Thursday, January 14, 2010

January 6

Dad and I went to the post office to ship all the stuff I bought while I was there. I didn’t have enough room in my suitcase. I did too much shopping!

Then we went to Foster Botanical Gardens. Yet another place right out of a fantasy movie. It’s full of gargantuan tropical plants and stunning flowers.

I’m starting to wind down. I’m pretty tired and looking forward to going home, but I will miss Hawaii – especially the warm weather.

Foster Botanical Garden

January 5 continued

After the volcanoes, we went to Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, where I once again spent way too much money.

Next was the Safari Helicopter tour of the volcano. I was afraid that the helicopter ride would be terrifying, but it was great fun. We only got a little glimpse of some lava – most of it is underground right now – but we got a great view of the huge amounts of steam being expelled from the crater. We also got to see the remains of a town which was wiped out by the last eruption. Several of the homeowners have actually rebuilt right on the lava flows. The surrounding countryside is beautiful. There are huge monkeypod trees everywhere.

We had dinner at a funky restaurant called Ken’s Pancake House. They had everything imaginable. I got the “small” bowl of wonton soup, which was huge and very tasty. Then we flew back to Oahu, and I pretty much crashed from exhaustion.

Akatsuka Orchid Gardens

Kilauea Crater

Milk is almost $8 a gallon in Hawaii!

January 5

We drove southwest along the Hawaii Belt Road to the Punalauu Black Sand Beach. I went swimming for a few minutes, which felt wonderful. We saw a huge turtle lying on the beach. I believe it was a green sea turtle.

Then we went to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We saw Kilauea Crater and the steam vents, then we walked along inside a lava tube.

Black Sand Beach

Dad met a cute little boy named Noah

Volcanoes National Park

January 4

We caught a 5AM flight to the big island. We landed in Hilo, then stopped at three beautiful waterfalls. We drove through a pretty town called Waimea. The scenery here is different than on Oahu. We drove down a road on the dry side of the island – lots of farmland and prairies, cacti and cows. We got a gorgeous view of Mauna Kea from the highway. With all the rolling hills, it looks like someone took Germany and plopped it into the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

We went on a zipline adventure in a small town called Hawi. It hasn’t been developed much, so it retains a lot of its natural beauty. The guides told us the town used to be more populated, but most of the population left when the sugar cane industry moved away from Hawaii.

The ziplines were actually really cool. I was apprehensive at first, but I got used to it quickly. The views were amazing. At the midpoint of one zip, we got a great view of Maui. The highest zip was 300 feet above the ground. That one was a little scary.

After the excitement of the ziplines, I didn’t feel like sitting in the car for another several hours, so I got Dad and Patty to drop me off at the hotel while they went back to the airport to exchange the rental car (which had a bad wheel bearing) for another one.

Rainbow Falls

Boiling Pots State Park

Akaka Falls

Mauna Kea

Dad on one of the ziplines

The last zipline - 300 feet above ground

January 3

We went to the USS Arizona Memorial, and that was pretty much it for the day. We spent a while at the heated pool, then watched the sunset at a nearby beach. Then we went to the Ala Moana mall to get dinner. There was a treat store that sold some really funky stuff – dried plants of every kind, pickled mangos, and some weird candy.

January 2

We spent a good chunk of the day at the huge flea market at Aloha Stadium. I bought another bunch of clothes. They had so much stuff! It was a little overwhelming, but it was exciting. I had my third shave-ice. They’re very addictive.

We went to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve to go swimming. We got there late in the afternoon, so we didn’t stay long, unfortunately. It was beautiful.

After getting cleaned up, we went to a little Japanese restaurant in Kane’ohe. We took the H3, which goes through the mountains. The views were absolutely magnificent. The mountains are completely covered in ferns, monkeypod trees, palms, and every other kind of vegetation. It was like another planet.

January 1, 2010

We celebrated New Year’s by walking to the top of Diamond Head. It wasn’t too bad a slog, and the views from the top were staggering. The view is so wide we could see the curvature of the earth.
Driving down Diamond Head Road, we saw more closely-packed expensive houses behind ornate gates. There are no easements between the homes – they called it “zero lot lines”. I can’t get over how cool the houses are. It’s almost like being in a Scandinavian country, with pretty chalets nestled into the hillsides. But here, the “chalets” are all different styles, and the hillsides are covered in jungles. Some of the homes remind me of expensive houses in South Florida, but there is a much wider variety of styles, and the zero lot line situation creates a sense of coziness. It also forces the builders to be creative, so the architecture of the homes is very interesting.

We spent a couple of hours at the Honolulu Zoo. I think it’s the best zoo I’ve been to. It’s small, but you can get really close to the animals. There were lots of beautiful exotic birds, and the plants and flowers were almost as interesting as the animals.

Later in the evening, we went shopping in downtown Waikiki. There are lots of expensive shops, like Prada and Lois Vuitton, interspersed with inexpensive, tourist-oriented shops. We bought lots of clothes in the International Marketplace.

99 of the 217 steps leading to the top of Diamond Head

Honolulu from Diamond Head

Honolulu Zoo

December 31

Dad and I walked around the local hotels this morning. They’re very fancy. One has a little pool with waterfalls, turtles, and penguins. Another has a pond which is home to a swan. He followed me as we walked along the edge of the pond. One hotel has a covered walkway with orchids trailing off the roof.

We spent the afternoon and evening at the Polynesian Cultural Center. We watched the IMAX film, “Coral Reef Adventure,” which I really enjoyed. I loved the music. We had dinner at a luau, then we watched a stage show called “Ha! The Breath of Life.” I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay, because I didn’t feel great, but I’m glad we did. The show was actually kind of touching, and the Samoan guys juggling the flaming batons were really talented. On the way home, we saw lots of people setting off fireworks. The aerial fireworks were very pretty against the mountains. By the time we got back to Honolulu, the air was grey and thick with smoke. I didn’t stay up until midnight, but Dad and Patty did. They said by midnight the smoke was so thick they couldn’t see past about ten feet.

Ponds at one of the local hotels

A brave guy retrieving a coconut at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center

December 30

Dad and I drove to Sea Life Park. We watched the sea lion and dolphin shows, then decided to check out the back roads at the base of the mountains. We came into an area with lots of plant nurseries. It was beautiful – like a lush jungle. I think we were in Waimanalo. I love hearing all the exotic birds and animals.

We went back to the park where I did the dolphin encounter. The dolphins’ skin is very smooth, like silk. They’re beautiful, but you can also tell that they’re powerful. They’re solid muscle. We got to kiss the dolphins, and hold their flippers as they held themselves upright by flipping their powerful tails in the water.

Dolphins at Sea Life Park