On the first day in Kauai Tara and I took a helicopter tour of the island and it was fantastic. At times during the trip I wondered if Hawaii was the most beautiful place I had ever been to, I was able to say it was towards the top of the list, but I couldn’t say it was the most beautiful. Kauai changed that, it’s the most beautiful place. It was so beautiful that I almost cried. Our friends from the Hana tour had a woman actually cry when they did their helicopter tour. It’s that beautiful.
I was looking at pictures today from the tour and it’s even more beautiful then I remembered. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon and on this tour we visited the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon. Waimea Canyon was created by lava, but the the caynon is much more lush and green then the Grand Canyon. It’s not nearly as large, but I thought it was prettier. Then we moved onto the Na Pali coast… Tall cliffs leading to beautiful blue water, it’s even more beautiful because of how difficult it is to get to – helicopter, boat and in some areas LONG hikes. Or you could watch it in a movie, though it’s not the same as being there. We also visited the wettest place on earth, Mt. Waialeale.
If you go to Kauai you MUST do a helicopter tour, it’s the only way to see some of these places. Tara was scared to go on the helicopter, but overcame the fear because I told her it was worth it. She LOVED the helicopter and wanted to go back up once we got back.
On the 5th day of my cruise we visited Kona on the Big Island. Although we had to tender at this port I still loved this place. Once off the tender the town of Kona is a block away and the beach is even closer. The beach isn’t the best the island has to offer, but if you’re not looking for a full beach day the beach here was very convenient. As and added bonus there were several girls who worked on the ship that was laying out there so I got to hear some of the cruise ship gossip. I didn’t learn anything about the waiter I had at dinner the night before, but got a glimpse of what life is like for the staff. They make more money and work harder in Hawaii then in Europe, and working during dry dock is fun and has short days.
After Tara and I visited the beach we took a walk down the main street of Kona. This part of the port reminded me of some of the Caribbean islands I’ve been to like St. Maarten. Lots of touristy shops and places to eat. While that doesn’t seem riveting it does have a nice feel, especially when there is nothing near you at other ports. Tara and I did have an afternoon glass bottom boat excursion. While it wasn’t a highlight like Hana was, it was nice and relaxing and since it was the last boat of the day it wasn’t crowded.
The other thing worth mentioning about Kona is that it is the “nicer” side of the Big Island. The weather is better, the port area is much nicer and this is the stop where you get to do several different types of water activities – snorkeling, Atlantis Submarine, Snuba, Catamaran sailing, para sailing, and more.
I’ve now returned from Hawaii and am reimersing myself in everyday life, I’d rather be in Hawaii. I plan to do more posts on my trip and talk about the rest of my stops, and Norwegian Cruise Line. I thought though I would give an overall impression of Hawaii. I don’t know if words can fully express the beauty of Hawaii, and part of the problem is that the beauty is in so many different forms – from beaches to mountains to cliffs to plants and trees.
When I was in Norway on the drive to Gerainger Fjord there was this gorgeous lake, beyond words. I was looking at it in awe when my Tour Manager came up to me and we were discussing how lovely it was there, and he made an ignorant comment about how there was nothing as beautiful in the US as was this, keep in mind he had never been to the US. I’ve been to some beautiful places in the US – Yosemite and the Grand Canyon come to mind, but I know there are several more that I still need to visit. I’m not sure that any one place that I’ve been to is as picturesque as this little lake was, or Gerainger Fjord for that matter. But for the concentration of land that Hawaii is and the vast types of landscapes, I think Hawaii would be the most beautiful place I’ve been. In particular, it was Kauai that won my heart.
Hawaii though wasn’t as relaxed as I thought it might be. Perhaps my expectations were too high with the “hang loose” and surfer representation that we get from TV and movies. Or maybe it was because I only had a little time in each place and was trying to make the most of my time, without killing myself. Or maybe being on a cruise with other overworked, overstressed people separated us from the Hawaiian culture too much.
On Tuesday I had my first stop on the Big Island in Hilo. We rented a car from Hertz and drove to Volcano’s National Park. I rented a convertible for the day, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but it turned out to be a bit of a waste. We drove to the park with the top down and while it was a little chilly out it was fun. Once we got there though the air quality was low so we had to close the top. Then when it was time to leave it started to rain. I had a Mustang and I have to say I wasn’t impressed with the thing, I wouldn’t buy one for myself. I now know that Hilo is the rainy side of the island so it’s not the best place to have a convertible in.
But the park was nice and I’m glad I did it. We got great views of the steam/smoke coming up from the volcano and saw a lava tube, overall it was a nice place and the staff there was very helpful in deciding what to do and how to do it. It’s a pretty place, too bad the weather wasn’t a little better. If you want to see lava though it’s a 6 mile hike each way over hard and sharp volcanic rock, not for the casual visitor.
