Hawaiian Islands 2004
June 21st-July 2nd, 2004
Hawaii is a destination that most people consider their dream vacation, and the eight of us are no exception. When it came time for Dauster, Karabeener, Butchwacker (BW), Kat, Cupcake, and Berg to pick the one place in the world that they wanted to visit after graduating from college, the choice was unanimous---The Hawaiian Islands. Pick, Cupcake, and I (Weisey) had been to Hawaii in 1999, but we had no qualms about going back! Plans were set in motion to make this dream a reality. The hard part was juggling the schedules of eight people into a timeframe we could all agree upon. Dates were chosen, islands were agreed upon, hotels and flights were booked, and in the end Kat and Cupcake were, unfortunately, unable to commit to this journey. But for the rest of us it was full steam ahead!
Choosing what islands to visit out of this magnificent chain is no easy task, but after much debating we agreed to explore just two islands…The Big Island and Maui. We booked through Pleasant Hawaii and were very pleased with their services. Our package included airfare from the mainland, two hotel rooms on each island, a rental van on each island, and the inter-island flight. The hotels we chose on each island were outstanding! On The Big Island we stayed at the Ohana Keauhou Beach Resort, and on Maui our home was the Maui Prince Hotel. Both facilities were absolutely incredible, each had beautiful rooms and grounds, and prime snorkeling right off the beach in front of the resort. We couldn’t have chosen better places to stay.
The Big Island of Hawaii was our first destination and when we landed at the Kona airport we were welcomed with a traditional lei greeting. The fragrant blooms held promise of tropical adventures and embodied the spirit of Aloha. Our trip was off to a great start! Pick and BW shuttled off to pick up our van, while the rest of us stood guard over a mountain of luggage. The logistics of traveling with six people can be a bit daunting, but we had no doubts that we could make everything work. Our confidence was not unfounded, and when the van rolled up we expertly loaded the bags into the back. The third seat was not a place you wanted to be while transporting the luggage, Karabeener and Dauster can attest to that fact, but that leg of the trip was short and we were soon at our hotel. John the bellman, our favorite person at the Ohana, whisked our bags off to our rooms and kindly filled us in on all the great places to explore on the island. We couldn’t wait to visit some of Hawaii’s wonders, but first we needed food! We headed for our favorite restaurant, Outback Steakhouse, where we had a great meal. Now it was time to crash. The flight from the Midwest to Hawaii is always a tiring one, but this time the flight was even more stressful…let me tell you a little story. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 7:30am on June 21st; everyone knew this many months in advance. As always, the night before the flight we were all excitedly phoning each other making sure we had all the times and schedules planned out just right. Everything was going according to schedule until we received a frantic phone call from BW…Beener was nowhere to be found, in fact she was lost in the Caribbean! None of us had any idea that she had moved up an August trip to Grand Cayman to the week before our Hawaii trip! This would have been no problem at all, except that her flight home to NYC was cancelled. The two day leeway she had given herself to arrive home and leave for Hawaii was now down to hours. There was no way she was going to make it to NYC, drive back to Ohio, and make it to the airport in time to depart. She had to ditch the flight to NYC and re-route to Columbus from Grand Cayman. This would put her in Columbus at around midnight on the day of our flight. Not much time for rest, especially after Pick discovered that our 7:30am flight had been CANCELLED and rescheduled for 5:50am…thank God she checked the airline’s website late that night! Frantic calls were put out to everyone to get them the new flight info, and at this late hour (around 11:30pm) it was determined that we might as well not even sleep. We would have to be at the airport at 4am to check in for the flight, and most of us live an hour away! But more pressing than the sleep issue was the question as to whether or not Beener was going to make the flight! Turns out we all made it to the airport in time, but Beener had no clean clothes. Her luggage from Grand Cayman was now her luggage for Hawaii! That was one crazy day!! But enough about that mess lets get on to exploring Hawaii.
