Hawaii October 2014
There are a few times when I have I traveled in the past that I buy plane tickets that do not seem to make any sense and this trip to Hawaii was one of those times. I had originally planned to stay on only two islands, Oahu and Maui on this trip, but like everything else in my crazy life that changed.
The Mexico thing pushed my Hawaii thing a week. So my flight from Mexico took me first to Denver where I had left two big bags full of boat parts to spend a night and then to Oahu. Next I spent one night in a crappy little motel close to the Oahu airport with what looked to me like 200 other travelers were doing the same thing due to the fact that I arrived after the last flight to Maui left. Then there was one last quick hop and I got on a morning flight to meet Deb in Maui.
We arrived at the same time and set off for our first frustration of the day, the rental car company. We had 250 pounds of luggage and wrestled them to the shuttle stop it was then that we first noticed that it is damn hot in Hawaii this time of year! The line at the rental car company was ridiculous and out the door and I did not see any reason standing in line for an hour at Budget when there was nobody waiting next door at Hertz. 15 minutes later I pulled into Budget in a Hertz car and loaded up the bags into the first of the 5 rentals cars we would have during the next two weeks. Sometimes when I mess up it all works out and this was one of them since I actually did not have the car booked at Budget until the following day and our hotel was just minutes away and we made our switch into a Budget rental car number 2 the next morning. The best way I found to rent a car is to get on Price Line and name my own price. I can usually get a car for about $25/day. When you rent with a major credit card you will find you already have insurance as one of the card features, or simply tell your carrier to give you a rider before you leave home and save yourself $12-15/day.
Our travel plans were simple, to stay in a place a few days and then make a new plan. Nowadays with tools like Booking.com and Expedia you can find some great last minute deals on rooms and can be flexible on where you stay on the island. The first hotel we found was a place close to it all in a newly refurbished older hotel for around $100.
Maui is shaped like two 25 mile across islands joined together by a strip of land and is one of the few places they still grow sugar cane in the islands, both have dormant volcanoes rising 10,000 feet up in the centers. The North West shore is where most all the big resorts are and the southern part of the island is way less populated. The two big tourist draws are the famous “road to Hana” and Haleakala Volcano. On our second day we drove up to Haleakala, a beautiful hour long drive that takes you to the craters edge and right up through the clouds. The 7 mile hiking trail down into the crater takes a few hours and is well worth the effort. The trail steadily winds down to the bottom and I kept thinking while easily going downhill that the trip going back was not going to be very much fun at all. After 5 miles I stopped but Deb wanted to go the last two miles and all the way to the bottom to get shots of one of the many small craters that lined the caldera floor while I found a place to relax and read my kindle. It took all the water we were carrying to get us out after hiking the 5 miles back up hill. We were huffing and puffing and were both amazed as we were passed up by a 60 year old woman who told us as she sped by that she had just ran the Maui marathon the day before.
The next day we headed south to Hana and we enjoyed the drive taking lots of pictures along the way. We had stopped that morning at Whole Foods and brought a tasty picnic for along the way. The drive takes about 6 hours to make the loop around the south end of the island and there are several waterfalls and black sand beaches that must be seen along the way. The seven pools are located on the south tip of the island is a place that looked a little too busy for this sailor, but if you want to swim under a waterfall you should stop and take swim.
Heading back up the west shore the climate changes drastically and it becomes arid. The majority of the rain falls on the eastern shores of these islands as the clouds are lifted by the winds going over the mountains they drop their moisture. The west sides rarely gets rain and reminded me of pictures of the African savannah.
After a long day of driving we headed to the small town of Paia to pick up a surfboard Deb had her eye on and then grab a bite to eat. When we got out of the car and went to grab the backpacks they were nowhere to be found. Someone had lifted both our backpacks somewhere along the way! We had the car locked or the backpacks with us all except one short time when we stopped and took a picture of one waterfall, I noticed a car pull in next to us at that turnout but did not notice them even get out of the car. They must do this daily and wait till the unsuspecting tourist turns there back and then grab what they can. You think you are safe being in Hawaii, but I have heard many stories of thefts just like these in places where a fresh set of easy targets drive through every day.
