Our trip to Hawaii. May 12 – May 31, 2014

May 12, Monday

Took a cab to the airport and flew out on Delta around 11:30 am, had a layover in LAX, got on the same plane and arrived in Honolulu the same day at 5:30pm. The neat part about the flight is that MSP has ipods everywhere in the terminal for anyone to use, and so did the plane. Each person had their own iPod to watch tv, play games, listen to music or whatever. The bad part is they did not feed us.

Got off the plane, picked up the rental car and got on the freeway, heading toward our hotel, the Hilton. In Waikiki. Waikiki is a part of Honolulu, the part where they made a swamp into the most fabulous beaches ever. Honolulu reminds me of New York City in that the traffic is crazy, there are like 2-6 lanes on the freeway; so much traffic but there is such poor signage. You better know where you are going and how to get there,exactly, before you leave or you may not find it. John however did a fabulous job of driving and knowing exactly where to go.

I am writing most of this by memory, today being June7.

Our Hilton was indeed a city of it's own. An extremely well run place. When we arrived, there was a guy there to show us where to park, sign in, and anything else. Since there are so many cars everywhere, the Hilton has it's own traffic cops, letting people go, cars go without anyone getting killed and they do it wonderfully.

We went to sign in and they clearly had at least 12 clerks who were ready to help us. It took about 1.5 minutes and they gave us a map to get us to our tower, the Tapa Tower, and we were on the 27 floor with an ocean view. It was awesome. There were 5 different towers and interspersed in between them were stores of every shape and variety, restaurants, snack places, 5 (I think) pools and concierge places here and there if you needed help. Also the most beautiful flowers, foliage, waterfalls and anything else that was need to make you there you in a perfect tropical setting. And of course, they had a beautiful white sand beach and also there own little enclosed pool, but it wasn't a pool, it just wasn't attached to the ocean; the lagoon. You could rent paddleboards there.

May 13, Tuesday

On our first full day there we got in the car and headed south to Diamond Head, to hike up there. The timing was terrible as we got there, 3 tour buses showed up, so we had to fight our way up with a million people. If you look at the pictures, you will see that we look like ants all climbing up the hill. The view was outstanding where we finally made it .From there we continued south, and stopped at Sandy Beach, and continued along the highway to the city of Kailua ?????????????? where we had lunch. Since we had traveled from the west side to the east side there was a drastic change in the weather and the landscape. We started seeing mountains and much more lush greenery, and there more clouds, like it could rain anytime.

We returned back to our hotel on hwy ???????????????????? and on the way stopped at the Pali Lookout. Incredible view, extremely windy also. We made it back without any problems. We went down to check out the beach at the Hilton and John swam in the ocean a while.

May 14, Wed

Today we got up early and were waiting for the Roberts' Tour Bus to take us to Pearl Harbor. We were the first pickup and had to be ready at 6:30. For the whole of our Hawaii trip we had 3 tours, and got to meet 3 different Hawaiin bus drivers. Ford was our driver today. They were all very good, very knowledgeable and they all taught us Hawaiian words. We also had a small city tour of Honolulu. Pearl Harbor was quite unique, very interesting in how the whole thing came about, and very moving. After we got to see the movie we immediately were able to go onto a ferry-like boat and it took us out to the Arizona, where so many sailors had died.

This bus ride was over around 3 or 4 so when we got back we walked about1 mile or so down the beach to see all the other beaches and motels. When we got back, John swam again for awhile on our very nice beach.

May 15, Thursday

This was the Oahu Tour day. We got picked up around 7, our bus driver was Ted. We began by heading on the same route that John and I went on Tuesday. We stopped to see Haunama Beach, the Halona Blowhole (where a spray of water, or a gush of water shoots up from a hole in the rock – if the surf is big enough). We saw a little bit. And we went to the Pali Outlook again. We went to the Valley of the Temples and saw a beautiful Buddhist temple and they had the most extraordinary gong. It was huge and you had to hit it with a log of a tree, that they had tied and supported for all the tourists to use. It had the most beautiful tone. We stopped at had lunch at the Kualoa Ranch, had dessert at a Macadamia Nut Farm (free Kona coffee and macadamia nuts). And then we continued to circle the island and saw the beaches that are on the bonzai pipeline. The ones that have the huge surf in the winter. And last of all, we stopped at the Dole Plantation which was really neat. They had some beautiful gardens and a big store where we bought some pineapple sherbet.

