This page lists my adventures in Hawaii (December 18, 1996 to December 27, 1996).

Table of Contents

December 18, Wednesday: Day 0: San Francisco to Kapaa. STATE #49!!!
December 19, Thursday: "The First Real Day": Waimea Canyon
December 20, Friday: Haleakala National Park
December 21, Saturday: Helicopter ride, Iao Valley, Kaanapali Beach, Luau
December 22, Sunday: Ambarish at Makena; me on Hana Highway
December 23, Monday: Grrrrrr!!!
December 24, Tuesday: Submarine ride; first beatiful golden "Hawaiian" sunset
December 25, Wednesday: Ka Lae, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
December 26, Thursday: Beach day; bad news, trip cancelled.
December 27, Friday: The last day. Back to San Francisco

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December 18 = Wednesday

This trip started quite normally and as planned... unfortunately, it would not end that way...

My cousin Ambarish and I left San Francisco airport at 1:00 in the afternoon, and landed at Honolulu at 4:11 PM Hawaiian time. We then got on a connecting flight to the island of Kauai, rented a car, and checked in at our motel.

We wanted to do something -- ANYTHING -- on our first night in Hawaii. We walked around the hotel area, stopping by at a local pizzeria to eat "Hawaiian Pizza" and talk to some locals about sightseeing in Kauai. We learned very quickly that these particular locals did not think too highly of their island! "Welcome to Kauai. It's terrible -- go to the other islands!".

Well, that was enough of that! We got our pizza "to go" and ate it in the motel room. Then around 10:00 at night, I suggested we go for a drive... I knew we wouldn't be able to see anything at night anyway, but this was Hawaii, and I couldn't wait to explore.

We drove North to the Na Pali Coast. (Of course, it did not really matter, since we did not see anything anyway that late at night). Anyway, back to the hotel by about midnight, ready for the first "real" day tomorrow...

December 19 = Thursday

"The First Real Day"

After checking out of the motel, we decided NOT to go to Na Pali Coast again... instead, we drove towards Waimea Canyon State Park in the center of the island. On the way, we stopped by at Opaekaa Falls and drove through Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve.

Drove in river.
Made a U-Turn.
Drove in river again.

Our next stop was a place called "Spouting Horn" in the Southern portion of Kauai. It had started to rain a little, but we were not about to let a little shower spoil our trip... yet.

Spouting Horn was nice... very nice. I gave it based on a 0-5 star scale, which was the same rating system I had used on my second cross-country trip. There were tall waves violently hitting cooled black lava rock. One of these rocks had a hole in it, and the ocean water would go through that hole and make a large splash.

Well... what would a Hawaii trip be withoug a stop at the Beach? So that was our next stop. After driving around near Spouting Horn for "the perfect beach", we finally got take-out lunch sandwiches at an Italian restaurant and ate them at Poipu Beach nearby. This was not "the perfect beach", but it was close enough, and we were both hungry!

Our next and final stop on this island was Waimea Canyon. It had started to rain harder now (a sign of things to come), but we still enjoyed Waimea very much. In fact, Ambarish thinks it's the most beatiful attraction in all the islands. I disagree... I gave it a rating.

Waimea Canyon (nicknamed "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific") is exactly that... a canyon. It is very colorful... red rock and green trees (and if it is raining, add white clouds to the red and green). It was spectacular... and so the rating. After a while, however, the rain got so bad, that the only "scenery" we could see was white clouds. We both agreed it was time to turn back and return to Lihue airport for our flight to Maui that evening.

"So long, Kauai. Hello, Maui."

After landing at the airport at Kahului, Maui, we rented our car and then got lost in the city of Kahului trying to find our way out of the city.

Then, we got lost again in the town of Kihei, where we were supposed to check in to our hotel.

We finally arrived at the hotel at 9:00 at night -- only to find out that the front desk closes at 6:30 PM!!! We called the manager's room number from a phone outside and got our room key from him.

We were going to stay in Maui for five days, and our hotel room had a full kitchen, with a refrigerator, microvawe, toaster, oven, and most important of all... dishes and utensils. Well, might as well take advantage of all this!!! We went to a grocery store nearby and bought bread, mayonnaise, cereal, orange juice, etc... things we could eat for breakfast and dinner each night in Maui.

