On Sunday, January 27th, my friend Joyce and I departed for a two week vacation on four of the Hawaiian Islands. The first three islands would be part of a tour group while the fourth island was on our own. Cedar Rapids departure was at 7:00 a.m. with arrival in Honolulu on Oahu Island at 3:50 p.m.; their time zone is 4 hours behind central time.
Monday, the 28th: I got up at 5:00 a.m. Hawaiian time and read until Joyce woke at 7:30. After getting ready for the day, went down to breakfast in our hotel (which was included with the tour). Good buffet with fresh fruit and made-to-order omelet bar. And then we walked and walked for a total of over 10 miles for the day. Had lunch at LaCucaracha Mexican Bar & Grill where we shared an order of chicken nachos.
Met our guide from Perillo Tours later in the afternoon; he is called cousin Bert. He explained the activities of the next few days and asked us to meet him at 8:00 in the morning for the beginning of our adventure. At check in, we were given a fresh lei and he said to wear them because a group picture will be taken. Joyce and I walked some more and came upon King’s Village which was one of the first shopping malls of the area but will be bulldozed down to make way for a hotel; very sad to see something with such history being destroyed instead of preserved. We ended up having dinner at Cheeseburger Paradise where I have an excellent Ahi tuna salad. Went back to our room and settled in for the night.
Tuesday, the 29th: Went to breakfast before meeting our tour group at 8:00 a.m. At the meeting, introductions were made; a very small group of 8. Our guide gave us additional details about this week’s activities. On this day we went to ‘Iolani Palace which is the only palace within the United States. Hawaii used to be ruled by a monastery. The palace was built in 1882 and construction cost $360,000. The tour was self guided with audio tape being the guide; it was very clear and well produced.
Upon leaving the palace, we went thru downtown Honolulu where Bert and our driver pointed out various points of interest.
Next stop was Pearl Harbor where we saw a 30 minute documentary of the events leading up and including the dropping of the bombs on December 7, 1942. After the viewing, we boarded a Coast Guard vessel which took us out to the memorial honoring those who died on the US Arizona. Upon our return to shore, we released the flowers from the leis we were wearing into the water in memory of those who died. After venturing thru the gift shop, we boarded the bus and headed to Punchbowl, the Pacific National Cemetery.
Returned to the hotel, relaxed while Joyce wrote postcards, and then we went to the farmers market being held on the lower level of our resort. Met up with the rest of our group and walked to the Hula Grill where we had dinner reservations. Saw the sun go down while drinking a Mai Tai. Excellent meal of Mahi Mahi baked with macadamia nuts.
Returned to the hotel and read until time to turn off the lights.
Wednesday, the 30th: We were on our own until late afternoon so we had a leisurely breakfast and spent the day relaxing with a book on our balcony. In the late afternoon, we all gathered for an adventure at Nutridge Estates. A beautiful drive into the mountains with Joe providing the cocktails.
Arrived at the estate and were given the traditional welcome when someone asks permission to enter the gate in Hawaiian and a response from the other side granting it with the gate opening.
What a fun afternoon and evening we had filled with hands on experiences such as how to make sweet potatoes over a fire or how to make head bands and waist bands out of palm leaves. There was a wonderful buffet of Hawaiian foods such as salad, vegetable, pork, and chicken. After our feast, we were shown how to do the Hula dance…what a fun time and no one wanted it to end. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped for pictures of Honolulu at night from an overlook above the area.
Maui was the next island on our itinerary.
Thursday, the 31st: Had breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and met up with Cousin Bert in the lobby. We departed for the airport, went thru Security, and boarded our flight for Maui. Flight time was only 30 minutes. Upon our arrival and baggage retrieval, we boarded transportation for the ride to the Hyatt Maui which was our home the next three nights. Joyce and I had a surprise of water leaking thru the ceiling into wastes paper baskets when entering the room reserved to us; we were given another room. Once we settled in, we walked the grounds of the resort. It is very beautiful with oceanfront views, flamingos walking the grounds, swans/ducks/fishes swimming the crystal clear waters, and penguins walking in their own enclosure. That evening we had dinner at the Son’z Maui Restaurant; I had their lamb chops along with a couple glasses of wine.
Friday, Feb. 1st: It was a free day for us until later in the afternoon so I, along with another tour member, made appointments at the spa located in the Sheraton for a facial and massage. We were able to take a shuttle from the hotel to the spa; what a relaxing, refreshing experience! Rene and I decided to walk back to our lodging and it was a wonderful walk with view of the ocean the whole way. Joyce and I met up in our room, put on our suits, and went down to the patio for lunch of veggie wrap and chips that we split. We then walked into the ocean and swam in the pool.
Cousin Bert called and said the whale watch for the afternoon was cancelled…much to everyone’s dismay; due to the perseverance of one of our group, Bert arranged for us to participate on a watch the next morning. That evening we went into town for some shopping and dinner at Kimo’s. We returned to our hotel and settled in for the evening.