May 16, Friday

Today we decided to go snorkeling, and we chose to go to Haunama Bay; one of the places we had stopped at on our tour. Enroute to the beach we stopped at Snorkel Bob's and we each got a mask, fins and snorkel. She talked us into the better snorkel and it was great.

However parking is really a problem everywhere, so we got there early to be sure we got a place, and no problem! We got a front row spot. But then we had to stand in line to pay to get in, and then we all had to watch a 10 min video on the reefs and how not to hurt them. This was extrememly annoying because there were so many people and there was no shade and there was no way you were getting down that hill to the beach without watching it.

So – we watched it and went to the beach and it was big and beautiful. The tide was low however so sometime you would get stuck inside the reef. People would stand on the reef to get out of that area and the lifeguards would yell out “don't walk on the reef. Go back the way you came in” Clearly they were sleeping during the video. Once the tide got higher it was much easier to move around. There were 2 buoys that had a sign “careful-past these buoys there is a strong current”. So that's where we went. There were so many fish; it was so fun and when you got out past those buoys you would get tossed around out there. You would look down and see the fish being pulled way to the right, and then they would get pushed to the left. And the same thing was happening to us. But as long as you knew where you were going, so that you wouldn't get slammed into the coral it was fine. And that's why the snorkels were so great, because there was a lot of wave action out there, but very little if any water got inside the snorkels. It was a great day. Except we got too much sun. So we just hung out in the shade back at the hotel for the rest of the day.

And on Friday night the Hilton has fireworks. Pretty spectacular ones. The sun sets right around 7pm, so by 7:30 it's dark. After that we just wandered around the Hilton complex and checked out some of the other Hilton hotels that were there, and some of the shops. Especially the ice cream shop.

May 17, Saturday

We decided to do the laundry today; we walked a couple of blocks from our hotel. After that we drove to the Foster Botanical Garden. It was within the city of Honolulu and relatively easy to find. Except, as usual there weren't any signs and we drove past it the first time and had to go around and try it again. Once there, it was very nice, so many huge and beautiful trees, so many flowers, and lots of shade. We had a good time. Going home was a little more tricky because without realizing it, the road we had come on was one way and we got a little screwed up trying to figure out an alternate to get back. But John figured it out and we went back and hung out around our hotel.

May 18, Sunday

Today was the day we were leaving. John got up and swam in the ocean; then tried out the pool. Our checkout time was 11 and then we headed down to the airport, after we had lunch. We checked our bags at the airport, and then had an expensive lunch at the airport. Then just sat around in the lounge area. Our flight left around 3:30 and it was like a 40 minute flight. It was fun to look out of the plane and see the other islands; when there weren't clouds to hide them. And then we landed; we thought on the moon. It's all dry and desert like with lava rocks everywhere. Very unlike Honolulu. The airport itself, the buildings, are ?????????????????????????????????????? We got another Ford Focus again and found it much easier traveling to our new Hotel. Since there are very few roads, it's not as complicated getting from point A to point B.

. We got to the Hilton and figured out where to park the car, checked in and then had to figure out how to get to our Ocean Tower Room. We could walk or go by tram or boat. We chose the tram. From the main lobby to our room is probably a half mile walk. We ate at a neat Chinese place for dinner (Kirin's) that was a short walk away from our room.  After dinner we got in the car and drove a couple miles to a grocery store. Came home in the dark. It's really dark. On the road where our hotel is, there are 2 small shopping centers and other hotels. There are some lights there. But once you venture away from there, there are just no street lights.

May 19, Monday

We spent the entire day walking all over the grounds of the Hilton. We checked out the pools, the shops, the tennis courts, the restaurants and the grounds in general. While doing that we left the Hilton property via the beach and walked past the Mariott and onto A Beach. It's a really long word that I can't even begin to remember. We passed some tide pools along the way and climbed around them and observed the sea life.