Again, for the second night in Hawaii, we walked to the beaches nearby.

Nothing interesting.

Walked back to the hotel.

December 20 = Friday

After checking in, we left the motel and drove to Haleakala National Park.

Haleakala is a dormant volcano on Maui, 10,023 feet tall. The drive from Kihue took almost two hours, but the views were spectacular. Also, unlike yesterday, it did not rain today.

We parked at the summit of the mountain and went on some hiking trails there. There were excellent views of Mount Mauna Kea and Mount Mauna Loa on the big island of Hawaii, portions of the island of Lanai, and also the beautiful ocean with all its colorful coral reefs. On our last hiking trail, we walked down about half-way to the bottom of the crater. All in all, this park was far too good for me to give it any rating under 6 stars in my rating system.

Rating for Haleakala National Park = (out of 5).

Ambarish started driving back to Kihei, and we stopped at Kahului for a much-needed lunch at a Burger King. This was at around 5:00 PM, and we had not eaten anything substanstial the whole day! After lunch, we stopped by at a K-Mart to buy some supplies, and on the way out, stopped at a "Discount Activities" desk. There, we made a reservation to see a Luau the following Saturday.

A stop at the beach would be the perfect end to this beautiful day. The only problem was we could not find the beach anywhere!!! By the time we did find it, it was almost dark, so went back to the hotel!

December 21 = Saturday

We left the motel early in the morning and drove to Lahaina for a free breakfast. "Activities Information Center" of Maui offers free full breakfasts to all tourists within 48 hours of arriving in Maui. While we were eating our (surprisingly, very nice) breakfast, we were hearing a sales pitch about Maui island attractions. After breakfast, we finally gave in and reserved a submarine ride and a whale-watching expedition -- both of which we wanted to do anyway. Then it was time to go to the airport.

An attraction that was very high (no pun intended) on our list was a helicopter ride over West Maui and Molokai. We had reserved a 10:30 AM tour, and arrived at Kahului airport at 10:00 AM (half hour drive from Lahaina).

This was Ambarish's first helicopter ride, and my second. Compared to my first flight (on Trip #1 over Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah), this was a lot better. For one thing, it was a lot quieter. The seat was also much more comfortable! And of course, this ride was over HAWAII!

We started out with a ride through West Maui's spectacular valleys and rainforests. Saw the "Wall of Tears" -- a cliff which gets so much rainfall that water literally comes out of the rocks, creating several thin but tall waterfalls. After several waterfalls, valleys, and rainforests, we crossed the channel over to the island of Molokai.

We were over Molokai for about 45 minutes, and in just that short a time, I decided that this is one of the most beatiful islands of all the islands. "Dramatic" would be best word to describe it. There are cliffs jutting up 3,000 feet from the ocean... the tallest seaside cliffs in the world. Once you see something like that, the images stay in your mind forever!!! I had never seen cliffs like those anywhere! Incredible!

After some more waterfalls in Molokai, we started flying back towards Maui. The ride was starting to get a little bumpy now, and I was starting to feel just a tad uncomfortable!

But the view of the colorful ocean below was fantastic! Suddenly, our pilot saw something interesting in the ocean... at first one, then two, then THREE humpback whales came into view! We dived down (and I felt it -- bad!). We circled the whales going in one direction, then turned around and circled the whales again in the other direction, so everyone in the helicopter could get some good photographs. Well, the opportunity to take photographs of humpback whales in the wild was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. But all that circling around and going up and down made me a little MORE than just a tad uncomfortable!

As we got closer to Maui, I took out a paper bag from the back of the pilot's seat ... just in case!

Well, I'll skip the next part, but I think you can figure it out!

We flew by Kaanapali Beach and Iao Valley on the way back to the airport, and finally landed back on the ground.

Except for the last ten minutes, the helicopter ride was fantastic. The whale sighting made it even better, and so a 6-star rating:

Rating for West Maui/Molokai tour, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters = .

After leaving Kahului, we drove to Iao Valley and Iao Needle near the town of Wailuku, and I single-handedly finished all our potato chips and other snacks -- I was really hungry, since this morning's breakfast was no longer in my stomach!

Well, I did not find anything special about the Iao Needle. The valley, however, was very nice. There was a small stream nearby, and we went hiking along it, taking pictures.