Saturday, the 2nd: Got up early this morning in order to have breakfast before our 7:15 departure for the whale watch. We boarded a catamaran and spent the next two hours watching whales jumping out of the ocean. It was raining so everyone got wet but no one cared because it was such a beautiful experience. The naturalist told us we were really spoiled because many trips are lucky to see a couple whales where we saw at least 50 which included females, males, and babies.
Returned to my room, got off wet clothes, warmed up in the shower, and spent the afternoon updating these notes, writing out post cards, and reading in the room; with it raining outside, this was the perfect activity. In the evening, we went to the “Drums of the Pacific” Luau. Food was good and show okay but participated in better ones on a couple Windstar cruises.
Sunday, the 3rd: Had breakfast, checked out of our hotel, and boarded transportation for the airport where we departed Maui for Kauai which is known as the “Garden Island”. Arrived at the Grand Hyatt approximately 2:00; found our room for the next three nights. We went to a convenience store within the hotel and I purchased a bottle of wine. Returned to the room and watched the Super Bowl on the big screen TV in the room instead of joining the others at the pool bar.
After watching New England beat the Rams, we joined the others at 6:00 for dinner at Tidepools which is a restaurant within the resort. My meal was Ahi Tuna with a garden salad; dessert was chocolate lava cake. Went back to the room and read until lights out around 10:00 pm.
Monday, the 4th: After an early breakfast, we were picked up by a Sunshine Helicopters van for a journey to their office and helipad; we had signed up for an optional tour of a 50 minute helicopter ride over the island. After a safety briefing, we were assigned a helicopter; Joyce and I were on the same one in the front row by the pilot. What a fantastic experience! We saw areas of the island that a person would only be able to see from the air…and a rainbow came out as we were descending over the ocean. Will worth the money!
Returned to our hotel around noon; we checked with the tour desk for information about island’s tropical garden. We decided to venture to the gardens so, after gathering our belongings, we grabbed a taxi and took off. We signed up for the 2.5 hour tour of McBryde and Allerton Gardens with the majority of the tour being in the latter one. Our guide walked us through various garden rooms of reflecting pools, fig roots/trees, mermaid room, bamboo room,etc. with each room being described as an uniquely designed area of landscaping, outdoor art, and intriguing stories. Dick Van Dyke, John Wayne, Nicholas Cage, Johnny Depp, and Steven Spielberg all filmed movies on the property. Recent famous one was Jurassic Park.
After making a purchase at the visitors center, I downloaded the Uber app to my phone so we could get transportation to Pizzetta in Koloa. Upon arrival at the pizza place, we ordered drinks and a vegetable pizza/garden salad to split. After eating, we went into a couple shops where I purchased a t-shirt plus greeting cards. With Judy from Uber responding, we returned to the Hyatt in time to walk the area in search for a good place to watch the sunset.
After the sun went down, we went to our room and spent a quiet evening updating notes and reading.
Tuesday, the 5th: Had an early breakfast this morning due to meeting the group for an 8:00 am departure of sightseeing tour of Waimea Canyon, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. The canyon is approximately 10 miles long and up to 3000 ft. deep; this vast canyon is very colorful with reddish hues, some waterfalls, and tall cliffs. After viewing the canyon, we proceeded on to the Sprouting Horn which is narrow openings caused by the waves eroding lava rocks on the coastline. We were able to see the water gushing up thru the hole. There were some stalls of vendors selling their merchandise so we walked up the sidewalk viewing their wares. Once we got back into the van, we drove to the Kauai Coffee’s Koloa Estate. This is the largest coffee farm in the U.S. with 3,000 acres and 4M coffee trees. After tasting their various coffees, I purchased some for gifts to family and friends.
We arrived back at the hotel and, after taking our packages to the room, we changed into our swimsuits, got towels and selected our beach chairs, and had lunch at the pool bar. And then it started to rain so we retrieved our bags and went back to the room to wait out the rain; after three attempts to sit by the pool but having rain come down, we gave up. Joyce took a nap and I read. Met up with our fellow travelers at 6:00 pm for dinner at Dondero’s Italian Restaurant within the resort. It was a very good meal of salad, Parmesan Chicken (not on the menu but made for me at my request) and dessert accompanied with a couple glasses of wine.
Because of our leaving for the Big Island the next morning while the rest of the group were flying to their respective homes, we said our farewells to everyone. Once in our room, we packed our suitcases for a 8:30 pick up and retired for a good night’s sleep.
