Monday, July 29, 2013

Trip to Hawaii (part 2)

Day 3 - flight to Maui

Early in the morning we went to give back our car to Enterprise and went by taxi to the airport. Our taxi driver turned out to be an ex Vietnamese War soldier. Apparently there's lot of them in Hawaii and they spawned quite high percentage of current population there.

Flight to Maui was very short and comfortable, Hawaiian Airlines rules! In the plane we learned from the newspaper that some people in Hawaii make their living from searching for wedding rings and other jewelry on the shore using a metal detector. The one that was interviewed by a newspaper claims that he tries to find the owners first at local hotels (but does he?). We got some photos of both islands from bird's-eye view:


Maui (can you see wind turbines?)

We got to Hawaii and having learnt from our mistakes we got a car immediately. We drove to the city where we stayed (Lahaina). On our way we saw marvelous views, example:


Upon arrival to the hotel we were greeted by an extraordinary nice french lady, that explained a lot about what we can see in Maui, asked us about our plans and borrowed us Maui travel guide. 

We dumped our stuff in the room and went to restaurant near the hotel (for which we got 15% discount from the hotel lady). 
We ordered what was listed in a menu as "Today's catch". It was really tasty, but quite expensive. Which eating we notice we start to sweat. Maui was much hotter than O'ahu. My personal hypothesis: Maui is a much wilder island and there's not so much carbon dioxide emissions, so the sun is not blocked. 

We took a short walk along main street in Lahaina - there was a lot of art galleries, organized tour stands (btw. some of the tours had very weird age requirements - the minimum age of 30 years old - especially the ones called swimming with dolphins). We also saw Chinese art museum which also had cinema room showing 40s movies of Tomas Edison:

At the end of the street there was a Forrest Gump themed restaurant:

After that we decided that we will end the day by just snorkeling on some beach. After short internet research we chose Kapalua bay, which later turned out to be an excellent choice. The water was crystal clear, there was almost no people, small waves - ideal for snorkeling. We saw plenty of sealife: crab colonies on the stones near the shore, large schools of big and colorful fishes further from it and finally as we were just about to leave the beach we saw giant 1-1.5 meter long turtle! It was very friendly and it was not swimming away even when we got close to it and touched it. Also which we were swimming we saw a Hawaiian wedding on the beach!

We ended the night by going to another local restaurant where we ordered cookie pizza and a milkshake.

Day 4 - way to Hana

The day before while walking around Lahaina we noticed some people trying to sell this t-shirts:

Naturally, we decided to go for it. The road was awesome. It felt like need for speed game. The views were spectacular and we had a few interesting stops on our way. I loved it. Agnieszka not so much:

Also here are some of the views we saw on the way:

Our first stop were beautiful private gardens, that somebody decided to make available for public, but places smoothie and fruit stand at the entrance. It sounds like the business is great all the time we same them they were busy serving customers. We ourselves ordered an pineapple smoothie and it was delicious.

 We walked on short 1 mile trail inside the garden and while the trail itself was interesting...

...the final attraction was amazing - the twin waterfalls:

Next stop we attempted to visit local lava cave (which as we learned is owned a one person and he makes my out of it by lending flashlights) and botanic garden, but first one was too much time, second one was closed. 

We also visited local airport near Hana, but it wasn't too exciting:

On our way we noticed a lot of fruit stands, which would be boring on it's own if not the fact there was no person guarding it. You just come take fruit, put money in the box and leave. That would definitely not pass in Poland :)

At that point we decided that it would be nice to swim a bit, so we headed for the interestingly named black sand beach. We weren't dissapointed - it was a beach and the sand was black. I also personally like the strong waves - stronger than any other place in Hawaii that we visited:

That and getting some gas in Hana was one of our last stops after which we decided to head back after getting some gas and buying a dragonfruit:

 Not to repeat the way we decided to go south of Hana. The way was much more curvy and wild and also as we later learned much more dangerous due to falling rocks. To add to it when it rails the rocks usually fall down and block the road (as we later that day learned from the local taxi driver) and while it was raining when we drove there, nothing like this happened to us. 

