Hawaii: Big Island – December 30, 2021

Today was the most mellow day we have had yet on this vacation. Honestly, aside from taking some time to swim and snorkel in the keiki pond near our rental, photograph flowers, hunt for shells, and watch the sea for dolphins and whales, the most energetic thing we did happened at 10:20 pm when we got in the ocean to watch manta rays feed. That will require a separate post, which I will get to as soon as we manage to downloaded the photos from the GoPro we rented for the experience. Still, it was an amazing day for wildlife and nature viewing and photography.

It has been overcast here for days, but luckily we have managed to escape most of the rain we feared would literally dampen our trip. While we may not come back tan, we are definitely warm, rested, and unwound, which makes this entire trip worth every second of missed clear, sunny skies.

Next up: Manta Rays!

Hawaii: The Big Island – December 26, 2021

Mornings here are getting into a rhythm. Steve and I wake early, take some photos when the area behind the house on the makai (towards the sea) side is calm and mostly people free. I like to wander down to the tidal ponds to see any fish that might be stirring. This morning, as I meandered towards the water, I noticed this flower that someone in our family had placed along the lava rock wall surrounding the pool. There aren’t as many flowers blooming here now as there would be at other times of the year, but that makes the ones I am seeing more of a treasure.

The big excitement of the morning came when Luke was the first of us to spot humpback whales in the ocean behind the house. We’d been wondering if we would see some. We know they usually visit between December and April, but we’d been told it might be a little too early to see many of them. In fact, while verifying the time of year when they travel through these waters, I found that other Google searchers had similar questions. The funniest question I saw in my search was, “What time of day is the best for spotting whales?” I laughed. We Americans are so used to having the world at our fingertips that there are those among us who think the whales actually have a schedule they follow to make it easier for us to see them. The pure, simple, and beautiful answer about when you see whales is whenever they need to come up for air. They aren’t an attraction at Disneyworld that runs on a tight schedule. They are actual creatures living their lives. We just happen to be fortunate enough to bear witness to that on occasion. Throughout the rest of the day, though, the whales decided to inhale in front of me four additional times when my eyes just happened to be trained on the sea. Here’s hoping that the trend continues.

The rest of our day was spent snorkeling and hanging at the pool. I love snorkeling. While I am not well practiced given my status as a landlocked, mountain girl, I do revel in the view underwater. I saw a banded coral shrimp, which I had never seen before. The boys (aged 20 and 18) acted like boys (aged 6 and 4) in the pool, beating each other with foam noodles and using snorkel masks to dive. While they were doing that, I made another little green friend on the lanai where I was busy composing yesterday’s blog post.

The highlight of the day was a dinner cruise down to Kealakekua Bay, the site where Captain James Cook was killed. This cruise, conducted by Body Glove Ocean Adventures, was surprisingly informative, well run, and fun. I typically view these trips as tourist traps. I still book them, but I am prepared for them to be hokey and subpar, worth only the opportunity to get out on the sea. The cruise was recommended to us by the concierge service at the property management company that oversees the rental home we’re occupying, so I am grateful to them for that. The dinner was delicious: a locally grown green salad, Hawaiian-style barbecue ribs, a coconut milk, green curry vegetable side with white rice, and a coconut roll. I was impressed they were able to pull this off so well given that the boat we took unloaded passengers just 10 minutes before we were able to board. During the trip, we were gifted with whale sightings and the opportunity to see both spinner and bottlenose dolphins. By the end of the cruise, with copious tropical drinks on board, most of the passengers were singing and dancing along to YMCA by the Village People. I am usually a cynic and find this type of behavior beneath me, but I may be growing because I found the entire spectacle charming and actually participated. There was a lovely Indian family (about 15 of them) who were celebrating some family milestones, and they formed a large circle near the singer/dj and led the crowd in the revelry. After so long being sequestered and not being in the company of strangers, it was heavenly, even for this introvert.

When I can get myself to back off my cynicism and check my opinionated mind at the door, I rediscover the simple pleasure of witnessing connections between people and remembering that these moments give this ephemeral life its breath.