Wednesday, the 6th: Got ready for the day, checked the room for any items we might have left, and went for our final breakfast on Kauai. Checked out of the hotel and met up with cousin Bert at 9:00; he had arranged our transport to the airport. Arrival and check in at the airport was uneventful; there were two legs on our journey with the first flight flying into Maui and the second into Hawaii. Both flights were timely and we arrived on Hawaii around 1:00 pm in the afternoon. After retrieving our luggage, we found the rental car shuttle bus (although I did get on the wrong bus…thank heavens Joyce was aware 😊). We got our rental car and headed to our home for the next three nights, Westin Hapuna Beach resort. I was quite surprised to see the surroundings were black lava rock; totally different than the green of the other islands. Arrived, dropped off luggage, parked the car, checked in, and found our room which had an ocean view from our balcony. Both of us were hungry so we had lunch at the pool restaurant. After lunch, we drove to the nearest town with shops and food stores. We found Island Gourmet, a grocery store recommended by the waitress we had at lunch. Our purchases was food for the next two evening meals along with a bottle of wine for myself. Upon arrival back at the hotel, parked the car and stored our purchases in our room refrigerator. And then we explored the hotel but returned to the room in time to watch the sunset. Returned back to the lobby to watch a celebration of the Chinese New Year which was two dragons weaving through the lobby and bar area to the sound of drums beating. It was a fun sight! Returned to the room and settled in for the evening. We had an island tour scheduled for the next day with pick up at 6:45 a.m. so a quiet evening was welcomed.
Thursday, the 7th: We got up at 5:15 in order to be ready for 6:45 pick up by Wasabi Tours for a “Big Island Grand Island” tour. Our driver and guide was Dan Malloy from Billings, MT who works as a tour guide on Hawaii during the winter and Yellowstone Park during the summer months. He was very knowledgeable of all the natural wonders of the area; it was an excellent way to get an overview of the massive island. On the tour, we walked through an ancient lava tube and got an overview of the historical Kona Coffee Farm. We made a stop at the Black Sand beach where we looked for green sea turtles but, to our disappointment, did not spot any. Onward to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where we walked by steam vents and viewed the Kīlauea and Halema’uma’u crater outlooks. At the visitor center, we watched a short video of last year’s Kīlauea eruption.
After eating a lunch provided by Wasabi, we explored the visitor center of the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm. We continued along the Hamakua coast; we made stops at the Waipi’o Valley lookout, the famous Rainbow Falls, and Akaka Falls where we took a walk through the rainforest for an up-close view of the falls. We saw views of the southernmost point of the United States, South Point, and Kealakekua Bay.
We continued on our journey making a loop around the whole island and ending back at our lodging 11.5 hours after we were picked up in the morning. An excellent experience! Because we realized we would be tired after the day’s activities, we had picked up salad/sandwich the day before for our dinner which we ate in the room. There was nothing on the agenda for the next day so we could sleep in which was a pleasant thought after such an action packed day.
Friday, the 8th: We had breakfast in the dining room around 9:30; afterwards, we returned to our room, put on our swimsuits, found pool side chairs, swam, sunned ourselves, and walked the beach. Returned to our room where we changed clothes and headed out to explore another nut farm called Hamakua plus the historic town of Hawi. Both Joyce and I felt Hamakua had a better variety of items than the one we visited the previous day.
And we enjoyed walking the town of Hawi with both of us making a few purchases but felt it was another “tourist trap”. We drove to the Island Gourmet which was south of our lodging and I found more items to purchase for gifts back home. Returned to our resort and had diner, while watching the sunset, at the ocean front grill of the resort. Very tasty food and beautiful sunset. Upon return to our room, both of us organized our luggage for departure home late Saturday evening. Had a quiet night of reading before turning out the lights.
Saturday, the 9th: Our departure to home was not until 11:00 p.m. in the evening so we were able to get a late check out time of 3:00 p.m. It was a very leisurely morning with late breakfast and beach walking. We decided to check out around 1:00 or so in the afternoon. Our destination was historic Kailua Village which is located about 15 miles south of our departure airport and along Kona coast. There were shops that we explored along with viewing historical sights of Hulihee Palace, built in 1838, along with the oldest Christian church in Hawaii that was built in 1820. A dear friend of Joyce’s had given her some money for the two of us to have a dinner on her so we found a seafood restaurant, selected seafood dishes, and toasted Joan for gift.
Decided to go to the airport early; dropped Joyce off at the terminal with luggage, returned rental car, and took their shuttle bus back to the terminal. And then the fun began with our not being able to check luggage for another couple hours; unfortunately, there were no benches or places to sit. But we did luck out with an earlier American flight occurring so was able to check in about an hour earlier than thought. Once we got thru security, we found a place where we got some liquid refreshments. Because of high winds over the Pacific, our incoming plane was delayed arriving so we did not board until 40 minutes after original departure time. Both of us were very disappointed in the first class section on all our flights because the seat did not lower enough to make it comfortable to sleep; certainly different than on our flights at the start of our journey. The good news was the high winds provided us with a tail wind which meant we got into LAX early instead of late; Joyce and I departed company at that point with my taking a connecting flight to Dallas and she to NW Arkansas airport. Once in Dallas, I had another connection to Cedar Rapids with my arriving before the scheduled time.
Great vacation, great fun, great traveling companion but it was good to get home!