Hawaii, week 3 (The End)

We packed a lot in this last week, so settle in for a long read…

The weather in Hawaii continues to beguile me, most recently with episodes of simultaneous rain and sunshine. But I suppose it’s the healthy doses of both that make it so lush here.

We started our final week in Hawaii with the much-anticipated helicopter ride over Kauai on Monday morning. (My mom was insistent that we experience this, so she foot the bill for it — thanks mom!)

It wasn’t a sunny day like we had hoped for, but it was impossible to be disappointed with the view. The rain created innumerable waterfalls to behold, and flying in and out of the clouds was pretty thrilling. (A clear day was a tall order for the middle of Kauai, as this gets the most rainfall of any spot on Earth.)

The sun shown through a few times once we reached the outer edge of the island:

The Na Pali coast was one of my favorite sights. There are no roads along this rugged 16 mile coastline:

Secluded beaches are accessible only by boat or an extremely rigorous hike:

I’m not a timid flyer, but I’m always pleasantly surprised whenever I survive a flight. This was an amazing experience, but I was fine with being back on stable ground:

We took Monday afternoon pretty easy at a beach in Po’ipu:

Carrie and I couldn’t bring ourselves to put on sunscreen again, so we just found a place to sit in the shade:

This was a public beach, but the seals apparently make themselves at home here (the lifeguard had to holler at the people every now and then to not get too close to this seal):

A brief word on the chickens of Kauai: they are everywhere. Parks. Parking lots. Yards. Sides of roads. But the people don’t mind them — not because they are good to eat (I hear they taste terrible) but because they eat a lot of roaches and centipedes:

On Tuesday we drove to Waimea Canyon State Park, which is sometimes called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” (we had flown over this during our helicopter ride):

Despite early 20th century efforts to snuff it out, Hawaiian culture and language have experienced a renaissance in the last few decades among many native Hawaiians. This person, as just one example, did not consider himself a US citizen but rather a subject of the former Kingdom of Hawaii:

Despite the low-hanging clouds, the canyon overlook was a great place to squat for lunch. Or at least the start of lunch — it rained shortly after I took this photo:

Seeking shelter from the rain in the small Waimea Canyon museum, I found my new calling: Feral Pig Hunter. Apparently pigs cause all kinds of ecological problems for Hawaii, and hunting them (with the goal of complete eradication) is encouraged. Hang in there, Hawaii….help is on the way.

Wednesday would turn out to be one of our biggest endurance tests: an 8-mile hike on the aforementioned Na Pali Coast to Hanakapi’ai Falls. This is the furthest you can hike on the coast without a permit.

Our progress slowed to a crawl at times as we walked carefully, trying to keep our shoes reasonably clean on a very muddy trail:

Eventually, however, I had to let go and accept my destiny:

Some encouraging signs along the trail:

We came upon a cluster of bamboo trees, which made a very strange and erie knocking sound as the wind blew:

As the hike continued, we traversed slippery rocks over steep ledges:

…thick jungle-like foliage:

…and several deep river crossings:

…but at the end of the trail was a very cool 120 foot waterfall:

Actually, a very cold 120 foot waterfall — Natalie and I jumped in. It took my breath away, but it was quite invigorating after the challenging hike there:

On the hike back, I was a little more intentional about looking up from the muddy trail to take in the beautiful scenery:

Emily has been nursing an eye stye all week. I was impressed with her hands-free warm compress:

We took things pretty easy on Thursday. Amy heard about a secret spot near our resort where sea turtles where known to hang out, so she and I made a little side-hike that afternoon to check it out:

It was a steep descent to the beach, so these ropes that someone had put up came in very handy:

We never saw any turtles, but we found a very cool secluded cave and enjoyed a nice swim:

That evening we had dinner at a local Hawaiian tapas restaurant:

…and afterward perused some of the local shops, like this ukulele-centric store: (Only in Hawaii…)

By Friday morning, we were back at the airport so my mom could return to Indianapolis, and we could move on to the island of Oahu.

