Hawaii 2008 (Part 2 Oahu)

November 6, 2008 at 6:14 pm (Travel, Uncategorized) (, , )

10/29: As we neared Oahu from the air I could immediately see this was totally different than the Big Island.  There were high rises and highways and a real airport.  It was more of a city.  We rented our car and headed into Honolulu. During rush hour.  Ick.  We ducked into the Ala Moana Center – a mall on our way to Waikiki and walked around there to kill some time.  It is a HUGE mall with lots of stores.  Very nice.  Next we headed to our hotel – Waikiki Beach Marriott.  We had a nice room with a view of the beach and Diamond Head.  We settled in then headed out.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t really have a good first impression.  What I saw was South Beach.  Nothing different except the mountains.  This was not what I flew 5000 miles for.  Anyway, we walked around the “Ocean Drive” of Waikiki and went into the many touristy shops and to a place called the International Market which was filled with kiosks of jewelry and other wares.  I got a black pearl 3 strand necklace and matching earrings.  We walked some more and around 9 we went back to our hotel for dinner.  Sansei Sushi was in our hotel it’s run by a well-known chef and was supposed to be very good.  We were not disappointed.  It was on the scale of Nobu.  The food was amazing.  We ordered way too many dishes b/c we could not narrow them down.  Definitely one of the best meals either of us had ever had.  We then went to sleep full and happy!!!!!

10/30: We decided to go to Pearl Harbor today b/c it was Thursday and we were hoping the crowds wouldn’t be too bad.  Also there was a slight drizzle.  We arrive at 10:15 at the site of the USS Arizona Memorial and our tickets were for the 10:30 tour, not bad.  At 10:30 we went into the theater for the 20 minute film on the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  I hadn’t thought until that day about the glaring similarities between that attack and 9/11.  Unfortunately the reactions by the governments were vastly different but I won’t get into an anti-Bush rant here – see previous posts for that! After the film we boarded a ferry for the ride out to the memorial.  It was peaceful out there.  The memorial sits over the USS Arizona so we could see the ship on both sides submerged.  There is still oil that leaks out.  There are close to 1000 men who are still buried in the ship so it’s a graveyard as well as a memorial.  On the far side is a wall with all the names of the men who lost their lives during the bombing.  On a separate wall are names of men who survived the bombing but wanted to be buried with their shipmates so they have been brought back and buried there.  It’s very moving and solemn.  I am so glad I was able to go there.   Once we finished with the Arizona we took a bus over to Ford Island to the USS Missouri.  This is a battleship that was the site of the signing of the treaty that ended WWII.  It also served in the Persian Gulf.  It is now decommissioned and sits as a floating museum.  We had lunch on the docks before boarding.  We walked around for a long time and it was so amazing being so close to a part of such amazing history.  Once we left there, we decdided to skip the Aviation Museum and the USS Bowfin submarine.  We then gt in the car and drove to the Dole Pineapple Plantation.  We ddin’t really want to tour the plantation so we just went to the gift shop.  It was great!! Pineapple everything!! We got a couple gifts for Alexis and we each had yummy pineapple ice cream.  Then we drove around a bit and headed back to the hotel.  After some relaxing we headed out for dinner.  We walked around Waikiki a bit again before going to Duke’s.  It wasn’t our first choice but it was one of the few places that didn’t have a wait.  We had a very nice table that was on the beach which was nice.  Luckily we had that b/c the food sucked.  I was not happy.  They had a good salad bar and I wish I would have stuck with that.  Marc liked his food, I didn’t like mine at all.  I was very disappointed but I didn’t think I would like it too much, it was much too touristy!!!

10/31: Today Marc had his conference and I didn’t really have anything planned.  I got up and lounged for a bit.  I went to Starbucks for a coffee and then walked along the beach and headed back upstairs.  I changed into my bathing suit and went out to the pool.  I laid out by the pool most of the day – I took a break only for lunch when I went to Cheeseburger in Paradise (not owned by Jimmy Buffet) for an expensive cheeseburger and fries.  Once Marc was done with work we decided to got out of Waikiki for dinner since it was Halloween and promised to be crazy. We went to the original Roy’s in a non-tourist area of the island.  Roy’s is one of Marc’s favorite restaurants, I had only been to one before in Orlando but it was neat to go to the original.  The food was excellent!!!!!! Everything was good – appetizers, entrees and dessert!! This was a good dinner.  Unfortunately, it took us a very very long time to get back to Waikiki because of all the other people trying to get there for halloween.  We finally made it and I was exhausted and I don’t like crowds of drunk costumed people so I went to the room, Marc wanted to be part of the action so he walked around a little bit.

