday 1/18/2005

I woke up to overcast skies. We showered and went back to the buffet, as our original plan was to be lazy at the resort on this day. However the weather gods weren't being friendly to our plans so much, and decided it would rain this day. And rain it did, a fair amount throughout the entire day. I ate a large amount, more than the previous time, partially to make up for the lack of food the day before. After breakfast we took a nice walk down the beach path where we saw a giant snail and a funny sign but then the rain started in earnest and we retreated to the hotel.

Erin wanted to do some shopping, so we headed to a shopping center down the highway and went to Hilo Hattie's, and Cold Stone. While we were at Cold Stone I talked myself into getting a fancy dinner that nice at a place I wanted to try, Mama's Fish House, which is in the middle of nowhere along the north shore of Maui, a bit past the airport. I called and made reservations for 8:30.

We went back to the hotel and started packing up for our trip over to Kauai the next day. We ended up having a bit extra time, and left early so that Erin could have some pre-food at her beloved Taco Bell, as she didn't think there would be much for her to eat at Mama's.

We got there a little early, and had a drink while waiting for our table. When it was time to order, they told Erin that they could make her a vegetarian stir fry or such if she wanted, but she contented herself with a fresh greens and heart of palm salad, which she enjoyed a lot.

They had pretty good fresh bread, and an amuse bouclé of some mahi bisque that was very tasty. I started out with the ahi sashimi, which was simply phenomenal, it was perfectly textured (not quite as smooth as my beloved O'toro) and delightful in flavor. My main course was a pan seared ono (aka wahoo) topped with caramelized Maui onions and avocado and sides of roasted Hawaiian vegetables and jasmine rice. The fish itself was wonderful, succulent and light, and well complemented by the smooth pieces of avocado and the sweetness of the onions. The vegetables were well cooked and not too soft, and had a light soy based sauce. The jasmine rice complemented this all quite nicely. For dessert we shared a passion fruit creme brulee, which was very good and a nice ending to a wonderful meal.

After dinner we did our final packing and went to sleep, ready to head on to Kauai in the morning.

Wednesday 1/19/2005

We woke up early to our favorite Hawaiian Steel, and gathered all our last minute things before heading over to the airport. Getting through security at the airport was surprisingly easy, even if we had a woman who kept losing her ID in front of us. The flight itself was fine and uneventful. Soon after landing we were in our rental car and on our way to our hotel.

The hotel, the Marriot in Lihue is a nice hotel. You would find few people who would disagree. But after where we had just been saying it was sort of a letdown, particularly for Erin. We quickly got over this as we were starving, so we took quick showers and went to one of the hotel restaurants for lunch, which was very mediocre.

After lunch Erin napped while I took a walk. There was a cruise ship docked at the nearby harbor, which was neat to see. When I returned to the room Erin was awake and we decided to go to a laundry mat to do some laundry, as we were running out of clothes. While we were waiting for the laundry to finish we stopped in at the pet store nearby and Erin fell in love with their Holland Lop rabbits, which are quite adorable.

After finishing the laundry we went to Duke's Canoe Club and Barefoot Bar for tropical drinks and dinner. We would end up returning here quite often as they had good drinks and good veggie burgers, and nice views of the beach.

Thursday 1/20/2005

I decided that we would split our remaining days up one for each side of Kauai, and start with the East side where we were staying. We went up to Kountry Kitchen in Kapa'a which along with Lihue are the big towns on Kauai. They aren't all that big. Afterwards we saw a couple of the scenic views on the East shore - A lovely look into the Wailua River Canyon, the beautiful OpaeKa'a Falls and Wailua Falls.

I guess at this time I might as well mention the roosters. Kauai is infested with wild roosters and chickens, which is so bizarre. It really must be the most forgiving of ecologies, because those birds sure are dumb. I do have to admit that the roosters are nice looking, but they are loud and walk in front of cars and just make trouble. You might want to bring earplugs if you visit this island.

Afterwards we returned to the hotel and put on our swimming clothes and grabbed out Snorkel gear to head out to Lydgate Park, a well known place to snorkel in an ocean pond protected by boulders. The boulders keep most waves out and let fish in, so it's a great place to snorkel, and for families. There were lots of fish here, and they were not very skittish (this is one of the few places where feeding the fish is not looked down upon). After an hour or so of snorkeling we were tired and went back to the hotel for a drink by the pool.

After showering and resting we ended up going to Duke's for dinner a second time. Afterwards we played in the sand with the backscratchers from our tropical itches.

Friday 1/21/2005

This was our day to explore the Southshore of Kauai, and also our last day with the snorkel gear. We drove down near Poi'pu, the seat of the Southshore area, and were sad to learn that the bakery where we had planned to get bagels was closed for remodeling for the week. We ended up getting the breakfast at the Sheraton in Poi'pu proper, and it was a fairly sad breakfast buffet. Still, it was food.