Rating for Iao Valley =

Our next stop was Lahaina. We had to go to a luau at the Marriott Hotel there at 4:30 PM, and it was now about 2:00 PM. That gave us a comfortable 2 hours at the beaches in the Lahaina area.

Before that, however, I wanted to go for a drive along West Maui's spectacular coast line. The drive did not take very long, and after a few stops for photographs, we went to the resort area and to Kaanapali Beach at the Hyatt Regency. Ambarish went swimming, while I relaxed on a beach-chair.

Next, it was on to the luau!!!

The luau, just like everything else in Hawaii, was fantastic!!! This particular one was a Polynesian luau (as opposed to a Hawaiian luau). It started with a comedy act, followed by the "unveiling of the pig", and then the show and dinner.

The comedy act: Funny.
The unveiling of the pig: Interesting. Never seen anything like it. It is a big ceremony!
The show: Entertaining.
The dinner: Delicious (well, except for the poi).

For those of you who have never eaten poi... don't! It's very easy to recognize. It is a purple-ish, gooey, "blob" of "stuff". Can't miss it! No other food item looks quite the same! Also, no other food item tastes quite the same. The taste of poi, you ask? Hmm... imagine going out on a muddy field on a rainy day, picking up a lot of mud, adding purple food color, and eating it. Yech!

The rest of the dinner, however, was excellent.

The show consisted of various Polynesian dances, hula dances, etc etc. Very nice indeed.

There was also an open bar... yep -- free unlimited drinks! That clinched a 5-star rating!!!

Rating for the Marriott luau = .

Ambarish drove back to the hotel.

December 22 = Sunday

Today was a little "unconventional".

Ambarish and I left the motel around 10:00 in the morning, intending to go to the town of Hana, on the Eastern end of the island. From our hotel in Kihei, Hana is a good 4-hour drive on a narrow, winding, mountain road.

Almost immediately after leaving the hotel, Ambarish said something that to me, was quite shocking.

"Ishaan, I dont think I want to go to Hana. Why dont you drop me off at a beach in Makena [8 miles South], and I'll spend all day there. Then you can pick me back up in the evening."

I couldn't believe my ears!!! I would be driving 4 hours to Hana, spend some time there, and then drive 4 hours back to Kihei. It would certainly be dark by then. Ambarish wanted to spend the day at beaches, then have me pick him up at a mall at 11:00 at night!!!

After a while, I realized his motivation... coming from Ohio, the beach was special to him. For me, a beach is a beach is a beach is a beach! I've been to several, and beaches meant nothing!

Well, if he wanted to spend yet another day at the beach, so be it. I dropped him off, and went on my way to Hana...

"The Road" was fantastic... there were several sharp hairpin turns. In fact, tourguides claim that there are more than 600 turns on the 52-mile stretch of the road from Kahului to Hana! Most of these turns were U-turns on one-lane bridges! On several occasions, I had to back up 100-200 feet to let cars coming from the other direction pass.

There are no services on the road... I was eating potato chips and drinking Coke all the way to Hana!

The scenery, as advertised, was fantastic! Ambarish was really missing a lot! There are several waterfalls, mountain views, ocean views... just spectacular!

It was raining very heavily by the time I got to Hana -- that was expected. I went further South along the coast to the Southern portion (Kipahulu District) of Haleakala National Park.

Black sand beaches, tall waves smashing into cooled black lava, the so-called "Seven Sacred Pools of Maui", and more waterfalls! Even the rain had stopped. The whole place just took my breath away!!!

On the way back to Kihei (back on the same Hana Highway again), I saw a peacock just "out for a leisurely stroll"!!!

It was raining off-and-on all the way back to Kihei. Still, I started doing something that I probably should not have done...

The speed limit on Hana Highway is 10-15 Miles Per Hour. I averaged 40-45 Miles Per Hour all the way down, and was back in Kihei in only one and half hours! Now I'll be the first to admit that this was pretty stupid, but I didn't care... I enjoyed every second of it!!!

In Kihei, I stopped at a Jack-in-the-Box and picked up my dinner-to-go, then came back to the hotel to see if Ambarish was there. This was at about 8:00 PM.

As it turned out, Ambarish had walked about 8-10 miles from Makena to Kihei after spending all day swimming in the beaches along the way! So there was no reason for me to go to Makena to pick him up.