On our way back we passed a road that is periodically closed due to river that sometimes appears. We also almost hit some animals, which we frequently passing the road and almost invisible at night. 

We finished out day by ordering a Hawaiian Plate at Da Kitchen Cafe in Kahului, which despite good opinions on yelp we did not like. In town they had a festival, but sadly it finished before we arrived.

Day 5 - the volcano

In the morning we checked out of the hotel and we proceeded to visit a volcano. The way to volcano was awesome and so were the views:

For some reason it is very popular there to bike down the way from the top of volcano:


At the very top it looked like mars surface you see in the movie - large plains of red stone. There was also an astronomical observatory, which was apparently due to its remote and high location one of the best ones in the world:

After staying for a short while on the top of the mountain, we headed back to Enterprise to give back our car. Rest of the day we spend walking around Kahului. Started with a walk along the beach, where we saw a lot of kite surfers:

When we got to the downtown, we went to Thai Restaurant, we tried to mail some postcards, but Post Office was closed. We ate some homemade pineapple icecream - the best icecream I ever eaten in my entire life. After that we tried to sunbathe for a bit, but the sun was hiding behind the clouds.

So we went back downtown and watched a movie - Pacific Rim - it was very bad and nobody should ever watch it. After the movie we took the cab to the airport and flight back to O'ahu, spend the night on the airport and flew back home.

In general the trip was amazing and I highly recommed it to anybody. If I were to change one thing I would chose less known island to visit, because it seemed like the less known it was, the nicer it was to visit.

The end

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Trip to Hawaii (part 1)

Recently me and my girlfriend Agnieszka went to Hawaii! Since this was an interesting trip and indeed one of the best ones in my life, so I decided it is worth describing here. Most of this post is just general description of what we did. Some things that attracted my attention the most, I describe in more detail. But first and foremost it is just a bunch of awesome photos from that place. I also hope that if some people would be planning the trip in the future they can get inspired here, as well as learn from our mistakes and avoid them!

Choice of destination

Hawaii is a common name for large set of volcanic islands:
The three most commonly visited ones are:
  • O'ahu (The Gathering Place) - the most popular one highest population (1 mln people) and 3rd w.r.t. total area. Especially south of the island is crowded with tourist. The most popular airport - the one near Honolulu - is here.
  • Hawaii (The Big Island) - as the name suggest this island has largest total area. It continuously grows due to volcanic eruptions. It has richer flora and fauna than the rest of islands and it's easy to find beautiful and empty beaches, so that one can enjoy Hawaii undisturbed by other people.
  • Maui (The Valley Isle) - the second largest island, with similar population size to Hawaii. This island looks like a proliferating bacteria. The left one has more cities and really nice, sandy beaches. The right one is more wild and has spectacular landscapes and a volcano in the middle. 
When planning a trip to Hawaii the most important thing to remember is 
We did visit two island during a week we spent there and that was already too much time wasted on travelling. Our choice was O'ahu (because we found the cheapest tickets from US mainland to O'ahu) and Maui (because friends recommended it). The reminder of this post is a chronological description of our trip.

Day 0 - arrival

We arrived around 10PM local time, it was already dark, and we still needed to travel about 25 miles to the hotel in Waikiki. The first thing that happened to us was meeting a local old lady. I didn't really know what to expect. I thought that local people will be either very kind and happy people detached from a mainland problem, or very grumpy ones that are fed up with the omnipresence of the tourists. Fortunately, she turned out to be a very nice person. She was waiting for a bus home, after finishing work at the comm tower the airport. She was relaxed, talkative and helpful to us, explained how the bus system here (called TheBus) works, including how to beat the system and get everywhere faster but stopping at secret communication node, that is not on the schedule. The bus took about 1h (~ 30 stops) to get to Waikiki, which was a bit long, but we saved some money on Taxi ($5 compared with $30) and we saw a bit of Honolulu. Upon arriving in hotel we were suprised to find out that there is no door in the hotel. The lobby had a large opening in front wall which could not be closed. Probably due to the fact that it is never cold here. We got back to the hotel, unpacked, checked out the view from balcony (that failed - it was already dark) and went straight to sleep (time zone difference helped in US it was already 3AM).