May 20, Tuesday

This was the island circle tour.  We Headed north up the coast on 19, then turned onto and drove to Waimea for a potty break and then traveled through cowboy country.  We now headed down the east coast still on hwy 19 and stopped to view Rainbow Falls. It was nice. Sort of like Minnehaha Falls. From there we stopped for lunch at Imiloa University, a part of the U of Hawaii system, this one majors In astronomy. 
Then we went to the Big Island Candies store for free coffee and candy.  From there we headed for Volcano National Park. We went to the Jagger Museum and got to see some steam vents along the way. We talked to the Rangers about seeing (or not seeing) any lava. (The volcano is not spewing forth any lava). Then we went through the Thurston Lava Tube. Pretty neat. From there we headed south on 11 To Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. We got to see turtles sunning themselves on the beach and we had enough time to just walk around the beach. 
  From there we stopped at a coffee plantation, and got some free coffee and cookies. And then we worked our way north on hwy 11 through Kailua Kona and made it back to our motel right around 7.

May 21, Wed May 21 and 22 should be combined

We went north up the coast to check out some beaches. In Hawaii the beaches are all public, so if private property runs all along the beach, there has to be an entryway every so many 10ths of a mile to let the public down to the beach. So we found 2 of those places. It means you usually have to do some walking to get to the beached, but it was good.

We stopped at Pu'ukohola Heiau (in Hawaiin, heiau means temple). This was a pretty neat place with a visitor center. We were listening to the ranger talking to the little kids and he said that even though this is not whale season, they had spotted a whale there in their area yesterday. We walked on their self guided tour and saw the heiau (temple) and then the path led us to another state park beach Spencer Beach) that we had wanted to check out. They also had camping. We stopped at Kawailae (city) and had lunch.

We continued all the way north on hwy 19, It's very beautiful driving along the shoreline. When the highway ended we were at the Pololu Lookout. We got out and hiked down to Pololu Beach. We had to hike down 400 feet. We saw lots of black sand beaches today.

Back up the hill, and into the car. From there we had to backtrack a little ways on 19 until we hit hwy. 250, which is where the cattle ranches are. Extremely beautiful, with cattle grazing everywhere. At Waimea (city) we took hwy 190 south and then turned rt or west on Waikoloa Rd and that takes us back to 19 and then back to the Hilton. 

May 22, Thursday

Today was Saddle Road Day. Saddle Road cuts straight across the Big Island. It used to be a terrible road that only the Locals would drive on. But Bob told us that we should drive on it – they fixed it. And fix it they did. A beautiful road; but most of the (very few) roads in Hawaii are in good shape. Apparently the only problem is that the road goes over mountains and you can run into rain and fog and undesirable weather here and there. It was actually a very nice drive; beautiful scenery of course; not sure if we ran into fog or not. But from the Saddle Road you can access the Mauna Kea State Recreation area, which we did. Basically to stop in and go to the bathroom. And then we took the next road off Saddle Road which took us to about 10,000 feet to the Ellison Onizuka Astronomy Complex, also called the Visitor Center.

It was pretty neat. We sat there and watched a couple of videos and were absolutely amazed to find out about the incredible telescopes that are there. Actually ther aren't there; they are closer to the top of Mauna Kea which is 13,796 feet. It is truly unbelievable to learn how huge some of these telescopes are, how they had to make them and then ship them up to the top and some of the astounding things they have seen and discovered with them. And it's not just the US, but everybody in the astronomy world has telescopes up there. It was truly fascinating.

From there we traveled a little further east to the city of Hilo. We just drove a ways down the eastern shore to look for beaches and there don't seem to be a whole lot of beaches in that area. Then we came back home taking hwy 19 all the way north along the shoreline, and took hwy190 south back to our hotel.

May 23, Friday

Today we went snorkeling at “2 Step” This is a beach south of Kailua Kona; south of where the Hilton is by 45 min. Give or take. It's called 2 step because there are some big flat rocks near the shore. And if you're going snorkeling you can step from the top down about 1 foot to the 2nd step and sit there to get your fins, mask and snorkel on, and then just slip into the water. It's perfect. However when we came back from snorkeling there were some families there jumping off the step and having a good time. We just kind of had to maneuver so they didn't jump on us. As usual, there were lots of fish to see.

