Stacey and I left Dothan about 11am. Thank goodness we had a three-hour layover in Atlanta because the flight was delayed in Dothan for weather in Atlanta. As it was, we still had about two hours to kick around the airport in Atlanta before leaving. We were scheduled to depart out of the T concourse (T7) and so we ate some lunch at the Red Brick Tavern and then went to the Crown Room which just happened to be right next to the gate (my first time in that Crown Room). As we sat there, I watched the plane getting serviced, not realizing it was our plane until I started looking down the concourse and realized what gate was just below us. I thought it was kind of fun that I had been sitting there watching the plane get ready to take us to Hawai'i.
We left Atlanta on a 767. We were still in a state of "can you believe we are headed to Hawai'i" shock. On the way over, we had a couple of meals on the plane. Our 'dinner' was a choice between steak and chicken - we both had the steak. Later we had sundaes as the dessert and eventually (about an hour before landing) there was a 'snack' that was a turkey sandwich. There were several movies that we could have watched as we had little personal video displays in the first-class section. We both wound up watching Hoodwinked, Rumor Has It and Armageddon. When nothing was on (and during the movies) I would switch the display every so often to see where we were. We kept peeking out the windows. It was so dark in the plane with everyone's shades drawn for watching the movies, that when I opened the window to peek out, it seemed like it lit up the plane. We had to see the point that we left the mainland and where we were completely over the Pacific ocean.
It had just gotten dark as we approached Honolulu airport. We saw the lights of the city as the plane came in for approach, but we could not make out a lot of details. Movies are misleading in that you don't get greeted with a welcoming lei unless you have prearranged for one. Which was okay, just one of the things that was a little different from our preconceived ideas of Hawai'i.
The airport was different from the ones that I have been through on the mainland in that there is an area in the center of the terminal that is an open courtyard. I thought that was really funny because last week in Atlanta, I was just thinking that they should plan airports with open air courtyards for travelers to have a chance to get out of the building for some fresh air.
It didn't take too long for our bags to arrive and we were off to the car rental agency (it was off the airport grounds). Travelling with four bags was a bit of juggling experience. Stacey arranged for the car while I waited with the bags. He thought about upgrading to a convertible since they had a special, but we decided to keep the full size car instead since we weren't sure what getting around was going to be like.
So we headed for the hotel. It was only about 17 miles and was pretty direct on the H1 to Ko Olina. We passed a CompUSA and decided to stop to see if we could find a longer battery for our camcorder (when we got it in Dothan, they were out of the extra batteries so we thought we could find one there). Unfortuantely, they did not have the battery for our camera so we headed on toward the hotel.
The H1 ended and turned into a regular highway and we followed it on to Ko Olina where we had reservations at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort (http://ihilani.com/). When we pulled off the highway, we saw a security gate and Stacey thought we might have made a wrong turn, but it was the entrance for the resort. I checked us in while Stacey arranged for the bags. We got in to our room sometime after 8pm.
We were in room 727 . The room was really nice. The bathroom in the room was huge with both a glassed in shower and a garden tub. Dual sinks lined one side of the bathroom along with a small fridge. In the bedroom, the bed had two orchid blossoms on the upper turned down edge of the comforter. One wall of the room turned out to open completely to the lanai and we had this fabulous view of the Pacific. Since we were in a corner room, the lanai was open with railings on the front and left sides instead of just open to the front, so the field of view was phenomenal. We left the doors open all night (and every other night following) so that we could enjoy the pacific breezes and the sounds of the ocean and the waterfall in the fishponds below the room. The sound of the water outside was wonderfully relaxing and so we drifted off to sleep still in shock that we were actually in Hawai'i.
For our first full day on Hawai'i I had planned... nothing. Since we didn't know how tired we would be from travel all day on Wednesday, we decided it was probably not the thing to do to schedule some event or sightseeing tour on the first day. So since we were both up early with the time difference, we decided to just wing it and explore.
First, though, Stacey sent me to the lobby for the fresh Kona coffee they provided. I fixed a couple of cups (adding a dash or two of chocolate for Stacey) and grabbed some fresh pineapple and water from the cafe. The water was artesian from Norway, I think, and looked like it was in a shampoo bottle. I took the pineapple and drinks back up to the room. I noticed a little rain shower had come up, but it was mostly over by the time I got back to the room.