Getting robed is a sickening feeling and the stuff we carry around is sometimes very difficult to replace. The item on top of that list in my bag was my passport that small book that has absolutely no value to anyone else in the world. At least I had my credit cards in my pocket and the rest of the stuff like cash was just painful to lose.
The first thing you need to replace a USA passport is a birth certificate. Luckily I had several copies of this document the only problem was they were several thousand miles away in either direction. One copy was on the boat in the Philippines and the other copy in my office in Kansas. Fed ex to the rescue! The second is to get to a US Post Office and get a passport application form. Next we chose to hire a agency to expedite the process and hired Fast port Passport to move the process along since our flight to Davao was leaving in just 10 days. We obtained the services and documents were on the way but it would be a few days before fed ex could get the birth certificate to where we were so we set off for two days to visit Lanai.
Lanai is a small island off the North West shore of Maui that until about 10 years ago was known as the pineapple island, it is now the one of largest private owned islands in Hawaii. We had planned to catch the 3:30 ferry which Deb thought left at 4:30 and we wound up on the 5:30 boat. Glad I am not the only one who has these issues with time and dates. The upside was that happy hour starts at 3 in Hawaii but the downside was that we would arrive after dark.
The plan for what it was was to get to Lanai and then take a bus to the only small town on the island and find a place to stay. The first and only bus I saw was going to the Four Seasons and the passengers he was waiting for must have missed the ferry. New plan Deb, I just talked to the bus driver and he called up and there was a room available at the Lodge at Koele. When I say room, it was actually a suite and one of the nicest rooms I have ever stayed. The Four Seasons experience is not soon forgotten, the bill will make sure of that! This location was amazingly beautiful, set up in the hills and landscaped to make you feel you were in one of the world’s great parks. The rain fell through the night and the morning sun burned of the mist of the 150 foot pine trees as we sat on the balcony overlooking the entrance. The central dining hall was in what felt like a huge family room with 30 foot tall stone fireplaces at either end. Towards the center there were couches surrounding the fire place and a grand piano softly playing and where we had desert after our delicious meal. Our breakfast was served a the same table and the morning light let us admire the beauty of our new backyard and its big pond with wild turkeys nibbling away at the grass around it.
In the afternoon we rented one of the last jeeps available on the small island and set off for a tour of this small island. The one and only blacktop road headed just 6 more miles east and down to the beach before branching in either direction along the coast in dusty two track. Some of the spots in the road were deep talcum powder and the dust went flying others had big mud puddles that tempted us to get this freshly washed jeep muddy. The mesquite trees provided cover for the deer and other wildlife that have been introduced here. Deer season is open year around and you can get permission bag 3 a day since the population has exploded to 17,000 or so. The other game is wild turkeys, rock quail and doves that also have no predators to keep their numbers in check. You can literally catch quail and dove with a butterfly net here since they have no fear of man.
In the morning we followed a dusty red clay dirt road and drove north from the hotel through the old pineapple plantations. On the north end of the island was a volcanic area named “Garden of the Gods” with places that looked like you were driving across the moon and then the road got really rocky and headed down to the beach. The jeep had decent off road tires but they were no match for the soft sand this beach had miles of. Within 15 minutes we were buried to the axles and stuck but by simply letting the tire pressure down to increase the tire footprint the jeep crawled out. With the tires aired down and twice as wide as before the jeep floated on the sand and we easily drove the few miles of coastline to the nearest shade tree and had a picnic.
We saw only 3 other people the whole day and felt like we had this slice of paradise all to ourselves for last two days. We checked out of our room the following day and had lunch in town but had to rush to catch the 4 pm ferry after making yet another wrong turn? We stopped for directions and were told of the “shortcut” make the first right turn, go past the solar farm and then left cross one road and then turn right. Darn jeep needs a compass for a sailor to tell where he is going I say!
