Installment three in the Travel Take Two series reviews our 2005 trip to Hawaii. Jeff was actually born on Oahu and grew up in this tropical paradise until age ten, at which point he relocated to the much less ideal climate of the Pacific Northwest. When he got to college and began playing baseball for Rice, he was lucky enough to get to return to Hawaii for a week every year thanks to the fact that both Hawaii and Rice were in the same conference. I didn’t find this quite as cool, however, since the baseball trip to Hawaii always took place during the same week as my birthday. How fair is it that for my birthday Jeff got to go to Hawaii while I was left alone in Houston? So in 2005, we went to the fair state of Hawaii a month after my birthday as a means of evening the score…sort of. In total, Jeff has managed to miss my birthday five of the eight years we’ve been together, so he might owe me a few more trips.
Destination: Oahu and the Big Island
Date: April 8-16 , 2005
Travel Partners: We met up with Dave & Heidi Byrne and we also spent a night with the Krochinas. Both the Byrnes and the Krochinas are longtime Blackinton family friends.
1. Hiking out to see flowing lava at sunset. The ground is ragged and we saw not only a lot of busted up hands and legs but actually witnessed an air lift of someone who’d hurt themselves on the hike, but the exertion was worth it. We arrived at the lava flow just as the sun was setting, and ate our dinner and shared a bottle of wine from Volcano Winery just a few feet from the insanely hot mass. The intense glow was amazing as was watching it creep slowly toward the sea. Also, a few drops of rain added a neat element as the lava would sizzle each time a drop touched it. And though I really wanted to touch it, Jeff convinced me not to. (Okay, I wasn’t going to. I’m smart enough to know it would melt my hand right off, but I really, really, really want to know what it would feel like (not the heat, duh, but the texture.) Making our way back by flashlight was also quite the adventure. At Volcano National Park, we also enjoyed hiking through lava tubes and standing on the edge of volcanoes (expect for the rotten egg smell). It’s got to be up there among the cooler National Parks in the U.S.
2. Encountering a sea turtle while snorkeling. This was on my list as something I really wanted to have happen, though I knew there was no way to make it happen. When we went snorkeling at the famous Hanauma Bay we didn’t spot any. However, when we pulled over at a small stretch of black sand beach on the Big Island and decided to throw on our snorkeling gear, lo and behold one of these gentle giants came by for a visit. It was very cool. We then went on to see them all over the Big Island, and I thought they were just as amazing each and every time.
3. Food. Malasadas hot out of the grease at Leonard’s. Is there a better breakfast out there? Then the shrimp at Giovanni’s truck up toward the North Shore was divine. I don’t know if I liked the spicy shrimp or the lemon shrimp better, but I can say with certainty that I’ve never had better seafood served straight from a truck. And Jeff would certainly object if I didn’t mention the shave ice, which comes with soft serve ice cream at the bottom. I think he had one a day. It’s not so much my thing, but I did enjoy a couple.
4. Visiting Jeff’s old stomping grounds. We visited the house where Jeff lived when he was little. The fruit trees were just as he remembered, and the strike zone he’d painted on the wall was still there. We also went by his elementary school and saw his name tiled into the mosaic outside the entrance. And we even got to catch a baseball game at the University of Hawaii, the place where Jeff developed his love of the game. It couldn’t have been more ideal either as the Rainbows were playing Rice, so we got to catch up with some old teammates and coaches.
5. Waterfalls. There aren’t too many ugly waterfalls in the world, so in general, I always love me a waterfall. The ones in Hawaii are particularly scenic and we got to visit quite a few of these wonders. On Oahu, hiking to Manoa Falls was fun…and wet…but the Big Island wins on waterfalls. Hilo has quite a few beauties as does the Waipio Valley.
1. Locking the keys in the car with the engine running. Jeff was so excited for his first shave ice that when we pulled up at the place, he managed to not only lock the keys in the car, but lock them in with the engine still running. Fortunately, he did have his wallet with him so we could go ahead and enjoy a shave ice while we waited for AAA to arrive. They had a heck of a time getting into the car, but eventually they did and all was fine.
