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colorful fish and a giant clam in the Waikiki aquarium

The Hawaiian state fish is the humuhumunukunukuapua’a.

We decided to enjoy a day with more leisure; so today we scheduled a visit to the aquarium and nothing more. It was another very warm day, and we looked forward to the air-conditioned indoors at the Waikiki Aquarium. It was Tara’s first visit to an actual aquarium, aside from the wonderful (albeit small) Ocean World in Crescent City, CA. One aquarium is much like another, so I’ll let the photos illuminate your imagination. Each aquarium has its unique delights, and here I particularly loved the many tanks of jellyfish.

View of Diamond Head across the park as we left the aquarium

After returning to the condo, the sticky heat was making me cranky, and there was no enough air moving through to ease my humidified psyche. I decided to go for a walk. V told me how to get to a street that follows a nearby creek, so I took off for a walk. The heat was relentless, but the walking felt so good, and I happily made my way through unfamiliar Honolulu streets in search of creek shade.

cool water and inviting shade

I found the place with very little problem, and found also, to my delight, that there was a park on one side of the water with a little bit of sketchy access (read: a slippery steep trail with a metal ladder down to the water). As I had done in Oak Creek Arizona only 6 weeks before, I climbed right down the bank and sat in the creek! I found a rock on which to perch, a rested my bare feet in the water. In no time I had tiny fish nibbling my toes. Now that is a feeling I have loved since the olden, olden days when I first experienced it at the swimming hole at Canton Creek in Oregon when I was only about 7 years old. Who can resist giggling at the tickling, persistent pecks at one’s feet by baby fish?

tickly nibblers

Feeling refreshed and my mood restored, I continued up the road to see where it went. I climbed steeply up the sharp slopes of Makiki Heights Drive, gazing covetously at the incredible homes perched on the cliffs. I continued up switchbacks, periodically passed by bicyclists and runners who must get an incredible workout with a playground like this! Up past the Makiki Valley State Recreation area, and past the Contemporary Museum perched high above the city. I stopped in to peek into the grounds, and a man at the desk recommended I return to lunch at their restaurant some time. That would have been a splendid idea had I more time to plan. I finally turned around at Tantalus Drive and moved down the mountain again. I enjoyed the many perspectives of Honolulu from above, and marveled at the clever driveways and architecture that clung to the sides of the mountain.

At the creek again, I stopped once more to splash with the fish, and then made my way back to the house for a relaxing dinner and to catch up on my Internet world.

Entrance to the 'Iolani Palace in Honolulu

We got up nice and early, and headed directly for the 9am opening of the ‘Iolani Palace, the only actual Royal Palace on U.S. soil. The building was beautiful inside and out. I snapped photos all around our waiting space on the front porch area. As part of the welcome address and rules, they informed me that the camera would be strictly off limits from then on.

detail of a door at Iolani Palace

ceiling detail

Inside the palace is a wonderfully restored museum of what it was probably like at the time Queen Iolani lived there. Woodwork, books, photos, clocks, furniture, and even the rugs and drapes were collected, restored and/or created with utmost care. We even saw one of the original copies of Don Quixote (in two volumes!) in the office. Our tour guide told us several stories about how things “want to return to the palace,” as evidenced by the furniture and other items that had been auctioned off by the royal family many years ago… somehow were returned.

Ridgeline road up Mt. Tantalus

Our next plan was to hike up Mt. Tantalus. We drove up another one of those narrow, winding roads into the jungle. Because of low clouds the view was more mysteriously compelling than usual. The views were usually obscured, but not completely, and we had the chance to spot fabulous lush steep cliffs fading into and out of view through the fog. We hiked up a dreadfully muddy trail and soon it began to rain. As we got closer to the mountain peak, the rain became steadier and heavier.

Tara hiking the muddy trail ahead of me.

Inside the bamboo forest. The forest seemed young, as the bamboo wasn't any larger than my fist.

