We are back! Or rather, I am back. Mike is in Houston for the weekend. We got back last night, he left this morning, he gets back Sunday night, and then we're leaving Monday morning to go to Utah to visit my lovely family (and see some friends maybe if anybody is around).
Hawaii was fabulous. We flew from Phoenix to Oahu (Mike and I listened to the first Harry Potter book on tape most of the way), where we had a short break before our next flight to Kauai. So, we did a whirlwind tour. Mike's parents rented a car, and we drove over to Waikiki and saw the oh-so-famous long strip of beach (which was very crowded and I didn't think it was any better than any of the other beaches we went to during the trip). We went across the street from the beach and walked through the International Marketplace, where there were a wide variety of stalls all selling approximately the same touristy-inducing things at a wide variety of prices. I got a pretty green necklace for $7 with several strands of seed beads and a flower carved out of a shell pendant on it. Mike's mom said she saw one that was almost exactly the same, except in white, at a different stall, for $30. After fifteen minutes at the marketplace, we returned the rental car, took the shuttle back to the airport, went through security again, and got to our gate with maybe fifteen minutes to sit and wait before boarding. The second flight was very short.
We arrived in Kauai, rented cars again, stopped by the new Costco to get food for the week (where they had mochi which may forever be my favorite way to eat ice cream, and Yo on the Go yogurt shakes which I consumed a lot of all week) and drove to the condo that we were staying in for the week. I was kind of grumpy from traveling all day (and not seeing the point to the whirlwind Oahu tour). Despite my grumpiness though, the condo was beautiful. There were three bedrooms, a nice kitchen and living room area, and a tiny balcony, with a trellis that had flowering tropical vines growing all over it, so that the flowers hung down right in front of our bedroom window downstairs.
I'm not entirely sure I remember the precise order of everything, and Mike has the laptop with the pictures documenting it so I can't refresh my memory of what was when, but I think I remember everything we did all week.
Thursday we went to Ke'e Beach and went snorkeling (except, I forgot my snorkel bag, so I made do with just a mask and holding my breath as long as possible). I used up my entire alloted underwater camera. There were way more fish than there were when we went scuba diving in Mexico during our honeymoon. Mike and I also went on a little hike up the mountain, and back down to a much smaller, secluded beach that was around a bend of rocks and hill from Ke'e, where we discovered a couple nude sunbathing, and so, didn't stay long before hiking back. I don't recommend hiking in wet sandy flip-flops over fallen unidentified large plant leaves and roots, as a side note. Luckily, we survived just fine. That afternoon, we went to the Princeville Spa, where I got to have my first ever facial, which was quite nice, though a bit different than I was expecting. Very relaxing though, except for the pore-cleaning part. The lady who did my facial touted Aveda products, told me I should use oil-free sunscreen as my pores were full of nicely oily sunscreen (I hadn't washed my face yet from our trip to the beach), and recommended I get a facial from a beauty school at least once a year, which I found funny.
On Friday, we went to Tunnels Beach, where Mike and his brother went scuba diving, and the rest of us snorkeled (I remembered my bag this time!). There were even more fish than there had been at Ke'e, and I had a fabulous time swimming around exploring over and alongside the big lava tunnels (I didn't go under them (too deep), though Mike got to with his scuba group), looking at the little bits of coral, and being consistently amazed that fish actually came in those colors. Seriously, hot pink and purple? Bright orange with neon blue and pink bits? It was without a doubt the best snorkeling I've ever done. In case you're wondering, I *could* have gone scuba diving, but for the last several months I was feeling nervous about it, what with trying to conceive, and being generally congested and bothered by my asthma a bit more than normal this summer, so I chose not to before Mike's dad booked it, and I am quite glad I did. Snorkeling was great, even being all congested all day like I was, which would have made diving not-so-fun.
Friday night, we went to a luau, which was fun. Surrounded by beautiful land and gardens, I got to try Kalua pork (which I liked, though it was a bit too salty for most of Mike's family), Hawaiian sweet potato (purple, quite sweet, and delicious with a bit of butter), poi (made from the taro and quite tasteless, though not a bad dip for the meat), and coconut milk gelatin.