Day 1 - bikes and why you should avoid them

First thing the was checking out the view from the balcony. It was spectacular (on the left). 

After exiting the room we eat breakfast (at Hi Steak Waikiki - highly recommend - the steak was tender and with garlic butter). The we borrowed bikes. The idea was to travel around right side of the island (about 50 miles). Well I used to be able to bike such a distance. What I forgot about was that:
  • I got fat since that time
  • In Hawaii you sweat even if you lie on the ground, not to mention what happens when you bike
  • Island coast line is rough (which means lots of up an down)
  • It's hard to build roads on the island so there's few of them and the traffic is high.
What happened was - we traveled 10 miles with lots of breaks and we were exhausted, but we managed to reach first stop point - Hanauma bay. We were greeted by a encouraging sign:
After such a warm welcome and being all covered in sweat we decided that the bike trip around the island is not the best idea, so we stopped at Jumbo Juice to get some drink and went back home (another 10 miles). The bikes were terrible. Ass hurt bad. To alleviate we went to do some swimming in the ocean. We were not too amused. Beach was crowded and it was already getting a bit cold by the time we got there. After that we walked along Waikiki boulevard and we stopped at a place with intriguing name "Eggs n' things". We eat what appeared to be a local Hawaiian dish - locomoco - which was rice + mushrooms + sausage and beef steak mixed together in a bowl. It was very tasty. On the way back to hotel we also got a hair flower for Agnieszka. That was end of day one. This one was the most boring one and we speeded up the pace of discovering Hawaii in the following days. As a bonus here are some photos from the biking trip:

Day 2 - around O'ahu

The first thing we did that day was to rent a car. There's no way we can get even close to visiting major parts of this island without it. Our goal was to travel around entire island (around 250 miles). We started our trip with a visit in Hawaiian Aquarium hoping to see some exotic sea life. We were osmewhat disappointed - some of it was really cool but nothing stunning. Here are some photos:

After that we decided to go to Hanauma bay (the one that was closed the day before). There was quite a lot of people (but not overcrowded) and we had to pay $7.50 for entry. It was indeed an interesting place for snorkeling, we saw lot of interesting fishes and some sponges and sea urchins being part of the coral reef.

After about 3h of snorkeling (my head hurt from looking around to spot interesting fishes) we went to Lenkai beach, which was supposed to be the most beautiful beach on O'ahu. We were moderately impressed:

But we travelled a bit further around the shore and found even nicer beach:

We continued our journey along north shoreline and listened to some radio along the way. It was interesting to see what they advertise. It is different than the mainland:

  • intelligent house with lot of security features
  • install solar panels with X, we will match prices of the competition
  • support local business on Hawaii
Speaking of the last one we managed to do this twice, by buying some pickled mango from the local farm...

... and fresh icecold coconut from a fruitstand near the road (drinking it felt really Hawaiian):

We also met some intriguing wildlife when trying to get to a Sacred Falls State Park that we later learned was closed after the death of 9 hikers:

We also visited the Polynesian culture center, but it was already too late to join any even so we just walked around:

Knowing that we still have a lot to visit we grabbed a quick dinner at McDonald, which also looked interesting:

At that point it started getting dark. We saw some brutally run over animals on the road (watch out!). We also stopped at some beach after it got dark to take some photos. It was magical!

At this point we decided that it's already 7PM and we still want to visit Pearl Harbor, so we did not get all the way to the West shoreline and headed South. We drove through Honolulu and we were surprised to see that they have 5 lane (each side) high ways here. We attempted to enter Pearl Harbor from 3 different ways. One of them was guarded by sentry (we turned our car around just in front of it (afraid that we'll get shot). One of the was again military only, with huge ships in the background (again we turned around afraid we'll get shot):

The third one was visitor entrance by a bridge (with restriction that only military can use left lane of the road) - here we also managed to turn around without getting shot :) Summing up we only saw Pearl Harbor from far, but it was still pretty awesome, you could see a lot of lights there and we some the shadows of giant military ships!

OK enough for today, in part II I will describe or trip to Maui. I personally liked Maui much more because it was much less crowded and there was more wildlife. We also meet over 1 meter long turtle !