Monthly Archives: August 2016

Aloha ‘Oe, Hawaii

One of the challenges faced by cruise passengers is what to do with luggage while sightseeing before or after a cruise. Most airports no longer offer lockers due to security issues. If you have a hotel reserved, they’ll usually keep your bags until check-in but if not, what’s a tourist to do? We decided to rent a car to store our luggage while we toured Oahu upon our return to Honolulu. For around $50, we had wheels for the day and storage for our bags while we waited for our evening flight.

As soon as our cruise ship, the Pride of America, docked, we took a taxi from the port to the Honolulu Airport to pick up our car. Happy to have the protection of our own vehicle due to intermittent rain showers throughout the day, we headed across the lush Koolau Mountains to the Kamehameha Highway on the windward side of the island.


Koolau Mountains

The Kamehameha Highway follows the coastline with plenty of stopping points to capture the incredibly beautiful views.




Water view along Kamehameha Highway

We stopped at the ruins of the Kualoa Sugar Mill in the Kaaawa Valley of the Koolau Mountains where the scenery looked like Jurassic Park, probably because the movie was filmed in this area. The first sugar mill on Oahu, Kualoa Sugar Mill was built in the early 1860’s and abandoned in the 1870’s because there wasn’t enough rain in the area to grow sugar. Who’d have thought?



Koolau Mountains with ruins of the Kualoa Sugar Mill


Ruins of Kualoa Sugar Mill

We stopped next at the Polynesian Cultural Center but alas, it wasn’t open yet. The “cultural” part of the name attracted us but honestly, it was more of a theme park. We read some of the cultural and historical signs and left before they opened.

After meandering up the eastern coast, we finally arrived at the famous North Shore, home of the perfect wave for surfers. The Van’s Triple Crown of Surfing, a three event men’s professional competition has been held on the North Shore each year since 1983 and in 2015, the dates of the competition were November 12 through December 20. We happened to be there on November 21 toward the end of the second crown, the Van’s Cup of World Surfing, which took place on Sunset Beach. Too bad we didn’t see any action that morning.



Sunset Beach



Sunset Beach, home of Van’s World Cup of Surfing



View from Kamehameha Highway

Waimea Valley Park with a hike to the famous Waimea Falls was on our to-do list but untimely showers made the 1.5 mile hike unappealing. We walked around the botanical garden a bit and then stopped at Waimea Bay Beach in time to see blue skies briefly.



Hawaiian vegetation at Waiamea Gardens 


Waimea Bay Beach

The rock at Waimea Bay Beach in the photo below provides a popular albeit dangerous attractive hazard that locals climb then jump into the water. We didn’t see anyone up there that morning so maybe the tide was too low.

Version 2

The rain returned as we drove through the North Shore town of Haleiwa. Further exploration including a shaved ice would have to wait for next time.



We skipped the Dole Pineapple Plantation  this trip but it’s wildly popular among families, entertaining and educating one million visitors each year. Jim and I were there in 2003 with our teenagers and enjoyed the experience. We did, however, see lots of pineapple fields and snapped a few photos. We also ate every bit of fresh pineapple offered to us while in Hawaii. Yum.


Pineapple Fields

After our drive to the North Shore, we headed to the Dole Cannery in Honolulu, once the largest pineapple cannery in the world, now a retail space containing a movie theater with 18 screens. Our friend, Rick, discovered a film festival that he was keen to check out.


The restored Dole Cannery


Rick ready to see a film at the Hawaii International Film Festival

While Rick attended a more artistic film, Lori, Jim, and I watched the last movie in the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay Part 2. Afterward, we stopped by Max’s for an outstanding Filipino dinner prior to our long foodless flight home.


Outside a Filipino restaurant, Max’s


Inside Max’s


Tasty Filipino chicken adobo


Filipino veggies

The tradition of throwing lei into the water dates back to the early 1900’s. Upon leaving Hawaii by boat, visitors threw their lei into the water to return it to Hawaii as they hoped one day, they, too, would return. Leaving by plane and not knowing whether it’s allowable to toss our lei from the Pride of America, we simply left them behind to signal our intention to return one day.


The remains of our beautiful lei

Aloha ‘oe (farewell to you), Hawaii. A hui hou (until we meet again). (🤘🏽🤘🏽🤘🏽shaka, shaka)

Listen to Elvis sing Aloha Oe from the movie, Blue Hawaii,  here.


Based on events from November 2015.

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The Na Pali Coast of Kauai

The iconic Na Pali Coast on the north shore of Kauai is only accessible by boat or air. Well, except for that treacherous 11-mile hiking trail that didn’t especially appeal to us. Fortunately for us, the Pride of America was scheduled to sail along the 17-mile coastline of Na Pali. We were excited to experience sublime views of the emerald-green cliffs on our last day aboard the NCL Pride of America. Unfortunately for us, the weather did not cooperate.  Our first view looked like this.

