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Trip Report Two Down unders - Two Weeks in Hawaii

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DH and I are in our 60s - one retired, the other soldiering on. Forced to take some recreational leave and not able to take the usual five weeks, we fell back on a trip planned first in 1996 and then in 2006 and put off again. We are middle of the road travellers - no high end glamour for us and no flea bags either. Happy to stay in a good hostel, B & B or hotel, but prefer apartments where we are staying more than 3 days. Interested in history, architecture and nature.
We used our initial research and quickly updated it while at the same time checked out airlines. Only Qantas and Air New Zealand flew out from Melbourne. Qantas was far too expensive, Air New Zealand had an 11 hour lay over in Auckland - unacceptable. So it was Hawaiian Airlines out of Sydney with a flight up from Melbourne. The limited time made it difficult to have everything fall into place as I like it to happen. In the end we decided to fly into Honolulu and then fly immediately to the Big Island. Thank goodness we did that. We got to see what we think is the real Hawaii and not the glitz of Waikiki first. Which island did we like the best? Each is different in its own way and we have special memories of each one.

Day 1 Melbourne - Sydney-Honolulu-Hilo
Sounds like a long day - sure was. An early morning start - 4am to get some last minute purchases for our trip. Then the sudden discovery - I had forgotten to apply online for the new esta visa (had not needed it the last time we went to the USA). Quickly contacted Hawaiian Airlines and was given the weblink. Got on the link and tried to get two visas. Oh no - they need two separate e-mail address - OK we can manage that. Then the next surprise - the site needs two separate credit cards and AMEX is not acceptable. The same credit card can only be used 72 hours apart - I didn't have 72 hours merely 2 hours! Saved by my mother's credit card - but the cost was $78.78 each- astronomical! (more on this later).

Drove to the local station and took the suburban train to Spencer Street (Southern Cross) Station and then walked over to the Sky Bus. Missed the first bus but got the next - every 20 mins. We knew that US airlines charge for checked in luggage so we packed only one wheelie and placed a lightweight bag (no wheels) inside for later use. A small wheelie for my carry on and a back pack and computer for DH.
Breezed on to a Qantas flight to Sydney, took the TBus (poorly signed) to the international airport and then tried to find the Hawaiian Airlines counter. Thinking that we were really early we almost missed the snaking queue for our flight as we thought that we had plenty of time for a meal before having to check in. No, this was our flight and it was going to be full by the look of the queue.
Checked in and then went to find something to eat - decided on Taste of Thai - good idea. Had heard that HA was a cold airline and had prepared for that and our Volcano trips with a fleece jacket. That was not enough. Fleece jacket and two blankets were not enough. I passed on the chicken (DH said it was a good thing I did) and then found that breakfast was icy crossants as the ovens had given up the ghost.

An Indian man who spoke virtually no English was travelling from Sydney via Honolulu to Seattle. He did not seem to have a proper ticket, only an itinerary and no one seemed to want to help him. So with my limited Hindi I took him from counter to counter to try and get someone to assist him. Finally had to leave him with a member of HA staff and hope for the best. Confronted withthe electronic weigh-in and check-in machines we had to request help and the help said that we did not have to pay for check-in luggage as we were flying Hawaiian all the way. Why did we not know this before hand, we would have brought two wheelies and been able to manage them better than the one without the wheels. Anyway this was good news for the rest of the trip.

We collected all the tourist information we would lay our hands on in the departure lounge and DH insisted on paying good money for bad Starbucks coffee. Wandered around the beautiful little garden at the airport, snapping the crotons, heliconias and hibiscus - colour, colour every where.

At last on to our Hilo flight - just a POG for refreshment. Flew over Maui but was on the wrong side of the plane to see Haleakala but on the right side to see Molokini and Mono Kea and Mona Loa rising above the super white clouds.

Collected our Versa from the delightful Miele at Dollar cars who also gave us an extra 2 hours free of charge since our flight did not leave until three plus hours after the return time.

After our experience with a GPS in Thailand we were not too happy not to have a physical map. Anyway use the GPS we did to get us to Volcano and it actually got us to the Holo Holo Inn. A surprise indeed for us. The owner was a Japanese man who had travelled widely and had decided to settle down in Hawaii. He and his Indonesian/Thai/Cambodian(?) wife ran this little hostel in tropical suburbia. He built the wing we were going to stay in himself. What he failed to do was install some heating. It was April, but it was freezing cold. It rained 80% of the time there and everything outside was soggy. Yet, we could see we were in rainforest territory - beautiful orchids and tree ferns everywhere. So thick you could barely see the house next door. Shoes off outside Japanese/Hawaiian style and clump upstairs to our tiny pine lined room and ensuite. Well lit and with plenty of hot water. Use of laundry and dryer, kitchen and computer. No wifi.

Dinner was some stoggy lasagna purchased from the supermarket in Hilo and a bottle of Napa Valley wine. Into bed - warm and cosy listening to the rain outside.

We must have been on the go for about 24 hours.

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    I thought POG would get some surprised queries!

    Day 2 - Volcano
    We had brought museli with us from Australia (yes I know I'm fussy) and bought some rather thick and oily mango/orange juice from the Hilo Supermarket. Could not finish the latter.

    While there is internet, cannot use it for Skype, so phone calls to Australia will have to wait for another day.

    It is National Park Week, so it is free entrance to the park. The Park HQ is a really nice building in lovely grassed grounds. Toilets, theatre, gift shop and sort of nature museum showing the native birds and vegetation. There is a TV set up showing various scenes of the area. The two Kilauea Volcano documentary videos that are shown in the theatre are really worth the short time.
    We hung around to find out what ranger led walks were on tap and talked to some of the rangers. We were still early so we drove to the Jagger Museum to the Kilauea lookout. It was still cold and rainy - we thought we had come to a tropical paradise! Thank goodness for the fleece jackets every Melbournian knows to carry.

    The Jagger Museum lookout was obscured by the rain and mist, so after a few quick photographs of the rising steam and the caldera, we went inside to look at the interesting (especially for someone with a scientific mind) museum and bookshop. Bought some trail mix for the walk and some magnets. The Crater Rim Drive is closed from the Jagger Museum onwards due to noxious fumes - and so we are unlikely to see any nene geese.
    On the way back to the Vistors Centre, I decided that my hands were too cold so we rushed back to Holo Holo to get my gloves (yes I was somewhat prepared for the weather). The walks were just being posted by the time we got back and I decided on the 8 mile walk. This walk includes the Kilauea Iki walk and more. DH was a little dubious about the length but soon agreed that it was the most interesting since we would be walking through the caldera.

