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In celebration of Ken & Cathy’s upcoming 25th wedding anniversary in 2016, we offered them a choice of some very special trips rather than our usual stay at an all-inclusive resort.  Their ultimate pick was Hawaii!  We had the pleasure of spending seven nights with Ken & Cathy on the islands of Hawaii.  

To begin this adventure, we all met at DFW Airport.  We booked Ken & Cathy in first class to/from Fort Lauderdale.  We also booked all of us in first class to/from Honolulu.  Although we had pre-assigned seats for the Honolulu flights, due a change of equipment there was a bit of shuffling involved so that we able to sit together as couples.  Once that issue was resolved, we all enjoyed the 8.5 hour flight to Honolulu.  Our first four nights were spent on the island of Oahu where we stayed at The Embassy Suites Waikiki.  The last three nights were spent on the “Big Island” (the island of Hawaii) staying one night each in Hilo, Kona and Volcanoes National Park.  All and all, it was a wonderful experience!  Highlights of our time on each island are featured below. 


            The island of Oahu is best known for Honolulu, its largest city.  We chose not to sit and relax on the beach; Ken & Cathy have that option near their home.  Instead we decided to explore areas most visitors in Honolulu don’t take the time to see, especially if you don’t have a car.  In doing so, we found some hidden gems on the island. 

            We spent our first day of touring on Oahu crossing the island to reach its famous North Shore where some of the world’s premier surfing competitions are held annually.  Before arriving at North Shore, we stopped near the center of Oahu at the Dole Plantation.  Hey, you have to visit the place where those delicious pineapples come from! 

We've arrived at the Dole Plantation

This train - The Pineapple Express - takes you around the plantation to see various fields.  Pineapples had just been harvested prior to our visit but we did enjoy the ride & seeing other crops.

Here's a crop of Sugar Cane

Here we have bananas - everything seems to grow in Oahu

A view of Tanada Reservoir on the Plantation with
beautiful mountains in the background

Some decorative pineapple plants in one of the gardens

Cathy & Ken in front of a lovely Mindanao Gum Tree

This wild Parrot was sitting in one of the gardens

Afterwards it was time to enjoy the surf, beaches and rocky shores that make up North Shore.  We found a great spot for lunch – Kono’s – in Haleiwa.  We did some shopping in that area too.  Our final stop for the day was the Wailua Coffee Company.  Late afternoon we left the serenity of the North Shore to return to Honolulu and a wonderful happy hour at The Embassy Suites.  Speaking of happy hour, upon our arrival at The Embassy Suites, Ken & Cathy surprised us by arranging to have champagne & chocolate-covered strawberries waiting in our room.  And, yes, we all enjoyed a glass of bubbly together as well as the delicious strawberries!

Surfers on the waves at North Shore!

Not quite as large a wave; there's one individual
on the left who is waiting out this one for a bigger ride.

Success!  How about riding two big waves!!

Now these two surfers are really on the "BIG ONE!"

As this photo attests, not all the coast of the North Shore
can be surfed due to some rocky terrain (actually lava flows)

A panorama of one of the rocky bays in North Shore taken by Ken

Ken, Cathy & Lindy at our lunch table at Kono's
(check out the wall decorations - surfboards;
Kono's logo - a surfing pig!)

This Coffee Company made us feel right at home -
a bit like the old hippie stores here in New Mexico

A view of the coffee being grown at Waialua Coffee Company; we can attest that it's delicious!

[ T O P ]

            On our second day of touring in Oahu, we headed west to visit Diamond Head and then take the beautiful Kalanianaole Highway north along the coast.  At Diamond Head we enjoyed the landmark crater – an iconic symbol of Honolulu – as well as the Diamond Head Lighthouse.

Diamond Head Lighthouse

The waves at Diamond Head are impressive - just
not as impressive as those at North Shore

A panoramic view of Diamond Head (again, thanks to Ken)

As we started our drive on Kalanianaole Highway, we first passed Koko Head Crater, another impressive sight!  Our next stop along the coast road was at Lanai Lookout.  It had some beautiful rocky shoreline. 

