DAY 3/’EKOLU: CIRCLE ISLAND TOUR
*QUICK NOTE: We purchased a new Canon 70D earlier in the year. During the year we noticed that our pictures weren’t turning out very good. We just thought that we weren’t very good at taking pictures with it. But it was on this trip that the camera actually seized up and stopped working completely and we realized it wasn’t operator error afterall. Unfortunately our photos for this blog are not what they should be, my apologies! Lorri
Mike was going to be at the convention all day on Tuesday, so I needed to find a solo adventure to keep me busy.
I called a tour company that I found on Groupon that offered discounted tours of the island. I spoke with a nice, but distracted young man (He was at the grocery store) who offered to give me $10 off the Groupon price if I booked with him directly. I agreed, and he gave me vague instructions on when and where to meet the next morning, I hung up not quite sure if I had a reservation or not.
CROSS TIP: Sometimes calling a tour company directly can get you a better price.
When I awoke early (Thanks jetlag!) in the morning I noticed I had a voicemail message, thankfully it from the tour group administrator who had better detailed instructions about the day, so after a hearty breakfast, I marched down to the tour bus pick up area at the Marriott and waited for my ride. I was ushered onto a bus with Hawaii Turtle Tours emblazoned on the side and I realized that I had been passed off to a different tour operator. No matter, as a quick phone call settled the fare that I had been offered by Circle Island Tours and I settled into my seat.
The circle island tour began with circling Waikiki to pick up other passengers at the various hotels along the route. Once every soul was on board our driver for the day, KC, spoke with us a little bit about the Hawaiian word for family, which is ‘ohana. He then inquired, “If we are all family today, then what do families do?” Everyone grinned and looked around but didn’t say anything, so I felt the need to shout out, “WE FIGHT!” Which made everyone laugh and kinda broke the ice. In case you’re wondering, the correct answer was, “We look out for each other.”
We then all introduced ourselves by stating our name, rank, and serial number. I found out that it was me, a couple from Philadelphia, and a bus load of Australians. Which suited me just fine, because Australians are about the most easy going and fun bunch of people I’ve ever encountered in all my years of travel.
Our first stop of the day was the Hālona Blowhole near Hanauma Bay. While the blowhole was not very active on this day the view was still stunning.
Our driver also pointed out the beach area at Hālona Cove made famous by Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the film From Here to Eternity. A reference I’m obligated to post since this is a travel blog aimed at people over fifty.
Our next stop was at Makapuu Lookout and Rabbit Island. While our stop was only for about 15 minutes, there is an incredible trail here that would be an excellent day trip for the more adventurous. The Makapu‘u Point trail, is a moderate two mile (rt) trail that takes you to the Makapu‘u Lighthouse which was built in 1909.
After our first two stops it was apparent that there were no dwaddlers in our group. Despite the age range varying wildly from a seventeen year old on holiday with his mom, to two septuagenarians that were always the first to leap off the bus, it appeared that we were going to be whipping around the island.
Back on the little bus our Hawaii born tour operator, KC, regaled us with his infinite amount of island knowledge. There was little that he did not know about each of our stops and darn near every mile marker in between.
Stopping at the Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Outlet was next on our agenda. While I have read that some people balk at the idea of stopping at “tourist traps” I feel it is a good way to give back to the local economy while picking up some delicious souvenirs. Besides who in their right mind would turn away free samples of Kona coffee and chocolate covered Macadamia nuts? There are also clean bathroom facilities, and I was able to pick up another bottle of cold water, and a new hat, for the remainder of my journey.
SIDE NOTE: This establishment was started in 1987 as a roadside business. The owners, both Oahu natives, spent many years perfecting the ultimate combinations of sweet and savory flavors for their Macadamia nuts. If you stop by, ask specifically to sample the Pineapple Snow covered macadamia nut, you won’t regret picking up a box either.
Piling back on the bus, everyone was energized by the free coffee samples for the next point of interest on the itinerary. Kualoa Beach and Mokoli’i island fondly known as Chinaman’s Hat. This 153 acre regional park is a bird watchers paradise, where birders can see a variety of wetland birds such as the Red-Crested cardinal and the Black noddy. It is also a well known tourist photo favorite and I couldn’t resist sticking my big head into the frame for an obligatory “hat” photo.
