hawaii travel

Pearls and Pie (Hawaii Day 7)

As the sun shone through the window on our 7th and final morning, I tried to pretend I didn’t feel it. Accepting that the sun was up meant accepting that our last day in Hawaii had begun, and I was nowhere near ready for that to be an accurate statement. But as with any bout of stubbornness, this one was eventually squelched by hunger. My family made our way down to the hotel restaurant around 9, all a little bit quieter than usual. We browsed our menus while staring longingly out at the beach we’d grown so familiar with and gave the waitress our order with sullen faces and low voices.

From there it was just a long series of “last times.”

“This is the last time we’ll eat at the hotel restaurant.”

“This is the last time we’ll burn our feet on the cement walking back from the hotel restaurant.”

“This is the last time I’ll pee in our toilet”

“This is the last time we’ll have beer and Oreos in our dining room.”

“This is the last time I’ll swipe our room key.”

“This is the last time we’ll leave our room.”

Overall the mood was pretty depressing, but that didn’t stop us from setting out to have a great last day. So, after we were all packed up, we left the best thank you we could think of for the hotel staff and made our way to Lahaina.

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Our first stop was Hilo Hattie’s to get a pearl.

When we walked up to the counter, two women approached excitedly and handed my sister and I a pair of tongs.

“Pick the ugliest one,” they said of the oysters sitting in a bowl of water.

So, we dug through the whole pile, flipping and rotating each oyster until we each found one that seemed completely and totally hideous. Satisfied with our choices, the women set the oysters on a towel and told us to count down from three and then tap them with our tongs, while they simultaneously rang a bell and shouted “Aloha!” They then cracked open the oysters, dug through the insides and pulled out the pearls resting inside. As they removed them, everyone oohed and awed; my sister got a pink one, representing love and generosity and mine was white, signifying peace and truth.

After leaving Hilo Hattie’s we decided it was time for lunch, so we grabbed a table at Kimo’s and ate burgers and fish and chips while listening to a live band perform breezy rock classics. Then, to finish off what was already a perfect meal, we ordered 2 slices of Hula Pie a.k.a macadamia nut ice cream sat on top of an Oreo crust, all covered in hot fudge, whipped cream, and more macadamia nuts. If you’ve never had it, consider yourself currently living an incomplete life. Also, if you don’t think you’ll find yourself in Hawaii any time soon to try it, look up Duke’s in a few locations in California and tell them I sent you. They won’t care, because they have no idea who I am, but you can still tell them. Then after, ask for this:

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After a couple more hours of shopping in Lahaina, we took one last look at the beach and then hopped in our car for the airport. The 40-minute drive was too quick and too quiet. Each of us stared out the window at the blue skies and green trees, watching people surf and smile and sunburn. We gazed at people setting up tents and hammocks, dreaming about the day we’d get to come back and do this all over again.

Our flight was set to take off at 9 p.m., so as we sat in our airport chairs, both smiling at the week we’d had and frowning at the week we’d miss, our Hawaiian sun set for a final time.

Then things got weird.

Due to the forward time jump on the flight home, we landed in San Francisco at 5:30 a.m. (2 a.m. Hawaii time) The lack of sleep was apparent instantly and the extremely modern, hipster space that is the San Francisco airport, did not help our condition. It had a yoga room and art deco chairs, a Nalgene bottle fill up station and water conserving faucets in the bathroom. It was all too much for my sleep-deprived brain to handle. Every new convenience I discovered made me want to cry, and after a while, I think it got to my head a little. While buying breakfast, I felt it necessary to wait 5 minutes in one line to buy a banana and 5 minutes in another to buy a muffin. Both restaurants sold both items, but I felt I deserved the best of both worlds.

Important lesson learned: I should probably never move to San Francisco. I don’t think my family would ever see me again. Every phone call they made to me would start with, “I can’t talk right now, I’m getting my knee caps massaged” or “Sorry, can I call you back after hamster yoga?”

