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An Exhaustive Review of Our Exhausting Hawaiian Adventure

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I have gotten SO much good information from these boards, but I’m afraid that I have been derelict in return the favor and posting complete reviews of my trips when I return. I am not going to do that this time. My goal is to make this as complete a review as possible, with times, prices, locations, pictures, opinions, tips, etc in the hope that some readers will find something that will help make their Hawaiian vacation as special as ours was. Several weeks ago I posted our final itinerary and last week I posted a mini-review, so some of the information in this thread will be redundant to those. I will try to keep it interesting. For each day I am going to list what was on our itinerary, and then what we actually got accomplished. As it took months to plan the trip and almost 10 days to complete it, it may take me several days (weeks?) to complete the review. I appreciate your patience. In the meantime I will be happy to answer any questions that I can.

 

DISCLAIMER

The views expressed in this review will be presented in as honest a fashion as possible. Some of them may not all be positive, but they will all be accurate from my perspective. None will be presented with malice. I know that others who have taken this trip, maybe the same trip, will have had different experiences and I would love to read about theirs also.

 

BACKGROUND

Travelers – Me, DH and our dear friends who will be referenced in this review as DFH and DFW. We are mid-40s to mid-50s and have taken many trips together. We all travel really well together because we all want to see, do and experience as much as possible and we are all up for most any adventure. We are all interested in anything historical, but we all also appreciate a fun time at a Senors Frogs. We are not the types to sleep late and dawdle over coffee when there are things to see and do. But we all can enjoy a nice sea day, or quiet time on the beach. And best of all we are able to find the fun in just about everything we do. This trip was in celebration of DF’s 25th wedding anniversary. I am the chief planner for our trips and I tend to make very detailed and packed itineraries, but I am never opposed to revising them if the situation warrants.

 

Date – Oct 8 -17, 2010

 

Ship – NCL’s Pride of America, sailing on Oct 9

 

Staterooms 4557 & 4555 – Inside deck 4

 

Booking info – After researching all the options I booked the trip through the local branch of a well know travel club. I was very happy with the cost. Booking through them I was able to get the cruise, 1 pre-cruise night in Waikiki, transfers from the airport to the hotel (we didn’t use those), an airport lei greeting, and transport from Waikiki to the pier for several hundred dollars less than I could find the cruise alone through any other agency or through NCL directly.

 

Photos – I will post as many photos as I can in the review and at the end of each day’s review include a link to my Picasa web albums so those who wish to can see all of the photos. There are a lot! And these are just mine, they don’t even include the photos BFs took. When viewing the web albums, you will not see captions on every photo, but I am trying to at least put a caption on the first photo of each new location. So when you see a caption, you will know that the at least until the next caption the following photos will all be from that location.

 

So here we go…..Day One coming up….

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Our originally scheduled itinerary:

Friday, October 8 – O’ahu

12:55pm Arrive Honolulu 12:55pm

Pick up rental SUV from Thrifty airport location.

 

1-4 pm Drive up to North Shore Beaches before heading back to Waikiki and checking into hotel.

Ohana Beachcomber Hotel http://www.ohanahotels.com/hotels-resorts/hawaiian-islands/oahu-waikiki/ohana-waikiki-beachcomber

 

6:30pm Dinner Options:

We have a 6:30pm reservation at the Hula Grill, located on the beach across the street from our hotel.

Hula Grill: http://www.hulagrillwaikiki.com (808) 923-4852

 

Other dining options:

 ONO Hawaiian Food – Authentic local Hawaiian food. Hole in the wall place. Very casual. Very good reviews. About a 30 min walk from hotel, or we could take a taxi. Inexpensive. http://www.hawaiiangatherings.com/Ono%20Hawaiian%20Foods.pdf

 Duke’s Waikiki – Famous restaurant on beach near hotel. There is the restaurant, or the Barefoot Bar with more casual food. Famous for Hula Pie (macadamia nut ice cream w/chocolate crust and topping). We might want to just have dessert here. http://www.dukeswaikiki.com/

 

After dinner International Marketplace – Outdoor shopping right next to hotel. http://www.internationalmarketplacewaikiki.com/ There is a food court and restaurants here also.

Henna Tattoos at A Rainbow Studio located at the International Marketplace. http://www.arainbowstudio.com/

We will probably be ready for bed by now.

 

Locations for GPS:

 

Matsumoto Shave Ice

66-087 Kamehameha Hwy

Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712

 

Laniakea Beach a.k.a. Lani's Beach or “Turtle Beach”

N 21° 37.137 W 158° 05.110

From the historic town of Haleiwa travel about 1.5 miles just before Pohaku Loa Way on Kam Highway. When you see lots of cars parked in the dirt on the right-hand side pull in. Across the street is Laniakea Beach. The traffic is very heavy in this area. Please take care when crossing the 2-lane highway.

 

Waimea Bay Beach Park

61-031 Kamehameha Hwy

Haleiwa, HI 96712-1304

 

Kaneohe, HI

From Kaneohe, take Hwy H-3 back to Honolulu

 

Ohana Beachcomber Hotel

2300 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96815

 

What we actually did:

We flew CO from IAH to Honolulu. Flight left IAH at 9:35am and arrived HNL a few minutes ahead of schedule at about 12:47pm. The flight was smooth and we had a wonderful and entertaining captain. Food was airplane/convenience store food. But my boy scout DH and carried on a goodie bags full of different snacks so we were good.

 

TIP: If you are flying out of IAH, consider parking at the Parking Cents lot at the corner of JFK and Greens Rd. It was about $6/day as opposed to $15/day to park onsite at the airport. Shuttles pick you up at your car and the driver gives you a slip of paper with your location on it, so you will be able to find your car when you return. It didn't take us any time to be dropped off at the airport about 5 feet from a baggage check-in station. We got to the airport early enough to have breakfast at Pappasitos and relax a little before boarding.

