To start off, I want to say that this was a fantastic vacation. My sister-in-law is an incredible host. She planned nearly every single thing that we did during our time in Hawaii based off of a wishlist that we provided.
But this is the thing. I don't really care about the beach. I can appreciate the beauty that is found there, but my happy place is typically on a ride or in a restaurant. Unlike my in-laws or my older sister, I don't get rejuvenated by the beach, I usually get bored.
Day 1: Green World Coffee Farm
Despite not being a coffee drinker, I was interested to see what a coffee farm looked like. As we pulled up to the farm, I was a bit underwhelmed by the 7 acres of land. Initially, it seemed like somebody's back yard. But then I started to think about it, and you can't get much more farm to table than that. Not only does Green World Coffee Farm grow their beans mere feet away from their store, but they also roast everything there as well.
Inside, they had free sample of coffee, tea, and chocolate-covered beans. A few times a year, I take a sip of coffee, just to see if I suddenly like it.
But the good news is that they had Hawaiian shaved ice there, too.
Day 2: Shark Cove, Luau
Shark's Cove is a lava rock beach on the north shore. It is named as such not because you see sharks swimming around, but because its outline looks like a shark from above. Here there were tide pools filled with all types of marine life.
As soon as we had our tent set up, Emery, my brother-in-law and I all went snorkeling. We made our way out to a rock shelf and fought the waves to put on our snorkeling gear. The waves were a bit choppy, but it was worth it as soon as we got in the water. It didn't take long for us to see a bunch of brightly colored fish. But then a high point of my trip happened. A sea turtle joined our party. A fully grown sea turtle. Before coming to Hawaii, a sea turtle was never something that crossed my mind that I would see on vacation. It's because they live far away in a tropical place. As it turns out, Hawaii happens to be a faraway tropical place.
Paradise Cove is one of those places that is clearly a tourist trap, but you're okay with it. Several stations are set up to make your own lei, get a tattoo, and play traditional Hawaiian games. The kids and I all tried our hands at spear throwing. While I didn't hit a bullseye, I was one of the few people that actually hit the target with the spear.
They also had a few mini shows where you could see someone climb a palm tree barefooted, throw and retrieve a hand-crafted net into the ocean, or watch tourists dress up and do a silly dance.
But realistically, people were at the luau for one of two reasons. The first was the buffet of traditional food such as poi, lomi lomi salmon, kalua pig, taro rolls, and fresh pineapple. While the food was pretty good, I didn't feel like I could cross off traditional Hawaiian food from my list when I was eating at a buffet.
The second big draw was the show, which had two hours of dancing and singing, highlighted with fire play.
Day 3: Kaiwi Lighthouse Hike
Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline is a two-mile round-trip hike. A paved walkway winds up the mountain while several stopping points are set aside to admire the shoreline. At one point, I looked down at people that were walking around the exposed tide pools. It looked as if they were animals crawling on the ground from as high up as we were.
In one spot there were large binoculars posted on the railing, allowing viewers to look at the waters below. From November to May, whales pass through these waters.
At the top of the hike, there is a lookout point that allows people to look at several corners of the island. From here you can also see the lighthouse. Anywhere that you look at the ocean, you can see that the ocean water is incredibly clear and blue. You could even call it aquamarine.
Day 4: The Dole Plantation, Wahiawa Botanical Garden
If you are like me, you have never actually seen a pineapple grow. Fifty years ago, Hawaii was where 80% of the world's pineapple was grown. Today, it is less than 2%. But Dole is probably the most famous plantation in the world. I thought that it was interesting to see the varieties of the plant as we walked around. The Dole Plantation is home to the world's largest maze.
We opted out.
They also have a train tour that takes people through the plantation. As I am a tall man (6' 2"), I was not really excited to cram myself into a mini train. The kids were also not interested in the train ride, so we opted out.
The Dole Plantation is also home of the world-famous Dole Whip, which most people are probably familiar with from Disney. This is something that we most definitely did NOT opt out of.
Oahu has roughly a half dozen botanical gardens/Arboretums. Wahiawa is a 27-acre botanical garden. When people think of Hawaii, they often think of the beaches, but there is vegetation everywhere. As I said earlier, it seemed like the mountains were furry, there is so much growth. This garden had a beautiful path with information about the various trees from cinnamon, to banana, and a bunch of other varieties. As we walked through the garden, it felt like we were going through a small slice of the jungle.
Day 5: Kaena Point, bowling, poke
Ka'ena Point is listed as a wild coastline in the northwest corner of Oahu. I guess that what this means is that people don't lay on the beach and hang out all day. This is a place where people come to drive offroad, to hike, or look at the rugged beauty of Hawaii.
The beach wasn't white, soft sand, it was filled with hard rocks, shells, and coral. Definitely, a place to wear shoes. I would have loved to explore more of this location, but it was raining pretty hard, and we weren't going to have the kids hike in the rain. Especially because Tate was a fall risk with his cast.