Around 6:30, our final flight home to Los Angeles took off and I was awake for approximately 0 minutes of it. Which was impressive compared to the 50-minute nap I took on a 45-minute bus ride home from the airport.

When we finally walked through our front door, we found that everything was as we left it, and two days later, so were we, all back in our usual routines. And while we we’ve spent our first week back reminiscing on the week we had in paradise, I’m glad to be back in the routine. Weird, I know, but look at this way, the quicker I get back in the routine, the quicker I can start planning the next escape. Which is exactly what I’m going to do.

Fast Hips and Chocolate Chip Pancakes (Hawaii Day 6)

As any perfect Saturday morning would, this one started with pancakes.

The first day we arrived in Maui we noticed the restaurant, “Slappy Cakes,” across the street from our hotel, and after the past few days of early morning wake up calls, we thought Saturday would be perfect for a late pancake breakfast.

Now, this is not your ordinary pancake house. While there are a couple of house favorites on the menu, Slappy Cakes offers a unique, DIY pancake option, that allows you to choose your batter, fillings, toppings, and syrup, and then make the pancakes the way you want them, on the griddle installed in the middle of your table. The batter comes in a squirt bottle, giving you much more control over the shape of your pancakes, so we took the freedom and ran with it, first making hearts and squares, and then going full 4th of July theme with a United States map and a bald eagle. The way we saw it, there is no wrong way to thank the troops for everything they’ve done and continue to do for us. Showing patriotism in our pancakes may seem like a small gesture, but being able to sit comfortably and safely in a pancake house on a Saturday morning is a privilege we’ve been given thanks to their sacrifice.

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Thank you.

Around 5:30 that night, I got laid by a buff Hawaiian man. Oh. Excuse me, lei’d.

As we walked into the Old Lahaina Luau, we were each given a purple lei and a Mai Tai before being led to our seats. Our waiter then informed us that the bar was open, dinner was at 6 and to enjoy a look around in the meantime.

5 minutes in, my brother came running over, informing us he’d bought a hand carved knife and was going back for a battle-axe. At first we laughed, but by the 20th minute, our group of 15 had purchased 2 knives, a battle-axe, 2 battle turtles, and 4 tikis. Needless to say, the men at that booth loved us.

Soon after, my sister and I asked a man to draw us. As in a caricature, not Leo Di’Caprio, naked Titanic style. Don’t get weird. I think the finished product really captures our essence: two girls with a hand carved knife that just got lei’d. A true classic.

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At 6 we all gathered around a pile of dirt. (Now you’re intrigued)

The traditional way of cooking a luau pig is underground on hot rocks. So as we congregated around the pile of dirt, two men began to dig. With each shovel full, the heat radiated stronger from underground. The men explained the complicated cooking process, including the 3 am start time, and lifted the platform holding the pig up onto their shoulders to carry it back and carve it.

After dinner, we were treated to a number of Hawaiian dances, featuring both men and women that told the story of Hawaiian culture. It was truly beautiful to watch. The passion the dancers had for sharing their culture was obvious; it wasn’t just a job to them, it was a genuine invitation into their culture.

Now for a brief, less serious, slightly inappropriate, bout of commentary on the dancers, let me just say: THOSE HIPS. Those lightning fast hula hips. Amazing. That is all.

We left the luau with an undeniable sense of happiness and wonder, so we made the obvious next move: raiding the sale on macadamia nuts at Longs Drugs.

I’m not kidding.

Knee deep in alcohol and Hawaiian culture, we bought 10 boxes of Hawaiian Host Macadamia Nuts. Then we called it a night.

We go so hard.

