Linda, Doug & Kyle Printz
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We're back from Hawaii. It was a great vacation but Kyle and I are glad to be home. Linda, on the other hand, is ready to move over there. As nice as it seems, I'm not sure I could live there - then again ......
We spent the first week on Oahu. Linda found a house on the beach on the Windward side near Hauula, a couple of miles south of the Polynesian Cultural Center. Man, it was great - there was a great little beach just a couple of steps from our house and it had a sitting room with full windows on three sides facing the ocean. I waded out into the ocean till I was in chest deep water and took this picture.
That's our house just behind Linda - she's bundled up like that because she’s hiding from the sun, not because it's cold.
Linda got up about six in the morning and took this picture of a typical sunrise. We had a full view of this sunrise from our beds every morning. It was something.
The beach at our place was perfect. About 300 yards out there was a double reef that made the water very calm - and also keeps out sharks and such. The water was pretty shallow - I went out about 100 yards and it never got more than 8 or 10 feet deep - very warm, and very clear. This was the first naturally occurring water that I could just wade out into without having to get used to it. There were a few huge rocks out there where most of the fish seemed to accumulate. We did quite a bit of snorkeling out there. Some of the locals came down to capture fish for their aquariums. On about the third day, I got stung by a Portuguese man-of-war that ruined my day - for a minute. Actually, within an hour all symptoms were gone. Kyle took to snorkeling right off and enjoyed himself immensely. We even had Linda out there swimming and using her snorkel.
We tried to go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay but there were so many people that the parking lots were closed. We tried three times and finally gave up.
We spent an afternoon at Sea Life Park - it was OK but frankly it is very overpriced and there really isn't that much to see, especially when compared to Marine World here in Vallejo.
We spent most of a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center - that was very interesting. We all enjoyed the time spent there. Linda learned how to make coconut bread by wrapping it in banana leaves and baking it in a fire pit. After the bread was cooked, we sampled it and decided it was quite good. We wanted to buy some to take with us, but none was available to purchase. Kyle tried his hand at throwing a long javelin-like stick at a coconut target. He found out it was harder than it looked.
We spent another day in Pearl Harbor. Kyle put on his Navy uniform and we went to the Arizona Memorial. As before, it was a moving experience. Kyle seemed to be interested in everything and seemed to learn quite a bit. While we were right there we visited the nearby USS Bowfin Memorial - I can't imagine how those guys endured submarine duty. It seemed plenty crowded with four tourists and a docent. According to the specs, this submarine had a crew of 70 enlisted men and 10 officers - unbelievable! Also, the USS Missouri is docked nearby. They are in the process of making a memorial out of it - they still have a long way to go but what they have open is definitely worth the visit. Very, very interesting.
On the way back from Sea Life Park we spotted some people playing in the surf at a place called Sandy Beach. There were mostly boogie boarders, and body surfers, with a few surfboards at one end of the beach. It was a nice beach and it looked like fun so we stopped. Once there, however, the waves looked too tough for me - the beach was fairly steep and the waves seemed to be a little rough - they were fairly high, formed quickly, and crashed in a very short time - the people all looked like locals and knew what they were doing. Kyle had never played in the surf and just had to get wet. We told him that it looked dangerous but he could play in the area very near the shore where there was no danger of getting slammed by a wave. As he played and Linda and I watched, a family of very pale people began walking toward the water, each with a boogie board. As they neared the water, a lifeguard got on the loudspeaker, and warned them away - he said this was a dangerous beach and had a very high incidence of broken backs and broken necks. He suggested that this wasn't the place to learn to boogie board and said he'd be glad to recommend safer places. The family changed their minds and turned around. Nobody, however, actually went to the lifeguard for his advice. I was interested in a safer place because I wanted to try it a little myself - I remember when we were in Southern California that it was a lot of fun. I approached the lifeguard tower and asked about the safer places. He recommended a beach about 15 miles up the coast and gave us directions how to get there. It was perfect - can't remember the name of it. There was plenty of room on the beach and in the water, there was a long shallow beach, and pretty decent waves that traveled a long way. There were tall trees behind the beach that made part of the beach shaded after noon - Linda liked that as she was pretty badly sunburned. We wound up spending about 3 hours playing in the surf that day and all the rest of the days of our stay on Oahu. Man, that was fun!
We spent the second week on the Big Island. Neither Linda nor I had any idea what to expect. It was definitely different than I expected. The Kailua-Kona area, the center of most of the island's activities and the place where we stayed, is on the leeward side of the island. The volcano, Kilauea is on the windward side and is emitting about 2500 tons of sulfur dioxide a day. As a result, the Kailua-Kona area has a smoggy haze most of the time - the locals call it VOG - that limits visibility, smells a little, and is generally unpleasant.
Most of the coastline is not accessible and even if it was, there are very few sandy beaches because the island is only about 800,000 years old, much too short a time for long sandy beaches. Although there are relatively few people on the island, and it is a huge place, the few good spots seemed to be crawling with people. Strangely, on Oahu, with its million plus people, the beaches seemed much less crowded to us - of course we stayed away from Honolulu and Waikiki (and Hanauma Bay).
