4,490 Miles: Hawaii, Part II (Road Trip: North Shore)

you can’t help but be happy when you look at these license plates…

…and here we go with the rental car!

When we began planning The Big Trip, our surfer boy, Tucker, had only one request: we must visit the North Shore.

(Actually, that’s not true…he had many requests, including cliff diving, amongst other ridiculous ones. But taking a day trip out of Honolulu was an easy item to address, especially since the island of Oahu is only 44 miles long.)

We were up and at ’em before daybreak once again on our third day in Hawaii, but we couldn’t pick up the car until 7 a.m. (most everyone knows I am not a morning person, so even typing that sentence cracks me up.). We borrowed towels from the hotel, loaded up, and headed north. First stop: Sunset Beach.

The North Shore of Oahu is famous for big waves and big beaches–pretty much everything a surfer desires…but the most spectacular display of these waves occurs predominantly in the winter months. Turn around to the summer months (we’re still in the Northern Hemisphere here), and these crazy spots of monster waves featured on YouTube are a bit in hibernation…just a bit. They’re still crazy enough to impress the socks off a gaggle of teenagers. I can vouch for that.

Sunset Beach, a little less than an hour from Honolulu, is pretty much a straight shot north up the middle of the island through fields of sugar cane and pineapple plants. The sand on Sunset Beach is ridiculously deep and quicksandish and–to be honest–tough to walk in, but the beach was stunning and almost eerily empty (perhaps because we arrived at the wee old hour of just quarter past 8 in the morning). We managed to keep the boys out of the water here and only stayed on Sunset, squashing up its ankle deep squishy sand for about 30 minutes.

Next stop: Ehukai Beach Park, home of the Banzai Pipeline where waves can roll in at 20 feet high. Fortunately (for me, not for our surfing kiddo), these ginormous waves only show up during the winter months on the North Shore. Still, the waves were pretty crazy, and the boys couldn’t stand not getting in the water.

loved this tree leading in to the beach park

The photos don’t do it justice; waves taller than the boys would come crashing down on a shore break–meaning the wave just sort of shows up out of the blue and then rolls over right on the shore. The boys were never in water above their waists, yet they would be completely submerged when the waves would come. It was fascinating to watch (and a bit nerve wracking).

After an hour or so of being slammed into the shore, we needed a little break. We headed into the town of Haleiwa.

Russ and Tucker are surf-shop junkies and the North Shore Surf Shop did not disappoint. Right across the street was a beautiful little restaurant, Haleiwa Beach House, so we popped in for a drink and a snack. Of course, nothing in Hawaii is cheap, so while the full menu there looked great (I particularly loved the garlic edamame), we opted to mosey on in to Haleiwa proper to search for something a little less extravagant for lunch.

waiting for our slices of pizza at Spaghettini in Haleiwa
(and Theo had an unfortunate sunblock application incident)

After lunch, we headed back out of Haleiwa Town towards Shark’s Cove for some snorkeling. I’m not the world’s best snorkeler–something about seeing all those living, moving critters underneath me gives me the willies–but Shark’s Cove was quite fun. We were grateful to have brought water shoes, though. There were tons of sharp rocks, and it’s a slippery walk to get out into the cove.

it gets deeper the farther back you go–it also gets much colder

Snorkeling Shark’s Cove is fantastic–if you have the gear. We all enjoyed it a ton and saw tons of sea-stuff (very colorful fish, flow-y sucker-creatures, what-have-you…remember, underwater viewing ain’t exactly my jam).

Last adventure-y spot for the day: Waimea Bay. I offered to drive from Shark’s Cove to Waimea, which was a critical error in mom-ness. See, for the past two months, Tucker had been jockeying to “cliff dive” while in Hawaii. He showed us multiple crazy, ridiculously dangerous videos of individuals making ridiculously bad life choices by jumping off various ridiculously stupid cliffs/rocks/jetties/what-have-you. We spent many a night ’round our dinner table with me going from merely voicing stern objection to this idea to me absolutely losing my mind over the idea of this idea.

