Monday, July 31, 2017

Hawaii Vacation - Day 9: Lahaina, Then Change in Plans

We started out our first morning in Maui by having breakfast on our patio facing the ocean. We are renting a condo in Kihei, in the south central part of the island.

The following photo shows the view from our patio.

After breakfast we got in the car. Our plan for this day was to visit West Maui and see as many of the sites on that side of the island as time would allow.

On the way we stopped at Papawai Point to take in the scenery. This shot is facing east, back toward Kihei.

And this is looking the other way, with the island of Lanai in the background.

Our first destination in West Maui was Lahaina, a historic town that was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii in the early 1800s. The most iconic landmark in Lahaina is the big banyan tree, which is 144 years old. This banyan tree is the largest in the world.

In looking at the above photo, you may be asking which of the dozens of trees in the photo is the banyan tree. Well, this is actually all one tree that is connected together. Banyan trees are unique in that roots come down from the branches, establish themselves in the ground, and form new trunks.

I remember this banyan tree from my visit to Lahaina when I was Kai's age. It has only gotten larger since.

We walked up and down Front Street and saw some of the historic sights of the town. Then it was time for lunch.

We went to a seafood joint where Kai ordered the fried calamari.

He did not eat any of it.

Shortly after the above photo was taken, he ran to the bathroom where he stayed for a good long time. He said he had an upset stomach.

Rather than continuing on to other parts of West Maui, we decided to return to our condo to let Kai settle down and rest up.

Being flexible is not one of Kai's strengths and we have to work with him to teach him to be flexible at times. On this occasion, though, I had to adjust to this unexpected change in plans.

Later in the day, after he took a nap, Kai said he felt better and wanted to go to the beach. We went to the one right outside our condo.

The waves were high and not great for swimming, but we stayed out for about an hour.

Later, we took a walk along the Wailea beach path.

It was beautiful along this rocky shoreline.

We could have stayed there as the sun was about to set, but I had read that Keawakapu Beach is one of the places in Maui to watch the sunset.

I would have to say that it was one of the best sunsets I've ever seen.

Here's a shot of the beach and sky after the sun was down.

We ended our day with dinner at a nearby restaurant. My wife had tuna, I had short ribs, and Kai had this prime rib.

He said that his stomach was better but was afraid to eat any seafood (although I doubt that seafood had anything to do with his stomach troubles). Hopefully there will be no recurrence as we have a lot of places to see and things to do.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hawaii Vacation - Day 8: Farewell Oahu, Hello Maui

We packed up and got ready to leave Oahu. But we had a few last things to do before we left.

First, we stopped near Makapuu Point on the southeast side of the island to take in the magnificent view.

Then we went to Halona Blowhole. I think it blows best during high tide so we were not there at the ideal time. It takes a big wave to really make it blow, and it was hard to time it right to catch it with my camera.

Afterward we drove to the Kahala Resort and met a friend of my wife from Japan for brunch. Mika lives in Waikiki now and it was the first time that Kai and I met her. My wife has not seen Mika very often in the past decade, so she enjoyed catching up with her, and also talking to her about living in Hawaii. (My wife is beginning to think about an eventual move for us to Hawaii.)

We had a great ocean view while we were eating and talking. It was such a nice setting, and there was a wedding going on just to the right of us.

And then it was time to head to the airport and board the plane that would take us to Maui.

The 22 minutes we were in the air was less than the time we were on the ground waiting to fly.

I had hoped that we could enjoy the beach but the rental car company dashed that idea. While all the other rental firms had shuttle buses coming and going from the terminal, we had to wait forever for the one from Hertz. Then, when one finally came, we could not get on it and had to wait for the next bus. We were one of the first on that one, but everyone who was remaining in line crammed onto the bus and we were one of the last off the bus, meaning that we were near the end of a very long line at the counter. To top it all off, even after I got to the counter, they didn't seem to have a car ready for us as we had to wait a long time for the car. All told, we could have flown back-and-forth-from Oahu to Maui about two or three times in the time we waited for our car.

So we didn't have much beach time, but we did manage to get there in time to see the Maui sunset.

I think Kai barely noticed the sunset as he was too busy enjoying splashing in the ocean.

