Waimea Canyon

Early arrival is very often associated with a pleasant visit to Waimea Canyon. Apparently the clouds and the tourist crowds start to ruin the views during mid morning. Luckily, our rental car spent the night in a parking lot very close to the harbor. This was just one of the factors that helped us get to the Canyon by 8 am. We drove all the way to the end of the Waimea Canyon Drive and stopped at the outlooks on our way back.

The first two outlooks gave us a glimpse of the Na Pali coast – at the time however, we didn’t know what we were looking at. Some of the clouds we tried so hard to avoid were already there, along with some wind and cold temperatures, making sure that we couldn’t complain of perfect weather. At the Canyon Lookout the sun decided to deprive us from a good view by shining (through the clouds) right in our faces. A few pullouts – where big buses don’t have a chance stopping – gave us much better views of the canyon. After discovering Waipo`o Falls, we kept an eye on it at every stop. Waimea Canyon Lookout offered an impressive panorama, very difficult to capture in regular pictures. Even though we were short on time, a few minutes on Kukui trail didn’t hurt anybody.

On the way back we stopped again at the Spouting Horn, hoping to see some turtles. We were lucky to spot one of them, even though the ocean wasn’t any calmer than during the previous afternoon. This seemed to be a very disappointing end to our vacation: we had to head back to the ship, which was supposed to take advantage of the tide to get out of the harbor at 2 pm.

An announcement on board, saying that we were cruising along the Na Pali coast, took us by surprise later in the day. We went on the deck and stared in amazement at the incredible views. After the sun went to bed (three hours, two rain showers and two rainbows later), we tried to explore the rest of the ship. We ate at Alizar again, but the food was not as tasty as we remembered it. The last show (Farewell Variety Show) didn’t have anything memorable… or maybe it did, but the thought of a soon-to-be-gone vacation was too overwhelming.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

This is part of our trip to Hawaii: Around Honolulu | Driving around Oahu | Pearl Harbor | Volcanoes National Park | Road to Hana | Haleakala and Makena | North Kohala | North Kauai | Waimea Canyon

Related posts:

North Kauai

The day started with what became the usual routine: early rise, breakfast buffet at Aloha Nui Cafe, shuttle to the airport, then car rental. We reached the first attraction on our list – Wailua Falls – at around 9 am. A local (who was guiding a small group of tourists) brought his own screwdrivers to climb on a traffic sign post and take good pictures with the waterfall in the background. He was really nice and took a picture of us, even though we were not part of his group. On the other side of Wailua River we stopped to see another waterfall – Opaeka`a Falls. Kuhio Hwy goes North along a never-ending beach – unfortunately parking is not readily available (or visible). We spent some time on the beach only once, when we noticed a semi-paved parking lot. With a single exception, the beach was deserted – probably due to the wind, the temperature, and the fury of the ocean.

The sun was shining on Kilauea Wildlife Refuge when we got there. We had to retreat (not for very long tough) in the gift shop in front of a pouring rain. Watching the ocean pounding into the rocky coast was very relaxing. However, it was very disappointing to see the dark clouds on the west side of the island. We laughed a little at the “historic site”: a lighthouse built in 1913, which was closed to tourists for protection. This is the first place where we saw the protected state bird of Hawaii: nene, the colorful goose. Relatively close to the Kilauea Lighthouse we hiked down to the Secret Beach. The trail was incredibly muddy and slippery. The good thing was that we made it down without falling; the bad thing was that the mosquitoes had a fiesta with Lida’s blood. A waterfall was supposed to enchant us once we reached the beach, but we couldn’t find it.

The rain was waiting for us as we moved West. It rained while we were heading to Hanalei Valley. It rained while we were looking down to Hanalei Valley. It rained on the way to Haena State Park. It rained while we were on the Kee Beach. It rained when we were looking at a small wet cave. It rained while we were inside of a dry cave. In these conditions, hiking part of the Na Pali trail was completely out of the question. Tired of rain, we decided it was time to move to the South of the island. It took us less than two hours to reach the Spouting Horn, which was acting up, fueled by strong waves. While it was nice to see the water thrown up in the air, the turtles were not very eager to show up at the surface. We caught the sunset on the Poipu Beach; not very scenic because some clouds at the horizon decided to perturb the uniform light diffraction.

