Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 9 - The Final Day

We woke up earlier this morning than we had planned, so we all just went ahead and got up. After showers and making sure the luggage was ready to go to the airport, we set off to find some breakfast. Last night while shopping we had found a crepe place and that sounded good so we headed in that direction. When we got there we saw they didn’t open for another 30 minutes. We decided to head the other way toward Eggs ‘N Things. When we got there we discovered a 45 minute wait. So, we ended up back at the hotel for their breakfast.

After breakfast we got the car and drove out to the Byodo-In Temple. For some reason the kids had originally wanted to go and since we had time we decided to do that this morning. We got there before the tour busses and it was very tranquil and peaceful at first.

We started walking around the grounds and saw the hundreds of koi in the ponds. Madison wanted to feed them so we went in the gift shop and bought some food. We came out and she started throwing the food to the fish. It was amazing to watch them swim on top of each other to get the food. And then the next thing we knew, Madison had a fish land in her hand to eat some of the food. That’s when Dalton decided he wanted some food as well. We stood there for probably 15 minutes letting the kids feed the fish and the birds.

Once the feeding was done, we let both kids ring the bell in the Bell House. The bell is customarily rung before one enters the temple to spread the eternal teachings of Buddha.

After ringing the bell we took off our shoes and entered the temple. Before us stood the over 18 feet tall Buddha. After seeing Buddha, we walked around the grounds a little more before leaving.

We headed back to the hotel where we checked out and loaded our luggage into the rental car. We didn’t have to return the car until 6pm so we had time to do whatever we wanted. On our segway tour earlier in the week, the guide had mentioned an acai bowl at the Diamonhead Cove Health Bar. We decided to head there and try one for ourselves. The bowl was a lot bigger than we thought and we probably could have at least shared one bowl between two people, but it was yummy!

I had remembered seeing a triathlon shop not far from there and I really wanted a Hawaiian themed jersey so we headed that way. I don’t really wear sleeved jerseys a lot, but I saw one I really liked. I also found a sleeveless one I liked, but the smallest size was a men’s small. In the end, I ended up with both of them.

After that, we set off to drive around the island so we could see the few parts we had not seen before. We stopped at the Halona Blow Hole. The view was pretty, but we never saw the water come up out of the blow hole.

Our next stop was a macadamia nut factory. There wasn't a tour to take, but there was plenty to sample! We ended up buying a couple more bags - one coated in cinamon and one coated in caramel.

Since we had time, we decided to head back up to the North Shore and head into the town of Haleiwa. It is a quaint little town. There are some modern aspects to it, but most of it reminds you of what it might have been like before Hawaii became such a popular tourist destination.

We got stuck in a little bit of traffic up there for some reason, so after driving through Haleiwa, we decided to head on back and turn the car in. It was an easy process and we were quickly on the shuttle back to the airport.

We sent our luggage through the agricultural inspection and then checked our bags for the flight. We noticed when we got in line for security that they had the full body x-ray vision machine. It looked like they were making almost everyone go through it so we figured at least one or two of us would be sent through. Nope, 3 of us got sent through. Dalton, the only one who thought it would be cool to go through it, was the only one who got lucky and got to go through regular security. It wasn’t that bad, but it was weird wondering how much they can really see. I didn’t even want to think about it.

Once through security, we found our gate. Madison and I found plugs so we could recharge our phones and we passed time by reading. Around 7pm I asked the kids if they were going to want to eat before getting on the plane. They did, so $40 later everyone had a full belly.

Going home we were in first class again, but on a different type plane. This one wasn’t as nice as the one coming over and the seat didn’t recline near as far. I knew it would be hard for me to sleep. I was glad I kept my neck pillow out even though I got a pillow and blanket in first class.

After takeoff they served warm nuts, vegetable soup, fruit and cheese, a Hawaiian roll (yum) and a macadamia nut cookie. I ate some of it and had a little wine. Then it was time to try to sleep. I think I may have gotten around an hour of sleep from Honolulu to LA. We landed in LA at 5am and our next flight home left at 6:40am. On that flight we got served breakfast. I maybe got another hour or two of sleep on this plane. It was more comfortable and the seats reclined better, but still not like the seats on the flight over.