December 23 = Monday

It was NOT supposed to rain today!!! Grrr!

December 24 = Tuesday

It was not supposed to rain today either, but unlike yesterday, we did do something today...

We had a flight out of Kahului airport to the big island at 8:20 AM. Kahului airport was a half-hour drive from our hotel in Kihei.

The front desk at our hotel does not open until 8:30 AM.

Frustratrated at not receiving any service at the hotel, we finally left Kihei, without formally checking out of the hotel.

NOTE for all future trips to Maui: NEVER STAY IN "Kihei Bay Vista Hotel" AGAIN!!!

It was still raining hard when the plane landed at Hilo airport on the big island of Hawaii. After a long line at the Alamo Car Rental desk, I finally walked up to the counter, only to find out that they did not have our reservation on their computer!!!

Spent 20 minutes arguing and yelling.

Got a car.

Our first stop was just outside the town of Hilo at Akaka Falls State Park.

Akaka Falls was very nice, and well worth the stop. . It is 420 feet tall, and quite impressive. There is also another waterfall nearby, accessed by an easy hike.

We drove across the island from Hilo to Kona (2 1/2 hours drive). It was raining all the way down there. After checking in to our hotel in Kona, I called Atlantis Submarine Company and asked if our reservation for the next ride (supposed to depart in 5 minutes) was still on.

I hung up the phone, and we rushed to the Atlantis Submarine main office. We got there just in time, and had to run to the dock to catch a boat which would take us to the submarine.

After a wet and bumpy ride on the ocean, we finally arrived at and boarded the sub. This was the first time either of us had taken a submarine ride. We dived 150 feet below the surface, seeing nothing but cooled lava that had flowed into the ocean. It was quite dissapointing, as I was hoping for colorful coral reefs. We did see a sting ray, which was a real treat. But that was about it.

Rating for Atlantis Submarine at Kona, Big Island = .

Atlantis also operates from Lahaina, Maui, and we had a reservation there, but that trip was cancelled because of bad weather. The ocean near Maui has a lot of coral reefs, and the submarine ride THERE would definitely have been a lot better!

There was not much else to do in this town, so we (independently) roamed around the nearby streets and came back to the hotel. Also saw our first real "Hawaiian" sunset... it was beatiful! There was also a rainbow along with the sunset, and that made it even better!!!

December 25 = Wednesday

Kalikimaka Day. A Bright, Hawaiian, Christmas day.

After checking out of the hotel, we drove South from Kona to Ka Lae. At least, what we think might have been Ka Lae. Ka Lae is the Southernmost point in the country, and I wanted to go here, since on my second trip, I had also been to the Southernmost point in the Continental United States at Key West, Florida and the exact geographical center of the nation near Belle Fourche, South Dakota. So the southernmost point in the country would be an appropriate place to go to!!!

Well, getting there was a little confusing. As we were driving down, the road suddenly branched off into many directions, without any signs telling us which we should go. So, I may or may not have gone to the Southernmost point in the country!

Rating for Ka Lae (no surprise) =

We then proceeded towards Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is near the Southeastern portion of the island.

Click here to see a map of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

We arrived at the park a little late (4:00 PM), so we did not get to see the whole park. After a quick stop at the visitor center, we started to drive along "Crater Rim Road" which circles the Kilauea Caldera.

We went on a couple of hiking trails, which were not as impressive as the ones at Haleakala National Park. There were views of Kilauea's craters, but they were not as impressive as Mount Haleakala's crater. At sunset time, we followed "Chain of Craters Road" down to the oceanside. Along the way, the scenery on this road was magnificient! Along the way, Ambarish also wanted us to go on a "pilgrimage" to see a "nene" bird, and that side trip was also quite scenic. And after a long drive, we finally did see those birds!

But the main attraction here was seeing the most recent (and active) lava flow from Kilauea. Unfortunately, the lava forced a road closure and all we could see from our vantage point was an orange dot off in the distance and steam rising up from the ocean. We could also see an orange glow in the other direction, and this was the "Puu Kaeia" vent. THIS was what we really wanted to see up close! This was the actual ongoing eruption, as we had seen so many times in photographs and and on television. But, since we were so far away, all we could see was an orange glow at the eruption site and an orange dot with steam at the oceanside.

