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Hawaii

Hawaii Pictures Posted!

So I finally got around to sorting through all the pictures taken in Hawaii. You’ll find the album here.

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Hawaii Trip – Entry 5 : The Return Home

For our 2nd and last day on Kauai we took a shuttle to the Coconut Marketplace about 20 minutes from port. There we did some shopping for souvenirs and other native gifts. I introduced Copilot to Lappert’s, where she had Kona flavored ice cream / sorbet. She loved it. After that it was back to our ship for our final night. Following dinner our shipped sailed along the Na Pali Coast, to which Copilot and I stood on the upper deck and watched for awhile. It was a beautiful sight. I’m glad I didn’t spend money for a helicopter tour or boating excursion, because the view from the ship was gorgeous. Brown and green hills jut into the sky casting dark shadows, sometimes with valleys in-between. The cool turquoise water of the ocean provided waves crashing upon the shore, all while the sun set. The evening couldn’t be better.

Once dark, Copilot and I started backing our bags. For our final night the ocean treated us to some nasty turbulence which almost made me sick. I actually had to halt packing and finish it in the morning in Honolulu.

Disembarking the boat was rather easy, especially since we carried our bags ourselves. And because it was to easy and fast, we arrived at the airport very early. Four hours early as a matter of fact. Luckily the price for internet usage was rather cheap (compared to NYC airports at least ) so I grabbed me some hours and hopped online!

From here it was a nine and a half our flight back to reality New York. We left Honolulu around 3pm and arrived at JFK around 6:30am. Although I didn’t get any sleep on the flight, I took a nice nap on Copilot’s parents’ couch after landing.

A lot of people have asked me which I liked more, this or my road trip to Alaska. The only answer I can come up with is, “They are both a 10 out of 10″. Driving to Alaska was an Adventure, while cruising around the Hawaiian Islands is a Vacation. They are two different things, as if comparing your favorite kind of pizza to your favorite sushi dish. It all depends on your mood that day. Granted, it also depends on the type of person you are because I know many people who don’t find road trips fun at all.

In regards to the different islands, I think Oahu is my favorite. Honolulu in particular has so much to offer: Great restaurants, good snorkeling, shopping, surfing, hiking, bars & clubs, and history as well. And driving up to the North Shore gave me a good perspective of the island. It has a nice balance between city and rural life.

If I get the opportunity to explore another location amongst the islands besides Oahu, I would consider stopping back in Kona on The Big Island for its downtown area and activities, somewhere in Kauai to check out more of its beauty, or I would look into Lahaina on Maui since I never got the chance. But taking a cruise around the islands worked out very nicely. The fact that we got to spend a day or two on each island gave us an opportunity like know other. I’ve heard of people island hopping by plane, which sounds hectic, or only visiting one location the whole time which is a shame because each island has its own uniqueness to it. No matter what you do or how you do it though, this state is one for the bucket list.

Hawaii Trip – Entry 4 : Kauai

The next day Copilot and I arrived in Kauai, home of Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast. My travel agent told me specifically that those are the two places to visit on the island. After having breakfast, Copilot headed for the Level 12 Deck to tan while I headed for the shuttle to Hertz Rental Car. My plan was the drive to Waimea Canyon on the other side of the island, and possibly take a hiking trail to the Na Pali Coast, or at least get a view of it from atop the canyons.

This time Hertz gave me a beautiful Mustang. It felt, at least to me, to have more power than the Chrysler 200 I got back in Honolulu. The top also dropped down without having to go in the trunk, which was a plus. This gave the backseat passengers less room (not a problem for me) and kept the trunk free (a benefit I could use for equipment). I had brought my backpack with two cameras, a camcorder, and my laptop. I could always store it in the trunk should I want to leave the top down all day.

I didn’t though. As it drizzled lightly on and off. Parts of Waimea Canyon are actually the wettest on earth. As I drove up Waimea Drive I could see the southern coast of Kauai behind me. On my right-hand side were fields that rather quickly turned into the rim of the canyon. Not before long was I staring at the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It was a beautiful mix of orange and greens, browns and reds. It really did feel like a smaller version of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, just with more trees.