 

I liked our captain because he was funny and also because he told us what we were seeing as we looked out the windows:

 

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The Big Island from the air.

 

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Honolulu, Waikiki and Diamond Head from the air.

 

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Submarine coming into Honolulu.

 

When we disembarked the airplane their was a lovely woman waiting to greet us with our leis. It was a wonderful welcome to the islands.

 

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I'm on the right.

 

Next we were off to claim our baggage and pick up our Thrifty rental car. I reserved Thrifty cars in Ohau, Hilo, Maui and Kauai. The Thrifty airport location is offsite, but we were on the shuttle and at the location in just a short time. We had a nice Jeep Laredo which provided good vision all around and plenty of room for luggage. We kept the vehicle for 1 day + 2 hours and total cost was $137.66. That included an extra $30 drop off fee because we chose to return the car to their Waikiki lot.

 

TIP: I booked all the cars using corporate discount code HT14004118, which I got off a website for Hawaiian tourist, and is available for anyone to use. Using that code I was able to get the best prices I could find, and also no extra charge for an additional driver. Also, I joined Thrifty's Blue Chip program. There is no cost and it is a huge time saver. We never had to wait in line and our paperwork was waiting when we got there.

 

TIP: DH brought his GPS along, which happens to use Homer Simpson's voice to give directions. He (DH, not Homer) made sure all of our necessary POIs were in the GPS before we left home. You can also rent GPS systems from the car rental companies. Homer was a huge help on all of the islands. He only let us down one time, but he is Homer Simpson after all so we couldn't expect perfection. I highly recommend that you use a GPS if you are renting cars, altho I don't necessarily recommend Homer's voice.:)

 

On to the North Shore...

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In no time at all we were in the rental car and Homer had us on the highway (Homer loves highways - he gives a "Woo Hoo!" every time he directs you onto one) and headed to the North Shore. It is a lovely drive, as were all the drives on all the islands. You drive through mountains which give way to rolling open fields of pineapples and other crops we couldn't identify and then you see the Pacific up ahead. We passed the Dole Plantation visitor center. The parking lot was packed but with our limited time we decided not to stop. We were headed to Matsumoto's Shaved Ice in Haleiwa.

 

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Highway to the North Shore.

 

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Matsumoto's

 

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In my ongoing quest to be a traveler and not just a tourist, and to try an experience places I visit as a local does, I ordered the Hawaiian flavored shaved ice WITH ice cream AND beans. BLECH!!! The shaved ice part was delish, but those beans...yuck. I was expecting some sort of sweet tasting bean, or maybe salty would have been a nice contrast. But to me they were just like regular black beans and I can't imagine who would have ever thought of adding them to ice cream and shaved ice. I had to toss it once I got down to the beans. Everyone else just ordered regular shaved ices and enjoyed them. They are good, better than snow cones, but we all agreed that they weren't ALL that. So if you go to Hawaii and don't manage to get a shaved ice, don't feel like you missed all that much. They are inexpensive tho, I will give them that.

 

This is the view across the street from Matsumoto's looking down towards the ocean:

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Next - On to Turtle Beach...

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I had two goals for this trip: 1-to see/swim with sea turtles and 2-to have some authentic local Hawaiian cuisine.

 

Some more background - Even tho I am a "fluffy" girl, I am also I runner. I completed a marathon in February and will be competing in my 9th half marathon in 3 weeks. But being fluffy, I am definitely not a very fast runner, so I have a special affection for slower creatures, specifically penguins (runners will understand) and turtles. I have been wanting to swim with turtle for a couple of years. DH saw some and got pictures while snorkeling in Mexico last summer, but alas they were too elusive for me....that an I was chicken to swim that far out over the reef...so anyway, I was really looking forward to seeing turtles at Turtle Beach.

 

Show Turtles Aloha! (my new motto)

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Unfortunately when we get to Turtle Beach there are no turtles actually on the beach. There are two in the surf and it looks like they are trying to get on the beach, but there were so many people standing on the small area of sand that was available for them to crawl ashore, that I think they just decided not to mess with it. They were huge too. They looked like VW bugs swimming around in the surf. I was hoping some of the turtle volunteer ladies would make the people move off the sand and onto the rocks to give the Honu a clear passage, but they didn't. The ladies did say that a big one had been sunning on the sand a little earlier in the day. It was a lovely beach. Here are some photos:

 

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See the surfer on the far left.

 

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Looking west (left) from Turtle Beach.

 

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Point on the east (right) end of Turtle Beach. The surf was really high (seemed to me) on the other side of this point.

 

Next - Onward around the windward side of the island and to Waikiki

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TIP: For each island I ordered Franko's Guide Maps from http://www.frankosmaps.com. These proved invaluable. They also sell them in all the ABC stores and gift shops. In addition to using them as just maps, and therefore allowing me to keep check on Homer and make sure he was not leading us astray, they have TONS of information on all the sites, estimated drive times between points, phone #s, websites, etc. They were very helpful in planning the itinerary and the order we would do things.

 

After leaving Turtle Beach we continued up the North Shore, making the curve at the Turtle Bay resort and south down the windward side of the island. From Kaneohe we took the Likelike Hwy back to Honolulu, picking up H1 to Waikiki. We checked in for 1 night at the Ohana Beachcomber Hotel. The hotel is not right on the beach, but it is in a great location on Kalakaua Ave, on the same block as the International Marketplace and right across the street from the Royal Hawaiian shopping center. (I have no idea how people afford to go to Hawaii and shop at those designer stores too! Fortunately for me there were plenty of ABC stores.:)) Our package included 1 night, standard view room, which was on the second floor of the hotel, but the 3rd floor of the building. The view from our balcony wasn't the greatest, but we weren't there long anyway.

 

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Looking inland from our balcony.

 

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Looking in the direction of the beach from our balcony. Guess this is the view 1 nighters get.