2 Step was one of those beaches that presented a problem with parking. But immediately next to it was Pu'uhuanua o Honaunau National Historic Park. Since we have a senior Nat'l Park card, we got in free and then walked a half of block to get to 2 Step. There were signs EVERYWHERE in the Nat'l Park about no swimming, no snorkeling, no scuba. When we were done with our water activiites and came back to the car, we did go on the self guided tour of the park. It was good

May 24, Saturday

Today, Sat, we got up really early and drove down to Kailua Kona to Kahalu'u Beach. It was nice driving with very few people on the road. But we wanted to get there to find a place to park and to rent a paddle board. The place opened at 8:30 (we got there about 7:30) and so we just found a good spot on the beach to rest and wait. This place charged $30 for 2 hr whereas the Hilton was $60 for 1 hr. 
  Dad went and got the board and put it in the water and paddled it over to where I was on the beach. So I did get on it, even was able to stand and maneuver on it, but only going into the waves. I fell once as the waves were pushing me to shore, but I fell backward on the board, didn't go into the waster. (It's a pretty long board). After that Dad paddled on it all the way out to the breakwater and came back and looked pretty good. 
  Then I went out again around 10 o'clock it started getting really windy with bigger waves and suddenly there were about 20 swimmers, snorkelers, waders in my sort of calmer area so I came in for the day. Dad took the board back and we went snorkeling. 
  I really liked this area for snorkeling, although with all the wind, and the tide coming in, we really got tossed around a lot. We saw some different fish from previously, and the coral was not as high as the other place. This coral never got over 3-4 feet high. The other place it would be 10-15ft high in places. Oh! And when I first went out with the board there was a turtle that hung around me for awhile. 
 Another good day at the beach.

May 25, Sunday

  Today we left the hotel around 9am and headed N on 19 for Hilo, specifically to see the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Garden. A truly incredible place. And it's set off of the main highway with no signs of how to get there, so I guess the people who go there, REALLY want to go there. It starts up on top of a hill overlooking the ocean and the garden paths work their way down to the ocean. And the entire way down is filled with the most beautiful, incredible plants imaginable. And they are all in different stages of blooming. At the bottom is a path that leads right along the ocean. There are a couple of places to sit and watch the surf come pounding in. And of course there are some waterfalls, an Hawaiian totem pole, and a small wishing well. It is practically like walking through paradise. 
  After that, we drove thru Hilo, found something to eat and continued south on hwy 19 which turned to hwy 11; we went more south on hwy 130, more east toward the ocean on 132 and then south again on 137. We were looking for some tide pools, but stopped at Lava Tree State Park for a short hike to see where the volcano engulfed some of the trees and so there are these 8-12 foot blobs of lava that are standing there, where it used to be trees. 
  We did get to the tide pools. A huge area where there is a reef to slow down the ocean water, but there are a plethora of these pools formed by the volcanic "rocks", and the water is fairly warm because it stays in these pools; it is not washed back into the ocean. But it is replenished because some water does make it in from the waves. 
  Also went to a park that has a similar setup, except that as the water comes in from the ocean it goes into a regular pool type structure, which is possibly also fed by a spring. 
  And the final reason we went - to see the volcano. Having been there on the tour bus we knew everything is closed off and you can't see any lava because there is none to see. But if you arrive at 7pm you can see a reddish glow and that was our plan. We stopped within the park and saw numerous steam vents. We got there about 6pm and got a good parking spot and went into the museum and looked at all the neat volcano stuff they have. 
  This place is at about 4200 ft and it started drizzling, with fog. But the cars just kept coming in . The sun sets about 6:55 and with the rain it was quite dark out. And you could see a faint glow way down there in the crater. By 7:05 it was more apparent and by 7:15 it was pretty neat. We decided to leave and drove down to the other lookout. The first one was better. But we got to see what we came for. And then we (John) got to drive the 3 hrs home in the dark. 

May 26, Monday
Slow day on Mon. Did the wash and then Dad decided to rent a motorcycle  a Suzuki C 50-800. I just hung out. He had it for 4 hrs so at the end I got to ride on it too. It was pretty neat. Definitely a step up from the scooters. Plus as we drove around here on our hwy 19, I saw a bunch of wild goats, a wild donkey and 1 wild pig. I never saw anything when we're in the car. 

