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Josiah's Hawaii Travelogue 10
December 9th, 2019 - January 15, 2020
Hawaii Travelogue 9
December 9th - 15th (Monday - Sunday): Hanging in Honolulu
Winter break means it's once again time to spend a few weeks visiting family in Hawaii. This year started out a little different though. Connie had a seminar she wanted to attend in China so we split up at the airport. She headed to southern China and I took Zack to Honolulu. This was my first time flying alone with Zack but, fortunately, by this point he seems to understand that plane rides involve staying in his seat. While his Kindle didn't hold his attention as long as I hoped, and I did have some trouble keeping him from standing in his seat, or kicking the seat inf ront of him, the flights went really well for the most part.
After landing in Honolulu, I met up with my mom and then it was off to the condo and a curry dinner at Coco Ichibanya. The next few days passed in a bit of a blur. For the most part, my mom (and my dad, who arrived a few days later) kept Zack entertained while I graded final projects. I did join them for meals and a handful of outings (a bit of shopping, an outdoor Christmas movie, etc), but I spent most of my time working. I finally got to take a break over the weekend to walk around and get in a little pool and beach time. Then, Sunday afternoon, it was back to work as my last set of finals came due while also preparing to fly to Maui for the next phrase of the trip. So yeah, despite being in Honolulu for a week, I feel like I really didn't do all that much.
I did get to walk around Ala Moana and Waikiki a bit. As usual, there's been some changes. Some places I liked have disappeared, and some cool new places have sprung up. The Shirokiya Japanese food court has revamped a little bit, and the Yokocho Japanese food court added a bunch of free to play classic arcade games. There's some good new bubble tea places (though one I liked has closed and another had to move to a smaller location due to construction) and a neat (if expensive) Japanese figurine store opened up near the mall. Not to mention that lots of new buildings are going up. As usual, I think most of the changes are for the best, though I will really miss some of the places that have closed. I'm looking forward to spending more time in Honolulu, and on Oahu in general, later in the trip.

December 16th - 23rd (Monday - Monday): On to Maui
On Monday, my parents, Zack, and I flew to Maui for the next part of our trip. You may remember that they got a place there a bit over a year back. Connie and I stayed there for a couple of weeks last year and plan to do the same this time around. This time though, my brother's family will be there too, as they just moved to Maui a couple of weeks ago.
After arriving, I settled down to spend the rest of the day finishing my grading. The following day, we went to Lahaina. We spent a bit of time at a "baby beach" (meaning that there's a little sheltered spot good for young children) then walked around and got dinner. After which, my mom took the kids (Zack and my nephew, Isaac) on a Christmas train ride. Meanwhile, Connie arrived on Maui and met up with us when we got back home.
The rest of the week was pleasant, but nothing too exciting. We spent time with family, took Zack to playgrounds and beaches, and the like. Maui, or at least the parts of it that I'm familiar with, doesn't seem to have changed much since last year. I guess things move more slowly here than on Oahu. But the slower pace can be nice. Maui may not be as exciting as Oahu, but it has a lot to offer. And we are going to be doing more here than just relaxing...but more on that another time.

December 24th (Tuesday): Snorkeling off Molokini
I like to do at least a little bit of snorkeling when I'm in Hawaii. This time, my mom wanted decided to take a few of us out on a snorkeling boat tour. I've done some similar tours before, but on Oahu. This was my first time doing any serious snorkeling on Maui. We got up pretty early to get to the boat. However, there was some confusion with our tickets (long story short, someone in the booking office screwed up). We did manage to board, but at the last minute and only because another group didn't show. Annoying, but it all worked out in the end and we were off with the sunrise.
It was the biggest snorkeling boat I've ever been on, with a full three levels and around 150 people. Our destination was Molokini, a small island surrounding an old volcanic crater. The island itself is a bird sanctuary, but the crater contains a large reef and is Maui's most popular snorkeling spot. The ride over there was a little rough, but we did spot some whales on the way. There were already a lot of boats by the time we arrived, but the reef was easily large enough to avoid feeling crowded. I really need to get an underwater camera sometime. The reef was large, with some nice coral and a ton of fish. I didn't see any of the really unusual ones (which I've occasionally spotted when snorkeling off Oahu), but that aside, Molokini is a great snorkeling spot and we had pretty much perfect conditions with sun and very clear water. There was even a seal hanging out on the rocks. And, once we'd had our fill of snorkeling, the boat also had a couple of slides and a jump point, which were a fun little addition.
As we ate lunch, the boat headed back towards Maui, but not to the docks. Instead, we drew near the coast and stopped at another reef. This one didn't have many fish, but it is a popular hangout for sea turtles. I saw at least half a dozen while snorkeling, plus the one on the surface that I got a picture of. In the future, I could probably swim out there from the nearby beach if I want to, no boat required.
Finally, it was time to head back. But it wasn't over quite yet, as we spotted some more whales along the way. Ticketing issues aside, it was a good snorkeling trip and the best snorkeling boat I've been on. I don't think I'd rank it quite as highly as my favorite snorkeling boat tour on Oahu (which also has great reefs, turtles, and a chance of whales, plus dolphins), but if you're looking for some snorkeling on Maui, you can't really go wrong with a trip to Molokini.

