Monday, August 6, 2012

8/2/12 - Waimea Canyon - the Grand Canyon of the Pacific

Absolutely the most stunning view. The colors are amazing, and change with the light. It's almost impossible to get a grasp of the scale until you see a helicopter fly through, looking like a tiny gnat. Make that a tiny baby gnat...

Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, is a large canyon, approximately ten miles (16 km) long and up to 3,000 feet (900 m) deep, located on the western side of Kauaʻi in the Hawaiian Islands of the United States. Waimea is Hawaiian for "reddish water", a reference to the erosion of the canyon's red soil. The canyon was formed by a deep incision of the Waimea River arising from the extreme rainfall on the island's central peak, Mount Waiʻaleʻale, among the wettest places on earth.
The earth is so red, it is what you imagine Mars would look like. The soil is packed hard, but crumbles away easily. The top layer is very pillish, yet powdery. Somewhat like powdered Ovaltine, and if you've ever made it, you know what I mean.

8/1/12 - Hyatt Resort Day

Today we just spent the day enjoying the resort and pools. The kids (all 3 of them) participated in the water slide contest. Austin came in 2nd for his age group, Mike was 3rd for his, and Emma didn't place : ( Austin and Mike got to pick any prize from the recreation desk, so Austin got an inflatable ring, and Mike wisely chose 15 spf.

Salt water lagoon and beach
Dinner was at Bubba's Burger Joint in the Kukui'ula Shopping Village - Bubba's burgers are made from Kauai grass fed beef, "Always Juicy, Never Greasy" and a place where they 'relish' your buns (as the picture over Austin's right shoulder atests). I had a burger with pineapple on it - and it was yum! Austin had a corn dog...Mike had fried fish, and it was overfried, Em was healthy and had a Caesar salad with chicken.

Dessert was a shave ice at Uncle's Shave Ice and Smoothies.
Here is a little tuorial on shave ice, not to be confused with shaved ice, Italian ice, or sno cones (and superior to all three, imo!).

Shave ice or Hawaiian shave ice is an ice-based dessert made by shaving a block of ice. While the product can resemble a snow cone, snow cones are made with crushed, rather than shaved, ice. Shaving produces a very fine ice that appears snow-like. This extremely fine texture causes syrups added to it to be absorbed by the ice rather than simply surrounding.[1][2] A properly made shave ice product rarely requires a straw, since the flavors are in the ice and not at the bottom of the cup. Although the traditional American flavors are common, shave ice in Hawai'i is often flavored with local ingredients such as guava, pineapple, coconut cream,passion fruit, li hing mui, lychee, kiwi fruit and mango. Hawaiian shave ice is traditionally served in a conical paper or plastic cup with multiple flavors and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and/or azuki bean paste at the bottom of the cup. Sweetened condensed milk drizzled over the top is sometimes called a "snow cap." This style of shave ice is the signature dessert of Haleiwa on the north shore of the island of Oahu.

Both Em and I decided to indulge, and we had trouble finishing them because they were so HUGE! Mine was leche, a Mexican flavor which is cinnamon with condensed milk. Em got chocolate and birthday cake flavors, but wasn't all too happy with that choice. I decided to try the scoop of vanilla ice cream on the bottom and wasn't sure how that would work out, but it was actually a nice addition. Although I enjoyed the cinnamon flavor, the fruity flavors like lime, pineapple and guava are much better suited to the shave ice experience.

Friday, August 3, 2012

7/31 - Arriving in Kauai

Very behind on posts - having a great time and too tired at the end of the day, but if I don't keep up with it, I won't even remember what we did. Each day in paradise melting into the next!!

As me and the kids were waiting to collect our luggage after the flight, Mike was picking up the rental car. The kids have been asking if we are ever going to get the Mustang convertible, since that seems to be the rental car of choice in Hawaii. I told them we would never be able to fit all the luggage! Never say never to a Baxendell... where there is a will, there is a way, and so with 7 suitcases, this was our 20 minute ride from the airport to the hotel:

Upon arriving at the Hyatt resort in Poipu beach, we all got leid for the first time since being in Hawaii. It was a touching welcome, all jokes aside!