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Approaching the Na Pali Coast

The coastline was almost completely obscured by clouds. As we got closer, they began to dissipate a bit but our views remained misty at best.


Low clouds on the Napali Coast


The first bit of green appears before our wondering eyes

We made the best of the situation, however, and enjoyed what we could see. Actually, in retrospect, I think it was fortunate that we initially thought we’d see nothing because then we appreciated what we did see so much more.


Misty Na Pali Coast


Closer view through the mist and low clouds


Na Pali Coast


Looking up the valley along the Na Pali Coast


Another view


Na Pali means cliffs–you can see why


My favorite view of Na Pali coast

We had considered a helicopter or a catamaran tour but I’m glad we didn’t spend the money in view of the weather. The fact that our tour was included in our cruise made us feel like we got something extra. The captain of the Pride of America tried so hard to get us close enough to the shore to see the amazing lush vegetation and velvety emerald cliffs through the mist. We tell people if you haven’t experienced surreal Na Pali in the mist, you haven’t seen Na Pali. But I know I’ll go back  hoping to see Na Pali on a crystal clear day.


Based on events from November 2015.


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More on the Garden Isle of Kauai

Back on the south coast of Kauai after our visit to Waimea Canyon, we stopped first at Russian Fort Elizabeth State Park where hundreds of feral chickens greeted us in the parking lot. Sights like these are the most memorable for me –they stand out because they are unusual or unique.


Parking lot at Russian Fort Elizabeth

Named for the czarina of Russia, Fort Elizabeth was one of three forts built by Russia on Kauai between 1813 and 1817. I had no idea Russia had a presence in Hawaii so this historical trivia was intriguing to me. Apparently, we were alone in our interest, however, because we were the only people there. According to the signs on-site, Russia wanted to establish a trade relationship with Hawaii to obtain food for their Alaskan settlements. That seemed odd in view of the fact that it’s only 55 miles across the Bering Strait to Russia  (I’ve heard you can see Russia from your porch in Alaska) while it’s over 3000 miles from Hawaii to Alaska. Nevertheless, that was the plan. King Kamehameha wasn’t a fan, however, and expelled the Russians in 1817. Not much remains so it was a brief stop.


Remains of Russian Fort Elizabeth

We drove on to the Kauai Coffee Company, Hawaii’s largest coffee grower. Originally a sugar cane plantation, the first coffee trees were planted here in 1987 and today they have more than 4 million trees. The Visitor Center and Museum had a lot to offer, including unlimited self-serve coffee samples.


Kauai Coffee Company

While we savored amazing coffee, we watched a video about the coffee production process and viewed the historical exhibits.



Admittedly, we were there for the coffee but this visitor was mainly interested in the spilled sugar. The gold dust day gecko is not native to Hawaii but was introduced in the 1970s. Because they help keep insect populations in check, they are usually welcome guests.


Gold dust day gecko

The people at Kauai Coffee Company definitely have a sense of humor. This was the first of a number of signs that caused me to chuckle.


With coffee in hand, we wandered out to the self-guided walking tour. It was a paved trail with lots of explanatory signage along the way about growing, harvesting, and processing coffee.


Signs like this explain coffee growing and processing


Jim along the trail



Our friend, Rick, a true coffee lover, in front of coffee trees

The signs contained interesting coffee facts that I didn’t know previously. For example, did you know that longer roasting reduces the caffeine in coffee? Consequently, a medium roast has more caffeine than a dark roast. There are usually two coffee beans inside the coffee cherry but when just one forms, it’s called a peaberry. The peaberry roasts more evenly and produces a superior cup of coffee which we confirmed in our taste tests. And each coffee tree produces just one pound of roasted coffee per harvest.


More humor


Coffee cherries


Plumeria growing at the coffee estate because this is Hawaii, after all

This was a pleasant stop with lots of interesting information. We purchased some coffee to take home, returned our rental car, and headed back to the ship in time for dinner.

Based on events from November 2015.

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Visiting the Garden Isle of Kauai

Kauai, the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, is nicknamed the garden island with good reason. Every rainy, verdant, undeveloped, dramatic landscape looks like an untamed garden.  Due to its appeal, over 60 movies have been filmed here, including the Jurassic Park series, Jurassic World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar, and The Descendants, just to name a few.

The Pride of America docked at Nawiliwili where we rented a car. For just $50 a day, we had the freedom to explore wherever we liked on the island. Of the many choices to see and do, the top of our list was the Napali coast followed by Waimea Canyon. You can only see the Napali coast by boat or air and, fortunately for us, the Pride of America would cruise along the coast the following day. We chose to drive to Waimea Canyon, once dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific by Mark Twain.

