The Na Pali Coast of Kauai

The iconic Na Pali Coast on the north shore of Kauai is only accessible by boat or air. Well, except for that treacherous 11-mile hiking trail that didn’t especially appeal to us. Fortunately for us, the Pride of America was scheduled to sail along the 17-mile coastline of Na Pali. We were excited to experience sublime views of the emerald-green cliffs on our last day aboard the NCL Pride of America. Unfortunately for us, the weather did not cooperate.  Our first view looked like this.

IMG_9139 (1)

Approaching the Na Pali Coast

The coastline was almost completely obscured by clouds. As we got closer, they began to dissipate a bit but our views remained misty at best.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Low clouds on the Napali Coast

IMG_9146

The first bit of green appears before our wondering eyes

We made the best of the situation, however, and enjoyed what we could see. Actually, in retrospect, I think it was fortunate that we initially thought we’d see nothing because then we appreciated what we did see so much more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Misty Na Pali Coast

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Closer view through the mist and low clouds

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Na Pali Coast

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking up the valley along the Na Pali Coast

IMG_9156

Another view

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Na Pali means cliffs–you can see why

IMG_9170

My favorite view of Na Pali coast

We had considered a helicopter or a catamaran tour but I’m glad we didn’t spend the money in view of the weather. The fact that our tour was included in our cruise made us feel like we got something extra. The captain of the Pride of America tried so hard to get us close enough to the shore to see the amazing lush vegetation and velvety emerald cliffs through the mist. We tell people if you haven’t experienced surreal Na Pali in the mist, you haven’t seen Na Pali. But I know I’ll go back  hoping to see Na Pali on a crystal clear day.

 

Based on events from November 2015.

 

Categories: cruise, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

More on the Garden Isle of Kauai

Back on the south coast of Kauai after our visit to Waimea Canyon, we stopped first at Russian Fort Elizabeth State Park where hundreds of feral chickens greeted us in the parking lot. Sights like these are the most memorable for me –they stand out because they are unusual or unique.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Parking lot at Russian Fort Elizabeth

Named for the czarina of Russia, Fort Elizabeth was one of three forts built by Russia on Kauai between 1813 and 1817. I had no idea Russia had a presence in Hawaii so this historical trivia was intriguing to me. Apparently, we were alone in our interest, however, because we were the only people there. According to the signs on-site, Russia wanted to establish a trade relationship with Hawaii to obtain food for their Alaskan settlements. That seemed odd in view of the fact that it’s only 55 miles across the Bering Strait to Russia  (I’ve heard you can see Russia from your porch in Alaska) while it’s over 3000 miles from Hawaii to Alaska. Nevertheless, that was the plan. King Kamehameha wasn’t a fan, however, and expelled the Russians in 1817. Not much remains so it was a brief stop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Remains of Russian Fort Elizabeth

We drove on to the Kauai Coffee Company, Hawaii’s largest coffee grower. Originally a sugar cane plantation, the first coffee trees were planted here in 1987 and today they have more than 4 million trees. The Visitor Center and Museum had a lot to offer, including unlimited self-serve coffee samples.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kauai Coffee Company

While we savored amazing coffee, we watched a video about the coffee production process and viewed the historical exhibits.

IMG_9062

IMG_9063IMG_9064

Admittedly, we were there for the coffee but this visitor was mainly interested in the spilled sugar. The gold dust day gecko is not native to Hawaii but was introduced in the 1970s. Because they help keep insect populations in check, they are usually welcome guests.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gold dust day gecko

The people at Kauai Coffee Company definitely have a sense of humor. This was the first of a number of signs that caused me to chuckle.

IMG_9070

With coffee in hand, we wandered out to the self-guided walking tour. It was a paved trail with lots of explanatory signage along the way about growing, harvesting, and processing coffee.

IMG_9073

Signs like this explain coffee growing and processing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jim along the trail

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our friend, Rick, a true coffee lover, in front of coffee trees

The signs contained interesting coffee facts that I didn’t know previously. For example, did you know that longer roasting reduces the caffeine in coffee? Consequently, a medium roast has more caffeine than a dark roast. There are usually two coffee beans inside the coffee cherry but when just one forms, it’s called a peaberry. The peaberry roasts more evenly and produces a superior cup of coffee which we confirmed in our taste tests. And each coffee tree produces just one pound of roasted coffee per harvest.