OMG! I thought the Hilton was amazing, this place is 10x more amazing! The pools and property are unbelievable - beautifully landscaped and maintained. Thankfully it is not as spread out as the Hilton was, with it's tram and boat ride to take you around the property. It's much more relaxed and sophisticated, and doesn't have the Disney World-ish feel that the Hilton had (thankfully!) This is the view out of our ground room terrace, which we can walk right out to the adult pool.

Random views of the property:

There are basically two areas for swimming, an upper area and a lower area, but you can get to the lower area by using the big water slide. The upper area has a lazy river with two small grotto water fall areas. All of the pools have their own little lagoons that you can nestle into. The lower pool is bigger, and called the 'action' pool because you can play basketball and volleyball. There is also a little hot tub island in the middle.
Aside from the maze of pools, the resort has their own salt water lagoon and sand beach. The resort fronts Shipwreck beach, which has amazing waves and views of a cliff that people are crazy enough to jump off of. We have yet to make our way up to it, but we will! I place my bets that Mike jumps off...
After ooogling over the property, we headed to the shops at Kukui'ula and had dinner at a tiny fish restaurant called Savage Shrimp. They started out as a shrimp truck, and opened up a tiny restaurant at the shopping village. When you are done eating, you are encouraged to sign the walls, which naturally the kids did. They don't sell alcohol, so you could go to the market within the shops any BYOB, which everyone did and thought was pretty cool. Our meal was amazing - they make all kinds of shrimp scampi. I had ono fish tacos with a fruit salsa that rivals Mike's homemade salsa - they were delish! Austin had Grasshopper shrimp, which he put tons of hot sauce on and then regretted it... Emma had fried shrimp, and Mike had... shrimp! We all left stuffed.
But that didn't stop us from having an amazing ice cream at Lappert's Ice Cream and Bakery - the Starbucks of ice cream and coffee in Hawaii. I had the Kaui Pie flavor - Kona coffee ice cream swirled with chocolate fudge, coconut flakes, macadamia nuts and vanilla cake crunch. To DIE for! The best coffee flavored ice cream I have ever had - to fakey or overpowering coffee flavor here! Austin has been dying to get back ever since he had a peanut butter sunday with brownie chunks.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

7/30 snorkeling at Molokini Crater

It took us an hour to get out to Molokini Crater. It's only 1 of three volcanic craters in the world submerged in water. The snorkeling was pretty good - saw some beautiful butterfly angel fish, parrot fish, lots of sea urchins, coral, and a bunch of friendly little black fish with a white stripe where the tail meets its body. It got to be pretty crowded out at the crater by the time we left. Most of the tour boats have their own 'area' to try and stay within, but as you get floating around, there is always going to be someone bumping into you.

From there they took us to what they called 'turtle ghetto', rather than the 'turtle city' that all the other boats take people to. Just as we arrived there was a sea turtle at the surface, making his way back down below. After swimming around for about 20 minutes, we finally saw one turtle snuggled up under the tire that held the buoy in place. Austin swam down and dropped the GoPro camera right next to the big guy to get some footage. The ride back to harbor took FOREVER, since we were working against the wind and waves the whole way. I just wanted to take a nap! Being on the water is so tiring.


After some rest and packing, it was beach time - we finally checked out the beach park right across the street from our condo.

It didn't look too promising from our point of view on the 4th floor (not much beach and rocky), but it turned out not to be a bad beach at all. It was very windy, which seems to be the general rule in Hawaii. The kids and Mike had fun using the boogie boards. Apparenty I missed the drama while I was still at the condo - Mike saved some guy who was drunk and falling off his surf board in the waves. Mike brought the guy into shore, and the surf board ended up on the rocks. The lifeguards drove down with their 4-wheelers and applied first aid, then saved his surf board. All in a day's work!

