Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Road to Hana through the Back Door

Our cruise ship, the Pride of America, docked in Kahului on Maui at 8 am and remained in port until 6 pm (1800) the following day. We knew that we wanted to see the Road to Hana and Haleakala National Park but we wouldn’t have time for much beyond that.


Rick and Jim checking out the map in the cruise port on Maui

We weighed several options for an all-day tour of the Hana Highway, a 52-mile, spectacularly scenic road featuring some 600 hairpin turns and 54 one lane bridges along the northern coast of Maui. We could take an NCL excursion for $189 per person which seemed exceedingly expensive compared to renting a car. Car rental for the day would be only about $50 for the 4 of us but we’d have to drive the car ourselves. The price was right but I wasn’t keen on having Jim or Rick drive the route and miss much of the scenery to focus on the road (sometimes one-lane) and the traffic (heavy). My brother and his wife had been to Maui recently and recommended Maui Easy Riders for a Road to Hana tour. A personal tour for the 4 of us while they did the driving would cost $600. We decided that was our best option. By the way, they also offer a Haleakala Downhill Bike Tour but I would have been a Maui uneasy rider on 4-5% grades riding a bike down the volcano. My sister-in-law, however, had a blast on the bike tour so if that’s your thing, go for it.

Kyle picked us up outside the cruise port in his SUV just after 8. Rather than driving up the Road to Hana and returning the same way, we went the back way on Highway 37 so that we could drive back on the Road to Hana. We got to see more of the island and missed some of the traffic, too. Car rentals don’t allow taking their cars on a portion of this road so we got a bonus by riding with Kyle. Our route is highlighted below in yellow. The stretch between the red arrows on the south side of the island is the area where you can’t take a rental car.


Kyle was engaging and entertaining, telling us story after story about his customers and experiences. Every funny story about tourists behaving badly ended with, “That’ll be in the book.”  I hope nothing we said or did was book worthy.


View from Highway 37


View from Highway 37, Maui


Another view of the Pacific


Calling these roads highways is an overstatement


Looking at the backside of Haleakala National Park from Hwy 37


The coast behind Haleakala NP where rental cars don’t go


My favorite photo of the rugged volcanic coastline


More coastline views


We stopped at St Joseph’s Church, a mission church established in 1862 to convert the natives. The area is verdant and peaceful.


St Joseph’s Church


The white lines on the mountains are waterfalls

Laulima Farm, featuring environmental agriculture, has a stand along the highway that was a great stop for a snack and a look around. We walked their trail through the lush tropical jungle where we enjoyed the sights and scents of flowers, fruits, and coffee growing along with other tropical plants.


Laulima Farm Fruit Stand


Laulima Farm Fruit Stand produce


Fruit growing along the trail at Laulima Farm


Tropical Paradise


View across the road from Laulima Farm

Our next stop was the gravesite of Charles Lindbergh, the famous American aviator, who died and was buried here in 1974. The grave is located very near the Pacific ocean and I’m certain the views are incredible when not viewed through a tropical rain storm which came in just as we got there.


Charles Lindbergh burial site


Grave of Charles Lindbergh

We stood under the trees to wait out the rain but finally made a run for it to the vehicle through the drenching rain. I’d read to plan on rain at some point during the day when visiting the windward side of the island so we weren’t surprised by the cloudburst.

Fortunately, the rain didn’t obscure of view of Wailua Waterfall, one of the most beautiful stops along our route.


Wailua Waterfall

By lunch time we reached Hana and Kyle sought out food trucks with local, affordable fare. We didn’t find any so instead, he took us to Hana Ranch Store where we followed his lead and ordered sausages and chili over rice which I’m told is a Maui original.


Jim and Kyle with our take out from Hana Ranch Store


Maui chili over rice


Lunch, Maui style


With a view like this at Hana Bay State Park, anything tastes good!

Leaving Hana, we began our drive along the Hana Highway through the hairpin turns and one-lane bridges. The views were every bit as spectacular as promised.


View from Hana Highway

The Black Beach at Waianapanapa State Park was not an exaggeration or misrepresentation.


View from the trail to Black Beach


Black Beach

The legend of Waianapanapa Cave added a human component to the natural beauty. Hawaiian Princess Popoalaea fled and hid from her cruel husband, but the chief found and killed her. When tiny red shrimp appear in the pool, it’s a reminder of the blood of the princess.


Waianapanapa Cave


View from the Hana Highway


Scene from the Road to Hana with another waterfall on that mountain

The Painted Forest at mile marker 7 is composed of rainbow eucalyptus trees that originated from the Philippines. It’s a small area and difficult to spot unless you know where to find them and fortunately for us, Kyle knew.