The drive was just 31 miles but it was up a curvy 2 lane road with amazing scenery so we took our time and stopped along the way. At first, it seemed odd that the landscape appeared somewhat arid with red soil and shades of yellow and brown vegetation interspersed with patches of lush, verdant plant life. Then I remembered this was the leeward (drier) side of the island.


The drive to Waimea Canyon


View on the road to Waimea Canyon


View of the Pacific



Our friends and travel companions, Rick and Lori



Red Dirt Waterfall



Laura and Jim at the entrance to Waimea Canyon



Waimea Canyon


Waimea Canyon

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Waimea Canyon

Waipoo Falls rising 800 feet above the canyon floor amazed and inspired us.


Waipoo Falls in Waimea Canyon


Overlook at Waimea Canyon


Waipoo Falls


Waipoo Falls

In the parking lot at Waimea Canyon Lookout, vendors sold exotic tropical fruits and other products. We tried the dragon fruit which the sign told us tastes like pear plus kiwi. Yum!


Vendors at Waimea Canyon Lookout


Tropical fruits for sale

I wish I had tried the manapua which is a pork pastry originally introduced to Hawaii by Chinese immigrants. I noticed there was also a sweet variety with cream custard, probably to appeal to today’s sugar addicted consumer.


The vendor where we bought our fruit

We were intrigued by the chickens we saw wandering freely all over the island including this parking lot. The protected feral chickens supposedly have no natural enemies on Kauai so they flourish in larger numbers here than on other islands. My research, however, led me to this article from the Hawaii Invasive Species Council. The mongoose was introduced in 1883 on other islands to control the rat population in the sugar cane fields. An unintended consequence occurred because the mongoose has no natural predators on the islands and it also reduced the population of island birds including feral chickens. The mongoose was never introduced on Kauai but a number of sightings and one capture have occurred. If indeed, the mongoose has gained a foothold, Kauai will need to develop a management plan.  (First Live Mongoose Captured on Kauai, May 2012)


Mama and her brood


Colorful rooster

Come back to read more about our visit to Kauai. Spoiler alert: more chickens, a fort, and good coffee are coming up.

Based on events in November 2015.



Press Release. (2012, May 23). First Live Mongoose Captured on Kauai, May 2012. Retrieved from

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Unscripted on the Big Island

After a busy week exploring Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island, we were ready for an unscripted beach day. And, because it rained most of the previous day on the windward side of the island, we looked forward to dry weather on the “Kona side” (leeward) at Kailua-Kona. Cruise ships anchor offshore at this port, so our first order of business was taking a tender from our ship to the pier.


Tender to the Kona pier


View of the Pride of America from our tender


Beach ready

After the requisite photo on the pier, we were ready to find a beach. Fortunately, historic downtown Kailua is adjacent to the pier so we didn’t have to look far. We stopped at Tourist Information and learned the Kona Trolley would take us south to the beaches for just $2 per ride.


Roadside view from the Kona Trolley


Trolley View

We got off the trolley at Kahalu’u Beach where Jim was first into the water. When he spied a large sea turtle swimming next to him, he was intent on avoiding contact after seeing the sign announcing a $35,000 fine for touching these protected creatures. An underwater camera sure would have been handy to capture the experience, however.


Kahalu’u Beach


Jim swimming with the sea turtles

While the beach was lovely, there was too much coral in the water which makes for good snorkeling but awkward wading, so we packed up and got back on the trolley to try another beach. Magic Sands Beach was perfect.


Magic Sands Beach


Magic Sands Beach


Magic Sands Beach


Yours truly in the water at Magic Sands Beach

The official name is La’aloa Beach, but locals nicknamed it Magic Sands because the sand washes away in the winter only to return each summer when the currents change. Fortunately for us, there was plenty of sand during our visit in November.

A sweet little dog wandered about the beach visiting various groups of sunbathers and eventually he joined us, too. We, of course, assumed he was a stray but when he turned up his nose at the granola bar we offered, we knew his owner was nearby. Sure enough, as we left, we saw him jump into a car with a local.


Lori and I made friends with this sweet dog

When we’d had enough beach time, we took the trolley back to town for a little exploration. We’d been advised to have a shave ice with azuki beans and finally located a place that sold them. Azuki (or adzuki) beans are red beans that are sweetened and used in Asian confections. Since the tradition of Hawaiian shave ice was first introduced by Japanese immigrants, it makes sense that they would use azuki beans. They were surprisingly tasty in the shave ice.


Shave Ice offerings


Ordering our shave ice


shave ice with azuki beans

At the end of a relaxing unscripted day in Kailua-Kona, we were ready to return to the Pride of America to set sail that evening for the island of Kauai. And if you’re wondering why we didn’t visit a coffee plantation, we did –on Kauai, so please come back and check it out.


Home sweet Pride of America


Based on events from November 2015.




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