Due to lack of something better to do, we got back on the ship much earlier than we wanted to (around 7 pm). Quite a few fellow tourists went to a Lu’au (Hawaiian show) and the ship was emptier than usual. After dinner (we eat at Paniolo Tapas and Salsa – a Mexican restaurant), we skipped the night show (Not-So-Newlywed Game) to get a good night sleep.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

This is part of our trip to Hawaii: Around Honolulu | Driving around Oahu | Pearl Harbor | Volcanoes National Park | Road to Hana | Haleakala and Makena | North Kohala | North Kauai | Waimea Canyon

Related posts:

North Kohala

The water in the Kona port was too shallow for our ship to dock next to a pier, so they dropped lifeboats and shuttled passengers back and forth to the shore the whole day. We woke up early enough to catch one of the first lifeboats. The first rental car they gave us at Kamehameha hotel didn’t want to power up our Garmin – we lost some time going back and changing it. Shortly after, we were driving on route 190 toward Kohala mountains.

There wasn’t much to admire on the route except for Mount Kea. After a short stop in Waimea we started driving up on Kohala Mountains. The wind was blowing with such a power that my ears hurt every time I got out of the car. This was one of the reasons why we stopped only a couple of times along route 250. Depending on the relative position of the car, it was extremely difficult to either open or close the door. I never expected to see cacti in Hawaii, but they started showing up along the way and they were literally waving at us.

Once we turned right on 270 the wind didn’t bother us for a while. It was around 11 when we reached the Pololu Valley lookout. Initially we hesitated hiking down because of the rain – once we even considered returning while on the trail. The scenery was considerably nicer from the trail once the coastline became more visible. We made it down to the beach and savored the ephemeral joy of writing our names on the black sand. Later I realized that the trail is way longer – but we didn’t have enough time for all of it anyway. Hiking up seemed faster (it took us about 20 minutes), most likely because we stopped less to admire the scenery. On the way back to Hawi we stopped at Keokea Beach Park to have lunch.

The wind picked up and followed us around when we got back on the west coast. We stopped at a couple of historic sites, but they were disappointing. Lapakahi State Historical Park hosts the ruins of an old village. Puukohola_Heiau is a religious site, in which the main “building” was closed to tourists – only Hawaiians can go inside for religious ceremonies. I don’t mean to hurt any feelings, but I personally didn’t get a kick by looking from distance at some stones arranged on top of each other.

We wanted to see Kauna`oa Beach, but the parking lot was full, so we went to Hapuna Beach instead. The wind was picking up sand to slam it into everything. The exposed skin was hurting – I don’t really understand how the people could sit on the beach that day. We kept driving south through a field of black lava. For miles on both sides of the highway visitors left messages written with white coral on the black lava. I thought that the idea was cute until I learned that Hawaiians don’t approve of this custom. We got back to Kona in a very slow traffic – apparently the road between airport and Kona is jammed during weekdays.

The night entertainment was a mix of different Broadway shows, advertised as “an unforgettable review”. I forgot it almost instantly. The final part was pathetic: the entire crew gathered on the stage while the entertainers were singing a song thanking the tourists for being there. It reminded me of “We are the world, we are the children”, but with a crowd of officers, cooks, waiters and room keepers. We had a very pleasant surprise (to be read excellent food) at the Alizar restaurant, which never seemed to be very busy. We decided that the quality of the food didn’t really depend on how famous / busy the restaurant was.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

This is part of our trip to Hawaii: Around Honolulu | Driving around Oahu | Pearl Harbor | Volcanoes National Park | Road to Hana | Haleakala and Makena | North Kohala | North Kauai | Waimea Canyon

Related posts:

Haleakala and Makena

Looking for a car in the airport parking lot is never fun. And definitely wasn’t fun in the morning of the last day on Maui. But a little time and patience paid off and – in no time – we were on our way to the Haleakala summit. It was pretty clear from the very beginning that we were not extremely lucky: the peak was surrounded by clouds, which didn’t seem to be in rush to go anywhere else. We kept going anyway, hoping that it would somehow clear up for at least a few minutes. It was getting colder and colder as we were gaining altitude. The wind also started blowing with relentless anger – unfortunately the clouds were seemingly stuck to the mountain. However, the panoramas were breathtaking.