The kids wanted Hawaiian pizza, so we made our way down the street to find out if Hawaiian pizza is an American thing, or if there is an 'authentic' Hawaiian pizza. I don't think we went to the right place for any kind of 'real' Hawaiian pizza. They had it alright, with pineapple and ham, but you could tell they used canned pineapple chunks (with the taste of Maui gold pineapples, that should be a crime on this island!) Oh, and we had to send it back because it had a nice, juicy, black fly baked right into the cheese! Of course that didn't stop Mike and Austin from having a slice first!


Last sunset in Maui - on Big Mekena Beach. Mike and the kids did some boogie boarding - the waves were pretty big and the undertow was harsh. Emma got tossed under and decided she isn't going to boogie board ever again!


Monday, July 30, 2012

7/29 - Haleakala Summit Sunrise, Tedeschi Winery, a beef carcass and sunset at the beach

Today we had to be up at 3:45 am and on the road by 4:30 for our trek up Haleakala Crater to see the sunrise at 5:53 am.  The last 23 miles up Crater Road takes an hour...  The map looks like a seismograph.

We made it up to the summit a little late, but it didn't matter, because alas, the crater was covered in clouds.  We waited it out a little to see if the clouds would break, but this is the best it would do for us.  At least the crowds had cleared out by the time we left.

It was a balmy 48 degrees up there, but with the wind chill and very wet mist blowing, it was much colder.

A few miles outside of the park, we stopped for breakfast at Grandma's coffee shop.

A darling little place with just one old guy cooking in the back and young lady taking orders in the front.  Made me think that this would be a good job for Mike after we retire here.  It's as if they set up a little road side breakfast shop just for the joy of making food for people.

We split two breakfasts, and it was more than enough.  The breakfast plates are served with two big plops of sticky white rice.  The omelet I was sharing with Mike had Portuguese sausage in it, and it was awesome!  Mike said he's seen the sausage at Weggies, so I will definitely be looking for that when we get home.

Next stop, Tedeschi Winery at the Ulupalakua Ranch - the only winery on the island (no surprise there!)

They make a very good pineapple wine and champagne.  Now I know what you wine snobs are thinking, pineapple wine can only be too sweet and fruity, but I must admit I liked it, and especially the champagne.  They also have a raspberry framboise that is excellent, and at 22% alcohol, gets you where you're going faster.  They have grape wines too, and all grown on the ranch.  The ranch also raises buffalo and elk, and you can stay for a sammy if you time it right.

I have no idea what this flower is, but the color is amazing and like nothing I've ever seen before.

Continue the trip East along the Pi'ilani Highway, and eventually you get to many cool overlooks and exciting views of the rocky black lava coastline.  This trek is quite tricky with winding narrow roads, dips, and some one-lane bridges.  As the rain and fog came and went along with our visibility, we couldn't help but feel we were on an a Crown Vic, no less. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

7/28/12 - Discovering Maui

And now, a programming note: I've found that my blogging app, Blogsy, is very cumbersome, especially when placing pictures. For that reason I've decided to write about our hijinks while in transit to our next destination, post the words when I get within wireless, then go back on Mike's laptop to add the pictures. Check back every now and again for the pictures of the day!
Our condo is right across from Kamaole Beach Park III. The jibe here on Maui is much different than the Zen of the resort. I saw people in the park today as early as 6 am, some setting up bounce houses! Maybe there is a fair today...?
Update: Apparently the beach is the place to throw your big family parties. It is not unusual to see several bounce houses set up throughout the park. Someone was throwing their child's first birthday party, catered and complete with buffet tables and white chairs, and a bouncy house with a pool at the bottom. No need to rent a pavilion!
We are heading to West Maui today to check out the Iao Needle at the Iao Valley State Park, making our way back down and around the west side to Launiupoko State Wayside park for some snorkeling, making a stop in the antique city of Lahaina for a meal and shopping, and wrapping up the day at one of the world's most beautiful beaches, Kaanapali, where the cliff divers jump at sunset.

