Hawaii – The land of Aloha!

In my teens, I was a big fanatic of Sachin Tendulkar. Like millions of others, I used to get glued to the television when he was in action. A part of our teenage routine was to discuss him after every cricket match, follow him in advertisements, newspapers etc.. This is one of his Pepsi ad:

In this ad, Sachin gets tricked into believing he is not a cricketer but a cook in Honolulu. That was the first time I had heard ‘Honolulu’. I wanted to know where it was! It sounded so exotic, so “foreign” and distant from India. I wanted to go there one day.
When I came to USA, I had a few places that I wanted to visit which included Alaska, Niagara, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Hawaii etc… When I moved to California, it had stuck me about my relative closeness to Hawaii. After Neha came into my life, we had gone on quite a few trips within the first few months and my want of visiting Hawaii was making me restless. “Lets go to Hawaii”, I said to Neha in December. She thought I was kidding to even be thinking of this trip just before she was to join school. I was convinced that this was the time and booked round trip tickets from SFO to Honolulu for 9 days & 10 nights.
I like solving problems. Specially the ones that involve spending time and money on travel. Our problem was to determine the islands that we are going to visit during our stay. I read a lot online, spoke with friends and colleagues about which islands to visit. All of them said “depends on what you want to do”. Me and Neha are both aggressive travelers. And we thought that we can easily do three islands on this trip. By the process of elimination, we landed on Oahu (yeah right, that wasn’t much a choice, we were landing there anyways), Maui and the Big Island. After researching the logistics of travel, stay and local transportation, I was almost compunctious. The cost of the trip was sky rocketing. But there was nothing much I could do. A trip to Hawaii is going to be expensive. Everything on the islands is expensive.. food, stay, car rentals, attractions, events, water sports.. everything. I just realized I am starting to bore you with my rant. Over to the trip!!
Day One – Waikiki:
Reached Honolulu on Jan 17th late in the night. The 5 hour flight was long and awful. The first thing you will notice when you land in Hawaii is the climate. It felt “tropical” and beach like. It was almost unusual. So, we got the car and headed to the Pacific Beach hotel. Though it was midnight, though we were brutally tired, both of us just wanted to walk on the beach road there. It was the pull of the climate. We didn’t want to restrict ourselves to our hotel. We checked in and walked around Waikiki for around an hour and retired for the day.
I woke up early in the morning at around 6:30 Hawaii time and opened the balcony of our room. The Pacific ocean was beautiful. I just couldn’t stop myself from crossing the street into the beach. “I will be back in some time”, I told Neha who I had woken with my clamor. Strapped my camera and walked to the beach.
Morning surfer @ Waikiki Beach
Waikiki is a beautiful part of Honolulu with a lot of land facing the ocean, lots of pretty shops, great eateries and lots of things to do. Some jogged, others walked, most of them just hung out at the beach with coffee and breakfast staring into the ocean. After relishing the scenery, I walked back to the hotel. We had a big day ahead.
I read a lot about this local sandwich place called Andy’s Sandwiches on the mainland and we went here for lunch. I had the best cold veggie sandwich here. Excellent place for smoothies too. We had a papaya-banana smoothie. yummm
Next stop was Nu’uanu Pali Lookout. It offered panoramic views of the island. This place is windy very windy.
Nuanapali lookout
Nuanapali lookout 2

Spent some time, took some pictures and proceeded to the historic town of Haleiwa. Haleiwa is a charming little town punctuated with quite a number of food trucks. It also presents some street side shopping. Not much though. But whats interesting about this town is the shops that sell shaved ice. There are several shops but we picked Matsumoto’s. 200+ grams of crushed ice with a wide range of flavors to chose from fused with condensed milk and topped with two scoops of ice cream. Who wants to miss that?

Next, we headed to Waimea valley. In one line whats special about this place is that the continental divide runs though it. We saw a lot of peacocks wandering around the gift store / cantina.

Peacock at Waimea Valley

The day was yawning and it was time for us to hit the north beaches before dawn. We spent some time in Banzai Pipeline beach and retired for sunset at the Sunset beach. The waves on the northern beaches were huge. Huge even for a lot of surfers. The sun sluggishly crept into its slumber and we started to recede towards the hotel.