“Give Me the Drugs!!” said the Snorkeler (Hawaii Day 5)

I tend to be a bit of a worrier at times. In fact, it’s almost a hobby of mine to convince myself something bad is going to happen. That way, when everything goes smoothly it’s a nice surprise. I wouldn’t recommend this life strategy however. It’s a waste of Tums and Advil. Things are going to work out the way they’re supposed to and we just need to sit back and enjoy the ride. Well, sometimes. Let me immediately contradict myself by saying that “the ride” is exactly what had my stomach in knots the moment I woke up for Day 5 in Hawaii.

Snorkeling was on the agenda today and I’d been slightly dreading it since we booked the trip last year, as I am very prone to seasickness. For weeks I’d been picturing the boat ride. The constant back and forth of the waves. The up and down of the waves. The NEVERENDING motion of the waves.

I didn’t have a good track record. I’d been snorkeling once before and turned green 20 minutes in. I went below deck and asked if they had anything I could take, but when the woman behind the counter showed me an off brand pill, I went full addict on her and asked if they had anything stronger. She frowned and nodded, “yes, but it’s five dollars.” Somewhere deep in my mind, 5 dollars seemed ridiculous for two pills, but the 15 layers on top of that all screamed, woman in labor style, “YES, GIVE ME THE DRUGS WOMAN.”

With that memory in mind, I’d brought my own drugs to Hawaii and took the maximum dosage before boarding the boat. I’d decided to make it my mission not to get sick, not only for my own personal health and dignity, but also for my group’s sake. No one wants to be in the group with the girl barfing over the side of the S.S. You Shouldn’t Have Come. It shifts the whole dynamic of the trip. Suddenly every conversation is: “I want to help but I don’t know what to do,” “Should we hold her hair?” “How long do we have to stand here sympathetically staring at her hurling before we can enjoy the snorkeling trip we paid for?” “Does barf attract sharks?”

Thus, I had my mission and let me tell you, I was dedicated. After drugging up and elbowing my way to a seat on the top deck, I picked a gopher shaped cloud to stare at (I’d heard it helps to pick something still to focus on) and I rarely broke eye contact. I mean RARELY. I’d say round-trip, of the 5 hours spent on/in the ocean, I spent 3 hours looking at the cloud and 2 looking at fish.

Did I look weird? Probably.

Will I go down in many a stranger’s Hawaiian vacation memory as the girl who wouldn’t make eye contact with her family? Probably.

But did I get sick?! NO.

Mission accomplished.

Plus, when we were actually in the water, the snorkeling was unbelievable. There was so much to see in the reef below, it was almost impossible to look away. We must have taken 100 pictures with our underwater camera, including this one of a fish my sister aggressively stalked for an extended period of time.

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(Restraining order pending)

A quick note about snorkeling: While yes, there are plenty of fish in the sea…to see (nailed it) you’d be surprised at how interesting your fellow snorkelers are to look at. Have you ever made eye contact with strangers in scuba masks? Well better first question, have you ever worn a scuba mask? It compete covers your mouth and eyebrows, make emotions completely unidentifiable. I’m going to be straight with you. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, or how many times you’ve been snorkeling. Anyone and everyone in a scuba mask has dead eyes and breathes like Darth Vader.

Observe:

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Am I having fun? Or is there someone on the other end of the camera threatening me with a gun to look like I’m enjoying myself. No one will ever know.

(I was enjoying myself)

Koko, Chris and the Boar. (Hawaii Day 4)

Closed toed shoes were a requirement today, much to the disappointment of my flip flop loving toes. As I slid my socks on, I felt each freshly pedicured digit whimper beneath the confining fabric. It was like shutting the back door behind me and watching my dog stick her face up to the glass, begging for fresh air. Sorry. It’s just how it has to be right now. Stop licking the glass. STOP.

With 3 cars in our group now, each trip about town was like a parade of tourists. There was no hiding our constant, “look at that tree!” “look at that view!” “where are we?” “did we miss it?” “look, a chicken!” It’s funny how being a tourist is so much more fun than being a local surrounded by tourists. When you’re a tourist, everything is beautiful, fun and the greatest thing you’ve seen to date. When you’re a local, everything is exactly the same as it was yesterday and everyone driving slow to look around and say otherwise, is ruining your life.