Stop 1: The Iao Needle is a towering 1,200 foot rock pinnacle (2,500 feet from the volcanic floor) that has survived the erosion that caused the valley many hundreds of years ago. The area is the site of a famous battle where King Kamechameha I defeated Maui's army in 1790 to unite the Hawaiian Islands under one rule.

The Iao stream runs through the valley gorge has many bubbling and tumbling water pools and flows that invite you a quick dip, if at least your toes.

The morning mist was rising off the mountain tops when we arrived, and it cleared for a bit before we got caught in a pretty good downpour. The good thing about Hawaiian rain is it only lasts for a few minutes, then clears up. Most of the time it's only a slight to heavy mist, but this was an all out real NY rain for 5 minutes. I had gotten separated from the gang, so took refuge under a tree.

Stop 2: The kids couldn't wait to get to the beach, so we headed out to Papalua Wayside park. We quickly realized why so many setup so early on the beach - there was very little parking, and the space on the beach edge was taken up with tents (tent camping is allowed with a permit on certain beaches).  

The waves here weren't going to work for body boarding, so we moved on and ended up Launiupoko State Wayside park instead.

This is a first birthday party...
The park was very busy with people having their family picnics, complete with bouncy houses, but the beach area was relatively clear, and perfect for body boarding and surfing. The kids and Mike were able to ride a wave or two in pretty far.

Stop 3: A few hours and pb&j sandwiches later, we made our way further north to the town of Lahaina. Lahaina is an old fishing and whaling town, which at one time was the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The main shopping and attraction area is located on Front Street, paralleling the ocean, and is a collection of art galleries, souvenir shops, restaurants, and jewelry stores (lots of diamonds... cruise ships port here).

You have to get shrimp at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co!

View of Lahaina harbor from our table
After a bit of shopping, we decided to have dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Austin has been wanting to try it. We had an excellent meal on the water, and left absolutely stuffed.

One of the largest Indian Banyan trees in the world

In the center of town is an enormous Banyan tree, planted in 1873 when it was only 8 feet tall.  It now stands over 60 feet tall, has 12 major trunks in addition to its main core, and stretches over 200 feet in area.  Quite impressive, and is one of the largest Indian Banyan trees in the world.  The area underneath hosts many community concerts, meetings, and markets.

Walking along the harbor after dinner, we came upon a fishing boat that had caught a 513 pound marlin.  WARNING:  This video is not for the faint of heart, but I was simultaneously repulsed and fascinated, do naturally I had to share...

Dusk on Kaanapali Beach
Stop 4: All of the beaches in Hawaii are open to the public and require public access. The problem, however, is that no one has to provide you with parking to get to the beach. In the case of Kaanapali, there is no "beach park" to speak of. Instead, many posh hotels and resorts face the beach and take up any chance of easy access, since their parking is all "resort only".

The only alternative, which works but you have to either know this, or spend loads of time figuring it out like we did, is to visit the Whaler's Village shopping complex which sits in the middle of these resorts and caters to the resort crowd. Once you park in the parking garage of the shopping village and make at least a $40.00 purchase, all you have to do is show your receipt to the ramp attendant and they will validate your parking so that you don't have to pay the $3.00/half hour, or $30.00/day parking fee.

The views on this beach are spectacular, the white sand is like velvet, and the beach stretches for 4 miles of unadulterated pleasure walking. At the Black Rock, which resides at the northern most end of the beach, there is supposed to be a torch lighting and cliff diving ceremony to commemorate the closing of another day. Either they don't do it anymore, or it isn't as much of a ceremony as the brochures make it out to be, since we didn't see either. No worries, walking the beach with the kids at sunset was pretty awesome too!

Friday, July 27, 2012

7/27/12 - Dolphin Adventure and flight to Maui

Emma has always wanted to swim with the dolphins, and they have a program at the resort where you can do that. When she saw the prices she said she didn't want to do it, but Mike went ahead and secretly booked it for the kids.

Our flight to Maui was at 1, so we spent the rest of the morning packing and getting to the airport.