Day Two – Waikiki:
The next day was planned for snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. We bought our snorkeling gear at a store and headed to the bay at around 11 AM. Call the park before you head there. If the weather is harsh, they close the bay down for visitors.

Hanauma Bay is supposedly one of the best places in the world for shallow water snorkeling. Without spending too many words on this, lets just say it was one of the most unique experience of my life. The water wasn’t cold, it was my first time snorkeling and once you put your head into the water, its an ineffable experience to see the marine life at such close quarters.

Hanauma Bay – Snorkeling

We spent a good 4 hours snorkeling there. We were drained of our energies at the end. We were tired, hungry and needed to catch a plane to the Big Island in a few hours. On the way to the airport, we ran into this marvelous thai restaurant. Ate to our heart’s content and extinguished the fire in the belly. The waitress there suggested we try a local favorite Malasadas on the way to the airport. This was the first time we tried malasadas and were instantly gratified as the place we went to was supposed to be the best on the islands. Hot malasadas with stuffed guava and coconut filling. Damn yumm.

Next to airport. Then to Big Island. Retired for the day at the hotel.

Day One on the Big Island was spent at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. During the day, we watched a movie at the visitors’ center about the volcanic activity on the islands and got information about a deadly trek we were going to take up the next day. At the park, we walked through the lava tubes, picnicked at the crater of Kīlauea, saw steam vents, drove to The End of the Road / Kalapana and also went to Jaggar Museum after dark to see the caldera. A lot covered in just one day.

Lava tubes @ Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Lava tubes @ Hawaii Volcanoes National Park -2
Kilauea Iki Trail
Big Island – new land mass formations at the edge of ocean
View from Jaggar museum
Solidified lava at ‘End of craters road’

Day Two on the Big Island was the day of the deadly trek. This trek started at the end of the road we visited on day one. It was a 14 mile hike towards the active volcanic flows. On solidified molten. DO NOT ATTEMPT IF YOU DON’T HAVE COMPANY. My initial thoughts were that 14 miles ain’t a big thing and it wouldn’t be very difficult. I was wrong. The volcanic rock is jagged, uneven and the brittle rock is sharp. It easily cuts through the skin. The lady at the shop was right when she said it would feel like 28 miles. She was wrong too. It felt like 50 miles. We started hiking at around 11 AM. There are nothing but mile markers and after a few mile markers, we got lost. We didn’t see a soul for 4 hours. Eventually we reached the spot where we could see the lava flow into the ocean procreating land. We sat there for some time, clicked pictures, half dead and just hoping for some miracle to happen and take us back. After dark, it became even more tricky as you have to be careful with the volcanic rock. All in all, this was more or less a once in a lifetime experience. If you prefer to do it, make sure you carry lots of gatorade, snack bars and good torches.

Lava draining into the ocean creating new land
Another view
Sun setting on the lava rocks

By the time we reached the car, we were only praying that the day ended. Got some food on the way back and slept 14 straight hours.

Day Three on the Big Island was our last day. We had covered most of the important spots but a few waterfalls and lookouts. We took it easy on this day. We visited Akaka Falls State Park. We visited a couple of lookout spots, had some malasadas, tasted some indigenous fruit (passion fruit is sooo goood), visited a couple of beaches, drove some scenic routes and headed to the airport. Phew.. Next stop MAUI.

Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls

First Day in Maui: 
We had planned that we will be staying 5 days in Maui and most of it was going to “relaxing”, the virtue of any good holiday. We knew we’d be busy on Oahu and Big Island, and had planned to take it easy in Maui. We woke up at noon craving for some spicy stuff. It had been 5 days without some “seriously spicy” food. Found this thai restaurant on yelp and headed there. Pretty good food which we be visiting three times again in this trip. First tourist destination of the day was Iao Valley. The stunning landscape is worth a visit. The “needle” stands ominously next to the vegetated valley. It was cloudy and gloomy adding to its influence.

Before it grew dark, I wanted to watch the sunset on legendary Lahaina beach. We went there stopping at some vista points along the route. The sunset on the beach is glorious. The sun sets over Lanai island as some sail boats, yatches and other cruise ships scurry between the islands to catch a glimpse of its mellow avatar.
Sunset at Lahaina

Day Two in Maui:
This was the day when we did the popular tourist thing. Road to Hana. Hana, a small town at the south east corner offers a scenic drive with many tourist spots along the way. There are too many spots along the way and it is rather difficult to describe each and every one of it. Here is a google map with pins on the hot spots.