11/1: We got up on the early side and headed to Hanauma Bay to go snorkeling.  We stopped first to rent snorkeling equipment.  I was a little skeeved at the thought of renting a snorkel but it would have been expensive to buy it, not to mention useless since we don’t snorkel ever.  So I asked the people at the rental place how they clean their equipment and I also asked them to please give me one that was relatively new.  I was ok but just to make me feel better I wiped the mouth piece with Purell – yes I am a germ-a-phobic!! Anyway.  We arrived at Hanauma Bay and the view was spectacular.  It’s a bay surrounded by cliffs.  First we had to watch a short video on the Bay since it’s a preserved habitat.  Then we headed down to the beach.  It’s quite a walk. There’s a tram, it’s $.50 to get down and $1.00 to come back up.  We walked down but decided we would need to take that tram back up!!!!!!! We slathered ourselves with sunscreen and headed for the water.  Brrrrrrrr!!!! I’m sure for people from points north of me the water was nice, but for this SoFla girl it was cold!!!! This was not Miami Atlantic bathwater warm so it took some getting used to.  The reef in the bay is enclosed with only a small opening to get out to the open ocean so there weren’t any sharks.  This is something I thoroughly researched before we left miami – I watch Shark Week I don’t want to come face to face with a shark.  Ever.  We had bought an underwater camera so we snorkeled and saw some beautiful colorful fish and took neat pictures.  Unfortunately the coral was mostly dead because of uneducated people standing on it but the fish were still there.  I’m sure if we had ventured out to the portion of the reef beyond the enclosed part it would have been much neater but see my sentence above about sharks.  Not happening.  Once we were sufficiently water-logged we changed and rinsed off and went to have lunch – burgers.  Then we went driving up the coast.  Our first stop was the Halona Blowhole – a natural spot where the foam from the Pacific shoots up creating a marine variety of Old Faithful – very cool.  Next to the blowhole is the Halona Beach Cove, famous because it’s where the love scene in From Here to Eternity was filmed.  Then we went to Sandy Beach – one of the most dangerous beaches, it has an ambulance on perpetual standby for the body-surfers who get sucked under.  Again, a spot I was content to visit from afar.  Next we stopped at Makapuu point where we saw an island shaped like a swimming rabbit with its ears pulled back (supposedly, all I saw was a big hunk of rock) there was a lighthouse tucked into the cliffs and another amazing view.  We could see Molokai (or Lanai, not sure).  Next to that was Waimanalo Beach Park and we were not planning on stopping here until we saw a big commotion so we decided to check it out.  Turns out they were releasing large turtles back into the ocean.  So we watched along with a crowd of people.  Marc lost a flip flop in his excitement to get a close up picture.  Luckily someone caught it before it floated out to sea.  Next we took a scenic route along the Pali Highway back to the hotel.  That night we stayed around our area and went shopping for souvenirs and then had dinner at a restaurant called MAC 24-7 which was open 24 hours – dinner was yummy and we were tired.

11/2: Our last day in Hawaii.  We got up and took one last stroll along Waikiki Beach then packed everything up and checked out.  We headed to the North Shore.  We stopped at Haleiwa – the “capital” of the North Shore and had lunch at what is supposedly the best burger place Kua Aina the burgers were really good.  We then walked around the town a little bit and had a shave ice which is popular there.  It’s like a snow cone – it was delicious!!!!!!!!!!!  Then we drove along and stopped at all the famous surfing spots – and watched the waves and the surfers for a while.  We then headed back to Honolulu.  We had some time before dinner so we went back to the Ala Moana Center to walk around.  Then we went to dinner at Sam Choy’s which was soo good!!!! After  that it was time to go to the airport and say goodbye to Hawaii.  It was a lkong flight to LA then another long flight to Miami.  We were both happy to be home!!!!!!!

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Hawaii Trip 2008 (part 1 LA and The Big Island)

November 5, 2008 at 3:17 pm (Travel, Uncategorized) (, , , )

We are back from our trip to Hawaii.  We arrived in LA on Oct. 25th and left the following afternoon for Hawaii.  We were there until Nov. 2nd at night and arrived back in Miami on Nov. 3rd.

The bad bews – I gained 4 pounds.  The good news – I don’t care!!

10/25: Marc arrived from Austin, TX and I met him in LA both in the morning.  We had lunch at Mario Batali’s restaurant Pizzeria Mozza which was absolutely fabulous!!!!!!! We didn’t really do a lot we had both been to LA so we didn’t have any need for sightseeing.  We had dinner at In N Out Burger – very exciting I know.