IMG_9072

More humor

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Coffee cherries

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Plumeria growing at the coffee estate because this is Hawaii, after all

This was a pleasant stop with lots of interesting information. We purchased some coffee to take home, returned our rental car, and headed back to the ship in time for dinner.

Based on events from November 2015.

Categories: cruise, History, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Visiting the Garden Isle of Kauai

Kauai, the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, is nicknamed the garden island with good reason. Every rainy, verdant, undeveloped, dramatic landscape looks like an untamed garden.  Due to its appeal, over 60 movies have been filmed here, including the Jurassic Park series, Jurassic World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar, and The Descendants, just to name a few.

The Pride of America docked at Nawiliwili where we rented a car. For just $50 a day, we had the freedom to explore wherever we liked on the island. Of the many choices to see and do, the top of our list was the Napali coast followed by Waimea Canyon. You can only see the Napali coast by boat or air and, fortunately for us, the Pride of America would cruise along the coast the following day. We chose to drive to Waimea Canyon, once dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific by Mark Twain.

The drive was just 31 miles but it was up a curvy 2 lane road with amazing scenery so we took our time and stopped along the way. At first, it seemed odd that the landscape appeared somewhat arid with red soil and shades of yellow and brown vegetation interspersed with patches of lush, verdant plant life. Then I remembered this was the leeward (drier) side of the island.

IMG_9004

The drive to Waimea Canyon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View on the road to Waimea Canyon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View of the Pacific

 

IMG_9008

Our friends and travel companions, Rick and Lori

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Red Dirt Waterfall

 

IMG_9083

Laura and Jim at the entrance to Waimea Canyon

 

IMG_9022

Waimea Canyon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Waimea Canyon

IMG_9023 (1)

Waimea Canyon

Waipoo Falls rising 800 feet above the canyon floor amazed and inspired us.

IMG_9048

Waipoo Falls in Waimea Canyon

IMG_9082

Overlook at Waimea Canyon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Waipoo Falls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Waipoo Falls

In the parking lot at Waimea Canyon Lookout, vendors sold exotic tropical fruits and other products. We tried the dragon fruit which the sign told us tastes like pear plus kiwi. Yum!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Vendors at Waimea Canyon Lookout

IMG_9034

Tropical fruits for sale

I wish I had tried the manapua which is a pork pastry originally introduced to Hawaii by Chinese immigrants. I noticed there was also a sweet variety with cream custard, probably to appeal to today’s sugar addicted consumer.

IMG_9031

The vendor where we bought our fruit

We were intrigued by the chickens we saw wandering freely all over the island including this parking lot. The protected feral chickens supposedly have no natural enemies on Kauai so they flourish in larger numbers here than on other islands. My research, however, led me to this article from the Hawaii Invasive Species Council. The mongoose was introduced in 1883 on other islands to control the rat population in the sugar cane fields. An unintended consequence occurred because the mongoose has no natural predators on the islands and it also reduced the population of island birds including feral chickens. The mongoose was never introduced on Kauai but a number of sightings and one capture have occurred. If indeed, the mongoose has gained a foothold, Kauai will need to develop a management plan.  (First Live Mongoose Captured on Kauai, May 2012)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mama and her brood

IMG_9045

Colorful rooster

Come back to read more about our visit to Kauai. Spoiler alert: more chickens, a fort, and good coffee are coming up.

Based on events in November 2015.

 

References:

Press Release. (2012, May 23). First Live Mongoose Captured on Kauai, May 2012. Hawaii.gov. Retrieved from http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/hisc/news/kauaimongoosepr/

Categories: cruise, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Unscripted on the Big Island

After a busy week exploring Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island, we were ready for an unscripted beach day. And, because it rained most of the previous day on the windward side of the island, we looked forward to dry weather on the “Kona side” (leeward) at Kailua-Kona. Cruise ships anchor offshore at this port, so our first order of business was taking a tender from our ship to the pier.

IMG_8898

Tender to the Kona pier

IMG_8895

View of the Pride of America from our tender

08-09_ISA_6939

Beach ready

After the requisite photo on the pier, we were ready to find a beach. Fortunately, historic downtown Kailua is adjacent to the pier so we didn’t have to look far. We stopped at Tourist Information and learned the Kona Trolley would take us south to the beaches for just $2 per ride.