When we got near the airport, I could tell I was home. My allergies kicked in and I sneezed multiple times in a row. I hardly sneezed at all in Hawaii. Hmmmm. Anyway, as soon as we landed and got off the plane I could feel the heat. Ugghhh. I had worn my jacket on the plane because I was cold and that thing quickly came off. We headed down to grab our luggage. And wouldn’t you know it – another wheel on my luggage came off. That luggage is going in the trash.

My parents were outside waiting to pick us up and take us home. And when we got home, the dogs went crazy. They were very happy we were home. Our house sitter took great care of them while we were gone.

Vacation is over and it’s time to unpack and prepare to enter the working world again on Tuesday. Thank goodness for the 4th of July holiday.

Day 8 - Hanauma Bay and Shopping

Today was bittersweet. Even though we still have until Saturday evening, we had to check out of the timeshare today and move to a different hotel. We got up fairly early, ate breakfast, finished packing, checked out and headed into town. Our hotel for the night was the Holiday Inn Beachcomber. Since we were going on a snorkeling tour this afternoon, we wanted to stop by the hotel and at least drop our luggage off.

When we got to the hotel, I ran up to the lobby and luck was on our side. Our room was ready. I checked in and then we went to the valet area to park the car and unload the luggage. The whole process was quick and easy. They even gave the kids some drawstring backpacks. Very impressed so far. The room was nice, but nothing compared to the timeshare. Good thing it was only for one night.

After getting settled a little bit, we grabbed our beach gear and walked to the pick-up location for our Hanauma Bay snorkeling adventure. We were a little worried about whether we were in the right spot or not because there was no sign and we didn’t see anyone else who looked like they may be waiting for the same thing, but right on time the bus pulled up.

The bus ride out was about 30 minutes but along the way we got some history of the island and got shown Keanu Reeves’ house (at least that is what the bus driver said anyway). We stopped just outside the bay so that everyone could get snorkels and fins and then we headed in and were dropped off.

We got our tickets for entry and the time for our video. They are trying to preserve the area so everyone has to watch a 15 minute video before being allowed down to the beach and in the water. After the video we headed down the fairly steep path and then found a spot on the beach.

Dalton and I were the first two to get to snorkel. We headed into the water and once again, it was too cold for me. But, I wasn’t going to pass up the chance so I just dealt with it and got in. This was also the first time we would attempt to use our new underwater digital camera. Yes, it was supposed to be waterproof. I say that, because the first time I put it under water and tried to turn it on to take a picture, all I saw was a black screen. I came up out of the water and the same thing. I took it back and gave it to Joel and Dalton and I snorkeled for a little while. We saw a few fish but his mask kept leaking so I told him we needed to let Joel and Madison have their turn while we fixed his mask. We headed back to shore where I found out the waterproof camera wasn’t so waterproof. The bad part was that we had taken pictures on the catamaran and at the falls with it as well, so we are hoping the memory card is not ruined.

Joel and Madison got in the water for their turn. They weren’t gone very long before they headed back to shore as well. Somehow, Joel’s snorkel had come loose from his mask and was gone. Madison wasn’t done snorkeling so I got in the water and went back out with her. We didn’t really realize how far out we had gone until we saw the caution buoys, but we did see a lot more fish out there. We didn’t want to go too much further and the water got colder the further out you were, so we were both ready to come back in.

The rest of the afternoon was like this. Two of us would go out for a little bit and then come back and let two more go. The area was pretty, but every now and then a very strong wind would blow the sand and it felt like you were being sandblasted. It hurt. By 3:00 we were ready to head back to the top and catch our 3:15 shuttle bus back to the hotel.

Once back at the hotel we all showered and got dressed so that we could go eat. There was a Jimmy Buffet Restaurant in the bottom of the hotel and we had decided to eat there. Yes, pricey. No, not original. Yes, easy and fairly quick.

After dinner and our free desert (we had a coupon), we headed up and down the street to finish up some last minute shopping. We also headed into the International Market. When we saw the henna tattoos, we wished we had gone in there earlier. The kids and I all would have gotten them. Oh well.

After shopping it was back to the hotel to make sure everything was packed for the flight home. Then we all read until bedtime.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 7 - Waimea Valley Falls, Polynesian Culture Center and North Shore

This morning was a leisurely morning. We didn’t have any “scheduled” events so we could go at our own pace. After getting up and having breakfast, we headed out for the North Shore.

Our first place of interest was the Waimea Valley Falls, but they didn’t open until 9am, so we checked out some beaches along the way. The first beach we went to was the Waimea Bay Beach. Oh my – what a beautiful beach. There was also a cliff here where people could jump off. It looked like a lot of fun, but the beach wasn’t our mission this morning.