On the way back we had extra time so we took a drive on Banyan Drive, which offered great views of our ship. After we found out we should have seen Rainbow falls, but I didn’t realize it, I guess I have a reason to return one day.
Overall Hilo is a nice spot, but I’m not sure it’s the best destination in Hawaii.
That night our ship sailed by flowing lava which was really cool even though it was really cloudy and a bit rainy out. But you’ll need a good camera with a good zoom lens if you want pictures of this.
In a recent post I spoke about the Road to Hana, which was really beautiful, but a long day. The following day Tara and I went to Haleakala Crater for Sunrise. It was frigidly cold up there for a bunch of tourists in Hawaii. They said the temperature was 44 (apparently warm) with 30-40 mile an hour winds (lighter then usual.) But the views were amazing. Overall though I really liked Maui and can see why it’s the Island that most people talk about visiting. It’s lush and green and has good weather. My only complaint would be that it’s not the best island for cruise ship passengers since there isn’t much near the port and taxi’s are expensive.
If you’re visiting by cruise I would suggest either doing excursions or renting a car. If you want to see Hana do an excursion, the same for Haleakala Crater at sunrise. Most other things I got the impression that a rental car is the best way to go as most of the island is drivable and there is quite a few things to do which can be covered in one day by car. But with just 2 days in port I was left with a feeling that I would like to come back one day because there is more to see there, which is a good thing. Since I’m not much of a beach person I can’t really comment on the beaches, actually I didn’t visit any in Maui. But there are supposed to be some of the best in the world there.
Before leaving home I had heard the bike ride down Haleakala was really good, I saw people doing this and it looked like a death sentence. It’s a steep ride down on the side of a road. The type of road with cars and buses driving right along side you without a separate bike lane. Our guide told us that they are considering stopping this excursion because it is dangerous. A couple that we met on our tour to Hana did the Best of Maui excursion, they said they liked it but certainly didn’t seem impressed with it.
I did find the tour guides to be really friendly and eager for everyone to learn about Hawaii, this included the shuttle drivers who take you to the shopping centers near the port. Everyone I met wanted us to enjoy our trip and love the island as much as they did.
On Sunday Tara and I did an excursion in Maui called, “Hana Picnic.” It was an 8 hour (well in our case 9 and a half) tour where we went to Hana, had lunch, and came back. The tour was with a company called Imperial Tours and was really good. I was so glad I didn’t have to do the drive, it’s a long drive on a windie road and if you’re driving you don’t get to enjoy it. Plus I got to learn more about plants and flowers then I ever wanted to know. Gary, our guide was really into plants and flowers.
Once in Hana there was a lot going on, which is unusual and Gary had to find us an alternate place to eat then his usual. He made us a nice picnic with a table cloth and all. We had chicken, Mahi Mahi, rice, pineapple, bread, cookies and soda. It was a really nice lunch. Much better then the people who were stuck on tours that had to eat at the one quick place in town with $13 burgers.
On the way back we had a stop at a waterfall, which I did swim to. The water was cold, but it was fun and invigorating. Then I froze the rest of the way back to the ship in my wet bathing suit.
For anyone going here I would suggest looking at tours, I think it will allow you to truly appreciate the road to Hana since it’s really about the journey and not the destination.
I’ve traveled several times with different friends and it can be stressful. Figuring out how each person likes to travel and each persons interests and blending them is a challenge. I think all my trips have gone well, no had has said they wont travel with me again… I’m sure I’m not a perfect travel partner, and to be fair my friends aren’t always either. Just because your friends doesn’t mean that your good travel partners. A big part of making a good trip for all parties is reasonable expectations and planning together.
Last year I went to Disney World with Terye, before the trip I probably tortured her with emails about planning. First, I was figuring out a list of restaurants that we wanted to eat at, I was sending a little synopsis of pretty much every restaurant with review information. We were able to narrow that down to a reasonable list and I went ahead and made a variety of different reservations for us for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then we worked on a list of attractions we did and didn’t want to do, but the most important was a list of our MUST DO attractions. This was the list that would allow us to leave Disney knowing that we didn’t miss anything that we really wanted to do. This allowed us to make sure that while we might not get to do everything we wanted, we wouldn’t leave with any real regrets. Terye and I did have one issue, it’s called mornings. Terye is not a morning person, she did ok the first couple days, but towards the end… Lets just say that I had to inform her that she wasn’t allowed to put the TV on in bed when I had already taken my shower. I’m sure she had some issues with me – like me nagging her to get out of bed. In the future we decided that we should go somewhere where getting out of bed in the morning is not necessary for your enjoyment – I’m thinking Las Vegas or New Orleans.