We woke up the next morning refreshed and ready to explore. Our first priority was to check out the snorkeling at our resort; especially since Berg had never even been to the ocean before! He couldn’t have picked a better initiation into the world of water sports than Hawaii. Kahaluu Bay Beach Park, with an easy beach entry for snorkelers, adjoins the Ohana resort, and on the other side of the hotel you will find ocean tide pools that shelter reef fish and sea turtles. Pick, BW, and I awoke early to a beautiful vista outside our lanai (balcony). Below us in the tide pools we could see several large sea turtles sunning themselves on rocks. We quickly showered and headed down to investigate the tide pools. The pools were full of life; we discovered sea cucumbers, Moorish idols, crabs, tang, and of course the sea turtles. After wading around for awhile we decided to head back to the resort to join the others for breakfast, then it was off to snorkel. Pick and I were the only ones who had snorkeled before, so it took some getting used to for everyone else. Berg picked up on it quite quickly, but Dauster was a little freaked out, which surprised us because she is normally such a daredevil…too much of shark week maybe? BW, despite her fear of water, did amazingly well, and so did Beener…once they finally got in the water they stayed together and encouraged each other. I think everyone was mesmerized by the beauty of the underwater world. The coral, even at this popular beach park, was in excellent condition, and the fish were abundant and tame. I think we saw just about every fish on the fish chart that morning, including the unofficial state fish the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a…trigger fish to us haoles. We spent about an hour floating in the crystal clear, azure waters enjoying the marine life, but our day of exploring was just getting started. Next on our list was Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
According to the Eruption Update, Madame Pele was putting on quite a show at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and we wanted to get there before the fireworks stopped. But along the way we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit The Place of Refuge where ancient heiaus, and tiki statues dot the landscape. This is also an excellent place to view basking Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles; you can even snorkel with the turtles at this location. We decided to save that for another day, and continued on towards the volcano. The sky was starting to look like rain, and soon it was misting, not what we wanted to see before setting off to hike to a lava flow. Luckily, the rain was short-lived and our hike was fantastic. To see the lava entering the ocean was quite a thrill, you can’t imagine how powerful of a force it actually is until you see it for yourself. The trek over jagged lava rock, across steaming ground and oozing lava flows, is one spectacular hike! If you would like to read a detailed description of our adventure please visit Natural Born Hikers and look for the Banana Flow entry.
Wednesday was a lounge day. We spent our time shopping in Kona and sight seeing around the town. We had lunch at a most excellent restaurant called Dirty Jake’s where they have awesome burgers and great atmosphere, definitely stop by if you are in Kona. Later that night we stopped in the Kona Brewery for some pizza and brews. Dauster and BW ordered the beer sampler and they recommend trying as many of the micro-brews as possible!
No trip to The Big Island is complete without a visit to the Captain Cook monument. This is without a doubt the most fantastic snorkeling anywhere! The coral formations are huge and colorful, and the marine life is diverse and thriving, and getting there is half the fun! All you need is a sense of adventure and you will be ready to create some unforgettable memories. There are several ways to get to the monument; you can hike (this means carrying all of your snorkel gear-so we said no thanks), or you can take a guided tour on a boat (this means snorkeling off a cattle boat with tons of other people- so we said no thanks), for us there was only one choice, and that was to rent kayaks and cruise Kealakekua Bay ourselves. To do this we needed to rent three double kayaks and attach them to the top of the van. We stopped by Kealakekua Kayak & Dive and got just what we needed, plus they were super friendly and great at loading all the gear. Now all we had to do was unload the kayaks and successfully launch them into the bay. Thank goodness we had stopped at Daylight Donuts for a healthy breakfast! The breakfast sandwiches they serve and their to-die-for donuts gave us the energy we needed to hoist those kayaks off the van’s roof and down into the bay. Once again, most of our group had no experience kayaking (only Pick and I had kayaked before), but that didn’t stop us from achieving our goal. We paired up into teams (Berg and Dauster, Pick and BW, Weisey and Beener) and set out in our kayaks. Everyone took to the sport very quickly, especially BW! Together with Pick the two of them glided effortlessly across the bay, they even dubbed themselves Team Mahi Mahi. When we were half way across Kealakekua Bay we spotted some resident Spinner Dolphins. We energetically discussed the possibility of swimming with wild dolphins, and with little time to waste Berg decided to jump in. Unfortunately, the dolphins had disappeared. He climbed back into the kayak and we headed on over to the monument, all the while keeping an eye out for the return of the pod. Once at the monument it takes a little maneuvering and skill to land the kayak without dumping. Each of our teams managed to get their kayak up onto the beach with no trouble. We tied the boats to some trees, grabbed our snorkel gear, and hiked to the white obelisk that marks the site of Captain Cook’s death (FYI this is actually British soil) and prepared to enter the ocean. This is not as easy as you might think, the entry and exit at this particular spot can be quite difficult, the shore consists of jagged lava rock and exposed coral. The waves, as waves are known to do, consistently crash onto the rocks making your timing very important. We found that the easiest way to get in the water is to drop off of the sea wall in front of the monument; the drop is about 3 feet but much easier than fighting the waves from shore. If only you could exit via this route as well, but all worries are soon forgotten when you put your head under the water. Beautiful tropical fish swim about everywhere and the coral formations are spectacular.