    Charlene Meyers takes this walk only every six weeks. If you are at all interested in a really interesting, informative walk, then this is the one you should build your visit around (as did one couple who had done a walk with Charlene the previous year).

    We were the only Australians in the group of about 10 led by Charlene and another volunteer ranger. Despite the inclement weather some people did not have warm or rain weather clothing and also wore inappropriate footwear. The trail is often very rough and slippery and good tred enclosed footwear is essential.

    Charlene is a font of information and keeps up a good pace of both walking and information. She is also a photographer and has taken the photographs for the excellent Kilauea NP Calender for the last 5 or more years.

    We passed steam vents (Wahinekapu) and walked down the caldera wall onto the caldera itself, keeping to the marked path ofcourse (more about this later). It was so pleasant walking down through the lush forest that one forgets that what goes down must come up! Unfortunately the native forest is invaded by the Kahili ginger plant which is very difficult to eradicate. Charlene said that the person who imported the plant had said that they would keep it contained - what they forgot is that every seed is carried by the wind and the conditions are just right for the ginger to spread like wildfire forming dense mats that exclude all native plants.

    The steam from the steam vents is not actually smoke coming up but is caused by the rain water seeping down to where the rocks are still hot. The vents increase in size and Charlene said it was really important not to walk close to them as the edges could collapse at any time.

    Then we came out into the caldera to see the red flowering puff ball ohia trees and ferns getting a hold in the crevices. It is just amazing how they can grow in such a harsh environment. Walkers are advised not to take any lumps of lava with them - it is also considered bad luck.

    Across the cladera with Charlene explaining how it came about. Then we are faced with walking up the other side of the wall - my excuse for being slow was that there were so many beautiful sights, that I just had to stop and take photographs! At the top we stopped for lunch (every bit of paper or cans, bottles has to be taken out - no refuse is left here). This is also the bush toilet stop.

    We then climbed down into the second caldera where Charlene pointed out the cinder cone Pu'u Pua'i that had closed the road. She also told us that the news had just come over her radio that the lava flow had once again crossed into NP territory. Some people thought that the would like to see this and left the walk. They would have had to return to their car and then drive to the point on the Chain of Craters Road and then walk 5 miles each way to see the lava. Charlene pointed out that this was dangerous as you would only have the markers to follow and once it got dark if you did not have an adequate torch it would be very dangerous as you would not know where the thin crust surface lay. Also the land surface was significantly rougher than what we were walking on.

    Charlene pointed out olivine (peridot) in the lava and then we zig zagged across the caldera with Charlene pointing out where the "Bath tub ring", the drill holes the scientists used to drill through the lava to determine how long the lake took to cool (about 25 years). The surface of this caldera changes frequently with the huge slabs cracking and moving from one week to the next. Hence the necessity to stay on the path unless you are with a Ranger.

    On up the Kileau Iki trail up to the Thurston Lava Tube. Charlene showed us the pig fence and the Mark Twain trail (the road he would have used to get up to the volcano area).
    Walked through part of the Thruston Lava Tube with Charlene explaining the formation and how little lava actually flowed through the tunnel at any time. The second part of the Tube has been closed off for repair. We then walked along the Devestation Trail where the road had been moved twice to cope with the subsidance. We also saw the place where the scientists were winched down to take take lava readings. While on this walk one of the party suddenly noticed some white spots moving in the direction of the live crater. There were several people who had moved off the marked path and were headed to the live crater! Charlene had to get on the phone and get someone to get them out of there. What silly people - not only did they endanger themselves but they cost the Rangers their time and put them in danger as well.

    We came returned to the Visitors Centre past the Volcano House which has been closed for some time. Charlene said that the Park had just received approval to open the renovated Volcano House and it was expected to open later this year.

    A tiring but wonderful day. Would not have missed it.
    We bought a lovely souvenir - Hawai'i's Natural Wonders - beautiful photographs of this beautiful land.

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    really enjoying your report. as a fellow aussie I am really interested because I have been wanting to visit Hawaii but have been put off thinking it is a place with too many condo's.

    it's nice to get the australian perspective.

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    Drove to the Jagger museum at night to see the 'glow" of the volcano. Volcano receives the most rain so it was still cold, windy and wet. Luckily the wind kept the steam and fumes blowing away from the Museum so we could see the glow (this can't be seen during the day). Remember to take a torch with you as there is no lighting at the Jagger at night.
    We were glad that we had decided not to go ahead with an expensive helicopter ride either during the day or at night as there would not have been much to see as far as the volcano goes. The same for the boat trip to the lava flow into the sea. Several posters warned that the lava was not flowing into the sea and that a boat trip would not be worth the cost.
    Dinner was pizza and another bottle of Cab Sav from the Napa Valley.
    Raining all night.

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    Day 3 Volcano - Hilo
    The next morning we walked the Sulphur Banks trail that leaves from in front of the Art Gallery near the Visitor's Centre. It is an easy trail through a grassy park and on a board walk. Along the way there are whisps of steam from pookas (holes) where the rain has seeped down to the hot rocks below. You soon smell the sulphur and are treated to a very uncanny sight - the landscape is strewn with yellow, red and white rocks with sulphur fumes and steam rising. We marvelled at the ohia and other plants that had adapted to this harsh environment and were growing there. There is photographic evidence of the harshness of the environment - test rocks that have eroded over time. Warnings of the dangers of stepping off the path - the surface is thin and unwary visitors have been badly burnt. Also note that the fumes can damage expensive camera lens. There are a few benches to sit and view the landscape if you wanted to spend more than a few minutes there.
    We stopped at the Visitor Centre to watch the excellent video they run throughout the day on the volcano and Hawaiian traditions. It is well worth spending the time - 20 - 30 minutes to watch this.
    We intended to visit the Volcano Winery but got confused with the directions. It is located at Mile 30 and the GPS took ages to turn itself on, so we drove off without it and instead of turning left out of the park we turned right, back to Hilo and missed it. It would have been really interesting to taste wines grown in this strange and harsh environment.
    The GPS when it finally decided to turn on, worked well and we stopped at the Prince Kuhio shopping centre to stock up on some necessities and also visit our first Walmart - this is like K-Mart in Australia only bigger! It was funny to see Yellow Tail and Linderman's wines on the shelves at very reasonable prices. However, we stuck to Californian Cab Sav - Robert Mondavi.
    Our hotel Castle Hilo Hawaiian was the last in a series of hotels along the crescent shaped Banyan Drive. It is such a tropical setting with the huge banyan trees on either side of the road and various colourful tropical plants and vines growing around and up them. Each of the trees has a plaque with the name of the person who planted the tree - it is interesting to walk along and see names such as Cecil B de Mille and his wife, Babe Ruth and various golfers, baseball players and Uncle Billy!

