Sunday, October 23, 2016

Term Break Adventures Hawai'i: Honolulu

So the kids had their third term break at the end of September. We've made our list of where to go when....and we decided that Hawai'i would be a nice taste of America midway between our arrival at the post and our only R&R (but a shorter flight then going all the way to LA). So we traded in some frequent flier miles (FINALLY used those miles I started earning back when I was in Alaska!) and booked a getaway! From one Pacific Island to another.....just this one had Target & Starbucks!!

I semi-apologize in advance for the onslaught of photos...this was a well documented trip (nearly 1000 a lot video...using the GoPro a lot more lately). I only semi-apologized since if I was truly sorry I wouldn't share picture after picture....but grandparents/family want to see all the fun we here goes!

Fiji Airways only flies into Honolulu from Nadi. So we decided to break the trips into two parts.....first world consumerism in Honolulu, followed by a 'real' vacation of sight seeing on the Big accordingly I'm splitting the trip into two posts....our time in Honolulu on O'ahu and our time in the towns of Kona and Hilo (and everything in between) on the big island of Hawai'i. Given we had booked the trip on frequent flier miles (from multiple accounts). The trip was broken into lots of little segments. When we were looking on how to get from Suva to Nadi, all the inexpensive flights were sold out and we could hire a driver to drive us for 3 hours cheaper than one person's that was a no-brainer. Originally, we had all planned to go together, but a work thing came up and Richard's departure was delayed 2 days. So on Friday, the kids and I headed on our way .....until we were stopped by a small herd of horses in the road...

Oh Fiji....always an adventure. There is this one stretch of the Queen's Road that is just beautiful. Since I wasn't driving and I was sitting on the water side of the car, I attempted some photos while in motion. Our driver was a sweetie and pulled over for me to take a photo...

Gorgeous day!! So we made it to the airport just fine. Enjoyed a snack at the ONLY Burger King in all of Fiji (which is located in the international departures terminal) and then boarded the plane.

Given we keep taking red eye flights into/out of Nadi, this was the first take off where I could see all the tiny islands and atolls from the plane. My phone & the camera were stowed but I did take some decent shots from my iPad.

Just as we got settled, the plane started its, not the quickest 6 hours ever, but twice a week the flight to Honolulu makes a stop over in Apia, Samoa. Apia has a beautiful waterfront runway, as well as some beautiful wood carvings and stained glass in the airport.

Our layover was a quick one hour stop, but we had to disembark the plane with all our belongings, have a security check done with our passports/boarding passes (but we did get a re-board card that allowed us to re-board first) and then wait a few minutes. Hindsight, I should of grabbed a shot glass for my collection (had I not been alone with the kids, I probably would have thought to do that).

We were back in the air and on our way in time for a beautiful sunset on Thursday evening....yep, Apia is located just on the other side of the International Date Line....and we get a total do over for our boring Friday of travel! Woohoo!!

We arrived in Honolulu a little after midnight, so all the car rental places were already closed. After gathering our luggage we cabbed it over to the hotel. We stayed at the Waikiki Beach Hyatt Place, Richard had 3 free nights (yeah reward credit cards!), so we only paid for one night of our stay! Later that morning after a few hours of sleep and showers, we walked down to pick up our rental car....even though we had reservations (and showed up 15 minutes late of that), we had to wait about 20 minutes in line and were then told our car wasn't there/ready and it would be another 30-40 minutes....well that's a bummer. (The 'make custom flip flops' shop lucked out during our wait.....sparkley flowers and what better way to complete a Hufflepuff Halloween costume in the tropics than with Hufflepuff colored flip flops with Horcrux stones imbedded in them...).

Once we had our wheels, our first stop was a nearby fabric shop, I needed some knit fabric for Clarissa's Halloween costume and couldn't find it in Suva. I found this shop online (and then saw it in the in-flight magazine). They had rolls and rolls of Aloha/Bula many options that I got sensory overload and didn't get any (but I can order it online!!). With the kids, fabric shops aren't very easy to browse in....but luckily we found the needed knit so mission accomplished. Once we finished there, it was way after we went and were 'welcomed to Moe's'.....yum, yum, and yum! They are no Mexican food places in Suva, so unless it's homemade we don't eat Moe's was a delightful treat!!

Next we headed to Target.....yeah! Kids each got an Icee while we shopped and shopped....much to Richard's wallet's appreciation it was more just making a few laps and just taking it all in! Lol. Being a tree hugger, I had brought 2 shopping bags with me....lucky for me as stores do not give plastic bags any more! Our cashier was able to get our things into the bags. I think the most valuable item was the fresh berries (that was our dinner that evening)!! After Target, most of the day was shot (due to our car pick up and delays due to traffic...Forbes wasn't messing around when the rank Honolulu #1 with the worst traffic), so we headed back to the hotel to check out the pool...but Hawai'i staying true to it's nickname 'Land of Rainbows' did grace us with our first one of the trip while stuck in traffic.....even with traffic our second Friday was better than the first!

