I apologise for the delay. The holiday weekend got the best of me.
I woke up feeling slightly depressed because it is my last day in Hawaii. I decided that there was nothing else for it but to start planning a third trip as soon as I got back home.
For my final excursion I decided to do a circle island tour. For those of you who read my trip report from last year, you may remember me telling you about the circle island tour through a company called Explore Hawaii and how it was the worst tour I had ever been on. Because of that experience, I decided to do the tour on my own.
My flight out of Honolulu departed at 10PM that night. I had more than enough time to troll about the island. I checked out of my hotel at 7AM and took the bus to the airport car rental locations. I had booked a car rental through http://www.discounthawaiicarrental.com/ at the suggestion of other TA users. This was very easy, convenient and cheap. I rented a small economy car and was upgraded to a Jeep, and I only paid $27 after all taxes and fees. Can’t go wrong with that. I went back to the hotel to get my luggage and then I set out on my adventure.
I used the suggested circle island route that is posted here in the right margin of this forum. I tweaked it a little bit because the directions are a bit vague. The night before in my hotel room, I used google maps to route my way around the island. If anyone is interested, I’d be more than glad to send you the addresses I used to get around, but it’s really quite simple. Not too much thinking involved.
I started in Waikiki and headed for Pali Lookout point. I was a bit disappointed in this. First, it was overcast and gloomy. My pictures didn’t come out well. Second, there is a $3 parking fee. I know I said not to complain about fees, but I seemed to the be the only person paying this fee. There were several others pulling up at the same time as I did and none of them paid the fee. I don’t enjoy getting surprise fines and tickets in the mail so I paid, but really I was only there about 15 minutes. That’s even more expensive than a standard meter in DC. Oh well.
Before I go any further, I am going to apologise for misspelled and missing place names. Since I was driving I wasn’t able to really document everything I did unlike when I was walking and on the bus.
I left Pali Lookout point and continued on. There is another lookout point that is free (but also not as good) further down. I stopped here and took a few pictures but really the grass is so high that it blocks any sort of decent view. I continued on to Kamehameha Highway. My first major stop was Kaneohe. According to the suggested TA route, I went to the free koi pond next to Haleiwa Joe’s. To be honest, I should have just skipped this. The water was very murky, making it difficult to see the fish. I was eaten alive by mosquitoes and there was nothing of any other interest to be seen. Because it was so early in the morning the restaurant was closed.
I got onto Kanekili (I know that is spelled wrong) Highway to look for the Byodo-In at the Valley of the Temples. I completely blew past it because I didn’t precisely know what I was looking for. According to the map it should have been a few miles, but I had gone quite a ways and was entering Kualoa property before I realised that I might have gone too far. No matter. Nothing is that serious. I ended up at a macadamia nut farm. I think I went to this place last year. It’s near Kualoa Ranch. They have an inexpensive tour of their farm, as well as a whole treasure trove of goodies and junk to be bought. I bought Kona coffee for my parents, macadamia nut popcorn for my sister, toffee covered macadamia nuts for myself, and some orange mango tea for my best girlfriend. I also bought the raw sugar because the woman told me that it would go great with the coffee and I’m such a sucker for a good sales pitch so I said, sure, load it up. She also gave me directions back to the Byodo-In temple. See, if you’re on an organised tour and you miss something it’s just too bad. When you do it on your own you can go back.
I’m glad I did. The Byodo-In Temple was absolutely wonderful. The temple is behind a series of carefully manicured garden of final resting place. The whole area is very peaceful and scenic. I think it looks so different because there are no tombstones, just small markers and a tube for flowers. I saw discrete signs stating flowers would be removed after a week. Sometimes you see cemeteries littered with old, dead flowers given the place such an air of despondent depression. Valley of the Temples, though a big graveyard, does not seem so gloomy and sad.