Koko Head Crater

A panoramic view including Koko Head Crater looking back
towards Honolulu and the rain storm there
 (again, thanks to Ken)

The impressive shoreline at Lanai Lookout

A view in the opposite direction

This is the impressive view you see at Lanai Lookout
if you look away from the sea and up the hillside

A view of the highway which follows the eastern coast of Oahu

Our route then took us to the Halona Blowhole.  It was very impressive! 

The rough and active shore at the Halona Blowhole pull-out

If you're patient, you can catch the Blowhole in full action

A view from the lookout looking down on Halona Beach Cove

We did take some time to walk on the beach at our next stop – Halona Beach Cove.  This beach is also known as “Eternity Beach”.  A love scene starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr was shot here for the 1953 film “From Here to Eternity”.  Our final stop along this scenic route was Makapu’u Lookout.  Again, it offered some stunning views. 

The stunning Halona Beach aka Eternity Beach

Ken & Cathy - Hawaii 2016!

Ed & Lindy - Hawaii 2016 too!

A view from Makapu'u Lookout

Rabbit Island (back) and Black Rock Island (front)
as seen from  Makapu'u Lookout;
both are protected bird sanctuaries

As we left Makapu’u, rain began to fall.  Unfortunately, it continued to get worse.  So, it was now time to take a well-deserved break for a late lunch.  We stopped at Uahi Island Grill.  It was another excellent spot!  We have to acknowledge that we found our luncheon spots via the “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” show featured on Food Network.  After lunch it continued to be a rainy, dreary afternoon.  We returned back to Honolulu on an interior road.  We had hoped to stop at a State Park but didn't do so due to the weather (and not being able to find the Park!). 

[ T O P ]

On our final day of touring in Oahu, we visited the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites.  This is an extremely moving and emotional spot to visit.  We had advance reservations to visit the USS Arizona Memorial.  While we were able to watch the presentation in the theatre, the boat ride to the Memorial was cancelled due to high winds.  However, we did spend a great deal of time exploring the compound with the historic USS Missouri and USS Bowfin on display and reading many of the educational and historical exhibitions.

Welcome to Pearl Harbor Historic Sites

The USS Arizona Memorial

A model shows that the Memorial is actually built
over the wreckage of the USS Arizona

The USS Missouri - probably best known as the place
 where the Empire of Japan surrendered to Allied Forces
 in Tokyo Bay in 1946

A closer view of the USS Missouri and it's six-16 inch diameter guns.  The ship also played roles in the Korean & Persian Gulf wars before becoming
a museum ship in 1998 at Pearl Harbor.

The USS Bowfin - a submarine used in WWII - that is now open to the public at Pearl Harbor
(although some areas are off limits)

A closer view (including people) shows this size of this submarine

This is the inside of a submarine trainer

The left is an A-1 Ballistic Missile which was replaced
by the longer-range A-3 Ballistic Missile on the right

The family standing in front of a rendition of the USS Missouri

            We next went to Costco as we thought it might have some unique local products for gifts.  Success!!  Afterwards we visited Aloha Tower.  Aloha Tower was the tallest building in Hawaii when it was completed in 1926.  Amazing when you look down at the super high-rise structures along Waikiki Beach!  We took the elevator to the 10th floor to enjoy the great views it offered.

The beautiful Aloha Tower

A beautiful Hula Dancer statute outside the Tower

The view looking in the direction of Waikiki Beach

A panorama taken by Ken in the same direction

A view of the very narrow entry into the port to Piers 8 - 11

A view looking directly across from the Tower into Honolulu

A view towards the Piers

A panorama taken by Ken which incorporates the two
previous snaps as well as more of the Pier area

[ T O P ]


            We flew to Hilo on the island of Hawaii, the southern most of the Hawaiian Islands.  We stopped by our motel to drop off our gear before heading to Akaka Falls State Park.  It was another rainy day (remember, Hilo is on the wet side of the Island of Hawaii) and this seemed to add to the mystery of this beautiful place.  The water at Akaka Falls drops from 442 feet.  Given it had been raining, the Falls were in full flow.  It was absolutely beautiful.  We also walked the circuit so that we saw Kahuna Falls which drops about 100 feet.  It too was beautiful but not as awesome as Akaka Falls.  Afterwards we visited a local Safeway and Ken prepared a delicious pasta and fish dinner for us at the motel (we each had a studio apartment).