Our first adventure of the day was zip lining. We pulled up to Skyline Adventures around 8:30, and the staff promptly gave us a complimentary water bottle. (Clearly they know the way to a tourist’s heart: free stuff.) They then loaded us into an open top, jeep-ish vehicle—reminiscent of the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland—that bounced us around on a dirt road up to the check-in point. There we received our helmets and harnesses, before being reloaded into a van that drove us that rest of the way up to the first zip spot.

On the windy road up, our guides, Koko and Chris, gave us some background on Hawaiian zip lining and wildlife, including the native wild boar that has known to be spotted by zippers with a keen eye. I personally didn’t feel the need to see a wild boar; its name is aggressive enough for me to know we shouldn’t be friends. Think about it, how would you feel if I invited you over to meet my friend Stabyouintheface. “He’s a great guy,” I’d say. But something inside of you would think otherwise. Regardless, I nodded along, giving Koko the thumbs up that I’d keep my eyes open for a boar.

This was my second time zip lining, and as such I felt confident in the line’s ability to get me from one side to the other without feeding me to the wilderness. I wasn’t prepared however for the multitude of ways our guides would teach us to jump. We had the walk it out, the walk and jump, the run and jump, the run, jump, kick and smile back at the camera, and the trust fall. Each had its own adventure associated with it, none of which made us look this cool:

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But I think that was somewhat of a strategy, Koko couldn’t teach us all of his moves.

As we walked between zip spots, Chris and Koko would teach us more and more about Hawaiian culture and I was continually impressed with how much they knew. On one walk in particular, after Chris ran ahead to use the restroom, we walked slowly with Koko as he told us about the origin of the Hawaiian Luau. It has been used for a variety of celebrations including the first birthday of a baby, because at one point disease was so widespread, that a full year of survival for a newborn was rare. I looked down, smiling as I thought about the preciousness of a baby, when all of a sudden, the bushes to my left started to shake. I threw my hands up to the side, not in a way that would have offered me any real type of defensive, in fact a bystander may have thought I was hastily beginning to hula dance, but it was in fact my attempted defense from the boar I believed for a split second or so to be lurking. I should have known better. This boar was actually just Chris hiding in the bushes and snorting his heartiest boar snort, successfully making his second boar scare of the day. I had to hand it to him though, the timing was perfect, every single defense was down. Hell I was smiling at the dirt thinking about babies! If there really had been a boar, it would have offed me before I even knew what was happening. Thankfully, there was no death by baby diversion, just a bunch of laughs and a temporary distrust of everything Koko and Chris said.

It was hard to hold a grudge though, especially when they were guiding you to places like this:

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On the way back to the hotel, we spotted a beach that had tangly rooted trees lining the shores; two of which looked perfect for hanging a hammock. So, after we showered and ate dinner, we headed back over to catch the sunset.

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It was alright, I guess.

Sci-Fi & Shuffleboard (Hawaii Day 3)

It was another early morning at the Ka’anapali Shores Hotel, but this one started with an alarm clock. My sister, dad and I were up and out in front of the complex by 6 a.m. waiting to be picked up by our fishing guide, Brian (coincidentally, my dad’s name is Brian, but don’t worry, they are in fact two different people. This isn’t the part of the story where things go all sci-fi and we meet my dad’s long lost twin).

WAIT.

Before I continue, we have to take a little trip back in time. (Okay, so I lied, maybe we do get a little sci-fi in this one)

Our time travel will be brief, just a small trip back to yesterday, because there is a gaping hole in my day that I feel the need to share. If you’re a details person, you may have noticed the hole: 6 am wake up, a small workout, beach time, shower time, and then dinner in Lahaina at sunset (and you can figure sunset is at around 6 o’clock). That’s a 12-hour window from wake up until dinner. How long did I think I was on the beach? Just a casual 10 HOURS? It should have been clear that I left something out, but I missed it. I know, I know, we’re all clearly upset by this. This is a life-altering mistake and I’m sorry.