    The Hilo Hawaiian Hotel is one of the largest along Banyan Drive and so is used by many groups - tourist and schools and the army. Nevertheless, it is able to provide well for the independent traveller as well. The rooms (ours was 633) are large, clean and have a wonderful good sized balcony. Note that the mynah birds create a dreadful racket all night in the trees between the hotel and Hawaiian Bay Hotel. If you are a light sleeper you will definately need ear plugs.
    The king sized bed is very comfortable and there is good bedside and table lighting. Unfortunately there is no wifi in the rooms. There is free wifi in the lobby and a business centre you can use if you do not have your own laptop. The bathroom is large and clean with good lighting. An ice bucket is provided and there are ice dispensing machines on each floor along with a soft drink dispenser.
    The flat screen TV works well with an array of channels.
    The lobby is always clean and tidy and the staff pleasant to deal with.
    There is a fee for use laundry in the basement for guest use.
    The gardens both front and back are well maintained and the koi in the pond are beautiful.
    We self catered for breakfast and dinner.
    We walked down to the Queen Liliuokalani Gardens - a Japanese style garden with pools and bridges. A good place to walk in but somewhat run down. A refuge for stray cats. Lots of mongooses too and small blue headed barred doves.

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    However, the plants are lovely and a good variety, including the Cup of Gold vine which is in flower from March to May. The lawns were very sloshy underfoot in some areas. Some people were fishing in some of the ponds. There is a walking path close by that runs along the bay and people come out and enjoy the local friendly atmosphere. The small blue headed barred doves come to be fed.
    There beautiful heliconias and some wierd palm like plants whose flowers look like huge yellow warathas and King Kumehameha's feathered crown.
    Look among the leaves of the ti plants and you may see some tiny brightly coloured green lizards.
    Wandered over to Uncle Billy's Store for some ice cream and great sandwiches.
    Drove down to Pahoa and the Lava Tree Forest. Passed by the Farmer's market. Should have stopped there as the return road is via a different route and we missed it.
    The Lava tree state park is a unique venue. Unfortunately it is poorly (in fact not at all) identified on the roads.
    The Lava Trees were formed when volcanic ash and cinders covered the trees, burning off the foliage and covering the trunks with ash that solidified around the remaining trunks. Further deposits and splatters continued to form around the trunk which in time rotted away and left a hollow tube. There would have been a whole forest of the lava trees at one time, but the tropical forest is regrowing and the lava trees are slowly disappearing. The hollow form cannot withstand the weathering and many have collapsed into heaps. New trees are growing in the crevices and between the lava rubble. Look for the ones where you can see the inner hollow form. The gardens are lovely and the path easy to walk on. Stay on the path and don't destroy what little is left of this unique place.
    Look for the rosy grapes - a wonderful flower. Also note the large tree by the gate that is covered in a monstera like vine - absolutely beautiful.
    There are toilets. Car parking is outside the gate and there is not much of it. Note the mongoose burrow among the lava next to the ladies toilets. They are an introduced pest but very cute and so very quick. Don't try to pet them - you will get a nasty bite.
    The venue is poorly marked and we drove past it as the sign in front of it is very small. The drivethrough a beautiful "tunnel" of tall trees - a magical experience.
    This venue will not take a lot of your time but it is definately worth the effort.
    Too tired to drive on to Kalapana and the green sand beach.
    Walked along Banyan Drive to look at the other hotels - The Hilo Hawaiian is definately the best.

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    Day 4 - Hilo
    Decided to have breakfast at the Queen's Court Restaurant at the hotel. Before that we walked to Coconut island and in the gardens of the hotel noticed the largest mangosteen tree - a great feature. Not much to see on coconut island. Walk over the little bridge - there is a tide pool on one side and on the other there was someone sifting through the sand collecting tiny shells. Note the signs to watch out for falling coconuts!
    Breakfast was somewhat mediocre although there was a variety of food - just not to our taste.

    We drove to the Botanical Gardens. The GPS actually got us there. $15 per person. Well worth the price - allows you entrance for a cuple of days. Great book/gift shop and if you live somewhere that will allow you to bring in plants, they sell and will give you with the appropriate coupon, a cutting of a frangipani or red leafed ti plant. If you collect glass ware, there is some beautiful pieces for sale here. Also interesting pictorial history of the gardens.
    We spent the whole morning in the Botanical Gardens. It is down a slope into the valley and is just beautiful. Our cameras were constantly at work. There are benches along the way to rest the weary legs or allow you to soak in the beauty. For the elderly there are golf buggies that take them up and down the main steep slope. There are sea views on the outer edge of the garden and waterfalls. If hunger and our weary legs had not got the better of us, we would have stayed there all day.
    There were huge cruise ships in the harbour and at 4pm one of them was bellowing for its passengers to return. As one cruise ship left, another took its place. There was even a naval vessel in the port for a while.
    We decided to drive to "Downtown" - unfortunately this is quite run down and some of the lovely houses could do with renovation or at least a paint job. A very good photographic gallery with fabulous photographs of the volcanic eruptions. Along the main highway to downtown is open park land with wide spreading flat topped trees (abiza?) - they are just beautiful. A jogging path runs along the sea wall and locals can be seen fishing along there too.
    Decided to try Ken's House of Pancakes - a typical American diner. Most of the meals looked overlarge and calorific. So we chose omlettes and swapped the accompanying hash brown and pancakes and chips for a green salad. The omlettes are three egg omlettes and too much for one person to eat. The Hawaiian plate included Tripe and Oxtail soup - we decided to pass on that. I'm not going so say that the omlettes were great - the cheese omlette had a huge lump of orange cheese in the middle and the mushroom omlette was rather tasteless.