May 27, Tuesday
Today Dad rented a Harley Road King, 2003, 1500cc. The other one he got in the afternoon. This one he got around 9am. He drove around a little to get used to it, and then picked me up at our hotel. We went to another botanical garden in Kawailae called the Pua Mau Place. It was pretty nice. Then we checked out a couple of beaches. From the point of view of the rider, it was neat. Very fast, easy to ride on, very stable. Like on the scooters when a big truck would go by us, it would knock us around. On the Harley we didn't even budge. 
  In the late afternoon we went snorkeling at Beach 49, which is only a couple miles away. It was a great time. Since it was later in the day we noticed that there were a lot of fish that would school together. It was odd because there were as many as 3 different kinds that schooled together. And Dad saw a reef shark, but I missed tha

May 28,Wedensday

   Went to beach 69 this morning to go snorkeling. It was very tricky to find. Mostly because it's called Hapuna Beach, and then it's not the main Hapuna Beach, it's the part called Waialea Beach. So we stopped and talked to these people that were loading up their kayaks and asked if they knew where Beach 69 was and they told us to just go back up this road and turn left. But we were there and it didn't say Beach 69. That's because it's actually Hapuna Beach #2, and most people just know to call it Beach 69. Anyway, it's my favorite beach. It's nearby to our hotel, the sand is beautiful, there are many trees with big trunks so there is plenty of shade, plus places to hang wet clothes. There is a nice reef and it's the easiest entry/exit beach for snorkeling because you start out on sand instead of rocks. We saw a turtle today while snorkeling. We really got pounded out there today, the tide was coming in and it got really windy. But it was fun nonetheless. 
  We got back home around 2:30 and rested up. Then we went to all of the Hilton pools. There are 5 and most of them have varying sizes of water slides. For the one pool we have to swim under a waterfall and then for the next 10-15 feet it's set up like you're swimming inside a cave. All in all it was pretty fun. 

May 29, Thursday

We went to our secret beach today(beach 49) and snorkeled. Saw a Moray Eel, not just his head, but his whole slithering body. Also saw a small turtle. And beautiful fish and coral of course. Your usual Hawaiian beach. 
  Came back to motel and then went down to the Hilton lagoon. They made their own lagoon but it's fed by the ocean water and and fishes and turtles can come in. We saw about 6 or 8 turtles and these were the big ones; like 3 ft in diameter. All of them were green turtles except for 1 that had that soft brown leathery looking shell. We snorkeled all over the place, avoiding other swimmers, snorkelers, kayakers, paddle boarders, water bikers and people in any and all kinds of floatable devices. It is a fairly big area, so it was all fun. Then I decided to rent a one person kayak for half an hour so then I had to avoid all those other people while kayaking. I almost think I saw more fish and turtles from the kayak, than when we were out there snorkeling.

May 30, Friday

Today is the day we leave. In the morning we went down to ask about checking out later than noon, and we were able to stay, without being charged until 2pm. Then we went to the boarding pass computer and got our boarding passes.

John had just noticed the other day, that the Hilton has a mini putt, right over in our area. So we went and had a leisurely game of mini putt. They also have quite a few feral cats on their property. They have signs up to not feed them, because they do have someone feeding them. But while we were golfing, we saw 2 of these cats, resting over in the shade. And Hawaii is practically overrun by mongooses. So all of a sudden, hanging out with these 2 cats are 3 mongooses. And they are quite close together; but they all just sort of ignored each other and just kept doing what they were doing. It was quite odd.

At 2pm we checked out and drove south past the airport to a small botanical garden. Our flight doesn't leave until 9 pm so we had time to kill. This garden was clearly marked on my map and we just could not find it. And the roads in this area are such that, if you make the wrong turn you have to go about a mile to turn around. Well finally we went down this road that said something like “thrift store' and there it was. The thrift store was down a little further on the hill, but the garden was closer to the top. So we knock at the door and this lady appears, and we check to see if this is, in fact the botanical garden. Yes. And Dad asks her why there aren't any signs. And oh yeah, I guess they forgot to put that sign back up. But it was very nice, quite small. And as we headed down the hill, it got more lush and the mosquitoes were out, so we didn't stay long.

We stopped at Denny's to eat, got gas in the car and then headed to the airport. We were early, but we knew there were 3 flights leaving at 9 and we thought there might be a million people trying to get through security. We were early enough that there were about 5 of us and we zipped right through and then just sat at a bar/restaurant til they started boarding the plane.

It was a wonderful trip. The people were all very nice. The lack of signage was quite annoying, the roads were great, but the way people drove was maddening. The beaches were outstanding; all of them different. The snorkeling was what I liked the most. And seeing the volcano glow. I also hated the plane ride. It was too long.