After breakfast we saw Spouting Horn a neat blowhole that has the added feature of a second droning blowhole for the viewer's acoustic pleasure. Afterwards we went to Poi'pu Beach Park to snorkel. I loved it there, and it was my favorite snorkeling of the trip, although Erin was not a fan of the rocks which started a few feet offshore, and stayed in the thin sand lined rim. There were lots of fish to see though, and she had a good time. I myself saw many different varieties of fish, the most interesting of which was a box puffer fish. I tried to chase it to see if it would puff up, but it was too fast for me. Among the other things I saw were needlefish, large black urchins and multitudes of (angel fish?).

We went back to the hotel and showered and decided to grab Quizno's from the nearby mall for lunch, lacking any better ideas and food on Kauai being not all too inspiring. We had martinis at the sushi bar instead of drinks at Duke's that night, and I called my parents in Chicago to taunt them over the blizzard they were having as we sat outside looking at the beach.

Saturday 1/22/2005

I woke up at 6:30 AM with a back spasm, possibly as a result of something I did while snorkeling the day before, twisting to avoid scraping myself on the shallow rocks at the beach? We decided to go use the hot tub a little after 7:00 am, and then grabbed Sara Lee type bagels for breakfast from a stand near the pool. After showering we headed off to explore the West side of Kauai.

The first stop was Waimea Canyon Park. Waimea Canyon is a large scenic area, likened to the Grand Canyon by such luminaries as Mark Twain. I've not been to the Grand Canyon, but the views here were astounding. Because it had been raining a lot lately there were waterfalls going all out, which were an added treat to the already breathtaking scenery.

We made several stops while driving up the canyon road, including one where we got a view of Ni'ihau, the private island of Hawaii, although it was kind of hazy so our view wasn't real clear. Ni'ihau is owned by the Robertson family, sugar magnates who came to Hawaii in the 18th century. The island itself is inhabited by native Hawaiians who still speak their native language. Only native Hawaiians who were born on Ni'ihau can live there.

Our final stop in the Waimea Canyon Park was also the end of the road. The last mile or so was highly cratered with water filled potholes, culminating in a parking lot that was more pits than spots. From this lookout we got an awesome view of the beginning of the Na'Pali coast, the famous Northwest section of Kauai. From our vantage point there I could really understand why helicopter tours of the island are so popular. There is just so much amazing scenery in such a small area of land.

After we had finished up in the park we headed back down the road, to the Southern coast and then drove 15 or 20 more minutes to get some pizza at Brick Oven Pizza, which was pretty decent. Afterwards we drove back the way we had just come another 10 or 15 minutes to get to JoJo's Clubhouse and have some shave ice. I was bold and got tropical rainbow on top of macadamia ice cream, but Erin was satisfied with simple cherry.

On the way back from this trip we made a stop of the Long's of Kauai, which stocked sickles and mattocks (how neat!), to get some Advil for my back. It wasn't bothering me a lot but it didn't feel good, so after we got back to the hotel I went back in the hot tub for a bit, which loosened it up again.

Dinner and drinks at Duke's and bed finished the day.

Sunday 1/23/2005

This was our day to check out the Northern shore of Kauai. We started out with the breakfast buffet in our hotel, which was fine, although it made me miss the buffet at the Four Seasons. The drive to the North shore was filled with many views of lush plant life, and green mountainsides.

We took the road as far as it went, which was a beach at the Eastern end of the Na'Pali coast. This was a popular place and it was hard to find a spot. We ended up taking a short term spot near a big cave and then walked through the muddy lot to the beach itself, where we watched the heavy surf and admired the scenery.

On the way back we made a stop in Hanalei at the Polynesian Cafe and got a snack and I took a picture of a mountain. On the way back we stopped at a lookout for delightful view into a canyon where they grow taro. When we got back to the hotel I dropped Erin off and went out to see if I could find a place to get apple bananas, as I wanted to try them before I left. I failed at that, and I also failed to make it to the lighthouse near where we were staying, as the road was incredibly torn up. I did succeed in getting gas for the car, however.

After I came back to the hotel we went out to Hilo Hattie's to pick up some gifts, and some candy. We didn't find everything we wanted, of course, but it was OK. After shopping we had drinks and dinner at Duke's (how repetitive!) and then finished the night off with martinis at the sushi bar place near the pool after playing some more in the sand by the beach.

Monday 1/24/2005

The flight back to Oahu was sort and sweet, but when we arrived there we had to wait a while before we could process our bags through the USDA check station. Our flight to Oahu was a little earlier than I would have wanted it, but the ideal flight was booked when I tired to buy tickets, and I wasn't sure if we'd have enough time with the one after that, so I chose the one prior. Well, we got to airport before the main terminal was really open, and had to wait over half an hour before we could get checked in. After that we got some lunch and waited in the terminal for a couple of more hours for our flight back to SFO.

The flight was fine, although they showed an awful movie, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow which I was compelled to watch. It was one of the worst movies I can remember seeing in a long time.