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    Day 5 - Hilo - Maui
    Today we spent visiting some craft stores - Ben Franklin and the Island scrapbooking store.
    Then we drove out to Rainbow Falls and the Boiling Pots. The roads run through residential areas and so you get to see how the people on the Big Island live. The Rainbow Falls are easy to get to - reasonable car parking and toilets. There is a path next to the sign that will bring you to the top of the falls for a different view. The steps are high and some are broken. We "explored" among the huge Morton Bay trees, clambering over tree roots and slipping and sliding in the mud until we decided that we were probably getting out of our depth. There were no signs to the Boiling pots so I asked at the nearby jewellery store and off we went.
    The Boiling Pots have even less signage. However, once you get there, there are clean toilets and a very large car park. Some locals had clambered down the slope and were swimming in the fast flowing water - too dangerous for us. The water really swirls around and flows through small canyons. Worth the trip.
    We then drove back to Hilo and decided to drive up to Honokaa or however far we got. We decided to stop at the Akaka Falls and it was worth the detour. The town is a little sad with the old fashioned cinema boarded up. There are a couple of good ice cream places and further down the road a Catholic Church and an onion domed building which turned out to be some sort of Buddhist church. I say church, as the lay out was similar to a Christian church with pews and a lectern and an organ - quite unlike temples in Thailand, Singapore or Malaysia.
    The falls site is a fee site. There is a notice which indicates that the fee is $5 for car parking or if you park outside it is $1 per person. The machine for payment was not taking credit cards so they had a person who had to accost every one and tell them the charges. Some people wanted to argue the point. We just paid the money into the machine. There are two access routes to the fall. In fact the suggested route has the least amount of scenery except for a rather nice bamboo forest overlooking the stream. The second falls can hardly be seen from the tiny lookout platform. So we took the left hand route to the Akaka Falls. They were really worth seeing. The water was certainly flowing that day and they were thundering down into the pool below.
    It was getting late and we had to return the car and catch our flight to Maui so we did not drive further up the coast but returned to Hilo airport, returned the car and then waited in the lounge. The airport had a comfortable arm chairs and clean toilets. At one end there was a band and hula dancing - very entertaining.
    Our flight was late and although we left in twilight, by the time we arrived in Maui it was dark. We were given a bilious green Kia Soul - a van like car and most uncomfortable. The GPS did however get us to our lodging for the night - and that is another story.

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    Day 5 Wailuku Maui
    We booked the Wailuku Inn based on the wonderful reviews it received. We also did not want to be too far from the airport as we knew that we would be arriving in the dark. The GPS worked again and we found the accommodation.
    Even before we left Australia we were given a long list of dos and don'ts. While we were away (luckily we had checked our e-mails) we received notice that the owner was away and that we were not to disturb her husband. Instructions were given on use of the key lock together with instructions for parking.
    When we got there it was raining and all the parking spaces were taken except for one in the car port. We put our car in there and opened up the lap top to get the codes and follow instructions. The key lock would not open and ofcourse there was no one to assist. No amount of pounding on it or on the door was of any use. Just as I was about to smash it with my shoe, it opened.
    Then the husband arrived - not too impressed that we had taken his car spot. We were likewise not impressed. Finally he said that he would park his car in front of the dumpster just for one night!
    When we opened the outer door we were faced with five unmarked doors and two keys. Tried the keys in all the locks and finally one opened the Mill Room. A room filled with a Kind sized bed, large bedside table with large lamp, heavy large chest of Drawers on which was the microwave and on top ofthat the coffee maker. Other "souvenirs" took up the rest of the surface space. There was no where for the luggage. No wardrobe - just a few hooks behind doors or on the wall with some hangers. A small fridge and a box with beach towels on top of it completed the furniture. One had to sidle sideways along the end of the bed to get to the other side - to a clean but very tiny toilet (just slightly larger than an airline toilet).

    Too tired to care so we just flopped into bed.

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    Sorry Tomsd - not beer drinkers - just good, heavy bodied, Cab Savs.

    Too late to have cancelled Wailuku Guest House 210 South Market Street - we had paid for the entire stay in advance - the only way she would take a booking. Our arrival around 9.00pm in the rain certainly put paid to us going anywhere looking for other accommodation and ofcourse we would have lost the entire amount paid.

    sylvia3 - I think the payment at the Akaka Falls has been going on since early this year. There has been a lot of messaging about it. One person who lived locally said that she had come here regularly but that this was the first time she had to pay - she was not a happy bunny.

    Day 6 Maui - Road to Hana <b/>
    Decided not to let the Mill Room get us down so we shot off to Paia with a stop at Anthony's Coffee for coffee and breakfast. Very busy. Great food. Paia definately lives off the "Road to Hana" traffic through it.

    Somehow we missed the Nakalehe Blowhole. Some call the road to Hanna "the highway to heaven" but we did not really enjoy driving the 55 mile long, winding road with 600 curves and about 50 one lane bridges . I know there will be posters who will be outraged at my comment. We have the Great Ocean Road here in Victoria - it is also windy and one lane but the scenery is beautiful, the towns are lovely and the food is great.

    The road to Hana was just dangerous. As for walking the bamboo forest, we have walked through these in Malaysia and Thailand, so it was nothing new for us.

    We did like stopping at Nahiku Road. The shops and open air restaurants were a good break. Very good Thai food and Costco sorbets. We drove on to Hana, turned around and came back for a second sorbet and some Thai food to take away.

    A bit of supermarket shopping on the way back and we ended the day with catching up on calls to Australia.

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    Forgot to mention that on the way back we stopped in Paia again. This time at the Aloha Bead Shop. It has a great cafe at the back - DH said it actually made good drinkable coffee. Aloha beads is a shop to visit if you are at all interested in jewellery. I have a jewellery business myself and was interested in what was available. Some of the items were more expensive than I could source else where but the variety was excellent and the lady who owned it was a delight to speak to. She even got a chair for DH to sit in and read some Nat Geographic magazines she found for him while I filled trays with goodies.