 

There was a little confusion on our reservation, and the hotel thought both couples were celebrating anniversaries when it was actually just our friends. When we checked in the desk clerk told us there was a little gift for us in our room in honor of our celebration. We explained that it was not our anniversary and he said he hoped we enjoyed it anyway. In each room there was a nice box of chocolates/macadamia nut candy with a lovely note from the hotel. So that was nice. Even tho the view wasn't the greatest, the room was very nice, spacious and comfortable, with a large closet, safe, fridge, coffee maker with Hawaiian coffee, large bathroom with nice amenities. I would recommend the hotel for sure.

 

The hotel had a Jimmy Buffett restaurant and bar. We enjoyed drinks from the bar on the pool deck, overlooking the street before we headed across the street for dinner at the Hula Grill. Here is the view from the pool/patio area:

 

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The Hula Grill and also Duke's Waikiki are located in the tallest hotel on the left of the photo, with Waikiki Beach being just behind it. So it was an easy walk over to the Hula Grill for dinner.

 

I had made reservations online months ago for dinner at the Hula Grill, requesting a table on the railing and noting that we were celebrating friend's anniversary. I had looked up the sunset time for that day and made the reservation for 30 minutes prior. However, the week before we left we realized that we would be pushing it to get back to Waikiki in time to make that ressie time, so we pushed it back 45 min to 6:30. We got there a little early and watched the sunset from the bar. It was still beautiful from there but unfortunately I was unable to get any good photos from there. The restaurant has a wonderful ambiance and a creative drink menu. For drinks we had Sunset Martinis, Hula Mai Tais, and Lava Flows (pina colalada with strawberry puree). For dinner DH and I shared an appetizer platter and some cerviche. I am used to Mexican cerviche which is made with cilantro, jalapenos, onions and lime juice. This was a very mild cerviche made with coconut. It was good, but a little too mild for my taste. After dinner, they surprised us with a dessert in honor of the anniversary and it was VERY good, HUGE:

 

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Next - International Marketplace and my Henna tattoo...

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BFW and I have a tradition of trying to get Henna or airbrushed tattoos whenever we go on vacation. We prefer Henna because they last longer. While doing research I found a temporary tattoo stand in the International Marketplace and had emailed them. After dinner we went over for my tattoo. I had picked it out online weeks ago - Hibiscus and Honu.

 

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I LOVED it!!! This was it 24 hours later. It would get a little darker than the photo shows. It lasted all week and still hasn't faded completely but you have to look for it to see it now. The tattoo artists name was Panamaw and he really is an artist. Before me he did an AWESOME koi fish on a girls back that covered at least half her back and was so intricate. My tattoo only cost $21. I definitely think he is undercharging for his work.

 

While I was getting my tattoo BFH went back to the hotel to rest, BFW was shopping in the marketplace and DH was getting a calf massage at a massage salon at the marketplace - $20/15 minutes.

 

All in all it was a wonderful, altho very long day. You can see all the day one pictures here: http://picasaweb.google.com/dmbryals/Day1Oahu?authkey=Gv1sRgCMzQ4Kiwq_SdkAE#

 

That's it for today. Feel free to ask questions.The next installment will be Day Two: The Arizona Memorial, Kualoa Ranch, ONO Hawaiian Food and boarding the Pride of America.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to post such a detailed review. The pictures really make the narration come alive - really appreciate the effort. I can't believe that was just (half) day 1!!!:D

 

ps: what does Homer say when you make a wrong turn??? "DOH"????:p

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Thanks for taking the time to write your review. Your post have been very helpful in my planning. I look forward to hearing about the rest of your trip.

 

:D

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Love your review so far. Your enthusiasm is contagious!

 

Did you know John Bingham does an Alaska cruise? It was pretty good w/running events in every port (and penguin style too for those who like that)

 

Gotta agree with you on the shave ice with beans. I don't even like the ice cream so much. Long way to drive (Hawaii standards, of course. LOL!), but quite a treat, yes?

 

Aloha,

Noreen.

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Loving your review - the part about Homer is hilarious! Great photos, thanks for sharing!

 

Hey riofrio - Just want to say thanks to you for all the information you've posted the last few months. You've provide a lot of information that I'm sure helped many.

 

We're planning a few days on the Frio this summer...staying at Neal's in Concan. We're looking forward to it.

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Hey riofrio - Just want to say thanks to you for all the information you've posted the last few months. You've provide a lot of information that I'm sure helped many.

 

We're planning a few days on the Frio this summer...staying at Neal's in Concan. We're looking forward to it.

 

Ahh, Neal's - lots of good memories there! Have fun!!!

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Love your review so far. Your enthusiasm is contagious!

 

Did you know John Bingham does an Alaska cruise? It was pretty good w/running events in every port (and penguin style too for those who like that)

 

Gotta agree with you on the shave ice with beans. I don't even like the ice cream so much. Long way to drive (Hawaii standards, of course. LOL!), but quite a treat, yes?

 

Aloha,.

Noreen.

 

 

Thanks to everyone for your kind words. I'm always afraid if I do a review it will bore everyone to death. Nothing ever sounds as good on paper as the experience actually was, but I'm going to continue plugging along now that I've started.

 

Noreen - John Bingham also does a Caribbean cruise, which I would be a lot more likely to do if it weren't so darn expensive. I think it is also in Feb which is a busy month for me at work. DH and I don't like cold weather. Our plan is to visit all the warm weather places before we think about heading to Alaska, and there are still a lot of places left on the warm list.

 

Aloha!

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Day 2 – Arizona Memorial, Kualoa Ranch Movie Tour, ONO Hawaiian Foods, Boarding the Pride of America

Our Originally Scheduled Itinerary:

Saturday, October 9 – O’ahu

6:45am Check out of hotel, have them hold our luggage.

 

7:30am Arrive at the Arizona Memorial and get in line for tickets. Hopefully we will get one of the first shuttles over to the memorial. You are not allowed to take any bags or purses whatsoever. You can take a camera, but not a camera bag. http://www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm

If we decide to see the Battleship Missouri or the Bowfin submarine, those have admission fees, and it will take longer.