Our trek begins with a small waterfall

We're truly in a jungle setting!

We've arrived at the amazing Akaka Falls

A closer view of the raging water at the top of Akaka Falls

This mysterious misty area is the landing place of Akaka Falls

A lovely blooming plant en route to Kahuna Falls

A grove of Bamboo

Kahuna Falls - a beauty but not as "knock-out" as Akaka Falls

At the end of the drenching trek

[ T O P ]

            On our second day on the Big Island, we crossed the island using the “Saddle Road” (Highway 200).  We left sea level and drove up and up and up to reach the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station at 9,200 feet!  The Visitor Information Station sits below Mauna Kea, the highest point in Hawaii at 13,796 feet.  Housed on top of Mauna Kea are observatories owned by NASA, University of Hawaii, the U.K., CalTech, Australia, Brazil, etc.  Initially, we were driving through rain and into clouds but ultimately we were above them so we enjoyed some magnificent views of the island, including its amazing volcanic activity. 

Lava Flows en route to Mauna Kea

A closer view of the lava reveals it's Pahoehoe

We arrived at the Visitor Information Station!

A photo taken at a pull-out below the Visitor Center
shows the many volcanic cones found in the valley below

A close-up view across the same area as seen above; the
volcanic cones are amazing!

The landscape has a variety of colors due to different
 types of lava flows & subsequent re-growth

We're standing in front of a volcanic crater and you can see
the clouds below us as we look toward the Hilo side of Hawaii;
Ed is wearing his "Kono's" t-shirt with the surfing pig!

            When we reached the other side of the island, we drove north to visit the Pu’Ukohola Heiau National Historic Site.  A “heiau” is a religious site where stones were lifted and stacked in place under the watchful eye of a Kahuna (a priest) to create a temple.  There is no mortar or cement holding the stones.  The Pu’ukohola site is one of the best preserved in Hawaii.  The Heiau is situated on the brow of “whale hill”.  The older Mailekini Heiau sits below the Pu’ulohola Heiau.  There was a third heiau which is now submerged in the sea as a result of nearby industrialization that changed the coast line.  That heiau was last seen offshore in the 1950’s.  Visiting the Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site provided a great deal of insights into the culture and history of the peoples of Hawaii.

We've arrived!

Our first glimpse of the primary Pu’Ukohola Heiau

The precision of the rock layout is impressive!

Looking inside the lower Mailekini Heiau

A glimpse up reveals the walls of the Mailekini Heiau below
the walls of
Pu’Ukohola Heiau atop Whale Hill

Looking towards the sea

            We then drove south along the coast to reach the town of Kailua-Kona. Our home for the night was the Royal Kona Resort located in the heart of Kona.  It offered great views of the rocky, volcanic shoreline and we all enjoyed the sounds of the waves crashing throughout the night. We had a pre-booking for the luau held on the small beach at the hotel.  It turned out to be a fabulous and informative event.  The food and drinks were delicious and the performances were truly amazing!  We had a great time and also learned a lot about Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures.

A welcoming Hula dance

A conch shell call to announce the unearthing of the
pig buried in a traditional earthen oven - part of our delicious dinner

The "Imu" - Hawaiian Earth Oven (with that tasty pig inside)

The unearthing of the pig begins

You can see that the pig was wrapped in various leaves

Some of the absolutely delicious meat!

Another Hula as we begin dinner

A lovely sunset on the beach

Our MC as well as a great singer

Canoe Paddle Dancers begin the show

These two individuals continued to entertain us without their paddles

Another great dance set follows

This Tahitian dancer has her hips moving with great speed & agility!

This performance is a Soke Dance from Tonga

This dancer wore some amazing feathers - so beautiful as was the dance!

We believe this is part of a Huka from New Zealand

This is a Poi Ball dance - again from New Zealand

This is considered to be one of the most dangerous performances - the Samoan Fire Dance
(there's a netting put up between us and the dancer)

The finale - a ring of fire!  Amazing!!!

