Monday, April 11, 2011

Hawaii 2011

Just got back from Hawaii! It was awesome. This was our second trip to Hawaii, and this time through we wanted to stay away from the guided tour things, and really strike out on our own. No bus to catch, no clock to watch. It mostly worked out...

We stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki on Oahu. I have no complaints about this hotel save one, and it is a complaint that I have for most of Hawaii. Hidden charges. We booked our hotel on a travel web site, and paid for the nights we were to stay, however after getting to the hotel, we learned that there was an additional $20 a night "resort fee." This fee was paid by everyone, and was a required fee. If it is paid by everyone, and is required, why not just include it in to the cost of the room? Why spring it on people when they get to their hotel? To give the appearance of being cheaper online. Bad move in my opinion.
Anyway the Sheraton Waikiki was great. In the middle of everything, great rooms, and an infinity edge pool. Lots and lots of fun!

View of Diamond Head Crater from the Infinity Edge pool.

Our first day we just decided to chill out. We landed in Honolulu about 2pm, and went to the hotel. They did not have a room ready for us, so we just chillaxed at the pool. Soon enough we were shown our room, and after a nap and a shower, we went out for a nice dinner.
If you like Japanese food, Honolulu is the best place to be, and still be in the United States. Waikiki has great restaurants and one of our favorites is the Suntory Restaurant. Great sashimi, sushi, nabe, tempura, noodle soups, you name it they have it, and it is all awesome. We came back to the hotel and watched the sun set on our first day.

The next day we decided to take a guided kayak tour around Kailua Bay. We had never kayaked before, so we thought that it would be an adventure. The weather was perfect, sunny, warm, and very little wind. We hooked up with our guide, Marcos, and he gave us the rundown of how to paddle the kayak. With this paddle instruction came a lesson on what to do if you flip your kayak... Very important lesson!

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The tour starts you off at Kailua beach and has you paddle out to the Mokulua Islands (the two islands on the right), specifically to a "secret" beach on Moku Nui Island (the larger island on the left). The beach isn't all that secret, You just can't get there by any other means than a shallow water boat or paddle board. So, you need to exert some people power to make it there. The beach is well known with the locals, and many parties go on there.
The trip out to Moku Nui island was relatively uneventful kayak wise, the water in the bay was like glass, and we were treated to sea turtles swimming by and other ocean life coming up to check us out.
As we continued out paddle out to Moku Nui island, there is a point where the natural reef ends, and the surf from the Pacific Ocean is let in. You know when you are in this area! The waves get large, and with Marco's coaching you learn how to turn your kayak's nose in to the big waves, then quickly turn back on course after you crest the wave. It is a very good work out!
We reached the secret beach and took some pictures, we were given the option of just hanging out on the beach or to do just a little exploring around the island. The group unanimously agreed to do some looking around the island.

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Moku Nui island with the "secret" beach.

On this island there is a deep tidal pool that, legend has it, was one of the Queens of Hawaii's special spot where only she could go.

Of course we jumped in to the pool. The water was very salty, and cold!

We walked back to our kayaks, and set off to Lanikai Beach for lunch. By now we were old hands at the kayak and felt like we could handle anything. I saw a large sea turtle off to the port side of our kayak, and pointed to it for my wife to see. We promptly flipped the boat. Because of our earlier instruction, we were able to right and re-board, before Marcos could come to our aid. I told everyone that the turtle had flipped our kayak, but it was really me!

We finally made it to Lanikai Beach had a lunch of sandwich wraps, and guava juice. After that, we went snorkeling in the clear water. There was a ton of fish to look at! The water was deceptively clear, looking like you could reach out and touch the bottom of the bay, when it was really 30 feet deep!
It was time to return to our launch point, and we set off from Lanikai Beach back to Kailua Beach. We managed to get to the end without incident, as I was banned from looking at sea turtles.
A really awesome adventure. Our guide was awesome, the weather was great. It was an all around great time.

We headed back to the hotel to hang out at the infinity pool for a while, and relax before dinner.