That evening as the kids ate the fruit (and pizza delivery! delivery how indulgent!!), I flipped through an information magazine and found Kualoa Ranch! Visit movie sets and props....dream come true for someone with Hollywood Director as a career new plan for Saturday!

We woke the next morning to a beautiful day! I even went a little stalker like and snapped some shots of surfers from our balcony.

Who doesn't love a good telephoto lens! After breakfast, on a tip from a friend here we headed to the Aloha Swap Meet at the stadium. It is huge and we were only able to vist a fraction of the booths. The swap meet is full of all the tourist souvenirs you didn't know you needed to have, but at a lower cost. It was quite toasty that day and we took a cold drink break mid-exploring. Clarissa was on the hunt for a Hawaiian dress for her doll, Mason wanted something for his bestie, and I was looking for some Hawaiian music on CD.

We never found the music (when we asked someone, the lone guy with music was on the opposite side and somebody's small legs were getting tired)...but we did have fun and got lots of gifts for others (can't spill all the secrets) and a some coordinating dresses. After the flea market, we headed out to Kualoa Ranch looking for a place to grab a bite along the way. Most of the trip was on a highway (though it was fun to drive thru a mountain) and we didn't find any place (good thing I packed some of our fruit/snacks we'd gotten at Target). We made it, got tickets, and had about 20 minutes to spare before the tour started. So we looked around the shop and discovered our Hawaiian names (Kepola, Makonn, and Kalala).

Kualoa Ranch is lovingly called Hawai'i's backlot since over 50 movies (and numerous TV shows) have shot on the property in the Ka’a’awa Valley. Mason was super exited for the Jurassic Park/World scenes, I was looking out for Drew Barrymore's Fifty First Dates scene, Clarissa didn't really have an opinion. We got a bit of WWII history on the tour as well (since this was the valley the planes flew over moments before bombing Pearl Harbor). We took a bunch of photos (so if you want to quiz yourself, I won't say what production it is until after the photo). 

Any Lost fans? This was one of the bunkers they used.

Outside of the Battery Cooper, a WWII Bunker built into the side of mountain. My picture of the outside of the bunker is blurry but I got a really good picture of Mason. Inside the bunker they house movie props & memorabilia, as well as some WWII artifacts.

Oops...sign gave away those props...(Hawai'i Five-O). My mom is a big fan of this show.

More Lost stuff. Since the kids (and I) haven't watched either of these shows, we went in for a peek and kept looking.

Jurassic World robotic dinosaurs (T-Rex fighting two velociraptors). I attempted to get video of Mason running away while the dinosaur roared....epic fail, so I won't share.

Heading out for a tour through 'Gallimimus Valley' in Jurassic World.

Again, outside the bunker, we had a bit of time to kill as some moseyed through slower than us.

Look at those beautiful reefs for diving, I should have brought someone to babysit with me.

The tour guide took our photo.

As we went out towards the famous valley, we also passed the part of the ranch that is doing some active farming. A lot of the same food we see growing here in Fiji. As we went over some wetlands, we were lucky enough to spot an endangered bird....the Alae ‘Ula (also known as the Hawaiian gallinule or mud hen).

Used in a National Geographic special about how the Easter Island heads were moved (this one is smaller than the Mo'ai actually on Easter Island), the special was made before the realization that all the statues are much larger with bodies buried below ground.

The famous Ka’a’awa Valley from multiple movies, Jurassic Park & Jurassic World (gyrosphere's along the mountain face to the left of the image), Windtalkers the planes flew over here, 50 First Dates picnic was here and many more....

This is the tree that the Dad and two kids hid behind in Jurassic Park.

Towards the middle, their are two boulders that appear to be kissing gorillas as seen in Might Joe Young.

Hurley's golf course from Lost.

Godzilla footprints...they used to be about 6 feet deep, but apparently there were issues with the Ranch's cows falling in and getting stuck so they were filled in after filming.

Current filming location of a new Jumanji movie starring The Rock, Kevin Hart, Jack Black & Karen Gillan (we did not see any of them).

Badly covered jaw from Kong:Skull Island movie (now part of contracts to use the ranch include returning the site to it's original state or better).

View of Mokoliʻi Island (Chinamans Hat). The island got its name due to the fact it is shaped like the hats worn by early Chinese immigrants. The ranch offers tours out to the island, but its claim to pop culture fame is being in 50 First Dates.

After the tour, we headed back to Honolulu and made a beeline for Ala Moana Center. Why? It had a Lego Store and the kids had money burning a hole in their pocket. Ala Moana had nearly every mall store you could think of, we hit Barnes & Noble as well as the Disney Store after we had a tasty dinner of Subway! It is an oddly designed mall, but we managed to find places (you had to walk along the parking lot to get to the book store). Afterwards, we drove the last 2 miles back to the only took about 30 minutes....yeah Honolulu traffic.

That night, while we were sleeping, Richard arrived. He gets to have some fun now too!

On Sunday, after Richard got a couple hours of sleep (luckily there is only a 22 hour time difference...pretty easy jet lag wise). We walked down to the Waikiki Aquarium. It is part of the University of Hawai'i. Clarissa found a blue tang.

Note the sea urchin attached to the glass between Mason & the yellow damselfish.

Baby Seahorses!!

What species are these?!?!

Hawaiian Monk Seal!

After our time at the aquarium, we got changed and headed to the beach. Kids got in the water before I could get any sunscreen on know they were thrilled to get out and and put it on....

We all rented some body boards and were quick studies....just kidding, Richard got some great shots of some kids off the end of a jetty.

 We just played in the water for a while....

After our fun, we picked some lunch up and headed back to the hotel to cleaned up. We stopped at a Goodwill and found a piece of Mason's Halloween costume! Mission accomplished! We then headed out to our luau! Given Mason and I don't eat meat (and his favorite animal is a pig)....we looked at a lot that offered all you eat meat....not a good choice. We found Germaine's Luau and it was the best choice. It offered a vegetarian options and wasn't quite as crazy expensive as some others. While all luau's are a production this one seemed less showy and more authentic from the website. We did splurge a bit to get up close seating, with Clarissa being smaller we didn't want to spend money and then her not be able to see. We were the only family to do that....and lucked out with front and center seating! Woohoo!

Richard got a picture of me, Clarissa, and baby Ruth being all twinsies.....part of our package was Kukui nut leis and a photo with some dancers. Unfortunately, Clarissa did her usual 'stranger taking my photo' pose....someday we'll have a nice family photo....

If it is a selfie and mommy is the photographer, then she will smile and pose.

Richard got us some fun souvenir Tiki mugs and we got some drinks and mingled with the dancers walking around.

Even matching hair color! Oh, and yes I got a Blue Hawaii to drink.....

Clarissa finally agreed to her photo being taken, but with no boys!

 Outrigger boat

The beach definitely looks volcanic in origin....

The blowing of the conch announced the beginning of the show....

Hawaiian Royalty Procession

Unearthing of the Kalua Pig (Roasted Pig). It roasts for 48 hours.

Clarissa was content sitting in my lap (with her baby in her lap) and watching. Here are some of the dancing highlights....

New Zealand maori dance

 Tahitian dance

Somoan warrior dance

Hawaiian dance

Fire dance!

I will try and get around to editing some of the video we took....I'll add that here. 

The next day, was our last in Honolulu. We had waited for Richard to arrive to go out to the Pearl Harbor. We pre-booked here and got our tickets with out having to wait in line and possibly miss out if tickets ran out (totally worth the $6!). We took Richard to Target (it was only and had some lunch on our way there. The Pearl Harbor website wasn't kidding when they said no bags not even a wallet purse....We arrived about 30 minutes early and were able to switch tickets for an earlier hopefully we made someone's day that came in a bit later.

Because we both can't pose with the same landmark together....over half week of hotel living is apparently starting to wear on them....Clarissa did really good during the movie. I was worried with planes and explosions she might get upset. Afterwards, we headed on a shuttle boat out to the USS Arizona Memorial. There are moorings for each ship marking it's location on that fateful day.

The memorial that rests over the ship. To the right is a wall with the name of everyone that served on the ship.

One of the barbettes that held a turret (I'm speaking another language's a gun thingy) remains above water. Everything else is below the surface. The bouy you see past the barbette marks the stern of the ship (there was another bouy marking the bow on the other side of the memorial).


Group shot....

Not sure what Clarissa is doing to annoy Richard, but I can power thru and put on a happy face for Mason the

The visible oil leaking out of the ship. We just stood and watch each little drop go by over and over...

After returning to the park, we walked through the museum exhibits. This map was kind of fun, I'm pointing to Hawai'i where we are, Clarissa is pointing to Fiji where we live, and Mason is pointing Japan where his dad was posted back in the day. I guess I should of pointed to the Aleutian Islands where I worked for a, I've been all around the Pacific :)

After we left Pearl Harbor, we took a detour on our way back to the hotel. We decided to take Mason on his first college campus tour. Living overseas, that's going be something that will be trickier for us to do when Mason is in high school. So I read a tip for TCK, that starting in middle school if you are near a college/university do a tour just so they can get an idea of big/little schools etc. So while we picked up some cool UH Rainbow Warrior swag, Mason has also decided this is the school for him. Richard and I attempted to explain the whole out of state tuition issue.....looks like we need to plan some more University Afterwards, we headed back to our hotel to do laundry and get packed up....the next morning we fly out to the Big Island....which will be another post.....