 

10am-2pm Option 1

Hopefully we will be done at the Arizona by 10am.

 

 Kualoa Ranch – Movie and Ranch Tour - $21/pp – Kualoa Ranch is a place in O’ahu where a lot of movies are filmed (Lost, King Kong, Jurassic Park, etc.) It looks fun and the tour is only an hour. http://www.kualoa.com/about.htm 808 237-7321

 

Other options:

 Tantalus and Round Top Drive - http://www.portaloha.com/SecretsOfHawaii/RoundTop.htm Elvis filmed a scene from Blue Hawaii here. Can see all of Waikiki and also the National Cemetery at Punchbowl Crater below.

 Nuuanu Pali Hwy and Lookout - http://www.portaloha.com/SecretsOfHawaii/PaliLookout.htm Views of the windward coast.

 

2pm-4pm Return the rental car, pick up our luggage and get the taxi to the ship. Once we are checked in and onboard, if we have extra time, we can get off again and walk to see some of the sites nearby if we want. (Or we can take a nap!)

 

Locations for GPS:

 

USS Arizona Memorial

1 Arizona Memorial Place

Honolulu, Hawaii 96818

 

Kualoa Ranch

49-560 Kamehameha Highway

Kaaawa, HI 96730

 

Nu’uanu Pali State Park

Pali Hwy

 

Thrifty Car Rental

2002 KALAKAUA AVE

HONOLULU, HI 96815

(808) 971-2660

 

What we actually did:

We were able stick pretty much to schedule today. In spite of the previous long day (23 hours!) we didn’t have any trouble getting up because our bodies were still on Texas time. BFs were out early finding breakfast but DH and I had some breakfast bars from his snack bag. We had gotten some SF Red Bulls (my caffeine of choice) and Dr. Peppers from an ABC store at the International Market the previous night, so we were good to go. We knew that the car would be unattended for long periods of time on this day and we didn’t want to leave our luggage and things in it, so we called the bellman at 6:30am to come get our luggage and store it. We picked up the car from valet at 6:45am and headed to the Arizona Memorial. We missed the exit we were supposed to take from the highway, but it wasn’t Homer’s fault. I'm not going to assign blame. (DH was all-time driver on this trip.:rolleyes: ) Homer should say “Doh!” when we make a wrong turn, but he doesn’t. He just starts with new directions. Even with the delay we were parked and at the ticket window by 7:30am. There was plenty of convenient parking when we arrived and they had uniformed security officers on bikes patrolling the lots. There was a separate lot for tour busses and there were probably already at least a dozen busses in that lot. I got a little worried that we had not arrived early enough and that our tickets would be for later in the day and throw our schedule off, but we were given tickets for the shuttle to the memorial at 8:30am. We went and stored our purses at baggage check and then went to watch the movie. There is construction going on at the site so the movie is being shown in a large 3-sided tent. Don’t miss the movie. You are told to meet for your assigned shuttle at Contemplation Circle, which is behind the walled off construction area. Make sure you arrive at the circle 15-20 minutes prior to your assigned time to hear the park ranger’s talk. It was very interesting and very moving. We elected not to tour the Bowfin submarine or the Battleship Missouri, as we had all toured subs and battleships at other places. This trip was really just to pay our respects to the men and women killed on Pearl Harbor day. I think that everyone who visits Oahu should make a point of visiting the Arizona Memorial. Here are some photos:

 

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Battleship Missouri and Arizona Memorial

 

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One of the gun turrets.

 

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The Japanese planes flew over Pearl Harbor from this direction.

 

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"'Black Tears" - oil that is still leaking from the Arizona

 

Next - Macadamia Nut Outlet and Kualoa Ranch Movie Tour

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By 9:30am we were back in the Arizona parking lot and heading out. We had not prearranged the Kualoa Ranch movie tour because we weren’t sure what time we would be finished at Pearl Harbor, and we didn’t know exactly how long it would take us to get there. I called them and they said they had space available on their 10:40am and 10:50am tours and we should have plenty of time to get there.

 

Coming back from the North Shore the day before we had seen a Macadamia Nut Outlet Store and Visitor Center down the street from Kualoa Ranch. We had plenty of time before the movie tour so we decided to stop in. It was just meant to be a time killer but all really enjoyed it. The shop had all sorts of locally produced food items, not just macadamia nuts. They have sauces, jams/jellies, coffees, etc and gave away samples of everything. Several artists and craftsmen were selling paintings and various other crafts. We bought several plumeria plant cuttings, some nuts, a Christmas ornament, and some Hawaiian BBQ sauce for our son, which would unfortunately not make it back to the mainland, but that comes later in the story. They have some gorgeous tropical plant/flower arrangements. I had never seen a macadamia nut in its unshelled form, but there was a tree there that the nuts were dropping off of. You would take a nut, put it on a tree stump and smash it with a rock to shell it. They were really hard. They also had some coffee trees, so if you aren’t planning to visit one of the coffee farms on the islands this would be a chance to at least see the plants. If you have a few minutes when you are on that side of Oahu and are interested in locally produced souvenirs, I would definitely recommend that you stop in.

 

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BFW, DH and I in back of the Macadamia Nut Outlet. Those mountain in the background are part of the Kualoa Ranch.

