Palmer Family Blog: Hawaii (March 2019)
With all the planning completed, we thought the Aloha State would be a great getaway. For the nine days we’d be there, we were budgeting $15,000. Not cheap, for sure… it was the U.S./Canadian exchange rate that was the biggest factor (at the time, about a 30% hit). But we just needed to get away for a break – somewhere warm with a lot of sand. Hawaii it was.
We took off early in the morning (late March 2019) from our Calgary home and arrived at the airport where we got into a bit of a tangle involving Jenna – her passport didn’t contain her middle name whereas her flight ticket did (one of the rules in international travels – the passport name has to match exactly the ticket name). We didn’t think anything of it until a customs lady said it might be an issue when we’re leaving Hawaii – something for us to consider. Fingers crossed that nothing would come of it when the time comes (luckily it didn’t). Otherwise, during the flight, only one jacket got lost… we thought Jenna had checked under her seat after landing in Honolulu but, evidently, she didn’t. And lots of movies were watched (a long flight!)… I can’t remember the last time I watched two movies in one day.
We picked up our rental vehicle and took off east down the H1 highway, passing Pearl Harbour along the way. We’ll have to visit that place at some point! (I’m a huge history buff) It was getting dark and food was on the mind – Subway would have to do as we weren’t in the mood for anything fancy… we were too jetlagged and just wanted to hit the sack. How nice the warm ocean breeze felt after leaving the cold mountain climate of Calgary! But before we could snuggle in, we noticed there were no bed sheets for the pull-out couch-bed where our oldest would sleep… time for an email to the rental manager.
We awoke at our VRBO rental home with much enthusiasm. Quickly we readied ourselves and hit the road enroute to some beaches on the east coast – speed-beaching all morning to determine which one would do. Sandy Beach was beautiful but dangerous with the waves and currents, even by Hawaiian standards. Waimanalo Beach was nice as was Lihue. But Kahlua was picture-perfect. We couldn’t stay long, though, because by then it was noon and the kids were hungry! And we hadn’t gotten groceries yet.
After filling up at a café, we stopped at a coastal lookout and saw a pod of whales offshore swimming about… so cool. But Andrew (our oldest – teenager) was having second thoughts regarding this whole trip – he was missing his friends and didn’t want to miss any school. He would be missing the first two days of school the following week. Andrew had a perfect attendance record up to now and students receive an award at the end of the year if they maintain such a record. He obviously didn’t get his academic genes from me because in my younger years, I’d have no problem missing a few days of school for the sake of a trip! (lol) But Andrew’s mind would change in short-order (it would take a Tesla test-drive and flight adventure to make amends on the missed school days… more on that later).
After a brief snooze to reclaim some z’s from the jetlag, we headed into the heart of Honolulu – Waikiki Beach and the famous Duke’s restaurant located right on the sand. A great meal and it was a gorgeous evening with a beautiful sunset off on the horizon. Afterward, we took a stroll down the main Honolulu strip to browse the stores – and that’s where we walked into a Tesla dealership to set up a test drive later in the week (both Andrew and Ryan’s eyes lit up!) with an X Model – the vehicle with those Falcon wing doors. The boys are in love with Tesla vehicles and have read much about them.
Moving on, we passed many candy stores which, of course, instigated a ton of negotiating with the kids. Sugar addictions are alive and well in our family!
By the third day, we were noticing another house issue – both the bathtub and the sinks were plugging up… not a grave concern, but irritations, for sure.
Otherwise, the place was in a great location within the ‘burbs where we could enjoy the culture right outside our front door, as opposed to hunkering down at an Americanized hotel and it’s typical uncultured ambiance.
We started off the day with a climb at Koko Mountain at 6:30am to watch the sunrise – and the base was only a 10-minute walk from our house. Lots of navy/army guys hiking their too. It wasn’t necessarily a tough climb – we did it in 30 minutes, but it was steep and we found ourselves catching our breath sporadically. Was a beautiful view from the top! (people climb it at night too, in the dark with flashlights. It’s beautiful to see the trail to the top lit up with white dots)
It was going to be a big day because we were heading to the Sea Life Park and Luau later… so after some early morning showers, the kids took a break and watched a movie – an Emoji movie. Not sure about the storyline… just couldn’t follow it and it was graphics overload. I didn’t last two minutes so I snuck off to our room and enjoyed a book. Nice and quiet.