IMG_8902

Roadside view from the Kona Trolley

IMG_8911

Trolley View

We got off the trolley at Kahalu’u Beach where Jim was first into the water. When he spied a large sea turtle swimming next to him, he was intent on avoiding contact after seeing the sign announcing a $35,000 fine for touching these protected creatures. An underwater camera sure would have been handy to capture the experience, however.

IMG_8917

Kahalu’u Beach

IMG_8924

Jim swimming with the sea turtles

While the beach was lovely, there was too much coral in the water which makes for good snorkeling but awkward wading, so we packed up and got back on the trolley to try another beach. Magic Sands Beach was perfect.

IMG_8934

Magic Sands Beach

IMG_8936

Magic Sands Beach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Magic Sands Beach

IMG_8954

Yours truly in the water at Magic Sands Beach

The official name is La’aloa Beach, but locals nicknamed it Magic Sands because the sand washes away in the winter only to return each summer when the currents change. Fortunately for us, there was plenty of sand during our visit in November.

A sweet little dog wandered about the beach visiting various groups of sunbathers and eventually he joined us, too. We, of course, assumed he was a stray but when he turned up his nose at the granola bar we offered, we knew his owner was nearby. Sure enough, as we left, we saw him jump into a car with a local.

IMG_9077

Lori and I made friends with this sweet dog

When we’d had enough beach time, we took the trolley back to town for a little exploration. We’d been advised to have a shave ice with azuki beans and finally located a place that sold them. Azuki (or adzuki) beans are red beans that are sweetened and used in Asian confections. Since the tradition of Hawaiian shave ice was first introduced by Japanese immigrants, it makes sense that they would use azuki beans. They were surprisingly tasty in the shave ice.

IMG_9075

Shave Ice offerings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ordering our shave ice

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

shave ice with azuki beans

At the end of a relaxing unscripted day in Kailua-Kona, we were ready to return to the Pride of America to set sail that evening for the island of Kauai. And if you’re wondering why we didn’t visit a coffee plantation, we did –on Kauai, so please come back and check it out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Home sweet Pride of America

 

Based on events from November 2015.

 

 

 

Categories: cruise, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Legend of Akaka Falls

Legend has it the Hawaiian god, Akaka, lived next to a waterfall with his wife while his girlfriends, Lehua and Maile, lived nearby. When his wife returned early one day nearly catching him with one of the girlfriends, Akaka ran away and fell into the falls. (Some versions say he jumped but I find that hard to believe.) Lehua and Maile cried so hard when they heard about Akaka’s death, they turned into small waterfalls. The waterfall that Akaka fell into was named Akaka Falls and two nearby small cascading falls are called Lehua and Maile Falls.

Today, Akaka Falls State Park is a very popular and iconic attraction near Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. To reach the falls, we walked a short paved trail through stunning tropical vegetation. While the entire trail is less than half a mile, there are stairs involved so the trail is not wheelchair accessible. The park is a tropical paradise that defies description and the photos hardly capture such incredible beauty. When I say tropical, I mean it was hot, humid, misty, or rainy the entire time but thankfully, I never saw a single mosquito.

IMG_8841

Red Firespike

IMG_8840

Red Firespike

IMG_8845

Ti plant

IMG_8852

Ti plant (Hawaiian Good Luck Plant)

IMG_8843

Lori under the aerial roots of a large Banyan tree with Jim in the background

IMG_8850

Red Ginger

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yellow Ginger

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Heliconia Mariae

The walk through this lush tropical jungle would have been quite enough to satisfy us but our first view of the Akaka Falls took the experience to another level.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

First view of Akaka Falls

The falls drops 442 feet into a gorge so we knew that we had only seen the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The full view was truly sublime.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Akaka Falls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Akaka Falls and trail

IMG_9081

Jim and Laura on the stairs to the viewing area of Akaka Falls

IMG_5500

Lori and Laura at Akaka Falls

IMG_8861

Full view of Akaka Falls

If the photos don’t fully convey the beauty of the falls, click on this video to see Akaka Falls in motion.

Continuing along the trail, we also spotted the small Lehua and Maile Falls crying copious tears together.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lehua and Maile Falls

Our visit to Akaka Falls was part of the Pride of America excursion to Volcanoes National Park. The third component of this excursion was a stop at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center. Although I’m not a huge fan of these commercial stops that all cruise lines include in their excursions, we actually appreciated this shopping opportunity to pick up some macadamia nuts to take home. Unfortunately, the factory was closed or we’d have enjoyed a look about there, too.