I stopped at several places along the way. I had rented a book from the cruise’s library, which pointed out several Lookout’s to bypass, and a few to make sure not to miss. I read to drive up Waimea Drive, not Kokee Road (good advice, as signs on the road do steer you towards Kokee Road which is not as scenic.) The Kokee Museum has a 3D map of the area, offers information on hikes, and has a neat display showing the amounts of rain different areas of the canyon get. Based on what I read in this book, I decided my end goal was the Pu’u O Kila lookout. From the impression I got, most people don’t head this far along the drive, yet it has the most beautiful view of the Na Pali coast when compared to the other lookouts.

To be honest, I’m not 100% sure if I did find Pu’u O Kila lookout. I think I did though, based on the description in the book, some limited internet research, and the fact that I was at the end of the road and I couldn’t go any further. But the only sign at the top said, “Wai’ale’ale. One of the wettest spots on earth. Elev 5140FT”

 

“Wai’ale’ale” means “overflowing water”. It’s one of the wettest spots on earth, averaging some 450 inches of rain a year. The view was spectacular. At first you walk along this wide dirt path, with some gorgeous green hills surrounding you. The amount of crevasses forming dozens of separate hills is amazing to look at. For me, since it was overcast and foggy, the sky was white and filled with puffy clouds. Slowly but surely as you walk down the path you start to get a glimpse this gorgeous blue color down below, revealing for the first time the fact that you are actually on the cusp of the island where land meets water. Unfortunately none of the pictures I took do it justice. You must see this in person for yourself:

Heading back down the mountain range I decided to take Kokee Road just to see what I missed. Nothing much. I did drive back along the coast, and decided to make two more pit stops. The second was a Starbucks which allowed to me to upload some photos to my Facebook to share with family and friends. But the first was much more rewarding.

I stopped at a small ice cream shop called “Lappert’s” in Hanapēpē. The night prior to Kauai I stumbled upon a blog about a woman who dreamed of visiting this island. If I remember correctly, she was an aspiring writer and for her honeymoon finally got her chance to visit it. She drove up Waimea Canyon, visited Glass Beach during sunset, and absolutely loved the flavor Tutu’s Anniversary from Lappert’s Ice Cream Shop. Her blog convinced me to make the pit-stop here, and boy was it worth it.

So I pulled into Lappert’s shop and drooled over all the flavors in front of me. The young girl behind the counter asked, “Would you like to try a flavor?” to which I responded, “Someone I know (yes, a lie) told me to try Tutu’s Anniversary” to which she nodded and smiled, as if she’d heard that dozens of times before. She gave me a tiny spoonful and less than one second after it hit my tongue I said, “I’ll take one of these!” Tutu’s Anniversary is coconut flavored ice cream mixed with raspberry and passion fruit sorbet. It is absolutely amazing!

Unfortunately this chain is only in Hawaii (it is not the same as the Lappert’s in the upper 48.) If you are ever on the islands, it is a must-try though.

When I got back to the ship Copilot and I had dinner, talked about our days, and hit the sack. We had one more day left on Kauai to which we went shopping at the Coconut Marketplace. More on that, our cruise back to Oahu, and the flight home next.

 

Hawaii Trip – Entry 3 : The Big Island

Tuesday, which is now Day 4 into our cruise, we landed on the Big Island of Hawai’i. On the eastern side of the island we docked in Hilo, and did a helicopter tour of Volcanoes National Park. It was a 55 minute ride above acres of silver and grey volcanic land. Our tour guide was loaded with information about the area, not only because it was his job, but because he was in the process of buying land there several months back before the eruption. The fact that people are still interested in living in this “danger zone” that constantly erupts sounded crazy to me.