So, we drank our coffees on the lanai watching the surf on the Pacific. Neither Stacey nor I are big coffee drinkers, but we both really enjoyed the Kona coffee so much that we had a cup every morning. We took some breakfast granola bars with us so we had those with our coffees. Stacey finished dressing and we relaxed for a little bit before getting on with the day.
Stacey pointed out to me that the hotel had orchids and hairpins at the front desk so from then on I got a fresh orchid for my hair every morning.
We stopped at the concierge to find out what places would be good in the area for lunch. We got a list of restaurants in the nearby town of Kapolei. We headed out and drove around looking at what restaurant might appeal to us for lunch. We had already decided that we would try not to eat at any chain restaurants that we had available to us at home if at all possible, so we went looking for somewhere local. We decided upon En Fuego. It looked like a good choice when we saw that most of the customers looked like locals on their lunch. (Although there was one surfer whose shorts dipped a little too much in the front! There are some things you just don't want to see when you are eating!) We perused the menu before going in and decided to try some dishes that looked local. We tried Mochico Chicken, Beef Teriyaki, Garlic Chicken, and Chicken Katsu. The plates had an enormous amount of food with two scoops of white or brown rice and another side (like a salad) in addition to the entree. We would definitely recommend this place to anyone looking for somewhere non-touristy to eat.
After our meal, we went driving on the leeward side of Oahu . We originally just started back toward the hotel but just kept going on Farrington Highway . We drove all the way to the Ka’ena Point Beach Park. All along the way we saw a lot of tents on the beaches and I finally realized that there were people living in on the beaches in the tents. (That was a revelation for me as you do not see that kind of thing in Dothan Alabama .) We drove until we ran out of pavement and then stopped and walked down to the rocks at the water’s edge. Unfortunately, we both seemed to forget that we had a video camera and that the digital camera recorded video and we didn’t shoot any video of the park. It was truly beautiful and very peaceful. The park had only a few other visitors at the time. We checked out a couple of pools of water where you could see salt crystals had formed from the evaporation of the sea water and met some really nice people who took a picture of Stacey and I together.
On the reverse part of the trip just out of the park, we stopped at a monument that we had seen earlier. I thought it was just a marker of some kind, but did not really think much of it until Stacey saw the cave. Traveling anywhere with a scientist can be an adventure. He saw the cave and said, “We gotta stop.” So we pulled over and Stacey headed to the cave while I walked over to look at the monument and was amazed to find that we had very nearly passed by a very interesting cultural site. It is called Kaneana (here is a site that has the legend of the cave http://www2.hawaii.edu/~tsojot/kaneana.htm and the text of the plaque). I, of course, went to tell Stacey what was on the plaque and we looked about the cave for a while. (While we were stopped at the cave another very nice couple stopped and we chatted with them. They recommended that we try Kauai on our next trip. Said it was absolutely lovely.)
So after the stop at the cave we headed back South on Farrington Highway . We stopped at another little beach park for Stacey to get some pictures before we got back to the resort area and we decided to keep riding on toward Honolulu.
Day 3 and we intended to get an early start out around 9am. I had scheduled our tickets for the Polynesian Cultural Center in advance and planned to hit the Dole Plantation on our way.
We left about an hour or 90 minutes later than we intended which threw our schedule off somewhat, but, hey, it's our vacation and we don't have to live by a schedule. So we head out toward the H2 and the Dole Plantation as our first stop.
When we get to Dole, Stacey notices that the ink from the map I have been reading has rubbed off onto my shirt and I now have a blue spot... great! I thought I might buy another shirt and change, but I was able to get most of it out in the ladies room. Before I got that far, though, we were intercepted by the Maui Divers sales representative and 'suckered' into buying a pearl. Now, I wanted a nice souvenier of our trip so we weren't really suckered, at least we knew we were and went ahead anyway. The sales lady was very nice and I got a pretty set of a pink pearl ring and earrings. Stacey said to think of it as the chair and end table that I have been wanting for the living room... ha ha ha.
We drifted around the gift shop for a while and tried some really tasty salad dressings. I probably would have bought some, but we were trying not to get too many things to have to lug to the other islands. We browsed around and then wandered outside to the gardens area where they have a lot of different types of pineapple growing on display. It was really interesting as I had thought the pineapples grew on trees, but instead they grow on little grass type bushes. We bought tickets to the Pineapple Express and had to wait for a little while. Stacey wondered around taking pictures of the pineapple while I grabbed a place for us in the line and it wasn't long before we were chugging down a two mile stretch of track. The train had to reverse and pick up speed to make it around the first curve, but then we were on our way. The train took us through some pineapple fields and through some displays of other exotic foods and flora. The track looped at the end and we started back down the track toward the plantation area. It started raining and I pinched my finger trying to let down the plastic on one side of the train to keep the rain out. Ouch.