There is a $3 (or it might be $5) fee to enter Byodo-In Temple which is a replica of the original temple that was built to honour the first Japanese immigrants to the United States. Whatever your religious affiliation, it doesn’t matter when you come here. It is nothing but peace and tranquility. The grounds are neatly kept, with wild birds (swans and peacocks) running all over the place. Do heed the warning signs. These birds are wild. Do not feed them and keep your children nearby just in case. Swans can be vicious when threatened.
There are small ponds with DOZENS of carp. It is funny how they all congregate together in the corner of the pool. You may go inside the temple as long as you remove your shoes. You can make an offering to Buddha for prayers. On the left side of the temple there is a large bell that you can ring for long life. To the right of the temple is a gift shop with pretty decent prices. I spent quite a bit of time at the temple, maybe because it was so peaceful and relaxing. It’s strange because the day was shaping up to be quite hot, but as soon as I entered the temple grounds suddenly there was a cool breeze and just enough cloud to take away the glare of the sun.
Upon leaving Valley of the Temples, I got back on the road to head towards Kualoa Regional Park. This is across from Kualoa Ranch where they do some pretty interesting tours, especially if you are a Lost fan. I might do some of these next year. At Kualoa Regional Park, I took pictures of Chinaman’s Hat. There was a wedding party out here. From a distance, I watched couple exchange vows. How very romantic.
I got back onto Kamehameha Highway. I stopped at a series of beaches. I apologise for not getting the names, but there were quite a few. You will see all these beaches easily from the road. I stopped at almost every single one of them to sit and hangout. I had all day so I was in no hurry. Some are quite different than the others. Some have more of a beach area. Some are rocky. Some are sandy. Some are clearly for surfers, while others are more for sunbathers and swimmers.
I continued driving along. If you are in a mad rush, I'd advise to go on a tour where you'll be hustled along. There were many other people in their own vehicles obviously touring as well because I ran into the same people several times during the day. I kept seeing a newlywed Australian couple in a convertible. There was also a newlywed Korean couple but they were being chauffered in a limousine! Lucky them.
There really is some fantastic scenery along Kamehameha Highway and I encourage you to stop at your leisure. There are all kinds of roadside vendors. When you are in your vehicle, you can do what you want. If you want to see what every pedler has on display, you can. I bet whatever they are selling would make a better souvenir than anything you could get in Waikiki.
My next major stop was Laie. Here you can find the Polynesian Cultural Center, the Mormon Temple and BYU-Hawaii. I skipped the Mormon Temple because I went last year. I went to Laie Beach Park and hung out there for awhile. I had some snacks with me and I didn’t want to eat in the car. There is also a lookout point around here, but I didn’t go. Laie is a small town, quaint and just totally different than Honolulu.
After Laie was Kahuku. There are some great beach parks in this area, as well as several "famous" shrimp trucks. Giovanni's and Romy's (??) are among the popular ones. There is also one called Fumi's, but I ate here last year and I thought it was unpleasant. This time I stopped at Giovanni's and had the garlic shrimp. There is another truck in the same patio area that sells shave ice and smoothies. You will also find vendors selling t-shirts, tiki dolls and other "priceless artefacts." I bought some t-shirts for my nephew while waiting for my shrimp plate. It wasn't terribly crowded when I went and there is plenty of seating. I was quite pleased with Giovanni's shrimp plate but so far I think Blue Water in Waikiki is better.
Finished with lunch, I got back on the road. The next beach I wanted to go to was Waimea but like someone had told me, it was very crowded when I got here. There was no parking in the lot and most of the parking on the street was full. If I was back home in my banged up personal car, I would have taken a chance, but since I was in a rental I was loathe to park it some place it might get dented. Disappointed, I continued on. I managed to skip past Waialua Bay, but once I realised I had past it, I didn't bother going back.
