Thursday, July 23, 2009

Trip Review – Hawaii

As promised here is my trip review from Hawaii. As I have discussed before I am a huge proponent of the benefits of vacation and travel and this trip to Portland, Hawaii, and back to Portland was our big trip for this year. Besides the extensive travel to and from our various locations the trip was awesome.

We stayed at the Hale Koa resort on Waikiki beach in Honolulu. The Hale Koa is a military only resort, and as unappealing as that may sound to some it was actually an awesome resort. You would never be able to tell from the street that it is a military resort because it looks just like the other resorts, except the fact that its grounds are twice the size and arguable more beautiful than most. You can click here for the history and details of the resort. The crowd was varied but was primarily older or consisted of younger families there with their kids. This was a little different than our honeymoon where it was a couple only resort but it didn’t really matter with the Hawaii scene.

Typically we got up very early, not by choice. The time difference was six hours from Jersey. We worked out some of the days in the morning whether it was in the little gym in the resort or running along Waikiki. After our morning cereal and workout routine Heidi and I typically did some sort of activity or sightseeing. We would go to lunch after that and then make our way to the beach and pool. As it got closer to dinner we would go back to the room for some drinks and to shower before heading out. We typically were a little less conservative monetarily with dinners and drinks at night. We saved money on breakfast and booze by buying it at the mini base exchange they had in the resort. With lunch we tried to get some cheaper meals but Hawaii is pretty expensive. For dinners and drinks at night we just kind of went with it. The time change hit us pretty hard so we didn’t have too many late nights but it was a great time regardless.

Baking on the beach and by the pool is great and this trip was no exception, but what stood out for me on this trip was all the non-resort/beach things we did. To be honest it took us a few days to actually settle into the vacation mentality on this trip. With our pending move to Boston, Heidi’s career change, and attempts to rent/manage our condo from afar the stress levels of both of us were pretty high. However, it was the activities and cultural partaking that we did that really got my mind and worries off the stuff going on in ‘real’ life and put me at ease enjoying my wife’s company in a beautiful vacation spot. Here are a few of the highlights:

Dole Pineapple Plantation: We went to tour the Dole Pineapple Plantation one of the first days. It was pretty cool. There was a little kiddy train that we rode on that took you around and explained about the history of the pineapple on Hawaii and how Mr. Dole expanded the influence of the pineapple in the region and throughout the world. My favorite part was getting a pineapple ice cream waffle cone at the end. Beauty.

Waimea Bay: Being a huge fan of the movie Endless Summer II since about the age of 12 I was excited to go to the North Shore and specifically see Waimea Bay which is known for its monster waves. The North Shore was beautiful and I was surprised at how little commercialization at development is up there. However, when we arrived at Waimea I was stunned to see pristine flat ocean waters. No waves. I guess it was the wrong season but we laid on the beach and watched people jump on cliffs into the ocean which made for a nice relaxing trip.

Paddle Surfing: I really wanted to go surfing while I was in Hawaii but to be honest the waves sucked every day we were there, even from a novice perspective. Plus with the time change and insane quantities of sun I was pretty tired the whole trip. Heidi and I did paddle surfing instead. Basically you stand on and over sized surfboard with a big paddle and cruise around the ocean. It was definitely harder than I thought it would be as was evident by my numerous falls, but it was very cool. We cruised around for like 45 minutes and caught a glimpse of a giant sea turtle. Heidi was definitely better than I was which hurt my manhood a bit but it was a great time.

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay: We went snorkeling at Hanauma Bay and it was pretty incredible visually. You watch a video about safety and preserving the habitat and not walking on the coral etc. Well we wanted to get away from the crowds so we started in an area down away from most people. We should have taken the lack of crowd as a hint because we were stranded walking on coral because it was too shallow to swim over the stuff. After a loser kid tried to yell at us for walking on the coral, the day was pretty cool. Lots of stuff to see and it was fairly easy for a couple amateurs to navigate the bay. I would definitely recommend doing it.

Hiking Diamond Head: We hiked up Diamond Head which is a crater/mountain/old military observation post east of Waikiki. The views were absolutely incredible. The hike was a bit harder than advertised and I was amazed at the amount of people who were trekking up the side of these mountain trails. There were a lot of out of shape and older people who were going up the mountain and here Heidi and I are sweating like crazy struggling up the side of this thing. With the exception of my strong “reaction” to heights standing on the top of the observation post, it was pretty cool to be able to see for miles and miles across Oahu and the Pacific Ocean. This is a must do for non beach activities in Oahu.

Luau: The luau was pretty cool. It started slow but after dinner it ended up being pretty entertaining. There is just something a little weird about luau's to me. We made friends with one of the dude's in the show and he said he was Samoan. I told him my buddy was Samoan and that he said Hawaiians and Samoans haven't really gotten along too well throughout history. He agreed and went on to do their show. It got me thinking about luau's in general. Basically these high school Samoan kids get up in front of a bunch of tourists and perform a bunch of Polynesian dances and routines. It was entertaining but it felt a little zoo like to me. Maybe that's just my ignorance about the culture that had me questioning how much of the show was truly traditional and how much was just to fill the demand of other ignorant tourists. Kind of like how Hollywood made an entire genre of movies about cowboys and Indians that may not be very accurate of how things truly were. Regardless it was entertaining and the smoked pork was amazing.

Honolulu is definitely more touristy that I am used to, but after I settled into it I really enjoyed it. It was different that our honeymoon where everything was at your disposal in an all inclusive resort and I think it made you have to do a little work each day figuring out what you were going to do. But I think it was a good thing because I don't think we would have done so many cool activities. Hawaii is a beautiful place and this vacation proved to be one to be remembered.

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