Friday, March 29, 2013
Over spring break (a few weeks ago) my Mom and I took our annual vacation.  This year we found a great deal and headed to Oahu....one of my favorite spots on planet earth.  Minus their lack of craft stores, it's paradise.  I have been years before, but it was in the summer, and I've always wanted to head to Oahu in the winter to see 'the waves and the whales.'  This trip provided an abundance of both.  
I've been blessed to have had the opportunity to see quite a few places in this world I call home.  So many incredible buildings that man created, and though I am fully aware that God is the ultimate creator of man who built these places, there is something really pure about Hawaii-it's beauty is all a testament to God.  Nobody else can take credit for this incredible masterpiece.  
I've touched down for a day on two on the other Hawaiian Islands, and my hope is to someday visit those islands again and actually rest my head on a pillow for a night or three, but Oahu has so many adventures still waiting for me, I can't help but go back again...and again.  
It's definitely the 'busiest' of the islands-it's a stopping spot for many Japanese and Australian tourist coming to the closest American location for great shopping-and Waikiki caters to that, but despite the crowds, it doesn't deter from this incredible beach overlooking Diamond Head.  This just may be one of my favorite views on planet earth.  
 Look back towards the beach, many hotels line up along the sands, and I love that there are some walls built to allow for swimming without fighting the currents (or in my case, floating).
We spent several days just exploring Waikiki again, but we also spent three days driving to other spots on the island.  If you visit Oahu and think it is summed up by Waikiki, that is so far from the truth-there are many quite, beautiful spots all over the coast, and I think anyone who is concerned with the business of Honolulu and Waikiki perhaps didn't get to make this journey North.  After stopping at some of my favorite coves and beaches, we finally made it to Pipeline.  I've seen it before in the summer with small waves, but this round of site seeing didn't fail to impress.  Check out how much bigger the waves are than the surfer.  
 The waves curl over and great a 'pipe' that the surfers surf through.  We happened by during a jr pro surfing contest, so we got to see some really great rides....and one pretty impressive wipe out with lifeguard via jet ski waiting in the wings.  The waves really do thunder in, suck the tide out 20 feed before rushing in again to surprise those sitting on the shore an additional 30 feet.  I saw quite a few watchers scrambling for new spots up the drastically slopping shores.  The professional photographers were set up with their long lenses, and after an hour of camera envy we headed on up to Haleiwa for lunch and snowcones-truly spectacularly delicious-if you go-get one with ice cream at the bottom.
We also stumbled upon a beach with sea turtles sunning.  These are commonly seen on Turtle Beach (not to be confused with Turtle Bay).  Two were on shore, and a person (not a lifeguard, not sure his exact role) stood with a red rope that couldn't be crossed.  The turtles are protected and you can't knowingly go within a certain number of feet (not a problem for me).  These guys rested on the shore, while others surfed the waves.
 We also swung by Dole plantation-this pineapple is the size of my thumb-I wanted to name it and take it home.....but it warred with the desire to not be arrested, so I left in there....for now.
We also visited Pearl Harbor.  I went 13 years ago, but it was just as moving the second time.  My grandfather served in the Navy during WW2.  He was too young to sign up when Pearl Harbor was initially attacked, but it didn't stop him from trying.  As soon as he was able to get on the list, he enlisted and served in Japan to help with the clean up after the atomic bomb.  He had many stories to share about the kindness of those he encountered in Japan, learned the language, and loved the people he met serving in Japan.  
The memorial is built over the Arizona, you can get (free) tickets in advance of the visit (and should b/c by the time we got there at 7 they were giving away walk up tickets for 11:45 and out by 10:00).  A boat goes over and you get to spend 15 minutes on the memorial before heading back.  
We got to see a number of really beautiful sunsets, but one morning we drove to the Westside early enough to catch a sunrise on this beach covered with lava rocks.  Watching the sun hatch above the horizon and bring it's crayon box of colors with it was worth the early morning wake up (not so early on Texas time).  
We only rented a car for a few days (Waikiki and Honolulu are not fun to drive through-too much stop and go traffic, but we did rent one for a few days while we headed to the West and North coast).  There are city buses that also go all over the island for a steal, but we decided to use our car to drive to Hanauma Bay before the first bus arrives.  This is a popular snorkeling spot.  It's an old volcano whose end gave away to the sea long ago.  (I'm pretty sure Elvis filmed one of this movies in this spot).  Whales were swimming at the opening o tfhe bay, but all the darker spots are actually coral that snorkelers and scuba divers explore.  
I'm not a ginormous fan of swimming with large fish-I generally live in denial when I'm out in the ocean, but in this case-I invented 'florkeling'....I use the snorkel gear by laying on a float.  One positive-you can go over some pretty shallow coral you aren't supposed to step on it, and considering the residents that call the coral home-I wouldn't want to).  There are eels, and octopus, turtles etc, but what I saw were a large variety of urchins, living coral, and a plethora of strange looking fish.  I took an underwater camera and florkeled until I ran out of film and then I high tailed it out of there before any of those huge fish got friendly.  
Another stop along the way-we took a whale watching cruise.  You could see whales breaching all along the shore, but I wanted to get a little closer (incidentally, whales terrify me-so it's like-you ride roller coasters for the 'stomach drop' emotion).  When we were headed out we ran into a large pod of dolphins.  There were at least a hundred of these spinner dolphins.  They are smaller than the 'Texas' dolphin, and it was like running into the middle of an animal planet filming as they traveled in their bobbing herd, and then they started putting on a show as they spun out of the water.  
...it would have been a fabulous way to spend the afternoon, but a whale showed up on the other side of the boat and we all got a little distracted.  Check out the size of the head of this whale compared to the boat in the distance!  
We were able to catch a lot of diving and whales spouting.  The mom's and their calves were all over, and I learned on this go round, there were usually a third whale called an 'escort' whale traveling with the new family (either a male or larger female whale).  The boat we were on was large....I was glad I wasn't on that little boat...
One other thing we tried this time was Tea on the Veranda overlooking Waikiki (I could have literally reached out and touched the sand from my table).  This is one of the older hotels (it's been there since 1901) and it was worth the price (and the desserts were pretty spectacular as well).  Ironically, I'm not a tea fan, but I love going to 'tea'....the scones and desserts make up for the untouched drink I usually leave after my first sip, just so I can say I tried it.  
I'm taking a ton of memories to get me through these last months of school....lots of great meals, great beaches, and random hula shows.  
If there is one place on earth I'd say you have to visit at least once.  If they had a convenient line of craft stores to feed my crafting needs (and maybe a few folks I'd miss)-I'd say you could visit me there because I'd move in a heart beat.
For an obnoxious number of photos from the whole trip, my facebook album is housed here.  

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