We spent the next night at a 100 year old hotel right on the wharf in Lahaina which has the biggest banyan tree growing next door in the park we had ever seen. Kathryn at the front desk of the Best Western is an amazingly efficient person and got us checked in within minutes, we loved the retro style hotel. When you are in Hawaii and think you absolutely need stuff like jewelry, pearls or a souvenir to take home you in luck here in Lahaina and can fill that itch with at least 50 jewelry stores and 100 other shops to browse. It was our inside joke from then on and we would say “need jewelry”? Nope, thanks but I been to Lahaina!
We had my passport documents shipped to Kauai which would be our next island and had a flight booked for 4 that afternoon. I had left the two big bags in Oahu with a baggage service to baby sit so we just had our new backpacks and new huge surfboard bag to tote around. I dropped of the car and Deb spent the next hour checking into the 30 minute Hawaiian flight that would supposedly take us to Kauai. I met her at security and we proceeded to the gate that said Kona on it. Kona! That is not on Kauai it is on the big island! Damn did it again. For the next 30 minutes I tied up the only available Hawaiian agent getting this all sorted. Needless to say our luggage and two paid empty seats were on that way to Kona and two not so cheap seats had us on the flight to Kauai. But the bright side is that the surfboard and other bags will have been to all the major islands in Hawaii by the end of this trip, lucky them!
The race was on to see which birth certificate would show up first, the one from the Philippines had a two day head start but many more miles to go but the tracking number showed the one from the US took the lead and would be there the next morning. We had several l copies to make so in the morning went to the Sheraton business center at the resort next door and were making copies when who of all people walks in? The Fed ex Man! I asked if by chance had the envelope for me on his truck and he took me through the lower corridors of the hotel to the delivery dock and found my package and saved us both some time. I was finally feeling like I was going to get this new passport as we drove to the post office located in a small western town on Kauai. The lady that helped us went out of her way getting us an appointment to fill out and notarize the forms at the post office but frowned when we told her that we would send them fed Ex to New York. She kept telling me I had to take them to Honolulu, but I just said no thanks and I appreciated the help anyways. From there we rushed back to the airport to the Fed ex terminal and posted the package just to find out it would leave the island in 23 hours since the one and only plane of the day had just left. We were really cutting it close, but did all we could do so it was time to relax.
Our finding hotels on the internet had been working well so far and we logged on to Booking.com to find our next home for the night. We chose a lower end place with great reviews located on the east shore of Kauai for just under $100. It was not hard to see that we set our sights a little low right when we walked in but after staying at the posh Pour Seasons we thought how bad can it be right? Well, the first room we saw was located right next to the laundry and had zero view of anything but a wall outside, I went and told reception this was definitely not going to work and got a ”better” room on the 3rd floor. Again we thought how bad can it be right? The room was older than me and amazingly had zero ventilation at least the room on the first floor had a ceiling fan. The twin beds were shoved in the corner and I thought who-who were kids again! Next I walked into the bathroom which had enough mirrors to make feel like I was at the carnival and I actually had a hard time finding the door out! We toughed it out and tried it for the night, but by morning Deb had her bed dragged out onto the balcony and was literally sleeping outside and I woke in a pool of sweat saying pack the bags Deb I can’t do this $E%^T!
Back on the computer we found the Aston and for $20 more and for just over $100 you can stay in one of the nicest place we found in the islands! (Not Counting Four Seasons but that was not $100 either) Everything about the place was first rate from the staff to the location. The room had just been updated and had a nice king size bed and best of all AC! There were several local places to eat within walking distance and even a nice beach to relax on.
The surf report showed promise of a north swell and Deb was ready to try her new board out. We drove up to Hanalei Bay but arrived there to find the waves were huge and much bigger than she had rode before, but that did not stop her from getting out there and giving it a shot on some of the smaller sets. After surfing we headed to the small town and sat down for lunch just before the skies opened up and it began to poor down rain. We had an amazing view of the steep mountains that hug this coast and magically began seeing new waterfalls appear before our eyes from all the rain. In the end there were no less than seven waterfalls rushing down the steep mountain face. When we returned to our hotel we heard on the radio that the only bridge on the highway out that small town was threatening to be closed from the water leaver rising in the river. Later we found this little town lies just below one of the wettest spots in the world with over 700 inches of rain recorded last year.