Sights – Road to Hana
Sights – Road to Hana

Don’t forget to try the fresh hot banana bread on this route. It meets the expectations and the hype.

Day Three in Maui:
Woke up at 330 AM and were on our way to Haleakala National Park to watch the sunrise over the clouds. Drove 2 hours around the Haleakala crater to reach the summit. There are two ranges of parking on the summit and the topmost parking lot gets busy first. We had reached the summit and sat in the car (it is cold at that altitude, wear 3 layers) for a little while. When we saw a little twilight, I came out to a fantastic view of clouds and we were parked over the clouds. People were waiting at the staging area with cameras in hand and hoping to see one of the most talked about sunrises. I have seen sunrise over oceans, over mountains and once rising on plane land but this time I would see sun rising over clouds. As the Sun woke up over the clouds, the clamor in the crowd grew and the Sun rose at his own snaily pace giving ample time to relish the sight and capture the moment.

Haleakala clouds, stage for sunrise
Sunrise at Haleakala
Sunrise at Haleakala

We disembarked the crater and returned to the hotel. Two hours later, we were on our way to Kaanapali beach to snorkel. Neha wasn’t very keen on snorkeling but I was pumped. We went to the much talked “Black Rock” in Kaanapali beach. The waters were calm and I snorkeled for around 3 hours. Just floating in a dead man’s posture and looking at the clouds was so relaxing. It is one of the memories that got embedded into the mind which I recall when I need peace. Whats also memorable from that day was that I had snorkeled with 2 giant sea turtles for almost 20 minutes. Those turtles were not scared and let me and a few other snorkelers hang around them. We were taking pictures and following the turtles at a safe distance. It was surreal to see a 5 feet sea turtle from 2 feet away in water swimming towards you.

Black rock, Kaanapali Beach – clicked by Neha

At the time of sunset, we went to the famous “Front Street” in Lahaina. I sipped a couple of MaiTai’s, had some junk food and walked around the busy street shopping souvenirs and take homes.

Day Four in Maui: 
Day four and day five were snorkeling days. We went to Honolua Bay at around 11 AM only to see surfers, which means that the water is rough and not a good day for snorkeling. Shucks. Hung around the bay for some time and headed back to Kaanapali to check out the scene there. Luckily, the water wasn’t that bad here and we spotted some other tourists snorkeling. We snorkeled for a couple of hours but the water got very rough soon.

After some time, we walked to a beach side restaurant called Leilani’s on the beach to have dinner while watching the sunset. Later, we headed to the old Lahaina luau. We knew we wouldn’t get any vegetarian chow there and thats the reason we had dinner earlier. If you are a vegetarian, then you have almost zero options apart of course from salad and the drinks at luau.

Day Five in Maui:
Last day of our trip. We had already booked a snorkeling trip to Molokini island with Kaikanani. They are a pretty good crew. We were the first boat to reach Molokini at around 6:30 AM. They gave us all the snorkeling equipment and once I drowned my head in the water, it was astonishing. 30 feet of water crystal clear like they show in movies. Placid and a variety of fishes and other sea animals around us. We snorkeled there for around an hour and will not forget the experience for a long time.

Sailing away from Molokini

We went back to the hotel, ate, rested for enough time and headed to the airport in the evening. We left Hawaii with a promise to return back again. Definitely.

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2 thoughts on “Hawaii – The land of Aloha!

  1. dear Aditya and Neha
    Your hawai trip was indeed a great and memorable experience.
    I really appreciate the ravenous apetite of aditya for his penchant for travel and enjoy the wonders of the world.Truely a rare trait worth emulation by the youth of the present times.Your blog narrating the events,describing the beauty,charm,and warmth of theplaces and ur deep involvement in the wonders and adventurous deeds is laudable.
    We are extremely happy to knoe ur welfare and wish u both
    great days ahead with many achievements and honours.
    Our love to Neha and affectionate blessings to Aditya
    Vijaya pedananna and peddamma
    Your mamayya and attamma
    great days ahead with many more achievements and honours.

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