Hawaiʻi, Oʻahu, and Kauaʻi
After his second winter in snowy Lake Tahoe, Myke was ready to defrost somewhere warm. With our (supposed) return to office date quickly approaching we decided it was a good time to cash out the Hyatt points we earned from our
wedding first anniversary event. Myke had wanted to return to Hawaii for years now, since our last trip in 2019. He also wanted James to finally get his scuba certification, something he’d been hinting would be far more fun in the warm waters off Kauai than the cold and murky kelp fields in Monterey.
So we (but mostly Myke) planned a two-week, three-island trip to kick off our Spring.
Our first stop was the big island of Hawaii, where we spent four days. For this part of the trip we were most excited to see our friends Jeff & Kevin, who had moved to the island a few years earlier. Our vacation kicked off properly the morning after we arrived with a 10:00 am Scuba dive. We met our dive master at the old Kona airstrip, which had been converted into a park after being decommissioned in 1970. We’d be doing a shore dive from a nearby cove. Getting in wasn’t too bad, but getting out turned out to be a real challenge. The waves had grown more intense during our dive and made standing difficult with our heavy gear.
While in Kona we also made sure to check out some restaurants, including Island Lava Java, Big Kahuna Beach Grill, and Tropics Tap House. We took a day trip to Mahai’ula Beach to wander around, and Jeff took us on a hike to an out-of-the-way beach with a stunning view.
After spending a few days in Kona we packed up and drove to the Hilo side of the island, to stay at Jeff & Kevin’s home. The drive took us all the way from sea level up to 10,000 feet as we went across the middle of the island. Along the way we also stopped to check out the Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation for a quick tour of their roasting process and the grounds. The plantation was located in a cloud forest, with lots of dense ferns and moss. It was a nice pit stop, and we got to meet a local cat and taste some good coffee. Next, we headed up to the Maunakea visitor center, which is at 9,200 feet. At that elevation the mountain is pretty barren, and we were surprised to see pine trees along our drive too. Apparently in the winter they even get snow at the top! While it’s possible to go all the way to the summit, we didn’t want to wait around to adjust to the altitude and instead headed off to Jeff & Kevin’s place.
For our last full day on Hawaii we decided to check out Volcanoes National Park. There we hiked around volcanic craters, walked through a lava tube, and out to see the slowly erupting Kīlauea. Despite spending several hours at the park we really only got to see a small fraction of it. Before it got too late we also drove out to Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach. The weather was a little stormy when we arrived, but we got to spend some time looking out at the oceans and the huge waves coming in.
Thursday was our last day on Hawaii, but before we left we still managed to fit in a few activities. Kevin took us to see the neighboring cows that grazed on their land, and gave us some alfalfa to feed them as a treat. Then we packed the jeep and made some quick stops to see ‘Akaka Falls and Mr. Ed’s Bakery to buy some local food.
On Oahu our plan consisted mostly of walking along on beaches during the day and trying out new restaurants at night. James had managed to convince Myke that they needed to spend at least part of the trip not really doing anything, and instead just enjoying some time relaxing. For the first two days that’s basically all we did. On Friday we went to Waimānalo Beach, which had beautiful green water, and on Saturday we spent an hour lying on Diamond Head Beach. We also drove up to Diamond Head visitor center where James took the opportunity to relax under some trees with a book while Myke hiked along the crater rim of Lē‘ahi (in sandals, and in half the estimated time).
Sunday was our last day on Ohau, and we decided to pack in a few more activities. To start, Myke woke up early for a 10:00 am boat dive to see a sunken ship. Then we met back up and drove to the northern side of the island to visit Kualoa Ranch, where Myke’s favorite movie (Jurassic Park) was filmed. We didn’t book tickets early enough for the Jurassic Park tour, but we did enjoy a two hour “Hollywood’s Backlot” tour instead. Normally beating out dinosaurs would be a tall order, but dinner that night may have done just so. After much searching we settled on Ya-Ya’s Chophouse, where Myke ordered a 16 oz. (yes, one pound) filet, crème brûléed sweet corn, and mashed potatoes. James opted for a smaller portion with the Lobster Dynamite, which featured flash fried lobster. Myke claims it was one of the best steaks he’s ever had, so I guess we’ll have to go back.
We ended our trip with a stay at the Grand Hyatt in Kauai. Our hotel room had a great view with a patio overlooking one of the gardens, however it was a solid half mile walk from parking lot. After dropping our bags off we went to the dive shop for Myke to look for new gear. He had been planning to pick up either a BCD, regular, or dive computer; but was having trouble deciding. As luck would have it Myke didn’t have to, and instead negotiated for a deal on all three. It made a great start to the week, which he would spend getting his Rescue Diver certification. James, meanwhile, was just going for his basic open water certification. He did slightly underestimate the length of the coursework for this and had to spend most of his nights reading up on diving coursework. We both ended up completing our certifications, and went for several dives during the week, cumulating in two dives together on our last day.
With all the diving we really didn’t have much time for other activities. We did try out some new restaurants, and attempted a hike along Shipwreck Beach on the Sunday that we were leaving. That ended up being a bit much for James, who wasn’t really looking to work up a sweat before flying home later that day. Myke, however, was having fun and ended up walking farther than the marked trail, going all the way to the Makauwahi Cave.