IMG_8808

We spent only a day in the port of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii but felt we’d gotten a good introduction to the windward side of the island. That night the Pride of America sailed on to Kona where, the next morning, we would explore the leeward side.

Based on events from November 2015.

 

Categories: cruise, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Hiking Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Mauna Loa and Kilauea, on the island of Hawaii, are two of the most active volcanoes in the world. Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984 and is due to erupt again. Kilauea has been continuously erupting since 1983. In addition, Mauna Loa is actually the tallest mountain in the world standing 56,000 feet (17,000 meters) when measured from the ocean floor rather than sea level. These two volcanoes comprise Volcanoes National Park and a UNESCO  World Heritage site. In my opinion, this was the single most important “not to be missed” sight on our Hawaiian cruise and for this reason, we booked an excursion to Volcanoes National Park through the cruise line. For $139 per person, we were transported to the national park, we hiked the crater of Kilauea Iki with a guide, and visited Akaka Falls, too.

The Pride of America docked in Hilo where our excursion began. Our bus stopped first at the Kilauea Visitor Center which interestingly, was built in 1941 as a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project. The CCC was a New Deal program established during the Great Depression in 1933 that taught young unemployed men many valuable skills while improving the infrastructure of the United States.

IMG_8719

Kilauea Visitor Center, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

We began our 4-mile hike at the Kilauea Iki (Little Kilauea) Trailhead. The trail followed the rim of the crater through a lush tropical rainforest, then descended 400 feet (122 m) by switchbacks and stairs to the floor of the crater, crossed the crater, and ascended again.  Our guide led us through the hot, wet, humid, tropical rain forest telling us about the vegetation as we hiked. Periodically, we had stunning views into the crater.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our guide telling us about the rain forest on the Kilauea Iki Trail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kilauea Iki Trail

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View from Kilauea Iki Trail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tropical rain forest vegetation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fern fiddleheads in the tropical rain forest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kilauea Iki Overlook

IMG_8744

Looking into the crater of Kilauea Iki

Kilauea Iki last erupted in 1959. Prior to the eruption, the floor of the crater was 800 feet deep and covered with forest.  When a lava lake of 86 million tons flooded the crater, the floor raised 400 feet. Today the lava lake is solid but steam vents indicate it’s still hot inside.

IMG_8764

Reaching the floor of the crater with rain to welcome us

IMG_8748

Hiking into the crater at Kilauea Iki

IMG_8749

We made it to the bottom but still had to hike across the crater and back up the other side

IMG_8755

Lori and our group hiking the crater

IMG_8765

The trail is marked by ahu (stacks of rock)

One of the advantages of an organized tour is the interesting facts the guide shares that you may otherwise never discover. One of those tidbits was Pele’s hair. Pele is the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and Pele’s hair is the thin volcanic glass threads produced when molten lava blows through the air.

IMG_8762

Pele’s hair

Our guide also showed us a steam vent which honestly, I would have told my husband to stay away from if we didn’t have a professional with us.

The incredible resiliency of our earth amazed me with the amount of impressive vegetation that sprouted in cracks and crevices of lava rock.

 

When we ascended back to the rim of the crater, we visited nearby Thurston Lava Tube, named after the discoverer in 1913, Lorrin Thurston. A lava tube is formed when molten lava flows through walls hardening around it. The Thurston Lava Tube is about 600 feet long.

IMG_8784

Thurston Lava Tube

IMG_8788

Thurston Lava Tube

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inside Thurston Lava Tube

IMG_8787

Thurston Lava Tube

Our final stop in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to eat a sack lunch at the Jagger Museum offered views of the active Kilauea caldera from a safe distance. Active lava flows were only visible from the air during our visit. You can check the park website to find out whether views are safely available during your visit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Steam rising from Kilauea Caldera

Next time I’ll show and tell about Akaka Falls. But let me just offer a spoiler alert right now. Our excursion to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Akaka Falls was the highlight of our visit to the Big Island and indeed, a top highlight of our entire trip.

 

Based on events from November 2015.

Categories: cruise, History, National Parks, natural history, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Iao Valley State Park, Maui

Iao (EE-ow) Valley State Park, with walking trails through the lush and verdant tropical vegetation, was a short drive from the cruise port, took just a couple hours to visit, and admission was free. The lushness is due to plentiful rainfall but luckily, we had a perfect day.