I blame this alien:

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(Really, more sci-fi?) (Yes, can’t stop, won’t stop.)

The gaping hole. The missing piece of yesterday is not too much to get excited about. It was just a minor detail, a time waster. A totally casual activity I always do after a morning workout. It was just, you know, a bit of PARASAILING.

…Yeah. Not sure how I forgot that one. But yes, I parasailed a.k.a weightlessly soared through the Hawaiian sky and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

In case you’re wondering the schematics of it all, it was actually quite simple. Once harnessed up, we sat down on the back of the boat, the driver sped up so the wind caught the parachute, and we floated up into the air, just like that. Seriously. Stern of the boat to 1200 feet in the air in 15 seconds. Can you believe that?!

I couldn’t:

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Now, just as we floated back down to the boat, let’s do that same with Day 3.

Back to my dad’s name twin but nothing freakier than that: Brian.

Brian picked us up in his white pickup truck, stocked full of poles and lures and bait and we made our way to one of his favorite fishing spots.

Now, I’ve fished my whole life, so I assumed I’d be able to pick up anything he gave me and knock ‘em dead, but that wasn’t the case. But due to the unpredictability of the ocean, the poles are much heavier duty thus heavier in weight compared to what I’m used to. As a result, I had to do some serious concentration to cast correctly. I was a lacrosse player making the game winning shot in the last minute of play. I was an eight-year-old girl sneaking up on a butterfly with a net. I was lumberjack, slicing up some wood in Alaska. I was—NAILING IT.

In total we caught 11 fish between the 4 of us. Of those 11, there were 7 different species, which I’ve listed completely accurately below.

  • Broom fish
  • Rock fish
  • Goat fish
  • Blue Eyed Something
  • Unknown Tri-color Dude
  • The Invasive Species
  • One good for eating if it was bigger, but it was a little runt that needed to go through fish puberty and blossom and stuff.

We headed back to the hotel at 11, and after being in the sun for 5 straight hours, I was ready to hide in the shade for a bit and have an Oreo…or 4.

That night, the rest of my family flew in from Oahu, almost doubling our group size, so we decided the only thing to do was have a barbecue and play shuffle board. And let me tell you something, you’ve never seen more enthusiastic shufflers (is that what they’re called?). Based on our cheers, you’d think we were on the verge of winning Olympic Gold, which we could have…if it was judged purely on spirit and amount of food consumed before play.

Eventually we decided to call it a night, figuring we had nothing left to prove on the court.

“Until tomorrow,” because tomorrow held adventures all its own.

 

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Mahalo Sun, You’re Cool! (Hawaii Day 2)

The next morning my siblings and I woke up at 6:00 am and decided to get a little workout in. (Note: This early rise was unintentional, Maui is 3 hours behind California, so our bodies thought it was a breezy 9 o’clock, but let’s just keep that between us; the hotel workers and locals on the beach thought we were just immensely dedicated to our health, unhindered by the clutches of sleep and laziness, and I don’t want them to take back their friendly waves and nods of respect.)

After our workout, we were all feeling refreshed and energized, so we thought it best to lie on the beach for a few hours with the family to recover.

A noteworthy fact: I made my first appearance in ocean water since roughly 2008, and didn’t die. I did see a shark though. Just kidding, it was a whale. Just kidding it was a rock that I thought was a creature of the deep waiting to swallow me whole, but as previously stated, it was in fact a rock and it neglected to inflict any bodily harm. Obviously King Triton is looking out for me.

We spent a great deal of time on the beach that morning, each of us rotating from the water to the beach chairs and back again. And eventually my dad and I found ourselves knee deep in sand castle architectural plans, none of which upheld the constant onslaught of waves, unfortunately. So, with my dream of being a Beach League Architect crushed by a gnarly wave, literally, we headed back up to the hotel to shower. Once we’d all de-saltwatered our hair and de-sanded…everything else, we hopped in the car and were walking through the seaside shops of Lahaina by sunset.