After an hour it was time to get a move on. Off to the sea life Park! Sharks, sting rays, reef fish, sea lion shows, dolphin shows (great entertainment. The kids loved it!)… and to cap it off, sunburned shoulders. After a bit of cream in the early evening to lessen the pain, we headed to the Luau. It was fun albeit a bit campy, but that was the intention – and I thoroughly enjoyed the fire dancers. But there were also Polynesian dancers, an all-you-can-eat buffet under the stars, and more whales seen off the coast from our vantage point. A beautiful evening! Although Andrew made it known that he was missing his friends and Calgary – he wanted to go home. Only the Tesla test drive was maintaining his excitement.
We were still having house issues, but the manager had finally come over and fixed the tub/sink plugging and issued some extra bed sheets (eventually, they would offer up a credit back $ on our visa bill for the inconveniences. A nice gesture). And then we decided to have a relaxing day at home to reenergize after a busy three days. It was fine for awhile until we experienced a big family blowout. Everyone was venting frustrations on things. Big emotions were all over the place! But it eventually lost steam and we roped things back to normal. Breathe… meditate… repeat.
By noon, we escaped the drama and headed into Honolulu (the house we were renting was about twenty minutes from downtown Honolulu) for the Tesla test drive along Waikiki Beach with the Model X and those funky Falcon wing doors. The boys were ecstatic, to say the least – and I must say, it was a pretty wild drive! I drove it around for about twenty minutes with the Tesla rep in the passenger side and the rest of our family sitting snugly in the seats behind us. There were lots of computer gadgets to tinker with and the acceleration was amazing! Like a rocket. And we did the hands-off-the-steering-wheel lane change… pretty cool.
After the drive, we returned home and slept for awhile before making dinner (spaghetti, meatballs and veggies)… just pooped. Then it would be more sleep because tomorrow would be another exciting journey!
“Woke up… fell out of bed. Dragged a comb across my head.” A lyric from the Beatles’ A Day in the Life and it pretty much summed it up that morning. We were up bright and early so that we could find a parking spot at Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling (parking at beaches was always a challenge. Unless you got to the beach bright and early, good luck trying to find a parking spot!). It’s a gorgeous place – one of the best on the Island but when you arrive, you need to wait in a few lineups to pay and watch videos to understand the rules and regulations of the surrounding area and its delicate ecosystem. That wasn’t too big of a deal – and after an hour in the lineups, we finally made our way down toward the bay – a five-minute walk. We found a little spot where we laid out our beach towels and then we heard over the loudspeakers that they’re going to evacuate the beach because of a box jellyfish danger! WTH? (they’re known to invade the waters from time to time… you do not want to get stung by one of those!) Back up the road we go to the parking lot where we waited in another lineup to get a refund on the beach cost. We were tired of lineups, for sure. At least we received the credit back on our visa. Small win.
We decided to head over to Diamond Head – a volcanic cone ridgeline about a twenty-minute drive away. It took us thirty minutes because I got lost and then we couldn’t find any parking – it was jam packed. The only empty spaces were about a twenty-minute walk from the entrance… and it was dreadfully hot. We axed this tourist trap and took off to Whole Foods for lunch before hitting Bubbies Café for ice-cream (they say it’s the best ice-cream on Oahu… we’d happily agree). We enjoyed lots of laughs, but we were needing more beach time… only a few days left.
We headed back into Honolulu and Waikiki Beach and the evening fireworks. Always so many colorful people at Waikiki. We were intent on enjoying some “Food Truck” food but we just couldn’t find one that the whole family would enjoy (we can be picky eaters at times!). It was getting late into the evening and the tribe was getting restless for food – the selections weren’t great in the immediate area (Ala Moana) so, an executive decision. We’d head twenty minutes back east to our neighborhood and pick out a restaurant there – meaning, the food had, now, trumping the fireworks.