We did find plenty to like, however. We did a lot of driving around the island - it is big. We put over 800 miles on our rental car. We spent one day driving south to the volcano and seeing the sights in that area. The volcano is very impressive. We drove around the Kilauea crater and stopped many times to look into the crater, to look at steam vents, and to look at lava flows. We also took the "Chain of Craters" road as far as we could in an attempt to see as much as we could of the current lava flow. We were warned that the flow was occurring in an inaccessible place and we wouldn't be able to see anything unless we were willing to hike about 8 miles - which we weren't. When we reached the end of the road, we were able to see smoke from the lava and steam where it was entering the ocean about 4 miles away.
This photo was taken at one of the many steam vents of Kilauea
This photo was taken at the end of Chain of Craters Road. The smoke in the background is from the lava flowing to the sea.
The next day, we drove around the island the other way until we reached the lava flow from the other side. Sometime in the 1980's the lava flowed through the middle of a housing tract and took out 181 houses. We wandered around in the area to see what we could see. We saw where the road had been covered by lava.
It was obvious that some of the people who used to live in the area aren't giving up that easily. One fellow had parked a small trailer on his lot and had planted some palm trees to delineate the boundaries. His house is apparently under about 50 feet of lava and it looks like he isn't budging from his property. A four-wheel drive route has been created over the lava roughly where the road used to be - see above. We ran into a couple of girls that said with a jeep you could drive to within a couple of miles of the current lava flow.
We saw almost every kind of terrain you can imagine on this trip around the island. In the northern part of the island the towns are at about 4000 feet in elevation. It is cool there and the clouds seemed very close to the ground. On the way, we saw country that wouldn't have been out of place in southern Idaho or northern Nevada - we even saw some cactus and what looked a lot like sagebrush. At the extreme north end of the island, we got a pretty good view of Maui. Along the east side of the island is a rain forest - it rains about 200 inches a year on this side as opposed to the 30 inches normal for the Kilauea area. We didn't stop anywhere, but there are supposed to be some spectacular waterfalls within hiking distance.
We also stopped at a couple of heiaus, which were interesting. I learned that the Hawaiians were actually a fairly bloodthirsty group in the past. I was under the impression that they were a playful, happy, peaceful people. Come to find out, the people were often under the thumb of some evil priest who demanded human sacrifices to appease the gods. At one of the heiaus, tens of thousands of people were sacrificed by stripping the skin from their bones - really nice.
Since there didn't seem to be any easy places to snorkel, we decided to take one of the commercial snorkeling cruises. We selected a catamaran called the Body Glove and it turned out to be a good choice. It was a double decker that had a maximum capacity of 100 people. Our cruise had about 60 people and it didn't seem crowded at all. They had snacks, beverages, beer and all the comforts of home. They took us out to an area that can't be reached other than by boat. We anchored about 100 yards offshore and had a blast. We snorkeled for about 45 minutes in 20 to 60 feet of water. The clarity was amazing - visibility was advertised at over 100 feet - I can believe it since we had no problem at all seeing the bottom. There was a lot of fish and even some SCUBA divers. We were hoping to see some turtles but - no such luck. We then got back on the boat to take a break and noticed that some of the people were jumping off the top deck that was 15 feet above the water. They also had a water slide up there. Kyle and I spent the remainder of our time jumping off the boat and swimming around to the ladder - what a kick. Kyle swims like a fish and didn't hesitate to jump right into 50-foot deep water without any gear at all. On the way back to shore, we found ourselves in the middle of hundreds of dolphins. Man, that was neat - they were surfacing all around the boat. It was great fun - if it wasn't so expensive we'd have gone every day.
We stayed at a condo called World Mark along Alii Boulevard, Kona's main drag. It was a real nice place. We went swimming in the pool almost every evening. The one day of snorkeling was the only time we swam in the ocean at the Big Island.
We wound up spending the last couple of days just hanging out at the condo. We were all tired of driving around (especially Kyle) and there didn't seem to be anything to see without doing a lot of driving.
On the way home we had an adventure on Oahu. Our plane taxied onto the runway and stopped for about 45 minutes. They finally told us there was a problem with one of the hydraulic systems and we had to be towed back to the terminal. We unloaded - luggage included - and hung around the airport for about 3 hours. They finally decided to put us up in a hotel in Waikiki for the night. The airline (ATA) really tried to treat us right. We got meal vouchers for dinner and breakfast in a great restaurant and we all enjoyed excellent meals on both occasions. We took the opportunity to walk to Waikiki Beach and Kyle got a vial of sand for one of his teachers. They rousted us all out at 5:30 a.m. the next morning and our flight finally took off about 9:00 a.m. Other than the hassles related to waiting around and pushing luggage around it wasn't too bad. If you have to stay an extra day in Hawaii for free, we recommend this as one way to do it.