It was interesting to hear and see how many people move back and start over, even after their homes have been destroyed. Our pilot showed us areas that had a 45 Minute Warning after an eruption, up to a 3 Day Warning. The picture below is within the 3 Day window, followed by a picture of the still-active area:

Overnight our ship traveled to Kona, the Coffee Capital of Hawai’i on the western side of the island. We woke up rather early and caught the first tender off the ship to the mainland. This was our first and only port where we had to be ferried to the shore.

From there we took a taxi to Seaquest for our Rafting and Snorkeling Adventure. Our tour guide Bill was very funny. At first his sense of humor caught us off-guard, but by the end we found him highly entertaining and a very nice guy. He, like many people in Kona, asked us if we were on our Honeymoon. It was rather weird (which will be explained shortly). When we told him “no”, he kept joking about how he was a Ship Captain and could marry us.

After heading out several miles and seeing a False Killer Whale, we stopped for some snorkeling. The area was very interesting. It had a diverse array of fish and coral. And the area was not as shallow as Hanauma Bay so my legs didn’t get scratched this time. Upon loading the raft Bill pointed out a hut that was on shore. Back in the day this hut was a “safety zone” for those who committed a crime. Crimes were punishable by death, but those who made it to this hut would be granted clemency by a clergyman. We then headed for our second destination.

Snorkeling Destination #2 was actually in front of Captain Cook’s memorial. We were not allowed ashore unless we had a permit, as this land is the only land in the United States that is owned by a foreign entity. In this case, Britain. Snorkeling here was cool as well. We must have seen two dozen different kinds of fish ranging in many different colors from yellows and blues to blacks and oranges. One of the lighter blue ones looked as if it was glowing. There was also an insane 100+ foot drop several yards out from the shore. Aside from more fish and coral, I also saw my first eel in person (2nd picture below).

After snorkeling we headed back to Kona where Copilot was excited to drink some Kona coffee. We also had a delicious lunch at The Fish Hopper. She had the Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi. I forget what I had. I remember the Sangria was good though… ;) After lunch we did some souvenir shopping and yet again, sale clerks asked us if we were on our honeymoon.

So after a fun day in town we then went back to our ship, showered, and relaxed on our private balcony. That’s where I Popped the Question…


And she said, “Yes!”

At least we think she said “yes”. We were both so nervous we could barely recollect what happened afterward. She had always wanted an Engagement Shoe, based off one of her favorite Movies / TV shows Sex and the City. So I bought her both an engagement shoe and a ring. We then made a few phone calls to our immediate families followed by a nice dinner on-board the ship. This is why it was crazy that all those people in Kona were asking us the Honeymoon question. I guess it was a sign…

Our next and last island is Kauai, home of Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast. I’ll write more about that in my next entry.

 

Hawaii Trip – Entry 2 : Maui

The second island on our trip was Maui. Upon doing my research of this island the two main attractions are “The Road to Hana” and the historic town of Lahaina. On the morning of our first day here, Copilot and I woke up a little later than we’d have liked to. It might have been because it was following our first night sleeping at sea, and we had to become accustomed to the slight rocking of the ship. (This was only a problem our first night, and our last.) We had breakfast aboard the ship, to which we saw this beautiful rainbow (pictured left) appear during our meal.

After breakfast we departed for the “The Road to Hana”. The Hana Highway, as it’s known to locals, is a roughly 60 mile windy road that has dozens of one-lane bridges along the way. There are stops for waterfalls, gardens, beaches, vendors selling local foods such as pineapples, coconuts, and banana bread, and even cave tours. The cave tour we did, which was listed on the popular Road to Hana (R2H) CD, was not all that spectacular. I’ve done others here in the Upper 48 that were much more exciting.

Amongst the most memorable of our stops were:

- The Garden of Eden around Mile Marker 10. This is a botanical garden and arboretum containing some pretty exotic plants.

- The Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park. Mile Marker 32. This is a great place to stop for a break and have a picnic.