When we got back, we got little samples of fresh pineapple that tasted really sweet and delicous. Stacey took me over to the Koi pond and we watched them literally swarm for the food some other guests threw out. I had to video that for Tim (my brother). We went through the rest of the gift shop in the back and grabbed a Dole Whip (pineapple ice cream) in a waffle cone for us both. It was very tasty and cooled us down. We took our treats with us as we left Dole heading out about an hour off our expected schedule.
We decided to drive through the town of Hale'iwa on the way to the Polynesian Cultural Center. It was not too far out of the way and was worth our while. We drove over the Rainbow Bridge and when we passed the Hale'iwa Beach Park and stopped to see the memorial there and snap a few pictures. We also realized that we were running low on batteries and had forgotten to grab any extras at the hotel. So we stopped in Laie at a Safeway to get some batteries thinking they would be higher if we needed to buy some while at the PCC (turns out the price was about the same). While we were stopped at the little strip mall in Laie, I dropped some postcards off to the family.
We got to the PCC around 2pm which was bout an hour to an hour and a half later that I had originally planned. There was a mix-up with our tickets and the person had to search to find our reservations. Turns out that we were put into the computer for the wrong day (May 10 instead of May 12). They quickly straightened the tickets out, but our seats for the show were not quite as good as they had been on the incorrect reservation. We got a shell lei from our guide. And, as it turned out, being late wasn't too bad because we were the only ones arriving at that time and we got a personal tour (instead of a tour in a larger group) of the PCC. We did not get to see all of the exhibits and villages but we did get a nice little tour. Our guide was from South Korea and she was very sweet and funny. We stopped to watch the Samoan demonstration and the Tongan drum presentation. Stacey tried his hand at tolo (spear throwing) and our guide made a little woven grass fish for us. Before long, we were taking a canoe ride down toward the luau. Since we did not stop for lunch (just a snack in the PCC shortly after we arrived), we were both really hungry and ready for the Ali'i Luau.
At the luau, we were greeted and given orchid leis and they took a picture. We had already purchased a picture at the Dole Plantation earlier when we went on the train and when we looked at this picture after the luau, it looked like there was a giant cricket on me. It was actually just the grass fish that the guide had given us earlier, but it was weird looking enough for us to pass on the picture.
So this was our first experience at a luau. We watched as they pulled the pig from the imu and then carried it off to prepare for the dinner and there was a really good hula show while we waited for our turn to go to the buffet. The only problem with that was that we missed part of the show while getting our food and you missed so much if you tried to eat while they were dancing. But we enjoyed ourselves immensely and tried poi and kalua pig and haupia and other luau offerings.
After the luau, we wondered through a couple of the shops and then went on to the Horizons show. We had pretty nice seats off toward the left side of the audience. The show was very good. The performers were excellent. I would love to go back to see the other villages and cultural presentations that we did not get a chance to see on our visit. If we had been staying on Oahu longer, we could have gone back for free (not including the luau or show) for a couple more days.
Stacey made the hour long drive back to the resort and I fell asleep, although I meant to stay awake to keep him company on the drive. It was probably about 11pm when we were back in the room.
It seemed that on every island we needed at least one more day. So here is a list of things that we either did not have a chance to do or would like to do again...
Go back to the Polynesian Cultural Center to see the displays and demonstrations for the island cultures that we did not have time for while we were there.
Spend more time exploring the culture and history in Honolulu, including places such as Chinatown.
Sightsee on the windward side of the island.
Continue Stacey's Hawaii 5-0/Magnum PI location tour.
Re-ride the Road to Hana. There is so much to see that we did not have time for. Also, we need to see the road beyond Hana with more daylight.
Iao Valley and the northen parts of Maui.
To see a sunset or sunrise from Haleakala.
Hawai'i (the Big Island):
Go to the Mauna Loa visitor center and see coffee and vanilla farm tours.
Spend more time exploring Volcano National Park.
Spend more time stargazing.
A helicoptor ride. This would be nice on any island, but especially on the Big Island as that would have been the only way to really see the lava flows while we were there.