As mentioned before, exiting Captain Cook can be dangerous if your timing isn’t just right, and unfortunately Karabeener was just a few seconds off. Before she could manage to get herself prepared to exit the water, a wave caught her and slammed her into the rough shoreline. Fortunately, she was able to swim back out to the outside of the sea wall where some people helped pull her out of the water. Luckily, she only scraped up her hip from the accident, but it was nonetheless a very scary experience.
On our way back across the bay we once again spotted the spinner dolphins. This time Pick, myself, and Berg wasted no time jumping into the water. As soon as we put on our snorkel and mask and lowered our heads into the ocean we could hear the dolphins! Then it wasn’t long until they were all around us! You could see them swimming below you, turning over on their backs and exposing their white bellies while they looked up at you, it was amazing! The entire pod stayed around for several minutes, and a couple of the dolphins would swim right along with us only an arm’s length away. It was just incredible to see them looking right into your eyes! A few even performed some acrobatics by jumping right out of the water and executing some great spin maneuvers…now we know where they got their name! One even jumped out of the water just a few feet in front of Berg. I simply can’t explain how awesome this experience was, it is one that we will never forget!
We rounded out our day in the ocean with a stop at The Place of Refuge for some more snorkeling. As mentioned before, this is a great place to swim with turtles. As soon as we entered the water, and I am talking just wading off the shore, there were at least five huge turtles swimming along without a care in the world. After we side-stepped around the curious turtles to an area where it was deep enough to get into the water, we swam out to the deeper part of the lagoon into some better visibility. Well, at least three of us did. Dauster, Beener, and BW were a little freaked by the huge, friendly sea turtles. Every time they attempted to snorkel a turtle would swim up and say hello by meeting them face to face, and when you aren’t used to snorkeling this can be a little unnerving. For us it was just plain hilarious! We could hear them screaming and laughing from clear out in the lagoon. Finally Dauster was able to evade her new reptilian friends long enough to swim into the deeper water. While out in the lagoon we swam with sea turtles, Moorish idols, yellow tang, rectangular triggerfish, orange-spined tang, and even a Picasso triggerfish. There were also wicked coral gardens and canyons that looked perfect for sleeping sharks…shhhh, don’t tell Dauster! We ended our adventurous day with a huge meal at; you guessed it, Outback Steakhouse.
