January 11, 2020
Our arrival in Hilo was overcast, windy and without sun. We were properly rested for the full day ahead of us whatever the weather conditions.
The pilot boat had just transferred the pilot in the open sea for arrival to the port of Hilo. It’s always fun to watch this transfer as the ship never stops to enable the pilot to board but usually it’s quite exciting to watch the two boats sync and the pilot to leap across to the open sea door on the ship.
As I mentioned previously we had booked a full day Volcano National Park tour which included multiple sights in Hilo.
We wanted to maximize the limited amount of time we had in port. The ship wasn’t offering anything close to what our tour that we had booked on our own offered.
Hilo has suffered a number of devastating tsunamis over the centuries that leveled the downtown. A seawall was constructed to protect the park and downtown and no building is now permitted close to the ocean.
Hilo gets 300” inches of rain in a normal year. Since it had been pouring down rain for the past week the streets and the Liliuokalani park were flooded. There was quite a traffic jam getting around to the various sights because many of the streets downtown were under at least a foot of water. Half of the downtown area was closed. And the sports park looked like a lake.
You will see the effect of this amount of rain in a bit…
We started at Liliuokalani Park and Japanese Garden.
Liliuokalani Park was just beautiful with it’s massive banyan trees. Many of the banyan trees were growing right out of the lava rock. The banyans in the park weren’t that old as the tsunami in the mid-60s destroyed them all. The park was so green with Japanese pagodas and shrines on the little islands.
(note the photo below of Joe with the flooding behind him)
Our next stop was Rainbow Falls. One of several falls along the path of the Wailuku River in Hilo, Rainbow Falls is a gorgeous waterfall to visit early in the morning.
Its name originated from the fact that on some early mornings a rainbow can be seen arching across the falls. Waianuenue Falls is its Hawaiian name and means “rainbow seen in water.” I’ve added some before and after photos to give you an idea of what the waterfall looks like 99.99% of the time.
Since it had been raining inches and inches during the past week and as you saw in the previous photos of the park there was a good amount of flooding. … so it looked like these photos! Locals came by the droves to see the falls. This was a happening even for the locals. The force of the water was deafening.
To get a real feeling of the power of the water flow we hiked up to the top overlook with the surrounding vegetation giving you a feeling of a dense jungle. Nothing stood in the raging waters path. The trees that were in the middle at the top were pushed down with the force and the weather looked like milk chocolate. It was really good to have the “normal” photo of rainbow falls.
We stopped for lunch at this really cool spot called Wiki Fresh. It was started by a woman who wanted to make sure that Hawaiian children ate healthy meals. Their vision was “a people-first culture combined with Tropical Fusion cuisine in a fast-casual environment and the dedication to local charities”. All their ingredients are fresh. Children would eat for free and she donated meals to families in need. When I went to add their web site to my post it appears they closed on January 31, 2020 after 4+ years in the community. It was a fun very local experience.
Our next stop was Akatsuka Orchid Gardens.
The “Aloha” display used as a header for this post is composed of 700 orchids.
Then it was off to the highlight of the day – the Volcano National Park. Our guide Edmond, played a documentary of the volcanos in the vans video system. He did an excellent job explaining the recent volcano activity at the map at the visitors center.
We then went to the steam tubes and walked out to the caldera which basically is the hole in the center of the volcano that accumulates the lava. If you look closely behind Joe you can see the round circle of the crater. By now, it was pouring down with rain but the warm steam was rising up from the crater valley below us.
The walk out of the craters edge was a muddy path with a detour for fire ants. I am extremely sensitive (sometimes having allergic reactions) to insect bites… mosquitos 🦟, bed bugs, and red or fire ants 🐜. The fire ants were of particular concern as we had booked a rainforest and waterfall hike on Maui but while I was doing some research prior to our departure I read about fire ant infestations 😱 that were being reported in the Hawaiian islands.
After contacting the tour operator in Maui about the situation they suggested that we cancel the excursion because there were indeed fire ants! So it was ironic to find them cordoned off here also. These infestations are somehow related to the heavy rains that the Hawaiian Islands had been having lately.