Leaving here we drove further north and ended up at Sunset Beach Park. Again, this was a beautiful beach. If you want less crowded and more laid back beaches, the North Shore is definitely where you need to be.

After seeing these two beaches it was time to head to the falls. It was really pretty even just entering the grounds. Upon getting our tickets, we started our hike toward the waterfalls. The hike itself is ¾ mile on a paved path, but there are botanical gardens along the way with all kinds of trails you can follow to view the foliage. Needless to say, we took lots of detours.

When you finally get to the waterfall and see it for the first time, you almost catch your breath. It is a beautiful sight. Sometimes you can swim in the pool below the falls and sometimes you can’t. Today was one of the days you were allowed to. Before entering you have to get briefed by the lifeguards. Due to the strong current caused by the falls, they advise everyone to have a noodle, a boogie board or a life jacket. Kids 12 and under have to have a life jacket, so Dalton got his. We all three got a boogie board. Joel opted to stay out and take pictures with the good camera.

Hitting the water for the first time was a shock. Those of you who know me well know that I don’t like cold water. And let me tell you, this water was COLD! Even Madison said it felt like taking an ice bath. I slowly inched my way in letting the next part of my body acclimate. I almost thought about not getting in, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t get in. Finally, I just leaned forward on the board and started kicking.

Even though it was cold, once you got moving it wasn’t too bad. The kids and I swam as close to the falls as we could, but it was hard to get close because the force from the falls kept pushing us back. We stayed in long enough to get some pictures and then headed for the shore so other folks could use our boogie boards.

We dried off a bit and then started our hike back to the bottom. We took some more pictures on the way down but not nearly as many as we did on the way up. When we got to the bottom one of the peacocks was in by the snack bar. I think he was hoping for some food.

After changing into dry clothes we set off to find Madison some fresh shrimp. She had been wanting some all week and we were told there are tons of shrimp trucks along the north shore. It wasn’t a lie. We found a truck and stopped to get her some food. Dalton even ate some.

After that we headed to the Polynesian Cultural Center. When we read about this, we thought it would be a lot of fun and that we would probably spend most of the afternoon here. Upon entering, we discovered it was not exactly what we thought. I think if you get there and time the shows just right it’s probably not that bad, but our timing was off and our family isn’t really the kind of family that likes to sit and watch demonstrations – we like the hands-on kind of stuff. We tried to catch the canoe ride and were told we could get on at the back of the park (we were already back there). Once we got there we were told that was the drop off spot and you had to catch the canoe at the front of the park. We walked all the way to the front and then found out you catch it at the front and it drops you off at the back. There was no return ride. Well, we had just come from there and didn’t want to do that all over again so we decided to not ride.

In fact, after looking at the schedule and seeing what else was there, we decided we were just done with the place. Luckily, the entrance fee was included in our Go Oahu Card so we didn’t feel like it was a big waste of money.

Another thing both kids have been wanting is a tattoo. They had them on the way out so we stopped and let them get a tattoo. That made them happy.

Since we had nothing else on the agenda today and since the kids didn’t really feel like being on the beach today, we decided to continue driving the way we were and see some more of the island. I’m really glad we did. The beaches along the North Shore are absolutely beautiful and the mountains are equally so. It was hard to know which way to look because you were afraid you might miss something.

Along this part of the island we passed the Kualoa Ranch. This is the place where parts of Jurrasic Park, Hawaii 5-0 and Lost were filmed. We thought about stopping to take a tour but the kids were ready to get back to the room.

When we got back to the resort I called the spa to see if they had a massage time available and they did. They just wanted to know if I wanted the massage inside or outside. Well hello, let’s do it outside! I walked down and they took me to a little cabana outside of the spa. It was really nice to lay there and here the birds chirping in the background. We weren’t really close to the ocean, so I couldn’t hear the waves but she did have a small water fountain going, so it made it feel like I was next to the ocean.

After the massage it was back to the room for dinner and then the unfortunate – packing. We have to check out of the time-share here on Friday. When we check out we will move to a hotel in Waikiki, but packing brings to mind the realization that the vacation is almost over. We still have a full day tomorrow and then almost a full day on Saturday before catching our plane.

After dinner and packing, we caught another great sunset. Aloha!