[ T O P ]

            Our final day on the island was spent enjoying two spots – Punalu’u Black Sand Beach and Volcanoes National Park.    After enjoying a buffet breakfast at the Royal Kona Resort, we drove south and then across the island to reach Punalu’u Black Sand Beach.  It’s an amazing spot – especially if you’ve never seen a black sand beach.  While we were there we were lucky enough to have three Green Sea Turtles come ashore to warm up.  Wow, timing can be everything!  The turtles returned to the sea before we finished our visit at the beach.

Welcome to Punalu'u Beach

This is a stunning black sand beach!

These are the grains of black sands

We were so lucky to see these Green Sea Turtles warming up in the sun

A closer look at one of these amazing creatures

A very cooperative pose!

Ken & Cathy at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Us at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

We then continued along the highway to the turn off for Volcanoes National Park.  We briefly stopped at the Visitor Center to get an orientation of the area before beginning our road tour of the Park.  Initially we drove west of the Visitor Center to see some of the steam vents of Halema’uma’u Crater within the Kilauea Caldera.  We continued to the Jaggar Museum to see the steam and smoke rising from the active lava in the bottom of Halema’uma’u Crater.  It was very impressive!  We also went into the Museum to see the various exhibits.  Because the vapors emitting from the active volcano contain many toxic chemicals, part of the Crater Rim Drive is closed.  Since the prevailing winds are from the East, the western portions of the drive remain closed.  Still the Jaggar Museum overlook has some of the best views of the crater and it remains open.

An overview of the island of Hawaii with Mauna Kea
in the north and Mauna Loa in the south; Volcanoes National Park
includes Mauna Loa

The active Halema'uma'u Crater within Kilauea Caldera

A closer look into the steaming, gaseous Crater

It's amazing looking into this massive crater!

With us in the picture, you can an idea of how massive the Kilauea
Caldera is along with the size of the Halema'uma'u Crater

A panorama of the Kilauea Caldera shot by Ken

After enjoying these views, we drove back to the Visitors Center and then turned onto the Crater Rim Drive.  We drove as far as the Thurston Lava Tube.  We enjoyed the amazing jungle environment as well walking inside the hollow lava tube.  After this point, Crater Rim Drive was closed due to dangerous gases.  So, we took the Chain of Craters Roads to view the many, many craters in the area.  We stopped by Lua Manu crater.  Then we drove by the larger Pauahu Crater – amazing!  As we continued to drive, we saw fields of lava flows.  It was great to have views of lava fields as well as a glimpse of the sea.  We began the return trek back at about 3:00PM so that we would have time to enjoy the historic Volcano House, our home for the evening.

The entry into Thurston Lava Tube

Wow, this is one huge lava tube!

As you can see, we're once again in a jungle
setting outside of Thurston Lava Tube

Our first stop on the Crater Rim Drive at the small Lua Manu Crater

This is the large Pauahu Crater.  It's amazing to see
the re-growth and you'll notice it's not the least bit
 jungle-like but instead forested

An old flow which once again shows re-growth of the forrest

We found a small lava tube in this flow

Here two distinct lava flows meet.  The one in the back
 is a Pahoehoe flow which looks like ropes and/or pillows.  The flow in the front is an A'a flow
that is much more broken and sharp.

A beautiful scene where lava flows to the sea

On our final night in Hawaii, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at The Rim at Volcano House.  We had an excellent meal which was surpassed only by the view of  Kilauea Caldera glowing red in the night sky.  Several times during dinner the restaurant lights were turned off and that was a very special treat.

[ T O P ]

Our return home involved an overnight flight.  We left Volcano House at 9:00AM and drove to Hilo.  We had breakfast at Ken’s House of Pancakes (a very popular local spot) and then we went to the airport to catch our Hawaiian Airlines flight back to Honolulu.  We had several hours before our 5:00PM departure so we enjoyed relaxing in the Admirals Club.  The return flight to DFW was nice albeit when we landed at 6:15AM we were all pretty tired.  We once again found an Admirals Club where we enjoyed a light breakfast before leaving the Club to catch our respective flights home.  It was a bit sad for this wonderful adventure to be over but we’ll be doing something together again soon!