But back to the adventure at hand: it’s notoriously difficult to park at Waimea Bay and its Beach Park. I dropped the boys and the other parent man-child/co-conspirator off, with the intention to meet them *right over there* on the beach as soon as I could park.

Well, they weren’t lying about the tricky parking situation. It was Buzzardville up in there; cars stalking folks walking out towards the lot/road, and it took forever…about 20 minutes, to be exact.

Upon finally winning my round of The Hunger Games in the parking lot, I grabbed the towels and made my way to our designated meeting area where I realized the folks I were to meet were not there.

Hmmm.

Then I looked around and saw the freaking stupid “cliff” from which Tucker had been wanting to “cliff dive” for the past two months. Guess where I found the rest of my family?

are you kidding me?
that one mid-air is Tucker
his response? “it’s only about 10m; I’ve jumped off that at diving…”

At the Waimea Jump Rock.

To say I was not a happy camper after this foolishness is quite the understatement.

Luckily–as is the case with most places in Oahu–the rest of the beach was gorgeous and semi-non-life-threatening.

Finally, we packed up and left the mayhem of Waimea’s magnetic (for some members of our family) Jump Rock and took a slight detour back through Haleiwa Town to visit Matsumoto’s Shave Ice for, well, one of their world famous shave ices. (We’re still not sure why it’s called “shave ice” rather than “shaveD ice” but the line was long and the boys say it was 110% worth it.)

We rolled on back to Honolulu late that afternoon with no plans for dinner. We all desperately needed a shower, so we handled that scenario with a little bit of UB40 playing in the background and then found ourselves with 3 exhausted boys, ready for bed. So Russ and I decided to pop down to a restaurant underneath our hotel; at the last minute, Jack pulled himself out of bed to join us.

Arancino was surprisingly hopping and surprisingly tasty. We 3 sat at a small table in the bar and had a lovely conversation and some excellent pasta to fill our bellies. Jack and I stumbled back upstairs while Russ went in search of the perfect swimsuit a little farther down the road (at least that’s what he said he was doing *just kidding* he came back with a new suit for himself and for Theo).

We had one more full day scheduled with the car and had our sights set on a solid hike followed-up with seeing several exciting parts of the windward side of Oahu on Friday. We had our fingers crossed that we’d all sleep past…oh…5 a.m. on Friday morning, but it wasn’t going to be in our cards (just yet)…

4,490 Miles: Honolulu (Or, The First Stop on The Big Trip)

The first leg of The Big Trip has finally arrived!

We bolted out of Hotlanta and headed to Honolulu to kick off what’s sure to be the most epic travel adventure we’ve ever had (and quite possibly ever will have).

Can we do this thing with carry-ons only? Consider the gauntlet thrown…

Our mega-adventure kicked off with a massive, unexpected bonus: two of our five flight tickets were upgraded…not just to Premium Select Class, not just to First Class, but all the way up to the *One* Class.

The plan (because there has to be a plan, you know) was to rotate the five of us through these two seats in two-hour shifts so that everyone enjoyed a good four hours of lie-flat, non-claustrophobic luxury. Our dear friends at the airline that starts with the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet weren’t really on board for this idea (shocker) and after a little back-and-forth, they finally told Russ to just be discrete about it.

[“Discrete” is hardly an adjective used to describe a few members of our family.]

Russ made a chart–a chart, I say–and I waited patiently for the fourth hour of the flight when my first round of luxury was to occur. The time crawled by…especially when Theo drifted back after his first two-hour rotation to send Tuck up front and showed Jack and me photos of him with a down comforter wrapped around his reclined body…along with a photo of the dining menu. A few minutes later, Russ came back to switch with Jack.

The careful reader will here note that we foolishly sent Tucker and Jack–alone–up to the lap of luxury.

The four-hour mark hit, and I hopped up and wanted to sprint to the front to dispossess the seat from Tucker, but I controlled myself because I’m discrete and all.

I cannot lie. I’ve now been behind the curtain. One Class is indeed the bomb.com. I spent the first 20 minutes of my shift looking like the rookie that I was and grinning madly as I stretched out completely flat (one benefit of being 5’3″) while gripping the down comforter with one hand and the wine list with the other.