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    Day 7 - Maui - Haleakala

    The next day we decided to drive up to the Haleakala (pr Halay akaala). Decided against doing the early morning sunrise thing as we had done something similar when we were a lot younger on Mt Bromo in Java - that was bitterly cold and we decided not to repeat that experience.
    Stopped at the first visitor's centre and found that there was a ranger guided walk at 10am. Off we scurried stopping only at the Leleiwi lookout. This lookout is easy to miss as the trail from the road to it is not well marked and you have to scramble over rocks to get to it. Once there, there is a beautiful panorama of part of the crater. The changing cloud patterns change the atmosphere from minute to minute. It is very cold and windy and one is thankful for the small glass shelter there. We got to the main Visitor Centre just before the walk started. It was not a long walk but a very interesting one. Emma provided a lot of information about the volcano and the wildlife that live there. We finally reached the end point for another spectacular view. This view was different to the one at Leleiwi lookout but gave a complete picture when you put the two views together. We could see a group of horseriders decending into the crater. Think we should have done that. Decided that we would like to walk part of the Sliding Sands walk - but in the end it was so cold and windy that we passed on that idea. We did see the beautiful Silver Sword plants both growing naturally along the road and also a close up at the visitor Centre. What a stunning plant. Unfortunately a lot of people do not obey the rules and step off the trail or path to get a better view. Little do they know that they are killing the plant. The Silver Sword plant has a tap root that grows side ways not downwards. Any pressure on its delicate roots will kill the plant. Large signs should be put up on Japanese and Chinese and all tour groups should be made to give an undertaking to educate their passengers before letting them out of the bus or they are required to pay for a ranger to take them around in small groups.
    The drive up to the summit gives another perspective. Everyone crowds into the small viewing room to avoid the wind and cold. It is a good spot to have your lunch if you brought it with you and gaze out at the vastness and feel thoroughly insignificant.

    Glad we did not take a helicopter ride. The cloud was so changeable and low that we would have seen little of the crater area.

    Stopped at the Kalahaku Overlook which you can only do on the way down from the Summit. Another interesting lookout.
    Stopped at the Skyline Eco-Adventure Zipline but the day had been a slow one and they were closing up for the day. Booked for the next day.

    Drove down to Lahaina but only spent a short time there visiting the immense Banyan Tree. I have grown up with banyan trees but this one really took my breath away. I was so glad to see that it had been preserved and could be enjoyed by everyone. We also went into the Courthouse behind it. This was interesting as it contained photographs of the Banyan Tree from 1900s, History of the town and the last Hawaiian flag that was taken down when Hawaii became an American State. It was preserved by the man who took it down and his grandson returned it 100 years later. There was a beautiful flourescent feather necklace that had also been dedicated to the return of the flag. The colour is superb and one hopes that the little birds that gave up their feathers are not extinct.
    We stopped into the Art Gallery on the ground floor looking for watercolours by Tim Terry - but was told that he was not exhibiting there until a few more weeks. It is a great opportunity for local artists to showcase their work.

    We regret not staying in Keihi or Lahinia but had decided on Wailuku because of our late arrival. We did not want to be driving far on unfamiliar and dark roads. The road to Lahinia is also one way and has great views of the ocean.

    We were tiring by this stage and DH had read about a bookshop - Barnes and Noble and he wanted to visit it. He went into a "Tourist Information" shop only to find that it was in fact a front for Timeshare. He did however get directions to Barnes and Noble and off we went. So in fact we saw very little of Lahinia.

    Barnes and Noble is a great bookshop and DH could quite happily have spent several hours there. The coffee shop however does not make good coffee. Purchased some books there and then decided to go on line and purchase some more and have them delivered to us in Oahu (so much cheaper than in Australia).

    The return road was a different route through the residential area and it was interesting to see the houses, schools, playing fields etc.

    Ordinary dinner with a Silly Duck Chilean wine bought by mistake. Made sure not to drop red wine on the bedspread (it is a nice Hawaiian one) or else there would have been *** to pay as the reminder notes around the room pointed out.

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    <I know there will be posters who will be outraged at my comment. We have the Great Ocean Road here in Victoria - it is also windy and one lane but the scenery is beautiful, the towns are lovely and the food is great.>

    I'm certainly not outraged. I was underwhelmed with the drive to Hana too. I've also driven the GOR.

    If you ever find yourself in Western Australia, be sure to check out Esperance’s Great Ocean Drive, which rivals the GOR IMO - no dramatic cliffs, but those views!

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    Day 8 Maui - Kauai
    This is our last day in Maui and we are happy to be leaving Wailuku Guest House - banana bread or not (placed in our room while we were not there - I suppose to check up on how we were maintaining the room).

    We went to the local supermarket to get something for breakfast and then off back to Haleakala to do a zip line.

    If you have not done a zip line then this is the place to do it. I would have preferred to have done the 9 line one in the Big Island that when over waterfalls, but I guess as a start this was a good one to do. There were about 10 of us and none of us had zip lined before. DH decided that he would instead go looking for petrol as the car was low and he did not think that we would make it back into town.

    Despite directions and asking other locals, he did not find a gas station.

    A walk through eucalyptus forest make it feel like home. The company was great and the two guides were characters. One a large Hawaiian with long dreadlocks - we needed his strength to stop us on the last line!

    Along the way they explain about the flora and fauna. it is quite a leap of faith to step off the first platform even though you know that you are all strapped in. After that each line becomes a little more difficult until the last which takes you over a valley at speeds of 40 miles per hour. You zip back and forth each time decreasing in speed. If you are able to make sure that you do not swing around, you will travel higher and faster up the line on the first run. Then the Hawaiian guide catches your feet and hauls you down. If your partner does not want to do the zipline, just ask the guide to bring him/her back with him at the last line and they will be able to photograph you. Only on one line is there a photographer. The photographs cost $25.

    I am now a zipline junkie. Where is the next one!

    Back down the mountain coasting most of the time to save petrol. Did not use the GPS and missed the turning but we did get the petrol. Off to the Ioa Needle. I had heard so much about this that I would have been disappointed not to have seen it. DH was not so excited as he was the one driving the dreadful Kia Soul

    We passed the local sporting field and there were crowds of people for the weekend bout of sport.