 

Kualoa Ranch Movie Tour – We were all looking forward to this tour because we all love movies and enjoy going to movie studio theme parks. But we all agreed that we actually enjoyed the tour more than we even expected to. We purchased our tickets and were sent to check in for our tour. You check in where the tour vehicles are parked and board one of two busses – one is for English speaking tourists and one is for Japanese speaking tourists. Before you board a photographer takes your photo in front of your bus with the mountains in the background. They are $15 and are available at the end of the tour. Here’s our’s:

 

Hawaii%20Movie%20Tour.jpg

 

Our driver/tour guide was Cowboy. He said no one could pronounce his actual name so he goes by Cowboy. He said he was a 52 yr old native Hawaiian and we all agreed he was the youngest looking 52 yr old we’ve ever seen. He did an excellent job entertaining and informing. What we enjoyed so much about the tour was not only the movie stuff, which we expected, but we learned a lot about the history of the ranch and Oahu, and that was a nice surprise. During WWII the ranch was used by the military. The bunkers are still there. You are allowed to go into a portion the largest one, which is actually 5 stories inside the mountain. It was used as one of the Dharma hatches during the filming of LOST. Now it contains scenes and memorabilia from movies/shows shot at the ranch. It also contains relics left from WWII, including the metal grating that was once part of a military runway. There is an actual photo of the runway hanging above the grating, which you are allowed to walk on. Where the runway once was, at the base of the mountains near the beach is now where Hwy 83 runs along the coast. We just thought the addition of the historical facts made this a great tour, and a good follow-up to the Arizona Memorial visit. We took a lot of good pictures at the ranch. Here are a few:

 

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The ruins of one of the islands original sugar mills.

 

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Some of the old WWII military bunkers.

 

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Yeah Penguins!

 

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Second unit film crew currently filming the movie "Battleship". We didn't see any stars, but we did see a limo coming into the parking lot as we were leaving and wondered who was in there.

 

Coming up - ONO Hawaiian Food

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Our plan now was to head back to Waikiki, taking the highway south down the windward side of the island and going back to Waikiki via the Nuuanu Pali Hwy, stopping at the Nuuanu Pali lookout in route. This is the one time the Homer let us down. He tried to take us all the way back to Honolulu and then back up the Pali Hwy to the lookout, which would have definitely been the long way. On those cross island highways there aren’t a lot of places to get off and turn around. By the time we realized Homer had goofed, it was too late to alter routes conveniently so we decided to skip the lookout and head directly to ONO Hawaiian Food for lunch.

 

ONO wasn’t a must-do on our itinerary, but it was something I was really hoping to do. Once we put in the new POI, Homer took us straight to the restaurant. Parking was an issue. We drove around a few blocks before finding a small pay lot a couple of blocks away. I think it was behind a pizza place. While looking for a parking spot, we spotted a running store, which we were happy to see and planned to visit after lunch. ONOs is small, very small, like 8 small tables small. Customers are asked to wait in line outside to the right of the door. There was one party in front of us. A local mother and daughter who said they love ONO and drove from the other side of the island to have lunch there. We probably waited about 10 minutes, maybe less before a table became available. I don’t know the owners’ names but they were super sweet. I’m assuming they are the family that owns the restaurant. If they were employees, then the owners have to be very happy with them. Our waitress was an older lady who was so sweet and eager to answer questions and explain the dishes. For the 4 of us we ordered 2 of the largest combos which came with kuala pork, pork laulau, lomi lomi salmon, some sort of jerky like beef, rice or poi, and halupia (a coconut pudding like dessert). (I don’t have the menu in front of me, so I’m probably misspelling these dishes.) In addition to the combos we also ordered some Portuguese sausage, beef stew and butterfish luau. Altogether the lunch was less than $50 for the 4 of us. We all said we’d prefer rice over poi. She told us to order the rice, but she was going to bring us some poi to try. She did. She also brought a bowl of sliced raw sweet white onions which she salted liberally with sea salt and told us to dip in the poi. It was actually not half bad with the onion. She also made us some sort of chili sauce at the table for dipping anything in. It was pretty spicy. We all loved it, so she came and made us another batch. DH ordered a beer, but ONO doesn’t have a liquor license to sell alcohol, so she told him to run across the street to the convenience store and buy some and bring it back. So that’s what he did. The clerk at the store asked him if he was eating at ONO, so it must be pretty common. We all enjoyed the food very much, even DH who is not a very adventurous diner AT ALL. My favorite was the pork lau lau. The food was very much like true Southern soul food – greens, pork and pepper sauce. I was happy that I was able to accomplish one of my goals – eating true, authentic Hawaiian food. Here are some photos:

 

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Love this sign on the door. "Be cool - No get mad" - My other new motto.

 

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Waiting our turn.

 

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Two Combinations - Butterfish luau, lomi lomi salmon, kulua pig, pork lau lau, poi, special chili sauce

 

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Mahalo Ono Hawaiian Food for a wonderful lunch!

 

More background: A few months ago BFH had an accident, shattered his heel and had surgery. He is out of the cast, but the ankle/foot is still swollen and this limited his mobility somewhat. We revised our itinerary some to remove some of the longer hikes we might have done and where possible we tried to things in a way that kept him off his feet as much as possible, although he never complained and was up for anything. So, during the review, if it seems like we did some things in a weird way or odd order, that’s why.

 

When we finished lunch we told them how much we enjoyed it, and left the remaining beers for the young man serving as cashier and informal photographer. We left BF’s to explore the interesting looking store next to the restaurant while DH and I went back to the running store and to pick up the car from the parking lot. At the store we both got running shirts that say “HAWAII” across the front and have a big pineapple on them. I wore mine for my run yesterday. We got the car, picked up BFs and headed back to the hotel. We dropped them off in front of the hotel to pick up the luggage while we dropped the car off at the Thrifty drop off location a few blocks away. This is where I made an error in planning. I didn’t think that this particular Thrifty location would shuttle to the pier, but they would. It would have been easier to pick up our luggage and had Thrifty shuttle us all to the pier, or even return the car back and the airport location and be shuttled to the pier from there. Anyway, it was not that big a deal, since transfers from Waikiki to the pier were included in our package. We got our luggage from the hotel bellman, our shuttle taxi van picked us up and it was about a 20 min drive to the pier.

 

Up Next - Boarding the Pride of America, and why don't they want us to drink?!:rolleyes:

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ADDITIONAL DISCLAIMER: As I review the POA, there will be some positive observations, but regrettably quite a few neutral and even negative opinions. This was our 7th cruise, and we have taken many more land vacations to different places. Before each trip I do a LOT of research. It is my hobby. I have also traveled quite a bit for work. So I consider myself a pretty savvy traveler, with reasonable expectations based on personal history and research. And I would definitely not consider anyone in our party as overly demanding or difficult to please. I went on this trip to Hawaii with high expectations, which were almost all met. But based on research I went on the POA with lowered expectations for the cruise portion of the trip, and I wasn’t wrong. If NCL is your favorite line, or the POA your favorite ship, please do not take anything I say from here on out as a personal affront. As I said, these were my experiences. Your mileage may vary. Our previous cruises have been on Carnival’s Ecstasy (3 times), Carnival’s Conquest (twice) and RCCL’s Enchantment of the Seas (once). Any comparisons made will be against experiences on those ships.

 

I think it was about 3pm when we got to the pier. I thought the ship would be docked across from the Aloha Tower, but it wasn’t. Another cruise ship was in that place. The driver dropped us off at the edge of a parking lot. There was a short line of people being screened by security underneath some sun awnings. The luggage drop off situation seemed weird to me. It was a while before we saw a luggage porter, and then we only saw one and he was the only one we ever saw. Prior to this trip all of our cruises have been out of Galveston or Fort Lauderdale. At both of those ports there are tons of porters who you immediately hand over your luggage to and you don’t see it again until it’s delivered to your room. Idk how this porter decided whose luggage he wanted to take but he went past us with his cart to some people in line several parties behind us, loaded up their luggage and took off with a cart that was 2/3 empty. He could have probably taken all the luggage of everyone in line at that time on that cart. Idk what the deal was. So we schlepped our luggage across the parking lot, through another checkpoint and the length of the terminal to the luggage drop off point. It was no big deal. I’m perfectly capable of schlepping my own luggage, for great distances if need be. However, on vacation we bring plenty of tipping money and I rather spend that and let someone else schlep my luggage for me. The weather this day was super pleasant. If it had been raining, or super hot I wouldn’t have been as ok with the self-schlepping.

 

So we drop off our luggage and go through yet another checkpoint. Then we have our photos taken against a blank screen with young people dressed as native Hawaiians. Then we finally get in line to actually check in. It didn’t take long as I think most people were probably already on the ship. Even with all the schlepping from the time we got out of the taxi until the time we stepped on board the ship was probably less than 20 minutes – Not too bad. We walk across the gangway and step on the ship, one of our favorite parts of cruising – stepping on the ship for the first time. But something is wrong. Where is someone trying to sell me a welcome aboard drink? I’m confused. :confused: This is the first time I’ve stepped on a ship without immediately being offered a drink. About some things I’m a creature of habit…I need my welcome aboard drink!

 

Oh well, let’s switch gears. You enter the ship on deck 5. We were one deck down so we walk down to check out our rooms. Weird thing #3 – There is no Freestyle Daily in our room and none in our BF’s room. No Freestyle Daily, no fliers advertising spa services, no excursions brochure, no ship map…no nothing. What is going on here? Didn’t they know we were coming? How are we going to know where to spend our money if they don’t tell us? So I go back up to the guest services desk, where I expect to find displays of Dailies available for the taking…nope, none, nada. None at the excursion desk either, or at the desk where they are taking ressies for dining packages. The line at guests services is super long, so I go ask the woman swiping key cards of boarding passengers where I can get one. She says she thinks they are out. What?? What episode of Twilight Zone is this? Didn’t they know how many passengers were boarding? She asks the guy across the way if he has any left and he says he has a few he has hidden away but he would give me one. Huh? I told him I needed two because our friends didn’t get one either. He gave me a look like I was trying to scam him out of the Dailys for some nefarious purpose, but he gave me two copies, and two copies of the ship’s map. I have no idea why there was a shortage of Dailys, why he was stashing some away and who he planned on sharing them with. I’m just reporting what happened. I eventually got Daily’s for every day, although I had to go in search the next day too. If you have any questions about anything from the Daily’s let me know.

 

Back to the room…It is small, the smallest one we’ve had, but there is enough storage and it is serviceable for the time we spent in it. I’m the type that unpacks, puts everything away, stores the luggage and tries to keep the room as neat as possible. I had my over the door organizer, which I hung on the bathroom door and that helped a lot because in the bathroom there is only a small counter and no shelves. I know in the shower there was a shower gel dispenser, and shampoo. I’m not sure about conditioner because I never use the provided shampoo or conditioner. The only other amenity in the bathroom was a small bottle of lotion. There were no robes provided in these inside staterooms. There were plenty of hangers. Too many in fact. I didn’t need them all and at night when the ship was rocking they would rattle against each other. When I figured out what the noise was I took all the empty hangers down and put them on the top shelf which solved the problem.

 

So we set down with our maps and Dailys to figure out where to go to obtain a bon voyage beverage, and where to go to sign up for the pub crawl. Ding, ding, ding…an announcement…the muster drill will begin in 30 minutes. All bars are now closing in preparation for the drill and will reopen immediately following the drill. Seriously?? :eek: We dissolve in laughter about their attempts to prevent us from drinking, knowing that eventually we will prevail!

 

Muster drill was painless. We didn’t have to take our life jackets, thank goodness. Our station was on deck 6 at the Cadillac Diner’s outdoor section, so we had tables to set at. Our table mates were a lovely couple from Scotland and it had taken them 29 hours to get to Hawaii. So we will not be complaining about our mere 8 hour trip. Our muster leaders were friendly and welcoming but as usual we were glad when it was done and we were free – like kids out of school for summer free.