On the drive, I remember Billy Idol’s song playing on the Da Bomb radio station – Hot in the City. Great tune and it brought back some memories from my youth. It was a momentary meditative moment from all the running around that day – we had left two beaches prematurely, we skipped Diamond Hill, we missed the fireworks – but the Steakhouse we rambled into was the right food at the right time. Everyone was starving but the place delivered! We all slept like logs that night.
Today we’d take a scenic ride through the North Shore – the “7-mile miracle” they call it. Wy? “You’ll find the most concentrated and celebrated stretch of world-class surf breaks on the planet.” (https://oahusurfingexperience.com/movies-shot-on-the-north-shore-of-oahu/) Aside from the fantastic surfing, many a Hollywood production was filmed there such as Hawaii Five-0, Lost, Jumanji, Blue Crush, Pirates of the Caribbean, North Shore, and Soul Surfer. But before we’d tramp about the landscape in the north, Andrew and I “felt the need… the need for speed.” (Top Gun) We sped quickly along a lonely stretch of road (803/930) toward Dillingham Airfield on the west coast. The sun was beating down on us hard – another hot one! Nobody was complaining after the winter we had experienced in Calgary. It took us thirty minutes to find the hanger housing the light air gliders tucked away from view. A bevy of action surrounded us – gliders, parachutists, helicopters, etc. all taking off and landing sporadically. And it seemed like all the employees here were transplants from California. I can see why – such beauty on these islands. They were all laid-back souls!
Andrew and I jumped onto two motorized gliders with our instructors. After running through some checks, my instructor mentioned he had been a videographer-parachutist for such films as James Bond and Point Break… and he highlighted a few stints involving Tom Cruise. I guess I could believe him – he sounded sincere.
Andrew gave me the thumbs up – he looked so happy. During the past year he mentioned he wanted to become a pilot. I thought this ultralight ride might give him a good perspective on things, and it certainly would. We flew all around the western coast and up toward the north shore high above the beaches, water and landscape. We even saw a whale or two spouting off some water in the distance. Gorgeous!
We had flown over a spot about fifty feet from shore where this huge rock lay just under the surface of the water (you could see the rock from above, but you would not be able to see it if you were on the beach). My instructor mentioned there were a bunch of large turtles located around that rock and that we should snorkel out there to experience them if we got the chance. Mental note.
Then it was time to head back to the airstrip. A bumpy landing but so worth it. Andrew was grinning ear to ear. We hooked back up with the rest of the family and headed up the coast toward the Haleiwa area where we’d lounge on the beach (our neighbors on the beach were from Saskatchewan) and snorkel out to that rock. Just as the man said, there were a handful of large turtles swimming all around us. Very cool!
But the North Shore beckoned. We dried off and jumped back into our vehicle and toured around the North Shore. Talk about huge waves! There were lots of them smashing against the coastline. Mother Nature in all her glory. We were getting tired at this point, though, as it had been a large day so we continued on toward the east on the solitary #83 road that hugged the coastline until we arrived back home and cooked up some hotdogs and veggies – something quick. We didn’t have much energy for an extravagant dinner.
After a few hot showers to get the sand off the bodies, we fell into some deep sleeps.
We started off the day in our pyjamas. Jenna was catching up on her favorite program, World of Dance so I snuggled in with her. Entertaining show! Meanwhile Andrew decided to head outside and climb a nearby coconut tree to nab a coconut. It was a tough one to crack but after hacking away at it for twenty minutes, the juice began to flow. Yum!
We quickly changed gears and wanted to get on the road soon because or objective for the day were the secluded beaches toward the west. I went to a nearby barbershop to get my hair cut first. Before I knew it, the lady cutting my hair pretty much shaved me bald (she had me facing away from the mirror, so I didn’t quite catch on to what was happening until it was too late). I’ve never had my hair cut down to the scalp, so it was a bit of a shock when she swung me around and asked how it looked. I laughed it off in short order and when I arrived back home, Catharine and kids were also in a momentary state of surprise before the giggles began!