On our way back we stopped at the world famous Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory. Pretty small operation that hasn’t changed in decades (even though their prices have ☺️) to indulge in unlimited free samples of all their products. You wouldn’t believe the bizarre flavors they make!
Our final stop was Richardson’s black sand beach. There were sea turtles that a couple saw on the other side of the far point to the right in the photo. Unfortunately we didn’t feel like crawling over the slippery lava rocks 😕.
We would wait until we were in Honolulu to see the green sea turtles as we had booked a catamaran trip from Waikiki beach.
🤞 we would have decent visibility to see them.
This was an excellent day with a super guide and lots of wonderful stops.
January 12, 2020
Sunday morning we arrived in Lahaina, Maui. Surprise, surprise, it was cloudy and rain was forecast all day. Unlike Hilo, Lahaina gets 9” of rain every YEAR.
We tendered in to Front Street to wander around Lahaina. The pier is at Lahaina Banyan Court Park with its largest Banyan tree in the United States. It’s a very touristy town and not to our liking. There is a massive banyan tree in the park at the waterfront is the center of attraction.
We wandered around popping in to the shops when the skies opened up. One of the photos below is Front Street after a deluge where the shopkeepers were putting sump pumps in the curbs (with electrical extension cords 🙄) to move the water from the overflowing street drains.
We had originally booked a Rainforest and Waterfall hike which sounded like a lot of fun. But after reading more about the hike and the rainforests in Hawaii, I read that many have fire ant infestations during rainy season. The fire ants not only build nests in the trees but also drop from the canopy overhead in to people’s heads! After my experience with bed bugs a couple of years ago, I had absolutely no desire to even chance encountering another insect attack.
Instead we booked what ended up being the highlight of our day… a whale watching trip with Pacific Whale foundation. By now there’s no surprise to anyone for us to say it was raining. The boat is staffed with knowledgeable docents … much like the Monterey Aquarium.
After about 15 minutes of looking for water spouts. During that time they dropped a hydro microphone in the water and we heard whale songs over the PA speaker. I even recorded their songs. The songs indicated there were whales in the one mile radius from the boat.
At one sighting we watched 5 whales and a little pacific spinner dolphin in them.
The last group we saw was 2 adults and a very small calf. The guide guessed by its size and coloring it was a couple of weeks old.
I’ve added a few .gifs of the multiple groups of whales we saw.
One whale was flapping its fluke like it was waving to us. We were so close to all of them but unfortunately I never hit the shutter button at the right time.
We were out for 3+ hours. We headed back to our ship. Time had flown by. Such a wonderful experience!
We were supposed to have had a poolside Hawaiian dinner tonight but due to rain it was moved inside.
There was a Poke/sushi station.
And a massive the Hawaiian dessert station that I could only photograph 1/2 of. I could have used my wide angle and gotten it all. Of which, the Pineapple tarte and coconut cheese cake were killer.
January 13, 2020
Monday we arrived in Honolulu. Again, none of the ship’s excursions interested us. We found a 3 hour trip on a catamaran that departed directly from Waikiki beach that would take us to the green sea turtles canyon reef area for about 75 minutes of snorkeling.
The sea turtles come to the reef for a cleaning by the reef fish. There were loads of them in the area. We saw lots of colorful fish and even a ray. We brought our own gear including our Lycra suits. I pooh poohed Joe for insisting that we pack them and even debated whether I would put it on… until I hit the water. I would have lasted 3 minutes without it!!
After our snorkeling time we went for a sail past Diamond Head before returning to Waikiki beach.
We earned a stop at Maui Brewing Co — before returning to the ship. Cheers 🍻!
Tonight was the Azamazing Evening Event that the ship puts on for all guests. It was a 1940s themed USO evening at hanger 79 at the Pearl Harbor aviation museum! 🎷 🎹
It’s no easy feat to organize the transport of 600 passengers from the pier 40 minutes away to Pearl Harbor Aviation museum. Security was extremely high and to get 600+ people through the screening we were not allowed bags, purses nor camera cases of any kind.
Museum airplanes were moved from the center of the hangar museum and chairs and a performing stand were set up.