 

We go off to explore the ship, find a drink and sign up for the pub crawl. First stop, the Key West Bar for their featured drink, a berry mojito. Here we meet Surly Bartender #1 (SB1). DF’s order a beer and a berry mojito. SB1 delivers the beer and the ticket for both drinks, which DFH signs. SB1 takes the ticket and immediately starts taking someone else’s order. DFW and I give each other a look which SB1 catches. She says, with ‘tude mind you, “Did you need something else?” DFW politely explains that she hasn’t received the drink they just paid for. At which point SB1 becomes flustered and stammers something about thinking someone else was going to make it…I guess the same someone else who was going to print enough Dailys. Anyway, the berry mojitos were very good. Unfortunately that was the only bar we could find them at all week and that bar closed at 6pm every day as did some of the other outdoor bars. Which was another thing we found strange. We did visit the bar several times during the trip tho and SB1 did warm up a little by the end of the trip. We actually closed it down one evening, we were partying so hard. (That was a joke - remember, it closes at 6pm. :rolleyes:)

 

We head off to the Gold Rush Saloon to sign up for the pub crawl and to meet Surly Bartender #2 (SB2). We go up to the bar and I tell SB2 (who I didn’t know was SB2 at the time) that we want to sign up for the pub crawl. He looks at me a second or 2, takes my card and goes to the other end of the bar where he seems to be having a serious discussion with the other bartender. He comes back hands me my receipt and tells me to take it to a girl setting up on the other side of the bar and she will get us squared away. DFW steps forward and says she want to sign up for the pub crawl too. SB2 tells her it would make his life easier if she would go down to the other end of the bar and sign up with the other bartender. Say what? We’ve never been on a cruise where our job was to make life easier for the ship’s employees. There may have been a perfectly reasonable explanation for why she should have gone to another bartender, even tho he was standing at the same bar. But SB2 certainly didn't convey his request in a very customer friendly fashion. We just have to laugh. Did someone call ahead about us or something? They seem to be doing everything they can to keep us from spending money on alcohol. Not a good business plan NCL! What makes it doubly annoying is that SB1&2 are young enough to be our children and I kind of wanted to give them a little shake and tell them to straighten up in front of company! We finally do get signed up and paid for and actually had a very good time on the pub crawl. The cost was $20/pp and you visited 5 bars and got 5 (small/weak) drinks. At each stop there were games and silliness. There were probably at least 100 people on the crawl, maybe more. And I'm pretty sure that some of those people had not encountered the same drink buying difficulties we encountered before the crawl started. The crawl ended near the pool where a very good band was playing and people were dancing and having a good time. I would say that the average age on this cruise is definitely over 50, probably over 55. I think a lot of the people below that age participated in the crawl. We met several honeymooners and people celebrating birthdays. It was a fun start to the cruise in spite of SB2’s attitude. If anyone reading this was on the crawl, my name pub crawl name was Elvira. DH was Boopsie. DFW was Spanky and DFH was Spanked. Here are some pics from the crawl.

 

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See the other ship over by the Aloha Tower? That where I wanted POA to be parked!

 

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Crazy DFH!

 

Next we headed off to the Skyline dining room for dinner. We were seated right away. Our head waiter was ok, but her assistant seemed a bit overwhelmed. The food however was horrible. This was the worst food we had all week. DH’s first entrée was some sort of short ribs/pasta dish. The waiter told him when she delivered it that if he didn’t like it she would get him something else. Idt she would think he wouldn’t like it unless she had already been getting complaints about it. It was truly horrible. Like bad, bad Hamburger Helper, but with no hamburger and needing lots more help. So she next she brought him a steak that was tough as shoe leather. Poor DH wound up eating stuff from his snack bag back in the room for his dinner.

 

One good thing about the Skyline dining room is that you have to walk down the photo hall to get there, giving you an opportunity to see all the photos that the ships photogs have taken. One photo had us cracking up all week long. I'm going to describe it and hope that the if the people in the photo are reading this that they know I really mean no disrespect...The photo appeared to be some grandparents with several preteen/teenage granddaughters and the grandfather's t-shirt said, in large letters - "I'd tap that". It just looked so hilariously inappropriate that we couldn't help but laugh. I have a feeling it was probably actually some sort of beer t-shirt and it was talking about tapping a keg, at least I hope it was something like that. But you couldn't tell that from the picture. I'm sure that there were people laughing at my photos too, because I didn't take a decent one all week!

 

Reading the ship’s review thus far, I realize it does sound really negative. And I honestly have not exaggerated anything. But in spite of our complaints, the bartenders’s ‘tudes and the bad dining room food, at the end of the evening we were all still in a good mood, laughing, glad to be where we were and looking forward to the next day. We were just disappointed that so many of the negative reviews were turning out to be true. If you will stick with my review, I promise there are good things coming up.

 

One last thing about this day - when we got back to the rooms, DFH had was missing a piece of luggage and there was a note in the room summoning him to the naughty room. He went down and they asked him what was in his bottle of mouthwash (his 32 oz bottle of mouthwash). He said, well the bottle says mouthwash. They laughed, handed it to him and told him to enjoying swishing his mouthwash. He said there were tons of liquor bottles down there that they had confiscated. I can neither confirm nor deny if the bottle actually contained mouthwash. We teased him the rest of the week about his gingivitus.

 

For all my photos from Day 2: http://picasaweb.google.com/dmbryals/Day2Oahu?authkey=Gv1sRgCInJwt-dvqa8gAE#

 

Coming up: Day 3 - Hilo, The Big Island, Volcanoes National Park and Richardson's Beach Park

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Hey - does anyone know how many photos can be inserted per post?

 

Thanks!

 

FYI - In answer to my own question - you can have 6 images per post and smilies are considered images.

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Day 3 – Hilo, The Big Island – Volcanoes National Park and Richardson’s Beach Park

This was our originally scheduled itinerary:

Sunday, October 10 – Hilo, The Big Island

8am Disembark and pick up Jeep Wrangler from Thrifty

Prior to disembarking, we may want to slap a few sandwiches together, or order some muffins or something from room service and take a cooler along with some drinks with us. I will bring some zip locks and our collapsible cooler.