December 28th (Saturday): The Waiakoa Loop Trail
Unlike some of the other Hawaiian islands, Maui isn't especially known for hiking. There are some trails, however, and I figured we might as well try to do at least one hike while we're here. Though hiking with a couple of toddlers is rather limiting. You either have to stick with simpler trails or carry them a lot of the way. My brother ended up choosing the Waiakoa Loop Trail, which is up in the mountains. It was also in the clouds (literally). Thanks to the clouds, there wasn't really any view, but the forest was nice. There were a lot of banana guavas (a longer yellow guava) around. Not one of the best types of guava, but possibly worth collecting anyway. There were also a lot of berry bushes around but, unfortunately, only a few ripe berries (wrong time of year).
Zack fell asleep during the drive up so I carried him in our Ergo for the first part of the hike. We all ended up going at different speeds due to kids and other reasons. And, due to some miscommunication, I ended up going the opposite way around the loop as the others. I eventually decided that, rather and push on and hope to meet in the middle (which I wasn't entirely sure would happen anyway), I should just turn around. But by then Zack was awake so I let him walk back with me. It was a little slow, but he did surprisingly well, walking a mile or so on his own.
I'm a little annoyed that I didn't complete the hike, but it was still a fairly nice time. It was fun to get into the forest for a while and Zack enjoyed the exercise. While I don't think the hiking on Maui can't beat Oahu, I'll have to try another trail or two next time I'm here.

December 29th - January 2nd (Sunday - Thursday): Enjoying Maui
Our last week on Maui was a mix of family time and repeating a couple of favorite activities from last year. Once again, Connie and I went to the Grand Wailea's luau on New Year's Eve. Nothing really changed from last year, but it's still a great luau in a beautiful setting. I won't go into too much detail, since I already gave it a full write-up last time, and I didn't take too many pictures this year either (I decided to just sit back and enjoy). Though I couldn't resist taking some time lapse shots of the fire dancing.
The following day, we took Zack to the Ocean Center (aquarium). While he visited it last year (when I also wrote about it in more detail), and we've taken him to the Baltimore Aquarium a few times as well, he's never shown a ton of interest in fish (he prefers birds and small animals). He rushed past the first few rooms pretty quickly so I was worried he'd get bored. But, fortunately, he suddenly took a liking to the sea horses and then began to pay more attention to the fish as well. So it made for a pretty good outing after all.
Nothing else we did is especially worth writing about. Our time on Maui was enjoyable, and we got to have a lot of fun with Zack and with my family. It wasn't exactly as relaxing as I'd hoped (between Zack and some assorted projects and such I kept pretty busy) but it was a good time none-the-less.