Paradise – Day One

On marker of paradise...at least for a gal from Colorado
On marker of paradise…at least for a gal from Colorado

We’re in paradise. We escaped from cold, snowy Colorado during the boys spring break and now we are on a family trip in Kauai. There are five of us (hubby, the boys, my mom, and I), and we’re all Hawaii virgins. Kauai, after hours of research, was on the top of my Hawaii must-see list. So after a very long day yesterday (awake at 4 a.m., 8.5 hours in the air, topped off with a four-hour time change), we at arrived in Lihue ready to rest up for our grand adventure.

This morning we were awake in the dark at 5 a.m. (courtesy of the aforementioned four-hour time difference). Anxious to start our vacation, we threw on our swimsuits, jumped into our rental Jeep, and headed to Starbucks for caffeine. We drove toward Wailua and landed at Lydgate Beach Park just a few moments after the official rise of the sun.

Happy boys
Happy boys

The boys, we discovered, are not mountain boys at all. They love the beach. As the adults snapped photos, the boys ran along the empty beach, kings of their own little universe. Their joy at building small sand structures and watching the ocean “demolish” them repeatedly was a beautiful reminder of how important the little moments are. Serenity is a beach sunrise. (Or a mountain sunrise at Maroon Bells in Aspen, Colorado. I’m not picky.)

After the caffeine had kicked in, we headed up to Opaeka’a Falls Lookout. We enjoyed the falls but mostly we were happy to catch a quick view of the Wailua River where we are going to kayak on Monday morning. Back to the car, we headed to our home base to gather up some things for the rest of our day. We stopped off at Hilo Hatties for some kitschy Hawaiian wear (it had to be done…hubby insisted) and a bobblehead for the dashboard in our Jeep.

Kekoa...our bobblehead surfdog
Kekoa…our bobblehead surfdog

As the rain poured down in Lihue, we headed to the reportedly “sunny” south shore for some swimming and snorkeling at Poi’pu Beach.

The instant we’d unrolled our beach mats, the sky opened up for a couple minutes. We thought about packing it in, but decided it would pass over. It did quickly, leaving behind sunny skies and warmer temperatures. We hauled out the snorkel gear we’d purchased one day on the Internet while sitting in snowy Steamboat Springs and hit the water. I was grateful that it was warmer than I thought it might be. I didn’t even need the dive vest I brought. While snorkeling, I saw oodles of fish, including a spotted eel, colorful parrot fish, and a very cool Moorish idol. No sea turtles sightings yet, but it’s always good to have something to look forward to for another day.

Very sunny Poi’pu Beach

Five hours and five mild sunburns later, we departed the beach in search of sustenance. We found Puka Dogs. The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook gave this place high marks for their hot dogs, so I felt compelled to give it a try. If you have to eat a hotdog, this place does not suck. The polish dog is roasted until its skin is crispy and then it is tucked into a wraparound bun with spicy garlic jalapeno aioli and sweet relish (our choice was mango). Loved it. Totally worth the $6.25 price tag in my humble, hot-dog loving opinion.

As we were preparing to leave the area, we decided to shoot around and hit Spouting Horn and see what that was all about. Glad we did too because we were able to scout out the location of Allerton Garden, which is on our list for another day, and we caught our first sight of humpback whales off the coast. Steve and I have seen humpbacks while on a cruise along the Inside Passage in Alaska, but the boys were so excited. We’ve got our fingers crossed that they will hang around for a few more days as our sunset whale-watching cruise isn’t until Monday night.

A view of Allerton
A view of Allerton Gardens…destination for another day

All in all, it was a good day. I hope you’ll indulge me as I use my blog as a travel log for this week, although I won’t blame you if you don’t. While I certainly don’t mean to torture anyone who is still enduring winter that is spilling over into spring, I want to catalog my time here in paradise because too soon I will be back in Colorado watching spring snow fall. I need to have something to look back on as I tuck my flip-flops into the back of my closet and pull out the boots again.