In addition to abundant natural beauty, this area possesses great historical significance. In 1790, Kamehameha the Great won a decisive and bloody battle here that eventually resulted in the unification of the islands into one kingdom for the first time under King Kamehameha I.

IMG_8686

Iao Needle (Kukaemoku in Hawaiian)

IMG_8680

View from the trail at Iao Valley State Park

IMG_8681

Ian Valley State Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Iao Valley

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Iao Needle

IMG_8682

Iao Stream

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Iao Valley

IMG_8690

Iao Stream

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Vegetation at Iao Valley

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Iao Stream

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Iao Valley

Adjacent to Iao Valley State Park we discovered a free county park, Kepaniwai Park and Heritage Gardens, which is a tribute to the various ethnic groups of Hawaii. We enjoyed the Chinese pagoda, tranquil Japanese gardens, native thatched hut, Filipino nipa hut, and a New England saltbox, among others. This would be an ideal spot for a picnic with the facilities provided on-site.

IMG_8701

Chinese Pagoda at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens

IMG_8697

Japanese Garden at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens

IMG_8706

Banyan tree at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens

IMG_8702

Filipino Nipa Hut at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens

IMG_8709

New England Saltbox at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens

Post Script: Tribute to a Good Man

Jim and I visited my former boss, Allen Grooters, at Hospice prior to our departure for Hawaii in November. Allen had recently been diagnosed with ALS and the terminal disease  progressed quickly. I was hesitant to drop by Hospice but I texted him and he responded that he’d enjoy a visit. I knew Allen and his wife stayed on Maui each year so we asked him his recommendations for the island. He told us that Iao State Park was one of his favorite sites in Maui so we went there on his advice. Sadly, Allen died soon after our return from Hawaii. I will always appreciate the great advice and wise counsel he provided me over the 20+ years we worked together. His final recommendation was as much a winner as his earlier guidance.

 

Based on events from November 2015.

Categories: cruise, History, natural history, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Upcountry Maui

The slopes of Mt. Haleakala, or upcountry Maui as the locals call it, is considered the most laid-back area of the island. But honestly, the entire island seemed pretty laid-back to me.

We rented a car ($50) for Day 2 of our stay in Maui and drove upcountry to Haleakala National Park first thing in the morning. Although it’s one of the top recommended sights, we decided against getting there for sunrise for two reasons. First of all, the clouds often obscure the sun and secondly, driving hairpin turns in the dark on unfamiliar roads to 10,000 feet didn’t appeal to any of us.

The soaring views on the drive to the summit were every bit as impressive as we saw on the Road to Hana. Fortunately for us, we were driving up as the bikers were headed down so we missed most of the traffic, too.

It was especially poignant to spy sugar cane growing in the fields because, after 140 years, the Hawaiian sugar industry which began in Maui, is shutting down. By the end of 2016, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar will close operations.

IMG_8524

Sugar cane growing in upcountry Maui

IMG_8531

Driving upcountry Maui

IMG_8533

View nearing the top of Haleakala

IMG_8539

Driving upcountry Maui

Tourists are advised to wear warm clothes because it’s really cold at the top of the volcano but I was unprepared for just how cold and windy it was. A down coat would have been welcome.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Laura and Lori at Haleakala National Park

The terrain on the summit is other-worldly. I’d love to have hiked one of the over 30 miles of trails, especially the one to see Waimoku Falls, but the conditions there are dangerous and I was still fighting a virus with chills and fever. I was content with these views then got back in the car to warm up while the others did a short trail on the summit.

IMG_8542

Haleakala National Park view of the crater

IMG_8543

Haleakala National Park

IMG_8571

Haleakala National Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Haleakala National Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Haleakala National Park

We spent the entire morning on the drive up to Haleakala National Park and back. Afterward, we explored Iao Valley State Park but that’s the subject of my next post so check back next week. If you have to choose between Haleakala and the Road to Hana, I would choose Haleakala but if you have the time, by all means, do both.

 

Based on events from November 2015.

 

 

Categories: cruise, National Parks, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Road to Hana through the Back Door

Our cruise ship, the Pride of America, docked in Kahului on Maui at 8 am and remained in port until 6 pm (1800) the following day. We knew that we wanted to see the Road to Hana and Haleakala National Park but we wouldn’t have time for much beyond that.