They had the towels, suntan lotion and snacks ready to roll (we were a well-oiled machine at this point, as far as getting ready for our daily sojourns) and we took off back past Honolulu, Pearl Harbour, and then down through Makikilo, Kahe Point Beach, Nanakuli and Makaha where the climate seemed noticeably more dry than other parts of the island.
There were lots of abandoned vehicles and homeless shacks along certain sections of this coast… things here seemed a bit destitute but like the rest of the island, the beaches and coastline were gorgeous. We drove until the road ended (there was a huge mountain range in the way) and then we turned around and retraced our steps until we came upon a roadside beach with waves just perfect for bodysurfing. In we went! Refreshing… and then our first rainstorm blew in quickly. It poured! We raced back to our SUV like many others and settled back into our seats before heading off to a grocery store for some salmon, potato salad and ceasar salads. Supper was taken care of. Quick, easy, low maintenance. Driving back toward the east coast, we enjoyed dusk at Sandy Beach. It would be our last night in the area (we were checking out of our rental house the next day) so we wanted to soak up the nearby view one last time.
The first tasks on the mind were to clean up the house and pack. Although we were checking out, we weren’t leaving Hawaii yet – we still had one last night at the Prince Waikiki Hotel right on Waikiki Beach. Why were we moving? Our flight home the next day was very early in the morning (around 6 am I recall) and the hotel was only about 10-15 minutes from the airport whereas our rental house would’ve been about a 40-minute drive to the airport. For a 6am flight, every extra minute of sleep was crucial for the long ride home.
By 10:30am, all luggage was accounted for and the house had a Mr. Clean sparkle. We locked the door and headed back toward Honolulu. Aaaaand my back was killing me after the many days of sitting while driving. We took a rest for an hour and it started to loosen up by noon when our stomachs were beginning to growl. Food and fast… Whole Foods was on the radar! We also needed to stock up on lunch and breakfast items for the next day’s meals when we’d be in transit.
It had already been a busy day so after we checked in at the Prince Waikiki Hotel around 1pm, we lounged and soaked ourselves all afternoon in the jacuzzi and pools. Heaven! I swear, I could sit in a jacuzzi for hours. There was no rushing around for the rest of the day. One exception – Andrew and I had to drive the SUV back to the airport around 3pm to drop it off which we did but it took us an hour to find a shuttle back to the hotel. A lot of run-arounds with various airport staff but we eventually got driven back to the Prince where we enjoyed a nice family evening – some Mexican food, a sunset and we all watched another World of Dance episode on the computer.
It was lights out by 8pm because of our early morning wake-up the next day but it would not be a great sleep – horrible, really. Five of us in a standard room (two queens, one large couch for sleeping on) and every time one of us got up to use the washroom, Catharine and I would usually wake up too (I’m a good sleeper but a light sleeper)… and Jenna had her watch alarm accidently set for midnight… ugh! A half-dozen wakeups throughout the night.
It was a groggy awakening at 4am. My bloodshot eyes slowly dragged me out of the bed. Luckily, we had everything packed the previous evening, so we only had to get dressed before heading downstairs to the lobby to catch our pre-booked cab. But still… I hate early morning risings!
It was a surreal drive because during our whole trip, Honolulu was always gridlocked with traffic – a busy city. But at 4:30am? The streets and highways were empty. Clear sailing and I caught myself nodding off more than once in the passenger seat as the warm Pacific winds continually massaged my face. Luckily there were no major lineups at the airport and the flight back to Los Angeles was uneventful except for a lot of movie-watching – Beautiful Boy, Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star is Born… these were a few I remember.
Overall, it was a good holiday… two thumbs up, but not exactly relaxing because we were on the move so much (trying to pack in as many locations as possible. That’s the general theme with most of our travelling adventures… lol). And the four-hour time difference from Calgary threw our brains off a bit… plus the jetlag. And there’s always the kid-emotions thrown in for good measure despite all the fun we had. And Oahu was not cheap – everything has a premium ($) attached to it not to mention the 30% U.S./Cdn currency exchange. But the sand, family time, events, sunsets, ocean and animal encounters were worth it. It was nice to get away from the cold and the routines to create many new memories. Another nice family adventure.