So we went bowling at Schofield Barracks. While this was a fun reprieve, it isn't part of anybody's dream Hawaiian vacation.
One of the foods that I was really looking forward to eating while in the Aloha State was poke. For those that don't know, poke (pronounce poh-kay) is Hawaiian for 'to slice or cut.' This dish consists of slices of raw, marinated fish, generally tuna. Poke is available everywhere in Hawaii, much like barbeque is available everywhere in Texas. Bust just because you can buy raw, marinated fish at a gas station doesn't mean that you should. I had a few places scoped out to get the dish, but we ended up going to Times Supermarket. Here, they had a poke station with dozens of varieties of the marinated fish and fixings.
It lived up to the hype.
Day 6: Honolulu, Helena's Hawaiian Food
This was the only day that we spent in Honolulu that didn't have something to do with the airport.
Simply put, we saw the island minus the largest city. Leigha's aunt came into town because she was consulting at a teaching conference. Often times, when we are doing research on vacation places, one of my favorite things to do is looking for good restaurants.
Helena's Hawaiian Food is the perfect example of the type of place that I like to eat when I travel. It is a James Beard award-winning restaurant that you wouldn't be surprised if you received your food on a paper plate. It wasn't, but we did get styrofoam cups for our water.
Helena's Hawaiian food was in a working-class neighborhood filled with cars with clubs (steering wheel lock), household windows with bars across them, and locked gates. Theft is a standard part of Hawaii that isn't thought about much on the dream vacation. It is not uncommon for thieves to break windows and steal items from inside cars. I only mention this because we were not lucky enough to get one of the five parking spots in front of Helena's, nor within five city blocks.
It was worth the walk.
Once we arrived, there was a short wait outside that never seemed to die down.
I had looked at the menu ahead of time and picked Menu D as it had a sampling of most of the things that I wanted to try: Kalua Pig, Lomi Salmon, Pipikaula Shortribs & Luau Squid. We got this and shared. The only thing that I wasn't fond of was the Lomi Salmon because it was sliced small and mixed with tomato and raw onion.
Raw onion may be my least favorite food because it is a bully and overtakes the taste of anything that it is eaten with. After we were done eating, I couldn't help but smile. At the end of the meal, we were brought out Haupia with a slice of raw onion and pink salt. Haupia is a coconut pudding (think jello made with coconut milk) that I was more than happy to eat without the accompaniments.
After eating, we went to downtown Honolulu and walked around a bit. Unfortunately, Tate was hot, and his cast was getting heavy to lug around.
Leigha and I decided that our experience within the city would have been much different if we were actually staying there. If we had, we could have parked and walked around for the week. As it was, we (me, the navigator) got lost a few times. Or, more appropriately, we took a few wrong turns. The city reminded me of a mixture of Miami and Las Vegas, even though I've never been to the latter. Not until later this year for my 40th birthday.
Day 7: Likelike Hike
On our Likelike hike, was got to see our first waterfall. This was one of the items on Leigha's wishlist. Before we left, I was a bit confused as to why my sister-in-law brought three pairs of close for her daughter.
It's because the hike was through a rainforest filled with muddy trails and babbling brooks. There was a bunch of slipping and sliding by everybody. If you know me, I am a super laidback type of guy that doesn't get worked up or worried about too many things. I was worried about Tate for the entire hike. We were told that if he falls and braces himself with the arm that his cast is on, it would protect his already broken forearm, but break his humerus, the bone that runs from the shoulder to the elbow.
The good news is that we got to see a waterfall, AND he was the only kid that didn't fall down.
After the hike, we went to Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden. At first, it seemed like Wahiawa botanical garden because it had a variety of plants and trees with information about each. But then a short walk down a paved trail, I felt like I was in Jurassic Park or the TV show, Lost. Probably because both of those were filmed in Hawaii.
A grove was dotted with palm trees sitting next to a pond. As I walked toward the water, I saw that it was flecked with the color orange. When I got closer, I could tell why. There were thousands of Koi swimming at the edge of the water, waiting for people to throw them scraps of food, which they did.
Day 8-10: Bellows Air Force Base
For the last leg of our trip, we stayed in a cabin at Bellows Air Force Base. It didn't matter that the cabin was small, because it just had enough space for everyone to sleep. Plus we were there to hang out at the beach, anyway.
Actually, I didn't spearfish, but I swam with my brother-in-law while he did. Despite not catching anything, it was like I had a personal guide that was there to point out the highlights of the sea. As I didn't bring anything to take pictures underwater, I have no pictures from this.
One of the nights, the base had a screening of Solo: A Star Wars Story accompanied by general fans in costumes to more serious LARPers (Live Action Role Play) that displayed for the crowd their swordplay.
For two nights, I slept with my head next to the window, lulled to sleep by the rolling waves of the ocean and understood why people dream of Hawaii.