By this time it was night, and it was time to go to our hotel in Hilo.

Rating for the portion of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that we saw = .

After a long and eventful day, we finally checked in at our hotel in Hilo at 10:00 PM.

This was our last day in Hawaii which ended "normally". The next day would be anything but normal, and completely unexpected.

December 26 = Thursday

First thing in the morning, we drove all the way back from Hilo to Kona (again... a 2 1/2 hour drive). It took us 3 hours, since we also stopped at a Wendy's restaurant for lunch in Kona.

Everything is very expensive in Hawaii. In California, I used to complain about the gasoline prices being very high... a whole dollar and thirty cents. But compared to Hawaii, that is absolutely, positively, nothing!!!. The average gas price in the Hawaiian islands is in the range of $1.80-$2.10. (That's per gallon, not per barrel!) Anyway, on this day, I broke my old record of the most amount of money that I had ever spent to fill up a car's gas tank. On Thursday, December 26, 1996, I actually spent $25.50 for a full tank of gas (about 13 gallons).

We drove a hour North of Kona to the resort area near the town of Waikui. We went to Mauna Kea Resort and to the public beach there for a whole day at the beach.

We wanted to go snorkeling at this beach, but to my dissapointment, there were no snorkel rental shops in the resort. So instead, Ambarish went swimming in the ocean, while I stayed on the beach. We were there for a little over an hour, then decided to go the next beach.

At a neighboring beach, there was a snorkel rental shop, but it was closed by time we got there. Besides, the water was too cold here anyway!

We stayed at this beach until after sunset... (and a very beautiful sunset at that!)

As events would turn out, this would be the last sunset in Hawaii on our trip...

Ambarish drove back to the hotel in Hilo.

When we got back to the hotel, the "message" light on our phone was blinking. This was a little strange, since we were not expecting any calls from anyone! All our calls to our family were already made before this day!

The message was to call our uncle Suresh in Fountain Valley, California.

When I called, my dad (whom I was expecting to be half-way to India by now), told me that his father (my grandfather) had passed away that afternoon, and the funeral was scheduled for that Saturday, December 28.

Our Hawaii trip had suddenly come to a halt. My dad had said NOT to change our plans and continue with our trip. But after talking to Ambarish about it, we both decided to cancel the rest of the trip and take the first flight back to California. The part that we would be cancelling was the remaining two days on the big island and three days on the island of Oahu.

I cancelled all our hotel/car reservations for the next five days, and changed our airline tickets' dates.

The first flight back to Orange County, California, was a 5:20 PM flight on Friday from Honolulu to San Francisco, and then a Saturday morning 7:30 AM flight from San Francisco to Orange County.

December 27 = Friday

Our flight to San Francisco was from Honolulu at 5:20 PM. We were in Hilo, and had to catch a plane to Honolulu at 1:15 PM.

So after grabbing a bite to eat and checking out of the hotel, we went to return the car at the airport. Before returning the car, we had to go fill up on gas. Ambarish spotted a gas station that was EXTREMELY cheap -- ONLY $1.69. This was a real bargain, so we filled up on gas there.

There were no problems returning the car, and the plane departed on time at 1:15.

At Honolulu, we had to go through an "Agricultural Inspection", which we were told would take two hours. It took less than twenty minutes to check in, do the inspection, and go to our gate. So we now had two hours to kill at the airport.

We put our carry-on baggage in a locker, and walked around the airport. Took a couple of photographs of the Aloha Tower, had a "Blue Hawaii" cocktail (for eight dollars!), and went to an Aerospace museum at the airport.

Rating for the Aerospace museum = .

The scheduled departure time was 5:20 PM.
The plane arrived from San Francisco at 5:30 PM
We boarded the plane at 6:10 PM
The plane left the gate at 6:24 PM
The wheels left the ground at 6:39 PM.

On the plane...

Horrible dinner.
Bumpy ride.
Miserable peanuts.
No scenery out the window at night.
Slept through the movie.

The plane landed at San Francisco airport at 12:42 AM Pacific Time, and arrived at the gate at 12:49 AM.

The Hawaii trip was over.

On the whole (with the exception of the last night), the trip was a success. Must do it again sometime!!!

(and next time, I'll rent a convertible at all the islands!!!)

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