Next, we went to a Japanese restaurant for dinner. Sansei restaurant is famous for their sushi, but Kai wanted to have ramen on this evening.

My wife and I wanted to try some of the Sansei specialties. The following is panko-crusted ahi tuna. It, and all of the sushi dishes were delicious.

And so the second half of our Hawaii vacation has started. Maui will have a lot to live up to in order to match how much we enjoyed Oahu.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Hawaii Vacation - Day 7: Polynesian Cultural Center

On our last full day on Oahu, we went to the Polynesian Cultural Center.

But first, we started our day by going to one last Oahu beach. This time it was Lanikai Beach, just a 5-minute drive south of us on the windward side of the island. This is the beach we saw the other day from the top of our Lanikai Pillbox hike, and has been called one of Oahu's best beaches.

We did some snorkeling. The water was not as clear as the water at Waimea Bay, and there were fewer fish, but Kai still enjoyed the water. His name means ocean in both Japanese and Hawaiian, so it is apropos that he loves swimming in the ocean so much.

We swam for about an hour and a half before coming in to get ready for the rest of the day. And while the snorkeling wasn't the best here, Lanikai cannot be beat for the softness of its sand, and its scenery is very picturesque.

We showered, changed, and made the hour drive north to the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC). Before we went into PCC, we had lunch at the adjacent Hukilau Marketplace. My wife had the Poke (pronounced po-kay) for the first time. Poke is a Hawaiian appetizer of raw fish and rice that seems to be becoming very popular on the mainland these days.

Kai had a Hawaiian pizza with pineapples, ham, green pepper, and black olives.

I had a Hukilau sandwich (mahi-mahi), not pictured.

And then we entered Polynesian Cultural Center.

PCC is a theme park of sorts. It has authentic villages (well, as authentic as you can get in a theme park), with natives from six Pacific cultures demonstrating their arts.

We signed up for a tour so a guide took us around for the afternoon. While we were observing the demonstration at Samoa, Kai spotted a cart where you can get fresh coconut juice right from the coconut. It was a hot, muggy day, perhaps the muggiest yet (almost Japan-like) so the cold coconut juice was very refreshing.

Below is a picture of one of the native performers at Samoa, who was demonstrating a fire dance.

Mid-afternoon, we started to watch the canoe pageant as representatives of the six cultures rode by.

About halfway through the pageant, it started to rain heavily so we scrambled for shelter. It has rained every day that we have been here, but as on other days, the rain ended in a matter of minutes and we were able to enjoy the rest of the day.

Our next stop was Aotearoa, now known as New Zealand. My wife and Kai participated in a Maori stick game where you toss sticks to your partner at the appropriate time.

They were able to do it for a little while, but it was tough to keep up as the moves went faster and more complicated.

Late in the afternoon, we took the canoe tour down the canal as it passed the different cultures.

We signed up for the full experience at PCC including a luau dinner. That included a buffet dinner. After having the coconut juice earlier, we added on a virgin pina colada drink served in a pineapple.

In addition to the dinner itself, the luau included Hawaiian entertainment.

The final part of our PCC experience was to watch the evening show - Ha: Breath of Life. No photos are permitted during the show which featured performers from the six island cultures as it told a story of a from the birth of a baby to him growing up into a young man.

The highlights were some very amazing fire performers. We had seats in the third row (bought them weeks ago) so we could feel the heat of the flames. It was remarkable that the performers do not burn themselves as some of the feats looked very dangerous.

The only real issue we have had with Kai so far on this trip is his wanting to use electronics at all times except when at the beach. But on this day, I had told him that he could not use it in the car as I preferred he nap as it would be a long day. I also set expectations that there would be no electronics while we were touring the center or watching shows. He complied nicely and the day went well.

And so the Oahu portion of our trip is nearing an end. One more morning and by late afternoon we will be in Maui.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Hawaii Vacation - Day 6: North Shore of Oahu

I had planned out most of our days on Oahu, but left Day 6 open to revisit a favorite spot or to go to a place we did not have time to see earlier in the week. We had gone to the North Shore the day before, but did not see nearly as much as we wanted to, so it was an easy choice to go back up there on our "free" day.