On Saturday, we went on something called the Zip and Dip. It was out on a ranch inland a little bit. There was a series of eight ziplines, and between the seventh and eighth there was a stop for lunch and swimming in a small mountain pool fed by a little stream and waterfall. I really enjoy ziplining, it's a lot of fun, and there were some definitely long ziplines going over little river valleys. I think the tallest one was seventeen stories tall, above the ground at the bottom of the valley, and the longest one was 700 and something feet. And the fastest we were likely to go was 25mph. The harnesses were nice and sturdy, and the guides were funny, and everything was gorgeous. The scariest part was the plank bridge we had to cross over one small valley. There was a wide gap between each plank which were supported by two cables. There were another two cables about waist high to hold onto as you crossed, and then two more cables up a little higher which our carabiners were clipped to as we crossed so that the most we would fall would be a foot downwards. It really wasn't too bad, but I don't think anybody at all scared of heights would like it at all. The swimming at the pool was amazing. Everybody thought it was going to be freezing cold, but it was really quite nice. Cool, but not cold. The pool was about fifteen feet deep for most of it, surrounded by lush vegetation, and a little rock outcropping about six feet up on one side that you could jump off of into the water. There's no snakes in Hawaii, so the only things in the water were us and some fish, which were all hiding. Lunch was really good too, the guides provided it for us, turkey and I think large pepperonis? and gouda cheese and apple slices and clover sprouts to stuff into pita pockets, with orange slices to much on inbetween, and Macadamia Nut Chocolate Chip cookies to finish it off.
Saturday night was date night, so Mike and I got to go to dinner at a restaurant of our choosing by ourselves. We decided on a place called Saffron, where I got to try authentic-tasting Tortilla de Patatas, and Paella. I also had phyllo-wrapped baked brie with blueberry sauce which was delicious as well, and we had some very lovely creme brulee for dessert.
On Sunday, we went in the morning to the Fern Grotto, which I was slightly disappointed with. Yes, it was pretty, but I thought the stuff we'd seen already in the trip was much prettier, and it was really crowded. In the afternoon, Mike and I, his brother, and his brother's wife, all went on a helicopter tour around the island. It was completely amazing. The helicopter pilot was a little crazy, and made some pretty sharp turns, got really near the ground and cliff walls, and talked a lot. The helicopter, so you know, had no doors on it. Mike and I sat in the back. I took loads and loads of pictures of the amazing amazing scenery around the whole island, and in between taking pictures, I closed my eyes really tightly and tried not to need an "aloha bag" (a.k.a. barf bag), as I got really, really queasy with all the quick turns where looking out my side of the helicopter meant I was looking right down at the ground as the whole thing tipped in whatever direction it was turned. It was windy on the north side of the island, which made things worse, also. Luckily, I avoided throwing up, barely, still got to see most of the sights, and had overall a fabulous time (though I did make everybody sit around in the car for half an hour afterward with the air on while I chewed some nice minty gum and waited for my stomach to settle).
On Monday, Mike, his brother, and dad, got a surfing lesson. Mike's mom spent the whole time taking pictures of them, while my sister-in-law and I sat on the beach relaxing. Once they were done surfing, I got to boogie-board for about fifteen minutes, which was Fabulous. I haven't gotten to do that in such a long time. I love it. The waves were perfect for it too, and I managed to get a lot of nice long rides in, filling my swimsuit with sand at the end every time as the surf washed over me, and getting my legs nice and red from the waves pounding at them as I waded back out. Really, though, I absolutely love it, and was a bit sad when everybody else decided they were tired and ready to go home. That evening we drove around to the south end of the island (which takes a long time with traffic), stopped by one of the infamous ABC stores, dropped off the underwater cameras at Walmart to get developed, went and saw the Spouting Horn (lava rocks protruding out into the ocean, which has pounded caves down below some of them in just such a way as to make a small geyserish phenomenon at a couple of them every single time a large wave comes in), and ate dinner at a restaurant right on the beach with a gorgeous view of the setting sun.
