Hawaii- Two Very Different Weeks

I know some of my blog readers also read my weekly columns in The Carillon, but many do not, so from time to time I post one of my columns here. We are back in Phoenix Arizona now and I just wrote my second column about our visit to Hawaii. Our two weeks in Hawaii were very different from each other as my two columns reflect. 

Week 1

Am I becoming a travel snob?  We spent last week on Oahu Island in Hawaii and compared to many other holidays we’ve been on it was rather mundane.  I know any vacation is what you make of it. Over the last eight years as my husband Dave and I have traveled to dozens of different countries, I’ve always found it easy to have a positive attitude and appreciate the unique beauty of each place we’ve visited. That wasn’t the case on Oahu.

Our bed and breakfast, which was quite pricey, was frankly the worst we’ve ever stayed at. It had peeling paint, thread-bare carpets, stained walls, a musty smell, a self-serve breakfast with the number of cups of coffee rationed, hosts we barely saw and a bathroom we shared with three other people that wasn’t cleaned regularly. We are die- hard bed and breakfast rather than hotel people when we travel, but Oahu had us rethinking that choice.

The snorkeling at Oahu’s famed Hanauma Bay was another disappointment. The water was shallow so we cut ourselves on the sharp beige coral and we only saw a few fish. After memorable snorkeling experiences in Fiji and on Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands where the fish were plentiful and the coral every hue of the rainbow, Hawaii’s snorkeling was blasé.

The Bishop Museum in Honululu, seemed tired and pedestrian, more like the neglected museums we saw in Ukraine rather than a modern, inviting place like Chicago’s Art Institute or the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. You expect in North America museums will keep up with the times –not the Bishop. The museum is funded by a trust established by a Hawaiian princess. The successive cadres of white American men who’ve administered it have paid themselves millions of dollars in salaries. They’ve invested in poor financial ventures in which they had personal interest, thus depleting the principal trust so there is little to spend on its designated recipients, one of which is the museum.

We went to a luau, supposedly Hawaii’s best, at the Polynesian Cultural Centre. Staffed by Mormon students from the Hawaii campus of Brigham Young University the luau was an interesting, but somewhat troubling mix of religion, entertainment and culture. The food was nothing special and the professionally executed performance a blatant rip-off of Disney’s Lion King.

One thing we really enjoyed on Oahu was our day at the Pearl Harbor site. We toured a submarine, museum and memorial. Everything was visitor friendly and interesting. However touring all the areas of the site cost around $100 US for the two of us.   We went to a very similar memorial and museum in Hiroshima Japan that was equally well maintained and organized and paid only $1 US.

We hiked to the top of the Diamond Head Crater. We enjoyed the view but the trail needed work and it wasn’t always wide enough for two hikers to pass one another easily. Spoiled by the pristine hiking trails and spectacular views I’d experienced in Sedona, Arizona just the week before, Diamond Head seemed bland and tired.  

After a week in Oahu I’m feeling like a bit of a travel snob.  Have my years of world travels jaded me to such an extent that I expect too much of my holidays by now?  I’d like to think that’s not true. We’re headed over to Hawaii’s Big Island for a week there and I’m expecting a much better experience. I’ll let you know in next Thursday’s column whether I’ve regained my joie de vivre for travel.

Week  2

Getting up close and personal with an active volcano, snorkeling with a dolphin pod, hiking up to a remarkable waterfall and observing huge green sea turtles, made our trip to Hawaii’s Big Island a memorable adventure.

     We flew into Kona and driving out of the city you knew you were in volcano territory because black lava rock extended out in all directions. The landscape of the Big Island is intriguingly varied. There are black, green and white sand beaches. Besides the vast expanse of rock there are coffee plantations, areas of lush green vegetation, mountains and rolling hilly cattle ranches.

       We stayed in Volcano Village near the entry to the Volcanoes National Park at a charming bed and breakfast. It was called The End of The Road, because literally it is at the end of a long winding road. Run by Hawaiians Ray and Lani Goodness Glory it is a warm, spacious home decorated with Lani’s vibrant photographs of Hawaiian flowers. We like bed and breakfasts because of the interesting fellow guests we meet. We breakfasted in the Goodness Glory’s sunny dining room with a couple from Kingston, Ontario. Their Hawaiian vacation was a reward after a grueling, but ultimately unsuccessful, cross Canada campaign trip to try to win the presidency of the Liberal Party of Canada.   

  Active volcanoes make living in the Hilo area of the Big Island decidedly unpredictable. We hiked a trail to see the Kilauea volcano. It’s latest eruption began in 1983 and it has been erupting continuously ever since. The Big Island experiences a hundred small earthquakes everyday and this creates many steamy vents and craters. As you hike in Volcanoes National Park, bright yellow warning signs make it clear visitors need to stick to the trails if they don’t want to be burned by the steam and hot rocks.

      At Ahalanui Park we went swimming in a volcanically heated natural thermal pool. Just outside the pool’s stone enclosure huge Pacific Ocean waves were crashing into the rocky shore but we could float idyllically in the soothing 90- degree water. We walked through a Lava Tree Park.  In the 1700’s lava flow swept through the site coating the trunks of the trees and leaving weird and wonderful hollow hardened lava molds.

     We rented a car and drove right around the Big Island. Journey highlights were a stop at the Punalu Black Sand Beach, a favorite haunt for Hawaii’s endangered green sea turtles. Sure enough, a couple were resting on the sand and feeding in the shallow water just off shore. We hiked up to Akaka Falls, twice the height of Niagara Falls. I took photos of the unique flowers and plants as we hiked. 

     We made a snorkeling trip aboard the Fair Winds catamaran out to Kealakekau Bay. It is an underwater marine park with huge diverse coral and fish of every hue and shape. A pod of about a hundred spinner dolphins shared the bay with us during our snorkel.     

Last week in my column I suggested I was less than enamored with Hawaii after spending time in the big city of Honolulu. It seemed commercialized, crass and rather mundane compared to many of the places I’d traveled. The Big Island of Hawaii was a totally different experience. It provided many fascinating adventures that had us thinking we would need to go back to Hawaii in the future to visit its other islands which we didn’t have time to explore on this visit. Hawaii deserved a second chance. I’m glad I gave it one.

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Filed under Hawaii, Reflections, Travel

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