 

8:30a-1pm Volcano National Park http://www.nps.gov/havo/ – $10/per car - Hit the high points: visitor center movie, steam vents, Kilauea Calder Overlook, Jaggar Museum, Kilauea Iki Overlook, Thurston Lava Tube, Chain of Craters Road to arch (if time allows).

 

1pm-2:00pm Drive back to Richardson Beach

 

2pm-4:30pm Richardsons Beach Park – Black sand beach south of Hilo, between ship and volcano, best snorkeling on that side of island, facilities http://www.letsgo-hawaii.com/beaches/richardsons.html

 

4:30p-5:30p Return rental car and get back on board ship. Sail away at 6pm.

 

Locations for GPS:

 

Volcano National Park

 

Richardson Beach Park

Drive to the end of Kalanianaole Ave, Keaukaha, Hilo

19°44′5″N 155°0′49″W,

 

Thrifty Rental Car

1 GENERAL LYMAN FIELD

HILO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

HILO, HI UNITED STATES

 

 

This is what we actually did:

We went to the Aloha Café for the breakfast buffet. I found POA’s breakfast buffet to be better than any on previous cruises. They had two types of eggs Benedict available every morning – one with spinach and one with ham. I love eggs Benedict but I’ve always had to go to the dining room to find it before, which I never have time to do except on sea days. They seemed to have a wide variety of breakfast food available. I can’t imagine that anyone would not be able to find something they could eat. There were omelet stations, fruit stations, waffles, pastries, etc. Each morning we would take our breakfast out on the Aloha Deck at the very back of the ship and enjoy breakfast outdoors. We never had a problem finding a table. Each morning prior to disembarkation, one of the Hawaiian Ambassadors would speak on the Aloha Deck about the island we were on that day, history and suggested activities. We were sometimes gone before they started their talks, but I enjoyed and appreciated the ones I heard.

 

We had brought with us sandwich bags and zip locks to make picnic lunches from the buffet and a double sided collapsible cooler. They provide items on the buffet for this: white or wheat bread, croissants, condiment packages, lunch meats (ham or bologna), peanut butter and jellies, etc. About the lunch meats – they did not look good at all, especially the bologna which I probably wouldn’t eat if it looked like the best in the world. However one of their hot breakfast items was sliced breakfast ham with a pineapple glaze. We used this ham for our sandwiches. We also made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and took some muffins and pastries. We gathered our ingredients together and took them back to the room to assemble our picnic lunches.

 

We were getting ready to leave and I called guest services to request that during the day our ice bucket be filled and that the fridge be emptied of the hospitality items, knowing that we were going to bring some bottled water and sodas back on. On this ship, at least in this room, you can’t call housekeeping directly. You call guest services and they relay the info. The operator told me that she would send someone, but we would have to be in the room and it might take 30 minutes. Again – Huh? Why would we need to be in the room? Weren’t they going to come in and clean it? We wouldn’t be there then. DH suggested that we leave the ice bucket setting outside the door and not worry about the fridge until we got back, which is what we did.

 

We were in line to disembark the ship when they opened the doors. There was a Thrifty shuttle waiting. The driver already had all the Blue Chip members’ paperwork ready, as well as a Hilo brochure and map. Yeah Thrifty. We had reserved a Jeep Wrangler with a convertible soft top for today, with the intention of removing the top if the weather was nice. Total cost for the day was $67. There were a couple of problems. The first problem was that the weather was never good enough to make taking the top off feasible. The second problem was that it was a two door. We always travel with the DHs in the front seat and the DWs in the back seat. Climbing in the back seat through the front door was a little bit of a challenge. I’m sure it gave some people some chuckles watching the DH’s push our fannies up and through the door. DFH actually thought it was funny enough to take some video of DFW climbing in. That video will not be posted here and had better not wind up on YouTube!

 

TIP: As you are leaving Hilo to go to VNP, you will pass a shopping center with a Walmart, a gas station/convenience store and a Hilo Hatties across the street. We stopped here for ice, waters and soft drinks. It is near the airport and a convenient place to fill the car up with gas before returning it.

 

It rained on us off and on during the drive to VNP, and for the remainder of the day for that matter. But it was still a lovely drive and didn’t seem to take very long at all to get to the park’s entrance. When we arrived at the Visitors’ Center, one of the rangers had just started a talk outside next to a 3D model of the park. It was a very interesting talk and he answered questions following the talk. We looked around inside the visitors center for a while and then walked across the road, past the Volcano House Lodge which is closed for remodeling and to the short trail to the Caldera Overlook. This was my favorite place and favorite view in the park. I think a lot of people assume that because the Lodge is closed, all the trails around it are closed and that it not the case. While we were at that spot the sun was shining. It was so quiet and peaceful. Here are some photos:

 

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View of the Kilauea Caldera from the Caldera Overlook with steam rising from the Halema'uma'u Crater. (Please don't think I'm typing these names from memory....I have the park map for reference.)

 

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View of Mauna Loa in the distance.

 

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Ohi'a lehua flower...there is a story about Pele and this flower, but I don't remember exactly what it is right now. Suffice to say it is pretty.

 

Next we drove a short distance along Crater Rim Drive to the steam vents.

 

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To be continued....

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Thank you for the review so far. I am looking forward to the rest. I know from your mini review that it is really a well balanced review.:)

 

I am really enjoying the pictures. I haven't looked at any besides the ones posted so far, but will check out your Picasa links as soon as I can.

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Next we visited the Jagger Museum for a bit. There is another overlook there which is closer to the Halema'uma'u Crater. By now the day had gotten cloudy and the area really took on a hazy appearance.

 

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We left the museum and headed to the Thurston Lava Tube, but there was no parking anywhere near the tube so we headed down the Chain of Craters Rd. We were only planning on driving halfway down Chain of Craters, but we wound up going all the way to the coast. Here are some photos:

 

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That's it for tonight. Tomorrow I will try to finish Day 3 with the Thurston Lava Tube and Richardson Beach Park.

 

Aloha for now!

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