One of many trip reports by Alan Silverstein.
Last update: March 14, 2008
Numerous people asked me to recount the details of our honeymoon trip. I decided to write a trip report in my usual style. Thank you for your interest. I hope you enjoy this.
First, for the record... I met my wife-to-be, Cathie Grow, on June 27, 1998, at a Bennigan's Restaurant in Boulder, Colorado late one night after a contra dance. I ordered a "Death by Chocolate" dessert and shared it around. Five years later to the day, we hosted a post-rehearsal lunch and dessert for our immediate families at the Bennigan's in Fort Collins, at which time we ordered seven of the same desserts!
The next day we were married at the Unitarian Church in Fort Collins. We intended a relatively small, simple wedding. And I suppose it was, lasting only about 25 minutes. However (and this should surprise no one), there was some "feature creep" during the "implementation phase" that resulted in late nights and many hours of preparations. We owe enormous thanks to those same family members, and a few good friends, who helped us prepare and clean up that day. The ceremony and reception went very well I thought, aside from the hot weather. Despite our best efforts, it was 80 degrees at the pulpit during the event...
All of the visiting family members departed early in the morning. Some went west, some north, some east, and some southeast. Cathie and I had all day to clean up and put away from the wedding, and to prepare for the honeymoon, but it still wasn't enough time. We didn't get to bed until 11:30 pm, after finally viewing 291 digital photographs on CDs given to us by the photographer friend we'd hired.
We arose three hours later at 2:30 am to head for DIA. We felt surprisingly good, traffic was non-existent, security hassles were minimal, and the flights to SFO and then on to Kona (about five hours for the latter) were nominal, if crowded. At about noon Hawai'i time (four hours behind Colorado in the summer), we were at the Hertz counter signing out our car.
(I'd been to the Big Island twice before, about 11 days total, most recently 1991, but always camping. I was eager to return, stay in a nice place, and share the sights with Cathie.)
As we expected it was hot and humid, as always along the Hawai'i coast. We changed into shorts right away, found a shopping center in Kailua, had a nice "local" lunch, bought some groceries and some cheap sandals for me (oops, I'd forgotten them), and so forth, in no hurry. [Five years and some repairs later, those sandals are still on the job!]
On the way to the hotel along Alii Drive south out of Kailua, we also stopped to wade in the surf a while at one of the numerous and beautiful public access points. We were pretty tired, but also exhilarated to be there, and didn't want to call it a day too soon! I will always remember Cathie's joyous reaction to the white sand and blue waves.
We arrived at the Ohana Keauhou Beach Resort at about 3 pm and were blown away... It was gorgeous. Large, immaculate grounds, two seven-story wings, 311 total rooms, and a wide-open lobby level with no doors or windows. It's hard to describe really, but it was very tropical and beautiful. We felt blessed and fortunate -- also for doing some web research and avoiding two other three-star hotels with poor reputations.
Upon check-in we were upgraded free, and without even asking, to an excellent room on the second floor with a patio view of the swimming pool, coconut palms, the nearby bay and tide pool, and the Kona coast to the north. The room was also a marvelous surprise... Spacious, attractive, even with a small fridge that was useful for keeping a bottle of wine cold.
After unpacking and unwinding, we walked a short distance out the north gate of the hotel grounds to the adjacent public beach. Cathie experienced her first time snorkeling in salt water with waves -- and with shallow rocks and coral (ouch). It was quite beautiful, but we didn't swim long as it was late in the day.
Sunsets were at about 7:06 pm each day. We caught the first one from the hotel pool and from our balcony. Afterward we ordered an appetizer on the west terrace overlooking the tide pool and the Pacific Ocean. We danced a little to live music, as much as we could muster the energy. And we finally dragged off to bed after being awake for 23 hours!
We slept as long as we could stand, but were still tired after nine hours. We both had stress hangovers, and I had a sore throat for a few days. No surprise really. But we didn't let it stop us. (Well, having no decongestant I tried a Benadryl, and it laid me out and almost stopped me.)
Eager to go play, we first went downstairs at 8 am for a free daily continental breakfast and "activity seminar" -- really a sales presentation for various high-priced options such as parasailing and boat trips, but worth attending. Next we headed out for more shopping at the nearby Keauhou Center, then south down the coast on the island loop (belt) road.
(During our visit we put 806 miles on our rental car, all over the island -- south, north, east, up, and down. On every outing we made innumerable stops -- and many U-turns -- for unexpected small discoveries. I won't mention every detail, but it was a lot of fun. We packed both energy and serenity into the trip. Sometimes we rushed, and other times we lingered long.)
At about 11:30 am we arrived at the end of the five-mile, twisting, one-lane road down to the small fishing village of Miloli'i. It didn't look like much, but it offered incredible snorkeling from the small state beach park. I got Cathie out far enough to float over a subterranean canyon, a collapsed lava tube, that was probably fifty feet deep where we turned back. We swam for at least an hour and a half. We saw one green sea turtle too.
I was pleased and impressed with Cathie's comfort in the water. When I met her she didn't know how to swim, and now she owned a nice mask and snorkel and knew how to use them. She even got some experience on this trip with open water, waves, and shallow rocks.
Back up on the main belt road we continued south and then northeast to Volcanoes National Park with a brief stop at Punaluu Black Sands Beach. There was no time today to drive to South Point, so we regretfully left it for later.
At VNP we made a short stop at the impressive Kileaua Iki crater overlook, then headed straight down the Chain of Craters Road. The Park Service had the road closed about a half mile of excellent pavement (go figure) from where the lava had crossed the highway most recently in March and April of this year. People were parked along the shoulder for about a mile out. We got lucky and found a spot a tenth of a mile from the barricades.
We packed up and headed east on foot an hour before sunset. We hoofed fast to get to the lava outcroppings before dark. A sweaty and rough 1:05 later, just after sunset, we arrived 2.05 miles GPS direct from the end of the road, along with hundreds of other intrepid hikers.
Like everyone else, we were mesmerized watching fresh, orange-hot lava break and ooze out at the edges of the flows. We could get quite close and feel the heat. Sitting down, the rocks under us were warm. As it got dark we could see orange glows miles up the hill from us. We visited lava eruptions at two nearby sites. It grew pitch dark, windy, and even rained a little, sizzling on the fresh rock.
At about 8:50 pm we reluctantly started the long, hot, tough walk in the dark back to the car. We met Olaf from Germany, he had only one maglite and it was broken, so he tagged along with us... Actually, he led us back... And it was hard to get him to go around the small lava hills rather than over them!
Returning wasn't too bad, about 1:20 total with some gorgeous stars appearing as the clouds diminished. The drive home was long, 2:25, arriving at 00:50. But we agreed it had been worth it. Also we agreed to sleep in the next morning!
We rested as long as we could stand it. This was a leisurely morning after the long day before. At about 11 am we wandered downstairs hungry for lunch, but first to make some reservations for a Thursday evening dinner/drinks cruise and a Friday evening buffet at the hotel. The cruise was $55 per person for two hours on the boat, plus a free bus ride from and to the hotel. The activity salesperson offered a $100 rebate and a free lunch... If we would attend a timeshare condo presentation nearby at 1 pm that day!
Well guess what, we really were interested, so we did! The free lunch was boring: A sandwich, chips, a cookie, and tea. The nominal 90-minute visit actually took three hours, although it was not a hard sell, just persistent. We were actually impressed with the value proposition of buying flexible points for timeshare use worldwide, and intrigued by it, but unwilling to make a large commitment the same day (or else lose the 30% discount). So we declined.
At an "exit debriefing" with the regional marketing manager, we were then offered the "hidden" option of a trial membership -- and after more consideration, we did decide to take that! No regrets so far, but now we must pay the balance (under $2K) and explore our (many) options. We bought 8-12 days of timeshare (very flexible) somewhere on the planet in the next two years, and some accompanying low-cost special offers. Return to Kauai for $139/week? We'll see!
[Actually we used the points on five trips, a total of about 16 nights in various hotels, mostly in Las Vegas, but also Phoenix and Tucson. The net cost was around $100/night. We enjoyed it, and didn't regret it, but decided not to join the club, mostly because of having to look for ways to use up the points before they expired.]
Now it was 4 pm and the day's tentative plans were shot. We settled for some local shopping, a stop at a coffee plantation, and a leisurely drive down to Kealakekua Bay to see the ocean, heaiu (ancient shrine), and Captain Cook monument across the bay.
On the way back, looking for a place to dine with a sunset view, we ended up at the lovely Keauhou Shopping Center near the hotel, "mauka" (uphill) from it, with an excellent view... From the Wendy's! A very fine meal really, and reasonably priced too (for Hawai'i). Then for dessert we drove a Frostie back up to the scenic view higher on the hill.
(At the end of the week I was surprised how seldom we dined out, just five times altogether I think. With lots of places to go, and ample groceries in the car, we often ate whenever we got hungry, wherever we were.)
After dinner, back at the hotel, we enjoyed the gorgeous balcony view before turning in real early. Oh, this was also when I brought a few pieces of stinky coral from Miloli'i (found loose and dying on the bottom) in from the trunk of the car to dry on the balcony instead!
We rolled from the hotel before sunrise at 5:40 am. Today we did a major road trip before returning in time for the dinner cruise. We covered 250 miles in 10:15. We enjoyed lovely early colors to the north on the way to the McDonald's in Waimea ("to go"). We side-tripped an hour and a half, nine miles each way, to the Waipio Valley overlook on the northeast coast... Wow. We also saw a lava tube along the road, and checked out some papaya trees.
(During the week we experienced six different interesting fruits or nuts growing by the road, and in some cases we ate fresh from the tree... Coffee, macademia, mango, papaya, banana, and coconut. I think I saw pineapple plants once, not sure, no fruit on them.)
Back in Honoka'a we bought an excellent teriyaki beef sandwich at the famous Tex's Cafe, then continued south along the wet east coast of the Big Island. In and out of rain squalls, we dropped down briefly to visit the Laupahoehoe and then Kolekole beach parks, and hiked the amazing loop at Kahuna and Akaka Falls. We also found a pair of awesome banyan trees in Honomu on the Akaka Falls road.
Running short on time, we didn't stop in Hilo, just drove through (and around in circles) trying to find Road 200, the Saddle Road, north out of town. Along this road we hoofed down the steep stairs into Kaumana Caves (lava tubes) just long enough to see their tropical mouths and pick up one new shin bruise. Next, on up the road to cooler climes. The Saddle Road was much improved, at least between Hilo and the Mauna Kea junction, from what I experienced in 1991.
At the Mauna Kea road junction 28 miles from Hilo, I judged we barely had time to race to the top and back, so we did. It was about 15 miles each way, from 6600' up to over 13,900', through fog and rain to a commanding and unforgettable scene above the clouds. Four wheel drive and oxygen needed? Nah! Not if you are from Colorado! We made the round trip from the Saddle Road in just 1:20. More time would have been nice, but no regrets.
We continued north on the Saddle Road another 26 miles back to the Kona/Waimea highway. Here, as in many places, I stopped occasionally to reminisce and relate to Cathie my past visits to the islands... For example, it was at the Mauna Kea State Park high on the saddle in 1991 that the state police woke me up in the middle of the night to warn me to sleep in my car so as not to be eaten by a feral pig!
We returned to the Ohana Keauhou barely in time to clean up, change, and meet the bus for the dinner cruise. It was crowded but a fun time. They served lots of good food, and all-you-want mai-tais and screwdrivers, some Polynesian demo dancing to live music, a little room on the bow for us to dance too, until we got too hot, and nice views of the coastline and sunset.
Back at the hotel at about 8:30 pm, we wandered the grounds and watched the waves break until it was bedtime.
We made it to the Alii Market, a collection of outdoor tent shops a couple of miles north selling everything from coffee to Hawai'ian shirts, a bit after they opened at 9 am. Later back at the Ohana, poorer but well-provisioned, we finally did a long, full snorkeling trip in the tide-pool bay by the hotel. Less than two hours was plenty of time again. We made sure to butter up well with sunscreen!
This bay was rated "A", one of the best on the island for snorkeling, and it did not disappoint us. We saw tropical fish of every rainbow description, live and dead coral, another sea turtle... And dozens of other snorkelers. The water was a bit chilly except close to shore, where fresh warm water apparently welled up and caused weird salinocline distortions underwater. Cathie got some more ocean wave experience.
After a soak in the hotel pool, we regrouped for the afternoon. I enjoyed watching the near-solstice sun, from our location at about 20 degrees north latitude and thus south of the Tropic of Cancer, swing nearly overhead and cast shadows to the south. We finally ate a lunch at the hotel bar and grill overlooking the snorkeling bay.
Then, getting late again, we found time to drive up (1:10 each way) to the village of Hawi on the north point of the Big Island. There we met my cousin Larry's wife Linda at Larry's Hawai'ian wooden bowl gallery -- a successful tourist business. Next we spent a bit of time with Larry at his house and workshop nearby learning how he makes the bowls. We also saw how he was remodeling their home, including a tremendous bedroom window view "maki" (downhill) to the Pacific Ocean and across to the island of Maui.
We tore ourselves away for a fast return to the hotel. We barely made our 6:30 dinner reservation. We dined from a wonderful buffet, mostly seafood, but lots of good stuff for landfoodlubbers like me too... ($30/person, and worth it!)
We watched the sunset from our table -- no glass between us and the ocean -- and caught another "Kona green flash" as the sun vanished. After dinner we sat on a wooden bench looking out over the bay and the waves, lit by strategically placed floodlights courtesy of the hotel, watching for fireworks to the north. We never saw anything special, just local sparklers, but that was good enough.
Time to go home, but no hurry since the only flights available were overnighters leaving late that evening. We packed and wistfully checked out of our room. Before 10 am we were headed south again. We revisited a couple of favorite shopping spots... Today Longs Drugs had finished macademia products on sale for the best prices we saw anywhere, so we stocked up. Also we enjoyed a macademia factory (three pounds of raw second-grade nuts for $10.95!), plus a coffee museum and factory with a huge mango tree in the parking lot, a walk-through lava tube, and a coconut palm, where I picked up a fresh-fallen nut they were happy for me to cart away.
We continued south about an hour and arrived at South Point (Ka Lae), the southernmost point in the fifty states, at 1:10 pm. The 12-mile road down was as narrow and the slow drop as long and spectacular as I remembered. There were quite a few local fishermen and gawking tourists. We enjoyed sitting above a high sea cliff watching the translucent blue surf roar and pound below. Then we moved the car down some rougher tracks to the "end of the road" at the very point, next to a black stone seawall, just above the surf crashing on huge black lava boulders.
I had wanted to hike two miles northeast from there to a famous "green sands beach", but we were hungry. So first my bride and I shared a nice picnic lunch on a boulder a few feet from the nearest waves. The roaring mountains of water made it difficult to hear each other more than a few feet apart.
I selected a lava hammerstone and a suitable anvil, then husked and cracked that coconut for dessert. It was delicious, and very pretty too. Cathie had never eaten fresh coconut from the husk and shell, and found she really liked it.
Cathie was enjoying the waves so much, and I found lots of shells and coral to hunt among the boulders, so I gave up on the hike. We hung out there for about three hours! I moved the car east a few hundred feet once while Cathie strolled. There were neat tide pools, and huge amounts of wave-beaten white and red coral.
Just before leaving, I noticed with glee that I was standing on green sand. Not much of it, but there was one large area of 50% olivine bits mixed with white coral and shell sand plus black lava particles. I was pretty happy -- and very glad we hadn't made that long hike after all!
(Later at home I discovered that nearly pure, fine green sand could be laboriously separated using a gold pan. Also, coarser green sand including black lava bits could be had by dissolving the white particles in acid.)
Just as we finally dragged ourselves away from Ka Lae, it started to rain! What timing. All week we felt blessed by the joyful flow of events. Even though we were occasionally rushed, we did a lot, and it all worked out fine.
We drove back north to the shopping center in Kailua to fuel the rental car, finish packing (took a while), and shop a little. Being short on time and not hungry, we skipped dinner, and later bought some food at the airport, where we arrived at 7 pm hoping two hours would be sufficient...
It was, but only barely! Sheesh: Checked baggage agricultural inspection; United flight check-in, but then haul the luggage back around to checked baggage security; wait 30 minutes; back to people security to head for the gate; and one more time through carry-on agricultural inspection. The small, friendly Kona airport was hard to leave!
We reached the gate just in time to board. Fortunately the A/C was on full blast in the airplane. We left on time and flew from 9 pm to 4:40 am... Losing three hours... We didn't really sleep.
The connection in LAX was not bad, and we arrived at DIA on time at 9:10 am (another hour ahead). We were back home by 11:30 am. But it felt weird, like much later in the day even though it was 7:30 am Hawai'i time. We were seriously jet-lagged, and it took several days to catch up. Just the cost of doing business, I suppose!
What a great honeymoon. What a wonderful wife!