Everyone back in their seats, we proceeded to follow the road along the gorgeous shoreline of North Oahu. I realized quickly that we were in Waimea and that we were stopping at the famous Pipeline that Mike and I had passed just a few days before. However, once again I was disappointed to see that there was nobody riding the waves, but it was nice to get out and walk the area where the events took place. The stop was short since we were just passing through on our way to our lunch stop.
Our main stop for the day was snorkeling with the turtles at a secluded North Shore beach. This was a rare time where we were with other tour groups. After receiving very serious instructions from our snorkel guide regarding the laws protecting the sea turtles and their habitat, I geared up with the provided snorkel gear (I did not know if I would have been able to use my own) and plunged into the warm Hawaiian surf.
Uhm, but there wasn’t much to see here. The water was pretty void of coral and fish, much less sea turtles. It wasn’t a total loss however, because after about 10 minutes of floundering around, I did see a huge turtle glide out of the murky depths.
I was so excited to see him that I didn’t noticed the swarm of swimmers bearing down on me as they chased after him. Kicked and swatted by the horde as they surged by, I was tumbled around a bit. Popping out of the water, I was slightly worse for the wear as I gingerly made my way back to shore to recover.
We spent about an hour here, there were restrooms and showers and there did seem to be a facility for snacks, but it didn’t appear to be open. It was very relaxing, but this was the one stop were I really felt like the lonely, solo adventurer that I was that day.
I also left my Canon on the bus and used my underwater camera for the photos in the slideshow below. In all honesty they’re probably better than the photos that our defective Canon would have taken anyway.
Our last stop of the day was the Dole Plantation. The website states that the business started as a roadside stand in 1950. Because of its popularity with tourists, they developed the “Pineapple experience” in 1989. Which includes a train tour, a garden tour, and a pineapple maze. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to do any of the “experiences” but the grounds were gorgeous and I bet any one of those activities would be a relaxing thing to do if you had the time and didn’t mind the touristy nature of the experiences.
CROSS TIP: The store is massive, and we ran into a lot of large buses here. Our guide tipped us off to a simple secret. If we were thinking of purchasing the sweet, yummy pineapple ice cream (And seriously, who wasn’t?) then go to the back of the store to order. The front of the store had long lines and was very loud and busy, but when I bought my ice cream, there was no one in front of me, thanks KC!
The pineapple has a long history in Hawai’i; it was first noted by American Missionaries as far back as 1820. Canned pineapple started shipping out of Hawai’i in 1903 after James D. Dole and a group of enterprising Californians had a vision of shipping the fruit in cans to the mainland. By 1930 Hawai’i produced more canned pineapple then anywhere else in the world. However, due to aggressive competition, lower production costs in other countries, and the effects of several wars, the production slowly declined and cannieries were closed. The last Hawaiian pineapple cannery closed on Maui in 2007.
Having purchased my ice cream, and tired of wandering around the hectic store, I ambled outside to escape the noise and swirl of activity. The grounds were meticulously and beautifully cultivated for growing the many types of flowers, plants and fruits of the island.
I was especially awed by the incredible colors of the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees that stood sentry outside of the building. Surprisingly, these colorful trees are used in the production of pulpwood which is used to make white paper. I had never seen anything like them, and wished that I wasn’t having so much trouble with my camera, as these pictures do not do justice to the vividness of the colors of the tree trunks.
Tired from a very long day, the Aussies and I settled into our seats as we made the long trek back to Honolulu. Coming into the business area of town, we saw this from the bus window, which made me smile, a perfect ending to a perfect day.
Meeting back up with Mike at the hotel, we ventured out on foot to see all of the people dressed up for Halloween.
We noticed that the visitors from the Asian countries were the ones that were completely into the whole spectacle of the night; with their elaborate costumes and large groups of friends and family all out parading around together.
Most of the restaurants on the Waikiki strip that we dropped in on, had long waits for dinner, but since we were enjoying the warm night air, and the festive crowds, we walked a little way from our hotel and found a incredibly delicious Italian restaurant that could seat us immediately. Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar had just the perfect cuisine, wine list, and atmosphere to relax us both after an eventful day in Paradise.