State #39 Hawaii

Aloha from Hawaii! We actually made it.

We used some leftover sky miles for a couple tickets and away we flew. Trev and I were up at 1:30am (couldn’t sleep) and the kids were up before 3am so we could catch our flight. They are such great travelers. They were so excited, they didn’t mind one bit. We were there for a week so this post is kind of long. Go grab a snack and come on back. I’ll wait.

Trev and Mason ended up having an extra seat on their row. So they got to spread out for the long flight. Lucky ducks. I was glad, though. I always feel bad for Trevor on flights because he’s so tall.

I have to admit, planning Hawaii was hard. We weren’t sure which island to visit and we knew we only really had time for one island. After talking to several people here’s the general consensus we got about the six major islands. (There are actually eight islands, several atolls, and numerous islets and seamounts. I don’t know anything about Ni’ihau or Kaho’olawe, other than their nicknames which are The Forbidden Isle and the The Target Isle, respectively.) If you want beautiful beaches, hit Maui. If you want volcanoes, hit Hawaii, the Big Island. Visit Oahu, if you’re looking for city and history. Kauai is nicknamed the Garden Island. Lanai is more of a remote retreat with only two resorts on the island and both are Four Seasons. Molokai is the more traditional Hawaiian place to visit. As much as I knew that Mason would like to see the volcanoes, we all wanted to see Pearl Harbor. Trev’s grandfather was in World War II so that has a special place in our hearts; so Oahu, it was.

We flew into Honolulu and took an Uber to our hotel in Waikiki. We did not opt for a beach front hotel. Instead, we saved some money and stayed at the Embassy Suites, which was just a block back. The short walk to the beach was well worth the money saved.

First thing we did when we got to the hotel, was find the beach. Due to the weather, a lot of the places have this open air vibe. The top picture below is of the lobby to the Embassy Suites we stayed in, no doors, just open entry. Our room was a suite so it had a full living room with a separate bedroom. We didn’t know what to do with so much room.

On our way to lunch we walked through the Royal Hawaiian Center. It’s a big high end shopping center but it also has this beautiful green space where they hold hula lessons and cultural events.

We had some clouds but the water was crystal clear.

First day on the beach we realized a lesson that would affect our whole trip, it’s sunny and then it rains for a few minutes and then the sun comes out and dries you out, then it rains a few minutes and then the sun shines. No wonder there are so many rainbows in Hawaii. The top pic is of Diamond Head, I think. The bottom picture was taken just a couple minutes later as some rain rolled in and you can barely see the mountain, and within a couple minutes it was back to the top picture. No one left the beach, I guess they knew how it worked already.

Climb a tree and hit the beach, why not?

Bury me mom!

In case you’re wondering why I have so many pics of Tuck and not Mason, the answer is simple. Mason was out snorkeling with Trev. You can’t really take pics of them snorkeling because their heads just look like little dots in the pictures. Tuck snorkeled for a while and then wanted to play in the sand and, trust me, the kid had a blast.

After the beach it was hotel pool time before the Manager’s Reception that was held nightly with snacks and drinks.

Boys were pumped, I let them have soda and junk in the evening. Hey, we’re on vacation this week. No school or anything. Tucker said he was “living the dream life” and that Hawaii had been his favorite state so far. I think it was all the soda, junk, and no school he liked.

The hotel even had nightly entertainment on the weekend. If you blow the bottom picture up, you will see where the fellas photobombed my picture of the band. Seriously, enlarge the picture. Ha! This is what I live with. Gracious! But I know I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The next day after some more beach and some more sightseeing, we headed to lunch.

Mason was in charge of picking our lunch locations. In Arizona, he saw an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and it mentioned two places in Hawaii on the island of Oahu. Since that’s where we were headed, I told him we would look for them. Lo and behold, both places were very close to us. The first place was less than a mile and a half from our hotel. We set out walking. Oahu’s roads are not set up in a grid format like most cities so it wasn’t just up and over a block. It took us about 45 minutes. We took an Uber back. Lesson learned.

Mason’s first pick was Fresh Catch for some poke. It’s kind of like the fast food lunch choice of Hawaii.

Poke is small bites of raw fish. The restuarant was so sweet to take the time to talk with us. Chef Reno, wasn’t there but the guy we talked to was so nice. I hate I forgot to get his name. We got to talking about our trip with him and how we saw them on Triple D, and the guy took the boys in the back and let them see some of the fish and touch an octopus. So cool. Turns out that guy is moving to Sandy Springs, Georgia in April. Talk about a small world.

The food was great!! And we know because we had some bad poke later on in the trip. None of it compared to Fresh Catch. We tried (and loved them all) ahi poke with limu seaweed, smoked tako poke (smoked octopus), but our favorite was the ahi shoyu poke. So good. Mason wanted to go back everyday, he liked it so much.

Tuck wouldn’t try the poke but he did order the fish and chips and said the fried cod was delicious. Trev agreed. Tuck’s sporting his Guy Fieri sunglasses look for the occasion.

The next day, we headed back to Honolulu and over to Pearl Harbor. Entrance is free for everyone. We added the audio tour at $7 each. If you ever get a chance to go, GO. The audio guide takes you through the memorial. There is a 23 minute documentary film about the December 7th, 1941 attack that immediately precedes the boat ride out to the memorial. It had real footage from that day. I cried and cried. I don’t know if I’ve said this in an earlier post of not and I try to keep these posts light, but I truly believe, it doesn’t matter what your political leanings are, but even if you don’t support our country’s military mission, we should ALWAYS support and respect our troops. They put their lives on the line for our daily freedoms, way too many of which we take for granted. I am so thankful for their service.

After the video, you take a very short boat ride, compliments of the US Navy, out to the USS Arizona Memorial. Battleships were named after states. The history of this day and this war is so interesting. Seriously. Summing it up really minimizes its impact and does it no justice. But for brevity, the USS Arizona was hit by the Japanese, violently exploded, and sank, taking with it the lives of 1,177 officers and crewmen. (The image of the USS Arizona explosion below is from an unknown photographer; National register of Historic Places reference number is 89001083.)

Only 355 of the crewmen survived the bombing. It is the US Navy’s single largest loss of lives in US history. Over 900 sailors could not be recovered from the ship; there remains were left onboard and officially declared buried at sea. Writing that gives me chills. Unlike other battleships that sunk or were damaged that day, the Arizona was irreparably damaged. She still lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. The memorial was built over top, but not touching, the wreckage. (The first picture below was not taken me. It was taken by Jayme Pastoric of the US Navy, of which I found on Wikipedia; ID 020523-N-9769P-057.jpg and its National Register of Historic Places reference number is 66000944). It’s a great shot of the actual ship below the memorial.

Our picture below is of the memorial from the front.

Below is the list of names of those servicemen who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The bottom right is all that is visible above water of the wreckage.

Since this memorial was built above a burial site, a quiet and respectful manner is requested. So somber.

It’s hard to see in the pictures but the top two show oil that continues to leak from the ship to this day. Many refer to it as the tears of the Arizona.

Leaving the memorial.

We continued the tour through the Interpretive Wayside exhibits and the Remembrance Circle with some notable quotes.

This is one of the anchors from the USS Arizona, which was found blown over 200 yards away from the ship. The anchors weights 19,585 lbs.

There are two exhibits galleries to visit: Road to War…

and Attack.

You can also purchase tickets to three other historic sights- The Battleship Missouri Memorial, The Pearl Harbor Aviation Musuem, and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum.

It’s really hard to put emotions into words. Pretty heavy stuff but we ended our tour with a duck quacking at a bunch of pigeons and one of the pigeons landing on a man’s back so laughter soon returned.

