As promised, this month is a continuation from the October newsletter and takes us on part II of our 2015 Hawaiian Adventure. After we set sail from Molokai, the remainder of our cruise itinerary included Lanai, Olowalu / West Maui, Honomalino Bay, Kailua-Kona, and the Big Island. We'd disembark there and head on to Oahu for some post-cruise fun.
I know last month I was quite wordy with the newsletter so I'll contain myself this month and try to keep it shorter. That might be tough given the rest of our trip was equally as exciting.
The Safari Explorer left Molokai in the wee hours of the morning heading for Lanai, which is just 8.5 miles due south. The gentle rolling back and forth rocked us to sleep like babies (almost makes me miss our old water bed). The captain anchored the ship just off shore where we could enjoy the sunrise and an excellent breakfast including a Bloody Mary. Ah, not a bad way to start a day!
Lanai is the sixth largest island in the Hawaiian chain and is also known as the Pineapple Island. James Dole purchased the island back in 1922 and developed a large portion of it into pineapple plantations, hence its nickname. It's estimated that Lanai supplied 75% of the world's pineapple demand until it was no longer commercially viable due to cheaper supplies elsewhere in the world. However, you can still find locally grown pineapples at roadside stands. There's nothing like a delicious pineapple picked ripe right from the field.
In 2012 Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, purchased the island, or at least 98% of it. The remaining 2% is owned by the state of Hawaii. Tourism is now the island's #1 industry and is considered a one-of-a-kind vacation destination by many.
The city of Lanai has no traffic lights, shopping malls, nor public transportation. Instead you'll find small shops, snack bars, and art galleries lining the main street catering mainly to tourists. There are also grocery stores and shops frequented by the locals.
As far as things to do, which there's a lot, one activity I'd recommend is the hike from Hulopoe Beach along the rocky cliffs to the Puu Pehe (Sweetheart Rock) overlook. You'll be rewarded with a breathtaking panorama. For photographers the best time to go is late afternoon or early evening as the lighting is spectacular and ideal for some great shots.
From Lanai we headed to West Maui, anchoring just off of its coast. The ships' deck offered a great vantage point for taking in the views of the island while kayaking, snorkeling, or just plain goofing off onboard.
Maui is the second largest of the islands and covers about 730 square miles. It's population is around 150,000 people. Because of its varying terrain and micro-climates it can feel quite different in different locations around the island. West Maui, our location, is typically drier with higher daytime temperatures and the least rainfall of the island's regions. The town of Lahaina was once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii before Honolulu. As the center of the global whaling industry, sailing ships used to frequently anchor off its coast.
Lahaina's main street has been ranked as one of the "Top Ten Greatest Streets" by the American Planning Association and is only a short walk from the harbor. You'll find plenty of shops, art galleries, restaurants, pubs and all kinds of stores catering to tourists.
We wandered into a few art galleries trying to find something affordable as a souvenir. We found an art gallery carrying some stunning pieces but no price tags on any of the stuff. That's never a good sign. The suspicion was confirmed when we overheard a sales person telling a client they could put 20% down and finance the remaining 80% on a long-term loan. We knew right then we were well beyond the hard-earned $100 I had burning a hole in my pocket.
Island of Hawaii
From Lanai we set sail for the Island of Hawaii, or the Big Island as it's often called. We anchoring south of Kailua-Kona just off Nenue Point. The afternoons' calm waters were ideal for kayaking or just staying onboard ship taking in the scenery while enjoying a beverage (or two) of choice.
The Island of Hawaii is the largest in the chain covering just over 4,000 square miles with a population of about 200,000 people. Kailua-Kona is the usual starting point for most tourists as it's the gateway to the island's attractions. Surfing, obviously, is very popular and accommodates both newbies and experienced surfers alike. And, no, I didn't try it.
An attraction I'd suggest is a nighttime Manta Ray snorkeling and/or diving tour. From what we'd heard prior to going you're pretty much guaranteed on seeing multiple Manta's and the occasional Green Turtle along with other more common species of fish.
The night we went, however, there were no Manta's nor Green Turtles. Apparently Manta Ray activity is dictated by the levels of plankton in the water, which is what the Manta's feed on. There was obviously not enough grub in the water to entice them the night we went.
Despite us not seeing any Manta's, the experience was definitely worth it. Divers place floodlights on the sea floor and suspended in the water so there's an incredible amount of other sea life to observe. Plus, nighttime snorkeling is a whole different experience than daytime.
Captain Cook Monument
If you want a chance to snorkel the coral reef and you're in Hawaii head to the Captain Cook Monument located in the Kealakekua Bay. The best way to get there is by boat or skiff. You can hike to the monument, but from what we understand the walking path can get quite gnarly with prickly bushes along the way.
For us, our ship provided transportation via Captain Zodiac. Our guides picked us up and took us to the monument in their high-speed rafts (same boats used by the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy Seals). There was plenty to see back and forth between the monument. Our tour guides did a great job of giving us tidbits of relevant informative along the way.
As promised, the snorkeling was fantastic. The only time you'll likely see more tropical fish of so many different varieties in one place would be in an aquarium. We've snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef before and this was on par with that experience.
Volcanoes National Park
After docking at the Kawaihae Harbor and saying our goodbyes to our fellow passengers and crew, we picked up our rental car to continue our adventures on the Big Island. We headed south along highway 11 and around to the Volcanoes National Park located of the south-east side of the island.
After checking in at the Volcano Lodge we headed out along the Crater Rim Drive to the observatory, which sits on the rim of the Kīlauea Caldera. Because of it's close proximity it's often referred to as the "world's only drive-in volcano".