After a very quick and painless flight from the Big Island, we landed in Maui around 3 pm. First stop, Walmart for food and supplies, since we can cook our own meals now. PB&J, eggs, milk ($3.88 for a half-gallon), Mai Tai mix (hee hee!), turkey lunch meat, bread, pop, and various other sundries for a screaming total of $78.00 and no meat to speak of. It's like shopping at Wegman's at home! And the seedless watermelons are $10.44 here too, only not quite as big as on Hawaii island.

So we go to check out, and all they have are the blue Walmart bags that you buy - no plastic bags on the island. When you leave the store the guy at the door has to check your receipt to make sure you paid for everything, cuz most people don't spring for the .50 cheapo cloth bags (no bottom support either) and just walk out with the items loose in their cart. Oh yeah, and another observation: there are people of Walmart in Hawaii too.

Made it to our condo, then off to dinner at a local restaurant, the Pupu Lounge. Excellent ceviche! I had a satay plate of steak, chicken, shrimp and scallops, served with a ginger soy sauce and a hot sweet fruit sauce. Austin had the coconut shrimp and perfectly fried, light and cripsy pork spring rolls. Mike had a blackened and seared ahi tuna, and Emma had a Caesar salad with chicken. It was all delish, and we were stuffed!

Across the street from the restaurant is another of the Kamaole parks, and it looked like people were ice skating from where we were... well of course they weren't - it was the outdoor roller rink which opens on Fri, Sat, and Wed nights. Right next to that is a 'sick' skateboard park where we watched some kids show off for a while. We'll have to check it out in the daylight hours.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday, 7/26 - Zip Line, Akaka Falls, Hilo, Observatory

Up and out by 7 am for the hour and half ride to the zip line. First a stop at the ABC for our .99 coffees, and $1.99 breakfast pastries! Our breakfast - $13.00. Winner! Bet the lady at the resort wish she knew about ABC!

 The zip line adventure was a lot of fun. Emma was a bit nervous at first, but did very well. We zipped 7 times total, traversing the river with a great view from above. The longest zip was 1,100 feet, and the last zip was a dual race to the end. Austin beat Mike, and I beat Emma!

Akaka Falls is a beautiful waterfall that plunges 442 feet into an eroded gorge. The .4 mile loop trail takes you through some incredible rain forest with banyan trees, orchids, hanging flowers, palms... just amazing, thick foliage. A stop on the loop trail is a view of the Kahuna falls - not as impressive because of the extreme angle and foliage blocking the view, but pretty none the less.

Emma & Austin at Rainbow Falls
Another stop was at Rainbow Falls.  Not running as heavily as seen in other pictures on the web.  It's called Rainbow Falls because of the resulting rainbows created by the mist.  No mist today = no rainbows.  However, we did have rain and mist throughout the day.  Go figure.

Austin creating his own Lava plate
They call them drive ins, but they are more like walk ins.
Killed some time in Hilo trying our hand at another plate meal. This joint, called Verna's and recommended by one of our zip line guides, served fries so he could substitute the rice for the fries to make a more authentic home-style garbage plate. He liked this mac salad and gravy better than the last place. We also discovered what POG is - it's pineapple, orange and guava juice combined. Emma now has a new favorite drink and is on the lookout for it everywhere we go. Otherwise, we weren't too impressed with Hilo. Seemed very depressed.

Last stop on our round trip was the Mauna Kea Observatory. There are currently 13 working telescopes, including the largest optical/infrared telescopes in the world. A summit tour of the observatories wasn't going to happen on this trip - due to the 14,000 foot altitude, you really need a 4WD car, and you have to be at least 16. But we were able to visit the Onizuka Visitor Center for the star gazing program.

We froze our butts off waiting for the clouds to clear, but they finally made their way down the mountain around 8 pm. The telescopes came out and we were able to see Saturn and her rings. It was so perfectly clear, that it looked like someone made a cut out of it and put it on the end of the telescope! The moon looked pretty wild too - the detail of the craters was amazing. The ride up and down