The next morning we woke up early for our one pre-booked trip. Today we would be joining the crew of Dolphin TLC for an excursion with wild dolphins. We booked with a company called Dolphin Journeys, and our hopes were high that this encounter would be just as spectacular as our Kealakekua Bay adventure. Our crew for the trip was Captain Nancy Sweatt (Nancy has an amazing life story and you can read about her on their Dolphin Journeys website), first mate Alicia, and videographer Jim. Our trip started off with quite a show. The dolphins were once again performing their phenomenal acrobatics, and everyone was eager to get in and swim with them, except for BW. Butchwacker has quite a fear of the ocean, but to her credit she wanted to try and overcome her phobia. Once we all got in the water, BW started to panic a little, but Alicia was great. She stayed with her and helped calm her down. Unfortunately, the dolphins only briefly visited with us, swimming far below us in the deep blue water. At least everyone did get to see them, and we can now all say we swam with wild dolphins. The absence of dolphins put a slight damper on the trip, but we had a good day lying in the sun out on a beautiful boat with a friendly and energetic crew. We were of course very thankful for our encounter the day before, and it made us realize just how lucky we were to have had the dolphins swim with us in the bay.
Later that evening Pick and I drove to Waipio and Polulu Valley for a short hike into the canyons. The cliffs of Waipio are stunning, and from the lookout you can see towering waterfalls cascading over the precipice straight into the ocean below. From Polulu we watched the sunset turn the sky and water a beautiful shade of lavender. It was a beautiful way to end the day.
Saturday morning we spent our final hours on The Big Island at Ohana snorkeling in the bay. Later that afternoon we caught our flight to Maui. We were all ready to begin the second leg of our Hawaii adventure on Maui. We arrived at the Maui Prince Hotel and could not believe our eyes! This hotel is outstanding! The grounds are remarkable, and there is an atrium in the center that just makes you say “Wow!” The atrium is complete with a tropical garden, waterfall, tulip trees, a koi pond, and even some resident night herons. We chose the Maui Prince due to its proximity to a famed snorkel spot called turtle town, but we never expected such luxury. That night we settled into our rooms after an Italian feast at Antonio’s.
The beach, Maluaka Beach, in front of the Maui Prince was perfect. The sand is soft and the ocean is gorgeous. Turtle town is indeed right off their beach, and it is an easy swim from shore. Just look for the numerous boats anchored off the beach and you will know right where to go. Turtle town is so named because of the many sea turtles that gather in the area to be cleaned by fish, hence the term “cleaning station”. The coral is also fantastic, and there is even an arch that you can swim under. We spent the morning exploring the area, working up an appetite for lunch. When we were good and hungry we drove to Lahaina to cruise the area for a restaurant. We ended up at “Cheeseburger in Paradise” where I had one of the most incredible burgers I have ever tasted. If you are a burger aficionado you have got to try this place! After lunch we walked around town shopping in the gift shops and galleries. That evening we headed to The Hyatt for a luau called “Drums of the Pacific”, we were all ready for some Kailua pork and never ending mai-tais. The luau was pretty good, but not near as good as the one we attended on Kauai in 1999. The entertainment at “Drums of the Pacific” was much better, since it incorporated fire, but the food was not nearly as good and I didn’t like the fact that you couldn’t go up and get food or beverages easily. A waiter took orders for drinks, as opposed to an open bar, and the food was served table by table, rather than buffet style. Nevertheless, it was an amazing evening. Everyone who goes to Hawaii should go to at least one luau.
Back at the Maui Prince we stopped at the bar before heading to our rooms for the night. BW bought me a Blue Hawaiian, since I was the DD (Designated Driver) for the luau, and Dauster and I had a race to see who could finish our drink the fastest. Being that I am a total lightweight she had no problem kicking my ass, but I did give her a pretty good run for her money. Watching the competitive side of Dauster emerge, even in an inebriated state, was one of the most hilarious things I have seen! When I pointed out that I was actually drinking my cocktail faster then she was, well, you have never seen someone drink so fast! I laughed so hard that I cried…good times.
Early Monday morning Pick and I walked from the hotel past Maluaka Beach to Oneuli “Black Sand” Beach in order to hike a trail called Puu Olai “Red Hill” where you can access tide pools and great views of the ocean, and the crescent shaped crater of Molikini. Detailed trail descriptions and photos can be found on our hiking website Natural Born Hikers. We also stopped at Makena State Park for a stroll along Oneloa “Big” Beach. This wide stretch of sand is a great place for a morning walk.