We were on the road early the next morning to beat the afternoon showers for our visit to Waimea Canyon which is located on the west side (other side) of the island. This promised to be worth the drive and it was at the end the highway winds right up into the clouds to the top of the volcano. Just before the top you find yourself driving right next to a one of the biggest canyons in the islands that is over 4000 feet deep at points. The contrast in colors is amazing with the deep greens of the vegetation next to the bright red volcanic earth. The canyon is a beautiful place to explore where thousands of years of erosion have created another small wonder of the world. Hiking down into the canyon is a must but flip flops would not be my shoe of choice next time and hiking with the backpack with those things we were afraid could get stolen added a few more pounds, considering who really needs to take a laptop on a hike? Deb carried the roasted duck in her backpack that we bought at a Chinese market that morning and we had a nice picnic at the waterfall at the end of the trail.
Our hike ended none too soon and by the time we returned to the car the afternoon showers began. We continued north around the island and found ourselves on the longest beach in all the Hawaiian Islands.
We had been trying to book a helicopter tour the whole week and from we could tell the morning flight was the best since the rains started every day after lunch it seemed. We tried to get on a flight with no doors to get the best pictures but the Hughes 500 (the one they flew on Magnum P.I.) has a strict weight limit and we were 10 pounds over and that required us to buy 3 seats for something like $800! We passed on that and found our next best option was to get on a plane which turned out to be an amazing flight. Not only did the weather cooperate it felt like the sunshine was actually following us and we were able to see the very top of the volcano which was the wettest marsh lands on earth. You know you have had a great flight when the pilot keeps saying “I have not seen that in a while”. The crew at Wings Over Kauai showed us the best Kauai had to offer and were fun to fly with.
This was our last day in Kauai and from there we caught a flight to Oahu on Friday to go pick up my passport. Having triple checked our tickets that morning for time, date and destination we felt fairly confident we would see Oahu that afternoon.
It was our lucky day at the Hertz rental car place too, they did not have our class of car in stock so it was pick a car any car and have a nice day. We drove out in one of the biggest cars they had and Deb thought we looked like the perfect soccer parents.
Cliff the bag babysitter met us at the airport with the two bags full of parts and we loaded the back of the Ford Flex with 5 suitcases and a surfboard with no problem. My trusty 8 years old Motorola Android GPS led us strait to the Fed Ex office and soon I was holding a small blue “golden ticket” that would allow me back into the Philippines.
We then drove east over the mountains to our last hotel surprise in the afternoon rains. This Hotel was one of the places you find on the internet and wonder what angle they actually took the picture from when you arrive? The room was located on the bottom of the steepest driveway I been down in a while and had just a faint resemblance to what I had seen when I booked it. This was a higher end room price wise but the location had much to be desired being located down a busy residential road without any view to speak of.
The surf report showed flat conditions during this transition time of the year and famous breaks like Pipeline could be wake boarded over since they were so flat. We did a small island tour and found our Hawaii adventure was suddenly over and packed our bags for the long flight to Manila.
Of all the places I had been in Hawaii in the last years I find Kauai to be my new favorite. The “Garden Isle” has much to offer and has a little slower pace than some of the bigger islands. My next favorite would be the big island which I went to last year with its many miles of road to explore. You can find all varieties of activities and sorts of adventures here or put your feet up at the nicest resorts in the world. We stayed in all price ranges of rooms and all I can say is “You get what you pay for” with the exception of the Aston which was exceptional for the price. You can do Hawaii on as little or much as you want to spend and the best of all you’re speaking English, never that far away from the mainland and your phone still works!
Our Adventure continues in the Philippines so stay tuned,
Peace, Capt. Pedro