IMG_8408

Rick and Jim checking out the map in the cruise port on Maui

We weighed several options for an all-day tour of the Hana Highway, a 52-mile, spectacularly scenic road featuring some 600 hairpin turns and 54 one lane bridges along the northern coast of Maui. We could take an NCL excursion for $189 per person which seemed exceedingly expensive compared to renting a car. Car rental for the day would be only about $50 for the 4 of us but we’d have to drive the car ourselves. The price was right but I wasn’t keen on having Jim or Rick drive the route and miss much of the scenery to focus on the road (sometimes one-lane) and the traffic (heavy). My brother and his wife had been to Maui recently and recommended Maui Easy Riders for a Road to Hana tour. A personal tour for the 4 of us while they did the driving would cost $600. We decided that was our best option. By the way, they also offer a Haleakala Downhill Bike Tour but I would have been a Maui uneasy rider on 4-5% grades riding a bike down the volcano. My sister-in-law, however, had a blast on the bike tour so if that’s your thing, go for it.

Kyle picked us up outside the cruise port in his SUV just after 8. Rather than driving up the Road to Hana and returning the same way, we went the back way on Highway 37 so that we could drive back on the Road to Hana. We got to see more of the island and missed some of the traffic, too. Car rentals don’t allow taking their cars on a portion of this road so we got a bonus by riding with Kyle. Our route is highlighted below in yellow. The stretch between the red arrows on the south side of the island is the area where you can’t take a rental car.

IMG_3504

Kyle was engaging and entertaining, telling us story after story about his customers and experiences. Every funny story about tourists behaving badly ended with, “That’ll be in the book.”  I hope nothing we said or did was book worthy.

IMG_8410

View from Highway 37

IMG_8416

View from Highway 37, Maui

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another view of the Pacific

IMG_8420

Calling these roads highways is an overstatement

IMG_8426

Looking at the backside of Haleakala National Park from Hwy 37

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The coast behind Haleakala NP where rental cars don’t go

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My favorite photo of the rugged volcanic coastline

IMG_8434

More coastline views

IMG_8435

We stopped at St Joseph’s Church, a mission church established in 1862 to convert the natives. The area is verdant and peaceful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

St Joseph’s Church

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The white lines on the mountains are waterfalls

Laulima Farm, featuring environmental agriculture, has a stand along the highway that was a great stop for a snack and a look around. We walked their trail through the lush tropical jungle where we enjoyed the sights and scents of flowers, fruits, and coffee growing along with other tropical plants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Laulima Farm Fruit Stand

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Laulima Farm Fruit Stand produce

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fruit growing along the trail at Laulima Farm

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tropical Paradise

IMG_8462

View across the road from Laulima Farm

Our next stop was the gravesite of Charles Lindbergh, the famous American aviator, who died and was buried here in 1974. The grave is located very near the Pacific ocean and I’m certain the views are incredible when not viewed through a tropical rain storm which came in just as we got there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Charles Lindbergh burial site

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Grave of Charles Lindbergh

We stood under the trees to wait out the rain but finally made a run for it to the vehicle through the drenching rain. I’d read to plan on rain at some point during the day when visiting the windward side of the island so we weren’t surprised by the cloudburst.

Fortunately, the rain didn’t obscure of view of Wailua Waterfall, one of the most beautiful stops along our route.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wailua Waterfall

By lunch time we reached Hana and Kyle sought out food trucks with local, affordable fare. We didn’t find any so instead, he took us to Hana Ranch Store where we followed his lead and ordered sausages and chili over rice which I’m told is a Maui original.

IMG_8476

Jim and Kyle with our take out from Hana Ranch Store

IMG_8478

Maui chili over rice

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lunch, Maui style

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With a view like this at Hana Bay State Park, anything tastes good!

Leaving Hana, we began our drive along the Hana Highway through the hairpin turns and one-lane bridges. The views were every bit as spectacular as promised.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View from Hana Highway

The Black Beach at Waianapanapa State Park was not an exaggeration or misrepresentation.

IMG_8487

View from the trail to Black Beach

IMG_8482

Black Beach

The legend of Waianapanapa Cave added a human component to the natural beauty. Hawaiian Princess Popoalaea fled and hid from her cruel husband, but the chief found and killed her. When tiny red shrimp appear in the pool, it’s a reminder of the blood of the princess.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Waianapanapa Cave

IMG_8499

View from the Hana Highway

IMG_8501

Scene from the Road to Hana with another waterfall on that mountain

The Painted Forest at mile marker 7 is composed of rainbow eucalyptus trees that originated from the Philippines. It’s a small area and difficult to spot unless you know where to find them and fortunately for us, Kyle knew.

