DAY 2/’ELUA: HANAUMA BAY
The day dawned bright, beautiful and broiling. Where were the famed island breezes? I wanting nothing more than to plunge into the blue Hawaiian surf, but that would have to wait because Mike had to attend to some business at the convention center. I decided to traipse along since the convention was being held in the iconic Hilton Hawaiian Village with its legendary Rainbow tower that I had always dreamed of seeing. So while Mike went to set up his display booth I scuttled around the shops and beaches of the Hilton.
It was very surreal for me to be standing in front of the Rainbow Tower. I had always dreamed of seeing it. The tower was a bucket list check off of sorts, so I was thrilled to finally be able to admire it in person.
SIDE NOTE: The ceramic tile mosaic on the tower is 286 ft high and 26 feet wide, using over 16,000 individual tiles
My husband finished up his work responsibilities rather quickly and we met back up and headed to our hotel so that we could grab our bathing suits and head to our next destination, Hanauma Bay State Park.
In Hawaiian the word “Hana” means bay. This curved bay lying in the cone of a dormant volcano is a stunning example of the importance of care for our fragile ecosystem. At one point Hanauma Bay was almost dead from overuse by the three million tourists that visited each year. With careless feet crushing the live coral, skittish fish too afraid to feed there, and volumes of suntan lotion sitting like oil slicks on the sapphire water, the bay slowly suffocated.
Since 1997 the amount of visitors allowed into the bay has been limited; with the annual admission now being around one million visitors per year. If you are a first time visitor, arrive early, especially on the weekend. After paying your $7.50 entrance fee, and your $1.00 parking fee, you are required to watch a short video (But you only need to view it once in a 365 day cycle). The video is the project of the Marine Education Center and is very informative about the personal and legal responsibilities we have to the natural marine life of the Bay.
TIP: Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays to allow the fish to feed in peace and to provide the bay the opportunity to purge the suntan lotion and other by products of its human visitors. The other days of the week it is advisable to arrive early or else you may run the risk of being turned away due to the park being at capacity. The Park opens at 6:00 am and there are only 300 parking spaces.
Before you proceed to watch the video, make sure you visit the restrooms and snack bar. There are restrooms at bay level but there is no snack bar. We were unaware of this prior to being shooed into the building to watch the movie or else we would have purchased snacks at the shops at the entrance.
After watching the video we were ushered out of a side door where we had the opportunity to board a tram for the steep walk to the beach. The price for the tram is very reasonible, $1.00 for the down trip and $1.25 for the return. We elected to walk down (But I insisted that we tram back up!) The walk was not too strenuous and the views were worth it, but I would recommend that you have a wagon if you have a lot of beach gear to carry. Small coolers are allowed, but alcohol is not.
We travel with our own snorkel gear (Which is why you had a rare sighting of us with checked bags) but if you do not have your own you can rent gear for $20 per day. There are also lockers at the beach for rent, $8.00 for a small one and $10.00 for a large one. We have small waterproof containers that we carry our keys, money, and phones in, but we did not feel worried about leaving our other belongings on the beach while we were swimming, as the vibe here was decidedly family oriented.
While wandering the shops at the Hilton Village I had been in search of a noodle. I am a strong swimmer but tend to get a little disoriented while snorkeling due to my balance disorder, so it helps to have a floaty to provide stability. Unfortunately, I could only manage to find a tube. My gallant husband kindly blew it up for me and I spent the rest of the afternoon blissfully floating like a bird on the waves.
I did eventually forsake the float and actually do some snorkeling. I hadn’t snorkeled in years and I had forgotten how much fun it was. We saw quite a bit of marine life and were very happy that we had schlepped our gear all the way from Maryland. Our little underwater camera provided us adequate pictures.
By the time we were done splashing around in the water we were starving. Deciding that we were done for the day we packed up our gear, paid the attendants our $1.25 each and hopped on the open air tram to head back to the parking lot. My husband was very pleased with how the day turned out since snorkeling Hanauma Bay had always been a dream of his.
Mike wanted to get back to the hotel, get cleaned up and head over to the iconic Duke’s Restaurant for dinner. He had called in the morning to see if we could get a reservation but they were completely booked, however, a very kind hostess suggested that we swing by between 5:00 and 6:00, put our names on the list, grab a drink, and watch the sunset while we waited for a table.
Duke’s Waikiki was within walking distance from our hotel so we set out on foot, strolling along the sidewalk on the beach side of Kalakaua Ave, passing the statue of Duke himself.
SIDE NOTE: If you are unfamiliar with Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, then a bit of history. Duke was born in 1890 in Honolulu and was a descendant of Hawaiian royalty. Known as an Ambassador of Aloha, he won six Olympic medals-mostly for swimming, helping to popularize the sport worldwide. He was a legendary surfer-introducing the sport to the East Coast of the US, as well as Australia and New Zealand. Duke was an actor, humanitarian, and was even elected sheriff of Honolulu an unprecedented thirteen times.
Arriving at the restaurant was a bit chaotic, but the multitude of hostesses seemed to have the situation well in hand. We were directed to the oceanside bar where a knowledgeable, but harried bartender fixed us drinks. She then pointed in the direction of the outdoor section and Mike and I dutifully trundled off with our libations.
Eventually we were shown to a quiet table where we enjoyed an excellent seafood dinner, of which I neglected to take any pictures of!
Wrapping up our eventful day we headed back to the hotel for some sleep, jet lag was still crushing us pretty good and Mike had to start work in the morning. We bid Aloha to the King of Honolulu, took a leisurely stroll back to the Marriott, and tucked in for the night.