Later that morning we all jumped in the van and headed for Haleakala National Park. Our first stop was at Leleiwi Lookout where you can get great views of the massive crater, and where it is possible to witness a phenomenon called The Brocken Specter. A Brocken Specter, or Glory, happens when the clouds are low, just below you, and the sun is behind you at just the right angle, casting your shadow onto the clouds. The glory is official when that shadow is ringed by a rainbow. Our timing was almost perfect on this one, but not quite. We could see a partial rainbow ring, but no projection of our shadows onto the clouds…so close! Our next stop was the summit of Haleakala, Red Hill, at 10,023 feet. On our way there we performed a little experiment. While down in Kihei we stopped and bought a bag of chips so that we could watch the air pressure increase as we drove up to the high altitude summit, and sure enough the bag kept getting bigger and bigger the higher we drove, until finally it exploded! Try it for yourself; it was pretty cool to watch. Another thing to watch for while on the summit is the native silversword. This plant is unique to Hawaii and its striking silver color is a real contrast to the multi-hued dark sands of the crater.
On our way down from the summit we stopped to hike a portion of Sliding Sands Trail. If you only do one hike at Haleakala choose this fantastic trail. The trail takes the hiker deep into the painter’s palette of the crater. The colors of the landscape within the crater are astounding. Red, orange, brown, rust, yellow, green, gray, and black are just a sampling of the colors you will encounter in this landscape. Just remember, the further you hike into the crater, the harder it will be to hike back out. Don’t let those beautiful colors lure you too deep into the crater! In addition to the magnificent scenery along this trail you might also see some pretty amazing wildlife. Keep an eye out for nene geese, chukar, and pheasants. On our hike we encountered a chukar with a brood of chicks. The further we hiked into the crater the more Dauster started to get a strong sense of Grand Canyon deja-vu, so we decided we had better not push our luck by hiking too far!
No trip to Maui is complete without driving The Road to Hana. We got up early and set out on the long and winding road, our thoughts focused on some of the many highlights we would see along the way. At the top of our priority list was to hike as many trails as possible on our journey, especially the beautiful Pipiwai Trail. As mentioned before, you can visit our hiking website for detailed descriptions of each trail including: The Four Falls of Na’ili’ili-haele, Waikani Falls (the 3 bears), Red Sand Beach, Lower Puohokamoa Falls, Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach, and, of course, The Pipiwai Trail. The scenery and adventure found along this incredible road are unmatched, we spent the entire day exploring all that The Road to Hana has to offer. A word of advice; don’t be scared into turning around at Hana, in our experience any car can easily make the entire drive along the windswept side of Haleakala.
Our final full day on Maui was spent exploring the southern part of the island, in particular the La Perouse Bay area. This windy, jagged coastline has fantastic scenery. Deep blue ocean waves capped in white go on for as far as the eye can see, and treacherous trails lead through jagged aa lava flows out to the shoreline. In addition to hiking, kayaking and dolphin watching are also popular pastimes in La Perouse. The area that we decided to hike is encompassed by the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve on Cape Kinau. The Southern Trail offers an up close and personal experience with the extremely rough hiking conditions created by the1790 lava flow, and it also affords spectacular views of the Maui coast. Check it out if you can, but be very careful while hiking…one misstep here and you will be torn to shreds. After an enjoyable morning exploring the area we headed up to Maalaea Bay for some surfing. Berg, Dauster, and Pick hit the waves with confidence after being schooled by the great surfer, Mango Manny. They were each able to get right up on the board and ride the waves into shore. They looked like pros! I was very proud of all of them for being so brave and for performing so well.
July 1st was our last day on the island and we spent it totally lounging on the beach. We scooped up a few beach chairs and baked ourselves in the sun, a little too much I might add, until it was time to leave for the airport. We couldn’t have had a better vacation. Hawaii is indeed a dream destination, and I am sure that we will all return someday, but until then we have our memories of ten fun-filled days with great friends. Each adventure that we embark upon together brings us closer to each other, and Hawaii was no exception. I know we will all treasure the experience for the rest of our lives. Enjoy our photo gallery!
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