Tuesday, there was nothing planned for the day, so I of course had several things that I desperately wanted to go do. First, the guy who owns the condo we were all staying in told us about a little hike down to a cave by the beach where there were often turtles or seals resting. I cannot pass up a chance to see turtles. So, Mike and I ventured off. Unfortunately, his directions started by telling us the trail head started between buildings two and three of a particular complex. We found a trail there, which we followed, though it really was not much of a trail, alongside a cliff, and after getting scratched and scraped and sliding precariously on our butts down some dirt, we decided it couldn't possibly be the right trail and was much too dangerous to continue, so we turned around. On our way back, we found a fork in our little precarious trail, which continued down a much easier path, and eventually met up with quite a nice, much wider and well-traveled dirt path which a lot of people were hiking. We followed it down to a bunch of lava rocks, decided that it wasn't the right trail either, and Mike went to make his way back to his parents who were waiting at the complex at the top, while I went to see what it was all these people were going to see. I got just far enough to discover that it was the other thing I wanted to do that day, turned around, and made my way back up. Mike and I were a bit put out that neither of these were the right trail, as we really wanted to find the cave, so we explored around the complex a bit more and discovered, finally, the correct trail, starting between buildings 1 and 2.
The right trail was only marginally better than the two wrong trails we'd taken, but we managed to scramble down it, hop off some lava rocks into waist deep water, and climb up onto the sand bank at the entrance of the cave. There weren't any turtles or seals, but the cave was really cool, it led out into another tiny cove on its far end, where there was no sandbank, so the water surged in and out, protected from surf by a nice bit of coral and lava and sand that was out a little ways in the water. There was a ton of washed up dead pieces of coral in the cave, and a big piece of driftwood under the water, and I felt like I was in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Very cool. After getting some more pictures, we hiked back up and met Mike's parents again at the top, and then drove over to the real head of the nice dirt trail we'd stumbled across that led to the wrong spot.
The dirt trail led to the Queen's Bath. Mike's parents came with us, and we hiked down it without too much difficulty. There's a really nice little waterfall and pool partway down, all fresh water, so we climbed in and took some pictures. Then we continued down the path, across a bunch of lava boulders at the bottom, and to the Bath. Queen's Bath is a large pool in the lava rock. The seawater splashes up on one side and pours water into it, so you can't go during high surf conditions or you might get swept out to sea. Also, you can't go when the water's really low, or there won't be much water in the pool. Luckily for us, the surf and tide conditions were just right, and it was nicely full yet not overly full. I didn't feel up to much swimming (I was wearing my glasses) so I sat on a little bench of rock that was maybe eight inches under the surface of the water. It was like I was sitting in a saltwater aquarium. Lots of fish kept coming and swimming around me on the rock bench, eating algae off of it, swimming under my legs, over my legs, and all around me. Most of them were little silver fish, but there were several of the more colorful fish that we'd seen at Ke'e and Tunnels, too. I loved it. Having tropical fish swimming around me is one of the coolest things ever.
After we hiked back up (stopping at the waterfall again to rinse off a bit), Mike and I took off alone together and went on a shopping expedition. Lots of cute/cool stuff in the stores. I picked up a few souvenirs, and then we met back up with Mike's family for dinner at the best sushi place on the island. They indeed had very tasty sushi, though I wasn't quite as impressed with the huge hot pot of fishy things that I ordered for my main meal.
Yesterday was quick packing, then back to the airport, 20-minute plane ride back to Oahu, then the long flight again back to the mainland. Having finished off the first Harry Potter book during the week, Mike and I started listening to the second one yesterday, and got about 2/3rds of the way through by the time we had landed back in Phoenix. The guy who reads the books is really quite entertaining to listen to.
So, it was a fabulous trip to Kauai, and though I wouldn't have minded a little more time to just relax, all the things we did were really fun and amazing and I'm really lucky I got to do all of them as I doubt I'll ever get another chance. The ocean around the island is gorgeous and not too cold. It rained hard almost every single night, but we only got some light drizzles and the occasional showers during the day, despite the hurricane that passed by not-too-far-away near the end of our trip. I managed to only get the mildest of sunburns, and am looking forward to only minor peeling later. Mike got moderately pink on our very last full day, however, and we got to steal his mom's aloe vera lotion.
Aloha, and Mahalo nui loa for reading.
(I'll either post again while we're in Utah, or once we're home again. There may be some news in a couple weeks, we'll have to see what happens though. If anybody wants to hang out while we're in Utah, email me and let me know so I can make plans for it before planning out everything I'll be doing with my family!)