- The Seven Sacred Pools (O’heo Gulch) hike. This was around Mile Marker 42. It requires a four mile hike (Round Trip) and was moderately steep. At the time I went it was pretty muddy and wet. Anyone going should allocate about 2 hours for this journey. The last 1/4 mile at the top is totally worth it though. First you start walking along a boardwalk surrounded by bamboo trees that are thick and only a few inches apart. As the wind swept through they clanked together making a very mystical sound. As you approach the waterfall you can hear it and feel the mist in the air. The following pictures will not do it justice:

I really wanted to drive around the whole island and do what was Beyond Hana, so at Hertz I upgraded to a Jeep which allowed me to continue on the unpaved portion of the drive. By “allow” I mean gave me the capability, because it technically voided my contract by driving on the unpaved roads. But one of the ladies behind the counter “encouraged” me to see what was beyond Hana, without actually telling me to drive beyond it of course. In my opinion the 15 miles before and after Hana were the best of the trip.

A -  (covered by F) : Kahului
B – Garden of Eden
C – Black Sand Beach
D – Hana
E – The Sacred Pools
F – Kahului

I would have liked to see Charles Lindbergh’s grave, which is along the route beyond Hana, but didn’t get the opportunity. Maybe next time. ;) Although Maui may look small based on the map above, that trip took about 12 hours. According to Wikipedia : “the highway is very winding and narrow and passes over 59 bridges, 46 of which are only one lane wide. There are approximately 620 curves along Route 360 from just east of Kahului to Hāna.” Not to mention we drove an additional 62 miles beyond Hana back to Kahului via the southern route, with a huge chunk of it that was not paved.

The second day in Maui was Copilot’s day. After an exhaustingly long day of road tripping we laid low and stayed on the ship. We went tanning by the pool, and ate all three meals on board. It was a very low-key and relaxing day, something I think we both needed, especially Copilot. In my next entry I’ll talk about our trip to The Big Island, which involved a helicopter tour of a volcano in Hilo and a raft and snorkel excursion in Kona (as well as coffee and shopping for Copilot of course!)

Hawaii Trip – Entry 1 : Honolulu

On Wednesday, July 4th, Copilot and I flew into Honolulu from JFK airport. We managed to find a direct flight which sounds astonishing to everyone I tell. The flight was around 10 hours long, maybe a little less. Between my iPhone, iPad, laptop, and two Time Magazines I managed fairly well. We landed around 3pm Aleutian Standard Time, picked up our rental car, and headed for the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel. After checking in, having a delicious lunch consisting of Sushi, and walking around “the strip”, we called it a night around 8pm. (We’re old, I know…) But we were both beat from the long day. It worked out well though because for the remainder of the trip we woke up between 5 and 6, just in time for sunrise.

The next morning I took a surfing lesson at Waikiki Beach. Being that this was my first time, I had a lot of fun. The waves were constant, and rather large. It made for great surfing but was very taxing on my upper arms and chest. It felt great to stand up on that board and surf over the crystal blue water. Of the two hour lesson though, I probably only “participated” for an hour to hour and a half. It was just so draining on my upper body. After getting back to the hotel I took a long nap.

Because of this we arrived at Pearl Harbor rather late, and missed free tickets for the USS Arizona and entrance onto the USS Missouri due to how late it was. We did walk around the Memorial and visit the museums. It was interesting to see how much planning was involved in the attack (they had images and discussion logs from the Japanese) and how much detail we know of the bombings down to the very minute.

That evening, we went to the Top of Waikiki for dinner. It was a circular, rotating restaurant similar to the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. Our timing was perfect because as our view rotated from the city to the ocean, the sun set. It was absolutely beautiful. The purplish-red sky faded to black behind the white clouds, all over the brilliantly blue ocean.

Friday, as the sun rose, Copilot and I took a short hike up Diamond Head Crater. It was a somewhat steep ascent up, but not too bad. The views from the top were gorgeous. As you look inland you see green hills scattered with houses, while looking northwest provides you with a beautiful view of Honolulu. Directly west was the ocean, providing some wind to cool you down. The more I explored Oahu the more I appreciated this island. In the afternoon Copilot went back to Waikiki and the strip for some excellent shopping, while I hit up Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.