10/26: We met up with my cousin, Ferdie at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and walked around.  It was a beautifl day so it was nice to just wander around outside.  From there we went to lunch at an omelette place which was yummy.  We walked around some more then Marc and I headed for the airport.  First we made a pit stop at Sprinkles, the famous cupcake place in Beverly Hills.  The cupcakes looked amazing and we got 6.  We had 1 on the plane and then the rest in the days following.  The first was a marshmallow, then vanilla milk chocolate, vanilla for marc, cinnamon sugar for me, chocolate, black & white, they were good at first then they got very dry very fast.  And honestly, I was disappointed, I thought they would be better.  They were good, but not great.  Anyway, we boarded our flight and headed for Hawaii.  Nothing exciting about the flight.  It was just over 5 hours from LA to Kona.  We arrived around 8:30 and rented a car then headed to dinner.  Most  things close early and we had very few options so we went to a place called Quinns which was open until 11.  It was good.  Next we checked into our hotel which was beautiful and we had a waterfront room.  The room itself was not great – the carpets were grungy and the bathroom was not too nice.  The hotel needed some serious upgrading.  I went on the balcony and could see something in the water below.  marc went to the front desk to see if they had any other rooms available and I went for a closer look at the marine life.  Turns out  they were Manta Rays – they were HUGE! At least a 6 foot wingspan.  There were 4 of them just playing in the ocean.  So pretty.  Marc went to a few other rooms and they were all the same, in need of renovation, so we stayed where we were.

10/27: Our frist full day in Hawaii we got in the car and drove! We stopped first at a scenic point not too far from our hotel to take pics of our hotel.  Next we drove towards the Hamakua Coast.  We stopped at Waipio Valley Overlook.  It’s a beautiful spot overlooking a valley and a black sand beach.  The only way to get down is with a four wheel drive car or by walking and there was no way we were walking – it was steep and very high.  We were content to enjoy from above.  We got back in the car and drove through the town of Waimea and had lunch there.  Theentire drive was gorgeous!! Winding roads through valleys and mountains.  We then stopped at Laupahoehoe which was destroyed by a Tsunami in 1946 Tsunami.  We walked around on the rocks and what used to be the pier.  There was a memorial there to the victims.  From there we went to Akaka Falls – this was a mile long hike into a rainforest that took us past 2 waterfalls – Akaka and smaller Kahuna.   We then drove into Hilo and walked around for a bit.

It was getting close to sunset so we headed towards Mauna Kea which was our destination for the evening.  It started getting dark as we made the hour long drive up the mountain.  It was a white knuckle drive.  It was a two-lane road with no lights up a mountain and it was almost dark.  At one point we went through the cloud layer so we could hardly see in front of us.  I was holding my breath at times.  Finally we made it to the visitors center at Mauna Kea which was almost 1000 ft elevation.  That was as high as we were going, the peak was another 400 feet but we would have needed parkas and to join a tour so we skipped it.  The visitors center was equipped was telesopes all pointed at a different star or planet.  Mauna Kea is one of the foremost spots in the world for astronomers.  At the peak there are 13 observaroties where astronomers view the heavens and make new discoveries.  It was amazing frm where we were.  We could see millions of stars.  One of the astronomers there pointed out the various constellations and planets and even a star in another galaxy! We also saw a satellite moving and an asteroid.  It was so cool!! From there we made the harrowing dive down the opposite side of the mountain back into Kona and we stopped for a quick late dinner at Wendy’s before getting to bed.

