July 16, 2009

Hawaii - Oahu Through July 4th

Well. Thursday, July 2nd was the day. In fact, due to the weird time difference between Japan and Hawaii, we actually had two July 2nds. The first was a sad one – it was sad to leave our good friends on Rokko Island. We hung out locally with friends, trying to soak up the time and make it last as long as possible before catching our airport bus. We were lucky enough to have a party of friends walk us to the bus and wave us off, but that also led to some tears for Jacob and Ilena.

Luckily, our Happiness Transition Plan was in full effect as we touched down in beautiful Hawaii in the morning. So...our second July 2nd, the start of our family Hawaii vacation was a happy one. Our plan was to spend the first six nights in Oahu in Waikiki and then five nights on Hawaii Island (the Big Island) splitting between Volcanoes National Park on the East side and the Hilton Waikoloa Resort on the West side.

Coming from Japan, there were certainly some things that we immediately took notice of. First off, being back in the U.S. there were lots of BIG people. (Also of note was the shockingly inefficient filling of elevators!! What groaning as we piled into an elevator with plenty of room!) We also began to appreciate how nice it had been not understanding (and thus tuning out as background noise) many everyday conversations. There is no escaping the loud annoying public conversations anymore. But it sure is nice to again effortlessly have those short little friendly everyday conversations with random people.

On our first day we eased into it, with the kids (and us) pretty jetlagged and falling asleep on and off. We checked into the Waikiki Beach Hotel, at the quieter end of Waikiki Beach near the zoo. We watched the surfers along the beach, played some frisbee near the banyan trees next to our hotel, drove by Diamond Head (and through some nice local neighborhoods), took a swim at the pool, and walked along canal and watched the crew outrigger canoe teams practicing. Ilena had a killer Lava Flow cocktail at the Hotel Tiki Bar at lunch. It did not take long to decide that it would NOT get old living here.

That evening we had a super delicious dinner at a terrific local hole-in-the-wall called Ono’s, serving famous down-home Hawaiian food. (Kudos to our Lonely Planet guidebook for this one!) The waiter ordered for us and the meal did not disappoint. It included slow cooked meats and veggies like kalua pig (like pulled pork), lau lau (a slow cooked brisket wrapped in collared greens), chicken long rice soup (chicken soup with clear long noodles), and a coconut pudding shaped like jello squares. Yum!

Waikiki reminds us a bit of Puerta Vallarta, with its nice walking promenade lined with statues along the bay and flaming gas torches lining the road.

Friday - Hanauma Bay, Diamond Head, Ala Moana Beach Park

On Friday, the day before July 4th, we had a terrific day. We started off with a picnic breakfast at Hanauma Bay. In a nice touch, our hotel breakfast included little to-go “Breakfast on the Beach” bags that you could pack up and take with each day. Hanauma Bay, a protected bay formed from a volcanic crater over which a coral reef developed, is a truly incredible place.

Crystal clear blue water. And snorkeling just under the surface of the water feels like being on the ocean floor, as you pass inches from the coral and can follow and chase amazing big multi-colored fish of all kinds. The snorkeling was not such a big hit with the kids, especially Jacob who decided that he was scared of eels. (No, we didn’t see any eels). But the kids had fun playing in the sand nearby while we snorkeled.

After we had our fill, we drove to Diamond Head Park, which is inside a volcano crater. Perhaps we didn’t plan this part out perfectly, since we got there at high noon (and it was hot and dusty!). We set out to see how far we could hike up the craggy trail, up through an old military fort. Lauren did respectably, getting about halfway up. Mike and Jacob made it to the top, over dusty switchbacks, steep staircases, and through tunnels, to the top, where there is a nice view of the coastline and a lighthouse.

Midway through, Jacob actually got a burst of energy and practically sprinted up and down. It might be that he was motivated by the promise of a shave ice after the hike. Indeed, the shaved ice truck at the bottom served up some excellent rainbow shave ice and smoothies, which were the perfect post-hike treat to cool us down.

That afternoon, we met up with Jacob’s friend and former classmate from Japan, Yujin, and his mom at Ala Moana Beach Park. They spend their summers in Hawaii. Nice, huh? Ala Moana is a very peaceful and beautiful bay. And it was fun for the kids to play and for the grown-ups to hang out and watch them play.

That evening, we got a short preview of fireworks at the Aloha Tower Market. Jacob was really into it! And we were really feeling how nice it was to be in the U.S. for the 4th of July festivities.

(As far as transition notes, we had an appallingly crappy American service experience at Hooters complete with attitude by the host (In response to our question of how long we would be waiting for a table – with our 3 little kids - after they told us a few minutes, we got a snide “We’ll call you when its ready”), a looong wait for simple order, crappy food, and charging us adult prices for kids drinks because THEY were out of kids cups! So that was fun.)

Saturday – July 4th Parade in Kailua and Kailua Beach

For July 4th (!!), we decided to go with Jacob’s friend Yujin and family to a local 4th of July Parade in Kailua, a short drive from Waikiki.

In short, it was THE perfect small-town parade, complete with marching bands, floats with local politicians, army vehicles, and performers. There are not many things better, in our view, than a small-town parade. It was nice to get out of Waikiki and into local-ville. And it felt so nice to be celebrating Independence Day here in USA, complete with the boisterous proud loud American-ness of it. This was personified by a girl across the street from where we watched who screamed “You rock” or “You are awesome” to all the passing parade participants.

After a hit-the-spot pizza lunch, we spent the afternoon at Kailua Beach, another absolutely stunning beach. Maybe our favorite one. The best part about Kailua was that it had a canal to the ocean separated by a sand bar. The kids enjoyed body-boarding on the ocean side and more quiet play and crab hunting with other kids on the sand bar side. Locals had set up a veritable city of serious tents and grills, and 4th of July BBQs were all around. Good times!

An afternoon Jamba Juice (oh how we missed you Jamba Juice!), spruced us up for the drive back to Waikiki. Our driving today was just gorgeous. On our way to Kailua, we drove through a rain forest, with views of volcanic craggy but green rugged mountain peaks (think LOST) and the bluest of blue water. On the way back, we drove along the coast, past beach after beach, around bare black volcanic rock mountainsides with views to the water crashing below.

It’s also been nice driving a car and listening to the radio, both of which we hadn’t done in quite some time. Perhaps we indulged too much in the hip hop dance music station. We screened our music selection a bit more carefully after Lauren called out from the back seat – with total deadpan innocence - “Daddy Mommy – can you put on the Birthday Sex Song?” Ahhh!!!

Back in Waikiki, we hit Leonard’s Bakery, home of the famous Malasada (translation: fresh hot cream-filled donutty goodness). And they were super good! At the same time we arrived there, two Japanese woman tourists, who had cabbed it there arrived. Dressed in very Japanese outfits and killer high heels, and speaking very little English. We felt such kinship!

After some downtime at the hotel, we watched the evening fireworks on Waikiki Beach. This turned out to be a perfect location - great views of the fireworks across the bay, but no loud noises. There were plenty of fire crackers and sparklers and lots of people out on the beach to enjoy the long excellent display.

1 comment:

dyana said...

Beautiful photos.......
thanks for sharin with us......


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