    Again the Ioa Needle is not particularly well marked but we finally got there. We just drove as slowly as we could enjoying the tropical foliage along the way. And ofcourse being careful not to hit any roosters, hens or tiny chicks along the way. When we got to the parking lot (fee $5 in the honesty machine) we saw a lovely fat black hen (a good picture for the nursery rhyme) and about eight chickens - all of them different colours. They were just delightful to watch cheeping and running around her and trying to push their way under her. Finally she got a bit frustrated with all the attention she was getting from the tourists and fluffed off in a huff taking her brood with her. The toilets (locked) blocked the view of the needle and we were not sure how much time we would be able to spend here as we had a 12 noon flight to Kauai. The setting even in the car park is lovely - misty and mysterious, heavy torpical vegetation and sharp mountain peaks. Just around the toilets is a slope leading to the iron bridge over a fast flowing rocky stream. A path leads down to a garden that has some lovely ginger plants in flower - like fat white and yellow grubs. At the bridge you get your first view of the Needle. Over the bridge to a resting place with a bench where you can sit and rest and listen to the water splashing on the rocks below. Up another path to a viewing point for the Ioa Needle. You can imagine why the ancient Hawaiians thought this a special place. Difficult to get to and unique. It was very wind, wet and cold dayfor our visit and so we did not stay long at the view point.

    Back to the car and drive off to the airport - sufficient time to see the Ioa Needle. On returning the car we advised Dollar that we were not happy with the Kia and that we wanted to make sure that we did not get it again in Lihue. They said that they could not guarantee that and that the manager loved the Kia and drove it all the time. However they did offer a $25 refund.

    Maui airport does not seem to be as well organised as Hilo and there was no live music or dancing. The garden however was filled with the Hawaiian national flower - the yellow hibiscus. DH was busy photographing every one of them I think - he loves them and is disappointed that they won't grow in Melbourne - we have tried and the frost kills them off every time.

    The Dollar check in person was Ruth and she delightfully tried to sell us everything under the sun. We were so taken with her we bought the upgrade to a Chevy Charger (Hey Charger! - always wanted to say that) a red one and gave her a packet of Tim Tams. Tim Tams, Violet Crumbles and Cherry Ripes became our presents to everyone who was nice and helpful and they were always well received particularly if they happpened to know of them before hand.

    Get into the Charger and where is the key? Where is the handbrake? How to maneuver the seat? They had to get the mechanic to come out and give us a run down. We remember the last time we were in the States - running out of petrol - drove into a service station and then - Where is the lever to open the petrol tank?

    DH decided to do all the driving as he said the Charger was a tank - heavy and difficult to drive. I think he just liked the red car myself. The GPS got us to the Kauai Inn where we were greeted by the delightful Corrine. We originally had room 207 but the Queen Bed was not large enough and we queried it the next morning, they immediately upgraded us to a King Sized bed room (307) at no extra cost. Tim Tams and Cherry Ripes all around to a very appreciative staff. I was even happier as my parcels had arrived - lots of wonderful things from Panda Express and Cool Tools to look through.

    GPS to the rescue to get us to Time Supermarket in the dark to get something to eat. Decided on Pizza (Rizzo's Pizza) since that was the only place open late at night. $2.50 per slice.

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    Tim Tams are the national cookie (or biscuit) of Australia :). I bring them home by the suitcase load for my family when I visit the US. They're all hopelessly hooked.

    They sell them at Target in the US now under the Pepperidge Farm label, but only a few varities and only at certain times of year, last I heard anyway.


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    Christi Frieson also takes Tim Tams back by the bucket load. What she can't eat is used as bribes!

    When Campbells took over Arnotts (a family run company) I said I would never eat Arnotts again - ah well, Tim Tams are hard to avoid. The double dipped dark chocolate are the best followed by the mint and then the chilli (all dark chocolate). The rest, black forest, caramel, white etc etc pale in comparison. At least Campbells had the sense not to change the recipe.

    I am sure the Pepperidge Farm label has not quite got the right texture.

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    I used to think that Oreo's were great before I tasted Tim Tams. Now I won't touch an Oreo.

    Day 9 Lihue Kauai

    DH likes bookshops and throught he noticed a "Borders" in the dark last night.

    Today is a visit to the Waimea Canyon. As we rounded the corner from our hotel we were confronted by a gigantic cruise ship. I think every available van and taxi on the island was at the dock to take groups of people on tours. The ship was so huge that they were letting people off in groups - guess after they had breakfast. So there was a constant stream of people all day.

    We zipped through the towns along the way and avoided being distracted by roads leading off to the coast. The towns along the way seem to be uninteresting. Crossed the Wiamea River and the Menuhune Ditch.

    The signs to Waimea Canyon were again not clear and we almost drove to Kekaha. We had in fact driven past the turn off and were headed for the military/naval diving base and the end of the road (you cannot drive all the way around Kauai). Turned around and found the right road. Then the glorious sight of the Gold trees. They are absolutely magnificent and were just as stunning being viewed from the plane the next day. These trees live up to their name. They are just a brilliant head of vibrant yellow. We could not find out too much about them. Some were planted by the High school and some were planted in 1930. The town is somewhat run down and there did not appear to be a lot to see.

    The road is a little windy but there are lookouts where you can pull over for views down into the canyon. It is called the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. Like its big brother its colours are stunning - the green and red and everything in between. Early morning is the best time to take this drive when you can get out at each and every stop and enjoy the scenery - either the canyon or out to sea on the other side. There are a couple of stops where there are small water falls pouring over red rocks. We took every opportunity to stop even if we did not take photographs at every point. So the journey to the first lookout took us 1.5 hours from our hotel.

    On to the next look out for another view and then to the Visitor's Centre - great historical exhibition and displays. Good gifts. There is a shop/restaurant next door. Watch out for the roosters and hens - they own the road and are everywhere and will unnervingly step in front of cars - yet we never saw a single roadkill.

    Beyond the visitor's centre - who will provide maps for the main trails there is a further stop with toilets.

    Then you drive to the end where you can walk along the top of the Na Pali coast. We watched the helicopters buzz by overhead. The scenery is breathtaking and we wondered about taking a boat trip in addition to the plane trip.