January 3rd - 12th (Friday - Sunday): Back in Honolulu
Connie, Zack, and I left Maui on a Friday morning for a short flight back to Oahu. We spent most of the following week there on our own. The weather, unfortunately, wasn't nearly as good as it was at the start of the trip, but we still had fun going to the lagoons at Ko' Olina, visiting the zoo, and otherwise doing things in and around Honolulu.
The following Thursday, my mom and my brother's family came to join us. We went to the water park the next day (Zack, unfortunately, wasn't in the best mood) and the beach the day after that. On Sunday, the weather took a turn for the worse so we decided to take the kids to try out the Honolulu Children's Discovery Center. I wish I'd known about it last year. It's a huge (and very reasonably priced) children's museum. It's been around for a while so it's not quite as snazzy as some of the newer ones I've visited, but it's the largest one by far and has a huge variety of activities and play areas that are both fun and educational. There's even a little Asian village. Highly recommended if you have young children and need a way to pass the morning indoors.
That wasn't the end of the trip, but the following day's activities deserve a post of their own.

January 13th (Monday): Fish and Horses
It wasn't really beach weather so, after discussing a few options, we decided to take the kids to Sealife Park, which happened to be one of the few tourist attractions on Oahu that I hadn't visited yet. It's not really an aquarium, because there aren't a whole lot of tanks (a few, but not many). If anything, it's a bit like a small version of Sea World. Anyway, after watching the fish and sea turtles for a few minutes, we moved on to the touching pool where you can touch the usual sea creatures (urchins, starfish, etc.). Fun for kids, but nothing too special. However, at certain times of day you can touch a young sea turtle, which is pretty cool since, as they're endangered, there are really steep fines if you touch one in the wild. Zack's attention was soon grabbed by the nearby bird area (he loves birds). Not exactly "sealife" but whatever. There were a lot of very colorful birds inside and, unlike similar attractions I've seen at various zoos and parks, here they gave you feedsticks for free. Zack was thrilled to feed the birds and we stayed in there for a while. Next up, the sea lion show. While Sealife Park isn't all that large (you could easily see all the habitats and exhibits in less than an hour), its specialty is its shows. The sea lions were well trained and the show was pretty entertaining. Of course, the kids loved it. There was some time before the next show (dolphins) so we took the kids to the playground for a bit. Connie and I actually didn't stay for the dolphin show (though the others told us it was pretty great) because we had a reservation elsewhere. I'd say Sealife Park is worth a visit with kids, but easy to skip otherwise, unless you really love sea lion and dolphin shows.
Connie and I left Zack with the others and headed north to Kualoa Ranch. I've written about the ranch in the past. Specifically, I've done the ATV tour there twice which, aside from getting to drive ATVs through some beautiful scenery, gives you a chance to see a bunch of film locations for a variety of TV shows and movies including Lost, Jurassic Park, and Godzilla. This time, however, Connie and I were back for their horseback tour (her birthday present). I have a bit of riding experience from a camp I used to go to in Colorado, but it was Connie's first time on a horse. However, the horses were very well trained so that wasn't really a problem. I had to lightly guide mine from time to time, but it mostly just followed the others at an easy pace without any real input. The horses follow a similar route to the ATVs, but mostly ignore the roads in favor of smaller paths through cow pastures and forests. Kualoa Ranch is extremely scenic no matter how you experience it, but I would say that the horse path is prettier than the ATV route. That said, if you really want to see the filming sites, the ATVs are a better option. While the horses still pass many of them, you can't get off to take a closer look and listen to the guide like you do with the ATVs. But, since we'd already done the ATV tour, that wasn't really an issue. The horseback tour was a pleasant two hours and Connie enjoyed it quite a lot.

January 14th - 16th (Tuesday - Thursday): The End of the Trip
My brother's family returned to Maui Tuesday morning, just as my dad arrived. We didn't do anything too special on our last couple of days on Oahu. Walked around, visited a couple more restaurants, took Zack back to the Discovery Center, and the like. Unfortuantely, it wasn't really beach weather, but it was a pleasant couple of days and we did see a nice rainbow and one last sunset on the beach.
I always get a bit pensive when it comes time to leave Hawaii. I'm pretty happy with things in Virginia, but I can't help but think about what life would have been like if I'd been able to stay. Sigh...
Anyway, we flew out very late Wednesday night. Zack managed to stay awake a whole lot longer than I thought he could to, but over all our flights went very well and, unlike last year, everything back home was totally fine. No water leaks or anything. While I may not live in Hawaii anymore, I am glad that I at least have the means, reason, and oppertunity to visit every year. It's nice to be home but, as always, I'll be looking forward to our next Hawaii trip.

Hawaii Travelogue 9

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