After taking pictures and looking around the visitor center we jumped back in the car and drove along the Chain of Craters Road. The 19-mile long road follows the lava field down to the sea with an elevation change from top to bottom of 3,700 feet.
It's hard to imagine just how much lava has flowed from the Kīlauea volcano until you've driven along its length and walked around on it. By some estimates the volcano produces 250,000 - 650,000 cubic yards of lava per day, which is enough to resurface a 20-mile long, two-lane road. That's a staggering statistic to comprehend!
Despite the lava having destroyed everything in its path, there's plenty of new vegetation popping up everywhere in the most unlikely of places and also birds and wildlife re-populating the area. I guess it's a prime example of the circle of life. Mother nature sure is amazing!
From the Volcanoes National Park we headed out early in the morning to Hilo. By the time we arrived we were starving and ready for for breakfast. We stumbled across Ken's House of Pancakes right on on the intersection of highway 11 and highway 19.
Ken's isn't just a pancake house. They offer a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu and include many local favorites. The place was packed when we got there and parking was a bit of a challenge but considering it's where the locals go to eat we knew it must be authentic and good, which it was.
After breakfast we headed over to the Wailoa River State Park to walk off some of our breakfast. There's also several other parks and gardens to see in the area including Liliuokalani Gardens, a beautiful, serene place to wander.
As a car enthusiast I couldn't help but notice the 1948 Plymouth Coupe in the parking lot. The driver was in the front seat of the car reading his Sunday newspaper. I talked with him for a while and come to find out he was the original owner. It's his ritual to drive to the park every Sunday to read his morning newspaper.
I asked it I could take a picture of the car, which he said was fine. I liked the image so much I created a high-impact print of it to use as a logo for my business cards and marketing material. It has become my most purchased print on the website. It's also available as a limited edition, signed print. If interested, you can use this Contact Us link to request more information.
If we ever visit the Big Island again we definitely want to spend more time in Hilo. There are so many things to do and see and we just barely scratched the surface.
Pepe'ekeo Scenic Drive
From Hilo we headed north on highway 19 and on over to the west side of the island to Mauna Lani, our next scheduled destination.
Just north of Hilo we noticed a "scenic drive" sign and decided to take the 4-mile detour along the Pepe’ekeo (Onomea) Scenic Drive. We found a parking spot and a public walking path leading down to a stream and the sea with a beautiful view of the bay. Although we didn't do it, there's also the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Garden that's supposed to worth a look.
Once back on the road we made our way to the Kohala Coast and the Fairmont Orchid resort where we planned on staying for a few days. The resort covers a stunning 32 acres and while the cost was a far cry from our usual Motel 6 budget, it was something we wanted to do as part of our no regrets, no-holds-barred Hawaiian Adventure vacation. We're glad we did.
For our last night on the island we met up with two couples we'd become friends with on the cruise. They had also remained on the island to do some touring. So, it seemed only fitting we meet for one last dinner before we all went our separate ways.
We decided to have dinner at Ray's On The Bay as from there we could see the ship we'd been on moored just off the coast with it's new guests and because it overlooks the Manta Ray diving location. While the food was just okay, we certainly couldn't have asked for a better location to enjoy the sunset and newfound friends.
For the finale of our Hawaiian Adventure we flew to Oahu to stay at the Hawaii Princess Hotel. While it was also more money than we usually spend on a hotel, the amenities and view from our suite balcony across the Kahanamoku and Magic Island Lagoons were second to none.
An Australia couple we'd also met on the cruise were staying at the hotel for their final night as well. We arranged to go to dinner with them at a place called Sabrina's Restaurant in Honolulu. It's a small, cozy restaurant run by a husband and wife team serving classic Italian dishes and pasta. While I'm not usually a big fan of Italian cuisine, the meal and experience was outstanding.
For our last day in Hawaii we wanted to see the sights of the island but weren't sure what we could fit in before our evening flight. The hotel concierge suggested a helicopter tour of the island, which sounded like a great idea.
We booked our flight with Novictor as we liked the sound of their itinerary and were told we'd be the only passengers on the flight so we'd get a personalized tour. Well, sign us up, then! We asked our pilot for a "doors off" flight so as to really take in the whole experience. Plus, as a photographer it allowed me to stick my head out the side of the helicopter to take pictures as we flew over areas of interest.
We both agreed the helicopter tour was probably the crowning jewel of our trip. What a way to end our amazing time in Hawaii!
Well, we certainly crammed a lot of activities in to our 2-week Hawaiian Adventure starting out on Molokai and winding our way through the islands and finishing up on Oahu. We can now scratch Hawaii off of our bucket list of places we wanted to see and can now say we've been there, done that, and got the tee shirts to prove it, literally.
It may not have been a cheap vacation by any means but it was worth every penny. Absolutely no regrets whatsoever. We have a lot great memories and pictures from the trip and also made new friends while on the cruise.
If someone asked me which island I'd like to re-visit if I only had the chance to see one I'd have to say it would be Molokai. We liked the relaxing setting and atmosphere and the wonderful people. The Hotel Molokai where we stayed for our first night had just about everything we'd want or need for a week's quite getaway.
Next Newsletter Edition
I haven't quite decided the next location for December's newsletter. I'm leaning toward French Island off the coast of the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. My sister and her husband have lived on the island for many years and was one of our earliest Australia destinations so it'll be nice to recap our time on the island. You'll just have to check in next month to see if that plan sticks.
Until the next adventure...
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Photography Credits: All photographs featured in this newsletter were taken by John F. Wright.