Entering the clouds facilitated encounters with the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen (at this point I realized why there are rainbows drawn on the registration plates of Hawaii cars). Cold rain came after the rainbows, punishing us for our light clothing. At the visitor Center they confirmed what we already knew: the the weather was unpredictable, but some luck could clear the clouds when least expected. The visibility at the summit was extremely poor, we could barely see the meteorological station once. Since the sudden emergence of a hole in the milky fog was too improbable, we simply turned around and headed back down. Fog… rain… rainbows… panoramas.

Iao Valley (which was an alternative destination) was also under a thick layer of clouds. Because we had enough bad weather for one day, we decided to go to a beach and lay down in the sun. Makena Beach State Park was featured in a travel book of ours and proved to be an excellent choice. Waves were powerful enough to knock anybody off their feet and they did a pretty good job with us. Nobody can accuse us of not swimming while in Hawaii.

In the evening the Haleakala summit and Iao Valley were still surrounded and covered by clouds. Hopefully Maui weather will be friendlier next time… Before the night show (featuring a magician), we started to meticulously scan the ship to make sure we see its every detail. The show ran twice and we saw the first half before dinner, the other half after dinner. This was all because our friends (Lita, Kathleen, and Daren) didn’t have much choice when they reserved a table for all of us at Grand Pacific Restaurant. The food (it was lobster night) was good and making fun of their silly decor was very entertaining.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

This is part of our trip to Hawaii: Around Honolulu | Driving around Oahu | Pearl Harbor | Volcanoes National Park | Road to Hana | Haleakala and Makena | North Kohala | North Kauai | Waimea Canyon

Related posts:

The road to Hana

Despite our early rise, we got off the ship close to 9 am. Nothing special during the next hour: airport shuttle ride, car rental, driving. With the exception of some thick clouds surrounding the Haleakala peak, the weather seemed to cooperate with us. The first pull out – as soon as we reached the coast – revealed a sunny bay with turquoise water and bubbling white waves. We only stopped a couple of times until we reached the fruit stand – marking the trailhead for the Twin Falls.

The first of the two waterfalls was very easy to reach, but not very spectacular. Two guys were defiantly jumping and swimming in the freezing water. The second waterfall was less accessible (including walking through water or balancing on some wet rocks), but a little nicer. The group of Germans who was enjoying the cold water made it quite difficult to take a picture suggesting solitude. There was another little and hidden waterfall at mile 11, but wasn’t really worth the stop.

Mile 13 finally started to show the Hawaii I was expecting: sharp-edged mountains reaching abruptly the ocean, lush green valleys. Some orange flowers and a black sand beach came as extras. The road going down to the beach was (too) well-hidden, but it was better not spending too much time there. A few short stops followed to see Ke`anae and the Waikani Falls. Unfortunately the weather stopped cooperating until we reached Wai`anapanapa State Park.

We spent more than one hour at the park: we went down to the black sand beach, got some water in the shoes, then watched the waves breaking into the rocky coast. Honestly, all the waterfalls on the Road to Hana were disappointing – the first one resembling what I expected from Hawaii was Wailua Falls on the road after Hana. Our last target was the South part of Haleakala National Park and was aimed at seeing the Sacred Pools and Waimoku Falls. Unfortunately it was too late for the 2-mile hike (and Lida only had her flip-flops with her)… we made it to Makahiku Falls, which is about half as tall as Waimoku Falls. At this point I started to regret the time we spent hiking to the Twin Falls.

Driving back the road to Hana in the dark was fun, except when we got stuck behind overly cautious drivers (which only happened a couple of times). We made it to the ship on time to see Ray Mogenis in a show that gave me a strong deja vu – I had the feeling that I’ve heard most of his jokes in other circumstances. Only Blue Lagoon was open for late dinner and the food was not that great.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

This is part of our trip to Hawaii: Around Honolulu | Driving around Oahu | Pearl Harbor | Volcanoes National Park | Road to Hana | Haleakala and Makena | North Kohala | North Kauai | Waimea Canyon

Related posts:

Volcanoes National Park

Sleeping bad was not a good enough excuse to lay in bed late. Before the sunrise (which was pathetic btw) we were up on deck 12. After eating a good (buffet) breakfast, we went back to the cabin to put on our hiking shoes. We were off the ship at ~8:00, at the airport car rental at ~8:30 and we made it to the park a little before 10:00. Because of the rain (from time to time it was literally pouring) we started questioning the timing of our visit. We kept going especially because this was the only opportunity we had to visit the park and we didn’t have an alternate plan anyway.