    On advice from the visitor's centre we decided to do just one short walk. It was 2.5 miles return journey. However, we were a little disappointed. It was certainly lush tropical vegetation and an easy path - however it was devoid of bird life and the orchids had all finished flowering. When we came out the other end we decided not to retrace our steps but instead walk back along the road to the car. Drivers in both directions must have thought us crazy. However we did see some pheasants and the pink grape tree and other beautiful flowering plants. We also came across a dog - we were not sure whether it was injured or not, as it was in thick scrub and we could not see whether its tail was wagging. We decided to leave it alone - rabies being an issue. It did not look thin or scrawny.

    At the car park we saw the delightful Brazilian red crested cardinals. Along with the red cardinals these are endangered birds but they are not indigenous and therefore not on the Hawaiian list of endangered birds. They must eat some plant that gives them boundless energy as they never stop for a second. They are on the go all the time and it is hard to get a photograph - you end up with a lot of blurred shots or shots of car park concrete. We felt tired just watching them!

    Back to Times Supermarket for more food and wine. DH found out that Borders just a closed store. This time we decided we would try Thai and went to the Gingbua restaurant in the Harbour Mall. DH refused to go slumming at the Marriot - they must have beautiful gardens. The cruisers were at the Harbour Mall for a hula show.

    The large cruise ship left overnight and was replaced the next morning by "the Pride of America". This ship only cruises the islands and is not as large as the other one that was there.

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    Day 10 Kauai
    It's our day for our flight with Wings over Kuaui. Drove to the airport and checked in with Bruce and Ellen. Although we had booked early and asked for front seats, Bruce has to consider the weight of the passengers, so we got the last two seats - not too bad.

    What a great experience. Bruce has a lot of knowledge and points out all the interesting sights and provides background on his own life and how he is able to provide so much information. The coast was so interesting that by the time we got to the Na Pali coast (the reason for coming to Kauai and Hawaii) I had run out of video and had to switch to the still camera. I won't spoil the trip for anyone by describing the wonderful scenery - just know that the Waimea canyon, abiza trees, the waterfalls and the wonderful Na Pali coast are just gorgeous. For the golfers you will fly over some very interesting golf courses.

    Get your cameras ready when you are flying in to land and you will have just one shot at the waterfall from Fantasy Island.

    Bruce presents you with a commemorative CD put together by his son who is in the film industry, of the places you have flown over. The photography and music are a beautiful souvenir.

    Having had a taste of the Na Pali coast from the air we thought we would like to see it from the water. We tried to get on to a company that worked out of Hanalei (it is closer to the Na Pali Coast) but could not raise an answer on their phone number. The Port Allen companies spend too much time out of the Na Pali Coast for our liking.

    Also interested in doing an ATV course but that too had to be booked in advance and we could not get on on the last day. No ziplines either - could not spend the time (unfair to DH).

    Spent the rest of the day at Walmart and driving up to the Coconut Plantation shopping centre. Lovely views of the mountains as well as sea views.

    Coconut plantation however was very much a let down. We had read so many posts about it and the wonderful restaurants there. There were no restaurants open and most of the shops were empty. It had a very despondent air about it. I did however manage to do a little bit of shopping. If you are interested in American number plates, dont get them here but at the International Market in Oahu.

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    Day 10 Kauai - Oahu
    Holiday end drawing near.
    Spent most of the morning trying to get on to Skype without any luck.

    Wandered down to the shopping centre and found Sears - made a few purchases. This was my first Sears shop. As a child I had always pored over the Sears and Roebuck catalogues from which we chose our dresses and had the tailor make up copies for us. However, this Sears appeared to be more geared towards hardware, motor mowers and electronics.

    Checked out and returned the car at the airport. Got on our last inter-island flight to Oahu.

    Took the Speedishuttle to Waikiki. Dropped us right at the Condo. Managed to work all the codes for the doors. The Waikiki Marina is an odd shaped building - sort of a triangle with just four apartments on each floor. We are on the 38th floor. The apartment is also sort of triangular in shape with a tiny bathroom and shower. Airconditioner, TV, DVD player and fan. Very clean. Full kitchen - could have done with some more condiments and cooking oil.

    King sized bed with a small table and two chairs and another large chair and ottoman. Plenty of drawer space and a small wardrobe with an unusable safe.

    And what a view. Can't be built out. Overlooking the marina. Rainbows every morning. Great views of the sailing craft and surfers.

    You also get use of a car space but we did not need it.
    The Equus hotel next door has some apartments in the building and guests can use the tennis court and the very clean and small pool.

    The funny thing about the room is that the light over the kitchen area and the fan over the bed are switched together, so you cannot turn one off without the other - so if you have the fan on, the light stays on. The air conditioner is too noisy and cold to have on at night and we cannot turn the light off!

    We had rented through Alii beach rentals and they were very pleasant and tried to fix the fan/light problem without success. They also took delivery of a parcel for us at their office and delivered it to us.

    We took the bus to Ala Moana Centre (not realising that in fact it was just a 8 min walk from our apartment)! Wandered around Maceys and found Foodland for dinner. That cold salmon is just great and so cheap. Found a Mondichino wine - great - we will stick to this for the rest of the holiday.

    Waited an inordinate time for the bus back.
    Had we known where we were, we could have just walked back and been back at the apartment in just a few minutes!

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    Day 10 - Honolulu
    Did not sleep so well with the light on all night.
    This is our day to climb Diamond Head. Took the bus from in front the Ilakai Hotel. It dropped us off at the road to Diamond Head. On the way we passed the Filipino Festival. Marked that to return later. Also many of the passengers on the bus got off at a market. Marked that too for later.

    We did not start off as early as we would have liked and it was Saturday so there were more people (particularly runners) out to do the climb as well as the fashionistas with their designer sports wear!

    The path started off as a gentle concrete slope (lulled us into a false sense of security) then came the switchbacked rubble pathway. On we went, DH definately struggling. However we made it and have the photographs to prove it. What a great view of Honolulu and the bay from up there. Nevertheless I won't be doing the walk again! It was on my bucket list and I've done it.

