Hawaii Trip, Day 10: Honolulu Sights, Manoa Falls

Today we went into Honolulu to see some of the sights downtown. We went to a number of palaces downtown, such as King Kamehameha’s palace. We also found a really cool banyan tree to swing on!. But mostly, it was your basic sightseeing. Nothing super amazing – but it was neat to learn some more about Hawaii’s history. From Honolulu we drove over to Manoa Falls.

Manoa Falls is the second most popular hike on Oahu, after Diamond Head. This hike will take you through some intense jungle, which at times will make you think you are in Jurassic Park, or maybe Lost (which makes sense, since both were/are filmed in Hawaii). At least that is  how we felt – we kept jokingly warning everyone around: “don’t go into the tall grass!”. The falls itself – eh, it was okay. In 2002 there was a large rock slide that brought 30 tons of rocks down from 600 feet up the mountain, and the base of the falls is now littered with that rubble. When we were there, the waterfall itself was barely more than a trickle, leisurely coming down the cliff face. This waterfall is very tall – we figured it had to be at least 70-80 feet. Swimming is “prohibited”, which basically means that most people do it anyways, but you may get fined if caught. Also, not a place to jump into the water, since the pool is very shallow, and you can’t see the bottom. Also there really isn’t anywhere to jump from. Since we did this hike at the very end of the trip, and had seen so much cool stuff, we were not really “wowed” by this hike or the falls, but it was a nice easy trek (we all did it in sandals).

Hawaii Trip, Day 9: Hanauma Bay Snorkeling, Waikiki Night

Hanauma Bay is the defacto spot for snorkeling on Oahu. It is a designated nature preserve, and is nestled in a volcanic crater on the southeast coast. It is an incredibly popular tourist destination, and as a result is always extremely crowded. As a result, there is unfortunately a lot of misuse and damage done to the coral by the millions of people that visit each year. When you first arrive, you are froced to watch a short video describing the bay and outlining a number of things you shouldn’t do – such as standing on the coral, feeding the fish, etc. The video was really cheesy, but informative – with most of the information conveyed in song (“I’m a fish and live in the sea – please don’t feed me”). Having grown up in Florida, and with what I feel to be a pretty good respect for the water and marine life, this was all old news to me, but it amazed me how many people still ignored the video and what it said. Continue reading Hawaii Trip, Day 9: Hanauma Bay Snorkeling, Waikiki Night

Hawaii Trip, Day 8: Ridge Hike, Lost Musings, and Pearl Harbor

Today everyone went on the Olomai Ridges Hike, which goes along a ridge between the mountains and the west coast. My legs were killing me from days of nonstop hiking (so it seemed to me), plus I wanted to just relax on the beach – I needed a one day vacation from my vacation! So the other guys, along with Daniel’s dad (who took they day off from work), went on the hike. The hike itself goes to three “peaks” along the ridge, and is very challenging. The first peak is the tallest of the three, but also the easiest to reach. The second and third are much more difficult, and there are many stories of people falling to their death while attempting it (seriously, apparently someone died the day before they went). They ended up doing just the first peak, and they had a lot of fun, and got some really great pictures. Continue reading Hawaii Trip, Day 8: Ridge Hike, Lost Musings, and Pearl Harbor

Hawaii Trip, Day 7: Rock Jumping at Waimea and Dole Plantation

For another excursion to the North Shore, we stopped at famous Waimea beach for some quality beach time. There is a large rock pillar thing that juts out from the beach into the water, and is a popular place for people to climb up and jump into the waves below. So of course everyone had to do that. I didn’t do it myself, but I had to get pictures and video of the others. On our way back south again from the North Shore, we stopped by the Dole Plantation, which is basically a tourist center for all things pineapple. Even though there are no longer pineapples grown on the island (Dole pulled out in the last few years and moved most of the growing to the Philippines), there is still this tourist spot to celebrate the now-former pineapple business in Hawaii. For the most part I would say it is a tourist trap, with overpriced souvenirs, a train ride through some staged pineapple fields (or something) and a huge garden maze in the shape of a pineapple. But since you will likely find yourself driving near the plantation (it is right off Kamehamea Hwy heading south from the north shore) , I suggest stopping at least once and getting “Dole Whip” – a pineapple soft-serve frozen dessert, that when covered in crushed pineapple, is sooo delicious after a day of hiking (or even lounging on the beach).

Hawaii Trip, Day 7: Rock Jumping at Waimea and Dole Plantation

For another excursion to the North Shore, we stopped at famous Waimea beach for some quality beach time. There is a large rock pillar thing that juts out from the beach into the water, and is a popular place for people to climb up and jump into the waves below. So of course everyone had to do that. I didn’t do it myself, but I had to get pictures and video of the others. On our way back south again from the North Shore, we stopped by the Dole Plantation, which is basically a tourist center for all things pineapple. Even though there are no longer pineapples grown on the island (Dole pulled out in the last few years and moved most of the growing to the Philippines), there is still this tourist spot to celebrate the now-former pineapple business in Hawaii. For the most part I would say it is a tourist trap, with overpriced souvenirs, a train ride through some staged pineapple fields (or something) and a huge garden maze in the shape of a pineapple. But since you will likely find yourself driving near the plantation (it is right off Kamehamea Hwy heading south from the north shore) , I suggest stopping at least once and getting “Dole Whip” – a pineapple soft-serve frozen dessert, that when covered in crushed pineapple, is sooo delicious after a day of hiking (or even lounging on the beach).

Hawaii Trip, Day 6: Makapu’u Lighthouse/Dragon’s Nostrils Hike, Bellows AFS

Our first stop of the day was the Makapu’u Lighthouse hike, which is at the island’s most eastern point. The hike itself follows a paved road that leads from the highway to the lighthouse. Parking was at the beginning of the road right off the highway. The basic hike itself is very easy, simply follow the mile or two of paved road to the lighthouse and enjoy the view. However, the true adventure of the hike is for the more adventurous. A little more than halfway up the road to the lighthouse, there is a lookout with a sign talking about humpback whales and a small trail that leads down to the ocean and the “Dragon’s Nostrils” – an outcrop of rock that is covered in tidepools with two large holes in the middle that roar and shoot water spray as the waves come in below the rocks. You will likely see people swimming the tidepools, just be careful and watch out for urchins! There is quite a scramble from the trail to the bottom, but it was worth it. This hike is a great opportunity to watch for humpback whales in the winter months.

On they way home, we stopped at Bellows Air Force Station to hang out at that beach. Bellows is a military station just north of Waimanalo on the eastern coast of Oahu, which acts as a vacation destination for military families. Since Daniel’s dad has a military ID, he was able to get us onto the base to check out their beaches. Being right on Waimanalo Bay, the beach was very nice (if not as nice as Kailua!). We bodysurfed for a bit – and I was definitley the best at it in our group! Even though the waves were pretty small, I would consistently ride a wave all the way into shore, leaving everyone else behind. Fun times.

Hawaii Trip, Day 5: Surfing, Pali Highway, and Ko Olina Snorkeling

The next morning, we went surfing with one of Daniel’s little brothers’ teachers, who lived right on the beach in Kailua. No super waves, but there was good body surfing to be had, and it was just so beautiful and we hadn’t gotten de-sensitized yet. After lunch (at Burger King, where the trash cans say “MAHALO” instead of “THANK YOU” – awesome), we went on another hike. Noticing a trend here? This time we hiked along the old Pali Highway, which hugs the East side of the mountains that run through the center of the island. More great views here, and a lot more jungle scenery than the pillbox hike. At one point we had to climb down a rope to go under the current Pali Highway, which was interesting. The hike starts at the aptly-named Pali Highway lookout, and ends at a golf course at the base of the mountains. It is hard to imagine cars, and especially large trucks sharing this tiny road! The road is only two lanes, and barely even that – with rock faces on one side and dizzying dropoffs on the other, no wonder they built a new highway to replace this one!

In the evening, we drove over to Ko Olina to go snorkeling. Ko Olina is a big resort on the south west corner of the island, but since all beaches in Hawaii are public, you can get into the resort and use their beached for free. Also, they have a big Luau at the resort, and bus people in from Honolulu for it and everything (big $$). However, the luau takes place right by the beach. So, you can stand on the public beach and watch the luau for free. No buffet, but whatever! We didn’t stick around for the luau, though, as we wanted to get some snorkeling in before dark. While we were out, we saw a number of sea turtles, which was cool – I had never seen them in the water before. We would go turtle watching sometimes home in Melbourne when they come ashore to lay their eggs (always being careful not to keep them from laying those eggs), but it was good to see them in the water. Unfortunately, there was some sort of film all over the coral, and it was overcast, so it wasn’t spectacular snorkeling.

Hawaii Trip, Day 4: Kaena Point Hike

Continuing with the hiking trend, this day was spent hiking Oahu’s westernmost point. We left Daniel’s house early, caravaning up the East coast, along the North Shore, and to the West side of the island. That drive was spectacular – it was so picturesque, with gorgeous beaches every 5 feet, and the awesome mountains everywhere. The highway that follows the coast all the way around the island ends before Kaena point, becoming a dirt path that you really don’t want to drive on unless you have four wheel drive and a lot of ground clearance. Continue reading Hawaii Trip, Day 4: Kaena Point Hike

Hawaii Trip, Day 3: Honolulu Part 1, Diamond Head


The next morning, we all crowded into Daniel’s parents’ van (from now on referred to as the hula bus), and drove over to Honolulu for the morning. We walked around a little downtown, and checked out Waikiki. Even at 9 in the morning, it was already really crowded, and honestly, the beach was not nearly as nice as Kailua beach. The highlight of the morning was lobster man – some guy sunbathing that had the worst sunburn we had ever seen. It was really really bad. After an hour or two, we drove over to Diamond Head, where we hiked up to the top. Diamond Head is the most popular hike on the island, and it is easy to see why – it is very close to Honolulu, you get a really good view of Honolulu and the West side of the island, and there is a lot of remnant WWII construction you get to scramble through. At the peak of Diamond Head, you actually climb through an old lookout installation, climbing steep stairs and crouching in concrete tunnels burrowed in the mountainside. To reach the absolute top, you actually crawl through the front of a pillbox and out onto its roof. And the views of downtown Honolulu and Waikiki beach are unmatched. This was a fun hike, and if you have little kids, the scramble through the pillbox at the end would likely be their favorite – but as the most popular hike on the island, it was very crowded, and very hot. Since you are on the “dry” side of the island and also in a volcanic crater, there is little in the way of foliage to shiel you from the powerful tropic sun. Bring water and a hat for this one.

We drove back home through Hawaii Kai, and along the East shore of the island. Once home, we enjoyed spending the rest of the day on the beach. Quite relaxing, if I do say so myself.