They gave us relatively bad news at the visitor center: (1) the active lava flow was not visible from the trails in the park and (2) the rain would follow us around during our visit. A wrong turn at the the Visitor Center took us to the Steam Vents. We didn’t find anything interesting there, but – the truth is – we only spent around 10 minutes. We turned and headed toward Kīlauea Iki Crater to hike down to the lava pool. In the first part the trail winds down through a rain forest. The drizzle forced us to put on the ponchos, not to protect us as much as to protect the camera. The second part of the trail goes across the black lava, which (they say) is still steaming from the 1959 eruption. Parts of the frozen lava lake are wavy – I am not sure how the waves were created by temperature differences during the freezing process. Some waves are cracked – most likely because the change in density between lava molted and frozen states. The vegetation started growing everywhere in the cracks. The third part of the trail follows a series of switchbacks leading up through the rain forest.

The trail ends close to the entrance into Thurston Lava Tube – a sort of circular cave the lava used to come to the surface. Part of the tube is illuminated and (almost) visitor friendly. The rest of the tube can be seen only with a flashlight. We hooked up with three other people from the cruise (Kathleen, Lita, and Daren) to venture in darkness. Only a few minor obstacles stood in the way before the tube ended abruptly. Of course, we took a few heroic pictures that will forever witness our act of courage. The tube didn’t seem as long on our way back, but finding our car was a challenge. We had a partial heart attack before realizing that we left it at Kīlauea Iki Crater Overlook, not in the Thurston Lava Tube parking lot.

It was past 1:00 pm when we finally found the car. It was pretty clear that driving the rest of the Crater Rim Drive and the Chain of Craters Road was not feasible. Since we already hiked in a crater, possibly seeing more of the same was less tempting than seeing where the lava meets the ocean. The Chain of Craters Road must have been rebuilt several times because lava wept out everything in its path to the ocean. The weather was better on the coast; the sun was still hiding behind thick clouds, but at least it didn’t rain. We walked by the point where the park services closed the road; however we didn’t make it to the point where the lava decided to cross the street.

Driving back was less exciting, especially after we literally entered in the clouds and we couldn’t see much around us. It rained all the way to Hilo. We made it back to the ship at around 5 pm – 30 minutes earlier than we were supposed to. During the day they fixed the light in our bathroom, so we could take a shower. We had dinner at Papa’s Italian Kitchen, where they poured food on us in such quantity that they had to trash more than half of it. After the 9:30 show (Soul Rockin’ Nights), we went to bed and slept like two rocks.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

This is part of our trip to Hawaii: Around Honolulu | Driving around Oahu | Pearl Harbor | Volcanoes National Park | Road to Hana | Haleakala and Makena | North Kohala | North Kauai | Waimea Canyon

Related posts:

Diamond Head | Waikiki by night

To make sure that we won’t miss our plane we drove to Seattle on Friday night. We thought that sleeping in Radisson would help us figure out our sleep number, but the remote didn’t work… as incredible as it sounds :), we don’t even know the number we slept on. After an early rise, We dropped Blacky at the Extra Car parking lot, then took off. For a few minutes we admired the snow-covered Olympic Mountains, then we could only see the ocean. When the east coast of Oahu became visible (after about 5 hours), I took a few pictures in which I later identified Hanauma Bay and Diamond Head.

We checked in into our hotel, then had some exotic burgers at Cheseburger Waikiki. It took us a while to figure out what bus to take to the Diamond Head and we got there at around 4:40 (which was pretty late taking into account that they close the park at 6:00).

After walking through a tunnel, we made it inside the crater and hiked up toward the crater rim. The hike is not extremely strenuous – the most difficult parts were some stairs and a very low ceiling at the exit of a tunnel. The clouds protected us from the excessive heat that apparently is common. The downside was that our pictures came out a little faded, with darker rather than bright colors. Once we got to the observation deck, a nice panorama of Honolulu opened up in front of us. This would be a very nice spot to observe the sunset, but it’s not worth the risk to spend the night locked up in the park.

On the way back we took a bus to Waikiki beach, then we walked on Kalakaua Ave all the way from West to the East of the beach. After waking around through the torch-lit streets, we went back to our hotel to get ready for another early rise.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

This is part of our trip to Hawaii: Around Honolulu | Driving around Oahu | Pearl Harbor | Volcanoes National Park | Road to Hana | Haleakala and Makena | North Kohala | North Kauai | Waimea Canyon

Related posts: