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Monday, December 17, 2018

Aloha Adventure 2017

It's always a stressful time of year, the holidays. Planning for time with family, buying gifts for reunion gift changes with people you have not seen in a year, resolving to finish all the "to dos" that you have put on the back burner so you can end the year cleanly and start fresh on January 1st. So what better time to escape all of that stress and go to Hawaii??

What's even better than a trip to Hawaii? A trip partially covered by my company!

Given the high-turnover common in travel positions like mine, my company added a reward trip for those who go on at least 75 work trips during the first few years. For the trip, I was allowed to pick somewhere I have never been in the US for a week, and I was allowed to bring Kari. One of the few places I've never been in the US is Hawaii. Once I qualified for the trip, Kari and I jumped to head on a week to Hawaii!

Since this was our first trip to Hawaii, we opted to spend a couple days on Kauai before heading over to Maui for four days. Kauai, also known as the Garden Isle and the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands, is lush and a little more remote. Maui, also known as the Valley Isle, is home to Haleakala, Hana and its famous road, and beautiful coastlines. We love being outdoors and active, and we figured this was a good sampling of the Hawaiian Islands.

When you think tropical paradise, what do you equate with that? Palm trees, sandy beaches, lush foliage, etc. Regardless of what you thought, I highly doubt oodles of feral chickens are on your list. In the early 90s, a hurricane hit Kauai, releasing chickens that have become more wild over the years. We found them at breakfast, along the sides of the roads, in parking lots, and in stores. Everywhere we looked, we found more chickens. It became more of a game to see where we could find more chickens.

On Kauai, we stayed at the Koloa Landing Resort. With its location on the leeward side of the island near the water, we had a beautiful base camp for our adventures. Thankfully, we were upgraded to a two room suite with a small kitchen, washer, and dryer. Having the second room and patio provided the additional benefit of a space for me to go and read while I waited for Kari to wake up.

We started off our adventure on Kauai with surf lessons at Poipu Beach Surf School. Kari was a natural on the water. She did a great job popping up and riding the waves. The waves were borderline big enough for me to get up. I could see the benefit learning to surf as a kid. One of the two kids in our group was buoyant enough to ride waves that did not break. He was so little.

After we wrapped up surfing, we headed over to Waimea Canyon to explore and identify possible hiking routes. With daylight rapidly diminishing, we were not able to hike that day. As we drove into the state park, we stopped to take in the sites. At the end of the road, we found one of the wettest spots on Earth, Mount Waialeale. This shield volcano around 400 inches of rain per year. Holy cow!

Our second day was supposed to be our day to take our Jurassic Falls helicopter tour. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating. The helicopter company postponed our tour to the next day, hoping the weather would clear. This was the activity I was most excited for, so I was a little bummed we were not able to go. Not wanting to waste our day, we headed up to hike the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast.

Given all of the rain, the trail was muddy and slippery. We were really glad we had our trekking poles to maintain some level of balance. The other area where we found evidence of the rain and flooding was the Hanakapi`ai Stream. The "stream" was full and raging. We felt for the backpackers that needed to cross the stream to continue on to camp or get out. While we wanted to explore the other side, we chose the smarter option and turned back.

Along the trail, we found a helicopter landing pad. Naturally, Kari pretended to be a helicopter coming in for a landing! Enjoy the video!

On our final morning on Kauai, we checked out of our hotel and headed over for our helicopter tour. The day to find dinosaurs was upon us! Our helicopter tour started off skirting coast before heading in to snake through the canyons. As we approached the waterfall, the same one that they landed at in Jurassic Park, our pilot turned on the Jurassic Park theme music. Super cool!

Following a quick pit-stop searching for dinosaurs at the base of the waterfall, we jumped back into the helicopter to continue our tour. Our pilot took us to the heart of the island to see where it was born. While in flight, we saw more effects of the recent rains. There were numerous waterfalls all over the island! This helicopter tour was certainly the highlight of the trip thus far!

With a little time before we needed to catch our flight, we headed over to the Kilohana to explore and ride the Kauai Plantation Railway. It was a fun end to our short time on the island. Despite that, we knew we wanted to come back and spend more time here.

One of the smarter decisions I made was to get us first class tickets on our flight from Kauai to Maui. It was only a little more than the cost of a coach seat plus the baggage fee plus it was way more comfortable!

After the short hop from Kauai to Maui, we grabbed our jeep and headed to the Old Lahaina Luau. Our first luau in Hawaii was pretty fun. We tried hula and watched as they pulled the pig from the imu. The meal was delicious. Since it was all you could eat and drink, we made sure to fill up before heading off to our hotel, the Wailea Beach Resort, for the night. The parting gift was a delicious piece of banana bread, probably the best banana bread we had on the trip.

Our second day on Maui started with the Molokini and Turtle Town Snorkel Tour. The ride out to Molokini Crater was beautiful. We connected with a couple we had met the previous night at the luau and snorkeled with some amazing fish and coral. After we had our fill at the crater, we headed over to Turtle Town. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that Turtle Town was a short walk from our hotel. We quickly swam over to where the crew mentioned to look for turtles, and we found a few green sea turtles playing in the waves by the shore. Soon, it was time to head back and continue our adventure on land.

One the places we had heard so much about was Sarento's On The Beach. We managed to secure a table on the water for sunset. Not only was the food delicious, but watching the sunset was even more special.

For our first day off on the island, we decided to drive up Haleakala to hike in the crater. Since we did not plan ahead to secure a sunrise slot before arriving on the island, we were not able to go about our day completely as planned. Thankfully, we secured a slot for the following morning. Our hike in the crater was like we were hiking on Mars through a dense fog. Other than a few small scrub bushes, what we could see of the landscape was seemingly devoid of all life. Occasionally, we found cinder cones amongst the landscape.

Before we headed down, we saw a few cyclists starting to crest the summit. It was super cute watching a couple make it to the top and celebrate before starting the descent back down. Most people opt to be driven to the top to ride down; however, a few choose to ride both ways. Hopefully, I can convince Kari that this would be super fun some day!

The time had arrived for us to wake up really, really early and begin our drive up Haleakala to watch the sunrise. We managed to get to the top at about 5:30am, which was about an hour before sunrise. After going to the rest room, we bundled up and searched for a good spot to take in the view. Instead of staying with the rest of the folks watching the sunrise, we hiked back towards the trail leading into the crater to have a little solitude. It was a magical experience.

Unlike the day before when we had time to hang out at the top before we needed to leave, we needed to scurry down shortly after sunrise to catch our whale watching ferry tour. Even though it was the beginning of the whale watching season, we figured we would try. It was a beautiful ride towards Lanai. We saw a rainbow in a valley and flashes of a whale before jumping in for a quick snorkel.

On our last day on Maui, we spent the day on the famous Hana Highway. With all of the options to journey along the road, we struggled to figure out the best way to do it. We knew we did not want to go with a private tour company, so we could go at our own pace. Thankfully, we were recommended to check out Shaka Guide by a couple we met during the whale watching tour. It was fantastic! We climbed through a lava tube to a secret world, hiked to a hidden waterfall, explored black and red sand beaches, and ate loads of banana bread. It was a perfect end to a great trip!

Following our adventurous day on the Road to Hana, we made our way back to the airport to begin our long journey home. This trip was a great sampling of Hawaii and left us eager to come back!

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