The preserve is known for its beautiful beach and amazing sea life while snorkeling. To enter you have to watch a 9 minute video on how to keep the preserve clean and be environmentally conscious of the reef. I spent an hour or two wandering the waters, seeing all kinds of underwater life. It was quiet hard to not touch the coral because much of the bay is shallow. I actually cut up my legs just trying to unsuccessfully stay above it. Besides the exotic fish and vegetation, I also saw a sea lion and other snorkelers saw a turtle.

In the evening we drove up to the North Shore to the Polynesian Cultural Center hoping to see a native luau. Unfortunately they were sold out of tickets, so we did the “Island Feast” and “Ha” show. Personally, I don’t know if I would recommend this to anyone on a short trip. If you’re on Oahu for a week or more, maybe. The feast was a not-so-good buffet. The show, although having a great ending (which involved fire!), felt repetitive. What we did enjoy was walking around the grounds and checking out the 7 Native Lands. We watched a native Samoan teach us how to make fire with just sticks, climb a palm tree to grab a coconut, break it to extract water, and make “milk” from the interior white shell (I’m not sure what this is called). He was very informative and really funny. We also attended a lesson on how to hula dance. Apparently what Hollywood portrays in most movies is wrong! Go figure… What movies and TV shows normally show is the more sexual Tahitian dancing, not Hawaiian hula dancing. Hula dancing is slower, more symbolic, and originally meant to be performed inside temples to praise their Gods.

On Saturday, July 7th, we boarded our ginormous cruise ship, the Pride of America, by Norwegian Cruise Lines. Deployed in 2005, the ship has 15 decks and holds 2,500 passengers. It leaves out of Honolulu and stops in Maui for 2 days, then the Big Island of Hawai’i for two days (one in Hilo and one in Kona), then Kauai for two days, then back to Honolulu. Most of the cruising is done overnight, so the passengers really get to enjoy life on the islands. In my next entry I’ll talk about the trip to Maui and driving the beautifully lush Road to Hana.

 

Fifty

So I did it. Copilot and I landed here in Honolulu a few hours ago, completing my goal of visiting all 50 states before my 30th birthday! Here are two shots from our hotel room this afternoon:

As much as I hate to admit it… I’m off to bed. It’s only 8:30pm here in Honolulu, but my body is telling me it’s 2:30am (EST). And what’s a shame is that it’s party central here. I have an ocean-view hotel room overlooking Waikīkī Beach and there’s music blaring, people cheering, and fireworks going off celebrating the 4th of July.

I’m probably going to sit out on the balcony a little longer and take it all in, but then it’s off to bed. I have a surfing lesson at 9am! Woohoo!

Daily Stuff 7/2/12

So… not much to really write. Let’s see what I got:

HERB GARDEN

The herbs are doing well. I replaced the infected Rosemary with a new organic one from Adam’s Fairacre Market. I couldn’t bring myself to buy the genetically modified hybrids at Hell’s Depot. The two herbs I’m worried about are the Parsley and Lemon Verbena. I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but Copilot bought some verbena and her mother gave us some Chocolate Mint. They are both in separate pots outside the planter. The Parsley leaves are turning yellow kinda fast, and the Lemon Verbena doesn’t look as healthy as it should. The weather here has been rather hot recently. I may not be watering them enough.

We also picked up a tomato plant which I’m not sure how it’s doing. I started trimming dying branches to give all the nutrients to healthier ones. We finally got our first growth this week. I don’t know if this is a late bloomer or if it typically takes this long:

REFINANCE

Still waiting. No new news. But a commenter on the blog said they finally made some headway. So that’s good news for the public. Hopefully HARP refinances with LPMI become easier. I think the general public needs to wake up and realize how much refinancing can help them (and the economy). I have two friends at work who purchased homes right after me, I hope they look into this. It would save them a lot of money.