We went to get the Jr Ranger books but they were all out of the English books! What? We will probably never get to come back. The lady could tell we were disappointed so she told us that she did have some Chinese and Japanese booklets that have the badge included. I was confused by this but for $3 we could buy the book in Chinese that had the badge inside. I didn’t want them to not get their badge so I bought the Chinese books. When I told Mason, he was almost offended. He didn’t want the badge if he didn’t earn it. Made my momma heart proud. Just when you feel like you’re doing some of this parenting thing right….Tucker bust out that he was happy he didn’t have to do any work and still got the badge. My proud heart broke. Ha!

As a side note, there are LOTS of Chinese and Japanese visitors on the island. Normally, I wouldn’t have given it any thought but for two reasons: 1- I felt like I left the country (there were tons of signs in Chinese and Japanese) and 2- Coronavirus.

Mason’s second pick was to Stadium Pho for some Vietnamese. I guess being in the Pacific Ocean made him crave Asian food. A little pho with chicken and some barbecue pork vermicelli with spring rolls, bean sprouts, and mint. It was very good. Tuck even tried it and liked it. Makes me think of the old Life cereal commercial…He likes it, He really, really likes it! Man alive, I am really dating myself in these last few posts.

The kids love using chopsticks. They have even been using them at breakfast. Like I mentioned, with the heavy Asian presence, they serve things like miso soup and rice and salad for breakfast at the hotel. The boys have been getting rice every morning with breakfast. They didn’t like the miso with tofu. Anyway back to the Vietnamese place, the boys liked the pork dish so well, we had to order them another one.

Awe….beautiful Hawaii.

Check out this amazing tree.

The next day, we moved down the beach a little and it was less crowded and we had some more fun in the sun. I’ll spare you more pictures of my kids playing in the sand. Mason wanted to hit Opal’s Thai Restaurant (another Triple D spot) but we didn’t want to get another Uber so we walked to Siam Square instead. He was totally cool with that. We had some chicken Pad Thai and some Thai pork fried rice. Tuck tried both but liked the rice the best. Go figure. We were too chicken to try the curry. We’ll try that when we’re closer to home. Mason was loving that he was the food director. It even made him feel better when Tuck was requesting that Mason pick all the food since he was making such good picks.

Without sounding ungrateful, I need to be honest. Staying in Waikiki, I really could have been at any beach. It’s so built up and busy and touristy. I wasn’t wowed the way I thought I would be. It is pretty, don’t get me wrong and I am beyond grateful about being here. But I was ready to get out of the city. So we rented a car to head out to the North Shore. I recommend everyone doing this if you really want to see Oahu.

We thought the boys would get a kick out of driving around in a convertible so we spent the extra money and got a Mustang instead of a cheaper little compact. The boys were excited to say the least. Check out the rainbow in the background. How awesome is that?

The only problem with our plan was that it rained on and off all day so the top went down, the top came up, the top went down, the top came up. But it was still worth it. The rain provided an abundance of rainbows and double rainbows that day. The boys counted 16 or 17 depending on which child you ask and they will both swear they are right. I won’t even name which male family member the boys get that from.

Before we made it to the North Shore, we stopped by the Dole Plantation.

You know we’re suckers for a tour. We took the Pineapple Express Train Tour first.

Next order of business, we had to try a Dole whip. I’ve heard people talk about these at Disney but I figure the best place to get one is at the source, right? All I can say is it tastes like pineapple. Then the boys found their favorite pineapple head as we waited for a pineapple cutting demonstration.

We were shown how to tell if a pineapple is fresh, how to cut one, and how to grow our own (if only we had the patience to wait the nearly two years for it to produce fruit). There was also a chocolate demonstration but the video part of the presentation wasn’t working so the demo was pretty short.

Next up was the Garden Maze. In 2008, Guinness named it the world’s largest maze. Not sure what the qualifications for that was but it wasn’t anything like the Vermont Corn Maze. Maybe it was the distinction of being a garden maze or a permanent maze. Not sure, you can check with Guinness if want to, I’m just telling you what the sign reads. It had poured the rain for about 5 minutes while we were inside at the demonstrations so the maze was wet when we started but that didn’t deter my crew (except for me I was not excited about getting wet but you do what you’ve got to do, right?).