    When we came down, we found the market still on, so we walked around and bought some great ice cream and brownies. Some of the stalls were closing down for the day, but the meal type stalls were still going.
    Caught the bus back but missed out on the Filipino festival as the bus went a different way.
    A rest and then shopping at Ala Moana

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    Day 11
    End of holiday fast approching.
    Pearl Harbour today. Caught the #42 (Ewa Beach) bus from outside McDonalds on Ala Moana Blvd. We prebooked tickets and the audio guide on line. Since we did not know the Sunday timetable for the buses we did not take the chance and book a very early tour (the memorial opens at 7.30am). We booked for 9.30am. The bus journey was long but was an eye opener to see the real state of the Island. There is a lot of poverty just a few streets from the touristy area. The homeless are a very strong presence.
    We had heeded the advice that bags were not allowed and we took nothing but our cameras. Other people were stopped at the barriers and they had to put their bags into lockers. The ticket collection area is efficient and we were swept on to the audio guide collection point with a reminder of where to meet for the tour.
    There are rest rooms and a small snack bar before you get to the two museums.
    We had a little time so we started off in the museum "Road to War" which was very interesting, although because of the crowds even at that early hour, you could not get to read all the information or get a good photograph of some of the exhibits. The audio and video reports of survivors was very moving and spoke volumes about the situation at the time.
    Although we have no connection with America and Pearl Harbour this was a monumental moment in world history - a turning point and we were very pleased to know more about it. We had ofcourse read a lot about it and seen the movies. Perhaps many people do not know that Pearl Harbour was not the only to be hit in the Hawaiian Islands and there are places around Oahu that were also hit.
    The headset tour does not start in the museum as some reports have indicated.
    We kept an eye on the time and went directly to the tour waiting area wanting to make sure that we did not miss out allotted time. This is where the headset tour starts. There is a 15 minute presentation to the left of the tour court area. The theatre holds about 200 people - the same number that the boats hold. You come into the theatre at the top, but the exit doors are on the side. There are two or three and these only open at the end of the presentation. If you are wanting to be choosy about your seat on the boat, then it is best to identify one of these doors and to seat yourself at the end of the row. The lower door opens first.

    The crew on the boats are so smartly dressed. We separated the took seats on either side of the boat to ensure that one of us got some photographs. You get a good view of the harbour area and of the Battleship Missouri off Ford Island. The boat docks and you enter the foyer area with the flags. Waiting to one side is the previous group who will return on the boat you have just disembarked from.

    A brochure we picked up indicated that "overtones of sadness have been omitted to permit theindividual to contemplate his own person responses". Perhaps this is why people who do not know the history and go just because it is there on the tourist map, appear out of place and almost not giving the reverence a cemetary deserves.

    The time limit on the memorial is 15 minutes. It does not seem much,but is sufficient time to appreciate the memorial. The small chapel to one side is poignant with the tree windows. The gigantic flag flying above is also a fitting memorial.

    When you disemark at the boat dock you turn to the left and follow the path to the Contemplation Circle. From here too you have a good view of Ford Island and the Memorial. Use the audio guide here too. Follow directions on the the Remembrance Circle and the several photographs stands along the path, to the USS Arizona Anchor.
    Continue on to the extremely well laid out Waterfront Submarine memorial. From here you will get views of USS Bowefin.

    Following the path will lead you to the left to the gift shop and the USS Bowfin museum. The ticket for the museum also covers the Submarine. If you turn right you will walk past a missile and back to the entrance, gift shop and toilets.

    Near the Bowfin museum is a pearl trolley (just like the ones in the International Market) where you pay over money for a peal. The gift shop was interesting and we purchased a couple of clever souvenirs. You could also purchase a copy of a newspaper (1 sheet) for about $10. The only food to eat here is hot dogs.

    Some posters wrote about a flea market that you could visit between waiting times but we saw none.

    The bookshop at the entrance and the gift shop at USS Bowfin are not connected so if you buy something at the giftshop and find something better at the bookshop you cannot change it nor can you collect the souvenirs that are provided if you purchase above a certain amount.
    The bookshop is very interesting for anyone who follows American War history. They also had an author who has written a new book, signing books or taking orders that would be posted if you so required.

    It is a shame that they do not provide better eating facilities rather than just the junk food. I sat and ate a packet of chips and drank a bottle of coke while DH went to the second museum "Attack".

    You can either exit to take the tour of the USS Missouri. We decided not to take that tour. Or you return to the exit.

    Finding the bus back was puzzling as you cannot pick it where it drops you off. We had to exit to the main road. It is also confusing trying to remember which side of the road one must be on to catch the bus if you come from a country that drives on the left hand side!

    Back for a rest and then off to Ala Moana Left DH to go back to the apartment after a while and made my way to Walmart. It was dark when I left and it was kind of spooky walking down the darkened roads and through the car parks. By this time the homeless were out in numbers. I have a good sense of direction and all was well.

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    Day 11 - Honolulu
    Worked out the buses to catch to an out of the way craft shop. It was certianly out of the way. The bus stop was close the Convention centre but the buses were few and far between and the whole trip took three hours. In the meantime DH was holding the fort back at the apartment while Barry the handyman tried to fix the light fan issue and thelight in the bathroom - DH plying him with Tim Tams. Barry had not seen the marina from the 38th floor and he was amazed at the fabulous view.
    Came back and off we went to Ala Moana again. The shoes from Walmarts hurt DEH so we had to return them. Bought T-shirts for DS and some more shoes.
    Then we decided to go to the International Market. Caught the bus there and walked through the market from Kuhio Road. It was reminiscent of walking through any market in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia etc. All the stalls were manned by non Hawaiians and sold similar stuff made in the Phillipines or China.
    The fact that the stalls wound around the banyan trees and there were several pools with koi made it a pleasant visit. Children have a great time with the water balls. Like a Zorb only on water.
    The small stage had a Hawaiian band and some hula dancing (not the grass skirt kind).
    Walked across the road past the Cheesecake Place and down to Wiakiki beach. Thought we would watch the torch lighting. Great views of Diamond head and the Catamarans on the water. No signs of the torch lighting ceremony so we wandered back past the Cheesecake place but the queue was too long.

    Our last night in Hawaii.

    The next morning we caught the shuttle back to the airport and shuffled through the long security queues. We had the new airbus - it had only been flying 3 days. It could not take off on time because something or other did not check out!
    The pilot promised to make up the time.
    This aircraft did have the seat screens but you have to pay for the movies $8 each! I just decided to watch 6 episodes of Bones.
    We landed in Sydney nearly on time and we got our luggage and hiked off to the domestic section. It was the last plane to Melbourne and we did not want to miss it.
    Home again.

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