November 8-18, 2008
In November 2008, Sandy and I went on a 10-day vacation to Hawaii. We decided to go to Hawaii because it's high on our list of places to see. Also, since we plan to move to the midwest next year, we felt we should take advantage of the shorter (cheaper) flights from LAX. Our trip consisted of 1 day in Oahu, 5 days in Maui, and 3 days on the Big Island. We had a great time.
Circle Island Tour
Our primary goal in visiting Oahu was to see Pearl Harbor, because Sandy's birthday is December 7, and she's been hearing about it all her life. We didn't really know what else was there, so Sandy found a 10 hour tour that circles the island. The tour started at Pearl Harbor, went to the Dole Pineapple Pavilion, a macadamia farm (free samples!), Bonzai Pipeline, the Ko'olau golf course, Sandy Beach, and would have gone to Diamondhead Crater if there was time. We had a great tour guide called Pappy.
Ko'olau Golf Course
Sandy Beach / Halona Blowhole
On our last day in Oahu, we had a short amount of time between breakfast and the plane, so I went to see Waikiki beach while Sandy packed (she wasn’t feeling well from the morning sickness).
Diamondhead CraterWe only saw Diamondhead from the airplane as we went to Maui, but we took a pretty good picture of it.
We spent most of our time in Maui because we'd heard that it was most like what people think of when they hear "Hawaii." It didn't disappoint. We stayed in Kihei and had an amazing room near a beautiful beach. I went running twice in a hilly area. We went on a sunset cruise, swam with turtles, went to a luau, and saw some fantastic scenery.
Castle Kamaole SandsSandy found a great deal on the condo we stayed at. It was amazing- in most respects better than our apartment. It had a washing machine, two full bathrooms, a full kitchen with dishwasher, and a balcony with a view of the ocean. The only problem with it were the bugs- quite a few creepy crawlies- nothing biting or otherwise dangerous, though.
Outside, the grounds were beautiful, with a pool and hot tub. Across the street was a park with a great beach.
Sunset at Kamaole BeachIt must be pretty difficult to take a bad sunset picture in Hawaii- if you have the beach and can see the sunset, it's going to be picturesque. We got some great shots the first night, and missed getting ready in time every other night.
Sunset CruiseWe took a sunset cruise out in the harbor. It was great- we even saw a humpback whale, which was a bit early for the season. Sandy did well for a while, then came down with a combination of morning sickness and seasickness, but we still look back on it fondly.
SurfingTo complete the Hawaiian experience, I took a surfing lesson. (Sandy couldn't go because of being pregnant.) I didn't get very good at it, but did have fun. The water was nice and only a couple feet deep, but there were lava rocks strewn about; even though I had aqua socks on, it was still painful to walk on. After two hours of paddling and foot damage, I was ready to stop. I think I will try it again sometime in LA, though.
Snuba/Snorkel at Molokini CraterOne of the prime snorkeling/diving destinations in Maui is Molokini Crater. A favorite highlight of our trip was our snorkeling trip at Molokini and a separate site where there are a number of sea turtles. Sandy snorkeled while I went snuba diving, since I am not certified to scuba. Molokini has clear water and high visibility, but the real action was at the second dive site. It's what's known as a "Cleaning Station," where turtles congregate to get algae cleaned off their shells by fish. We saw several on the floor and swimming around. On a couple occasions one swam so close to me that I could have reached out and touched it. I wasn't allowed to touch it because they're protected, but I did get an awesome photo.
Royal Lahaina LuauWhat's a Hawaiian vacation without a luau or some poi? The Royal Lahaina Luau did not disappoint. Sandy finally got a real flower lei, which made her extremely happy. The luau itself was interesting- the dancers are all very talented. And everything you've heard about poi is true.
Speaking of poi, one thing we found at Hawaiian McDonald's is taro pies. They look like regular apple pies, except the filling is purple. I had to try one, and it tasted pretty much like a regular apple pie, except less apple-y.
Iao ValleyIn the couple hours before we had to get to the airport, we drove to Iao Valley State Park and saw the Iao Needle.
The Big Island
Our trip concluded with a couple days on the Big Island in Hilo. We were excited about seeing the Observatory and lava fields [/ lava flow]. Our hotel had a very comfortable and large bed, which somewhat offset Sandy's bad experiences with various other aspects of the hotel policies and staff.
Mauna Kea ObservatoryBeing an astronomy enthusiast, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go on a tour to the top of Mauna Kea to see the observatories and sunset, followed by a star show. Unfortunately, the altitude was above Sandy's allowed limit, so I had to go alone. Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain on Earth (starting at its base on the ocean floor; Everest is the highest mountain), and the altitude combined with being in the middle of the Pacific and the distance from light-polluting cities give the observatories atop it some of the clearest views of the sky in the world.
The trip started at a lava field at the base of the mountain, and then went up to the visitor's station for dinner, and to get used to the altitude. Parkas are handed out with dinner because at that altitude it gets cold. The tour guide gave us a lot of information about the geology of Hawaii and volcanoes, including the two types of lava- a'a and pahoehoe. When we got to the summit we got to see the observatories, but the public isn't allowed inside, so once the sun set, we drove to a secluded place at a slightly lower altitude to have our own star show. Venus and Jupiter were both clearly visible, so we saw Jupiter through the telescope (apparently there's nothing to see with Venus). It was a bit of an exciting time, because a couple days prior the Keck Observatory had just captured the first images of an extrasolar planet. Our tour guide showed us where the star system is, but of course we couldn't see it ourselves. Nevertheless, we did learn a number of things about constellations and saw some cool things like the Andromeda galaxy. (The pictures below of Jupiter and Andromeda are not mine, but they are what it looked like).