We stopped for a couple silly pics before leaving. No way was Mason getting his picture taken looking like a dame. Tuck is so serious looking in the picture but he thought it was hilarious.

Our next stop was at a beach in Hale’iwa. On our way we saw some men actually planting some pineapples. The process is still done by hand. A skilled laborer can plant more than 10,000 pineapple crowns a day.

We also saw a coffee field. They were surrounded by these funky tall trees. We learned earlier at the Dole Plantation, this is done to protect the coffee trees from too much wind and sun. Apparently, Hawaiian coffee is really good. As a non-coffee drinker, I can’t personally attest to that but that’s what I’m told. Trev thought it was pretty good, though.

Even though it was cloudy, the water was beautiful and the rainbow in the background just made it feel even more Hawaiian.

So pretty. Worth the quick sprinkles of rain.

Trev asked me what I wanted to do when we got to Hawaii (since they could stay on the beach the whole time). I really just wanted to go to a luau where there’s pig in the ground and I get a flower lei. Little did I know how pricey the luaus are; many were $500-$600 for the four of us. Ouch! Enter the Polynesian Cultural Center. It was still over $450 but we got three day passes to the Villages part of the Center along with the luau I wanted and the HA: Breathe of Life Performance. That kind of took some of the sting out of it. Educational and entertaining so we went for it.

If you’ve ever wondered where the Shaka (the thumb and pinky wave they do in Hawaii) came from they will tell you here during the Huki Celebration they do each day at 2pm.

Hamana Kalili (statue below) was greeting people who were invited to help the town of Laie after their church burned down. He waved as the people came in but he was missing his middle three fingers (he lost them while working at a sugar mill) so it looked like that was giving them a special greeting and it just stuck. They still do it all over Hawaii to this day.

Oh!, and the bottom left picture is of Trevor using Tucker as an umbrella. It rained on us in the parking lot but was all clear by the time we got to the entrance. Crazy, but at this point we had grown accustom to it.

A little heads up on the Polynesian, it can be quite confusing about what’s going on and where to go. Download the app and make a schedule ahead of time. Trust me, if there are certain activities your kiddos want to do you’ll need to plan. Basically, how it works is there are six village areas. Each one with structures, clothing, and activities representing each Polynesian island. Each village rotates between a cultural presentation to hands on activities throughout the day. The villages are open from 12pm until 6pm. HA starts at 7:30pm.

All activities stop at 2pm for the Huki: A Canoe Celebration at 2:20pm. Huki means “pull” from the legend of Maui pulling up the islands.

The first village we visited was Samoa. The cultural presentation was funny and entertaining. Afterwards, the boys got to play with the fire sticks, learned how to start a fire, weave a fish from coconut leaves, and watched a man climb a coconut tree.

Next up we headed over to the luau and were greeted with flower leis. Now I’m feeling like I’m in Hawaii.

After we were seated, it was time for the Imu (underground oven) Pig presentation. We watched them get the pig out of the ground (I was taking video instead of pictures of that process), uncover it, and carve it up. I even got to hold the pig head. Awesome! I don’t know how many requests they get for that but there wasn’t a line.

There were multiple performances while we feasted.

With our bellies full, we took in the Tonga cultural presention.

Then we watched the Hawaiian Journey: The Wonders of Hawaii show in the Theater. We wondered through the Ukulele Museum. (Thought of you, Mrs. Beth).

We even got to try our hand at a lesson. None of us were naturals but we had fun. Who knew You Are My Sunshine, would be so hard?

Last event of the day was HA: Breathe of Life. I don’t have any pictures, as photos and video are prohibited, but the fire acts were awesome. So I’ll end the day with a couple random pics of us. 🙂

The next day was beautiful! Blue sunny skies. Great day to have the top down or…..your tongue hung out of your mouth like a dog.

We headed back to the North Shore. However, the storm last night churned up the water so our blue waters were brown next to the shore. But it was still a beautiful day! Any day in Hawaii, is a good day, right? Back to Hale’iwa again.

We were just stopping at various places along our drive. How could we not stop at some of these places and they are right along side of the road.

Go ahead and book your plane ticket. The videos are cool because you can hear the waves just smashing against the rocks. I try not to put too many videos because sometimes they don’t load right. So you will just have to trust me on how cool it sounds.

Next we stopped at Waimea Bay Beach. We were going to let the boys swim but the waves were breaking so hard, we didn’t think it was safe. We let them play along the edge.

They still had a blast chasing waves along the shore.

Ok, so don’t call DFACS, but I set the kids up. I asked them to sit on these pretty green covered rocks for a picture. So they waited patiently for me to get my picture. Little did the boys know, I had been watching the waves pour over those rocks. When the wave came in, Mason did not find it funny. Look at his face. He’s kind of wound tight like me. They would have thought it was funny if it had been me, though.

He didn’t stay mad long. Tuck, however, had a fit when told him we needed to leave. He wanted to play in the sand some more. We were out so late last night at the Polynesian, he was a little cranky. We stopped at Pupukea close to Shark Cove for a little snorkel in these tidal pools. The boys didn’t feel like snorkeling, so after a little exploring we hit the road for some grub.

Mason was excited about this stop. It was another Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives joint – Mike’s Huli Chicken. We even met Mike, himself, and he was gracious enough to take a picture with us. So cool. The boys felt like VIPs.

We ordered the classic huli huli chicken and pork char siu. The food was good. Everything was going great until Mason tried a side item. He, unfortunately, said out loud, “Don’t eat the macaroni. It’s not good.” The unfortunate part was that Mr. Mike was walking by behind Mason at the time. 😦 The side dish was macaroni salad, which Mason has never had. He though it was mac and cheese so he was expecting warm cheesy mac. Instead he tasted cold macaroni salad and his brain was confused. I liked the macaroni salad. I explained to him the difference. We never saw Mr. Mike after that to tell him how much we actually enjoyed the chicken, pork, and rice.

After lunch, we moseyed on down the road back to the Polynesian. We stopped back by the Samoan village to catch the fire stick performance. And yes, that man put that flaming stick on his bare feet.

Then we visited the Aotearoa (New Zealand) village. We watched two men carve a canoe paddle and an ornamental piece and we made our own fish hook necklaces.

Next up was the Fiji village. The structure in the picture on the bottom second from the right, is the Bure Kalou, which is a six-story temple. I heard a guide tell his group this is one of only two remaining Bure Kalous in the world. Don’t know if that’s true but is fascinating if it was.

The next village was Tahiti and it was the boys favorite because they got to fish with a bamboo pole and….

…throw spears. We all tried multiple times but couldn’t get it anywhere near that coconut. I was a bit skeptical that our spears would actually hit and penetrate the coconut so I asked the Tahitian if he could demonstrate and on his second try, he nailed it. Pretty impressive.

The boys went back later in the day and tried again. Trevor stuck the coconut. I was learning a dance and weaving coconut leaves again and, unfortunately, missed it. But Mason backed up his story. We also tried some coconut bread made on an umu (above ground oven).

We went back to Tonga for some coconut weaving and a spear throwing contest. They had some other activities but the boys just wanted to throw spears.

Next up was the village of Hawaii for a poi tasting, some hula dancing, and some traditional Hawaii games.

Once we were done with the villages, we hopped back in the car to head back to the hotel. What a scenic drive. You have ocean to the left as you drive through Kaaawa and the jungle-y (yes, I know that’s not a real word) mountain to the right.

We drove past Kualoa Ranch. Some of you might not know the name but you might recognize it from Jurassic Park, Lost, or Hawaii Five-O.

And then just like that you sever your child from his dream life by telling him we are catching a flight in the morning.

We got back to the mainland really late but we were all in good spirits. I was just happy to see no one had backed into our Stowaway in the parking garage, We made it to our hotel right before midnight.

The next morning after a later than usual start, we took a gamble and went ahead and drove to our next, shall we say, sinful state.

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