4,490 Miles: Hawaii, Part III

Friday, July 12–our second day with the rental car–found us still up and at ’em before sunrise.

Once the sun finally joined us, we headed out for a quick breakfast before a hike. Leonard’s malasadas are pretty much a legend in Honolulu (at least according to Google and any cab driver we encountered) despite the fact that they are actually a Portuguese, not a Hawaiian pastry. These hole-less fried doughnut-type thingies were pretty good, according to the boys. Get the plain sugar or the cinnamon-sugar regular malasadas and don’t mess with the malasada puffs, which are way over-stuffed with gooey, super sweet cream filling. Theo made an unfortunate order of a dobash malasada puff that was pretty much inedible until he squeezed out all the chocolate pudding filling.

And he squeezed that filling out of the window of the rental car–right onto the door of the rental car…without us realizing it had dripped on the door and had begun its slow slide downwards. [Foreshadowing.]

We were headed a tiny bit outside of Honolulu to Manoa Falls, but first, since we were only about two miles from the butt of a very funny high school joke, I forced my family to take a side-trip…

…by Chaminade University. Give it up for the mighty Silverswords!

(If you graduated from Vidalia High School back in 1989, you might be in on this joke, especially if you were stuck in homeroom with us cool kids whose last names started with A-Ca. Otherwise, I apologize for taking up a few paragraphs on this.)

Obviously, way back when we were applying to college, there was no such thing as the internet. And because it was over 4,600 miles away from Vidalia, no one–including VHS’s somewhat intimidating, opinionated, and homegrown college guidance counselor–had ever heard of this little university with an undergraduate enrollment of around 1,500 students (at that time)…no one, that is, except my dear friend Brian. (How he dug up info on it to begin with is beyond me.)

So while we endured presentation after presentation from our sweet-but-less-than-savvy guidance counselor on “choosing the right fit for you” and what she called “the benefits of staying close to home,” Brian would mumble under his breath something along the lines of, “nah, man. That’s not what they tell you at Chaminade.” It also did not help that our class had someone being recruited all over the southeast to play football; he’d come to school each morning talking about yet another college or university that had contacted him, to which Brian would reply, “yeah, well, the Coach from Chaminade had me on the phone half the night, too.” Or, “I’m really thinking Chaminade’s the place for me. It’s the right fit.” It was all stunningly ironic and incredibly dry humored, and Brian’s long distance love for Chaminade spread amongst my best friends. Midway through our Senior year, we were all Chaminade fans for life, sight unseen.

Trust me: it was really funny. (To the best of my knowledge, no one from my class (much less the guidance counselor, who grew beyond peeved at hearing random shouts of “Go Chaminade!” at all her mandatory guiding lectures) so much as ordered a brochure from this little gem of a school, much less applied to it.)

It took all of about 4 minutes to drive the loop through the Chaminade campus. If we could’ve found the bookstore, I’d have wiped them out of t-shirts.

Anyway, I knew if I’d gotten that close to hallowed ground, I had to follow it through to the end–hence the photo above, which won the Facebook for the day (well, at least the Facebook of my friend Brian for the day).

And with that, we’re on to Manoa Falls…

After climbing Diamondhead Crater, Jack mentioned that he really enjoyed hiking, so we began searching out other [manageable] hikes. Manoa Falls is the second most frequently hiked trail in Oahu and clocks in at just under two miles round trip, but don’t let that short distance fool you; there were some tricky, slippery parts on this muddy, rocky trail leading up to a 150 foot waterfall.

deep in the jungle…

We were quite sticky, hot, and sweaty when we climbed up the last few steps to this:

Please note that large sign on the left: DANGER. STOP! Please also recall yesterday’s ridiculous cliff jumping episode. Clearly, “stop” and “no” are not well understood by some members of my family. (How did I fail so badly at this one aspect of parenting?) (<–P.S. That link is worth clicking, just saying–skip the ads.)

Thankfully, the two daredevils made it back from their dip in the freezing cold pool in one piece and without contracting leptospirosis. (<—proof that I’m not just a Nervous Nelly for funsies; I fear things for valid reasons.)

We wrapped up our hike and headed from one danger to another: the Halona Blowhole.

not the blowhole, obviously 🙂
(the drive there was unbelievably gorgeous)

The blowhole was formed by lava from many volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. The lava flowed down into the sea and quickly cooled into tubes through which water shoots out, like a geyser. It doesn’t sound too impressive on paper, but trust me: it is. Watching the Halona Blowhole erupt kept our attention for close to an hour.

site of the rolling-around-in-the-ocean-make-out-scene in From Here to Eternity
(also the site of mermaid scene in Pirates of the Caribbean 4)

Did the daredevils want to climb down to the beach pictured above? Of course they did. However, this time, Russ and I were in agreement that such an adventure was a hard no. Just a few days before we were there, two people were washed out to sea from Halona and drowned. (And few days after we were there, two more folks were hit by a huge wave and sucked out into the ocean; they were luckier and managed to be rescued.) The Halona area is not one to be messed with.

We pulled ourselves away from the mesmerizing blowhole and drove back towards Waikiki a tiny bit to the Koko Marina to grab lunch. There were tons of options, and we wound up having a perfectly lovely meal at the Kona Brewing Co. overlooking the marina.

From there, we headed to Hanauma Bay to spend the afternoon on the beach.

Hanauma Bay is a state park and beach nestled inside the caldera of an old, old volcano–a location that’s a magnet for cool sea creatures to call home. You pay (a minimal amount) to enter/park, and they make you watch a short video about the conservation of sea life before you can take the 5 minute hike down to the beach.

up at the park HQ, waiting for our allotted video viewing time
lots of warnings on the lifeguard stand means this is our kind of place

We had snorkels for 4, so that meant we rotated through them with the odd-man-out in charge of guarding our stuff on the beach.

Snorkeling here was terrific; there were many, many more things to see than at Shark’s Cove (though don’t let that turn you off from visiting Shark’s Cove; it’s still absolutely worth it).

Theo and Russ snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, taken by Tucker and his GoPro
just one of the myriad critters we saw…

If you can handle a little bit of shaky filming, here’s a pretty cool video from Tucker.

Once our fingers and toes were all puckered from being in the ocean so long, we packed up and headed back to the hotel to shower and then out to dinner on our next to the last night in Honolulu. We took the path of least resistance and walked over to the Tiki Bar & Restaurant above the Aston Waikiki Resort right next door. The live music and sunset views were pretty doggone solid, and everyone left happy.

The purple taro rolls were an added bonus (this one was accidentally dropped on the floor which is why it’s rudely lounging on the table rather than a proper plate…).

Part One of our Big Trip was coming to an end mighty quickly. We had just one last full day in Oahu…

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!