In Haleiwa, I parked the car and wandered through the small beach town. It is as quaint as a post card. It's like this place you see in movies. Everything is touristy, but not a cheesy bad way. There are several blocks of shops and restaurants. I wandered through most of them, buying a few souvenirs here and there. I stopped for second lunch at this place called Haleiwa Eats Thai. It wasn't spectacular, but it wasn't the worst place ever. There are other places that are highly recommended. I was just in the mood for Thai.
I spent almost two hours in Haleiwa, so if you are interested in coming up here I wouldn't bother with The Bus. You really should rent a car for at least a day so you can see the entire North Shore. You don't want to be fooled up with timetables and annoying tour operators. When I was finished shopping and eating, i went to the post office right there and mailed everything off. Then I got on the road towards the Dole Plantation.
I went last year but this time I was actually able to see everything. There is a free pineapple garden and there are several amusements to be enjoyed for a small fee. If it is just you and a significant other, it wouldn't break the bank. If you are with a large family, you might just pick one activity. There is a pineapple, a plantation tour and a train ride. I didn't do any of these because it was just so blessedly hot. (I swear I don't remember it being this hot last year.) Many people will suggest you get a Dole whip, and I do too, but you should get in line for it first and then browse the store. The line is always long at the concession stand.
Amazingly, even though I took my time, driving at a snail's pace and stopping for every little thing I saw, it was only about 1PM. I started at 730. I still had so much time. That was when I realised that I had missed the sea turtles. According to the TA driving guide there is a beach with sea turtles. Since I had until 8PM to be back to the airport, I turned around and went back to find the beach.
I'm so glad I did. It was very crowded. The whole street was lined with cars. When I got onto the beach I discovered two big sea turtles out for some sunbathing. I don't think I've ever seen turtles so big. Not even at the zoo or Sea World. I was kind of in awe of it and I stared for a little while. There is a conservationist (???) on the beach to help keep tourists from disturbing the turtles. They put a red string in the sand and make sure no one crosses it. This is good because petting and all that would annoy the poor creatures. Most of the tourists were foreign and the conservationist saw that I was very obviously American. She asked me if I had any questions. Just to be polite, I asked her something and she went into a whole discussion of sea turtles.
It turned out to be a very interesting discussion and quite informative. She obviously knew what she was talking about. Now I know how long they live, their mating habits, how far they can swim and the whole gamut. While she was giving me a dissertation on the turtles, another one came out of the sea! It was so awesome. I was really glad that I turned around.
When I was finished on the beach I started to go back the other way towards Waikiki, because I was looking for a lighthouse that I had seen on one of my random bus trips, but since I didn't know the name or where I had seen it I decided not to risk it. I turned around and went through Haleiwa again and back down to Honolulu. There was rush hour traffick by the time I got back down there but to be honest, Honolulu traffick is nothing compared to DC traffick. But if you are from some small town somewhere it might make you hectic.
I still had a ton of time so I kind of drove aimlessly through Honolulu. I went to Fedex Kinko's to print my tickets. Then I went to Kahala Mall which is nowhere near as impressive Ala Moana Center. In my aimless wandering I finally figured out where Leonard's Bakery is. I didn't stop in though. I had already had too much junk that day. Maybe next year. It was getting on 7PM when I decided to make it for the airport. I refilled the gas and changed into my airport clothes in a parking lot. By the time I dropped the car off it was 815 and time to say good bye to Hawaii.
I hope you all have enjoyed my trip reports. Hopefully you can use it to plan your trips a little better. Below are some links to my photos and a few videos I took of the Hale Koa luau.
Mahalo for reading and aloha!
http://youtu.be/PgmnoOeBQFI (Polynesian Dancing)
http://youtu.be/feNxhMdn2xg (Polynesian Dancing)
http://youtu.be/t4s7Rg8iL_A (Fire Dancing)
http://youtu.be/HSI8l99j_kg (Fire Dancing)
http://youtu.be/rHRID3Pjt5c (Fire Dancing)
…photobucket.com/albums/… (photos)Edited: 10:34 pm, May 30, 2011