Planning my trip with Tara to Hawaii has also required a lot of planning. I started with the list of what must have been 1,000 excursions and started to break them down a bit and learn what Tara was interested in that I was also interested in. I couldn’t convince her that zip-lineing would be fun, but she’s agreed to take the helicopter tour. As the more experienced traveler I’ve tried to send her information about what to expect when flying and on the cruise. It’s good for things to be a surprise, but not all surprises are good. We still need to discuss the dining options on the ship as I hear it can sometimes be hard to get into some of the restaurants.
Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing travel companions and planning a trip. What are the eating habits of the person you want to travel with? If someone is the make every meal at home type and you like to eat out a lot, then you’ll want to discuss that. My sister’s friend traveled with a family who wanted to make dinner every night, but they wanted to go out every night – not a good combination. If the other person is a beach person and you hate the sand – another thing to discuss. Also, what types of activities do you want to do, art musuem, history museuems, major landmarks, photography. All these things are reasons people travel, and just because someone has different interests then you doesn’t mean that you can’t travel together, but it means that you need to discuss these things and find out if you can each compromise so that each person can get what they want out of the trip. If you want to travel together and have some different interests then consider setting aside time to split uop. Waiting until your on your vacation to have these conversations may lead to the end of your friendship. A friend of mine traveled with a friend once and their friendship barely survived, later on he traveled with a girlfriend of his and that was how he knew they could live together.
With Hawaii less then 3 weeks away I thought it was time to start checking on some things.
I went to book the final excursion Tara and I are going to take while in Hawaii, the Helicopter tour of Kauai. I was debating between a 9:30 am and a 10:30 am flight, and decided to go with the 10:30 flight. It will be one of our only “late” mornings of the trip. When I went into the booking system it showed that Tara and I were scheduled for the Wailua River and Fern Grotto on Thursday, I was sure I booked that for Friday. I scrambled through my papers and found that I did book it for Friday. A bit nervous I called Norwegian to check on this, apparently there was a problem with the website and I was booked on that excursion on Friday. The girl then booked Tara and I on the Heli tour and emailed me a confirmation of everything.
I also called Continental to find out if it would be an issue for Tara and I to arrive at the airport at different times. While speaking to the woman from Continental I realized that we would actually be checking in online from home. We just have to make sure that we each end up with the correct boarding passes so we can get through security and check our bags.
My trip to Hawaii is barely a month away so I thought I would give an update on my plans there. Tara and I will be sailing with NCL America on the Pride of America on May 16.
We’re flying out on May 15 to Honolulu and will be spending the night on Waikiki Beach. The following day we will try to spend a little time at Waikiki and then head back over to Honolulu to drop our luggage off at the ship and take a little time to explore downtown Honolulu. If we can we would both like to do a tour of the only palace on US Soil, Iolanai Palace. Then we’ll go back and board the ship, hopefully our luggage will have made it to our room by then.
May 17th and May 18th we’ll be in Maui where we’ll be doing excursions for the Road to Hana and to Haleakala Crater for sunrise. If we’re still awake after that then we’ll probably go to a beach for a while, or maybe some shopping. You can sleep when you get home, right?
May 19th we’ll be in Hilo and are renting a convertible to go see Volcano’s National Park.
May 20th is Kona where we plan on taking a glass bottom boat and hitting the beach.
May 21st and 22nd we’ll be in Kauai. Here we’ll do an excursion to Wailua River and Fern Grotto and also a helicopter tour of the island – Tara refers to that as the day she is going to die. She’s very excited she just has trouble expressing herself.
May 23rd they kick us off the ship. Since our flight isn’t until 8pm we will go see Pearl Harbor on this day.
I was recently watching a documentary about the Pearl Harbor attack, it was called Tora Tora Tora, not to be confused with the movie of the same name. It was really good, it went over the history of the relationship between the United States and Japan prior to Pearl Harbor and why the Japanese attacked. It closed with a segment about the 50th Anniversary. They had a memorial event there and Japanese veterans were invited to the event. It was interesting to hear the American survivors of the attack speak about meeting the Japanese. The Japanese who were interviewed were ones who had actively participated in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Many of the American veterans seem to have forgiven them, I was a little surprised. There were also some veterans who have not been able to forgive these Japanese veterans. As a nation we have moved past the events, as we should, though as individuals we all deal with these things differently. I started to think about Pearl Harbor and the memorial that I am going to see in a few weeks a little differently.
I’ve been to many similar types of places in the world – Gettysburg, Dachau Concentration Camp, WWI Trenches, Khatyn Village and the the World Trade Center site. These are great places that help you remember those have fallen before us, but I think sometimes we forget about those who live on with the scars of those events, that was one of the things I got out of this documentary. These are the people who live with the violence of the event, remember their friends who did not survive, and ultimately must find peace with the event and maybe or maybe not find forgiveness for those who perpetrated those acts. The survivors are the ones who keep the history alive for the rest of us, so we can can remember those who were lost, but we can’t forget to remember those who have survived. That’s something I’ll remember when I’m in Pearl Harbor.