The Painted Forest


Bark of the rainbow eucalyptus

This day was an amazing experience filled with all the beauty Maui has to offer. Kyle Barfield was an excellent tour guide and we would wholeheartedly recommend him. He has since opened his own tour company called Sandy Cheeks Tours.

If you’re interested in Haleakala National Park on Maui, check back next week for my new post.


Based on events from November 2015.

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Welcome Aboard the Pride of America

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, sailing the Hawaiian Islands year-round since its maiden voyage in 2005, has a capacity of 2186 passengers. Compared to the new mega-ships that accommodate 6000-6800 passengers, that may sound small to you but it was just right for me.

I watched the ship arrive at sunrise from my lanai at the Marriott.


My ride

Our shuttle transportation from the hotel to the cruise port was included in our cruise package so the transfer was easy and efficient. I wish I could say the same for the check-in process at the cruise port but it was one of the slower experiences I’ve had with Norwegian Cruise Line even though we were in the priority line. I share this with you, not to complain, but rather to prepare you in case you have the same experience. And if you don’t, you can feel lucky.

The last stop after checking in was a photo. In fact, they take a lot of photos on cruise ships hoping to sell them to the passengers. Our cruise package included 20 free photos so we kept them whether or not they were flattering. I’ll share some of the better ones in blog posts.


Welcome Aboard photo

We booked an inside cabin, knowing the ship’s movement from port to port would be at night and a window would be wasted but the money saved would not. I wake up with the sun, so no window can be a problem. I left the television turned on and tuned to the bow cam with the sound turned off. As the sun came up, the screen lit up the room. It helped. While our cabin was not exceptional, the champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, and chocolate bar awaiting us were welcome treats.


Our welcome aboard gift


Toasting our good fortune

As we explored the ship, we soon discovered the theme was patriotic with more traditional furnishings which were a definite hit with me. Notably, there was no casino on the ship, a first in my cruise experience. Gambling isn’t legal in Hawaii and the ship never leaves Hawaiian waters so there’s no gambling on board. Not a problem for us.


Hawaiian performers in the Capitol Atrium


Sitting area


Guest Services desk


Picture of the Pride of America in a stairwell


Outside the Aloha Cafe before sail away

We belong to the NCL rewards program called Latitudes. In fact, we’ve achieved platinum status so the perks were pretty good. In addition to the champagne, chocolates, and strawberries in our stateroom upon our arrival, we were invited to a wine and cheese event with the captain. The best perk, however, was free laundry service which came in handy  when I spilled wine all over Jim’s good pants. And I do mean all over.  The laundry cleaned them and had them back to us the following day in time for dinner. I’m grateful the wine came out or I’d never hear the end of it!

We also each received a gift certificate for two with a bottle of wine in a specialty dining venue, Jefferson’s Bistro, which otherwise costs extra. We took our friends. Lori and Rick, with us one evening later in the week and had an outstanding dining experience.


Jefferson’s Bistro


Painting of Monticello in the Jefferson Bistro


Dinner at Jefferson’s Bistro


The menu at Jefferson’s Bistro

Our first-course selections


Main course selections


Filet de Saumon d’Atlantic


Filet de Boeuf Grille (filet of beef)


Coq au Vin (Chicken in Burgundy)


Here are several more photos around the Pride of America.



Main Dining Room



Hollywood Theater


Sunset from the aft of the Pride of America

Our first port, Maui, is the subject of next week’s post. Come back and tour the Road to Hana with me.


Based on events from November 2015.

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Oahu Wrap Up

Finding cheap eats in Hawaii is definitely a challenge but we thought we did pretty well when we found Waikiki Beachside Bistro. Open from 9:30 am to 5 pm, this is breakfast and lunch fare rather than dinner (unless you’re a senior who eats at 4 pm like some people I know…) If you eat a hearty meal at noon, however, you can make do with cocktails and pupus for dinner, but more about that later.

With a beachside location, I expected a high-priced burger stand and they do serve burgers and other sandwiches but so much more. They feature plate lunches, the classic Hawaiian lunch that was designed to be cheap and filling. The typical plate lunch features lots of rice, a choice of meat, and usually a macaroni salad. I was especially grateful that our plate lunch replaced the macaroni with a more healthy salad. We chose Teriyaki Chicken for $10.95 and shared it. With all that rice under the chicken, there was plenty for both of us.


Patio at Waikiki Beachside Bistro


Jim orders our lunch


Teriyaki Chicken Plate Lunch


Our table with a view of the beach

While we ate, we observed a couple of guys in wetsuits arrive with fish they’d obviously just caught. With that level of freshness, I wished I had ordered the “catch of the day” plate lunch. While I didn’t get to eat it, I did photograph it. The fish was kala, also called unicorn fish, for the horn-like protuberance on its head. I wasn’t familiar with this fish, but the guys at the restaurant assured me it was tasty.


