Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Honeymoon in Hawaii

Well, I'm back from my honeymoon in Hawaii.  This was the first vacation that Amanda and I have taken as just the two of us, so it was a lot of fun to get away from it all!

We left Wisconsin on Thrusday 10/27.  Waking up at 4am was definitely a treat, especially after the 2$ High Lifes that we had at Chuck's the previous night. (it's vacation, don't judge). Our flight out went relatively smooth considering we sat on the tarmac for 30 minutes and the flight data recorded refused to work.  After switching to a new plane, and getting rerouted directly to Honolulu rather than Salt Lake, we were on our way.  Loosing the hour due to plane issues was made up in our direct flight.  That being said, it is a LONG flight, around 8 hours.  Luckily there were some movies and shows to watch (Captain America and some HIMYM, not bad).  Of course, this was all going too smoothly for the airline's taste, so they decided to loose our luggage for a day.

Finally we arrived in Honolulu, HI.  It was a surreal arrival.  The weather was ideal, 75 and sunny.  How could I tell this from inside the airport?  Well oddly enough, the airports in Hawaii are half indoor and half outdoor.  This is ideal... well unless it is a severe downpour with frequent lightning strikes but we'll save that story for our return flight...

After a short flight from Honolulu to Kaliua Kona, we had arrived at our destination.  After picking up the Jeep Wrangler 4x4, we headed to Kona Coast resort.  We got our keys, checked into our room, and went to bed at 7pm (12+ hours of travel will turn you into a zombie, not to mention the 4 hour time difference!).  The next week was full of great sights and food.  I'll try to squeeze in the highlights!

Before I start, I'd like to thank Andrew Doughty, and Wizard Publications for publishing The Big Island Revealed.  We followed the book's recommendations for what to see, eat, and where to stay. At no point were we let down!

Makalawena:
This was one of our first excursions of the trip.  This is a beautiful secluded beach just north of Kona.  It took us about 20 minutes to make it down the very rough 4x4 trail to the beach.  As Amanda put it, "It was like being in a car crash for 20 minutes!".  We did some snorkeling here, and saw some very colorful fish and coral.  The sand was white, soft, and abundant!  On our way onto the beach, we saw a big sea turtle sunning itself.  At the time we thought it was pretty big, until we saw the second giant one!  This thing had to be almost 2.5-3 feet in length and at least 2 feet across!  Amanda tried to get on the other side of it to be in a picture without getting too close.  The turtle evaluated the situation.  We must have looked hungry for turtle soup because it looked us both, then turned right around and back into the ocean.
This turtle relaxed here for a good 4 hours.
This one was about 5 times bigger than the one to the left.  We
couldn't get a person in the picture for reference because you
 aren't allowed to approach them because they are endangered.

Ultimate Burger:
This place had some killer burgers, all made from 100% grass fed beef from the island!  Great seasoned fries too!

Snorkeling:
We took a morning trip to Kealakekua Bay via the Fair Wind II ship.  It was a big catamaran with a "for show" sail.  The ride to the bay took about 45min-1hour, and they provided breakfast.  The views were amazing from the ship, and the weather was perfect and sunny.  We saw a few Spinner Dolphins.  They jump in front, and in the wake of the ship and do spins, very entertaining!  When we arrived at the bay, they gave us a quick rundown of the procedures, and we were off.  The reef was amazing, and visibility was over 80 feet.  The reef was full of colorful fish of all different types.  Some of the hilights were the Threadfin Butterfly, Moorish Idol, Rectangular Triggerfish, Red Parrot, Trumpet Fish, Moray Eel, and Slate-Pencil sea Urchin. Click here to see what they looked like.

Four Seasons Buffet:
We had a fancy buffet style dinner at the Four Seasons.  Could there be such a thing as a fancy buffet?  Yes, there is, and it is damn expensive too (18$ Mai Tais were the cheapest drinks).  We ate inhuman amounts of snow crab claws, lobster tails, new york strip steak, sushi, and any other fancy dish you can think of.  I think we may have almost gotten our money's worth =)  The dinner was delicious, and we were right on the lani, with a view of the sunset over the ocean.  After dark, they had a astronomer with a large telescope, and we were able to see Jupiter and 3 of its moons.  It was really something!


Black Sand Beach:
We took the Jeep to this hard to get to black sand beach in Kehaha Kai state park.

Saddle Road / Mauna Kea:
Halfway thourgh our trip, we took a two day excursion to the Hilo side of the the Big Island.  We braved the infamous Saddle Road, which really wasn't that bad at all.  The sights changed quickly, and drastically.  As soon as we hit higher elevations, no more palm trees and sunshine.  It was eerie and foggy grasslands with sparse and contorted old trees.  About halfway on the road, we turned to make the trip to the peak of Mauna Kea.  This was a steep climb all the way to 13,796ft.  The jeep made it easily, but I had to drive slow due to switchbacks and steep grade.  At the top it was 36 degrees and snowing quite a bit.  There was no good view at the peak due to snow, but the huge observatories and surreal moon like landscape were worth it.

Hilo:
In Hilo, we stayed at the Dolphin Bay Hotel.  It was very nice there, and the hosts were the nicest people we met on the island.  They were incredibly helpful in showing us where to visit in Volcano National Park, and were very knowledgeable on the current volcano activity and lava flow.  While in Hilo, we checked out Hilo Burger Joint.  They had some interesting and delicious burgers.  I got a Nacho Burger which consisted of nacho cheese, and jalapenos, and served upside down (Their signature move maybe?).  We also stopped at Rainbow Falls, which was flowing very heavily due to rain earlier in the day.  The cave behind the falls was huge, and it was really a cool place to see.  Another note on the Hilo side, it gets much more rainfall than the Kona side.  The vegetation is much more lush, and there are hundreds of different flowers, plants and trees.  The Banyan trees were quite a site!


Volcano National Park:
On our way back to Knoa, we stopped in Volcano National Park.  The hilight was definitely the hike we did across the Kilauea Iki.  It was huge, and hard to believe we were walking across what was once a cauldron of molten lava! (More details and pics to come on this, stay tuned for part 2).

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