The next day we decided to get up early and take a walk up Diamond Head Crater. We did this hike the last time we were in Hawaii, and I wanted to do it again. The views from the top of the crater are breathtaking, and are unmatched anywhere in Oahu. The crater is about three miles away from our hotel, so it was a bit of a hike just to make it to the base, but... come on, we are fit people and walking the three miles was no big deal. The hike up the crater is a bit dangerous. There are steep steps and loose gravel the whole way up so you have to be careful. The view... The view is one of the best in the world, and well worth the effort to get there.

View from the top

From there, the wife wanted to get her hair cut, so I was left alone for a few hours. I had a beer, hung out at the beach, and had lunch at a great ramen restaurant. About that time the wife was done and it was time to do one of the things that Waikiki is very well known for... Shopping! The Waikiki strip has more designer stores than New York's 5th avenue, and if you like the designer stuff, it is your mecca!

Tuesday was the day to set off on own across the vastness that is Oahu island! Turns out it isn't very vast... It takes about 30 minutes in good traffic to go from Waikiki straight to the North Shore. I travel farther in my daily commute to the office than the length of the entire island.
Anyway, my wife wanted to see a famous tree in Hawaii that Hitachi has used in its advertising in Japan since the early 1970's. It was kind of an adventure to get there but we eventually made it to where the tree is at Moanalua Gardens. The tree is a large Monkey Pod tree with an asymmetric, but not unpleasing shape. It was cool for the wife, so it was cool for me as well. We hung out in the gardens and had onigiri while singing a Japanese song about trees that I know. I know very tree hugger, but it was a great moment shared between my wife and I.

Hitachi Tree

From there we got on to the freeway and headed north to the Dole Plantation. This used to be the headquarters for the Dole company's very large Pineapple farms. Unfortunately Dole no longer grows very many pineapples in Hawaii. It is more economical to grow them in Central or South America. Sad...

We ate some pineapple, and then kept on trucking to our final destination, Oahu's North Shore!
We arrived at the world famous Sunset Beach and sat down to watch the surf. I wanted to get in to the water, but after talking to the life guard, I learned that it was a bad idea. He allowed me to put my feet in to the water in front of his hut, but no more. I instantly learned why he did not want me getting out in to the water. The waves were huge, and had a very strong rip tide. After years of weight training and marital arts, I have good balance, however the rip nearly took me in to the ocean. I heeded the life guard's warning, and quickly withdrew. We napped and read books on the beach while listening and watching the massive waves. We entertained ourselves by watching the surfers and betting on when they would wipe out.
Lunch was the famous Macky's Shrimp ate on the beach.

We went back to Waikiki and watched the sun set at a great little sushi restaurant.

We woke up on our last full day in Hawaii wanting to visit a famous place to snorkel. But first order of business was breakfast. We found a little Italian restaurant near our hotel that we always wanted to eat in, and found that today was the day to give it a try. We had a wonderful breakfast with many cups of awesome Kona Coffee!

After breakfast we caught a ride up to Hanauma Bay. This bay was formed by a lava cone being flooded by sea water thousands of years ago. A reef has formed on the rocks and it is a wonderful spot for viewing reef wild life.

We spent about an hour and a half swimming around finding fish of all sorts and just enjoying the bay. After that, we took a little nap and enjoyed warming ourselves in the Hawaiian sun.
In to every trip, a little rain must fall, and so was the case at Hanauma Bay. The rain fell gently, and we took that as our cue to head back to Waikiki.
We then took some time to relax by the infinity pool, splash around a bit and just sunbathe. It was great.
We finished the night by going to a Korean/Japanese yakiniku place where we stuffed ourselves with Japanese and Korean style meat, and Korean yukijang soup.

The final day in Hawaii was spent mostly getting ready to leave, then hanging out at Waikiki beach. The previous night we found that a place in Waikiki serves fresh udon, and we had to try it out. It was a little piece of Japan right in our back yard!
After lunch the wife went off to get a nice massage, and I was left to hang out at the pool and the beach. I fell a sleep in the cabana chair after downing an iced mocha.

After that it was back to reality. We really love Waikiki as a vacation spot. Lots of stuff to do, and to see. We will be back again soon!

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