Along the trail we made our way into a real bamboo forest. It was fascinating, otherworldly, beautiful. When the wind blew, the bamboo stalks clacked and knocked against each other. (I’ll add a video of it at the end.) We climbed higher and higher along the trail and were soaked through in the warm rain by the time we found the peak. We watched sheets of rain pound through the tops of the bamboo forest. As we stood at the peak of Mt. Tantalus and watched, there was a break in the clouds, and the sun illuminated a rainbow for us. Perfectly Hawai’i.

rain-soaked Tara, hiking ahead of me

V gazing at a twisted tree within the bamboo forest

We backtracked a little and moved along a ridge toward a lower peak. V knew just where to turn despite the narrow trail that wound through the bamboo. We dropped down a steep slope and in a short while came into the wooded bowl of a dormant cone of a cold volcano. There was a pond in the center (since the rain had no outlet), with marshes and forest spreading out from it.

Rainbow from the peak of Mt. Tantalus

Pond, marsh meadow, and forest inside the dormant cone

Honolulu from the trail, on the way back down

Red-crowned Amazons

It was lovely not to be so uncomfortably hot for a few hours. So much so that we really didn’t mind the rain. All of us managed to slip on the steep slopes of clay mud in the rain, at one point or another. The clouds had lifted somewhat, by the time we had views of Honolulu again. We stopped to admire the sun across the city, and then hiked to the car again and spent a good bit of time de-mudding before we climbed in! On the way home we stopped briefly at the Keaiwa Heiau State Park where I was able to walk through the ruins of a sacred site, and take some photos of Red Crowned Amazon parrots!

Malaikahana Recreation Area, on the north shore of Oahu

V’s idea today was to give us a tour of the island and give us a sense of where we are on Oahu and the setup of the island. It was a very good idea. His condo is smack in the middle of Honolulu, and so we headed north-east-ish out the Pali Highway and began our counterclockwise loop of the island.

The Pali Highway (Hwy 61) on Oahu

ginger flower

Right away we were in the jungle forests I recall from my one other visit to this archipelago state. V chose the winding roads vs. highways when possible. In between drooping dripping vines, we spotted fog-topped peaks in the distance. The scenes kept reminding me of the movie King Kong. Ha ha! One constant delight through the day was the scent of ginger blossoms. We saw golden and white ginger, each with different but intoxicating aromas.

wild chickens

We stopped for a grand vista at the Pali lookout. In the parking lot we were delighted to find wild chickens pecking through the grass. I assume they were domestic birds at some point in their heritage, now the hens clucked to their chicks to keep out of the way of tourist children. The view from the Pali lookout was pretty awesome, and very windy. This was the site of a significant battle in Hawaiian history, in 1795.

View from Pali Lookout

At the Pali Lookout. It was windy!

Chinaman’s Hat

Our next stop was at the Kualoa Regional Park. The park sloped gracefully onto a wide empty beach and then opened up into a vast expanse of brilliant sun and sea. Not too far off shore is an island V calls Chinaman’s Hat, whose name is also Mokolii. Tara and I were equally eager to spend time walking this beach, splashing through the water, picking up broken pieces of coral for souvenirs. We eventually left the beach and walked to a nearby ruins of the Kualoa Sugar Mill, the first sugar mill built on Oahu. It was closed in 1871 when owners realized there was not enough rain in that spot to grow cane for sugar.

V and T on the beach at Kualoa Point

ruins of sugar mill

We drove through Kaaawa, and I was delighted to hear that one pronounces all three of those a’s in the name. After that we found our favourite beach of all on the north shore (photo at the top). We loved the Malaikahana Recreation Area beach so much we decided then and there to make it an actual destination on Friday, and spend hours there. The appeal of this beach is that it has all the stunning scenery and almost NO people! We walked a long way down the beach and spotted three people lying on towels, and one person in a vehicle parked for the view. Other than that, it was our beach. V said usually he didn’t see anyone at all there. It is truly mystifying to me that people are thrilled to be shoulder-to-shoulder on the popular beaches, yet leave this equally stunning beach to the sand crabs. Since we didn’t surf Monday, we made plans to try to surf here on Friday (which might also give our sunburns time to heal).