I think my Rate Lock created a deadline in mid August. Hopefully the bank speeds things up and we close soon. It’s not like they could blame me for slacking. They’ve had all my paperwork for over a month. Plus rates are still low, if not lower than when I locked. Then I could buy my Mazda CX-5!

HAWAII

So our travel agent is crazy! I’ve gotten repeat e-mails, I’ve been told I could do excursions I really can’t, she booked two rental cars for me for the same day, and she almost booked 2 grand in excursions when I was simply asking her opinion about them. She’s a friend of Copilot’s mom, and a very sweet lady, but I just feel like there’s a middle-man involved that doesn’t need to be. Especially since I enjoy researching this stuff, and now with the internet at our fingertips, I think travel agents are only good for a certain clientele. If you are someone who has no time (or will) to research when and where to go, they could serve a purpose.

Anyway, there’s only 1 day left. I’m excited!

Researching Hana

So I’m researching the “Road to Hana” in Maui so I know when and where to stop. I came across this on a website:

“The Road to Hana, also known as the Hana Highway, is one of Maui’s most popular attractions. You can either drive this adventurous road yourself, or book a tour with one of the local activity companies….. Even though this legendary road is just 52 miles (long from Kahului to Hana), it takes around three hours and can be quite a challenge to navigate. That’s because it is narrow and winding. There are about 620 curves and 59 bridges, 46 of which are one-lane bridges. It can take a toll on one’s nerves, especially if one is used to driving on wide, multiple-lane highways. That’s why the Road to Hana is also known as the “Divorce Highway,” because it has caused quite a few arguments among some couples.

Fuuuuuudge!

On a brighter note, I found this cool little Google Maps Easter Egg during my research:

 

Hawaii Itinerary

T-Minus fourteen days until I leave for Hawaii. I can’t wait. Copilot’s already accusing me of booking to many excursions. ;) I think she’d rather lie on the beach all day whereas I’m ready to hike volcanoes and go snorkeling.

But since she is right 95% of the time (at least that’s what she tells me) I compiled a list of the days and islands we’ll be on, along with the excursions I’ve already booked:

DAY 1 – JULY 4TH – Honolulu – Land in Honolulu
DAY 2 – JULY 5TH – Honolulu – Surfing Lesson
DAY 3 – JULY 6TH – Honolulu -
DAY 4 – JULY 7TH – Honolulu – Board Cruise Ship
DAY 5 – JULY 8TH – Kahului – Drive the Road to Hana
DAY 6 – JULY 9TH -  Kahului -
DAY 7- JULY 10TH – Hilo – Helicopter / Volcano Tour
DAY 8 – JULY 11TH – Kona – Rafting and Snorkeling Adventure
DAY 9 – JULY 12TH – Kauai – Tour Waimea Canyon
DAY 10 – JULY 13TH – Kauai – Scuba Diving
Day 11 – JULY 14TH – Honolulu – Depart for New York

I don’t think it’s that bad at all! Most of these excursions are 2-4 hours long. The only two long days will be driving the Road to Hana and possibly touring Waimea Canyon. As for Honolulu, we’ll be staying at a  hotel for three days before we board the cruise ship, so I figure here are some things we can do:

In Honolulu:
Polynesian Cultural Center (Attend a Luau)
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Pearl Harbor
Diamond Head (1 Mile Hike up the crater)
Waikiki Beach

Other Possibilities include:
Plantation Village
Koko Head Crater

Then I compiled a short list of things on the other islands I might like to see:

In Maui:
Visit town of Lahaina (Do after Road to Hana?)

In Hilo:
Waipio Valley – Black Sand Beach

In Kauai:
Na’Pali Coast

It may seem like a lot to some people, but this is possibly a once in a lifetime event so…. I’m going to make the most of it. Luckily I think Copilot found the best way to travel all the islands of Hawaii. The cruise was a good find by her. Rather than packing bags and hopping on planes, this ship will take us everywhere we need to go and provide a set place to sleep every night. I’m so excited for this trip!