A few minutes later, Russ drifted back up to claim his seat and oust Jack…

…who protested a bit too loudly, apparently.

After two of the fastest hours of my life, Russ shuffled back to start the rotation for the fourth time (it was Jack and Tucker’s turn again)…at which point our favorite airline shut that stuff down and requested that the two actual ticketed seat holders return to their seats (I mean, really. The nerve.)

(Kidding.)

So Russ and Theo finished the last two hours of the flight up in the Burj Khalifa while the rest of us were stuck back at the Tall Pines Motel. To one of our children, this was a brutal demonstration of inequality, particularly since he’d only gotten one trip up to the front while the youngest member of our family spent well over five hours there.

The struggle was real, folks.

Nonetheless, a little after 3 in the afternoon Honolulu time, we were in our hotel rooms and ready to go.

Our first view of the Waikiki coastline from our hotel room…

Four of us were quite excited to be back on solid ground and within walking distance of the ocean; one of us needed a little time to recoup from the travesty of missing out on a second shift in the upgraded seat.

above child did *not* spend over half the flight in a supine position…
…youngest child who did spend over half the flight being treated as a celebrity…
(and subsequently celebrated by dressing as a 75 year old male tourist)
locals were constantly jumping off the ledges and even the *roof* of that thatched hut…
(cue the “cliff diving” requests from Tucker…)

When one goes to Honolulu, one should obviously take the time to experience Pearl Harbor, but when Russ suggested we sign up for the tour that was leaving our hotel the very next morning at 6 a.m., I originally balked.

Fortunately, Russ made the correct decision. Our entire family was wide awake and raring to go by 4 a.m.

And Pearl Harbor by morning’s light is spectacularly moving.

Even though the actual U.S.S. Arizona Memorial is currently closed for renovations, this was still an incredibly educational and moving experience for us.
Learning about the Pacific Theater truly helped us understand the history of what took place during WWII on the other side of the world.

The tour is pretty much self-guided with the exception of the ferry ride out past the Arizona and the U.S.S. Missouri. We also toured the U.S.S. Bowfin, a submarine launched on December 7, 1942, exactly one year after the Pearl Harbor bombings. The submarine is only 311 feet long, yet housed between 70-80 sailors for months at a time. Going through this puppy in July really hit home just how hard it must’ve been to be a submariner. There’s no way I could have done it.

mess hall
sleeping quarters

While waiting on our extremely verbose bus driver to return, we realized we were starving. As you might imagine, there’s not exactly a lot of dining options at a national memorial, so we wound up cobbling together a lunch of hot dogs and bad nachos…at 8:45 a.m. (The jet lag was for real, just like the indigestion.)

a most excellent use of irrelevant quotation marks on a sign outside the snack shack

After recovering from the very hot and bumpy bus ride back to the hotel, we spent a little time on the beach and by the pool before heading out to hike Diamond Head Crater.

The crater was created by–duh–a volcanic explosion around 300,000 years ago. It’s not too strenuous a hike, but our Uber driver was a little shocked that we were heading there so late in the afternoon since they let the last folks onto the trail at 4:30 and the gates shut tight at 6. We were on the trail at 4:25.

The view from the top of Diamond Head is beautiful!

Back at the bottom–well before 6 p.m., thank you very much–the boys had their first Hawaiian shave ice, which Theo said was even better than the snow cones at NYO. (There’s actually no comparison.)

Post-hike, we wandered around Waikiki and looked for something for dinner. We should’ve been able to find vittles that would appeal to all tastes at the International Market Place–a ginormous outdoor-ish shopping complex, but the late afternoon shave ice had abated some appetites, and all of us were exhausted. Jack, Theo, and I cut bait and headed back to the hotel to go to bed; Russ and Tucker dropped in to the Hawaiian equivalent of Willy’s, Oahu Mexican Grill, which Jack and I had actually discovered earlier in the day after the 8:45 a.m. “lunch” had worn off. Being a Willy’s connoisseur, Jack gave it two thumbs up.

Two days gone already. Time to venture outside of Honolulu and Waikiki!