We made the hour drive for our rental cottage and first went to Waimea Bay. There are many great beaches on the North Shore, but I chose this one for the combination of a great setting, a sandy beach, protected bay waters that make it conducive for swimming, good facilities, and being a good spot for snorkeling as well.

We went out with our snorkeling gear and the water was crystal clear. The water gets deep pretty quickly but we all wore snorkel vests and that made me feel more secure.

At first we did not see any fish and started to head back to shore so we could move further up the beach. A man snorkeling called out that there were a thousand fish near him; so we swam over and indeed saw a very large school of fish swimming by. As we were marveling at this sight, he soon called over to us and told us that a turtle was headed our way. We put our heads into the water and got a great thrill in seeing a sea turtle swim right past us. (For those not familiar, sea turtles are much larger than the turtles you see in Midwestern ponds and lakes). I only wish that I had my underwater camera with me; I had stupidly forgotten to bring my battery charger so the camera was not functioning.

We later went further down the beach to a rocky area where cliff divers were jumping from. We figured it would be a good spot to see more fish and we were right. We saw a great variety and number of fish. My wife and I agreed that we enjoyed snorkeling here even more than at Hanauma Bay which was the more famous snorkeling site. Hanauma Bay was beautiful, but it was crowded and when we went, it was low tide and difficult to swim near the reef.

After a couple hours of snorkeling, Kai said he wanted to leave. We were surprised, as we thought we would have to drag him out of the water, but he seemed really tired on this morning. But he posed for a nice photo here; the water looked even more beautiful now that the sun was shining brightly.

After that, we drove a few miles into the town of Haleiwa. It was lunchtime and I knew just where I wanted to go; to Giovanni's Shrimp Truck.

There was a long line of people, but I had been told that this was the spot for great shrimp. So, we waited to order and then waited for our food. In all, we probably waited 45 minutes. Kai looked very tired but at least he wasn't complaining (too much).

The wait was well worth it, however, as the shrimp was wonderful.

We had ordered both the garlicky scampi as well as the shrimp with lemon and butter. We all agreed that the scampi was our favorite.

After lunch, we wanted to see a little more of the town of Haleiwa. Kai grumbled about having to walk. He really did seem tired and it was very hot in the sun so we decided to drive to our next destination, Matsumoto's Shave Ice.

Oahu has many shave ice places, but Matsumoto's is the most acclaimed. So it was not surprising that there was a long line there as well. My wife got out of the car to get into line, while I searched around for a parking spot. It took awhile to find a spot, but my wife was still well back in the line when Kai and I caught up with her.

As we moved up to the front of the line, we picked out our flavors and watched as they prepared our order.

Kai chose lilikoi, lychee, and coconut cream flavors. I chose gauava, mango, and papaya topped with condensed milk over azuki beans. My wife got the "Ichiban" (which means best in Japanese). Her flavor was green tea, and the shave ice was topped with ice cream, azuki, and condensed milk, and had mochi on the side.

Here is a closeup of my wife's fantastic choice. She said this is like the shave ice she had back in Japan.

I liked my shave ice, but will say that the one we had at Island Snow in Kailua was just as good. My wife thought her's at Matsumoto's was the absolute best.

Once Kai had his shave ice, he was in a much better mood.

When we returned to our car, we found chickens in the nearby park hanging out with some pigeons. I still can't get over how many chickens we've seen in towns all over the island.

Our next stop was Laniakea beach, which is famous for sea turtles coming ashore. And sure enough, there were two sunning themselves when we got there.

These turtles must come there very frequently as they each have names and their information is posted.

A rope is placed 10 feet around each turtle to keep people from going right up to them.

After seeing a sea turtle swim past us in the morning, it was great to get a close-up view of two of them on shore.

Driving back from the North Shore to Kailua, we decided to take the longer, slower, but more scenic route along the ocean. Here's one spot we stopped at near the northeast corner of the island.

Back in Kailua, we went to dinner at Kalipawai Cafe. We started with fire-roasted octopus which were very delicious.

My wife had Ono, a local fish that is similar to mackerel. Kai had gumbo.

I had seared marlin, and this was my favorite dinner entree of the trip so far.

So it was a good food day, and a great day overall.

I haven't written much about Kai's difficulties as he really hasn't had any really bad moments so far. And that is the best thing of all.
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