2. Rain moving in shortly after our stargazing session began. Some of the best stargazing in the world can be done from Mauna Kea, and we were fortunate to be able to get a brief glimpse at the wonders of the night sky at this place where little atmosphere interferes with the view. I could have spent a lot longer looking skyward, however, had rain and clouds not taken over. We don’t have very good luck with astronomical events obviously.
3. Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. It’s maybe a little unfair to classify this as a lowlight. It was simply more of a disappointment. We had a good time snorkeling here, but it was a bit like being at an amusement park. We saw lots of colorful fish and some neat coral, but so many of the little unmarked beaches we stopped at turned up way better sea life. Additionally, despite measures to keep crowds under control (which I applaud), it still feels a bit crowded. I like my natural areas just a bit more natural…and off the beaten path.
1. Sometimes it pays be on an overbooked flight. We flew to Hawaii for free thanks to Jeff’s willingness to be bumped from two overbooked flights, both on the same day. On his return flight to DC post-Thanksgiving, he volunteered to give up his seat in return for a $400 voucher and a seat on a later flight. Then when he got to his layover spot, he again volunteered, getting another voucher in return for flying just about one hour later (and now going back into the airport he preferred, since the first change had him going into a different DC airport). So if you’re on an overbooked flight and you have a flexible schedule, consider volunteering your seat. You could end up with a free vacation.
2. Don’t let preconceived ideas keep you from visiting somewhere really cool. I have to admit that before I met Jeff I really had very little interest in Hawaii. I didn’t know too many people who had traveled there, and those I did know hadn’t done much more than sunbathe on the beaches at Waikiki or vegetate at a resort on Maui. All I could think was that if I wanted to lie on a beach there were a lot closer options. Plus, I can lie on a beach for approximately 3.7 minutes before going insane from boredom. So fly the many, many hours to Hawaii for that, no thanks. But then when I started really looking into it, I found out that Hawaii had so much more to offer, and though we did spend a bit of time (3.7 minutes to be exact) being beach bums, we also visited cultural and historic sites, took a fun road trip all the way around Oahu, and enjoyed the natural beauty of this unique state on a lot of active outings.
3. Don’t try to do too much. As much as I wanted to go to Kauai, trying to squeeze three destinations into our trip would have been way too much. Even with just two destinations, we didn’t get to do every thing we wanted. But having an entire island plus some sites on other islands that I want to see just means we’ll have to go back at some point. Darn.
4. If you’re in a place with a ton to do, why waste your money on a fancy hotel? I have to admit that I was a little nervous when we booked a room at the Waikiki Prince for $50, especially considering the going rate for a Honolulu room a few blocks from the beach is a few hundred higher. As it turns out, the place was great–clean, safe, a little kitchenette, a parking place, free beach towels, and the friendliest guy ever at the desk. It wasn’t luxurious, that’s for certain, but if it had been, I would have felt guilty considering we hardly even managed to make it back to the hotel for sleep.
5. If you know people where you’re going, take advantage of their insider knowledge. Because Dave works at Mauna Kea, we were able to visit this volcano, which we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise since regular rental cars aren’t allowed on the road that leads to it. We also got an insiders tour of the observatories and were able to hang around for some very awesome star gazing. Heidi also took us to a laie (Hawaiian temple) that we would not have known about without her. You can’t beat local knowledge.
6. Any time is a good time to travel. When we booked this trip for about 3 months prior to our wedding, people were confused, asking if we were also planning to do a honeymoon. Apparently not too many people go on big trips just prior to their wedding, but we had the opportunity and the time, so we said why the heck not. Honestly it was a very much needed break from all the planning. And thanks to the trip being pre-wedding all the lucky guests at the big event ended up with super yummy chocolate covered macadamia nuts. Mmm.