10/28: Volcano Day!! The only thing I realy wanted to do in Hawaii was see Mt Kilauea so I was so excited to be doing this.  We headed out in the morning and stopped for some banana bread at a local bakery.  I don’t like banana anything so I got one that supposedly did not have a strong banana flavor.  It was ok.  We went to Kaleakakua Bay and sat eating our bread there.  There was a little puppy there who I assme was waiting while his owner went snorkeling.  We could see the Captan Cook Monument in the distance.  The puppy hung out with us and I ended up giving him a lot of my banana bread, he enjoyed it more than I did.  did I mention how cute he was?  After some pics we were on our way once again.  We stopped at Punaluu Black Sand Beach.  There was a group of people doing Tai Chi on the beach and it was neat to watch them.  We climbed on the rocks a bit and took some pictures and admired the scenery and then cotinued on our way.  The drive was so amazing.  We wold drive through lush green trees and beautiful flowers.  Past cliffs and crashing ocean waves.  Then all of a sudden – black rock.  That was where the lava flows were.  We passed several all from Mauna Loa and from 1837 – 1950.  We got out a couple times just to look around!! As we were approaching Volcanoes Nat’l Park, we started seeing a huge plume of smoke.  Marc wonderedif that was coming from the volcano.  I said there was no way b/c it was too big it must be coming from a fire somewhere.  As we got even closer, it became apparent that it was indeed coming from the park.  When we pulled into the park there were signs everywhere warning of increased volcanin activity and saying that the roads around the crater were closed.  We went to the visitors center to see where we could go.  We spoke to one of the rangers who gave us a good plan for the visit.  As we were browsing inthe gift shop, Marc overheard a radio transmission that said they were opening a portion of the road along crater rim drive but didn’t know who long it would remain open.  We jumped in the car and headed straight there.  It was open to the Jaggar Museum which is the site of the USGS research facility.  We got out of our car and could not believe the eerie quiet.  All we heard was the hiss of the gases spewing out of the cater in the middle of kilauea caldera.  It really gives you a sense of creation and of how the earth is alive and “breathing”  It was so amazing.  We just watched it.  All around the crater was desolate landscape.  It looked like a lunar landscape.  It was dryand rocky and barren as far s the eye could see.  And everywhere were these small steam vents releasing gas into the air.  Once we were finished looking and decided that breathing volcaninc gases for any longer was not a smart thing to do we got back in the car and went back in the direction of the visitors center since the rest of the road was closed.  We stopped at the steam vents along the way and felt the ho steam being released from the earth.  At this point we decided we needed to eat lunch before we continued our visit.  We drove into the town aptly named Volcano and had lunch at a pizza place.  We then returned to the park and headed down Chain of Craters Road which ended at the site of the former town of Kalapana which was destroyed by lava in 1990.  It was an amazing drive past more lava flows and then down a mountain ending at the ocean.  We parked the car and walked along the road until the spot where the road was covered by lava.  It was amazing to see that there had once been a road there that continued but was now buried.  There was a sign that said Road Closed that had been buried partialy by lava.  We walked along the lava as far as we were allowed to go.  In the distance we could see a large cloud rising out of the ocean marking the spot where lava was flowing into the ocean.  It was beginning to get dark and we headed out b/c they allow the last car into the lave viewing area at 8pm and it was a long drive.  As we approached the viewing area, we could see the red cloud rising and to our right we could see the lava itself flowing down the mountain.  We got to the lava viewing area parking and it was already dark.  We got our flashlight and got out and headed to where the lava started.  It was pitch black, there was reflective tape on the lave marking the trail and we had only our flashlight to guide us along the half mile walk over the rocky terrain.  It was not an easy walk.  We arrived at the end and could hear only the sounds of the waves crashing and the roar of the ckoud rising from the molten lava meeting with the cool Pacific waters.  It looked like fire rising out of the water.  It was an awesome site.  I sat down on the lava and just watched the show.  It was truly unbelieveable and indescribeable.  I am so glad I got to see that.  Once we headed back to the car and out of there, it was late and restaurants close early.  We had a 2 hour drive back to Kona and knew that there would be nothing open at that time.  So, instead we headed the 8 miles into Hilo and ate at a really good 24-hour restaurant!! Then it was time to make the 2 hour drive back over the dark winding road.  We were both exhausted and so happy when we finally arrived back at our hotel!!

10/29 (morning): We were leaving for Oahu in the afternoon and we decided to take it easy.  We lounged around the hotel and packed our bags then headed into Kona to kill some time.  We went to a local Farmer’s Market and walked around then we went to Kona Inn Shopping Village and had lunch at a cute seaside restaurant then walked around and did some shopping and headed to the airport to catch out Hawaiian Air flight to Oahu.  The flight itself was 30 minutes long.

To be continued in Hawaii Part 2…

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Trip Planning

July 25, 2008 at 8:19 am (Travel) (, )

I love traveling! I’ve been to a lot of places – all through the US, many countries in Europe (some more than once), Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  One of my favorite things about traveling is getting ready for the trip.  I love doing the research, the planning.  I go to the travel sites and see what they recommend, I read the books, etc.  Usually before I leave I have an itinerary prepared with activities broken out by location and separated by day.  I’m very organized so that we don’t waste time on the trip every morning saying, “what do we do today?”

With that said, I’m having a very hard time coming up with an itinerary in Hawaii!! I really just can’t seem to weed through the must-do and the could-do things.  I don’t do the beachy vacations very often, usually I do  the more adventurous lots to do places.  My last trip was two and a half weeks in Alaska – lots to do and easy to figure out the highlights.  Hawaii – not so much.  We’re going to the Big Island and to Oahu.  The only thing I HAVE to do is go to Volcanoes National Park.  I have a fascination with volcanoes and to be able to see an active one I think will be amazing.  Other than that, it seems like one beach after another.  Except Pearl Harbor, which we will visit as well.  I’m trying to figure out where we have to go and shouldn’t miss, but the travel guides aren’t very clear cut on this.  So I guess I will need to keep looking and hope that i can sift through to find a list of places we need to visit and sights we need to see.

Advice appreciated…

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