red-crested cardinal

We stopped for a great meal near the beach in Laie and I had fish and a banana daiquiri, in keeping with the vacation/island theme. Then we moved on to continue our tour. We came back through an island valley again, and the highway rises overlooked Pearl Harbor for a brief time, long enough to spot an aircraft carrier and several Navy ships docked. They looked so impressive. I wanted to take a look, but on the highway we were removed from the shore and traffic was a mess, so we drifted past. V took us up into the hills in hopes of a good view of Pearl Harbor itself, but houses understandably crowded the slopes, leaving no good views for us tourists.

crepuscular rays over Honolulu

Sunset over Waikiki

Our final stop of the day was on Round Top, which V had been lauding since even before we made the trip. A Must-See View! So we made our way up there, growing weary from our long day but still ready for continued adventure. The late day approach turned out to be a boon, since we hit the overview point right at sunset, and captured some truly stunning photos all along the shore: of Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Waikiki, and Diamond Head.

Diamond Head made golden by light

Another sunset photo from Round Top showing a plane leaving the Honolulu airport (sorry for all the sunset pics, but they were just so awesome!)

Waikiki Beach

Tara heading to the gate in Portland

portal view

Our flight into Honolulu went very smoothly, especially since we took a direct flight from Portland: only 5 ½ hours. Tara and I sat together on the plane, next to a very old woman who was next to the window and slept most of the way. We were off the plane rather quickly, and walking through the open-air airport in no time! Really! The moist tropical air just blows through. We found V at baggage claim, and our own bag was about the third one to show up on the carousel.

Duke Kahanamoku festooned in leis

After dropping our bag at his condo, we went directly to Waikiki beach. My intent with that infamous beach was merely to see it, to look with my own eyes upon Diamond Head, but not to spend a large part of our vacation there. In general, I find that places that attract the most tourists will repel me, and it was the case with Waikiki. Tara and I laid our beach towels out in a free piece of sand between lounging tourists, beneath one of the dozen lifeguard shacks, and soaked up some equatorial rays. We took turns playing in the water so the other person could watch our stuff.

The waves were amazing! Really great! The colour of the water is aqua and the sand is pale gold. The waves were averaging about 8 feet. Smooth, consistent. Having never been there, I didn’t have a sense of whether that is what Waikiki waves are always like, or if something special was going on. If there were waves like this in Humboldt County, where I learned to surf, it would have been a stellar day! Tara and I both wanted to rent a board and head out there, but there were SO MANY surfers. The water was obnoxiously crowded. Not appealing.

I counted about 75 surfers in this image

awesome waves

I felt the sun on my legs and began to worry about my girl (even paler than myself), so I got her up out of the sun, and we lugged our heavy bag through the crowds of tourists, getting a sense of the area. We found a place to buy sunscreen, some flip-flops (which I am told are called “rubba slippas” here), sunglasses, an extra bag to share the load. We stopped for Haagen-dazs ice cream and water.

We walked along the beach, staring at tourists, watching the surfers, trying to stay awake. Travel makes one sleepy, and the three-hour time difference was not in our favor. The sun shone brightly, but our bodies felt like sunset.

the famous Diamond Head

Tara holding roots

When V picked us up, he explained that the southern swell responsible for the awesome waves was actually the first big swell in some time, and the locals were as excited about the waves as the tourists. We could see the locals at that point, since the workday was wrapping up, and people were spilling out of pickups and cars with their boards and heading excitedly to the beach. Though we had been out of the sun for hours, our sunburns began to heat up, and I was glad we had decided not to surf. I know it would have been so fun we would have stayed out there and got crispy-fried before we knew it.

All in all, a good first day. Now that we have Waikiki out of the way, we can move on to other places.

looking up into the Banyan tree

humans are disgusting

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