Fortunately, Continental Airlines offered a round trip airfare of $329 so we HAD to go.
The biggest problem for us was figuring out exactly where in Hawaii to go. Since we barely had five full days, it was challenging to build a trip with a good balance of adventure, education and relaxation that wouldn't run us ragged. Ultimately, we decided to revolve the trip around two "must do's" and let everything else fall into place. Our two "must do's" in Hawaii were the Kiluea Volcano and the The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
After an overnight stop in Honolulu and a short flight, we arrived in Kona. Since we were all a little tired, it only made sense that we go to the Mountain Thunder coffee plantation first. There are many plantations that offer tours, but we chose this one for no other reason that it was the closest to the airport.
First we sampled some yummy coffee and watched a clip from the show Dirty Jobs which showed some "dirty work" that goes into producing organic coffee. After, we got a tour of the sorting, roasting and packing facilities before being led into the gift shop which had a variety of yummy coffee and treats. We were all a fan of the chocolate covered coffee beans which took every ounce of will power to resist.
Elliot, who is a big coffee fan, picked a few beans just for fun.
The coffee plantation was in a cloud forest but back near the coast (just a few miles a way) the weather was hot and sunny. Perfect time for some shave ice which is Hawaii's version of the snow cone. Elliot is holding a small size ice. The large size was bigger than his head.
Keith is a Costco fan and while it may not be a typical tourist destination, we had to visit. Lots of differences from the mainland clubs including this yummy tuna and salmon sashimi sold by the pound.
After a stroll through the town of Kona and some lunch we headed over to our hotel for some relaxation. We chose the Hilton Waikoloa Village because it had the most kid friendly activities of all the Kona hotels. Elliot enjoyed the water slides but he got tossed around too much by some of the larger ones. This one was the perfect size.
For the right price you can have a personal encounter with the dolphins, but we just enjoyed them from the dock.
A hotel Luau with a few hundred people is generally too touristy for us, but the promise of a yummy roasted pig and unlimited drinks made it sound appealing. Keith even got a Hawaiian shirt just for the occasion. We woke up early to see how they prepared the pig.
The chefs showed and explained every step. Here the pig and is placed on banana leaves, rubbed with Hawaiian coarse salt and wrapped in chicken wire.
Then it is placed on top of the smoldering logs & lava rock before being covered with more leaves, wet burlap and eventually buried in sand.
11 hours later the roasted pig is uncovered and ceremoniously carried away to be shredded and served at the luau.
The luau was great and the roast pork was delicious. We were a little suspicious that one pig can serve so many but after a little prodding our waiter admitted that they cook extra in the kitchens. Either way it was great and just to keep the fantasy alive we have assume that the roast pork that we ate actually came from the pig that we saw prepared in the morning.
After a couple of drinks Elliot got a tribal-tattoo.
The best way to experience any place around the world is to get recommendations from the locals. One of our waiters at breakfast mentioned the Akaka Falls in Hilo. He said it was one of his favorite places on the island and that we should stop there if we had time. We took him up on his suggestion since Akaka Falls was on the way to Hilo.
When we got there, it was a quick hike to get to the Falls and we saw some interesting birds and some strange insects that we had never seen before.
We had a 1:00pm reservation with Blue Hawaiian Helicopter for a volcano tour which gave us just enough time for a stop at the Farmers Market for some yummy treats. These Misubis are essentially giant pieces of sushi but made with other meat.
After a safety video we headed out to the tarmac. Those yellow pouches are not filled with Misubis from the farmers market, they're actually emergency life vests.
We got a very close up view of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō cinder cone at the Kiluea volcano but no bubbling towers of lava as you would expect from watching any Hawaii show on TV. Even though its tough to see in the picture, there is a significant amount of lava flow that is coming from this cinder cone.
Lava tubes carry the molten lava mostly underground so it is not that visable from the air. When it meets the water it causes a very violent reaction that causes the water/lava to explode.
Safely back on the ground, Captain Ray helps Elliot exit the helicopter. We all had a great time and it would definitely rate it as one of the top moments from all of our travels.
Our next stop was the Volcanoes National Park but first we had to check out a famous Hawaiian dish called the Loco Moco. It is now served throughout the state but its origins trace back to the the Cafe 100 in Hilo, which just happens to be a few miles from the airport. The dish consists of Japanese rice covered with two hamburger patties, brown gravy and a fried egg. It's a good creation but probably even better as a hangover remedy.
Weren't not sure if it was worth driving up to Volcanoes National Park after our helicopter tour but we are very glad that we did. The park is in a completely different part of Kiluea and the vistas were amazing. In the background is the Halema`uma`u crater.
Keith at the edge of the crater.
At another site in the park we walked through some extinct lava tubes. On the way back up the stairs Elliot fell and got scraped up and very muddy. Here he shows us his leg injury.
We headed back on a flight to Oahu at 8pm and rested up for our last 2 days in Hawaii.
We had a short visit to the Dole Plantation on the to way the North Shore of Oahu. We certainly had fun and it was interesting to learn about pineapple agriculture. Elliot really loved the maze. We even had some super fresh pineapple samples. Yum...
Afterwards, we drove up to the North Shore and had a great lunch at Romy's Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp. Everthing was amazingly fresh and we indulged in some pineapple with li-hing mui as we waited for our lunch. The shrimp are farm raised right beind the shop and probably alive until you order them.
Next up was Matsumoto Shave Ice in Haleiwa. Elliot had a hard time deciding on what flavor to get so, like any kid, he let his eyes do the ordering and chose "Blue, Orange and Green". The colors don't necessarily correspond to the obvious flavor so we were glad he ordered by color so he wouldn't be disappointed.
Just 100 feet away is another shave ice place called Aoki's which had a slightly shorter line so I sent Keith over so we could do a head-to-head comparison with Matsumoto. There is a friendly rivalry between the two and most locals have a specific favorite. They both make their own syrups but differences are insignificant. If you end up here choose the shop with the shortest line.
The Side Street Inn was featured on "No Reservations" so naturally we had to visit for dinner . We enjoyed a number of great dishes, but the kahlua pig "slidahs" were truly a standout.
As we mentioned above, on the must do list was a visit to The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. We had to wait 90 minutes for our 11:00am tour so we decided to visit the USS Missouri Battleship.
Clearly it was a lot of fun for all of us and Elliot didn't want to leave the ship.
The Arizona Memorial Museum is a powerful tribute to the men who gave their lives on December 7th during the attack on Pearl Harbor. We watched a short film before visiting the memorial which reminded us of the events that led up to the attack and those who served our country.
It was our last day, so we hit the beach in the afternoon before our flight.
Uh Oh, Here comes a big one on Waikiki Beach!
Brace for impact!
We had a wonderful 5 days in Hawaii, and realize that there is so much more to do that we absolutely need to return!
Kolina, Kika & Elioka