Just as the sun kissed the water, we spotted a man walking atop the roof of a building, chanting in Hawaiian to the state flag. Once finished, he blew into a conch shell multiple times and let out a loud, powerful yell. In Hawaiian culture, this is a way of saying goodbye to the sun and saying thank you (Mahalo) for the day it provided. As I watched I felt truly welcomed not only into the state of Hawaii, but also into its immense culture. I just stood there in awe, which was good, because my first instinct was to put my fist in the air and yell something like, “YOU’RE COOL!” back up to him, which I’m almost positive would have got me kicked off the island. Or at least it should.

For dinner we sat at a horribly awful table inside Bubba Gumps. It overlooked the ocean and gave me a wide-open view of the last remnants of the sunset and let me feel the ocean breeze on my face as I ate good food with good people. WHAT A MISERABLE DAY.

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I mean, who wants to look at this all day?

Good on Time & Mai Tais (Hawaii Day 1)

It was an early wake up call, but I was more than happy to oblige when my alarm lit up the room with its 4:45, “We’re leaving for Hawaii!” announcement.

We were out of the house by 5:15 and arrived at the shuttle just in time to miss it. There was a collective sigh, but it was only a 15-minute set back, we were still good on time.

When we hopped on the freeway, rush hour had already reared its ugly head. We started and stopped and started and stopped and I’d just started to revisit my breakfast when we arrived at our terminal. We thanked our bus driver and caught sight of the clock on our way out: 7:20, we were still good on time.

Each of the 5 members of my family had a bag to check, so we shuffled in amongst the chaos like a herd of cattle that accidentally discovered Noah loading the ark. There were 10 lines open, but only 5 workers bopping around to lift bags one by one onto the belt. A clock hung on the wall to the left of us and when we loaded our last bag it ticked to 7:50.We were still ummm…good(ish) on time.

Security went relatively smooth. We had our shoes off and phones out 50 yards before we reached the front of the line and once through, we had our hips moving like moms in Sketchers on a Sunday morning walk.

As we rounded the corner towards our gate, my sister got a whiff of caffeine a brewin’ and turned on her heel into the line at Coffee Bean. We followed suit, all eyeing something on the menu, all subconsciously tapping our feet on beat with the second hand of the store’s kitchen themed clock that hung above their breakfast specials. 8:15. We were still barely good(ish) on time.

At 8:22, our plane took off.

Yes, we were on it. Caffeinated, fed, and totally good on time.

Once landed and knee deep in palm trees and humidity, we picked up our rental car and made our way to lunch. Spoiler alert: We ate too much. However, there was a strategy involved in this; one which we totally planned ahead of time and didn’t formulate later when we were bloated and regretting our culinary choices. Straight after lunch we headed to Costco and since we’d eaten enough food to feed a flock of condors mama bird style, our choices were based on a calculated necessity for a week’s vacation, not spur of the moment starvation. (Example: We grabbed 2 family size packs of sliced turkey for a weeks worth of sandwiches, rather than 3 full sized turkeys we could eat in the parking lot 15 minutes after checkout.) And after some serious TLC in stacking the food amongst our bags, we put our rental car in drive and made the trek to our hotel.

Once checked in, unpacked, and relaxed, we made Mai Tais, because that’s what you do when you’re on vacation and you have to mentally prepare yourself to wear a bathing suit 24/7. Cheers to these legs! Cheers to this tan-less skin! Cheers to the cellulite you’re bound to see somewhere at some point, except for on that guy’s butt. Cheers to that guy’s butt! Cheers to this sunset that’s so pretty it makes me want to cry and pee, wait what? maybe that’s the Mai Tai…

Cheers to you Hawaii, may the weeklong love affair begin!