Kala, or unicorn fish

Trip Advisor shows mixed reviews for Waikiki Beachside Bistro but we thought our plate lunch was pretty good and it definitely filled us up. We also caught a glimpse of the $10 Loco Moco which is a well-known Hawaiian original consisting of a mountain of rice covered by hamburger, gravy, and egg(s). I like to buy local so this place suited us on that score, too.

Before our trip, I researched restaurants on Oahu and found the Mai Tai Bar at the Ala Moana Mall in Honolulu where they claim to serve the best pupus (appetizers) and cocktails. We stopped there on our way back from Pearl Harbor on the local bus. Since we’d eaten that ample plate lunch earlier in the day, pupus seemed to be a good lighter option for dinner.


Mai Tai Bar at Ala Moana Mall, Honolulu

The 3 blackened fish tacos at a happy hour price of $8 weren’t bad but, honestly, they had me at the $6 glass of wine. The sweet potato fries were pretty good, too. This is a chain but their website claimed to win awards year after year for their happy hour so we figured it was worth a try. The place was packed. In this beautiful tropical paradise, I’d rather have had a beach or water view with my pupus and cocktails but the bar was open air, the price was right, and we got to see the Ala Moana Mall.


Blackened fish tacos at Mai Tai Bar


Sweet potato fries at the Mai Tai Bar

We spent two full days and three nights on Oahu before our 7-day cruise on the Pride of America.  Here are a few more scenes from Waikiki before our ship sailed.


Beach at Waikiki



Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaianaole was the last reigning prince in Hawaii until the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893 by American businessmen. He was later elected to Congress to represent Hawaii for 10 consecutive terms until his death in 1922. Revered in Hawaii as a champion of the rights of native Hawaiians, he is honored  with a statue in Kuhio Park in Waikiki.


Statue of Prince Kuhio in Kuhio Park

And here’s my favorite view from our lanai at our hotel, the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa. Aaah…


The view from our lanai

Check back next week as we set sail on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America.


Based on events in November 2015.


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Pearl Harbor Sacred Site

On December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy,” according to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor.  Nearly 2500 men died and another 1100 were wounded that day and nearly 20 ships and 200 planes in the Pacific fleet were crippled or destroyed. On December 8, the U.S. declared war on Japan and entered World War 2.

Today in this tropical paradise, it’s hard to imagine the chaos and carnage of that long-ago day. Displays at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center help to set the historical stage, then present and interpret the events.


Entrance to World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor


Interpretive historical displays at Pearl Harbor Visitor Center


WWII historical displays at the visitor center

Each day the National Park Service issues 1300 free tickets on a first come, first served basis. The national monument opens at 7 am and visitors are encouraged to arrive early to secure a ticket. To plan ahead and ensure our access, we reserved our tickets in advance at for a convenience fee of $1.50 each. You must arrive one hour early to pick up your ticket or it will be re-issued to another visitor. The extra hour ensured time to tour the visitor center before our tour began. We scheduled our visit for 2:30 pm and took the city bus from Waikiki to Pearl Harbor for $2.50 one way. There are shuttles from Waikiki for $15 roundtrip or tour companies that charge considerably more but this plan worked well for us. While traveling, I often take the local bus to have an authentic experience.

Just before our appointed tour time, we lined up outside the Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater for a brief presentation by a park ranger, then we watched a short film about the attack on Pearl Harbor.


Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater featuring film on the attack of Pearl Harbor

After the film, we filed out to the boat dock and boarded the shuttle boat that took us to the USS Arizona Memorial.


Boarding our shuttle boat


The shuttle boat to the USS Arizona Memorial

The battleship USS Arizona was completely destroyed early in the attack and sank where it lies to this day. The memorial was built over the hull which entombs over 900 sailors whose bodies remain within it.


Sign that shows placement of the memorial over the remains of the USS Arizona


Arrival at the USS Arizona Memorial


USS Arizona Memorial


The USS Arizona Memorial


Names of the 1177 crewmen who died in the attack

The memorial is a solemn and sacred place. Visitors are invited to contemplate here in silence or speak in a whisper. Men should remove their hats as a show of respect unless it’s part of their uniform.

An opening in the floor of the memorial offers a view of the sunken ship below.


USS Arizona visible beneath the memorial

This was a moving experience and a sobering one. The USS Arizona Memorial conveyed the catastrophic loss of life in a personal and emotional way. Two facts brought tears to my eyes. First, there were 38 sets of brothers on the USS Arizona and 23 sets perished. Second, any survivor of the USS Arizona is entitled to have his ashes interred on the ship should he desire it. To date, 39 crew members have done so.


Based on events in November 2015.




Categories: cruise, National Parks, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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