IMG_8510

The Painted Forest

IMG_8520

Bark of the rainbow eucalyptus

This day was an amazing experience filled with all the beauty Maui has to offer. Kyle Barfield was an excellent tour guide and we would wholeheartedly recommend him. He has since opened his own tour company called Sandy Cheeks Tours.

If you’re interested in Haleakala National Park on Maui, check back next week for my new post.

 

Based on events from November 2015.

Categories: cruise, Food, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome Aboard the Pride of America

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, sailing the Hawaiian Islands year-round since its maiden voyage in 2005, has a capacity of 2186 passengers. Compared to the new mega-ships that accommodate 6000-6800 passengers, that may sound small to you but it was just right for me.

I watched the ship arrive at sunrise from my lanai at the Marriott.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My ride

Our shuttle transportation from the hotel to the cruise port was included in our cruise package so the transfer was easy and efficient. I wish I could say the same for the check-in process at the cruise port but it was one of the slower experiences I’ve had with Norwegian Cruise Line even though we were in the priority line. I share this with you, not to complain, but rather to prepare you in case you have the same experience. And if you don’t, you can feel lucky.

The last stop after checking in was a photo. In fact, they take a lot of photos on cruise ships hoping to sell them to the passengers. Our cruise package included 20 free photos so we kept them whether or not they were flattering. I’ll share some of the better ones in blog posts.

10-12_spk_2118_01

Welcome Aboard photo

We booked an inside cabin, knowing the ship’s movement from port to port would be at night and a window would be wasted but the money saved would not. I wake up with the sun, so no window can be a problem. I left the television turned on and tuned to the bow cam with the sound turned off. As the sun came up, the screen lit up the room. It helped. While our cabin was not exceptional, the champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, and chocolate bar awaiting us were welcome treats.

IMG_8392

Our welcome aboard gift

IMG_8394

Toasting our good fortune

As we explored the ship, we soon discovered the theme was patriotic with more traditional furnishings which were a definite hit with me. Notably, there was no casino on the ship, a first in my cruise experience. Gambling isn’t legal in Hawaii and the ship never leaves Hawaiian waters so there’s no gambling on board. Not a problem for us.

IMG_8400

Hawaiian performers in the Capitol Atrium

IMG_8999

Sitting area

IMG_9002

Guest Services desk

IMG_8990

Picture of the Pride of America in a stairwell

IMG_8389

Outside the Aloha Cafe before sail away

We belong to the NCL rewards program called Latitudes. In fact, we’ve achieved platinum status so the perks were pretty good. In addition to the champagne, chocolates, and strawberries in our stateroom upon our arrival, we were invited to a wine and cheese event with the captain. The best perk, however, was free laundry service which came in handy  when I spilled wine all over Jim’s good pants. And I do mean all over.  The laundry cleaned them and had them back to us the following day in time for dinner. I’m grateful the wine came out or I’d never hear the end of it!

We also each received a gift certificate for two with a bottle of wine in a specialty dining venue, Jefferson’s Bistro, which otherwise costs extra. We took our friends. Lori and Rick, with us one evening later in the week and had an outstanding dining experience.

IMG_8995

Jefferson’s Bistro

IMG_8994

Painting of Monticello in the Jefferson Bistro

IMG_9111

Dinner at Jefferson’s Bistro

IMG_9097

The menu at Jefferson’s Bistro

Our first-course selections

 

Main course selections

IMG_9103

Filet de Saumon d’Atlantic

IMG_9104

Filet de Boeuf Grille (filet of beef)

IMG_9102

Coq au Vin (Chicken in Burgundy)

Dessert!

Here are several more photos around the Pride of America.

IMG_8396

IMG_8992

Main Dining Room

IMG_8523IMG_9116

IMG_9192

Hollywood Theater

IMG_8989

Sunset from the aft of the Pride of America

Our first port, Maui, is the subject of next week’s post. Come back and tour the Road to Hana with me.

 

Based on events from November 2015.

Categories: cruise, Food, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 664 other followers

%d bloggers like this: