There are a few places each of us feel they must see on vacation. This will vary from person to person. One may feel they have to see the Catacombs in Rome, while another insists the highlight is strolling along the Tiber River at sunset. We will even drag each other to our “must see” places as our interests differ. This was no different in Hawaii, and with a total of seven passengers, you can imagine the differing opinions. Here’s what we did on our final day in Hawaii…….
We decided to split up for the morning, allow for some solo exploring in the afternoon and come back together for the evening for our final day in Hawaii. The first portion will be Jen’s writing, delving into her day hiking up Diamond Head with her three boys. The second part will be Craig’s perspective on deep sea fishing off the coast of Oahu with his son and his partner in crime.
Diamond Head forms the incredible skyline you can see from any point on Waikiki Beach. We were able to admire it from afar each morning as we walked the beach with our coffee in hand. This site is a volcanic cone which the locals call Le’ahi or ‘brow of the tuna.’ This crater has been there for over 300,000 years. Sign me up!
I love a good hike. There is nothing like the reward of an incredible view after a tough climb. For a bit of background to our readers, I have done a few mountains in the Adirondacks. One of my boys and I have a tradition of climbing every year on fall peak weekend. I knew this would be different from the forests I am used to trudging through, but I did not realize the extent of those differences.
According to previous travelers, the hike takes 1.5-2 hours and is 1.6 miles roundtrip. Everyone recommended getting there as early as possible due to the intense Hawaiian sun and to beat the crowds. No reservations necessary, but you do have to pay entry at the park. The boys and I planned to be there for 6:30am, a half hour after opening. We mapped out the way by public transit and were ready for our day.
I am very knowledgeable of my faults. My sense of direction is somewhere between Columbus looking for a new route and stumbling upon American and the Griswold’s circling Big Ben over and over again. It is not pretty, so Craig made sure 1,000 times that I had the route ready on my phone’s GPS. I told him to relax, and I totally had it.
The following morning, I wake up the boys at an ungodly hour and drag them to our bus stop. I noticed that morning we were taking a slightly different route than what I had originally pulled up on the night before. Well….there are dozens of ways to get around this city, so I am sure this is fine.
Our stop number slides across the highlighted screen and I pull the cord to alert the driver our stop is here. The boys question where we are and if we should really get off. I give them the “Mom” look saying to not question me and off we go. Upon our exit, I couldn’t help but notice the residential area we seemed to be dumped in. Ok, don’t panic. Diamond Head signs are everywhere. We must be close…..
Helpful hints to those traveling to Hawaii that will use the city bus. First, have exact change or purchase the HOLO card. Second, make sure you enter the EXACT name, verbatim, in your phone’s GPS.
I pull out my phone to see where I went wrong without my facial expression showing that I screwed up. Ahhhh…….. I entered Diamond Head Center this morning and not Diamond Head Crater Hike. Fantastic. Perfect. Ok guys, we just have to go down this road three quarters of a mile and then we are there. My boys are such good sports and I think kept their mouths shut for my benefit. I also fully believe they made a joint decision to take over all directional tasks.
Always stay positive. We were able to walk through a neighborhood we never would have seen otherwise. Met some dogs that would have forever remained strangers. Mango trees in yards were as common as apple trees in our neck of the woods. We passed beautiful buildings and even saw an exercise park.
Finally, we see our sign in the oasis, the Diamond Head State Monument. One would think we were mere steps away from our ascent into the Hawaiian clouds. No. This is simply the entrance for cars and buses to make their way to the parking lot. We had another ten minute uphill walk to travel to reach the trail. Again, the boys just went with it, and I am sure were silently throwing some colorful words in my direction. It should be noted that we had some incredible views walking up that every person whizzing by in their air-conditioned cars missed out on.
We reached the parking lot after walking through the famous tunnel and join the growing line for entry to the volcanic trail. If this is the least busy time, I cannot imagine what they consider a crowd. There is a small Visitor Center selling t-shirts and various souvenirs, while food trucks are off to the side. At the back are numerous restrooms which you should take advantage of. There is not any along the way, nor at the top. We reached the front of the line to pay at one of the various kiosks that take card only, no cash options. Tickets in hand, we headed towards the waiting staff that allowed us on our way.
The hike began on a paved path with a slight upward incline. We are used to hopping rocks, tree roots and avoiding puddles during our hikes. We did not have to worry about any of that here. This trail is for any fitness level with plenty of places to take a rest and finish your journey. At one time this was a very steep climb, but this did not allow many visitors the experience they wanted. So the trail was redesigned to zigzag up, reducing the slope of the hike. Guard rails are in place the entire time to add another level of comfort and safety.
After walking along the worn, rocky path, you will hit the stairs. 99 of them will carry you to the WWII bunker. There is so much history on this little island. We took a moment to explore the space and imagine the views the young soldiers saw. After this you have the choice to take a left and circle the top of the summit at a slower pace or climb another 54 stairs, thrusting you into the best views. We took the stairs.
I will not even attempt to try and put words to the views we encountered on top of Diamond Head. Hawaii is pure beauty, but to be above it looking down is breathtaking. Even with the crowds around you, you can appreciate the spectacular landscape. We walked to every nook and cranny on the top and took as many pictures as we could.
I will be honest with you; this is not quite what I had in mind. I pictured a few people on the top and rugged rocks we would hop over to get the perfect picture. Being a little closer to nature compared to the tourist filled area of Waikiki. This was not that. The top was thick with crowds and guard rails kept you corralled in a controlled environment. Paved paths covered the nature we were seeking to find.
People venture to the top for the views, not the solitude or quiet one would expect back home hiking the Adirondacks. Despite the crowds, I would highly recommend adding this to your list of places to see because the view cannot be missed.
The descent was much quicker, and the boys practically raced down. We browsed the souvenirs, grabbed a snack, and headed off to the correct bus stop. We wondered how Craig’s fishing trip was going and how many they had caught already.
Deep Sea Fishing
The day started out early. We arranged for a car to pick us up at 5:00am to take us to the dock. I’m an early riser, so I wasn’t worried about the early start of our final day in Hawaii. I was, however, worried about the two twenty-somethings that would be joining me. I shouldn’t have been; they were waiting for me. I was the last one ready. It turns out the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.
We jumped in the car, which arrived at the exact scheduled time, and were whisked away to the dock. There is a long row of boats waiting, each with a small kiosk highlighting what company runs the boat. We found the kiosk for The Wild Bunch and found Mike , our captain, waiting for us. We loaded up on the boat, got some instruction, and away we went.
I was a little concerned with the weather as we started out. There were some very black clouds hanging over Oahu, and it felt like it could rain at any moment. The clouds were ominous, and it looked like they were heading towards Diamond Head. I hoped Jen and the boys didn’t get too wet.
Once we were about 2 miles out to sea, it was time to drop our lines and do some fishing. The private charter we were on was a trolling boat, meaning we set our lines out (six of them) and slowly began a long rectangular pattern. Viewing Oahu from the water was a pretty neat experience as we rode almost the full length of the island.
Trolling gave us lots of down time. We filled it first by sitting with the captain, chatting about fishing, how he came to live in Hawaii, what we were doing here, etc. But most of the time Rye, Kailyn and I spent it marveling at the island, at the ocean, and at the fact that we were all here.
We didn’t catch anything. For four hours we rode back and forth and didn’t catch a thing. Not even a nibble. It rained a little bit, but not much. We moved from the captain’s perch to the lower deck to below deck. I may have caught a nap or two, but I don’t think there’s any proof of that.
I was feeling bad for Rye and Kailyn that we hadn’t caught anything. This was the number one thing they wanted to do in Hawaii and it was looking like a total bust. But I don’t think those two ever stopped smiling and talking. I kept checking on them to make sure that they were good, and every single time they were smiling, just happy to be out on the water in Hawaii.
And I realized, THAT’S why we brought the entire family to Hawaii. THAT was the reason. It was the look on their faces. And their smiles made me smile. Their joy gave me joy. What a feeling it was. And when I think back on our fruitless fishing trip, what a feeling it still is.
No matter your interest, a traditional Luau is a must! This is a way to allow the locals to take you back in time and show you the roots of their heritage. A way to enjoy a Hawaiian feast and be entertained by the exceptional talent surrounding you. There are many to chose from when booking your trip. We chose the Ka Moana Luau located in Sea Life Park. Their theater offers an ocean backdrop for their show and free passes to Sea Life Park if you wish to take advantage.
At the time of our trip, car rentals were a bit out of control, so our transportation choices were a bit limited. We opted to pay a little extra for hotel pickup. Best decision ever! The bus driver entertained us with local tales and legends for the entire ride. With our non-stop laughter the ride flew by, and we were at the park.
At entry we were given our color-coded bracelets based on seating selection, which you must book ahead of time. This is one we would recommend booking well in advance as they fill up fast. We were led through Sea Life Park and were able to snap some photos of sea turtles relaxing in the various ponds. We were give our lei made of shells and were brought to our table.
The setting around you is the picture you have always had in your head when you think of Hawaii. The mountain skyline complete with a lighthouse. The countless palm trees, tiki torches, and exotic flowers in full bloom. Hello Hawaii!! Everyone settled in with drink in hand while the performers in traditional Polynesian clothing served you dinner. (Pre-Covid this is a buffet dinner.)
With full bellies and the proper mood brought on by our surroundings, we were ready for the show. Again, we find it difficult to put words in to describe what exactly was performed for us. Incredible talent was obvious in their fire throwing abilities and dancing. They were a double threat with the comedic delivery throughout the evening. Every single one of us was mesmerized by what was happening all around us. That is quite a feat to put our crew in that kind of entertainment mode. To say we loved it is an understatement and was easily the highlight of our trip. When in Hawaii, do not skip the Luau, We highly recommend Ka Moana!
We also recommend tasting the local cuisine. Craig was the only one of us brave enough to try poi. It wasn’t bad, but he recommends mixing it with rice.
And that’s how it was on our final day in Hawaii. This is the last blog from our Hawaii trip. Coming up soon we will have a new podcast with the boys to get their perspective on the trip. You can read our other Hawaii blogs by clicking Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.
Thank you for reading, and #NeverStopPlanning.
Jen and Craig