Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Enchanting Hawaii

Diamond head crater hike, Honolulu (Oahu).  Only a short ride bus away from Waikiki, a simple 1hr (or less) hike - but with a spectacular view all around.  

I've always wanted to visit Hawaii to see its active volcano (no, not to ride their scary surf), and so finally booked my ticket, packed my bags, hauled my tour group and took off.

The good and bad news about the flight is that - it's relatively short distance from Manila (10hr 1-way), but there seems to be no reliable airline.  The local 'P' airline I used was delayed by 6hrs going out, and at least 4hrs going back.  A waste of precious time!

But Hawaii did not disappoint.  This is probably my most "chill" travel, so far - staying several days in one place, even 1 whole week in Waikiki.  I thought that spending a week each in my 2 target islands will be enough.

Big Island (Hawaii) was my first target, staying in both Hilo and Kona.  Hilo is quieter, more like a retirement paradise.  That is, if you don't mind frequent rains.  If you're after the volcanoes (Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Kilauea) - then this is a good jump-off place.
Kona is more vibrant with good beaches, nice restaurants and bars.

Oahu to the north is a must-see,  assuming you somehow heard of 'Waikiki' and Pearl Harbor.  I wish to hike the Haiku stairs - but not wanting 'trouble' I opted for the simpler hikes.

All in all, a great family trip.   Easy, relaxed and as I've said - Chill!

Here’s my top 5...

1.       Kilauea dry lava hike and lava glow.  The lava field hike was sci-fi-sh and out of the ordinary, reminiscent of exo-planet themed movies.  The bonus is seeing this Ohia Lehua tree that thrive in a barren wasteland – a true survivalist.  I wished to see an actual ‘pouring’ of lava, but time and money prevented me from getting a boat trip.  It is said that boat viewing is the best option – to see lava flowing out to the sea - making the Big Island even bigger. 

2.       Pearl Harbor.  Well I didn’t expect to like it, but being in a group that’s keenly interested in warships, guns, missiles, torpedoes and submarines, my childhood interest in war stuff was suddenly resurrected.  The visits to the USS Missouri battleship (with really HUGE guns) and a bad-ass submarine called USS Bowfin that sunk 40+ enemy vessels -- made our day more ‘alive’.   Did you know that it took another 10 hours before Clark airfield and Subic Naval base was bombed by the Japanese?  After Pearl Harbor attack - the officers were urging McArthur to counter-attack Japanese-occupied Formosa (now Taiwan) before they attack Philippines -  but a mix of confusion, anger and fear rendered our dear old general out of quick decision.  The result – the air force was quickly decimated, only around 4 small P-40(?) fighter planes were left in the initial Philippine defense.

3.       The beaches!  Most will not match the beauty of the most pristine bays of some small islands in the Philippines J  but the maintenance standards and culture-of-care is evident and highly admirable.  In Hilo, sea turtles frequent the bay area feeding and lounging a mere 1 meter from the shore.  In most unregulated parts of Asia - the poor creatures will surely be food for the day (and the next).   In Kona, various public beaches (no fees) are manned by professional rescuers, with toilets and parking.  Growing up in a place where a mass of hawkers and vendors frequent tourist areas – it was a big and pleasant change.  If one is a board surfer, Hawaii will offer an endless choice of surf sites to visit. 

4.       Flora and fauna.  It is evident that wildlife conservation (esp. marine life) is a high priority – as this provides huge revenue for tourism.  Dive or snorkel tours with the mantas or dolphins are but common offerings, one can observed abundance of bird population everywhere, and a good visit of the botanical garden near Hilo will reveal the extent of their flora treasure.

5.       Ride surprise.  Most expensive taxi ride of 250$!  Well, I sort of rented it to have a to-and-return ride from Hilo to Kilauea volcano park.  On the way to the park, we got ‘bumped’ by another renter-tourist-driver-that-looks-barely-18-years-old.  But thank goodness it was a mere bump and scratch with no major drama.  On the good side - my cheapest 150km bus ride was only 2$!  Most local tourists rent their own cars.  While the "cheapos” like us will try to avail of the most affordable means.  The bus schedule in the Big Island however is sparse, so one must plan the day right, or end up either walking long or taking an expensive cab.   I probably walked a total +12km in Kona and Hilo, not that it’s an issue.   

So there... all in all - I felt that the short trip was worthwhile.  The visit was balanced- there's the usual tourist spots, the visit to the mountains, the beach - and a culinary-and-shopping tours around the cities.
Two thumbs up!

Botanical Garden in Hilo, Hawaii.  It may not be as wild, but at least you got to see hundreds of species in one area!

Black sand beach (Hilo). the more famous black sand beach is way south of Hawaii (big island), this one's a short distance from Hilo town.  Black sands are from lava rocks, ground into sand by nature.

A trek in Kilauea lava field.  With a road accident, we arrived late, short-cutting our trip. Still we went ahead but came back late and dark (like good boy scouts - we always carry torch, jacket and small provisions).

Ohia Lehua tree.  Rather Ohia tree with Lehua blossom. An extreme survivalist thriving in the lava field.  This is a Hawaiian native and part of Hawaiian Mythology involving Pele - the volcano goddess. 

On deck!  The "Pearl Harbor Avenger", a submarine called Bowfish.  Sunk 40+ enemy vessels during WW2.

At Pearl Harbor, Oahu. The huge gun turret of USS Missouri.  A large battleship with fearsome firepower - big guns such as this, and various high tech missiles.

Lava Glow.  At night in Kilauea.  

At KONA, Big Island as boat rowers prepare for the day's training exercise.  Ancestors of native Hawaiians are famous for their small boats and rowing expeditions moving from a far-off Pacific island to another, navigating only using stars and gut-feels. 

Manua Kea, the tallest mt in Hawaii state (as seen from Hilo).  Huge observatory towers can be seen on a clear day - nesting its summit. 

Peacock. a short visit in Honolulu zoo.  It was but a chill day ;)

Rainbow falls near Hilo town.  It's huge and dangerous - and you could see 2 crazy girls standing on the rock edge doing selfies. 
Can you see the sea turtle?  Along Hilo bay, these creatures move near-shore and seems tolerant to humans.   

Strolling in downtown Hilo and bumping into this quaint chapel in a quiet street

Photo illusion failure!  but it's worth the try...

A souvenir shop's window in old downtown Hilo.

Hiking in a lava field in Kilauea.    

Mauna Kea's observatory towers can be seen from below.  Here in the northern highway leading to Kona.

Petroglyph in Kona museum.

Admiring a superb, functional work of art.  Hawaiians are known for their boat rowing prowess moving from one Pacific island to another. 

Lovebirds in Sea Park outside Honolulu (east Oahu).

Sun, sand, and skin? :) Waikiki beach, Honolulu, Oahu.  

Sing "Pearly shells, from the ocean..." only with better and authentic Hula movement. 
Waikiki as seen from Diamond Head crater.
King Kamehameha statue in Hilo.  We walked some 2-3km from our hostel not knowing there's a local 2$ bus.

Admiring a mural -  there are many around Hilo town.

Preserved native Hawaiian artifact - in downtown Kona.

at Kona.  The city is almost just a long stretch of coastal road,  or at least most commercial establishments. 

at Waikiki, boards all you can!

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