Our first stop in Oahu on Friday afternoon was at the University of Hawaii bookstore in Honolulu. My girls like college-wear, so it was a perfect place to acquire some wearable souvenirs:

We had some time to kill before we could check in to our Airbnb house, so we did a short hike at the nearby Diamond Head State Monument:

Diamond Head is a 150,000 year old volcanic crater. The trail started in the flattish, desert-like center:

…but quickly ascended as we reached the outer edge, with a mixture of open trail, cement bunker-like structures and tunnels (it was a military base in the early 1900’s):

At the top of the outer edge, looking back into the crater:

Looking out over the crater edge at downtown Honolulu:

Afterward — acting on a tip from our airport shuttle bus driver — we rewarded ourselves with a trip to Shimazu Store, a popular neighborhood source of shockingly delicious shaved ice (we learned later it is deceivingly easy to overeat on sugar-flavored frozen water):

This remuddled Airbnb house on Oahu wouldn’t fit anyone’s definition of “nice,” especially after living the swanky timeshare resort lifestyle for the past two weeks:

But it was good enough, and if anything, it incentivized us to be out making the most of our dwindling time in Hawaii — and it maybe made me a tiny bit ready to go home. (Here is Natalie putting this place’s first pin over Indiana.)

Amenities included cute critters:

…and not-so-cute critters: (To be fair, I understand cockroaches are abundant in Hawaii, and Oahu doesn’t have Kauai’s chickens to gobble them up.)

That night we drove to Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Wayside to watch the sun set. It was a fantastic view of both downtown Honolulu and Diamond Head crater that we had hiked earlier:

Here’s a fun fact Amy learned while chatting up a tour guide standing nearby: Diamond Head’s original Hawaiian name is Le’ahi — a mashup of “lea” which means promontory or point of high land, and “ahi” which means tuna, as the crater from this perspective resembles a tuna’s dorsal fin:


Saturday morning was set aside for Pearl Harbor. All of the reserved tickets for this day had been doled out several days prior, so we had to show up early to try to get some of the first-come-first-serve tickets. By 6:50 am, a long line was already forming:

We got in no problem and started our visit at 7:30am. Here we are on the ferry that takes visitors to the site of the sunken USS Arizona. Narrating was a native Hawaiian who, as an 11 year old boy, witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor:

Unfortunately, this was as close as we’d get to the Arizona, as the visitor platform that straddles the sunken ship was undergoing repairs:

With the self-paced audio tour, we took our time over the next couple hours learning about that morning of December 7, 1941 and letting it all sink in (that terrible pun is not intended — it’s just the best way to express the weightiness of it all):

A couple of artifacts in particular stuck out to me: an almost fully intact Japanese torpedo found at the bottom of Pearl Harbor in 1991 (!):

…and an initial draft of FDR’s famous “infamy” speech. Note the handwritten annotations, particularly “world history” being punched up with the more impactful “infamy”:

It was a heavy morning, but visiting Pearl Harbor was undoubtedly a highlight of this trip.

By late morning we had made our way to Waikiki beach for a picnic lunch, after which the girls started their eagerly anticipated surfing lesson. They started with some basic stances in the sand for about 10 minutes:

…and then got right to it, enjoying an hour and 50 minutes riding the waves: (Photo credit: hhsurf.com)

Each daughter expressed having a rad time shredding the sick swells:

We spent the remainder of the afternoon resting on Waikiki beach (or in my case, under a nearby tree — I’m so done with sun screen!):

…and enjoyed some live music and hula dancing:

…before the sun metaphorically set on our Hawaiian vacation:

“Not so fast,” said Amy. We had several hours before our flight on Sunday morning, so we had time for a hike at Manoa Falls:

To commemorate that we were all here, Amy wanted a rare photo of the five of us together. This picture is blurry because Natalie smacked a mosquito on the back of my head right as I snapped this photo:

As a final stop on the way to the airport, we visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl as it’s located in the Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu. It was also a time to pause and take in one last view of Hawaiian scenery:

Total side note: we noticed these creatures soon after arriving in Hawaii almost three weeks ago and started jokingly calling them marmosets, not knowing at the time what they or marmosets actually were. I’ve since learned that this is a mongoose, but in my heart — and in total defiance of established animal taxonomy — it shall forever be a marmoset:

At 4pm on Sunday afternoon, we started our long trip home:

A jet-lagged layover in Atlanta nine hours later:

The wrap-up of every trip is always a mix of emotions (sad for it to end, glad to be home, etc.), and this “50th state” milestone is certainly no exception. Over the past five years we’ve traveled long and far, and that is immensely satisfying.

What is simply wonderful is how much remains to be seen.


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