Hawaiian Vacation

For a while I have had the goal of visiting all 50 states in the U.S. For my purposes, visiting a state is defined simply as being in the geographical boundaries of the said state (flying over it doesn’t count). Some might argue it doesn’t count if I don’t actually see a lot of the state. In my opinion, I will see a lot of the state if it warrants a longer visit, otherwise a very short visit is sufficient for me (some of those plains states really have nothing interesting to me). In early 2012, I only lacked 5 states: Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Hawaii. The plan was to take a cruise in 2012 and then to knock out the remaining 5 states in two separate trips in 2013. Of course, my knee had plans of its own. I dislocated my patella on the 2012 cruise and then again in early 2013 on a work trip, which necessitated reconstructive surgery. This pushed back my plans regarding the remaining unvisited states until this year. Last month I went on a quick trip to visit my four unvisited plains states. This month Kara and I went on vacation in Hawaii. So now I have been to all 50 states (as well as D.C. & 2 U.S. territories). Now we can concentrate on visiting countries! Anyway, here is how our trip to Hawaii went.

  • 5/07 – Outbound Flights: We had a long day flying more than 5,000 miles from Nashville to Atlanta to Seattle to Honolulu. We were lucky to score a first class upgrade on the flight from Seattle to Honolulu, which was nice for the longest segment.
  • 5/08 – Oʻahu: Our first stop was Diamond Head, which is an inactive volcanic cone. As it used to contain a fort, it has various lookout points that offer good views. We hiked the 1.5 mile roundtrip up to an observation platform on the summit for some great views of the island. Next, we went to the Valley of of the Temples memorial park. There is a Buddhist temple there situated at the foot of the Koʻolau mountains. After lunch we went on a tour of ʻIolani Palace. It is the only palace in the United States ever used as the residence of a monarch. We ended the day with a visit to Kūhiō Beach Park, which was near our hotel. Kūhiō Beach is a sub-section of Waikīkī Beach.
  • 5/09 – Oʻahu: We visited the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor which includes the USS Arizona Memorial. While waiting for our boat out to the memorial, we found some exhibits that showed where in the harbor Grandaddy Chatman’s ship (USS Honolulu (CL-48)) was moored during the attack when he was on shore leave. It said that the Honolulu suffered moderate damage. In fact, it showed a picture of the attack taken by a Japanese plane at around 8:00am. In that picture it shows a Japanese torpedo bomber on an attack run near the Honolulu. For all we know, this could have been the moment before the damage to the Honolulu was inflicted! After Pearl Harbor, Kara shopped in Waikīkī while I went on a helicopter tour of Oʻahu, which was outstanding. After my helicopter tour, we both went to the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. The bay has a nice beach and coral reefs that are popular for snorkeling. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to rent snorkeling equipment, so we enjoyed our visit without snorkeling.
  • 5/10 – Oʻahu: We ate breakfast at the Hukilau Cafe. After breakfast, we made a quick stop at the Laie Hawaiʻi Temple. Then we went to the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore, known for big waves. There was a large beach and active surf. After that, we went to the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. There were some pretty good prices there, but nothing we were interested in buying. Lastly, we returned back to Kūhiō Beach to relax for the remainder of the day.
  • 5/11 – Hawaiʻi (big island): Early in the morning, we flew from Honolulu to Kona, on the big island of Hawaiʻi. First, we visited a lookout overlooking the Waipiʻo Valley, which was very scenic. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Hāpuna Beach. It was an outstanding beach with very fine white sand and waves that were high enough to be fun but not overbearing. The only complaint I have about it is that the sand farthest from the water was hot…like molten lava hot. Then, we went to our hotel in Kona and went to a luau. Because it had been raining that day, they had to move it inside.
  • 5/12 – Hawaiʻi (big island): We drove across the island over to Hilo. While Kara was shopping in Hilo, I went on a helicopter tour of the volcanoes and waterfalls on the east side of the island. After that, we both made a quick stop to view Rainbow Falls. We spent the second half of the day exploring the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. The park includes Kīlauea (one of the world’s most active volcanoes) and Mauna Loa (the world’s most massive subaerial volcano and taller from its base under the ocean than Mt. Everest is from sea level). We drove all of the currently opened primary roads in the park and saw some amazing landscapes including cooled lava flows, a lava tube (that you can walk into), numerous craters, a sea arch, and a road that was closed by a lava flow. We returned to the closest Kīlauea observation point right after nightfall and saw the glow emitted from the volcano. For me, it was cool to see the volcanoes from the air as well as from the ground. Lastly, we went stargazing at the visitor center for the Mauna Kea Observatories. Every night, they set up telescopes at the visitor center for free stargazing. Of course, the night we were there just happened to be right before the full moon, so that kept us from being able to see a lot of cool things. We were in one of the least light-poluted places on earth and the moon was providing the light pollution. We were still able to see something interesting though, the Southern Cross. The Southern Cross is a fairly well known constellation that is only visible from latitudes south of 25° N, which means it is never visible from the continental U.S. Earlier in the day we were at sea level and it was in the mid-80s. The observatory visitor center is at around 9,200 feet elevation and we experienced temperatures in the mid-40s. Kind of funny that I packed and wore jeans and a fleece on a trip to tropical Hawaiʻi. To get back to the main highway on our return trip to the hotel, we drove down a 17% grade down the mountain, which was interesting.
  • 5/13 – Hawaiʻi (big island) & Return Flights: The first stop on our last day in Hawaiʻi was Punaluʻu Beach, which is a neat black sand beach. It is frequented by endangered animals, such as sea turtles. And we did see a couple sea turtles during our visit. After that, we went to South Point also known as Ka Lae. South Point is a remote area on the big island that is the southernmost point in the 50 United States. It is known for strong winds and ocean currents, as well as cliff jumping. And we did see some crazy people that were taking part. On our way to the airport, we made a quick stop to see the Kona Temple. We flew from Kona to Honolulu to Los Angeles. After we had boarded the Honolulu to Los Angeles segment, there was one first class seat available that was offered to Kara, but inexplicably, she declined it as she wanted to be together with me.
  • 5/14 – Return Flights: And finally, we flew from Los Angeles to Nashville.

We had an outstanding time seeing a lot of cool places. I’ve posted the pictures to my Flickr in the collection titled Hawaiʻi 2014, which contains the following albums:

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