Much appreciated Mai Tai’s were served upon arrival and at the bar infront of the plane at the entrance as it took almost 90 minutes for our transfer. We had time to wander around the planes before the performance.
We only saw a small part of the museum. The captain said that you can’t do the aviation museum justice. Last year he spent 7 hours at the aviation museum and didn’t see it all. I have no idea where they moved the planes out of the hangar but Joe said there were loads of information plaques for various aircraft stacked in a corner of the gigantic hanger that hosted the event.
Joe flew one of these T-33s as well as the F-102s.
We had to include the photo in front of the F-102 as an example why not to take people up on taking a photo of the two of us (finger over the lens). 🙄
The show began with the Captains welcome message. … and opening with Boogie Woogie Bugle Boys number. The the performance moved in to the 60s with a Supremes compilation (not sure how that fit in to the 1940s theme).
There was a bit of a delay in our departure that we didn’t find out the reason for the delay until later on in this post.
This was a long, full and exhausting day.
January 14, 2020
Tuesday we arrived in Kauai to even more threatening clouds, rain and wind.
We had booked a snorkeling excursion with Seafun Snorkel of Kauai. When they picked us up at the pier they told us the surge from the past 2 weeks of no sun and storms had severely reduced the visibility. They wanted to make sure that everyone was advised so we wouldn’t be disappointed. What else would we do? Shop for T-shirts in the rain?
So we went as the ride in the van would be “scenic”. We piled in to the well used van and headed south to their base on some pretty rough roads where we would pick up our wet suits and other gear that people might need. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get all suited up only to see nothing but fitted a wet suit anyway. We then piled back in to the van for the pot holed ride to Lawai beach near Poipu.
The visibility was about 5 feet and I ended up going in thinking that if it was really crummy or too cold I’d just come out but it was fun. The 3 guides for the 7 of us did an excellent job making sure everyone felt comfortable with their gear and we saw (haha) as much as possible. We did see a couple of green sea turtles, lots of colorful fish that made it worth the effort.
The beach area had a rocky shallow walk in from the shore, and with the stormy conditions there was quite a lot of surge. The guides wanted to walk with each person (regardless of their snorkeling ability) out past the rocks. They took the more experienced snorkelers first (read: us) out first. They also had a floatation board (pictured above) which was pretty cool. Basically it was a surf board with PVC piping handles that ran each side of the board so people could hold on to it and drift while keeping their faces in the water. It was also handy for people who got tired to raise their hand and the guide would bring the board over for them to hang on to for a rest.
After the snorkel we showered off at the beach shower and returned to the van where we were given snacks and refreshing fruit juice before returning to their “base” to return the wet suits and gear. Their base is quite large as they offer a number of different tours… 4 wheel buggy rides, and other stuff. Nico, one of our guides, showed us their pet pig. I mean, doesn’t everyone have a pet pig? … oh and a couple of roosters and chickens too.
On the return we stopped at the Hula Valley lookout on Hulemalu Road
and Nico shared historical information of the area.
Our departure from Kauai was quite exciting. The pier is tucked in to a small inlet and a couple of massive tugs positioned themselves right next to our side in case of engine problems during departure that would drive the Journey on the rocky shore. Even these massive tugs were heaving from side to side as they escorted us out in the heavy swells. If you look carefully behind one of the tugs you’ll see a crazy person on a paddle board! (photo: left 2nd row) Are you getting tired of the nasty weather and seas? We sure were!
Now that the pouring rain had abated a bit we started to settle in to the aft deck buffet restaurant for our evening meals. You can try lots of different items. Each evening is a different country/culture cuisine theme. Tuesday night was Indonesian. We started with the Soto Ayam soup station. Basically chicken soup with rice noodles that you choose what else you want to add to it. Kind of like Pho or Ramen.
There’s always a couple of “cook to order” stations. Tonight there was the soup, a pork roast as well as a satay station where you choose chicken, lamb or beef satay and how many and which sauces you want to have with them.
With the selection at the salad bar, many nights I skipped the mains options with this kind of choice.
And best part was the killer variety of desserts to choose from.
Our kind of eating really. Sorry we didn’t discover this earlier we wouldn’t have wasted our time in the main dining room.